My memories of trolls pre-date the web.

My first contact with them, as a father who sat by his children whilst they watched their TV, was the original Spanish version of “David, el Gnomo”.  It’s funny how first seeings fix it for you.  I far prefer “The X-Files” in the Spanish dubbed version: the voices are much sexier, much warmer than the originals.  The dubbed version of Disney’s “Aladdin” could never replace Robin Williams, but the Spanish equivalent of the same company’s “Beauty and the Beast” (“La Bella y la Bestia”) is so much more fun – especially the figure of Gaston.

So.  Trolls as in “David, el Gnomo” are one of my abiding memories of my time in Spain.

Nowadays, it seems to me of late anyway, the term has come to mean not only people who deliberately aim to pull other people up short – often in a very cruel way – but types who in any other century might simply have been called pedantic.

Yes.  You got it!  I’m clearly talking about myself here …

I remember the other day a very short exchange with a notable British lawyer who has carved out a considerable social-network reputation.  Deservedly so, too.  I met him once, at one of those events in London I used to go to: I immediately liked his seriousness and his informed focussing on issues; I felt, I suppose, it matched my own tendency to talk about real stuff instead of nattering on this or that.

Anyhow.  As I was saying.  A couple of days ago, he asked the Twitterverse to comment on his newly refreshed website.  I made a light-hearted comment, alongside a more serious evaluation (“informative without being fussy” were the words I think I used – can’t say much more with 140 characters!), in what I thought was the spirit of the request.

He replied shortly afterwards, saying: “I actually found that funny.”  (I assume he was referring to the light-hearted comment.)

And so I suddenly realised, as I reeled back through other more recent exchanges, that maybe I’m getting a small reputation as an incipient troll of the worldwide-web kind.  You know.  The kind of person who has too much time on his or her hands, and so spends it wastefully, chasing down bollocks.

Pardon my language.


On the other hand, I don’t feel – inside – that people should really see me like this.  Pedantry is irritating, that’s true, but in some areas – say safety in a nuclear power station – you’d be bloody glad for analogous attention to detail.

In a sense, then, the democratisation of everything except democracy – and here I mean social-networked access to publishing and communication versus feeling you’re making any real difference at the ballot box – has meant simultaneously that there’s both more pedantry to be retweeted and liked, if you so wish and if you are of a mind, as well as greater reasons to stamp – troll-like (as in my kids’ childhood TV) – on the heads of any such instincts.

Yep.  In the grand sweep of things, especially this week, it’s a really minor matter.  But our specialised society so depends on building its multiple foundations upon carefully wrought, observed and sustained accumulative detail that any tendency which serves to criticise and demean such pedantry surely doesn’t bode well for the future.

What do you think?  Am I a sort of troll?

Be kind.

Like all trolls, we do actually take criticism very badly.



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