May 28, 2013

CupCakes Bolster Billy Bragg's Fight Against Trolls

The Big Issue

Over the past few days, I've been trying to channel my favourite etiquette guru June Dally-Watkins. I need to know what this fine woman would do if she came across a troll - on her way to the buffet (so to speak).

During my tip-toeing across the bloggersphere, I've dropped in on what initially seem like some ordinary and civil conversations, and exchanges of information. I always expect the best from my cyber-countryfolk. And things do - more often than not - seem normal, hospitable and friendly. That is, until the chit-chat turns weird, when someone new (or even familiar) pops in and unexpectedly curdles the conversation.

So June Dally - what does the ordinary sensible femme d'un certain ├óge do in Cyberville, when a troll turns up, pokes around, and unsettles the guests - with language and comments that can leave nasty smells and stains in one's cyberlounge? 

How does one remain Ms Congeniality, when a troll crosses your path, disturbs the cucumber sandwiches, and eats all of the profiteroles?

Troll spotting

Jeff Jarvis (from says that trolls: are not an invention of the net. And that in ordinary everyday real or virtual life, they are: a subset of the common assh*le rather than the product of a separate line of DNA: the jerk, the bore, the d*ckhead, the schmuck.

Jarvis explains that the point of difference between the two anti-social "houseguests" is indicated by what motivates each one.

The ordinary d*ckhead or assh*le seeks only to enjoy privilege. He demands personal convenience, and may cause collateral damage in the form of inconvenience or discomfort to others in getting it.

Trolls, on the other hand, have a target and seek to get a response - a rise out of the target. No different to some workplace bullies really.

They seek destruction, hunt for the kill and believe they're acting out of some preordained moral purpose to destroy, to bring down their target.

The troll believes he has a right and even a responsibility to waste his nemeses.

Managing your troll 

In troll management, Jarvis advises on not feeding them - as this will only give them the recognition and confirmation that they got a rise out of you. If you give them a morsel they will take a leg.

He also says that: trolls feed on irony as a side dish. If you label someone a troll, they'd only complain that you were trying to dismiss them through name-calling. In turn, as "clever" manipulators, they will continue ridiculing and dismissing their victim through personal insult - which is the primary weapon of the troll. Trolls don’t argue ideas. They attack people.

Trolls can emerge as you wait patiently for the lights to turn red at an intersection. At the supermarket checkout - right behind you, with their dagger eyes piercing your skull - as you wait in line, juggling 9 items in the 8 items or less queue.

Look over your shoulder. Could that stern woman behind you, be a troll ready to pounce on you - for having one too many items?

Trolls can also turn up at Tupperware parties, appear on TV shows, in parliament, author magazine articles, or host radio programs. However, it's in the anonymous pathways of the internet, that trolls have found their dark, dank, underbridge paradise.

So where to from here June Dally? I repeat, what does a sensible woman of a certain age do? ...other than unplug.

Answer - look to Billy Bragg.

Bill Bragg: a Troll Whisperer?

In the New Zealand Herald, Greg Dixon reveals how cupcakes are top of mind, when Billy Bragg thinks about trolls. He notes that when you're Billy Bragg: chirpy balladeer, scourge of wrong-thinking right-wingers and defender of the proletariat everywhere - you're not even allowed to like cupcakes, apparently.

A delivery of cupcakes, sent from an admiring fan to Billy's home, and his subsequent Twitter about them - sparked someone called something like 'Revolutionary Democracy' to castigate him. And why? For sending out a picture of cupcakes, on the day of a fatal mining disaster in South Africa.

Billy said he had to resist "playing the man and not the ball", and he wasn't going to let this particular bore, no matter how democratic or revolutionary, get away with slagging off his cupcakes. What impressed Billy about the cakes, was the way the cook had decorated each with an alphabetical letter - so that in total - they spelt out his name. He was chuffed by this.

And so he tweeted back to the troll: 'If I can't have cupcakes, I don't want to be part of your revolution, mate'. He surmised, that it's better to deal with criticism that way.

"Rather than getting involved in feeding the trolls, try to undermine them with a bit of gentle humour."

Dixon says, "It seems to me, at least, a bit shit that a 54-year-old long-time socialist, who has been fighting the right-on fight through song and performance for more than 30 years, is forced to defend himself and his cupcakes to some idiot on Twitter."

And, since it's not in his nature to ignore insults, even cheap ones, Bragg concluded that: "You don't want to still be arguing with them eight hours later. You just throw one back, they're just like hecklers really."



  1. Hi Carmen,

    Great post. Nasty creatures trolls. They love to get a reaction. I think they're the Internet's version of a sociopath. I just wrote an article about these charming social terrorists that you may find useful:
    Claire (Not a troll)

  2. Hi Claire - I've read your wise and grounding advice in your latest Neurotica post (at - and will be following the simple sociopath blocking methods you've provided. I also love the way these same solutions help you find your authentic self.