The days of the internet troll are alive and well. In fact, this may be the golden age of the internet troll, cowards that hide behind anonymous online personas made up of fake names and email accounts, all so they can say anything they want, to anyone they want, with little fear of public humiliation or retribution.
The things internet trolls say generally aren't kind, of course, otherwise they would be called internet fairies, or angels maybe. But as it is, they're internet trolls, and whether aiming their vitriol at a celebrity, public figure, or just a fellow cyber-surfer, the standard internet troll tries to be as rude and obnoxious as possible.
But every now and then you get an internet troll that goes above and beyond, sometimes even going to great lengths to be hurtful.
Such was the case for writer and feminist critic Lindy West, a regular contributor to GQ and the Guardian. West presented her story of being attacked by a particularly nasty internet troll on this week's podcast episode of This American Life, and though she's taken her share of internet abuse, this troll went way above and beyond.
"One midsummer afternoon in 2013, I got a message on Twitter from my dead dad," begins Lindy West on This American Life.
The tweet from West's "dead dad" arrived, along with an avalanche of other abuse received by Lindy West in response to the writer having expressed her opinion on how male comedians should handle telling rape jokes, reports Business Insider.
The result? Lindy West being called a stupid b***h, fat b***h, being cast in different rape scenarios, and other hideous stuff.
But the tweet from the internet troll purporting to be her dead dad, from a fake Twitter account set up to look like it was from her real dad who had just recently passed away, truly jumped out and bit Lindy West -- as it would anybody -- and was the meanest thing she'd ever had dumped on her by an attacking internet troll.
And, via This American Life, Lindy West had the opportunity to confront this seemingly beyond evil and sick internet troll.
But -- SPOILER ALERT -- how Lindy West came to be in touch with the internet troll, and what followed, came as a surprise. She responded to the troll, writing in an article for Jezebel about how much the tweet from her "dead dad" had hurt, how well that the troll had succeeded.
The morning after the story appeared, Lindy received an email from the internet troll.
"Hey Lindy, I don't know why or even when I started trolling you. It wasn't because of your stance on rape jokes. I don't find them funny either. I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self."While the former internet troll's name is never given, he comes off as truly reformed in his talk with Lindy West on This American Life.
"I have emailed you through two other Gmail accounts just to send you idiotic insults. I apologize for that. I created the firstname.lastname@example.org account and Twitter account. I have deleted both."
"I can't say sorry enough. It was the lowest thing I had ever done. When you included it in your latest Jezebel article, it finally hit me. There is a living, breathing human being who's reading this shit. I'm attacking someone who never harmed me in any way and for no reason whatsoever."
"I'm done being a troll. Again, I apologize. I made a donation in memory to your dad. I wish you the best."
In typical This American Life fashion, the "confrontation" between Lindy West and her hall-of-fame internet troll is intangibly amazing and reveals a lot not just about them, but internet culture in general, and how otherwise civil, well-liked, and seemingly decent people can also harbor dark secrets when it comes to their internet and ugly internet troll behaviors.
Even if he can never completely explain the horrid and evil motivations behind presenting himself to Lindy West as her recently deceased father, the internet troll reveals much, making this week's This American Life definitely worth a listen.
[Images via Photobucket and Seattle Times]