This is why we can’t have nice things: The origins, evolution and cultural embeddedness of online trolling

Phillips, Whitney

Ethnographic in approach, this dissertation examines trolling, an online subculture
devoted to meme creation and social disruption. Rather than framing trolling behaviors as fundamentally aberrant, I argue that trolls are agents of cultural digestion; they scour the landscape, repurpose the most exploitable material, then shove the resulting monstrosities
into the faces of an unsuspecting populace. Within the political and social context of the United States, the region to which I have restricted my focus, I argue that trolls on 4chan/b/ and Facebook perform a grotesque pantomime of a number of pervasive cultural logics, including masculine domination and white privilege. Additionally, I argue that the rhetorical and behavioral tactics used by trolls, including sensationalism, spectacle, and emotional exploitation, are
homologous to tactics routinely deployed by American corporate media outlets. In short, trolling operates within existing systems, not in contrast to them, immediately complicating knee-jerk condemnations of trolling behaviors.