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The_Dude

Sarah Palin: Mainstream Media's Internet Troll

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Sarah Palin: Mainstream Media's Internet Troll

My first paid online job was back in the mid-1990s, writing and moderating for some TV-oriented forums on Compuserve. I spent a lot of time interacting with people posting comments, and it didn't take long for me to identify a particular type of contributor.

They're generally described now as Internet trolls, and the basic definition is someone who posts extraneous, or off-topic or inflammatory messages in an online community.

The troll behavior most often follows this series of interactions:

I post something that claims, for instance, that a particular TV show isn't very realistic because it is supposed to be set in Chicago, but you can spot the Empire State building in the background.

The troll responds with some mild complaint that I should give the producers a break, because anyone can make a mistake.

That seemingly innocent thread then devolves quickly into a series of increasingly passive-aggressive comments. First, I am accused of taking something out of context. Then I'm accused of harboring a secret grudge against the troll. Then there are several increasingly angry and off-topic comments. If I attempt to get things back on topic, then I accused of attempting to silence anyone who disagrees with me. And at any time in the process, if the troll seems to be losing the argument, they either move to a new thread or simply quit responding until the discussion has died down.

If this emotionally unsettled behavior sounds familiar, then you have been following the recent career of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Palin has decided to talk to the public primarily through Facebook and the occasional public speech. She issues some post and/or video and knows that the mainstream media will cover whatever she says. Whether it's comprehensible or relevant to the world at large.

Often her comments spark a great deal of scrutiny from the press and unlike any previous politician, she seems to be have a remarkable amount of self-control when it comes to speaking with anyone who doesn't fall into the category of "supporter."

She complains the media won't tell her side of the story, yet she firmly declines most requests for interviews. She argues that her political foes are trying to silence her. Even though that's not only not true, I'm not sure that it is even possible. She dismisses anyone in the "lamestream" media at the same time that she is apparently making 90% of her income from being in the mainstream media.

If she feels as if she is beginning to lost the public debate, she'll pop up on some conservative radio show to renew her complaints. If things are really going badly, she'll appear on Fox News, where she'll face tough questions along the lines of "How does it feel to face such criticism?"

In other words, Palin is the Internet troll of today's mass media world. She is not interested in having a serious intellectual discussion. She runs away from questions about her beliefs and has managed to turn every criticism into more proof that she is somehow being persecuted. And when things get too tough, she falls silent again until she senses interest in her is beginning to wane. Then she puts on her troll persona and starts it all again.

Whatever you think of Palin's politics, she has identified the inherent weakness in today's 24/7 cable news cycle. In a world where reporters are always looking for the next hot-topic story, Palin's combination of inaccessibility and casual acquaintance with the facts is a dream come true.

One comment from Palin can spark a week's worth of breathless follow-up controversies. It's only at the end of the process that reporters realize that the entire exercise was pointless and filled with nothing but needy cries for attention.

I don't want to silence Sarah Palin. If anything, I would like to hear more about her beliefs and her core convictions. But in the same way that I learned to ignore those Compuserve trolls back in the 1990s, I'm going to try and overlook most of what comes out of Palin's impressive online commenting factory.

Call me old-fashioned, but I occasionally like a bit of on-topic meat in my conversations.

Sourse

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Whatever. Your snide attacks on Palin are evidence of everything she's been saying about people like you!

Did you actually read the article, or did you get all butthurt for nothing? Look at the way she posts and gives speeches, and look at the way and manner in which internet trolls say things.

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Did you actually read the article, or did you get all butthurt for nothing?

You're trying to deflect attention away from the obvious fact that this post is nothing but an attack on Palin and her supporters. In a way, you are trolling your own thread.

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You're trying to deflect attention away from the obvious fact that this post is nothing but an attack on Palin and her supporters. In a way, you are trolling your own thread.

No, actually, I'm trying to keep it on topic. Please read the article in the OP and stop trying to hijack the thread to fit around your agenda. The thread is about palin taking on the scheme of an internet troll.

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Guess I'll just report you AJ for trying to hijack this thread and i'll PM a moderator to close it. I guess you trolls win.

Hijack? I call you out on your attempt to smear Palin and her supporters and that's a hijack? You trolls crack me up!

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