Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Age of Rage

I've mentioned in the past that I've a number of stored comments from an individual that never appear here because they breach my acceptable content rules. He has a number of identities and if you happen to follow the history and content of some of our other weblogs, then you may recognise his tightly-wrapped intellectual style; sometimes running a conversation thread between his different aliases, acting as a kind of 'agent provocateur' to move the conversation in the direction or towards the political agenda he wants.

Apparently, this kind of behaviour isn't unusual in the internet's 'Age of Rage'  and I found a good article today which describes the psychology that underlies this modern phenomenon.

The psychologists call it “deindividuation”. It’s what happens when social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed. It is what motivates a responsible father in a football crowd to yell crude sexual hatred at the opposition or the referee. And it’s why under the cover of an alias on a website or a blog – surrounded by virtual strangers – conventionally restrained individuals become 'trolls' ignoring the rules, shouting loudly and using bad language.

"Trolling is a game about identity deception, albeit one that is played without the consent of most of the players. The troll attempts to pass as a legitimate participant, sharing the group's common interests and concerns; the blogs members, if they are cognizant of trolls and other identity deceptions, attempt to both distinguish real from trolling postings, and upon judging a poster a troll, make the offending poster leave the group. Their success at the former depends on how well they — and the troll — understand identity cues; their success at the latter depends on whether the troll's enjoyment is sufficiently diminished or outweighed by the costs imposed by the group."

Tom Postmes, a professor of psychology writes:

"Trolls aspire to violence, to the level of trouble they can cause in an environment. They want it to kick off. They want to promote antipathetic emotions of disgust and outrage, which morbidly gives them a sense of pleasure.”

Postmes compares online aliases to the tags of graffiti artists: “Trolls want people to identify their style, to recognise them, or at least their online identity. But they will only be successful in this if an authority doesn’t clamp down on them. So anonymity helps that. It’s essentially risk-free.”

It's interesting from my own point of view to read that Thanet isn't unusual in having it's small share of an annoying  problem which is widely known across the internet. I first saw this expressed around 18 years ago on a popular dial-up bulletin board system I ran, which attracted such an unpleasant character that the police became involved in tracking his computer, which ultimately led to a raid on desk at Kensington Town Hall. Today, it's a worldwide phenomenon with the same unpleasant spectrum of extremes that one might expect to be expressed across the internet. Perhaps our own frustrated  local troll, on reading this - because I know he will within minutes of my publishing it - will seek a little much-needed help or perhaps a short course in anger management as the number of  loosely moderated weblogs where he can play his games diminishes over time.


Anonymous said...

anon again!
You mean like - When is the TDC going to do something about the stinking seaweed problem which is ripe from Minnis Bay to St Mildred's Bay?
Several holiday makers have left the scene early because they can't stand the smell.
I don't blame them, I would go too, but I'm only a Council Tax paying Resident. So, I have to stay and suffer.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to go off topic, DrM, but I was interested in your recent post on Ken Gregory's blog about the christian group who blanket emailed Council Members. You said "what can I say"? Did that mean you agree with the christian group, or you disagree with them?

DrM. said...

Sounds suspiciously like our favourite troll who spends happy hours trawling through everything i write in the dim hope of finding something to be offfended or outraged by!

It means... 'What can I say' or sensibly add to Ken's report

Anonymous said...

Wow, never been called a troll before! Either way, think you are mistaking me for someone else. The first time I ever saw your blog was when I followed the link from Ken Gregory's blog. I have an interest in the activities of the christian group that contacted Thanet Councillors, which is why I posted on Ken's blog and then wrote to you.

Your post, repeated here, was ambiguous and I am simply asking whether you are supporting the views of the christian group, or disagreeing with them. Simples.

DrM. said...

If you aren't our friendly troll then I apologise. As for supporting the more extreme views held by some of any kind, religious or secular, that's not really my thing.