Opinion | Platforms are giving internet trolls too much attention

An internet troll received attention from students protesting him. This kind of attention is what internet trolls want.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Anti-trans conservative commentator Matt Walsh speaks during a lecture organized by the University of Iowa Chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom for Walsh’s “What Is a Woman?” documentary at the Iowa Memorial Union on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. Prior to the lecture, progressive students called for the lecture to be suspended because of Walsh’s transphobic remarks and organized protests. “The gender ideology, this is a hill worth defending – a hill worth dying on because it’s the hill of basic fundamental truth,” Walsh said.

Gabriel Arboleda, Opinions Contributor

Political commentary has strayed further than ever from factual reporting.

On April 19, far-right political commentator Matt Walsh lectured at the Iowa Memorial Union. He was invited by the University of Iowa chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, and the lecture’s purpose was to discuss issues pertaining to gender identity and reinforce the claim that there are two genders.

As a result, students were enraged and felt the need to express their sentiments on the streets. Transgender-rights statements were written in chalk all over the sidewalks of the UI Pentacrest. On the day of the lecture, hundreds of students gathered outside the IMU to protest.

While I understand the rage felt by students, the protests helped the speaker more than anything. By giving the speaker attention, we played into his game.

The speaker is an internet troll. An internet troll is someone who sparks controversy online to receive attention. He has labeled himself a theocratic fascist and is most known for the documentary “What Is a Woman? One Man’s Journey to Answer the Question of a Generation,” in which he argues against the existence of transgender women.

Ever since the campaign and presidency of former President Donald Trump, far-right internet trolls have grown their platforms. Outlandish comments have caused them to receive more views and comments, particularly from people who disagree with them.

This trend has caused many users from the depths of the internet to gain significant popularity. In pretty much every case, this attention is undeserved.

Most recently, the far-right media personality Andrew Tate rose to fame. Like every internet troll, a great portion of Tate’s success came from the overwhelming backlash of his outrageous commentary.

Another large source of his success was memes, which are easier to create when the subject acts dramatically or comically. Tate’s commentary received the attention of many larger influencers who would respond to his claims, thus giving his name more notoriety.

Despite pushing the narrative that his supporters dominated the internet, Tate’s success can be attributed to those who spoke against him and those who simply viewed him as comedic entertainment. Tate now faces charges under suspicion of human trafficking and will likely never regain the popularity he once had.

Tate and Walsh are only two people within a massive community of internet trolls. While trolls do not necessarily represent a specific political affiliation, the most notorious trolls have aided the far-right. This is because trolls play into emotions by using tactics such as racism, blatant ignorance, and appealing to outdated conventions. Regardless of political stance, internet users must be wary of these tactics when they are online.

The priority of the troll is to make headlines and get attention by appealing to the disagreement of the masses.

By spurring protests, writing articles, and sharing information on social media, UI students helped a far-right internet troll garner more attention than he should’ve received.

I previously had never heard of the speaker who presented at the IMU, and had it not been for the uproar on campus, I would’ve remained oblivious. After taking a quick look at his resume, I did not feel that he was a person of importance who presented any substantial argument.

Protestors make the claim that if protests are not held, the opposition will grow. While I don’t entirely disagree, it must be recognized that trolls play to emotions, which include feelings of paranoia.

It’s time we stopped giving internet trolls the attention they beg for. Without our attention, they cannot amount to anything.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.