Beware the Trolls

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The word 'troll' has taken on a whole new meaning in the internet age; Mattathias Schwartz, contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine talks about the 'creatures' that terrorize the internet.


Mattathias Schwartz

Comments [49]

Amused Bystander from NJ

Here is some additional information on Fortuny..

Aug. 08 2008 10:54 AM

One persons "troll" is another persons hero. If it had been a 14 yr old girl posing as an adult looking for sex and her father posted that info and nude pics, suddenly that "trollish" act would have been heroic. It is not as if the men sending pictures of their bodies did ANYTHING at alll to verify they were sending their photos to an adult!!!

Aug. 07 2008 02:48 PM
James from brooklyn

where's Jesse Califano?

Aug. 06 2008 02:58 PM
OJ from Manhattan

or 'lulz' ...not so nice

Aug. 06 2008 02:37 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York


Aug. 06 2008 01:57 PM
Peter from Park Slope


I expect much more from WNYC. I post a lot at techie pages (non-profit) and several insist that all posters be members and use our real names. These pages offer free advice and are awesome and I am more than willing to be a member and use my real name because I am polite and have nothing to hide.

These techie boards are civil all of the time now, they weren't before. Real names = civility. Until WNYC figures this out, these boards will be a name calling fest.

Aug. 06 2008 01:51 PM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

This is the problem with internet forums, chat rooms and text messages, there is a level of anonymity, lack of "face to face" interaction and information lag (time to read and type a response) that a phone conversation or "in person" discussion does not suffer from.

An example of that is how many text messages and how long does it take to set up a meeting of some sort where a phone call's full duplex ability can complete this in a third of the time.

The great thing is of course the amount of "information" and exposure it provides but everybody is interacting in a cyber world at the sacrifice of the real world.

The troll thing is truly about damaged people no matter how smart or dumb finding an anonymous arena where they can be powerful in some sense for good or bad; essentially Dungeons and dragons 2.0.

Aug. 06 2008 01:21 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

Trust the truth.

Aug. 06 2008 01:08 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

FYI...He is considered racist.

Aug. 06 2008 12:25 PM
OJ from Manhattan

My comment, the former #27, was on topic because in it I mentioned an experience on this board . In that experience I agreed with another poster about someone who was making very aggressive and sweeping comments. All of a sudden I came under attack and was told "you are what I thought you were" and goaded into emailing them personally. I was telling Peter, that I would never put my real name out here because of that experience. I have no idea who that person was but have since read their comments and when it seems there's a fight to be had, they tend to jump in with aggressive commments. It's trolling! That's what the topic of your segment was. You shouldn't have deleted it.

Aug. 06 2008 12:23 PM
Peter from Park Slope

Chris O:

The problem is that Obama tolerated racism for 20 years and you can't even entertain the thought. If McCain had sat in such a church for 20 years in his hometown, he would be considered racist and anti-American.

Obama has gotten a free pass because he is Obama.

I can't stand that McCain is pro-life and against gay marriage, and I can't stand that Obama sat in a racist church for 20 years. Both candidates are DEEPLY flawed, that is clear. It is unclear to me why some on the left are unable to admit this. I am not invested in either party, I just think McCain has more experience and makes me feel safer. But I feel no need to defend his issues that are really messed up and backwards thinking.

Aug. 06 2008 12:22 PM
David! from NYC

I can't recall any such times, although people like to recall Reagan sharing a convivial nip with Tip O'Neill. I personally don't remember it happening, but I was in hs/undergrad at the time.

Historically, negative campaigning has been going on for a LONG time. Yet, as a society, I think we were more tolerant of differing views in the past, in the time when lectures were a form of public education and entertainment.

Aug. 06 2008 12:21 PM
OJ from Manhattan

Don't agree, moderator.

Aug. 06 2008 12:18 PM
Peter from Park Slope


I agree, debate ideas. That is why I listen to the show, because Brian debates ideas. Although, he stopped doing the common ground segments, I am wondering if that is because guests were not able to do so?

You know David, I actually expect more from the left on being polite, but I should stop doing so. I can't stand the far right talk shows, but I also don't expect them to be fair. For some reason, I expect left leaning folks to be, well, fair. Perhaps because I was so far left for so long. But stick your head up out of the liberal hole for a minute, and man, the name calling begins.

I am curious, I got interested in politics at a time when the right was just insane with anger over Clinton. Now the left is so insane with anger about Bush that many won't tolerate any criticism of Obama. Was there ever at time when the parties were sincerely civil and sincerely respectful?

Aug. 06 2008 12:16 PM
OJ from Manhattan

@#27 thank you moderator, I feel it was on topic.

Aug. 06 2008 12:13 PM
David! from NYC

I've been in meetings this morning and am sorry I missed this segment. I echo Peter's comments, having commiserated with him a couple of days ago and received an attack because of that.

For the record, I supported HRC in the primaries, do not support BHO, and was so disillusioned by the DNC that I changed my voter registration to the Green Party. Although I was a loyal Dem for well over 20 years (I officially registered on my 18th birthday), because I am not supporting Obama, I've been called a "disgrace", a "whiner" and worse on these boards.

That's just wrong. Debate ideas, debate actions, but don't resort to personal attacks.

Aug. 06 2008 12:09 PM
Peter from Park Slope

The Chris O Challenge:

Make a point without calling names.

The Moderator Challenge:

Moderate fairly. All name calling should be out of bounds, not just when it comes from the right.

Aug. 06 2008 12:07 PM
chris o from new york city

I really don't care if people don't support Obama. I have no problem with that. Calling him and his (former) church racist, though... that is the problem.

Aug. 06 2008 12:00 PM
Linda from Riverdale

Trolls? Lets call them what they really are... sick, bored, immature, children. Grow up! What has happened to respect? When did the shift occur that the 'bad guys are good' & 'the good guys are uptight'? And nobody wants to be labeled 'uptight'!

Aug. 06 2008 11:55 AM
Peter from Park Slope


I live in Brooklyn and do not support Obama, this is considered to be treasonous by many. As far as people remembering me, well, I am critical of Obama and say so and many of the people who post here are enraged about this. I have challenged folks like Chris to find a single post of mine that is rude or out of line. Of course, they can't, so some folks just call me names or call me a "name caller."

As I recall, my posts were deleted for "off topic" reasons. You know, someone calls me a name, I respond that name calling is rude, and the moderator deletes it all including my defense. But I have also had political views deleted. For example, I have posted a few times about Obama's history of accepting or tolerating racism, but these comments were deleted.

Apparently, public radio allows folks to compare McCain to Hitler but can't entertain the thought that Obama may actually be racist because he tolerated racism for 20 years. This is when folks call me names. They can't handle the fact that Obama sat in a racist church for 20 years and was oddly silent on this matter. This is when folks call me a "troll." Speak out against racism and get called a troll, so it goes.

Aug. 06 2008 11:53 AM
OJ from Manhattan

nevermind, just needed to refresh. Man, I gotta get some work done!

Aug. 06 2008 11:49 AM
OJ from Manhattan


i just responded to you and have evidently had it removed. no idea why...

Aug. 06 2008 11:48 AM
OJ from Manhattan

***Producer's Note***

This comment has been deleted because it is not follow the WNYC guidelines. It is off topic. Please stay on topic and be civil.

Aug. 06 2008 11:44 AM
Peter from Park Slope


I understand your concern, but it would be nice to reach a point where posting your name on these ANY boards would be like having your name in the phone book.

The technology will get there, and then the folks on these boards who are abusive will remember that their names are being used for all the world to see.

Trust me, no one would respond to my posts with comments like "you are a dope" if their real name was used. And, this would force the moderators of this show to be more fair or thoughtful. I am still trying to figure out why some of the political comments I made a few weeks back have been cut, but when folks call me names like "dope" or "troll," the moderators accept this?

Aug. 06 2008 11:33 AM
chris o from new york city

Just make your points and defend them. That should not entail demeaning (or "name-calling" if you will) every left leaning individual in the country, which is what your posts do.

Aug. 06 2008 11:30 AM
OJ from Manhattan

World's Toughest/

I agree especially in America. I have a lot of friends in Europe and getting on the internet to date, chat, meet people etc is not seen as odd as it is over here. Shame, because it's cool to be able to connect so quickly with people who have the same interests, concerns and as one poster talked about, the same issues happen to them in life. Too bad there are people like this and who knows what motivates them. Making these stories known is one way to get the word out about safety. It's, as yet, unchartered territory.

Aug. 06 2008 11:29 AM
OJ from Manhattan


I would NEVER post my real name for the reasons illustrated in the article. Perhaps if they made it a paid membership program...but that's not the spirit of this board. Using both of your real names is not smart. I also change up the name under which I post. Even on NPR there are crazies.

There is an element of bullying on here, or at the least silly remarks to other posters that can only be motivated by a desire to disagree. it's true. So, I agree with you on that matter. I am not a blanket liberal either.

Maybe some folks should start a Yahoo group.

Aug. 06 2008 11:22 AM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

I remember seeing the article with the picture and immediately thought it was about Down's syndrome, noticed the title afterwards. People love the anonymity the internet offers and these disturbed weaklings that have difficulties integrating in everyday life to become the bullies of their youth.

If you treat the internet as Times Square of the old days you'd think twice before posting websites with your name, pictures of your family or work or any other personal data accessible for all the world to see, normal and perverted alike.

Aug. 06 2008 11:19 AM
Peter from Park Slope


I agree. I am really of the opinion to the internet should be moving towards "real names" only. I would suggest to Brian and his crew that if they want these boards to be anything more than rude lefties acting out their bullying fantasies, then they should change their polities to only accept real names from people.

I have been listening to Brian for over ten years and have learned so much from his guests and interviews. But when you come on to read and post, it is a battle of left wingers trying to out left each other and bully anyone with a different opinion. Is is because of shows like Brian's that I am no longer a simple, all left all the time, person, but his boards attract a "preach to the converted crowd."

Aug. 06 2008 11:12 AM
a woman from manhattan

Trolls are indeed cowards. What I find fascinating is that there are people who seem to have be extremely cruel or perhaps simply contract temporary Tourette's Syndrome while online, who may well me perfectly "normal" and polite people in person.

The number of times I've seen commenters (on other sites, obviously) call a woman who has been a victim of sexual aggression or violence a "b***" or a "slut" is shocking. Racism abounds in anonymous (or fake name) commenters. Likewise the frequency with which people write to other commenters to "shut the **** up, [expletives]" just because they disagreed with their comment.

It's truly bizarre.

There are some blogs out there that have a clever system by which you can "ignore" a particular commenter (you click on his/her name, and all their comments disappear from the comments lists. It's made those sites much more tolerable.

Aug. 06 2008 11:02 AM
OJ from Manhattan

I find it interesting this topic has come up right now. I listened to this show for 9 months last year and would love getting to work to listen and discuss topics with people on here and found most of the conversation civil and intelligent. I am shocked with how often the moderator has to come on here and delete things. The tone has really changed! I have been saying this for 2 weeks.

Aug. 06 2008 11:01 AM
Cathy from Brooklyn

I belong to an ex-cult email group geared towards recovery that is regularly trolled. We suspect that many of the trolls are from the organization itself, while others are emotionally unbalanced people who need some help. They like to come on and pose as people seeking help and then attack members and try to divide the group. It's rather sick, and we respond in a strong, but polite way and if it gets too much, kick them off (it's a moderated group). It's an interesting phenomenon.

Aug. 06 2008 11:00 AM
Hotshoe from Elizabeth

I have people from all over the world leaving me 20 rude, racist, threating and just plain stupid comments every day on my youtube and to my website. No one would say this to me, but online, they get to post whatever they want for my children to read.

Aug. 06 2008 10:59 AM
michael winslow from INWOOD

Trolls just like most people have a chink in their armor.

Find it and they'll stop.

they're just wasting their lives

Aug. 06 2008 10:59 AM
chris o from new york city

Michael Winslow: you got to work on your reading comprehension. Mitchell Henderson's family was not victimized!?

Aug. 06 2008 10:59 AM
Brian Lehrer Moderator

Hey Guys,

We have removed some comments because they are off topic, or aren't civil and border on the verge of name calling.

Please keep your comments respectful and in good taste, in accordance with WNYC posting guidelines.


Aug. 06 2008 10:56 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

Trolls are cowards.

Aug. 06 2008 10:54 AM
michael winslow from INWOOD

I have read the article and I stand by what I wrote.

There are no victims only volunteers.

Aug. 06 2008 10:54 AM
Mike from nyc

Didn't the term troll originate from the fishing sense, in that they were merely "trolling" for a response by saying something sure to outrage the other readers?

Aug. 06 2008 10:53 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

LOL @ post 6...hilarious!

Aug. 06 2008 10:53 AM
Steve (the other one) from Manhattan

Amy - please ask him to explain what a "concern troll" is.

Aug. 06 2008 10:52 AM
O from Forest Hills

Is it considered trolling if someone makes up a fake profile of someone on lying about their marital status and other pertinent facts to that person's lifestyle and religion?

Aug. 06 2008 10:48 AM
O from Forest Hills

Does anyone collect troll dolls?

Do trolls send viruses to people's computers or just say nasty things?

Aug. 06 2008 10:48 AM

I am critical of Obama & voting for Mccain


let the name calling begin...

Aug. 06 2008 10:46 AM

"michael winslow" -- you clearly haven't read the NYT article....

These trolls do much more harm than simply sending an offensive email

they are not spammers, they are malicious, morally bankrupt or at least confused, cruel, sociopaths who are attacking people in real life in various ways

read before you write

Aug. 06 2008 10:37 AM
Peter from Park Slope

This WNYC page is an interesting study in the use of the term "troll." I have been called a "troll" several times on this page because I have been critical of Obama (of course, I have also been critical of McCain). It seems that the term "troll" has really come to mean, "I disagree with you and want to dismiss what you say without effort." Calling a person a "troll" has really just come to mean, "Talk to the hand."

This WNYC page can get a little silly with name calling. Apparently, if you are critical of Obama in any way you are a "dope", a "troll" a "Republican" and a "right wing nut." I have finally figured it out. The paranoid right says things like, "America, love it or leave it" and the WNYC far left crowd says things like, "You right wing nut job."

Aug. 06 2008 10:37 AM
michael winslow from INWOOD

It is sad that people take seriously Cyber bullying and "trolls".

come on just delete an e-mail or ignore people or turn off your computer.


Aug. 06 2008 10:16 AM
O from Forest Hills

I'm scared, the trolls are coming for me. Help me!!

Aug. 06 2008 10:13 AM
chris o from new york city

it is really fitting that the "star" of the story was sexually molested as a boy; these are not mature, well-adjusted people

it is sad how one or 2 can poison it for everyone; but just like you have the prominence of the bad and the ugly, you also have the good, even great as personified by Jimmy Wales and Craig Newmark

Aug. 06 2008 09:59 AM

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