Reader's Notes - PN 2.19 - Trolls in the Astroturf

Trolls are everywhere online, and they are creeping more and more into the mainstream of media discourse in politics. In the online arena, the evolution of the commenting provocateur has led to a more understated approach to trolling -- if you're obvious, someone's going to call you on it -- but in the political discourse, trolls abound. The general rule, of course, about trolls is this: DON'T FEED THE TROLLS.

It would be dishonest of me not to disclose my political perspective at this point -- I suppose you'd call me a secular progressive. I'm not particularly impressed with the general run of Republicans and Democrats, but I do think Barak Obama is impressive at times. Nevertheless, the depth of Republican trolling in the form of the Tea Party "Movement," the anti-Obama "Birthers," Sarah Palin's "death panels," and the vociferous and purely disruptive trolling at the Health Care Town Halls these days seems to steer the political debate in a direction that's just plain pointless. It's a matter of saying or doing outrageous things to create a false, wobbly center of gravity in what should be a more grounded debate.

All the more irritating is how all these trolls purport to be part of some grassroots movement, when it appears they're often coordinated attempts by partisan think thanks to create the appearance of a "just plain folks" appeal. I'm sure organizations on both sides of the political fence do this type of "astroturfing," but can we please do away with the outright reactionary and, frankly, racist stupidities?