Troll Age

[+] Roman era

[+] American era, 1950s-1990s

Current view

"The rise of personal invective during the first bloom of a new empire is visible throughout Western history. Each time there comes a period in which individual malcontents feel compelled to express their criticisms with humour, satirists adopt the most efficient means of disseminating their message. In Rome, it was the art of declamation. In Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was the printing press used by satirists such as John Dryden and Jonathan Swift, who published cutting parodies of their era’s foibles, like Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. For Bruce, it was the microphone and the record album." - Andrew Clark, Striking back at the Empire

"While frequently as civil as a Bronx barroom, opinion journalism in the United States can also be as heady as a continental coffee house. This has been the case from the decisive influence of the Federalist Papers in the late-eighteenth century to the infectious presence of blogs in the early twenty-first...vigorous commentary, harsh critique, and unapologetic rabble-rousing... have done as much as two congenitally unprofitable, small-circulation magazines can to influence the course of modern American history. Which is to say, a lot." - Randy Boyagoda, Ideological Warfare, 2005-11, The Walrus


The Troll Age mindset fuses what Mark Poster called the " Second Media Age" with what Ulrich Beck called the "risk society". In his book "Ecological Politics in an Age of Risk", Beck says: "We are at the dawn of another golden age, this time perhaps tinged with green..."

Troll view

The trolls, then, anticipate this tinge, and classify gnawlij so as to achieve it. Once information is available from too many sources, disciplined use of social software becomes the only practical means of compiling and then evaluating evidence/source/authority and thus deciding to which authority one must defer. This becomes exponentially more difficult as society gets more complex, accordingly, there is more and more need for trolls.

Eventually, as postulated in Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, the entire society may become steered by the online deliberation of anonymous trolls or at least pseudonymous trolls. In Card's novel, a brother and sister assume each other's positions in a major online forum. Each eventually rises to power advocating the views they adopted from each other - which, in the beginning, they were advocating insincerely, as a game. Card's novel is a good introduction to the Play Ethic, Collaboration Ethic and basic military science.

Toffler: complexity creates trolls

  • "...the more the society advances towards a super-symbolic economy, the more important it becomes to permit an extremely wide range of dissent and free expression. The more any government chokes off or chills this rich, free, flow of data, information and knowledge - including wild ideas, innovation, and even political dissent - the more it slows down the advance of the new economy."

  • "...it is not a fraction of the working population but a substantial and ever-expanding number whose productivity depends precisely on the freedom to create everything from new product designs to new computer logics, metaphors, scientific insights, and epistemologies. Super-symbolic economies grow from cultures constantly provoked by new, often dissenting ideas, including political ideas."

  • "The fight for free expression, once the province of intellectuals, thus becomes a matter of concern to all who favour economic advance. Like adequate education and access to the new media, freedom of expression is no longer a political nicety, but a precondition for economic competitiveness."

  • "This discovery lays the basis for an unusual political coalition of the future - one that brings together two groups that have, since the early days of the industrial revolution, been frequent adversaries: intellectuals, scientists, artists, civil libertarians, on the one side, and advanced managers and even shareholders and capitalists on the other, all of whom will now find that their interests depend on revolutionizing the education system, widening the access of the entire population to computers and the other new media, and protecting - even extending - freedom of expression."

- Alvin Toffler, page 362, PowerShift, 1990, in the powershift politics section

As trolls is the generic term for all those who dispute or challenge common sense online, and since any process involving social software must occur necessarily online, the post-Information Age "super-symbolic economy" must be called the Troll Age.

trolls regulate

In the terms used by Thomas Barnett, disparate disempowered political voices from "the Gap" become "underseers" of a service economy operated from "the Core" in which many offer and request mechanisms compete with financial capital and commodity markets to distribute human capital: social, instructional and even individuals - persons going places on others behalf. All this is enabled by a living ontology to enable services like the open politics time market.

In this context, the troll bard and trollherd may become powerful figures, capable of moving the attention of otherwise apathetic but often-eloquent people to particular issues or questions, if only to fight the known trolls who present a danger to the status quo mindset. It is just as powerful to be opposed as it is to be supported, in this view, since attention is what matters. With respect to financial capital this is called volatility and also can be used to generate a great deal of paper wealth.


A viable, if weak, defense is to ignore trolls but somehow this is found very difficult by some who "must" react to them. The motivation for doing so is usually "dignity". See Beyond Freedom and Dignity for an analysis of just how destructive this is.

Also, Gandhi's ignore/laugh/fight/win iterator may be a way to exploit being ignored until it is "too late" for opponents to stop you. See Gandhi the troll for this analysis.

get trollish

Some political party figures would like to ignore the whole Troll Age, e.g. the GPC Council Crisis.

Empirical evidence - see this page was removed by the Green Party of Canada - suggests that the most threatening concepts to such people are:

If such concepts were not specifically the most dangerous and threatening, why would they be specifically removed?

English and Arabic

Disdain for participatory democracy and deliberative democracy and adversarial process and politics as usual are also common especially among advocates of single command hierarchy. The upper ontology of trollish accordingly relies on democratic structuring and collective intelligence and efficient politics and consensus decision making concepts. Some have suggested that Arabic is a better base for trollish than even Simple English because the list of Islamic terms in Arabic includes a consensus democracy model, e.g. ijma, umma, ijtihad etc.

English by contrast has only one word even for "we"... wheat rolls object to this!Image