A few months ago, I was still getting drive-bys writing random pro-Trump inflammatory slogans on some of my political posts on various social media sites. These seemed to be cut-and-paste comments, insulting liberals and only tangentially related to anything I actually wrote.
To amuse myself, I started replying with comments like, “Greetings comrade! Do you get paid in rubles or dollars?” “How is the benefits program for pro-Russia trolling?” “Is it very cold in Moscow this time of year?” and so on. I really had no idea whether these were actually paid Russian trolls or garden-variety American trolls. I was just amusing myself at the expense of random rude strangers.
I was thinking last night about this one guy who showed up a few months ago. He left the usual “Libtards die! Trump rules! MAGA!” rubbish, and I replied in kind and I figured we were done. But then he started turning up on other posts – and he was just posting regular comments there. I’d post a cat video and he’d make a comment, “Cute!” I’d post a car ad from the 1950s and he’d comment “Great car!” And then after a couple of days of that I never heard from him again.
I was thinking about this exchange the other night. Imagine you’re a guy working for a Russian troll farm. You work in an open office somewhere in Moscow. You sit at your computer, running searches on keywords in social media and leaving inflammatory comments on American social media posts. It’s a job, like any other, and you take breaks from work like everybody else. You notice this one guy “Mitch Wagner” – you left one of your troll-comments on one of his posts the other day, and noticed that most of this guy Mitch’s posts aren’t political. Many are, but Mitch also posts a lot of cute animal videos and retro ads from the 70s and stuff. They’re mildly entertaining so you check out his page every once in a while and when you see something you like you leave a nice comment. Then after a couple of days of that you lose interest and move on.