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This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture
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This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  293 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Internet trolls live to upset as many people as possible, using all the technical and psychological tools at their disposal. They gleefully whip the media into a frenzy over a fake teen drug crisis; they post offensive messages on Facebook memorial pages, traumatizing grief-stricken friends and family; they use unabashedly racist language and images. They take pleasure in ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 20th 2015 by MIT Press
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Paul Bryant
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-life
“None of us is as cruel as all of us” – anonymous troll

“I wormed my way to the heart of the crowd
I was shocked to find what was allowed”
– Howard DeVoto


The worst pun in the whole of the BBC is in the name of a radio programme called Thinking Allowed which is enough to make you avoid it. The second reason not to listen is the unctuous know-it-all presenter Professor Laurie Taylor, and the third reason is that it’s all about sociology (What do you get if you cross a sociologist with a Mafia don?
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's pretty difficult for me to give a scholarly book 5 stars, but this one nailed it. I'm not sure how the trolls -- the topic of this book -- would feel about the topic, but as a researcher and user of the Internet, this demystified a lot of things for me. Phillips makes the argument (quite persuasively) that trolls are the byproduct of our culture, and the behaviors they engage in are emblematic of the mass media practices that we see so often on our television and computer screens. Beyond th ...more
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was immediately interested in this book because of its title and because of my own inclination to view behaviors labeled "trolling" as indicative of a deeper and more noxious cultural rot. I was not disappointed.

The author skillfully links the abusive and antagonistic rhetoric of trolls to the oppressive and marginalizing dominant culture. She calls mainstream media into account for how they feed into the problem and she does all this in a way that makes it fairly easy for the lay reader to un
Michael Burnam-Fink
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic, 2016
A lot of hyperbolic language has been spilled over trolls and the internet subculture of trolling. I know, because I've added my tiny share (trolls as reactionary guerrillas). Unlike most commentators, Whitney actually gets it, blending intensive ethnographic involvement in two troll communities in the critical period where trolling went mainstream with a rigorous grounding in sociology and folklore.

Phillips argues that trolls are agents of cultural digestion, sifting through the detritus of a h
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: internet users, consumers of media
Recommended to Velma by: Paul Bryant
How ironic that I discovered a book written by a local author (Whitney Phillips is currently a lecturer at the local Ivory Tower, Humboldt State University) via a Brit known only to me online by his reviews. That's teh internets for ya.

This book is a research treatise, and the title refers to this c2008 Arguecat meme/macro from 4chan /b/ that calls out a threadjack:

Don't know what 4chan /b/ is? Like a carny sideshow Age & Scale operator, I'm gonna take a guess and say you are most likely under 3
José María
May 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
2 stars. Could be a solid 2.5, almost 3, but it contains this sentence:

"In one episode, heroes Vegeta and Nappa prepare to fight a villain named Goku."

Way to go.
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adapted from the author's dissertation on the subject of subcultural internet trolls who lurk primarily on the 4chan /b/ board, this is a fun, well written (often in the jargon of the very trolls it studies) and near definitive work on the subject. The author's focus here is not on all bad behavior on the internet--a topic far too exhaustive for casual study--but on a particular subgroup who exist solely to reap chaos online for laughs, or rather lulz. Far from simply condemning these trolls as ...more
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was really interesting. Internet trolls don't occupy a lot of my thoughts, but when this book came into my library I couldn't help but pick it up, as I couldn't imagine what the relationship between trolling and mainstream culture actually entailed - I learned a lot here, ranging from how gullible some news media are, to the motivations behind different kinds of trolling, to the way trolls self-identify and are occasionally protective of their insular culture.

The biggest problem I had was
David Dinaburg
Jan 21, 2020 rated it liked it
For a rich text version of this review and other writings, check out []

This book is history. Ancient history, by internet standards. A Rosetta Stone might be needed to parse terms like “lulz” or “rage face” in 2020, when these things have fallen out of contemporary usage (or perhaps I’ve just aged out of hearing them?). 2015 was, what, sixteen decades ago? That linear acceleration, man. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and
Sheena Carroll
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a scholarly work and is structured as such, but was one of the easiest scholarly reads I've encountered. It's a book that I wish I had access to while I was in grad school - Internet Studies is a growing but still small field that is negatively affected by the ephemeral nature of online culture, particularly memes (a book or article on the subject can quickly become irrelevant almost immediately after publication). This fact is something that Phillips is acutely aware of and does her bes ...more
Shane Groff
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was hoping this book would give me some insight into why people are horrible in the particular way that is trolling . It attempts to do so by pointing out that trolls are just engaging in extreme versions of behaviors engaged in by the "mainstream".
First, that doesn't really help. Yes, newspapers run sensationalist stories to make money from people's pain. That doesn't make trolling make sense.
Second, her primary examples of mainstream behavior are from Fox News, which is indeed horrible, but
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociological
What I enjoyed the most about this book is it gave me the language and statistical data I was lacking to give form to some of my nebulous thoughts on my own online experiences. Being of an age and persuasion that I got to witness firsthand the initial metamorphoses of Internet culture, I would find myself musing over how we got to our current circumstances (that being early 2019). Phillips, through sharing her own insights and experiences, helped me to frame my own. Absolutely fascinating to giv ...more
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The insight this dissertation offers on our culture and the subculture of online trolling far exceeded my expectations. The first few sections are a little dry, but it's just the setup to enjoy everything that comes afterward. Phillips dives in mostly without reservations and provides good context to that which many argue has no context. If the digital plane of 4chan, Anonymous, or memes interests you but seems intimidating or nonsensical, this research provides a very good attempt at understand ...more
Stacey Rice
An explanation of trolls and trolling. Pretty sure I would have never read this if it wasn't required reading for a course. A bunch of young white entitled males who think harassing people online is funny. Although according to this not all trolls are obnoxious, some actually shed light on those who are out to do harm and shed light on corrupt companies and people. Guess it all depends on what lens you're looking through.
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: race, troll
In depth PhD analysis of American Anglosaxon culture. The message of troll culture emulating IRL culture is, in hindsight, a premonition of what was to come next: reality emulating online troll culture to its sociopolitical extremes. A re-edition and current revision is way overdue, and it might be good if Phillips released it before the world as we know it lulz itself to death.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
It started out pretty strong but I couldn't buy Phillip trying to link internet trolling to news coverage. Yes, there's a lot of sensationalism and exploitation in the media, but saying it's the same as targeted attacks against Facebook memorial pages and campaigns that force victims off social media. I all but stopped reading when she said the Socratic method was just like trolling.
Mathew Toll
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing ethnography of 'subcultural trolls'.
Aubrey Simonson
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Someone write their PhD thesis in 4-chan trolls and it is 100% what you would expect that to look like.
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very good read.
Maybe bit too long.
Paul Sizemore
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great insight, and explains a lot: “truth is nice, but victory is better” mantra explains why Trolls and the media exploit emotions for profit – the media for ad revenue and Trolls for Lulz.
Jonathan Haber
Sep 20, 2016 rated it liked it
I wish Goodreads had half-stars since this book perfectly balanced impressive insights with severe disappointment.

On the plus side, the author provides a remarkable tour of the obscure Internet underworld (actually, the self-described “asshole of the Internet”) of the 4chan/b message board where Internet trolling turned from a pastime to a subculture, complete with its own language and ethical rules.

That language was largely incomprehensible to outsiders, consisting as it did of obscure “memes”
Sara Goldenberg
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was more "what" the trolls do then "why" but it was still interesting.
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Whitney Phillips, a scholar of folklore and internet culture, argues in this book that trolls don't emerge ex nihilo, but that they are spawned from a culture that in some ways has made them what they are.

This is a fascinating argument. The book is extremely well-written and readable (much in these pages is NSFW, naturally, so consider this a warning). I read academic books all the time and they usually take me years as I casually return to them and read snippets at a time. I read this book, tho
Keri Murcray
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Though still not a fan of negative and hurtful and violent trolling, I hadn't realized memes got their start from trolling, and had no idea the ways that trolling has been used for the greater good. A balanced perspective and very interesting.
Oliver Bateman
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
let's say you're in grad school & you luck into having a mentor who lets you break new ground, lets you carve out the first book-length treatment of a particular subject that is covered by the media but only dimly understood

this dissertation, once delivered to the library, can become a book like this almost instantly *IF* you can get around the typical academic bullshit rigamarole about how such and such a subject isn't important yet (it will be, you dumb fucks)

then boom, this field-creating th
Tim Kadlec
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Considering the state of current affairs going on, a book about trolling is incredibly relevant reading. The author's case is that while we decry trolling as something horrible and disreputable, trolling is really just what you get if you were to hold a fun-house mirror up to what is tolerated in our culture (media in particular).

I've read some criticism that she is not hard enough on the trolls. While it's true that you can tell at times that her time masquerading amongst them has perhaps softe
Ian Divertie
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Just inhaled this. Very interesting, and a feminist perspective on the androcentric dynamics of "trolling". With my perspective as a computer geek who has worked for the gov't its surprising how little we worried about these folks, except when they.... well you know. On the other hand its amazing how big their influence, and I don't mean in an angry way, can be on our internal political debates here in the United States. They can be very subtle at times, well and to find out how subtle, -- read ...more
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: internet-culture
I really enjoyed this book. I believe that this book, more than others, helped put trolling into context.
It's truly informative about many things: drawing on Schopenhauer, Socrates, Coleman, Levy, etc., it talks about why trolls do what they do. It discusses dissociation, overt and inferential racism, the demographic of trolls, and maybe most interestingly the history of trolling and the golden age of trolling.. ~2008-2011(?, something like that).
It discusses participatory meme culture and how t
Thomas Hale
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
An academic study of trolling and the trolls who troll, this makes a good companion piece to Gabriella Coleman's 'Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy', an ethnograhpic history of Anonymous. Like Coleman (whom she references often), Phillips embeds with and reaches out to a number of members of trolling groups, mainly from Facebook and 4chan. It's a little dry, and there are some things missing that I thought would be covered, but for the most part it's an informative and interesting look at an of ...more
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: internet
This is a very good book on trolling culture on the Internet and Internet culture more generally. Rather than making the simplistic "trolls are bad" argument, Phillips argues that trolls reflect the values of the mainstream culture and that it is the culture that creates trolls. It's an interesting argument and one worth considering. The comparisons between how trolls exploit emotion and how the corporate media does so is spot-on!
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Whitney Phillips is Assistant Professor in Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University. She teaches classes in media literacy and online ethics; online discourse and controversy; folklore and digital culture; and lore surrounding monster narratives, urban legends, hoaxes, and crime. Phillips holds a Ph.D. in English with a folklore-structured emphasis (digital culture ...more

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You might know comedian Colin Jost from his work as the co-anchor of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, or perhaps you know him as Scarlett Joha...
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“Not only does the act of trolling replicate gendered notions of dominance and success—most conspicuously expressed through the “adversary method,” Western philosophy’s dominant rhetorical paradigm13—it also exhibits a profound sense of entitlement, one spurred by expansionist and colonialist ideologies.” 1 likes
“The claim—and it is a common claim within the troll space—that lulz is equal opportunity laughter is belied by the fact that a significant percentage of this laughter is directed at people of color, especially African Americans, women, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (GLBTQ) people.” 1 likes
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