Monday, April 09, 2012

Allison Pearson and the curse of the columnista cluster trolls

Allison Pearson
It's ages since I last thought of Allison Pearson, once of the Daily Mail parish, now ventriloquising for the middle-class mutes of the Daily Telegraph. She re-entered my head with the horrible news that she had fallen victim to the troll virus. Some dreadful person-reader had unleashed the fruitcakes of Twitter upon her good name and exposed her to words yet to be recognised by Wikipedia. One of them, with a 'gynaecological' connotation! Allison opined eloquently against trolls - read her piece here.

The business of trolling - ie conducting a targeted and persistent campaign of threatening abuse - reminded me of a piece Allison wrote in her Mail column in March 2008 about Fiona MacKeown. You may recall that Fiona's daughter, British schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling, was raped and murdered in Goa - it was largely thanks to Fiona's tenacity the case ever got to trial. Allison, among others, though I am sure privately empathetic, publicly used this tragic event to reproach Fiona for being a selfish hippy. Fiona had not bought into Allison's addiction to workaholic conformist angst otherwise known as bourgeois life - and so was now deserving of the kicking Allison happily gave her as editor Paul Dacre pulled yet another one of his theatrical faces.

Was this piece the work of a troll? Not in the current sense. We tend to think of trolls as sad singletons holed up in a state subsidised garret in the grip of a hateful obsession. We don't imagine that a troll can be a highly paid newspaper columnista because an economic value has been placed on her work - and she doesn't 'obsess'.

But trolling may also be unwittingly precipitated by the Allisons - I call it cluster trolling, where a hateful piece incites reader persecution of the topic-target.

I don't know what effect Allison's piece had on Fiona's life but most probably it prompted a number of morons to send her abusive letters, or abusive contributions to online message boards, or to think abusive thoughts about Fiona and her 'feckless' life. It is most unlikely that among the millions who read Allison's imbecilic words there weren't just a few hard-working, neighbourly individuals ready with the condemnatory (green) vitriol.

It's tempting to think that the highly paid cluster trolls draw to themselves the same kind of energy they put out. Alas, life is not so simple. Some unsteady trolls are on a unilateral mission. In Allison's case, she could atone for her irresponsibility by first apologising to Fiona MacKeown. Her excuse could be that she then worked for the Daily Mail.

BBC on Scarlett Keeling case

26 comments:

Elly said...

and sometimes the 'trolls' get trolled. I was called a troll by a few people as you know, and now, I am the one receiving abusive and threatening messages from them!

It's all very confusing.

Ciaran Rehill said...

There are different trolls surely? From media whore trolls (who onlt target slebs) to RIP trolls to failed bloggers on the Torgraph who do a bit of stalking (check out Derek G Haslam).

Madame Arcati said...

There are many species of troll and many activities called trolling which are just old-fashioned hating. The media cluster trolls have the greatest reach.

Jonathan King said...

I used to be a Media Cluster Troll I suppose - a page a week in The Sun - even going right back to Juke Box Jury in the Sixties when NOBODY slagged tracks off until I started. Then came New Faces and Simon Cowell... Perhaps my most celebrated Slag Offs were about Janet Street Porter who I called Fangs. Do I regret it? Nah - no time. I think my take is that we shouldn't care about what other people think about us. If they are right; let us learn from their criticism. If wrong - who cares? Am I a dreadful fat, old Vile Pervert? Well, my very best friend (the love of my life) said "Yes you are but you're a very nice Vile Pervert".

IH said...

A beautiful, civilised piece, Madame. Captures perfectly my thoughts.

Madame Arcati said...

I recall your columns JK (you columnistO) and they were stylised entertaining rants - not capable of inciting hateful campaigns. Of course there's a troll bandwagon here intended to shut people up.

Jonathan King said...

Thank you Madame and you're right; there was never any malice intended; mischief sometimes; and I think the reason we enjoy your pieces is exactly the same; provoking thought, inspiring comment, intending to attract criticism but never nasty. Noel would be proud of you. My favourite ever lyric - Don't Let's Be Beastly To The Germans.

Madame Arcati said...

I'm humming it now.....

Anonymous said...

But you helped invent internet trolling Arcati. You can still read your vicious pieces from years ago. you've calmed down a bit now you're old and wrinkly. But i have not forgotten.

Elly said...

@Ciaran - but the problem is the word 'troll' is used to describe all the activities/types of people listed here. For example, Paul Burston has decided I am a 'troll'. He received Richard Bacon's programme which was mainly about RIP trolls with glee,as if it was describing people like me. The word is an insult used to cover a multitude of 'sins' and I think it is clumsy.

@anonymous as someone said about my writing once, if Madame A has done trolling, it is very high quality 'trolling' indeed.

QRG/Elly

Madame Arcati said...

I agree Ciaran - one should at least bring a bit of class to one's trolling.

There are a few unhappy souls who do obsess about others, slebs mainly. The rest of the activity called 'trolling' is largely mischief-making or simply telling someone they're a stupid cunt. Nothing wrong in that.

The media has its fair share of princesses who think anything short of a mwah is trolling. We know who they are.

Lez said...

Fiona MacKeown is a benefits fraudster. She may not have 'bought into' middleclass life but at least Alison Pearson pays her way. It's not trolling to call someone a feckless parasite.

Madame Arcati said...

I agree ELLY - sorry - must stop rushing

Anonymous said...

If Pearson incited 'abusive thoughts' can she be guilty of telepathic trolling?

Miss Manners said...

MA a troll ? you are wrong Anon.
Madame A has a delightful and poetic way of cutting to the chase and making good old fashion commonsense.
After reading MA one could almost use the words cock and cunt over tea at The Ritz with polite company.

Anonymous said...

You have one thing in common with Allison. Double Ls in your name.

Green Goddess said...

I don't REALLY understand this Darling MA you favorite distaction. Is a troll smne like James Dellingpoo or Toby Young who gets paid to write invective polemic to stirr up the masses and get people cross about nothing very important? Or have I misunderstood this? Doesn't she look OLD, AP? Poor poppet. Needs 3 Bs.
(Botox Before Breakfast)

Anonymous said...

Vintage Arcati.

Madame Arcati said...

Darlingest Green Goddess, I understand your incomprehension; we live in a complex world of double-speak and naughtiness - which reminds me, I LOVED your memoir!

Toby scarcely qualifies as a columnisto as he's completely ridiculous. Even Allison qualifies for a reaction on the grounds she can articulate an argument, albeit a stupid and abusive one.

I quite admire the Julie Burchills and Suzanne Moores who deploy polemic without use of the stocks. The rest can die.

The late Stephen Boyd said...

An unexpected death rattle as you bury yourself alive in astrology. Madame.

Elly said...

Sorry madame A but you are wrong about Ms Moore - she has put me, and all of the male species in the stocks a number of times. She has suggested I am clinically insane aswell. Me? I'm saner than many.

Also her polemic is boring these days it reads like a manifesto. I won't be surprised if she stands for parliament again at the next election.

Anonymous said...

And there was me thinking you were playing it safe these days!

Cruella said...

"if Madame A has done trolling, it is very high quality 'trolling' indeed."

Oh really? More often than not it was a collection of old dry turds wrapped in a very thin layer of aluminum foil, if you ask me. But apparently that's yummy enough to some people here.Good for them!

Madame Arcati said...

Ah Cruella, no one was asking you, alas. Doubtless an economic value placed on an opinion makes it more palateble for you.

Cruella said...

"Ah Cruella, no one was asking you, alas."

But you published my comment, didn't you? A good proof that democracy is always asking, and a harsh, demanding mistress. ;-)

Madame Arcati said...

Of course I published your comment. Comment really is free in these parts, poppet.