Trolling for norms: the (de)politicising of irony, stigma, and affect
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 00:32 by Cooper S. Beilby
Originally, internet trolls were tricksters who pretended to be sincere participants in discussions, but whose real intent was to provoke inexperienced users into pointless arguments and cause disruption for entertainment. More recently, however, trolling has become a catch-all term for almost any behaviour that is even vaguely humorous, deceptive, or disruptive. Through inductive analysis of Reddit discussions about trolling and of other documents interviewing trolls, this thesis draws into focus a trolling ideal type. This ideal type is shown to approximate a case study of political trolling involving the Twitter hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII. The case study illuminates how trolls use an intentionally provocative bait to create a feedback loop of amplified visibility and intensified affect. By circulating affect, the feedback loop produces a stickiness and magnetism that draws faceless trolls together into a coherent whole. However, through the dramatic irony norm, trolls use that same affect to stigmatise and exclude the Other to the outgroup.By policing feeling rules whilst performing a folk devil virtual identity, trolls generate a polarising ressentiment which depoliticises the revolutionary potential of anger. Through this process, political trolls seek to repel threats to the borders of their privileged identity and ecalibrate political sentiment in their favour.