Lieback, Hedwig (2019):
"Truth-Telling and Trolls: Trolling, Political Rhetoric in the Twenty-First Century, and the Objectivity Norm." Eds. Er, Öykü Dilara; Gerlach, Laura; Hussey, Ben; Navin, Margaret; Puccio, Daniele; Schubert, Stefan; Spieler, Sophie; Vogelsberg, Anne; Vossen, Hannah. aspeers 12: 9-36.
Journal Article

Trolling has received increasing scholarly attention both as an online phenomenon and as an allegedly new strategy of political communication. This article moves trolling out of the digital realm and applies ‘trolling theory’ to political communication by well-known and influential figures on the political front stage. To establish consistency between the online and the offline phenomenon, this paper will focus on a (broadly defined) style of political communication that seems to focus more on provoking outrage, establishing itself as speaking from an outsider position to defend free speech to counter an allegedly totalitarian opponent, and to trigger political sensitivities of opponents and thus cause outrage on ‘the other side.’ Contrary to the vast majority of trolling research that simply dismisses trolling as ‘antisocial,’ ‘nonnormative’ behavior, I argue that trolling in contemporary politics gains effectiveness by reproducing some of the patterns of ‘objective communication’ on a discursive and an emotional level. Political trolling embraces the notion of a universal truth, with the speakers often branding themselves as ‘disinterested’ and thus not emotionally involved and incorruptible, thereby gaining credibility by pointing to their position as discursive outsiders. When trolling rhetoric succeeds and the trolls’ claims are met with outrage by the people the trolls deem to be totalitarian and censors of free speech, the speakers can downgrade their opponents as weak, biased, emotionally involved and thus necessarily illegitimate, gaining a superior position in the conversation.