The Ubiquity of the Unintelligent, Illiterate, Uninformed Troll


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On researching about Gregory Corso, the poet, I found this in a compilation Blog on some of the greatest poets of our time.

In the introduction, it says the following:

“ Gregory Nunzio Corso was an American poet, youngest of the inner circle of Beat Generation writers (with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs). He was beloved by the other ‘Beats’.”

“… a tough young kid from the Lower East Side who rose like an angel over the roof tops and sang Italian song as sweet as Caruso and Sinatra, but in words… Amazing and beautiful, Gregory Corso, the one and only Gregory, the Herald.” ~Jack Kerouac

“Corso’s a poet’s Poet, a poet much superior to me. Pure velvet… whose wild fame’s extended for decades around the world from France to China, World Poet”. ~Allen Ginsberg

Then I travelled down to the comments section- as I typically do, despite the better advice from most of my colleagues.

A supremely confident dolt had trolled in and made a comment, “What kind of crazy mother fucker writes this BS. “ And in doing so, the troll (gender unknown) had somehow initiated a perverted discussion on communism, hippies and eventually the discussion had gone on to masturbation and orgasm and finally the inevitable “judging from your English, you must be a camel rider.”


The Implements then and the audience now

My comment is not about Corso. It’s not about Beat poetry either. It’s more about the time he lived in. The tools of his trade. His implements, his audiences.

It is about a time when there was no Costco or Walmart, where no laptops and IPads were sold with readymade chit-chat, crib and bitch software to Buzz, WhatsApp, Tweet and troll the world, just for the heck of it. Because comment has been made free (the practice of democracy) and abuse of bandwidth (aob) is accommodatingly kosher.

It was the way Corso communicated his passion to his following. And the way people reacted to the words of the time. About a wasted world, a warring world, a world where the coldness of ideological wars deprived the soul of both positive and negative associations and left no space or stage even for melancholia. This was about how they met and exchanged notes on scraps of paper, which they invariably misplaced or simply tossed out into the endless caniveaux that sloped along the sides of the cobbled streets of Paris, which were conveniently lit up by a predictable Lune. And how they opinionated, opiated and rebelled about the world they had inherited then. That was then. A world of Buddhist poetry, unbridled gayness, daring real-time cinema, staged live with optional endings on stage, cigarette smoke in Montmartre cafes or on the lower east in New York. Stand-up bass notes vibrated the room; reeds tickled the air and fumes curled up to the lamp shades while a lonely word warrior belted out rhymes. And repeating lines for emphasis–while a mesmerized audience nodded Yeah! Yeah! And people listened, for god’s sake. People listened and absorbed! And crumpled pieces of poetry handwritten or typed lay on the floor of a Bleecker Street loft –-pages whipped out in a frenzy of words from a cloppity Remington Rand. And an old man named Pete sang songs about the hard times and when the good times would roll. This was a world where Poetry took forever to get printed and capture the mood of the times. But once it got out, it was respected; it was carefully preserved, next to bedside tables, carried in ruck sacks, or left on shelves or on LPs made of bakelite. It was re- read, talked about, listened to and discussed in face-to-face encounters. Until the plasma or LED screen usurped the typewriter.

Well, the gist of what I am saying is that your heckler faced you. You could see him or her. And if you were pissed off (POed) enough, you would roll up your white cotton shirt sleeves, walk up to him and fists would fly.

But today you can’t see your heckler.

Well! Something does not sound right about the way I went about this and so I must start again and say that I wanted to write about trolls in the blogosphere and how I detest them and how I could wring their necks with my hands till they choked and squelched out their last breath–the green putrid gas-breath of a reptile mall-rat generation that coils itself around the cloudsphere. I could put my arms around their necks and squeeze the daylights out of a majority of them.

This interjection about these poets was triggered by a friend who I have been transporting thrice a week for his dialysis, at a Montreal treatment center. He shares snapshots from his life about meeting people, sometimes world leaders, in several corners of the world, in Paris, in Beijing, in Moscow, in Budapest, in Washington, in Pyongyang– some very crucial people in world politics and in a hundred other places in the world, where he has travelled. There are stories in his head that can be a compendium and then he tells me casually about how he ran into Corso in Paris, where he was a student, and Corso asked him for postage stamps because he wanted to mail his poems to someone in New York and did not have the money to buy stamps. That was then. You needed stamps. You needed typewriters. You needed paper—to tell the world about how you felt. Now you need a cheap notebook and a wi-fi connection to spew out spontaneous and instantaneous vitriol using chat slang (another day in paradise –adip) while you are sequestered in your incognito IP address in your single mother’s home, where you have parked yourself, anyway, after ditching all possibilities of informing yourself about the world gone by.


So what makes a troll?

So what makes a troll do what he or she does? What does a troll want out of life? Where do trolls get their energy and political beliefs? Are trolls a product of the relations of production? What is the basis and raison d’être of a troll? Is the troll a product of social relationships, economic relationships, or technological relationships?

The troll, in my opinion (imo), is a product of the industrialization of knowledge. Or, rather it is the reserve army of labour put out by a technology that works with lesser and lesser and fewer and fewer until half-baked knowledge and capability is spawned and released to the world. They are the product of a society, where knowledge is relatively easy to acquire (unlike a tool maker, an assembly worker or a miner or a short-order cook) and therefore profitability (or its declining rate) requires that they are used and released. Something like farm salmon. Spuriously red, invariably tasteless and easily available. So, the knowledge factory and the creation of the “virtual” industry has created vagabonds, who have driven the cost of knowledge down and thus made these “workers” available at below minimum intelligence. Wiki knowledge and wikianalysis have put out experts on all issues. However, trolls are a special variety. They have neither analytical skills nor knowledge. They are simply out there with their smart devices, jibbing and jabbing, getting offensive, obscene and anonymous. There, for the heck of it. They are not even the lumpens of the knowledge world. Lumpens were the disposed who had no revolutionary ardor. They are the displaced stay-at-homes whose social, political, historical and language skills are definitely suspect.

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Now and Then

Of course we have travelled a long way in the past 4 decades. We have put caution to the winds and evolved technologically in such leaps and bounds—and we have put so much distance between now and then, that we don’t remember anymore, as to how we talked, we exchanged, we remembered each other’s faces and how we remembered our words and discussed them through the night till dawn broke.

So today when I finish reading an incisive piece about Ed Snowden or a piece about the China-Russia gas pipeline and the diminishing of the US dollar as reserve currency, or I read about the two Dalit girls in India who got gang-raped and then hung themselves (so far that is the official story), I cannot avoid travelling down to the end of the article and start reading the comments on the story. The story was uploaded in the last few hours and the trolls have descended on the piece, like an army, with their characteristic un-intelligence, illiteracy, foul-mouthed vituperations and absurd reasoning.

Trolls are the bane of the virtual world. They get in on every conversation, irrespective of the moderation deployed on the site. In fact, certain blog moderators actually encourage a certain political slant. They encourage racists, provocateurs, intolerant, unintelligent and mostly insouciant idiots to travel from one blog to another spiking conversations with short harangues. So what starts out as a discussion on US Foreign policy pivots in Asia, ends up as a private feud between an Arab hater and a Jew Hater. Eventually, it migrates over to a discussion on cricket ground animosity between Indians and Pakistanis and finally an open threat to “nuke” each other someday. Of course, if one follows an article by a Chris Hedges or a Tom Engelhardt, there is a significant level of seriousness that the comment-makers deploy. Because they are concerned. They are involved in some way. They are experienced and knowledgeable. But trolls?  Hang ’em !(HE)




Rana Bose is an engineer, playwright and author.