Sean Dixon

The Trolls Are Dancing!

Funny the difference between the internet and real life. Trolls make posts using invective they would never dare speak out loud. I was in a hardware store once and overheard someone buttonholing an innocent store worker cussing out some politician or other. When I waded over to have a live internet-style debate, he looked mortified and fled.

Not to be holier than him. I’ve been on that side of the coin too. There’s a big bad garbage strike going on in Toronto right now. Last week I watched a woman pull her SUV up to the corner of my street, jump out and daintily add her take-out scraps to the rising pile of garbage at a city bin. I followed her into a nearby bakery and tried to admonish her for littering. She turned on me with all guns blazing. “What do you want me to do? Sleep with it under my pillow? Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“But… You littered!” I squeaked, as I turned and fled, worried about causing a scene.

I thought I might give her scraps to the big dog that was waiting in the SUV, but that struck me as cowardly in light of my evaporated debating skills. So I walked away, nursing the many l-esprit d’escalier come-backs that might have take place.

The internet be different, of course. We cowardly trolls can rail to our heart’s content if we wish to. Maybe we can even use these forums to give ourselves the courage to speak out in real life. Like, for practice! Maybe one day we can even make revolution! We Calibans, grousing about the abuses of Prospero. Revolution of the trolls!

Freedom high-day high-day freedom! Freedom, high-day freedom!

There’s only been one trolly style post here on Ryeberg. Naturally it was at the expense of Lynn Crosbie, who writes a weekly column for The Globe and Mail, rave-central for Canada’s trolls. She pores over the entrails of popular culture, searching for meaning and finding it. Those devoted to dissing her like to imagine themselves adhering to some higher culture. And so, in the name of that higher culture, they hurl abuse from a safe distance. So how does that higher culture help them again?

But YouTube videos often do the opposite. Here are dispatches from the front lines of celebration, risky displays of vulnerability that are normally the purview of families and other intimates. Yeah, you might get upset when a father videotapes his young son stoned after a trip to the dentist. But if you look a little further, past the controversial video, you might witness the ease and comfort that that family feels with one another (not to mention their video camera.)

booba1234, “David After Dentist Tells A Joke” (2009)

Not so much exploitation here. Just a lot of attention and support for a kid learning the art of joke-telling (and having a little trouble maybe.) It makes me hard pressed, referring back to this, to see any exploitation in the notorious bad dentist trip.

On the other hand, YouTube can serve as a trolly soapbox, like the Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park. But it can record moments for which there is no better forum, moving snapshots of lives going by. Pure joy.

“Jill and Kevin’s Big Day” or “JK Wedding Entrance Dance” (2009)

This is the kind of live-action snapshot for which YouTube was made. No wonder it got four and a half million hits in the six days after it was posted. You’ve probably seen it already.

– Sean Dixon

Ryeberg Curator Bio

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Sean Dixon is a novelist, playwright, and actor. His novels include "The Many Revenges of Kip Flynn" and "The Girls Who Saw Everything" ("The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal" in the U.S. and the U.K.) — named one of the Best Books of 2007 by Quill & Quire. His plays have been produced in Canada, the U.S., Australia and the U.K., and three have been collected in "AWOL: Three Plays for Theatre SKAM." There is also his drama, "A God in Need of Help."