Ministers of Trolling

An image depicting Queen of France, Marie Antoinette as an evil panther.

More and more as we explore the extent of trolling in our very own Australian context, the more we see that the issue is far from contained within the halls of competitive high school or amateur sporting clubs. The stereotypical view of trolling as child’s play is well and truly shattered. What did standout as loudest and most dominating forefront of trolling was inevitably, the tangled world of politics.

Politics is had long been a nasty game. Where the prize is power, influence, prestige and popularity, ‘mud slinging’ as the term coined by the news media of the frequent insults traded across the political spectrum predates even modern democracy. After all who can forget Marie Antoinette the amount of effort political enemies of the French monarchy sought to destroy her reputation?

But as is for the many facets of modern life, the Internet and social media has brought anytime, anywhere anyone connectivity. Naturally Political mudslinging went into over drive.

Political trolling isn’t about the issues. They may sometimes hide behind the façade of an issue but at its core, political trolling is about denigrating a politician’s character so badly often with untrue or criminal suggestions that aims at generating hate.

This is another form of motivation that has fuelled the pervasive tsunami that is trolling. Votes, popularity, the need to be right has become backbone of trolling online. And while many are conducted by anonymous profiles on platforms such as twitter and Facebook by regular citizens, many are obviously politicos themselves.  As Lenore Taylor questions,  in her expose published in Fairfax papers on the 15th of September, “are politicians certain they are not harbouring such beasties on their own staff, or in their own building?”. The truth is, trolling – that is abusive, sexually explicit, denigrating and insult comments  versus robust debate expected in a democracy- are often conducted by politicians or their aids. The anonymity of social media profiles is well documented and acts as shield from identifying the real culprit of users, but as Lenore Taylor points out the content of many of these tweets can only be generated with insider knowledge. One such user is avid political troller Demonspofforth his “ tweets show he follows every minute of the political day with the attention to detail of an obsessive insider” pointing to the possibility it can very well be a political staffer or a MP. Another incident where a Greens Staffer was forced to apologise after being revealed as a troll against journalist was heavily publicised.

And who can blame them? A change to not tow the politically correct party line? The change to call a member of the opposite party abusive names or trash their sexuality or appearance that would be never imaginable in a televised Question Time? If I were a politician I dare say  I might even think about it.

The problem is that as leaders of our country they should be able to rise above it and set the example to maintain civility in our national conversation. What hope is there when leaders are the instigators of such hateful speech and commentary that has no place in a society like our? Politicians and their staffers need to lead the charge to make our airwaves a much better place.

We really don’t need any more ministers of Trolling. (Although throw in a few more ministers for transport by all means, my bus was 45mins late yesterday..)  

-By J.Y

Lenore Taylor article : Political tweeters may troll too close to home
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