This article sets out some of the opportunities for novice Trolls to explore the boundaries of trolling those people who say one thing and then do another. It uses real examples from real trolling endeavours.
Understanding – Do they see where you’re coming from?
In Cyberspace we will often meet people who claim to be the most tolerant and understanding people in the world – the Sun appears to shine from their proverbial on no end of occasions. But these people are not flawless – they have prejudices just like everyone else. Whether you are dealing with a Socialist Saint, who hates Tories, or a self-professed ‘modest computer geek’ who hides a secret thirst for vanity, there are always ways these people can be wound up to reveal their true personality. Self-proclaimed atheist, Richard Dawkins, claims to believe in reason, but will block on Twitter those who disagree with him. Is this the voice of reason?
Relevance – Are they who they say they’re not?
There are many people in Cyberspace who think they are the most important people in the world. Some are upfront about it, like me, and post using our real names. Others can only seem to assert themselves however by hiding behind pseudonyms. Take Professor Barry Wellman from Toronto University for instance. Barry Wellman posts under the name of Bellagio99 on Wikipedia, spending most of his time editing himself into pages, such as on the Bronx, where he was from, as well as his own biography, as can be seen from this archive of his edits. Outing people like this will have no effect as they and their accomplices (known as ‘meat-puppets’) will defend their right to ‘privacy’. Also, the administrators are more likely to ban you from editing because they may think protecting a poster’s anonymity is more important than dealing with a conflict of interest, as can be seen on the talk page of the Wikipedia user Multimedia Guru.
So one of the best ways to troll these people, providing you think breaking the ‘Assume Good Faith’ rule is fair because it achieves the ‘Ignore All Rules’ rule would be to very innocently remove something about them, or cite something about them they’d rather not be there. When they go to remove it they will be set up-on by persons who dislike their masked attempts at puffery, which in the case of Barry Wellman include Antiselfpromotion, and BarryBelagio, while their meat-puppets step into protect them. In Professor Barry Wellman’s case, these meat-puppets include; Jeremy Hunsinger (Buridan), and Anthon Eff (Anthon.Eff).
Aspiration – Do they really know everything?
There are many people in Cyberspace advocating like they do in print that one can have ‘mind over matter’ and through ‘self-help’ books one can achieve everything in one’s dreams. Such delusional persons are ripe material even for novice trolls. Whether these people run ‘Agony Aunt’ columns, or like Tony Robbins that they make motivational speeches with no substance, there is always the opportunity to send a question that is clearly a wind-up, or by leaving a comment that will provoke their supporters into a rush of defensive flaming. Scott Hurst is an example of someone who thinks he knows, but doesn’t really.
Choice – I’m sorry to be rude, but…
In Cyberspace there is no end of people who claim to be ‘open-minded’ and think everyone is ‘entitled to their opinion’. All too often however, such people will have red-lines. Whether it is a bigot, who foams with venom when the words ‘immigration’ and ‘gay marriage’ are mentioned, or a so called democrat who will accept posts from anyone, so long as they scrutinize them first, there are plentiful of these to troll. In the case of the former, one just needs to take on the role of ‘Devil’s advocate’, and argue against the things their passionate about. In the case of the latter, who try to keep a tight ship, more subversive methods are needed. Whichever Web browser you use, there is likely to be an application that allows ‘spoofing HTTP referrers’. This is where you can get your browser to make this closed-minded bigot think people are searching on their site for things they would rather not. You may be unlikely to see the effects of this type of trolling, but it is never the less satisfying as these control freaks have no say over their server-logs.
Expression – I dare you to prove me wrong
There are many people in Cyberspace who claim to value ‘free speech’ and say that ‘censorship’ is completely out of order. Why not test how much they are true to their word? There is no better place for this than Twitter. Iconic free-speech figures like Simon Singh (@SLSingh) regularly post here. See how long it takes of provoking them before they block you, and go against the values they claim to uphold.
Another related group of people are those with religious convictions, as you can read about in more detail in this article. Getting Christians to be unforgiving towards you, Atheists to be moralistic, or people of any religion including Atheism to call you deluded for a religious ‘conviction’ for you only then to turn it around to show that they are also is also a satisfying type of hypocrisy trolling. The above page is the Twitter account of Liam Godden (@LiamGodden). Liam Godden is someone who is both an Atheist and anti-censorship advocate. On Facebook, I posted some comments on Liam Godden’s page questioning the legitimacy of Atheist theology and Liam Godden blocked me, which was quite satisfying seeing as I was only expressing to Liam Godden my actual uncensored opinion!
This article should give you an idea of some of the types of trolling opportunities available, which don’t harm people, beyond potentially exposing the hypocrisies in what they say, which will entertain others. If you would like to improve your technique at trolling for others’ entertainment then why not take our course, Becoming a Better Troll?