Readers of The Scotsman will be aware that trolling is unique to supporters of independence. VILE ABUSIVE CYBERNATS are generally what’s wrong with the world today whilst saintly No campaigners are too busy knitting Better Together cardigans to ever pick fights.
Personally I’ve never understood why anyone from either side would want to post inflammatory messages online in order to provoke others into heated arguments. I have Unionist friends for that. If you really have enough time to devote an entire afternoon to self-righteousness (as I found out, trolling is time-consuming), presumably in order to feel better about yourself, you might want to step out into the daylight and question why you don’t have a girlfriend.
It was this very lack of understanding of the troll’s motivation that made me conduct some experiments this week. I very soon realised that being a successful troll is not as easy as it looks. It requires patience, commitment and of course an ability to wade swiftly through screeds of utter drivel.
These are just a few of the real conversations I had on Twitter with No campaigners.
No campaigner: Stop the EU’s plan to break up the UK!
Me: How can I get involved?
No campaigner: (Sends link to UKIP site.)
Me: Should I be renouncing the BNP at this stage in the game? I mean, changing horses midstream and all that.
No campaigner: Absolutely renounce them. They are against trade and cooperation with Europe. We are only against a political union.
Me: Ok thanks. And I’d be able to join UKIP even though I’m a bit.. you know?
No campaigner: What?
Me: Well, I was never an actual member or anything.
Me: But I have a swastika tattooed on my forehead. Would that be a problem?
No campaigner: Latest bombshell – title deeds may be null and void in indy Scotland. First your savings, then your pension, then your house – game’s up SNP.
Me: I’m going to lose my house?
No campaigner: You could. The SNP don’t know. Vote no.
Me: That’s terrible. Even though we have a separate legal system that pre-dates the act of union? How’s that going to work?
Me: I mean, that’s not scaremongering or anything, is it?
No campaigner: Making the positive case for the Union, one doorstep at a time. Funded by real people, not lottery winners.
Me: Are you saying the lottery winners aren’t real people?
No campaigner: If they weren’t, the SNP would have to make them up. No-one else would fund this shambles.
Me: They looked pretty substantial to me. Of generous proportions, even.
No campaigner: Post 2014 I’d name new Forth crossing ‘The Union Bridge’ in celebration of #indyref victory.
Me: I didn’t understand what you meant at first and then I realised. The union between the Lothians and Fife, right?
No campaigner: No, The Union Bridge in honour of the first democratic ratification of the United Kingdom.
Me: The whatty whatty what of the what?
No campaigner: You know what I mean, when Scots vote ‘Feck off Alex’ next year.
Me: We’re going to become Irish?
No campaigner: and Welsh and English.
Me: I see. Is ‘The Ulster Unionist Bridge’ really the best name we can come up with though? I mean, maybe something snappier?
No campaigner: Perhaps.
Me: Will I have to wear a bowler hat to cross it?
No campaigner: It was firstly a Game Keeper’s hard hat. So perhaps if heading north to the moors?
Me: There’ll be a game-keeper at the other side? In a bowler hat? Like passport control?
At this point I realised my trolling was not being hugely successful. The No campaigners caught on to my trolly-ness and stopped feeding me, and of course if you don’t feed the troll, he dies.
I was beginning to lose heart and thinking I might not be cut out for the trolling business at all. I could either duck out now before serious bad karma set in or up my game and perhaps take more time reeling in my campaigners. I decided on the latter.
No campaigner: Imagine if 5 million Blacks got together and demanded an indyref to break UK but you were excluded from vote as you aren’t Black?
Me: Come again?
No campaigner: What if any UK group the size of ‘Team Yes’ got together and demanded a separate state? Excluding you from vote.
Me: Black people should decide the indyref vote?
No campaigner: Should any minority group within a Union get to vote to break up a Union whilst excluding other union members from a vote?
Me: You mean like Poles For Independence or suchlike?
No campaigner: Yes, if any minority group got together to create their own State.
Me: Like if the Poles wanted to break up the union but didn’t let the Blacks have a say?
No campaigner: But didn’t let anybody other than Poles have a say.
Me: Where do the Asians fit into all this?
No campaigner: Questioning 5 million Brits that are calling for indyref that will break up a 60m strong UK Union only allowing 10m to vote.
Me: Do gays have a say in your plan?
Me: But no gingers, right?
Me: Do you also agree that the big-boned shouldn’t be allowed to fund political campaigns?
Me: Speaking of funding: (Sends link to National Collective’s donations page.)
This exchange was so spectacularly stupid that for a time I thought the No campaigner was trolling me. I was pleased that I managed to draw out his deranged idea in some detail but still I believed I was probably the worst troll ever. I hadn’t really managed to wind anyone up and one campaigner even said he was ‘enjoying my Socratic pedantry’. I explained that there was no point in continuing if he was enjoying it. Even worse, I thought I was experiencing symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome and starting to empathise with the No campaigners. I even bought a UKOK hat.
But just when I was ready to throw in the towel, the following genius appeared on my timeline: