Look, we all make mistakes. Whether you are a tiny independent artist or a large propaganda organization running a troll farm out of a secret location with the intent to sow discord in democracy, you can easily make this mistake. I know I did.
About 8 years ago, when Twitter was smaller and trolling first came into fashion as a human recreation, I found myself the target of a trolling campaign. Everyone said, “Don’t feed the trolls!” “Don’t give them attention, they love attention.” Ok, I thought. Yes, this makes complete sense to me. I mean back in the 1950’s if someone called you a name and you ignored them and then had your older brother kick their ass on the playground after class, then everything worked out and everyone went home and ate meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy and smiled and lived happily ever after. Justice was served. Problem solved! I was so convinced, I made this necklace design. I was so above the bickering.
I had it all figured out. Or did I?
Well, for starters, it wasn’t the 1950s, I don’t have an older brother and Meatloaf, though on Twitter, was not even involved in the trolling. Maybe I had it wrong. Ignoring the trolls, certainly did not make them go away. They worked as teams and went after targets relentlessly, sometimes driving people off the internet all together. They had chat rooms were they organized. They made multiple accounts. They coordinated their “bullying” and verbal attacks. They were relentless. They had a LOT of free time. They enjoyed their work, it seemed. Silencing YOU and proving whatever their point was, was their intent and not “feeding them” by being silent, was a win for them. If you were quiet, they controlled the discourse. They batted you around like a cat toy until they were bored and then they moved on forever immortalizing their attacks on whatever wiki, reddit or social media meme shithole of their choice.
I ultimately learned that not feeding them, was pointless, they would be there regardless of what I did, and that I should do and say whatever the fuck I felt like saying and doing. That’s ultimately what I did and still do. Finally realizing that that design I made was terrible and wrong, I retired it to a junk bag in my art studio I save for smashing for mosaic projects.
Things have definitely evolved since my experience with amateur trolls, but ultimately the tactics are the same.
Today, I read a news story in the Los Angeles Times about the newly exposed Russian Troll Factories. An actual paid troll, Marat Mindiyarov spoke of his account working at the Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency. It brought that design back into my mind.
From the LA Times article:
“All of the trolls knew that it’s Prigozhin who stands behind this all,” said Mindiyarov, the ex-commenter who left the organization in early 2015. “But nobody had any evidence.”
He said that the employees disliked Prigozhin, in part because he didn’t set up a cafeteria or canteen in the troll factory building even though he owned a sprawling catering business.
“People had to bring food boxes from home,” Mindiyarov said. “Prigozhin did not treat the trolls well. He could at least feed them.”
Mindiyarov quit his job.
Silly Russia, it’s a simple mistake we’ve all made online while trying to oppress people and the truth. Or while, you know, just being a woman on the internet. Not feeding your trolls, is bad. Feeding them, is good. I propose we set up a fund that will buy food for any troll that agrees to turn off their trolling in exchange for hot meals and a hug. Trolls are just hungry and probably lonely. Working 12 hour shifts with no food? That’s no way to keep a person happy. The secret to a better world might actually be in serving people a hot lunch and treating them with respect.
Who would have guessed? Meatloaf maybe?