January 3, 2022

When Doublespeak Goes Viral: A Speech Act Analysis of Internet Trolling

Latest Results for Erkenntnis


In this paper I survey a range of trolling behaviors and analyze a particular species that stands out. After a brief discussion of some of the inherent challenges in studying internet speech, I describe a few examples of behaviors commonly described as ‘trolling’ in order to identify what they have in common. I argue that most of these behaviors already have well-researched offline counterparts. In contrast, in the second half of the paper I argue that so-called ‘subcultural trolling’ calls out for further analysis: it cannot be fully explained using standard tools like insincerity or bullshit, or even using new tools like dogwhistling. Instead, I propose a new species of speech act force. I conclude by highlighting some implications for broader issues in pragmatics and ethics.

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