In order to determine if you're even cut out for trolling, we should do a quick personality test. In 2014, a team of researchers led by Erin Buckels, of the University of Manitoba, published a paper called "Trolls Just Want to Have Fun." Sadism, the tendency to derive pleasure from causing others physical or psychological pain, was one of the most robust of the personality traits linked to trolling behavior. “The associations between sadism and GAIT scores were so strong,” the authors conclude, “that it might be said that online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists.” So if this sounds like you, keep on reading!
First and foremost, you must do all of your most damning work under a pseudonym. Preferably get yourself a VPN too, so the articles you write cannot be traced back to you. This way when the people you have stripped everything from come looking for you, you're safe in someone's basement. While you occasionally leave supportive comments on your own articles under your real name, turning the comment section into a schizophrenic echo chamber, make sure anything that can truly be used against you in a defamation suit is hidden away by your fake identity.
Now, what sparks your campaign could be something as small as a typo. Say for example a practitioner holds a 5th dan in any particular art, and a friend of theirs hosting them for a seminar mistakenly lists their rank as a 7th Dan on the event flyer. Let's call this hypothetical individual Matt Williams. Even with a retraction, your curiosity is peeked and you must know more. You reach out to Matt and demand to see their credentials, and when they respond with asking who you even are, you start the narrative that they have something to hide.
So what do you do? You are, of course, entitled to a full background check and inquisition of this individual and they're not complying with your authority. That's when you enlist the big guns, trolls who have extensive experience in this arena. You join their group and share what little "research" you've compiled, hoping something will catch their scent. It's your lucky day, because like you these troll kings have the same psychological predispositions you do and can smell blood in the water. They launch a full-scale investigation on your behalf while you sit back and watch as the cards unfold.
Like any good investigation, you need information. Rather than going to the source, the individual who is being questioned, because they've already proven not to comply with the requests of fake identities, you contact people even remotely related to them through various connections and ask open-ended questions like "Have you ever heard of Mr. Williams?" and wait to see what the grapevine says.
Ignoring what history and tradition truly tells us about how and why rank is achieved, you regurgitate the "standards" fed to you by your instructor who was more concerned with holding you back to collect more tuition than with your actual progress. You begin publicly denouncing Matt with umbrella statements only the most novice of laymen would believe, such as it's "impossible" to do what Matt has done and he "must be lying" or received his fancy wallpaper through an elaborate circle-jerk scheme designed to deceive the martial arts community at large. You wrap a few lines of factual information around a novel of speculation and outright lies that sit on the border of believability, but won't hold up to real scrutiny. However, negativity and rumors spread like wildfire and the race is on...
By now, the articles and statements you've made have gained traction among your troll companions and it feels great. In a study called “The Dark Side of Facebook®,” psychologist Evita March found that trolls on Facebook are “likely to be merciless, emotionally cruel, and are driven by the pleasure they obtain through others’ pain and discomfort.” That pleasure can even become addictive. “When you engage in this, you’re reinforced by certain biological processes: neurotransmitters, dopamine,” March says. “But like any addictive behavior, you have to do more and more to get that same rush, which is why we might see people engaging in trolling more and more.”
Maybe at this point you attract the attention of Matt's acquaintances who see the writing on the wall and, not wanting to fall victim to such harassment themselves, begin to ask Matt what he thinks about what's been said. At first, Matt is insulted that people he knows would even ask but finally gives in to the pressure. He starts making his own statements, including sharing documents, pictures and certificates to support their claims. But remember, the truth doesn't matter. Any certifications from legitimate organizations must've been paid for, and documents from people you don't know must be fake. Any pictures taken with their instructor to prove their lineage could've been a one-time thing. Even if they post 20 pictures with their instructor over the entire course of their lifetime, it only proves they were in the same room as them 20 times. It certainly doesn't mean they are full-time students of that individual. But just in case, make sure you block them from responding on any of your forums or in your group because you can't afford for your own supporters to have doubts.
Then, you have an idea! If people won't abandon Matt over the claims he lied about his credentials, character assassination is what it must take. You revisit all of the old connections you contacted and scour the website looking for a shred of evidence that could lead to the conclusion that Matt may not be the person of divine goodness that all martial artists must be. While there's not much on Matt, you strike jackpot when you find one of his friends has a criminal record and Matt did nothing about it! Forget about how long ago it was, how dare he not engage in the same vigilante form of justice you've committed to and drag this person through the mud for years on end?
Now you have a weapon that can be truly used to hurt Matt - the moral high ground. After all, cancel culture has proven as long as you're fighting for a cause, the truth falls silent. No matter what actions Matt took to distance himself from the individual, he could always do more! If he kicked him out of the school, he could publicly strip him of his rank. If he did that, he could write articles about this individual and stop him from gaining any future employment. If he did that, he could contact their friends and family to warn them. If he did that, he could protest in front of this individual's home so anyone even just walking by would know the true evil that resides there. Anything short of this level of commitment means Matt clearly supports and condones his friend's crimes, and you're going to let the whole world know it. Because people are so afraid of cancel culture, using buzz words like racist, misogynist, homophobe, and pedophile make people take up arms without even knowing the situation.
So to recap, here is the step-by-step method of becoming a successful internet troll:
- Realize you're a sadist
- Create a fake identity
- Latch onto a victim
- Spread misinformation and lies around a small amount of facts
- Realize you're failing to have any real effect
- Find a moral issue to attach to the situation
- Repeat the lie over and over until it drowns out opposition
Congratulations! You now have all the information you need to start an internet smear campaign and are hereby awarded this certificate of trolling. Use it wisely, because with great power comes great responsibility and when the trolling gets tough, just remember the motto "The truth doesn't matter."