Trolls are interesting creatures, aren’t they? In internet language, a troll is someone who, among other things, tries to disrupt discussion on certain topics, and we’ve had our fair share of such people on this site. Of course, as everyone knows, the word Troll comes from Scandinavian folklore, as does the word Berserk and I thought this was an interesting commonality, which I’ll come to in a little while.
Probably the most pathetic of the trolls, in hindsight, is the young lad who recently posted material on his blog leading to the derailment of David Norris’s presidential campaign. He commented here quite a lot as well, whenever I wrote anything about Israeli policy, and I tolerated him for far longer than my reputation might suggest, even to the extent that I gave him space last year to write a post all of his own, defending the Israeli attack on Gaza. At that time, I described his contributions as “decent and courteous”, overlooking his tactic of disrupting conversations using any opportunity available to him.
While I offered him space to express his views, he failed to respect that courtesy, just as he failed to respect all other commenters on this site, leading me to conclude eventually that I was dealing with a boy who lacked the normal boundaries by which we show respect to our fellow men and women.
I banned him, and I was right, but I failed to grasp the extent of his vindictiveness.
You see, although I suspected that the young fellow using the clumsy handle “thesystemworks” was a bit of a fantasist, I didn’t comprehend the full extent of his role-playing. I didn’t grasp that a nineteen-year-old Irish lad from Sligo really was convinced he was an Israeli operative in the field. And so, when he re-emerged as the source for the information that has undermined David Norris’s presidential campaign, I was a little taken aback.
I was even more surprised when he boasted on Twitter about his involvement, even though he later attempted to downplay his role.
Coming so soon after the Anders Behring Breivik incident in Norway, I was struck by the similarity between the circumstances of the two fellows, even though one is a grown man while the other is still a boy. Both of these characters had persuaded themselves that they operate on behalf of a greater power. Both are convinced that they have a significant role in changing the world. Both are grossly intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them. Both are prepared to take extreme action in support of their ideology. Both are cowards. Neither has any shame.
Obviously there is a difference. “Thesystemworks” hasn’t killed anyone directly, although he has no difficulty defending the murder of civilians, but I would be worried about this lad. From what we’ve seen through history, adherence to ideology, combined with a delusion of being a secret agent, can have an unsettling effect on the mind.
My advice to our trolling friend would be simple. You have little experience of life, and sometimes the overpowering certainty that comes with youth can unbalance the psyche. We don’t want to see another Anders Behring Breivik, and you’ve already boasted about your achievements in overturning the presidential campaign of a good, if foolish, man. You haven’t killed anyone but you’ve already politically assassinated someone who will always be more of a man than you are.
As even Cromwell said, Think it possible you might be mistaken. After all, and ironically, such certainty as yours gave us the Holocaust.