Rodney M Bliss

How To Kill A Troll. . .It’s Not What You Think

Troll. . .In the dungeons.

They have a cave troll.

Trolls are the only ones telling the truth.

They are a staple of fantasy stories. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Fellowship of the Ring both came out in 2001. Being a fan of both, it was fun to see how the two movies depicted trolls. It’s clear that the cave troll from Lord of the Rings would eat the troll in Hogwart’s girls bathroom.

In both cases, the troll was defeated by force of arms, or wands. In The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo Baggins simply took advantage of trolls aversion to sunlight and let the warmth of the sun turn them to stone. It’s clear how to kill trolls in fantasy worlds.

How do you kill a troll in the modern world?

Today’s trolls aren’t affected by sunlight, and since they primarily exist online, swords and arrows are pretty ineffective. In fact, there’s really only one way to fight a modern troll, starve it.

Trolls are people who intentionally make provocative statements to get a reaction from people. To be a true troll, you have to not believe whatever outrageous thing you are saying. But, that definition seems to be softening in our age of hyper-partisanship.

Last week there was a violent protest at a major university in California in opposition to a “self described” right-wing troll. The protesters felt that not only didn’t his views match the views of the student population, that his views were radical enough that it was dangerous to have him speak on campus. I’m, of course being deliberately vague about the person involved. Because, honestly, he’s not the story.

This same troll has been banned from Twitter. He was awarded a book deal and immediately people started protesting his publisher. He supported a particular candidate for president and much of the vitriol that might have been a directed at the candidate, got directed at the troll instead.

In fact, the troll is happy to be called a troll. He’s turned it into a job.

How do you defeat this type of troll?

Those opposed have tried several methods. They have staged protests online. They got him banned from Twitter. They staged protests in the streets. Some of the more radical protesters damaged buildings and set fires.

The result?

The troll went from being a minor celebrity to being one of the most famous people on the planet. Despite being banned from having a Twitter account, he now has an inordinate amount of influence on the platform. After protests to his publisher, preorders for his book pushed it to #1 on Amazon. After the protests last week on campus, the sales for his book increased 12,000%. Having written books, I’m sure his publisher is overjoyed at the publicity.

So far, the more the protesters try to shut him down, the louder his voice becomes.

I have a house full of kids. It gets loud. If I try to get them to be quiet by raising my voice, it just gets louder. I typically cannot overshout them. Instead, I need to stop feeding them. Well, I need to stop feeding their conversations.

It works a lot better online.

The way to kill a troll is to starve it to death.

Anyone who’s ever wandered into the comments section of a newstory knows that there are plenty of not nice people online. It used to be that trolls were emboldened by their anonymity. The popularity of Facebook has forced many of those trolls into the light. And while, like the trolls in The Hobbit, the light of day has silenced many of them, there are others who revel in the spotlight. Rather than hiding, they have figured out that fame follows controversy. Most are minor league amatures. Volunteers who believe that any publicity is good publicity and are more than willing to sacrifice their own online reputations to garner LIKES and SHARES.

And then, there are the professionals. They’ve figured out how to monatize their fame. It doesn’t matter to them if people believe what they are saying or not. In fact, I’m not sure they believe it. Tevya, in Fiddler on The Roof remarked,

And it won’t make one bit of difference if you answer right or wrong. When you’re famous they think you really know.

We’ve always had provocateurs. There have always been those people standing on the street corners shouting the message, be it one of destruction, or hate, or love, or whatever. Most of us ignore them and drive on. The internet, and Facebook, Twitter and blogs have provided virtual street corners for those who want to shout out a message. Too many of us are pulling over to the side of the road to engage them in discussion. Or, worse yet, trying to get them banned from sharing their message.

As every author knows, the best thing that could happen to your book is that it gets banned. People want what they are told they cannot have. And with the Trolls, as you attempt to silence their message it simply amplifies it.

Who are your protesting?


I’ve never heard of Bob. Why are you protesting him.

Let me tell you about all of the terrible things Bob wants to do.

And now I’ve heard of Bob.

Hard as it is, the best answer is to simply ignore them. Modern trolls love the light. Move the spotlight somewhere else and they go back to being that guy standing on the sidewalk yelling at the passing cars. You cannot stop him from shouting. You, or rather we, do have control over how loud his microphone is.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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