We all know them. You watch a video, you read an article, you foolishly scroll down and there they are — the comments.
On The Mancunion comment section you can use any username you like, and you do not even need to use a real email address. We have had our fair share of ridiculous, abusive, and just plain bizarre comments. Not all of them are trolling, or being deliberately provocative, many clearly just disagree with our writers and choose to voice their frustration in a petty, personal way, but many are worth reading. Here are some of our favourites:
‘guz’ on ‘A response to ‘Dear fresher females studying STEM’’: “It’s hilarious how you can sense the indignation and anger of this prissy writer grow through the article. By the end she is starting to realise that being born with a vagina entitles her to nothing… Shameful article overall and shows just how conceited feminist has made many women.”
‘Rachel’ on ‘Are celebrities ruining Sport Relief?’: “Harry Newton, how you could write this is beyond me. What Eddie is doing is utterly inspiring. I feel dirty even commenting on this because you were quite obviously controversy-fishing when you wrote it. But I cannot stand by and watch a bored, and to be quite frank, boring student write this in the hope of losing his virginity tonight. Harry, Sport Relief is a fantastic cause and it is people like you who detract from it by writing such sceptical garbage, not people like Eddie.”
‘tonysprout’ on ‘The Executive Team doesn’t need a Men’s Officer’ (an article from 2011): … “‘men are already vastly over represented…’ Yes, by patriarchs that believe that women are special snowflakes and therefore need more protection than men. IOW, women can’t hold their own and will never be equal. They are to be treated and protected like children. I see I’m a little late, but the date at the top of this page is Nov 22, 2016. Today’s date, so I’ll post anyway.”
The election of Trump has also attracted many commentators:
‘firstpostcommenter’ (who was second) on ‘Two slogans that define our world’: “I am not saying that all Muslims are Terrorists but all Terrorists are Muslims
Why arent politicians like Hillary saying openly that All Terrorists are Muslims….
People dont [sic] want to hear Political correctness…they want to hear ‘actual’ correctness i.e. to say things as they are”.
‘NosSig’ on ‘Harvard suspends men’s soccer team over sexual comments’: “Hey JM… just a friendly reminder, no one cares about your attempts at virtue signalling”.
‘eric strickland’ on the same article: “you’re a total cuck mangina,i bet you wear your wifes dresses when she’s at work .lmao at you”.
One inexplicable comment thread is this frankly bizarre incident where somebody impersonated one of our writers and… her mum:
‘P’ on ‘53% of University of Manchester students in favour of monarchy’: “What a well written article”.
‘Stevie’: “Thanks Mom – yours truly Stevie”.
Why would anyone bother doing that? However, perhaps more damaging was when someone pretended to be Naa Acquah, the SU’s General Secretary. Or rather, it might have been damaging, if they could spell her name properly:
‘Naa Acqua’ on ‘Response to SU apology’: “There is nothing to settle. You made a colossal blunder and you can’t even apologise with dignity. This article just makes you look bad. Off to a great start guys.”
Opinion naturally gets by far the most comments and debates, and so by extension the most trolls. However, these trolls appear to be a cut above, at least in their eloquence and seeming lack of blind rage:
‘John Smith’ on ‘Can The Labour Party sell 21st century socialism?’: “I must say I loved this article, my favourite kind of opinion piece is so often the type that gives me about as much information as i would obtain from the back of a penguin wrapper! Kind regards John Smith”
‘Catmanface’ on ‘Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell’s disrespect for the student body’: “The only thing we deserve in this situation is better journalism. Aside from the author’s apparent use of this article to practice for his Key Stage 2 ‘how to use analogies’ homework, he clearly isn’t in the real world. Another anology might pertain to Mr Nicholas reminiscing of an inept Brutus, stabbing his friend in the back but failing, with neither grace or charm, to kill her, and instead biting the hand that feeds him.”
‘John Marchant’ on ‘The fight for the European Union is not over’: “Oh stop whinging. If you really want to be in the EU then take the opportunity afforded you now. Move to the EU country of your choice and settle and establish yourselves there.
In 2 years or whenever we leave you will have the time to take residency and then its pretty much guaranteed you can stay.
Its simple really, or is this just Remoaners or Remainiacs having a whinge who will never actually get off their arse and do it. Oh i forgot its Manchester, of course it is.”
Although this relative politeness sometimes slips:
‘Student’ on ‘An NUS women’s officer is unnecessary’: “#I’mHolierThanThouTriggered
However, whilst trolls are often largely harmless, pointless rage, they can commit terrible acts. Research by CiviliNation found that 12.9 per cent of people have been physically threatened online, breaking the barrier between online and offline life. Trolls are also becoming more dangerous — both because they are getting more aggressive and because we are putting more and more of ourselves online. According to trolling expert Professor Joseph Reagle simply saying “don’t feed the trolls” is “no longer sufficient. The trolls in the 90s are not the same trolls we have today.”
One example of just how dangerous trolls can be is Gamergate. A movement ostensibly about improving ethics in videogame journalism, in practice it has seen online trolls carry out a systematic, blatantly sexist campaign of abuse. It has led to several women being forced to flee their homes after their personal details were published online and they received countless threats of rape and violence.
“Next time she shows up at a conference we… give her a crippling injury that’s never going to fully heal… a good solid injury to the knees. I’d say a brain damage, but we don’t want to make it so she ends up too retarded to fear us” was one such threat, aimed at developer Zoe Quinn, one of the women who had to change address. Another, Anita Sarkeesian, had to cancel a planned talk, after an anonymous threat that “a Montreal Massacre style attack will be carried out against the attendees, as well as the students and staff at the nearby Women’s Center” – referring to a 1989 antifeminist massacre where 14 women were killed. Even controversial conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, who was a supporter of the movement, had to cancel an event after a bomb threat.
But what makes people become a troll? According to a variety of recent studies, there appear to be two main reasons. Firstly, the anonymity provided by many websites removes people’s inhibitions along with their identity — something called deindividuation. Just as crowds can turn into violence and rioting, people online feel they are free to do as they please, with little real consequence.
Secondly, trolling makes people feel better about themselves — an act of digital narcissism like the selfie. Trolls are likely unable to command the same attention or get the same sense of power and control in real life, so they exert it as much as possible online. The average troll is young, male, white — look at Linford House, who burned a poppy in protest against “squadey cunts,” or Sean Duffy, who trolled the Facebook pages of dead teenagers. Of course there are exceptions, but in the bulk of situations these trolls are individuals wanting attention. They are scared by the slow ending of their traditionally dominant position in society and the increasingly poor economic prospects of our generation and so they lash out.
So, while trolls are often hilarious, they can just as often be terrifying. What they are not, however, is evil — the ones who commit the more despicable acts are just deeply troubled and desperate for attention in order to feel good about themselves. So next time somebody calls you a “total cuck mangina”, tell them to engage in some more positive digital self-love, to whack out that Snapchat dog filter and take some selfies. But do not try to respond to them seriously — you would not want to feed the troll.
All usernames and comments appear here exactly as they were originally posted