Outside: a cold, empty night. Inside: a sharp-witted intellectual traps a partisan, humourless boob in a net of rhetoric and barbs. As the poor bastard scrambles and screams, the trap grows tighter, the words dig deeper, and the wounds begin to open.
The brief twilight before the era of Twitter and Facebook where you could be as honest, cruel, and witty as you pleased. Troll: v. a form of fishing, whereby you dangle your hook behind your boat to lure your unsuspecting prey to their eventual demise.
It was an art. It took many years of practice and experimentation. Few ever mastered it. It required patience, finesse, and just enough humour to give your victim the thread by which he hung. It thickened your skin, quickened your pulse, and sharpened your tongue.
To troll was to question, to subvert, to challenge, and to mock. It was to step outside the bounds, over the line, and beyond the pale. It found holes and pulled on loose threads. It attacked the ignorant, the unquestioned, the ill-reasoned, and the uninformed. It was sometimes a boot-camp, other times a safe space, but often a battle-ground.
Yet, all of this has been lost. The word has become denigrated and bastardized. Troll: n. a stupid, ugly creature that lives under a bridge. It has become a string of insults, clumsily put together without craft or patience. It has been deemed to be the domain of the bigot, the racist, the homophobe, the misogynist. Politicians, activists, and media have targeted it as an evil that must be crushed, silenced, and censored.
To those few who still practice the forgotten, brutal, and careful art of the troll, I say to you: do not go gently into the good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light.