Species commonly found in comment sections – a spotter’s guide.

This is a brief guide to recognising the denizens who inhabit the comment sections of the web. It is a work in progress, and will be expanded as new species are categorised. If you recognise yourself in any of these descriptions, please leave a comment.

Trolls. John Bauer.

‘Go on. . . you were saying?’ Trolls. John Bauer.

The Reluctant Oracle

Often characterised by the opening refrain of ‘What I don’t understand is. . .’

We understand. You don’t understand. Or perhaps you do, in which case using an alternative introductory device, such as ‘I think it’s unfair that. . .’ or ‘I think it’s a contradiction that. . .’ or even ‘Am I right in assuming. . .’ might be worth the occasional spin.

There is a broad, well painted line that separates good natured self-effacement in order to establish your perceived ridiculousness of a subject, and announcing loudly that you are a imbecile, before going on to elaborate on the theme of your condition.

The Line-switcher.

Sometimes innocently, sometimes deliberately, the line-switcher will mess about with the levers in the train station with an utterly irrelevant observation which results in everybody ending up in Bristol Temple Meads, scratching their heads, wondering how the hell they got there. For instance;

Every comment section at the A.V. Club, ever.

The Troll.

It’s a fishing term that refers to trolling a lure through water to see what bites. That the deadwood, or ‘mainstream’ press (as they increasingly inaccurately call themselves) failed to grasp this is somewhat ironic, as they perfected the art years ago. It has now come to refer to anyone who can assemble a string of expletives, and then press ‘enter’.

We mustn’t judge the press too fiercely, the contributors are plainly now out of their depth, and are desperately attempting to stay relevant by pretending to have known what ‘twerking’ meant all along, and producing thought-provoking pieces on how thought provoking pieces about Miley Cyrus seem to be everywhere these days.

The Astroturfers.

Professionals employed by PR companies paid to suppress one set of views in favour of another. If, for instance, an article appears about a subject that falls within the Astroturfers purview, and an opposing opinion has been posted first, someone on the Astroturfing team will report it as being in breach of community standards. While it is hidden until the moderators have judged the complaint, the rest of the team go to work filling the thread with opinions that support their preferred message, and vote each other’s comments up to the top of the thread, thus condemning the reported poster’s original comment to obscurity.

The term comes from using fake grass, as opposed to growing a grass roots movement. Although in my opinion Stewart Lee’s verdict of the worst excesses of Twitter users sums it up far more satisfyingly – ‘Like rats, fighting in a ditch. . . over some piss.’

The Micro-dissertationist.

The micro-dissertationist is an often spotted poster whose characteristics are yet something of a mystery. They are recognised by the lengths of their posts, which may be thoughtful, ranting, or bits of nonsense cut and pasted in from where-ever – nobody knows, because nobody reads them. The poster would be better employed keying that volume of text into to a blog, then typing an explanatory sentence or two into the conversational thread, and including a link to the relevant page, which no-one would follow.

The Snapper (or Brick Thrower)

The snapper/brick thrower can be recognised by a sudden, intemperate reaction to a post which, to the untrained eye, contained nothing of a particularly incendiary nature. These outbursts punctuate a more usually helpful or informative demeanour – an important distinction which separates this poster from the common-or-garden short tempered tit.

After spending some time studying the environment of this species (Facebook groups are a favoured haunt, or indeed anywhere with a sustained theme and a steady flow of new members), triggers to this behaviour can be recognised, the most common of which are;

1. A new user who has a knack of raking over old coals. The snapper/brick thrower may strongly suspect that this is an old adversary with a new username and deal them a reflexive, crippling blow. This can be harsh on genuinely innocent parties, but the snapper/brick thrower seems to be willing to write off a certain level of collateral damage based on the fact that they’ve had enough of this shit anyway.

2. A new user who posts a link to the kind of information that has been repeatedly batted away by the group – for instance, certain archaeologists may react strongly and decisively to new members suggesting an alien input to ancient architecture (all archaeologists have to do this – it’s in a secret contract, without which our conspiratorial brotherhood would lose cohesion, and the truth may be revealed). This can be harsh on genuinely innocent parties, but the snapper/brick thrower seems to be willing to write off a certain level of collateral damage based on the fact that they’ve had enough of this shit anyway.


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