Can Academic Writing and Troll Language Mix?

Can academic and troll communities really mix? I have read academic articles on the troll community in the past and often they never seem to get these correct, or just have a viewpoint that doesn’t fit the tone of the trolling community. Now I am not saying that I am some expert on what trolls are like or how they sound, but there is a definite culture that they do create and it seems to me that academic writing simply does not cover this territory very well.  Whitney Phillips’ article The House That the Fox Built: Anonymous, Spectacle, and Cycles of Amplification is the closest I have ever seen academic writing get to troll culture. This is simply due to Phillips’ transparency and acceptance of the language used on places like 4Chan.

The use of terms like “/b/tards”(Phillips 496), “newfag” (498), and “Anime Death Tentacle Rape Whorehouse” (498) may be extremely unsettling to the uninformed reader but are extremely effective at showing the difference in language between trolls and academics. Academics I have read in the past are clearly aware of these terms but shy away from using them and instead simply allude to offensive language or use examples that are not as terrible. The decision not to use this language seems to be that it is simply not an academic thing to say and thus should be avoided, and so I found myself drawn to Phillips writing because it actually accepted the fact that if one wants to write on trolls they must explain the language of a troll.

Returning to my original question, I find an inherent issue with academics writing on troll community. This is simply because the language that drives the two forms of writing are so polar opposite from each other that they can hardly interact. Academic writing is based on facts. To properly write an academic argument one must cite quotes and information from accurate and credible sources with the purpose of proving an argument. Trolls say and do whatever they are feeling based on creating chaos or simply silly enjoyment. What they say does not need to be and in fact is encouraged not to be based on facts of any kind, and should indeed parody facts. The term “newfag” is a great example of something that has a homosexual connotation and uses offensive language, but in troll dialogue the term has nothing to do with sexual orientation nor is it used as an insult. The language does not reflect factual meaning and thus does not work well with academic writing.

Phillips did a great job with her article because she accepted the terminology of a different culture, but unfortunately the article came off silly making me laugh more often than it made me think because it was an academic source using troll language. By the end of it, and after realizing it’s affect on me it made me think about this use of language.


Phillips, Whitney. “The House That the Fox Built: Anonymous, Spectacle, and Cycles of Amplification.” Sage Journals 14.6 (2012): 494-509. Sage Journals. Web. 5 Nov. 2013. <;.

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