Humour

Trolling Through the Ages

By Michelle Martin
Published November 22, 2010

In the discussion thread following a recent blog post on trolling, UrbanRenaissance (I bet he belongs to that magical demographic) beat me to the punch with a link to the XKCD webcomic.

For my part, I referenced the eighteenth century - but my comment was only upvoted five times, compared to Urban's ten. What's a girl to do?

Why, she's got to get with it quickly, and try fast-forwarding to 1910: Stephen Leacock, and his short story about a person who would not change his mind, in any discussion of Shakespeare's plays, about the existence of a Shakespearean character named Saloonio, even when faced with the text and a live performance:

I began to see that there was no use in arguing any further with the old man. I left him with the idea that the lapse of a little time would soften his views on Saloonio. But I had not reckoned on the way in which old men hang on to a thing. Colonel Hogshead quite took up Saloonio. From that time on Saloonio became the theme of his constant conversation. He was never tired of discussing the character of Saloonio, the wonderful art of the dramatist in creating him, Saloonio's relation to modern life, Saloonio's attitude toward women, the ethical significance of Saloonio, Saloonio as compared with Hamlet, Hamlet as compared with Saloonio - and so on, endlessly. And the more he looked into Saloonio, the more he saw in him.

-- Stephen Leacock, Literary Lapses

Compare:

Trolls post statements that are more provocative than normal comments. They reply with a persistence that goes far beyond normal discussion. They shift arguments and evidence with amazing fluidity so that there are always more points to address. They press emotional buttons that weaken the rationality of their opponents. At their most sophisticated, they feign reasonableness without ever settling on reasonable conclusions.

-- Ryan McGreal, Raise the Hammer

Michelle Martin lives in Hamilton. The opinions she expresses in Raise the Hammer are her own.

13 Comments

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By PseudonymousCoward (registered) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 07:25:47

Brilliant connection, Michelle! I shall henceforth refer to trolling as "citing Saloonio" - as in, "Stop citing Saloonio."

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 08:36:12

Great post Michelle, for what its worth, I upvoted your comment too ;)

You're also right about the demographic I belong to, that's probably why this Kids in the Hall sketch immediately came to mind.

Thanks for starting my day off with a laugh!

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 08:41:22

Urban-- that skit is one of the all time favourites in this house. Comic genius.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:18:42

it's great - but it aint no gazebo skit

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:28:38

"Stop citing Saloonio!" I like it. I'm going to start using it too!

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By bytheway (anonymous) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:37:31

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Saloonio (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 10:41:53

Reports of my non-existence have been greatly exaggerated.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:02:51

You apparently have ten kids to raise.

Well, most of them are over the age of fourteen, and the oldest three are fully adults. No babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers or kindergarteners, either, so lots of the raising is done. Thanks for pointing out that I should perhaps change the wording of my author info to be more precise.

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2010-11-22 10:15:08

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:19:58

For my vote towards greatest (in scale and scope) troll of all time, I'd probably have to vote for Michel Foucault (or much of the Post-modernist crowd, for that matter). When it comes to endlessly defending absurd statements, launching all-out assaults on those who "don't understand" (ie: respectfully disagree) and bitterly condemning the rules of debate (until and unless it works for them), he's gotta take the cake.

Other suggestions? Mohammar Quadaffi (I fell over laughing when he declared he wanted to "join the war on terror"), Bill Marr, and those guys in Gore Park who keep telling us we're all going to hell.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:32:47

I'd probably have to vote for Michel Foucault (or much of the Post-modernist crowd, for that matter).

Oh, well if your going to go all academic on us...

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 22, 2010 at 11:39:35

Not to get all high-school English class, but no love for Swift's Modest Proposal? I know it was sarcasm, but I still love the crazed reactions from people who don't get the joke.

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By Englishman (anonymous) | Posted November 22, 2010 at 23:01:39

Pxtl>"I know it was sarcasm"

There is a difference between sarcasm and satire, so be precise with your use of terms if you really want to be taken seriously.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted November 25, 2010 at 15:34:21

Undustrial - sit down before you open this link about your fav character.

http://www.unwatch.org/site/apps/nlnet/c...

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