In internet speak, “to feed the troll” means to try to engage people online who are just trying to stir up discord for no other reason than to provoke people. Trolls are almost always insecure, psychologically-damaged people, if not full-blown psychopaths who lack the usual social barriers that most of us possess. Thus, a common piece of advice tossed about on the Internet is: “don’t feed the troll.” This is sound advice.
A useful corollary might be: “Don’t elect a troll.” But that’s already done, so we’re left to deal with a Troll-in-Chief. Trump can be engaged on two levels: 1) By reference to his policy decisions (which in less than two weeks have thrown the world into chaos), or 2) By reference to his childish, impulsive, ill-informed tantrums on Twitter. I’ll explain why constraining our responses to his policies is the best best.
Trump is not a politician. Judging by the fact that his personal ventures have failed to beat the S&P 500, he’s not much of a businessman either. So what exactly is Mr. Trump? He’s a showman of course. He has a pathological need for attention. Attention for Mr. Trump is an addiction like mainlining heroin. He is an arch-narcicisssist who stirs up shit on Twitter not only because he’s an angry man but also because he likes the dopamine spike when people respond to his countless micro-tantrums. By responding to his vacuous mean-spirited tirades, we the people along with the media are simply enabling an addicted, very impaired man. We must stop feeding the troll. When he publicly mocks an esteemed U.S. Senator who lost relatives in the Holocaust as he did with Senator Schumer, we need to restrain the impulse to report it or fire back. Only by interrupting the positive feedback loop do we have any hope of staying focused on priorities. After all, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. (Well, at least not directly.) Trump-the-Troll is going to say whatever he needs to say in order to get attention. Where does it end? Trump calling in the nuclear codes because he’s tired of being compared to a Cheeto? It’s time to starve the troll of the attention that fuels his impulsive blathering.
But more importantly, we must not feed the Troll-in-Chief because it’s a side-show. While we and the media are attending the carnival of trolls, the real architect, the real Goebbels, Bannon is working up some serious white-supremacist, Nazi-style mischief. The main attraction isn’t the Troll himself. The Troll is simply a distraction. While we’ve got our eyes on the Troll, Bannon is busy dismantling the foundations of the Republic.
Progressives have to become laser-focused and disciplined. We can start becoming more disciplined by starving the Troll of the attention he desperately craves.