From her article “What an Academic Who Wrote Her Dissertation on Trolls Thinks of Violentacrez”:
Trolls are cultural scavengers, and engage in a process I describe as cultural digestion: They take in, regurgitate, and subsequently weaponize existing tropes and cultural sensitivities. By examining the recurring targets of trolling, it is therefore possible to reverse-engineer the dominant landscape.
Consider trolls’ deeply contentious but ultimately homologous relationship with sensationalist corporate media. For example, when trolls court emotional distress in the wake of a tragedy by posting upsetting messages to Facebook memorial pages and generally being antagonistic towards so-called “grief tourists,” they are swiftly condemned — and understandably so. But when corporate media outlets splash the most sensationalist, upsetting headlines or images across their front page, press the friends and families of suicide victims to relive the trauma of having their loved one’s RIP page attacked by trolls (and in the case of this MSNBC segment, by forcing them to read the hateful messages on camera), or pour over every possible detail about bullied teenage suicides, despite the risks of “copycat suicide,” the only objectively measurable media effect, and in so doing slap a dollar sign on personal tragedy, it’s just business as usual. In both cases, audience distress is courted and exploited for profit. Granted, trolls’ “profit” is measured in lulz, not dollars. Still, the respective processes by which these profits are achieved are strikingly similar, and in many cases — which I chronicled throughout my dissertation — indistinguishable.
I am not arguing that members of the media are trolls, at least not in the subcultural sense. I am however suggesting that trolls and sensationalist corporate media have more in common than the latter would care to admit, and that by engaging in a grotesque pantomime of these best corporate practices, trolls call attention to how the sensationalist sausage is made. This certainly doesn’t give trolls a free pass, but it does serve as a reminder that ultimately, trolls are symptomatic of much larger problems. Decrying trolls without at least considering the ways in which they are embedded within and directly replicate existing systems is therefore tantamount to taking a swing at an object’s reflection and hanging a velvet rope around the object itself.