I was thinking last night — I know, I know: a dangerous activity. But I was musing on why it is that I keep saying we should stop paying attention to and publishing every utterance by Sarah Palin. Reaching into my decades-long geek background, the real point occurred to me: It’s because she is a troll. You know, that obnoxious poster who dogs every comment with increasingly outrageous comments, until the entire thread is hijacked by angry squabbling, at which point the troll has long since moved on to snarl yet another thread, another discussion elsewhere. Sarah Palin is trolling this entire country.
She’s not the first to do it. Rush Limbaugh is no slouch in this department. I’d include Howard Stern, Newt Gingrich, and a few others in this category. But she commands a staggering level of attention that none of the other ones ever quite reached. And despite every gaffe, every malapropism, every utterance that indicates the utter depths of her ignorance and empty rhetoric that too many latch onto, she’s actually a potential 2012 presidential candidate. Despite a background full of shady deals and mind boggling utterances (“blood libel” being only the latest) which would sink any other candidate instantly — remember Howard Dean‘s scream? George Allen‘s “macaca” comments? For God’s sake, she actually quit her last political position, governor of Alaska. Which, at the time was widely seen to end her career.
And yet here she is, the quintessential American Troll, still squarely on the pulse of the national consciousness.
You know what is best done with online trolls? Don’t rise to their bait. Don’t give them a platform to work on. Let their outrageous sentences sink back into obscurity (and then quietly send in a detail to clean up on aisle three, etc). We can do that in real life, too.
Time to turn our backs on this insanity.