At some point, we will reach critical mass of articles about Internet trolls written by baby boomers, containing pictures of troll dolls.
Tim Dunlop has a piece up on The Guardian‘s website about the often confusing deployment of the word ‘troll’. Here’s the key paragraph:
The word once had quite a specialised meaning limited to a particular sort of disruptive behaviour, but it has now become a catch-all term to describe any behaviour that some journalists and editors deem inappropriate. Their responses to what they call “trolling” often seem less about combating abuse than reasserting their role as gatekeeper, to restore to themselves the right to decide who gets to speak in public and who doesn’t. It is what US academic Susan Herbst calls “the strategic use of civility”. [Source: Dunlop, T. ‘How the word “troll” has been redefined by the powerful’, The Guardian 16 August 2013]
Dunlop has — for a number of years — concentrated on the social world of communication through the lens of the media. What is the relationship between changes to the front page of the media (in whatever form the ‘front page’ takes) and the change in the public’s way of discussing issues. It’s due to this background that Dunlop misidentifies the (ab)use of the word ‘troll’. This is the journalists and editors taking its cue from common discourse — not the other way around.