Sunday, 30 January 2011

The rise and rise of the troll

From their Norse origins as brutish cave-dwellers thousands of years ago, trolls have evolved. First, they ripped off bridge-crossing goats, and then they became ugly-but-cute 1960s dolls. Now they have reinvented themselves in their most repugnant form yet – on the internet.

The evolution of trolls 1: the Jotunn (image: Theodor Kittelsen)
The sole aim of these cyber-trolls is to draw mild-mannered internet browsers into illogical and non-sequitur-riddled discussions causing them to react with uncharacteristic fury.

The evolution of trolls 2: Three Billy Goats Gruff (image:
Initially, internet trolls inhabited public forums, such as YouTube’s comments areas, igniting flame wars and providing oxygen with carefully placed snippets of vitriol that end in chain reactions of thermonuclear off-topic hatred.

The evolution of trolls 3: Dam dolls (image:
Now the trolls have turned professional. The attraction of web advertising revenue has encouraged organisations to hire trolls that have trained as journos to write articles that are full of extreme views, encouraging plaudits from fans and outrage from those with opposing views.

The evolution of trolls 4: Trollface (image:
Current masters of article-writing trolling in the UK are right wing press darlings Melanie Phillips and James Delingpole, both of whom receive extra coverage thanks to indignant Twitterati. The liberal press have their own demons though, like The Guardian’s Bidisha.

The evolution of trolls 5: Uber-troll Phillips (image:
Whatever their persuasion, internet article trolls get as many hits from enemies as friends, but whereas bad reviews would normally end a writer’s career, the paymasters in these cases are as happy to receive the hate as the love - both make the same kerching sound.

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