Sunday, October 26, 2014
When I was young, trolls used to live under bridges and reach up and grab your ankles and drag you down into their gnashing-toothed depths. A regular song on the wireless ran, “I’m a troll foldy roll…”The symbol of the bridge is significant; a division between two realities, the every day and the otherworldly. Plato theorized about the very same. Do we truly exist in the every day or is life a fantasy and we are mere shadows on a cave wall? Today physicists posit whether we can exist in parallel universes, quantum beings with myriad identities?
Human beings tend to make realities out of their imaginings. We dream, we play with ideas, we invent. If we believe strongly enough in the possibility of something existing then it becomes, to all intents and purposes, real.
The metaphysical battles fought between philosophers over the nature of existence have paled as your average man and woman have embraced alternative realities. They live shadowy lives in cyber space. Under noms de plume they tweet, blog, buy and sell, and form otherworldly communities of similar taste and inclination from the virtuous to the visceral, from the moral to the perverse, from the mundane to the bizarre. Everything is possible out there in the ether.
The Internet becomes a cosmic therapeutic playground wherein its users enter via an airlock between one reality and another and create new rules and roles to be played out on landscapes as malleable as their earthly one are bound. In their Wonderlands they can unleash what has been repressed in them over time from overseeing parents to the policing of society.
And people believe they exist there with impunity. They become trolls and expect the bridge to protect them from visibility as they let loose their atavistic nastiness on the world that passes overhead.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
After last week’s eulogy to the freedom of the Internet and its capacity for anarchy and the puncturing of pomposity (and notwithstanding its propensity for the exposure of lies and tyrannical behaviour of all sorts, its soap box for the disenfranchised, the successful tilting at windmills – for example yesterday’s culmination to the campaign by Greenpeace against the Lego/Shell tie-up – there is another side to the picture. There is always another side of course. There is the dark net, the shrouded world where, we are informed, terrorists, gangsters, sexual predators and the like roam. But in the broad daylight of the everyday, publicly-lit platform for views, comments and opinions, one can find degrees of behaviour that defy one’s instincts for the virtual good of the medium. ‘Trolling’ is central to this disheartening statement on human potential. The other day a woman committed suicide after trolling the mourning McCanns. Her village friends said afterwards she was a wonderful friend and a pillar of the community. She had been outed by a reporter for her bizarre on-line vitriol, accusing the McCanns of murdering their own child. Teenagers have committed suicide all too frequently as a result of trolling from school peers. And at the back of the Internet, where human ants write codes, engineer platforms, create the virtual habitats that we can enter at home, misogyny and sexual harassment rule. It is as though the Internet is sand and people put their heads in it and fantasise, imagining that no-one can see them as the authors, that the medium guarantees anonymity. In today’s Guardian on-line there is an insightful article:
with the premise that it is mostly men who behave appallingly and that they are so enamoured with their beliefs in the ‘heroes’ of the medium that they refuse to accept any contrary view – resulting in the forms of misogyny mentioned above. If you are fans of Richard Dawkins and Julian Assange, read it to test your credulity.