Woke up the other morning and glanced at my phone. Saw that the usual emails included four comments on some of my old blogposts. Felt good, but not surprising, since it’s what usually happens when I get a new subscriber – they’ll scroll through old posts and leave a comment or two.

A bit later, with fresh coffee in hand [ok, actually in a mug], I opened my email to see the inbox showing over 60 “comments” and rising in multiples of three and four while I watched. Sort of like watching kudzu grow after a thunderstorm. To put it mildly, I was concerned. It took me nearly an hour to resolve the problem, but not the cause. While I know enough not to open any of the hundred-plus virus-laden emails [all from the same two ip addresses, even though they showed different email names], I was somewhat surprised at the new tactic. No longer am I dealing with exiled Nigerian millionaires, Viagra offers or penniless friends in foreign lands, but with the nonsensical posts coming from third-world boiler rooms designed to bypass Captcha and its cousins.

I know it could have been a lot worse.

Second cup of coffee in hand. Opened up my Twitter account to see a gaggle of new followers. All but one was porn. He was a gun-totin’ Trump-lovin’ patriot. Started thinking it was time to change my drink.

Aint it a great way to start your day?

I guess scammers have always been with us. Sure it’s a way of making money, but what intrigues me is the psychic satisfaction that comes with getting away with a good scam. Tell me you didn’t enjoy Redford and Newman in The Sting.

So what’s the appeal?

Getting away with something that’s frowned upon means we’re independent. We’ve got power. We’re individuals not subservient to authority. Hell, we might even be equal to it, if not better. Remember your teen years? I remember throwing snowballs at police cars then running like hell into the woods. I’d guess that most of us have similar stories of pseudo-rebellion. Why? Because it’s a way of showing our independence from our parents, from authority, from social norms. It’s part of becoming an adult, showing that we’re individuals, no longer our parents’ appendages. Why’d we do those “bad” things? To quote Bill Clinton, “Because I could.”

The problem?

Over the years I’ve encountered quite a few people with adult years and teenage minds. Their teenage rebellion and put-one-over-on-you snarkiness hasn’t matured. It’s morphed into annoyance at best, evil, at worst. Case in point: The immature trolling of the new Ghostbusters before it’s even released. Doesn’t matter if it’s a good or bad movie, it’s got female stars. Over the past few years we’ve seen attack videographers ambushing public figures then spreading out-of-context video across the web.

Political pranksters and street-corner conmen have been with us for ages. Today’s web-based media environment and an ignorant, gullible, looking-for-easy-answers public have magnified their influence. You know a troll’s seriously stuck in their immaturity when even Twitter bans them – and they glory in their notoriety like a high-schooler gloating on their perp strut to the principal’s office. For a good perspective on Milo and the right-wing trolling phenomenon, you might want to take a look at Laurie Penny’s recent post on Medium.com. https://medium.com/welcome-to-the-scream-room/im-with-the-banned-8d1b6e0b2932#.y2pbwlxro

 Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Mark Twain