Trolling and refueling the tank of spectacle

So I got to Internet Trolls via my work on Anonymous vs the Church of Scientology but I have remained interested in grappling with them independent of Anonymous. In the last few weeks, I had the chance to bump up my knowledge some about trolling. There is a lot swimming in my head, too much to really put anything down with much coherence, but there is one issue I will throw out there for now, which has to do with the sustainability of the spectacle that is at the heart of trolling. One troll who has produced his fair share of the spectacle, Weev, during a recent chat, raised the issue of the limits of spectacle, in other words, of the difficulty in upstaging spectacular

my art is hard

weev: i might have
peaked alraedy

weev: im not sure

weev: did i show
you the google trends graph

weev: if thats my
best work

weev: its pretty
good work

weev: i hope i can
upstage it though

weev: but its gonna
be hard

biella: heh

biella: that is the
problem with spectacle

weev: yeah dude

biella: at some
weev: its hard now

The point is straightforward but quite true. Excess, spectacle, extremity are hard to sustain, both individually — coming up with interesting stuff is demanding–but also in terms of spectatorship — the audience gets used to the spectacle, making it harder to jolt them. It is an arms race of sorts.


This is all magnified by the fact that in many respects spectacle is a general condition of much of contemporary life. At least that is what Guy Debord suggested in the Society of the Spectacle, where he claims that the masses have been “drugged by spectacular images.” The Internet itself helps fan the embers of audaciousness because there is just so much shit out there. To get attention you gotta push the limits of everything (humor, obscenity, and punditry; yep, that is why there are so many of them, unfortunately) and one has to wonder whether the gas tank of spectacle, at least among Internet trolls is careening toward empty as they have spread their antics, their tactics, their lore, across the Internets.


I am posing this more as a question than answer (what do you think?). I don’t have a definitive answer. But there is one thing that makes me think that the gas tank of trolling spectacle can refuel itself for a long time (and of course if we consider trolling as trickery, it has existed and renewed itself for a long time as well). While a lot of Internet trolling is offensive for taking aim at what is in general culturally sacred and defiling it, trolling is a very specific art; it is closely hitched to events, taking advantage of something that is new and unforeseen or itself propelling an event, as was the case with the ED article on aborigines that had been pulled by the Australian government ).


But it is still interesting to think of what constrains and enables various genres. And certainly an art form built on the edifice of excess is bound to at least some fatigue.

Biella Coleman