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 Everett True

PhD research issue #1. Trolling

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This is week 2 of my final 15 weeks of my PhD candidature. For the next 10 weeks or so while I’m writing up the final draft of my thesis, I’m going to be throwing up semi-random quotes and findings from my research here. They are here for commentary, so please feel free to contribute. 

The first is a quote from Daphne Carr around the issue of trolling:

Trolling is a rhetorical strategy that attempts to discredit the conversation or speaker as absurd/obvious or otherwise shift the topic towards some other element of an argument than the one being addressed. Most of the time it stops conversation dead, or promotes the type of discussion where only combative or ironic statements can be made. It’s less a conversation and more an argument. At its highest, it can be a form of sharp-witted verbal play that exposes the bullshit of purple prose or group think, at its lowest it is mean spirited personal attack and written shout downs so brutal they silence the voices of others.

I do think trolling is useful. One of the biggest things I wonder about with critics is how their desire to be liked plays into their attitudes about how they approach a subject. You have to have a really strong sense of self to go against the grain of everyone and upset beliefs, arguments, darlings, etc. And you have to like to argue. A lot of critics do, a lot don’t. I like to have a good argument, but I will never yell at someone or tell them they are stupid for their opinions. For me, this is a very important part of feminism: to allow someone who loves art the dignity of their aesthetic, to seek to appreciate and understand it. And, if I am able, to help expand or engage that.

Have you seen these “your favorite band sucks” t-shirts? First, they’re so 90s. Second, that is something I would never say.

I am not of the school that believes that one should attack the critic her or himself, but rather their accuracy, ideas, arguments, their style. See my Bookforum piece on Simon Reynold’s Retromania for example. I walked the line there since I do talk about nationalism as it relates to the shaping of ideas, but I tried really hard not to make it about him but rather, for lack of a better word, his worldview and the potential lack of perspective that it would entail. Not to say that all British writers still wish for the authenticity of the Gang Of Four (!!!), but with Simon, it is a self-confessed modernist attitude that shapes his values for listening, and I feel that makes it possible to objectify and analyze his taste without it becoming a troll situation.

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