Daily Record's John Niven is nearing the end of his epic quest. He has trekked into the realm of the trolls to see what we all wonder about, at one time or another: what trolls really hide in their dark, scary caves. And with all the dawning realization of the true explorer, he has seen the truth that sooner or later, we all see — that, in fact, a troll's cave is always empty.
The Caroline Criado-Perez debacle got Niven thinking about the nature of the Twitter troll, specifically.
Now here’s a fellow worth picturing. A guy who hears something on morning TV about a woman successfully campaigning to have another woman put on a banknote and his first thought isn’t, ‘Well done’, or even the much more likely, ‘I don’t really care who’s on the £10 note, now what’s for breakfast?’.
No, his reaction is, ‘That uppity bitch, I am going to go on Twitter and threaten to rape her’.
Like all explorers, Niven's thoughts traveled beyond the simple question of why trolls are attacking Caroline Criado-Perez, and and set sail upon the Sea of Understanding Why Intelligent Women Threaten Trolls.
And here is part of the problem: Twitter is all about pure mind – give me your best sentence. It’s not about who has the loudest voice. Men can’t shout women down. You can smash the keyboard all you want – the letters come out the same size, baby.
Some men, it seems, have difficulty with the concept of this level playing field, filled with women happily skating circles around them.
It can be a perilous journey, seeking out the troll, trying to understand his nature. And it can test the mettle of the finest explorer when it comes to the inevitable confrontation. Yet, Niven realized quickly that with most misogynistic trolls, a complete set of armor is unnecessary — simply holding up a torch and illuminating the creature is enough to send it skittering.
Because this is the way it always goes with these losers, sub-humans, no-men. They throw vicious rape abuse at a woman. Someone retweets them and the real world comes crashing in. They delete the tweets and close their accounts down.
Then, a welcome new thing last week, they get arrested. Some may lose their jobs. They go from fearless abuse Gods to cowering, grovelling apologists very quickly.
One of the fastest examples of this was Oliver Rawlings. He tweeted the academic Mary Beard after she appeared on Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show last week, where she was talking about how upsetting the trolling she gets is.
Oliver sent her a message, saying: “Retweet this you filthy old slut. I bet your ****** is disgusting.” Someone else said they had Oliver’s mother’s address and suggested Vine print his tweet off and send it to her.
Seconds later, Oliver said: “I sincerely apologise for my trolling. I was wrong and very rude. I hope this can be forgiven and forgotten. Xx.”
Those kisses really cracked me up – coming so quickly after. As if this foul abuse was a hiccup or a burp, something that just popped out.
Well, it would be comforting to see it that way — to think that trolls are simply ugly things that pop up out of nowhere, but we also know what makes them possible. Sometimes the world encourages dark corners, encourages them to proliferate.
Extra batteries for your flashlight, anyone?