Anatomy of a troll

This blog post follows on from one I wrote to reflect on the experience of being “the angry cyclist” about a year ago, which I posted on my cycling blog. I should declare upfront that I rewrote this to more clearly stick to the topic, on 4 September 2014.

One fine day, a textbook troll, more specifically, a kind of non-anonymous concern troll, with whom I’d had dealings during the Angry Cyclist episode, posted a photo to the Dundalk Cycling Alliance page. Note the comment that he’d posted it to another page, where it was removed, then posted it to his own and several other pages – classic trolling:

a_tailgating_photo_nonames

Let’s analyse what happened next.

It’s a long post, so if you’re just interested in a summary, you can click here.

Moderator:

The page moderator posted a response which I thought was reasonable. It pointed out the purpose of the page, as well as the organisation, for that matter, and stuck to urging drivers to remember you have to give a cyclist the benefit of the doubt in most of their cycling decisions, as they have way more information and a much closer perspective of the situation than you. This clearly was to be taken in context.

Commenter:

I was less kind, and called the guy for the troll he is. I also pointed out that his claims of fearing for his safety in the photo above (taken by a passenger from his car) were ludicrous, as he was inside a padded metal box with a seat belt and airbags. Here comes the part that intrigues me.

Troll:

The troll – let’s call him A – accused me of personal attacks, then proceeded to haul out a link to that ancient article from the Democrat, with the quip: “Another gem from Nadia”. He then went on to point out that I work as stress management consultant (which is not true, at least not any more), somehow finding that relevant.

I wish I could figure out what it was the guy considered a personal attack. Alas, the moderator put his foot down after a few more comments and took the whole thing down, so I can’t go take a screenshot to carefully go through what was said. I find it tremendously ironic that he was in any case way more willfully guilty of exactly what he accused others of.

But here’s the cherry on the cake. Another person, B, chimed in, said my behaviour on the DCA page had been “disgusting” and that someone she knew held me in high regard, but she’d now go tell that person to stop liking me.

Firstly, I again wish I could understand what motivated this comment. My best guess is that this is someone very close to the troll. It’s worth noting the troll is an old man, and may well be used to being spoken to and treated with respect. When confronted with reaction only to his behaviour and remarks, stripped of the entrapments he’d usually get because of being old, both the troll and his supporter may have found it shocking.

Now, I wasn’t the only one following the argument, and a friend who was not only following it on the DCA page but also on this chap’s FB page, emailed me the following screen capture:

A_nasty_names_hiddenThe first thing to note is that A’s claims on the DCA page of just being concerned for the cyclist’s safety was a blatant, outright lie. For the record, that attitude to cyclists is exactly the kind of thing that lay behind the article that started it all.

What I find difficult to understand is how people can classify heated debate as disgusting, yet feel that to say you’d piss yourself laughing if someone else came to harm is not disgusting. Nor is a remark that all you’d be worried about if someone else was killed and “splattered all over it” was cleaning your car.

What was also very interesting to note regarding troll behaviour, is how deceitful language is employed. In line with observations I’d made since first encountering A, and likely in line with trolls everywhere, such things as “torrents of abuse at me” is claimed, which evokes an image of me going apoplectic and calling him names. I have gone over this again and again in my mind, and can’t recall hurling any abuse at A except to call him a troll – a reference to his online behaviour, not his appearance or character. All I attacked over and above that, was his arguments. This is important: the troll has no limits, so he can fling as much dung at you as he wants. It takes a hell of a lot longer to dispel a lie than to make one up. If you engage with the troll, no matter how groundless the dung he flings at you, some of it is going to stick.

I hesitate to examine the following, as it comes close to doing what he did, which was to attack me as a person, and the job he thought I do, rather than the argument. Yet it’s an interesting footnote, and I feel I have taken steps to protect his identity. This is not intended as a personal attack, it’s a continuation of the pattern of the troll accusing others of things he is guilty of.

A mentions he checked my credentials. He implies the fact that I argued with him online somehow discredits me as a stress management consultant. A look at my LinkedIn profile, or my website, or my twitter account would surely give you at least a clue that I had moved on to other things. It’s not really a difficult thing to figure out. While on LinkedIn, I thought I’d return the favour and look at A’s profile. You could blow me down with a breeze when I saw it lists him as a researcher for a local radio station.

TL;DR:

So, a summary. A troll posts to a page only barely related to the subject of his post. He claims to be concerned for someone’s safety, but is caught out clearly despising the person for whom he claims concern. His arguments are tackled gloves-off by me, and I suspect it’s because they were so starkly exposed as nonsense that he took such offence. He then launches a personal attack, while claiming to be personally attacked. He claims the fact that we are debating somehow means I am not good at my job – getting my job wrong, while it is his job to research, so his action of claiming I was bad at my job was in fact him being bad at his job. This… you just can’t make it up.

What to do? Well, I had a few options open to me. One of them would be to comment on the thread the screen capture is from – the privacy setting was public when I checked to confirm the capture was accurate, so I could have. Another was to take a step back and recognise that engaging him drags me down to his level, then choosing to let the personal insults and slights go and rather get on with what’s important in my life.

I choose B.

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One thought on “Anatomy of a troll

  1. Nadia, once again you’re being far too nice. I very much doubt he’s a pleasant person in real life. My guess would be he’s highly opinionated and a bit of a blowhard. His treatment of you over the Democrat article was reprehensible and he should be ashamed of himself, but clearly isn’t. So far, online, he’s proven himself to be a rather creepy liar. Not to mention a two-faced shit-weasel. I don’t think someone does that online but not in real life; his phone calls to the Democrat prove that. If he thinks what you have said to him was abusive, he doesn’t know the meaning of the word. I’ll happily teach him, should I ever come across him. Please keep those screenshots, including the alternative one that shows his name, and let’s use them every time he trolls a cycling forum pretending to be all concerned for our safety.

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