Boston Globe Profiles Commenters, Starts Brawl

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Anyone who spends much time on comment boards can't help but get curious about the identities of the cleverest or most prolific anonymous contributors. (We at the Wire are no exception. Hi, Super Chundy!) One also can't help wondering about the more scurrilous writers. Where do they come from, and how can they be stopped?

Rather than wonder helplessly, Boston Globe writer Neil Swidey went digging. In a 4,300-word magazine story, Swidey described the problems with anonymity facing the biggest Internet hubs, including the Globe, and decided to contact some of the most die-hard of their commenting community. He talks to chain-smoking anti-illegal immigration commenter Stanley Talabach, aka "Xenophonic," and dozens of others. Those who refused to talk? The trolls:

But here are the people I didn't hear back from: the screamers, troublemakers, and trolls (Internet slang for people behind inflammatory posts). Not a single one. The loudest, most aggressive voices grew mum when asked to explain themselves, to engage in an actual discussion. The trolls appear to prize their anonymity more than anyone else.

Though shy in interview, as if on cue, some troll-like anonymous commenters came out to bash the article. Here's a sample of the handful of similar replies from "Seebell":

Oh - and another thing to MR. Neil Swidey
How on earth (you being a biased journalist/writer) can you even COMPREHEND what an "anonymous blogger thinks/writes". Myself as an anonymous blogger - Does a quick immediate take/quick thoughts on a given "subject". I/We do not HAVE ALL DAY to look up words, use spell checks, and have Editors review and REVISE OVER & OVER the way YOU DO. We do a quick and rough IMMEDIATE RESPONSE....whereas WRITERS use fluff, and twist words and meanings and ARE NOT AT ALL "QUICK WITTED" because they spend sooooo much time analyzing and MAKING UP STUFF and are able to take the time to FIND FACTS OR FABRICATE FACTS in order to disquise ILL TRUTHS - and distort the REALNESS OF EVERYTHING.
Bloggers have natural "quick wit" and "can give their real take on issues"....
Whereas a professional writer/journalist are USUALLY BIASED and play FAVORITES and can "write up a nice piece for someong they like even if that person they write about is NOT A GOOD PERSON. And the professional writers/journalist will write up a piece that puts a GOOD PERSON in a HORRID LIGHT....
For instances - YOU SAY someone who types in CAPS is a troublemaker....So - whoever thinks what you write is GOSPEL will now believe this....
Thanks alot - NOT!"

What's heartening, however, is how vigorously other commenters are self-policing.

Incidentally, seebell -- your caps-use style is perhaps the best graphological representation of insanity that I've ever seen. It hurts to read.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.