Tangent — Troll of the Century

If you’ve landed here looking for a serious piece, then don’t let that picture above deceive you into thinking this is merely a blog about that gorgeous specimen. Although it’s easy to stare at him without having any thought of politics. Oh, God no, let’s not talk politics while looking at that picture as this would defame his image. So just keep your eyes firmly affixed on my words.

Supposedly Julian Assange of Wikileaks desires open government. Strange way to go about it. Surely there are times in history when unorthodox means are needed to shake up the stagnant status quo, and government does need more transparency. But does Assange really think that exposing the confidential commuinques of governments to this degree is going to accomplish that? If anything, it’s creating an atmosphere of distrust which is certainly not conducive to openness.

Of course there is a theory that this is all a setup, and the information was purposely released in order to manipulate. That’s what my gut is fairly screaming. Plus, this is a much more plausible scenario than some hacker with altruistic intentions. Pardon me while I snort.

But since I cannot be entirely sure of this being a setup, I’m inclined to think he’s a troll. Jimmy Wales’ description of trolls on Wikipedia is apt (emphasis mine):

Trolling is any deliberate and intentional attempt to disrupt the usability of Wikipedia for its editors, administrators, developers, and other people who work to create content for and help run Wikipedia. Trolling is a violation of the implicit rules of Internet social spaces and is often done to inflame or invite conflict. It necessarily involves a value judgment made by one user about the value of another’s contribution. (Because of this it is considered not to be any more useful than the judgment ‘I don’t agree with you’ by many users, who prefer to focus on behaviors instead of on presumed intent). Not to be confused with large warty monsters thought to dwell under bridges, in caves etc.

Trolling is not necessarily the same as vandalism (although vandalism may be used to troll). A vandal may just enjoy defacing a webpage, insulting random users, or spreading some personal views in an inappropriate way. A troll deliberately exploits tendencies of human nature or of an online community to upset people.

There are many types of disruptive users that are not trolls. Reversion warriors, POV warriors, cranks, impolite users, and vocal critics of Wikipedia structures and processes are not necessarily trolls.

The basic mindset of a troll is that they are far more interested in how others react to their edits than in the usual concerns of Wikipedians: accuracy, veracity, comprehensiveness, and overall quality. If a troll gets no response to their spurious edits, then they can hardly be considered a troll at all.

I would bet Julian Assange is feeling mighty fine right now. He’s probably never felt more alive.

And now I must remember the cardinal rule concerning trolls.


  1. Yes, do not feed them! ;)

    Interesting connection, that the guy’s a troll. Perhaps you’re right, that it’s all just a huge PR trick. Question is, if it is, what else is going on that they’re trying to hope it gets lost? The best day to have a crisis in your company is the day something very big and therefore newsworthy also occurs, because it means the spotlight will be off them.

    And speculating about big events that might have covered other important things is a whole can of worms I’m too tired to open now! And it wouldn’t fit with the blog very well either. RA is a much more pleasant subject.

  2. Hey RAFrenzy! I disagree strongly that Assange and Wikileaks are trolls (The Adam Carter quote “question our methods, not our motives” comes to mind!) but just wanted to add to your point that “the information was [possibly] purposely released in order to manipulate”. It’s certainly possible! Some commentators think that the cables actually show, by and large, that US diplomats are doing a good job, and that some cables vindicate certain actions by the US and in other circumstances, challenge previously reported suspicion concerning the US involvement in some matters (ie, the cables suggest the US were not involved). So apart from the UN spying orders, the cables mostly reveal bad things about foreign leaders, rather than the US.

  3. If it’s not clear, let me make it so. I think its a setup, and Ive though that since the beginning. A setup of exactly what I’m not sure. Could be making U.S. look good, or it could be something else. I don’t know, but it smells.

  4. Traxy, I’m not sure PR trick was what I had in mind when I was referring to a setup, but it could be.

  5. I come from a country whose government is a complete (though poorly written) act by those who in fact rule the state behind the curtain. Which fully shaped my mind into believeing that whenever there is a “leak” of any sort of information – it is a certain set-up. Although honestly speaking, I’m perhaps the last person to listen to news reports which is why I only heard of the wikileaks scandal, can’t claim to make any judgements on my total lack of knowledge and familiarity with the subject. However, I strongly believe that the US government would be the least likely of all to allow smth like to slip past them with no control whatsoever.

  6. Just wondering in what sense you think it’s a set up (I have wondered that too, in relation to the cables) – as bait to get Wikileaks to publish so they can have an excuse to go after Assange and prosecute him? Or as a set up to release information they can’t release on their own? Or a bit of both?!

    Btw, I completely understand why some might see Assange/WL as trolls (reminds me from my activist days, being accused of wanting to “stir up trouble”!), but I don’t think activist trolls (and they are out there!) are genuinely committed to doing the hard work to recreate social and political change. Wikileaks efforts in Iceland and Kenya, which resulted in real change, for example, suggest to me that this is not a group to whom the term troll applies. Having said that, there could be troll-type element to the release of the cables. I’m not 100% convinced of the wisdom in releasing all of them, particularly those that seem to be inconsequential, at this point.

  7. Hmmm. I wasn’t thinking this was a setup of Assange so much as it is a setup of something closer to home.

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