So how might the presence of frustrated angry trolls affect the larger societal discourse? Consider, for example, the responses to my post the other day.
I received a number of truly thoughtful and caring responses from people who simply wanted to work in a spirit of cooperation for everyone’s benefit. That doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires participants to be confident in themselves, and therefore capable of trusting others.
A troll, in contrast, essentially functions as an angry three year old in an adult body, either unable or unwilling to trust, and therefore wanting only to run around tearing things down. When anyone makes a thoughtful or kind suggestion, or attempts to elevate the level of discourse, a troll will respond by going on the attack.
In a moderated forum such as this blog, the effects are minimal. Yet most of society is not a moderated forum. In particular, the political sphere is essentially unmoderated. I fear that a gradual acceptance of troll-like behavior on-line may have helped to lead us down a dark and destructive path in our larger political discourse.