Published: Thursday June 18, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday June 18, 2015 MYT 7:08:34 AM

It’s a troll’s world out there

ON social media there lurks a creature called the troll. What a troll aims to do is to make life miserable for someone.

He (and sometimes she) does this by posting nasty comments about that person, or instigating others to also troll the person.

Wikipedia describes a troll as “a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chatroom or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion”.

I was at a recent forum listening to an American woman, Lindy West, who had a real problem with trolls on Twitter.

Suffice to say that women are often the target of trolls.

West seemed to have been a specific target, mostly because she is a large-sized woman with very confident feminist views.

One troll was particularly vicious, attacking her relentlessly.

But to cut a long story short, West finally met the troll and he admitted to her that the reason he trolled her was because he hated the fact that unlike him, she was a confident happy person despite being plus-sized.

In other words, he trolled because he had his own issues.

Which is a useful thing to remember when one gets trolled.

It’s not you that has a problem, it’s them.

And you have two choices of what to think about them: ignore them or feel sorry for them.

While West managed to sort things out with one troll, it is of course not possible to, as she said, hold hands with every single one.

Ultimately, you can’t solve their problems for them, especially when they don’t even think they have problems.

In our dear country, the advent of social media has given rise to not just one troll, but a multitude of them.

They snipe at you for any reason at all, for what you say, or don’t say, for what you wear or don’t wear, for whatever you do.

They seem to spend their entire lives thinking up nasty things to say, frequently misspelled and with the sort of perverse logic that only people with damaged frontal lobes can muster.

Nothing pleases a troll more than to whip others into one big hysterical mob over an issue that they made up in their own sick minds.

And because people know that trolls punish non-followers by then training their sights on them, most people conform and join the mob. It’s safer that way.

Our Malaysia seems to have become a nation of trolls.

At the slightest thing, without any provocation, a troll makes a suggestion and suddenly a heaving mass of hysteria begins, aided by a media ever-watchful for sensationalism.

Like a ball of dough, the troll gathers more and more adherents until it grows into one seething globe of rage, spitting venom at the poor victim, uncaring about what hurt might be caused.

Yet, these same people would be the first to feel insulted should anyone have the temerity to suggest that there may be something wrong with their moral compass.

Hiding behind self-proclaimed piety, they shout their indignation with name-calling, insults and insinuations.

You have to pity the Malaysian troll. What poor unfulfilled lives do they lead that the only joy they can get has to come from making someone else miserable?

How boring are their lives that someone else’s hard-earned achievement is taken as an offence to their own suspect morals?

While their target can list “Won two gold medals at the SEA Games” on their curriculum vitae, what can they put on theirs other than “Looked at her outfit and imagined her private parts”?

There is a certain psychosis that afflicts trolls.

And when there are so many trolls in this country of ours, you can’t help but think that the entire nation is suffering from a psychosis as well.

And what is so surprising about it?

We have leaders who are often no better than trolls, making up issues when there aren’t any.

What is a minister who claims that a design on a telekung that looks like a crucifix is a plot to convert Muslims but an official troll?

Is not a religious leader who declares so many things haram that one can barely get out of bed without sinning nothing more than a troll in a robe?

With these types of leaders, who can blame the masses for their madness?

We need to recognise that it is a madness that we are experiencing and having to bear these days.

And like lunatics in the asylum, there can be no happy end to this.

  • Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. The views expressed here are entirely her own.

Tags / Keywords: Marina Mahathir, columnist

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