Dark Personality Traits of Blog Trolls

Posted by Bob Lord

The puzzle pieces continue to come together on my favorite blog troll.
A few weeks back, we got some help from researchers at the University of Manitoba, who conducted an extensive study on the personality traits of blog trolls.

Unfortunately, a copy of the study itself was a bit pricey, so I had to go with the summaries available online, the consensus of which is captured in this passage from Digby’s Hullabaloo:

The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called “Dark Tetrad”: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).

It is hard to underplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.

Wow. Almost a perfect overlap with the double high authoritarian personality. As Digby points out, 

If you are a person who has spent any time online over the past few years, this is self-evident. There is little doubt that internet trolls, whether in comment sections or on twitter or forums, are psychopaths of some form or another.

Note that the correlation does not exist only between trolling and the undesirable traits, but also the amount of time spent trolling. The more one trolls, the darker his / her personality tends to be.

That latter correlation is of course not good news for the Thuckmeister. You see, Thucky is the textbook case of an obsessive blog troll. He spends an unbelievable amount of time trolling, and at absurd hours. For instance, from Monday afternoon to Tuesday morning, he made comments here at 5:11 p.m.; 10:22 p.m.; 3:55 a.m.; and 4:17 a.m. And that’s just what he does here. As he’s indicated in comments, he spends a bunch of time over at the conservative sites as well. The guy’s a maniac.

Does Thucky work? Seems to. He does post comments during business hours, but not very frequently.

Consider the four traits that comprise the Dark Tetrad. Thucky’s Machievellianism comes shining through in his comments, and it’s practically the signature trait of double high authoritarians.

Thucky’s Machievellianism, however, manifests itself in a desire to conceal his psychopathy. He’s careful to speak in terms of his desire to help the poor, as he promotes economic policies that devastate them. But every now and then, he slips, making allusions to attributes, like laziness, that he ascribes to the poor.

Does Thucky fit the research model blog troll perfectly? No, in two respects. First, to his credit, he does not exhibit sadism in his comments, at least not yet.

More significantly, there’s a purpose to his comments, indicated by the topics on which he comments and the emotion in his comments. On the surface, it’s as if he’s on a mission to defend his conservative worldview. But below the surface, when he’s most engaged is when he’s defending those he sees as the champions of his worldview. He’ll write clinically about economic issues, but he gets passionate when he speaks of Sam Walton or Cornelius Vanderbilt. Locally, he’ll defend a Tom Horne, a Russell Pearce or a John Huppenthal as if they’re his brothers. He has the intellect to know that Arpaio is a total thug, yet he defends him as well. Indeed, when Thucky’s at his mendacious worst is when he’s defending one of our local pols. I even saw a comment where he described Horne’s conduct as “illegal, yet moral” or something to that effect.

This attribute is puzzling. It would be tempting to add delusional to Thucky’s profile. According to that supposition, he’d be living in a made-up world where the people he writes about are his personal friends. Yes, he’s a blog troll and they’re people with actual stature in the community, but in his mind they’d be his friends. When not trolling, under that theory, he’d be having a make-believe conversation with Tom Horne or Joe Arpaio.

But that theory clashes with the Manitoba study findings, and with my own conclusion that Thucky is a double high authoritarian type.

So there’s more work to do.

One response to “Dark Personality Traits of Blog Trolls

  1. I am not defending any personality such as Sam Walton, what i am doing is pointing out the false mythology that you portray. That Vanderbilt profited at the expenseof the poor. In fzct,its clear that he profited by lifting up the poor and mademore of life affordable to them.

    During the gilded era, per capita income in the US rose dramatically.

    Government burden? Only 5 % of gdp.