"Internet trolls and flamers are sadistic psychopaths". Alas, reading the paper, it is soon clear that:
(a) the authors realised half-way through that their research was irredeemable dogwash... so rather than try to fix the study, they focussed their efforts on sensationalising and dumbing-down their title and press-release enough for churnalists to reprint the latter without breaking a sweat; and
(b) no actual subjects were tested for trollish, sadistic, or psychopathic behaviour. The results of some simplistic on-line questionnaires showed that from a cross-section of random anonymous strangers, the ones who claimed to enjoy trolling on the internet, also enjoyed winding up researchers by ticking the more outrageous boxes on on-line questionnaires. Shocking!
Finding the same correlation between self-rated trollishness and all the negative self-ratings should have been a warning:
a journal devoted to legitimizing racism and evo-psych bafflegab. Where one day I will publish my manuscript on "Lawful Good vs. Chaotic Evil: Personality Assessment based on Choices of D&D Personae".
----------------------------------------------------------What brings that paper to mind now? Why, on-going investigations here at Riddled Research Laboratory! We reveal the hitherto-unsuspected fact that when the Interlattice provides the opportunity to "comment" on a "blog" in what appears to be anonymity, some people do not handle themselves well.
Prototypal name-switching trollOne specific data point has been haunting science and skeptic blogs for the last few years, littering comment threads with nonce identities adopted and then callously trampled underfoot in the manner of Baldanders [not to be confused with Bald Anders, five times champion in the Phylogenetic Software Trivia and Shuffleboard monthly play-off at the Old Entomologist, so-nicknamed to avoid confusion with Hairy Anders who is crap at pretty much everything];
... or in the manner of a face-moulting character from a Sandman episode.We know about this because busy-beaver Narad -- a friend of Riddled -- spent some time over at Respectful Insolence cataloguing many of the avatars and incarnations of this nym-switching individual. This did not require NSA-level access to servers and meta-data because the troll in question has a limited repertoire, perseverating within a small circle of obsessions and talking-points, and is easily Googled. The results enter All.One.Guy territory. His appearances included 'Ernstymate' and 'Humpty', 'Consultant', 'Paediatrician', 'Mythbuster', 'Spiniker', 'ukeidding' and 'pebbles', 'Buckthetrend', 'Johnny labile', 'the craic' and 'sarah007'; and many more but tl;dw. He is especially prolific when he encounters female bloggers, where it is clear from the louche tone of his comments that he is handling himself quite well IYKWIM&ITYD.
Despite this catalogue, we must conclude that Mr [redacted], Essex-based Osteopath and Rotarian, does not (in the final analysis) wish to preserve his anonymity after all. For why else would he compose a post for his FaceBukakke homepage, packing in the identical tropes and and made-up quotations and distinctive misspellings previously spouted through sockpuppets? Why would he embellish the FB page of the Rotary "End Polio" vaccination campaign -- a cause which he nominally supports -- with links to anti-vaccine screeds ("polio vaccine is the real cause of polio!")? It must be one of these 'cries for help' that the young people talk about.
Before he metastatised to the Scienceblogs network, Mr [redacted] confined his activities to UK science / skeptic blogs as a one-man Ready-Response crew for any criticism of osteopaths or chiropractors. As might be expected, his obsessions are generally vaccine- and Big-Pharma-related... Vioxx and a 160,000 death count from "catastrophic heart rupture"; polio vaccine and the Gates Foundation; Roche "losing all the Tamiflu data"; the 96 season Cochraine [sic] review on the flu jab; weasel words, smokescreen, fake placebos; and septic science [sic] as a church with an almost fanatical devotion to
But then there's this unexpected fixation with a garage metaphor for non-osteopathic treatment of arthritis:
the first line of ‘treatment’ is [...] like taking your car to a garage with a knocking noise and being given ear plugs
If my car was making an awful noise and I took it to your kind of garage would I get ear plugs?Ah, the guy owns a Jaguar. All is clear.