Thanks to Padre for pointing out that there can only be a Dark Triad of sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism because a tetrad implies four.
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It is instructive to note that what trolls must feed on is the emotional factor of the chosen victim actually caring and being bothered by it. Like vultures that can smell a carcass a mile away, trolls smell and feed on fear. So, for example, the worst thing you can do if attacked by trolls is to cry out in pain and self-righteous indignation. That is like putting out fire with gasoline. Getting a person’s account shut down or blocked is one thing, but in terms of your behavioral response, the best thing you can do is to ignore it outright, because if you do not even care enough to be humiliated by it, then they cannot possibly care about trolling you enough to continue. After all, they are trolling for victims.
For example, we have all seen the legions of trolls on YouTube, ready, willing, and able to start a fight no matter what the video is about. You can pull up a video of Zen Buddhist meditation music with pan pipes and flutes, look at the commentary, and read the nastiest stuff. If you think about it, once you have left a comment at YouTube, you have to make an effort to keep going back and checking it just to gauge if there was a response to your comment. This means that trolls have to make a concerted, dedicated effort to keep going back to the scene of the crime. Like a pyromaniac, they revel in the conflagration at the crime scene. First, they set the fire with the tinder of a snide comment. And whoever takes the bait will earn the loyalty and dedication of their very own personal troll for as long as one feels like being trolled. There is no question that trolling is essentially an interactive phenomenon. For a troll, to light the tinder of snarkiness in a commentary box, and then to be completely ignored, must feel like kissing through a screen – not much use in doing it.
Therefore, the social psychology of trolling is based on the following criteria: (a) staging a public degradation ceremony to experience the sadistic thrill of humiliating someone to death socially, (b) hearing the person and others scream out in social anguish, (c) hearing the person make pleas of self-righteous indignation peppered with calls for social dignity and upright moral behavior, and (d) knowing all the while there is no way they can be identified, shamed, degraded, humiliated, or punished for being a troll.
Some might say that there have been trolls who are known in the public and they openly humiliate people online and advertise who they are. Those people are not trolls per se
. They are just mean psychopaths. But, trolls need to be anonymous, and their anonymity is part of the badness of it all for them. The anonymity is part of the seduction of it because they crave the authentic experience of release from the gravity of the normative order. In other words, they found a way to be very bad without being punished. Mean psychopaths, on the other hand, will often jump on the troll train to make it look like they are a fearless leader of trolls, but they are not real trolls, they are just grandstanding, mean-spirited, psychopaths.
Psychologists, Buckels, Trapnell, and Delroy, found associations between trolling and sadism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. Perhaps a troll is a particular kind of person who is used to being the one who ordinarily feels humiliated in social life. They engage trolling because they can live out a fantasy of being the humiliater with no compunction whatsoever and no fear of reprisal. In this sense, becoming a troll is indeed an everyday sadistic outlet for their intense, lifelong frustration with humiliation. But, trolling cannot be associated with Machiavellianism because that is the quest for social power and world domination. Trolls have as much megalomania in them as graffiti artists who leave girl’s phone numbers written on public bathroom walls, with an invitation to call. Machiavellian megalomania - one of the very few psychiatric disorders that is specifically applied to people with excellent social skills - does not hide out in cowardly fear of reprisal, it asserts itself aggressively.
On the other hand, a mean person who publically outs themselves, and proudly allows everyone to know who they are far beyond their local residence, and proceeds to manage the impression that they are the leader of a gang of trolls, is actually a true psychopath. This person is not like the troll who lives a private, everyday life dealing with the continual threat of humiliation. This person, the mean psychopath, is quite different. Their psychopathy is consumed with an unstoppable compulsion to experience the greatest sadomasochistic extremes possible. So, they may publically lead a gang or an army of trolls in humiliating someone to death online in front of the whole world. However, when the psychopathic leader of the army of trolls is finally outed and shut down, maybe they are blocked or lose access to the account they were using, then they are effectively humiliated before the whole world. Now everybody knows they are a creepy, mean, psychopathic person who just got shut down and they suffer the public humiliation of it.
The troll could never bear risking that much. But a true mean-spirited psychopath wants to experience more of what life has to offer than anyone else would ever be able to stomach. The most extreme psychopath has an unstoppable compulsion to experience the stark raving depths of sadism and then turn around, and make sure they get caught, so as to then experience the masochistic hell of getting caught. That would describe the classic serial killer, or the relentlessly corrupt politician or businessperson, who continually manages to exceed the depths of sadistic depravity breaking every rule in the book every step of the way, yet somehow managing to end up doing something so completely stupid, that they allow themselves to be caught - that is the whole trip.
Psychologists and profilers like to talk about serial killers as being obsessed with power and control. The truth may be much darker than that. The truth may be that the classic serial killer is a classic psychopath is the ultimate sadomasochist. What they are consumed with controlling is the ability to continue enabling their experiences of the most extreme sadism imaginable, only to turn around, get caught, and experience the most extreme public humiliation and social death imaginable. That is what sustains them deep down inside every morning when they wake up and remember who they are, especially if they find themselves waking up in prison.
Here is the recap: all in all, our troll is a special type of individual – the cowardly, online, everyday sadist who ventures far beyond their local lives in anonymous sadistic romps. Our mean psychopath is a person who has an unstoppable compulsion to push themselves to the utter depravity of the depths of sadism, only to turn around and make sure they get caught, so they can then experience the utter depravity of the depths of masochism - the ultimate sadomasochist. Our social genius - who may or may not be a psychopath - is certain that no matter what happens, they can always turn it to their advantage because they know they can talk themselves into or out of almost any situation they need to. And Bill Clinton … well, I just don’t know what to say about him. The more I think about it, the more I think he must have known that uttering that “this trolling has got to stop” line was (a) going to grab headlines in a news cycle, and (b) only make trolls want to troll Hillary even more. After all, he is a social genius if I ever saw one. He proved that in the Presidential campaign of 1992, and no one since then has even come close to his social and political acumen … that is, until the Presidential campaign of 2016 and the emergence of one Donald J. Trump.
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