Main Page | Recent changes | View source | Page history

Printable version | Disclaimers | Privacy policy

Not logged in
Log in | Help

Troll Age

From dKosopedia

The Troll Age mindset is one of constant escalating troll wars as the standard way to exhaust one's opponents intellectually and emotionally, and of process activism to demonstrate weaknesses in prevailing governance and decision systems. Notable American practitioners and leaders in these methods include Ralph Nader, Larry Flynt, Al Sharpton.

The Troll Age mindset is one of constant psychological warfare, with every word choice a potential conceptual metaphor advance of one's own and a loss to one's opponents. Its basic doctrines fuse what Mark Poster called the "Second Media Age" with what Ulrich Beck called the "risk society". In his book "Ecological Politics in an Age of Risk", Beck says: "We are at the dawn of another golden age, this time perhaps tinged with green..."


trolls taking over

The trolls, then, are those who know and anticipate this tinge, and who classify knowledge so as to achieve their aims through the minds of others:

Once information is available from too many sources, disciplined use of social software becomes the only practical means of compiling and then evaluating evidence/source/authority. This influences to which competing authority one must defer. This becomes exponentially more difficult as society gets more complex, accordingly, there is more and more "need" for such characters as spin doctors, public relations and copywriters and speechwriters. All of whom can most correctly be described as "trolls."

mutual trolling

Larry Sanger, in a notable analysis published at kuro5hin, complained that 'trolls had taken over' the Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that was the inspiration for dkosopedia itself. His fellow founder Jim Wales, in a rebuttal, explained that Sanger 'had never really understood the project' and that waves of such takeover were in fact desirable and deliberately tolerated.

A third influential figure, the infamous English Wikipedia User 24, known only by his IP address, had argued in 2002 that neither of them understood the project, and that the waves of trolls were factions like political parties, and that under-represented parties had to have their interests represented in the discourse, and unpopular views championed. He further argued that Wales and Sanger were both trolls, as was 24 himself or herself, and that was fine. Wales and Sanger did seem by 2005 to be simply trolling each other based on mutual misunderstanding: they were merely the two trolls who got there first, and with no special insight or power to discern who or what was true or who trustworthy.

The solution advocated in 2002-3 was for all users to declare their own so-called "New Troll point of view" and declare "I am a troll" on day one. This would rather be like acknowledging your grasp of the limits of logic by starting your PhD oral exam with the statement "I am lying". One of the standard, though useless, definitions of a troll is "one who does not mean what they say."

The use of faction and tendency tags, as advised by 24, has not yet become standard even on large public wikis, though, most new wikis now advertise their point of view bias, and encourage declaration of bias. For instance, dkosopedia itself has an explicitly "progressive" viewpoint.

funding of trolls

The rise of corporate- and campaign-funded trolls in such venues as Wikipedia prove that there is more and more competition to control the so-called "neutral point of view", that is, the uncontested groupthink that tends to determine who can exercise power without much public scrutiny.

The tendency does seem for more and more open politics argument to occur on the Internet.

Eventually, as postulated in Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, the entire society may become steered by a form of online deliberation. In Card's novel, a brother and sister assume each other's positions in a major online forum. Each eventually rises to power advocating the views they adopted from each other - which, in the beginning, they were advocating insincerely, as a game. Card's novel is a good introduction to the Play Ethic, Collaboration Ethic and basic military science.

What is certain, in the meantime, is that China has attempted to directly apply the 36 strategems to psychological warfare and information warfare on the Internet, in a military doctrine called "Networked People's War".

complexity creates trolls

While a minority of theorists believe that eventually disputes settle down and are rationally agreed to, the majority view seems to be that the profit to be made by disagreeing can rise exponentially, especially as the truth becomes a lot less comfortable for some players. For instance, oil industry players have an extreme incentive to deny climate change, and this rises sharply as more and more people accept the position:climate change caused Hurricane Katrina and other low probability, high impact events of manmade origin.

Alvin Toffler first predicted a Troll Age in his 1990 book Powershift:

Since Toffler had not experienced the Internet, he had no name for the players. That arose later. As "trolls" is the generic term for all those who dispute or challenge prevailing common sense online, and since any process involving social software must occur necessarily online, the post-Information Age "super-symbolic economy" must therefore be called the __Troll Age__.

trolls regulate

In the more conventional military science terms used by former US Navy strategist Thomas Barnett, disparate disempowered political voices from "the Gap" become "underseers" of a service economy operated from "the Core" (the developed nations or the Internet itself) in which many offer and request mechanisms compete with financial capital and commodity markets. The struggle is to direct and distribute human capital: social, instructional and even individuals - persons going places on others behalf.

In this context, the more eloquent trolls may become powerful figures, capable of moving the attention of otherwise apathetic but often-eloquent people to particular issues or questions, if only to fight other known trolls who present a danger to the status quo mindset, e.g. the military-industrial complex. CNN Crossfire is a good example: it sets up known trolls one against the other. Neither is expected to convince the other side's base of supporters, but, the argument is expected to shift swing voters who control the balance of power.

Ratings matter: It is just as powerful to be opposed as it is to be supported, in this view, since attention is what matters. The equivalent concept defined with respect only to financial capital is called volatility and is used to generate a great deal of paper wealth by no deserving effort whatsoever.



A viable, if weak, defense is to ignore trolls but somehow this is found very difficult by some who "must" react to them. This is likely if they are actually swinging votes. For instance, those who chose to ignore Karl Rove's referendums on same-sex marriage were caught by surprise when many of the voters who came specifically to vote against it, voted for Bush.

cry out

Some political party figures would like to ignore the whole __Troll Age__, but this blindsides them and makes them fail to forsee the rise of figures like Howard Dean, who rose largely due to Deanspace,, and etc., notorious troll nests where malcontents could challenge for power.

When Dean announced that he was actually a troll via his infamous war cry, this may have signalled the formal opening of the troll age. Too bad for him, as the public wasn't ready for that yet!

Dean by 2005 was taking a more subtle but very troll-like approach, by eschewing elected office to run the Democratic National Committee instead, the center of troll activity in the Democratic Party. He was forging active alliances with other known trolls like Al Sharpton, a master of dialectics and theatrical tactics.

host SNL

Appearances by Sharpton and Al Gore on Saturday Night Live suggest that they are adopting the Troll Age methods which do not distinguish between satire and "genuine" or "heartfelt" political comment.


Troll age tactics have been most actively studied in the UK and Canada. The empirical evidence suggests that the most threatening concepts to power brokers are:

These, and any explicit discussion of stable tension structures and the dialectic and tensegrity methods, tend to be threatening to the power broker, as they put any individual in the position to become a power broker and do their own "spin control". At which point, those who do it for a living are markedly less valuable.

This can be seen similarly to programmers promoting complex operating systems that leave only themselves in a position of power.

back to basics

Perhaps older styles of participatory democracy and deliberative democracy are least affected by, or vulnerable to, Troll Age tactics. The good old physical town hall for instance may still be best immunization to mass media tactics and propaganda techniques that work well through electronic media. In other words, get out of the Troll Age by turning off the elecronic media tap, and leaving it off. See think global act local.

Those who employ an adversarial process and politics as usual will often find themselves trapped under the command of a single command hierarchy and an increasingly centralized administration. This seems like a dead end to most who have studied the failures of the Democratic Party and the rise of the Bush League despite its incompetence.

models to explore

Yet, there is no competing model. The Green Party of the United States is not mature enough to act as an effective opposition. Within progressive parties, alternatives like democratic structuring, collective intelligence and efficient politics have yet to mature, as they rely on educated people and consensus decision making concepts poorly understood by the public.

English as a problem

It may be that the English speaking world is crippled in this effort by English itself:

Some have suggested that Arabic is better adapted because even a short limited list of Islamic terms in Arabic includes a consensus democracy model, implied by the standard meanings of words like ijma, umma and ijtihad. Irshad Manji and Ziauddin Sardar are two modernists who advocate applying these techniques directly to Arab/Islamic democratization.

English by contrast has only one word even for basic ideas like "we"... leaving open the question "who's we" for redefinition by some authority, any authority.

Retrieved from "http://localhost../../../t/r/o/Troll_Age_7ffd.html"

This page was last modified 13:08, 12 June 2007 by Chad Lupkes. Based on work by dKosopedia user(s) Anonymous troll. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

[Main Page]
Daily Kos
DailyKos FAQ

View source
Discuss this page
Page history
What links here
Related changes

Special pages
Bug reports