Merriam Webster: troll: a dwarf or giant in Scandinavian folklore inhabiting caves or hills.
—lived under a bridge and terrorized The Three Billy Goats Gruff in that children’s fairy tale
—received for Christmas from Santa when I was eight. I love my four-inch-tall, ochre-skinned, turquoise-coiffed troll doll.
Merriam Webster: Troll one who antagonizes (others) online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content… trolls engage in the most outrageous and offensive behaviors possible—all the better to troll you with.
—Svetlana, supposed Russian femme fatale intellectual and former contributor to the online publication, Medium.
I discovered Svetlana not long ago when I came upon a sudden explosion of vicious comments posted by dozens of people about essays I had published on medium.com.
At first, I could make no sense of what was happening. Who were these people? Where did they come from and why did they hate me? But then I noticed that each of these commenters had one thing in common: they all followed Svetlana. The shared thread, Svetlana, ostensibly a “writer” on Medium, was clearly the instigator.
Far from sporting an azure cone of fluff and manic grin, the troll Svetlana, came accessorized with long blonde locks and what might be construed by some to be a sexy scowl (though, as my husband suggested, “she” could as easily be a hairy dude named Boris). Obvious from her writer’s page, Svetlana’s purpose on Medium was not to present information or ideas, but to harass those writers with whom she disagreed. Svetlana/Boris, most particularly hated feminists.
Who knows how Svetlana found my essays. My guess is that she scoured Medium for feminist topics and antagonized anyone who might observe the existence of a patriarchy or suggest that perhaps women do not enjoy equality. She certainly came at me, not just attacking my ideas, but me personally. She compared my writing to “throwing a petulant little temper tantrum” and suggested that I “grow up and find something useful to do,” while demanding I explain myself and answer her critiques. Quite honestly, a few of her arguments were surprisingly good, but she was not there to debate; her intention was to pick a fight. And like most cowardly faceless trolls, Svetlana brought along to the fight her army of minions. This pathetic troupe of sycophants (90% men, may I add) invaded my Medium page, yapping like Jabba the Hutt’s ugly little lap lizard. “Yeah, Svetlana. You tell her.” “We men are the victims. Women have all the advantages,” and such nonsense.
The lap lizards were truly stupid and obnoxious; so, I ignored them. And though I was fairly certain any response to the instigator was futile, I could not help myself. So, I poked my troll by calmly and reasonably stating that to explain myself to her was of no use. There was clearly no conversation to be had with someone whose intention was not the exchange of ideas, and I was not willing to waste my time on her.
After my response, Svetlana doubled down, ascending to ever greater heights of abusive commentary, filling page after page with angry and impressively inane critique and insult. When I’d finally had enough (and Svetlana had written enough to more than prove she had broken the rules of engagement posted by the site), I copied and pasted the entire conversation, and reported her to Medium.
Medium, “a community of readers and writers committed to thoughtful and civil dialogue,” provides a list of rules to which writers must agree before becoming members. These include a rule against harassment “which includes: bullying, threatening, or shaming someone, or posting things likely to encourage others to do so.”
Apparently, the site agreed Svetlana broke their harassment rule; she is now gone from Medium. Like my first troll who the Billy Goat Gruff shoved off the bridge and into the river, Medium excommunicated Svetlana from their site. No doubt she’s trolling other sites, maybe even back on Medium under a different identity.
Of course, the lap lizards are still yapping. Among other complaints, they’re haranguing Medium for bending to “liberal censorship” and abusing First Amendment rights. I guess they don’t know that, like all private companies, Medium is free to disallow whatever kind of speech they deem inappropriate or offensive. First Amendment rights do not apply here. So, yap away, boys. Undoubtedly, you will find other ideological tyrants to enjoy your slavish loyalty. But, Svetlana, your hot Russian troll—she just had to go.