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Trolling is provocation that is indifferent to its conversational topic and that aims at paroxysmal emotional reactions. The pleasure of trolling consists in realizing that the emotional tone of conversation becomes the main focus of conversation itself. The ultimate goal of a troll is to be insulted by its victim. Trolling is joke whose communicative nature of joke is never revealed to its addressee, for the fundamental purpose of trolling is not to make fun at someone, but to make fun of someone. Trolling knows no end. Its aesthetic pleasure exactly derives from the fact that in no moment its victim realizes or expresses a realization that the conversational exchange in which he or she is immersed is actually a joke, a verbal game from which one can exit at any moment. In trolling, anonymity is not needed in order to shelter oppressed voices but in order to oppress unsheltered voices. It is not a rhetorical instrument in the hands of the victims of power but rather a rhetorical instrument in their torturers’ hands. It is like the hood on the head of the executioner. Trolling is, in a way, verbal torture, because what it aims at is not to elicit such or such piece of information from a tormented body/soul but to give pleasure through the spectacle of its useless pain. Trolling entails an anonymous torturer's endless and fruitless provocation for the sake of an anonymous audience, a digital crowd that somehow resembles those that, in the past, would elatedly attend the spectacle of public executions. That which ultimately defines trolling is the unimportance of the relation between that which the troll says in a conversation and that which she or he believes. Trolling profoundly disrupts the conversational ethics of the human civilization because it severs expression from content, signifier from signified, communication from intention. That which matters are not the invisible thoughts or emotions that communication signifies but the visible outrage that it prompts.


(Prof. Dr. Massimo Leone)