A superior kind of troglodyte
By D. J. Webb
This is a brief note on a relatively new phrase. The word “troll” literally means a cave-dwelling giant or dwarf, but its use has been extended to people who inhabit Internet discussion boards and post deliberately provocative opinions. The idea is that such people are just trouble makers and should be ignored: don’t feed the troll. However, a much more recent term has come to my attention: a high-functioning troll. This phrase is new enough to have only 226 instances on Google.
I would argue that the high-functioning troll jibe reflects an increasing intolerance in debate in politically correct circles. Detailed and careful argumentation is now regarded as just as offensive as simply name-calling. The latter may be clearly a more classic form of trolling, but the former is now regarded as a form of trolling too. If you marshall detailed arguments on subjects such as immigration, your views can be dismissed, no matter how carefully argued, by labelling you a high-functioning form of a troll.
A high-functioning troll is simply someone with arguments that sound like they might be cogent, or that would require detailed analysis to pick apart, and it is quicker to simply dismiss inconvenient arguments with a jibe. But isn’t a high-functioning troll therefore simply someone you fear because his arguments appear to successfully refute yours?
Another implication of the term is that the person is making the non-politically correct arguments simply to be upsetting, to put the cat among the pigeons, to enjoy the spectacle of the upset he has caused. This is a self-serving PC perspective, as it assumes as axiomatic that PC views are all correct, so anyone advancing alternative views must simply be a bored person trying to create distress for his own enjoyment. If all decent people support the ingress of a million immigrants a year, anyone arguing in a detailed way that this should be stopped is simply trying to be provocative and to generate alarm.
Curiously, the anti-trollers never appear to be high-functioning: they never marshall detailed arguments to support their views. The jibe is sufficient. I think in some sense this explains why some conservatives (including the likes of Milo Yiannopoulos) have self-consciously adopted the trolling mantle: if all their opponents have is jibes in return, then we are losing the ability to engage in rational debate at all. Long live the high-functioning trolls!