Trolls: the internet is full of them. They spend most of their time browsing forum websites like 4chan and the deeper, more recessed part of reddit, among others. But every now and then, they come crawling out from the depths of their caves and wreak a strange havoc on unsuspecting victims.
They targeted our class’s hashtag. They commandeered and defiled memes. They adopted a new name to legitimize themselves. 2016 has identifiably been the year of the troll.
Scrap the Chinese calendar. Year of the monkey? It’s been the year of the troll.
Why they do what they do, nobody really knows or understands. But when you get targeted, you may as well just wait it out and accept your fate. This is what happened when they launched a cyber-attack during our class that one Tuesday evening.
First, a few ant-Semitic Hitler memes appeared on the class hashtag. They went mostly unnoticed to those who weren’t watching the hashtag from their phones or computers: the projector doesn’t show images. Those who did notice thought, perhaps, it was a mistake. We let it slide. As more and more appeared, we were suddenly acutely aware of the vile imagery being displayed on our hashtag. They targeted Jews, immigrants, blacks, students and liberals in general, anyone they could get their hands on.
Then came the Pepe the Frog memes. What had been done to such a harmless meme that came to represent the human condition? Suddenly it had been redrawn to represent Hitler, Donald Trump, Mussolini, and above all else drawn in extremely graphic ways with detailed phallic images. Our beloved meme had been defiled.
Several days later, it would be announced by the Anti-defamation league that Pepe the Frog had become a hate symbol. All use of the meme came to a stop unless you were a self-proclaimed troll.
It was around this time that many of us began to learn about this new “alt-right” group which seemed to love Pepe the Frog. Their rhetoric was similar to trolling we had seen in the past. It became clear what these people were.
They were advanced trolls.
They didn’t hide, rather, they were proud. They were open about it. It seemed that what was essentially a neo-nazi white nationalist movement had come from out of the shadows, into the open, and wasn’t immediately shut down simply because of how they presented themselves as intelligent individuals.