The most common piece of advice given to people getting dragged into an online argument is “don’t feed the troll”. It’s easier said than done though, especially if the troll has found something so provocative to say that not replying feels like more of a crime than getting sucked in. This process could be seen in inglorious action a couple of weeks ago when the liberal-ish wing of the British media let itself get trolled by an “outrageous” television personality. Whilst I am not going to directly name the participants in this little spat – I want to explore the structure rather than the specifics – it is perhaps worth noting that the “outrageous” personality is female. Here is an outline of the “outrage”:
The “outrageous” TV personality goes on television. They say something “outrageous”. A clip of the incident is uploaded to YouTube. Journalist and comedian types (and Norwich FC midfielders) who spend a lot of time on Twitter have this “outrageous” outburst brought to their attention and are to various degrees “outraged” or amused. Were they watching the program when it was actually broadcast? We are not informed. The “outrage” spreads. The TV personality becomes the number one trend in London as people who work in close proximity to computers while away another afternoon getting “outraged”.
Broadsheet newspaper’s online operations whip out hastily written articles about the “outrage”. Columns are written about the “outrageous” TV personality and the issues involved. The story fuels columns for several days. Many of the commentators and columnists know they are being trolled but can’t resist:
Neither can the “outrageous” TV personality:
The presenter of the TV show where the celebrity originally said their “outrageous” words announces the video of the celebrity being “outrageous” has now been seen by over 3 million people. At some point the cycle ends. Everyone involved has had their fun, everyone involved has played their part: the “outrageous” TV personality has been “outrageous”, the good people of Twitter have been “outraged”, snarky types like me have done their meta-commentary. Perhaps most notably – despite the “outrage” – a media blog notes of the original clip:
Outside the internet most people are oblivious. The world at large is no better, no worse than it was before – apart from a few TV bookers who now know who to call next time they need a bit of buzz. This entry isn’t really about the one particular “outrageous” TV personality, because there will undoubtedly be another incredibly similar “Twitterstorm” about someone similar soon. Whose fault is this? The “outrageous” TV personality, the TV show that booked them, the Twitter types who made her go viral, the newspapers that sold advertising around stories about the incident or everyone who posted a message about the sorry saga? When it comes to feeding “outrageous” TV trolls at least, as Rob Base and DJ E Z Rock once said It Takes (at least) Two:
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