From Saturday’s Daily Telegraph
Was Anders Breivik an internet troll? I’m sorry if that seems a flippant question to ask about a man who killed dozens of Norwegian teenagers, but you can’t read his 1,500-page “manifesto” without being struck by how thoroughly he trawled the web. Whatever the explanation for his murderous actions, this was definitely a brain warped by the blogosphere.
For readers unfamiliar with blogs, I should explain what I mean by “troll”. The word can be used to describe two types of commenters who write underneath published posts. There are simple-minded folk with jokey nicknames who fling insults at each other for hours at a stretch, amusing no one but themselves. My own blog is infested with them. Honestly, I sometimes wish they would crawl away and die. Then there are the pyjama-clad pseudonymous obsessives whose fingers are calloused from rattling out the truth about the “EUSSR”, BBC bias, Big Pharma, Zionists, Islam etc.
These trolls aren’t confined to the far Left or the far Right: some of the most noxious internet bores turn out to be Liberal Democrats. It’s true that, on the whole, their views tend to be controversial, but the essence of their trolling is their rhetorical style: in particular, an insistence that they know the truth about everything. All they really have in common – apart from an aversion to deodorant – is hysterical omniscience.
Speaking as someone who hates the way the mainstream media suck up to radical Muslims, I find it frustrating that websites devoted to monitoring Islamism are dominated by trolls and writers who play up to them. I don’t trust a word that the BBC tells me about “the religion of peace” – but equally, I can’t trust either the articles or the comments on the Gates of Vienna or Jihad Watch websites…
If Thompson’s implication is that certain blogs and media are so poisoning discussion of serious issues that it is hard to know where to turn for rel