Zarathustra came upon a video on the edge of a website. Below it, he found a roiling sinkhole of ceaseless snark, for the bouncing baby on the screen wore a THUG LIFE onesie. And Zarathustra was amazed, and wrote on the site thus:
“All beings so far have created something beyond themselves: they have made babies and jokes about them. And you want to be the ebb of this great tide, and grovel here amidst the squalorous, tepid shoals?
Behold! I show to you the Internet Commenter.
What is the Internet Commenter for the human being? A laughing-stock or a painful cause for shame. The Commenter scuttles in the dark, low online places; it is the brightest of the slinking shadows.
For the Internet Commenters are cunning and know all that has happened. There can be no end to their mockery. Yet one still quarrels, one still reaches out, for the targets of one’s invective are faceless strangers. What is empathy?
‘What is decency? What is evidence? What is prudence? What is tolerance?—thus asks the Internet Commenter,’ and blinks.
For the Internet has now become reactive, and upon it hops the Internet Commenter, who reacts to everything. Its scorn is as unsurprising as the ground-flea; the imperceptible venom of the ugly comment finds its way onto every website, sooner or later.
‘This jackass obviously hasn’t read Atlas Shrugged,’ says the Internet Commenter, and blinks.
‘I have an untraceable, implausible anecdote that totally undermines your thoughtful argument,’ says the Internet Commenter, and blinks.
‘Your thesis, inasmuch as you have one, is obvious. What embarrassment of an editor published this dreck?’ says the Internet Commenter, and blinks.
‘A little scorn every day: that salves the ego. A lot of scorn during presidential campaigns and a mound of loathing whenever conversations turn to religion, race, or sex,’ says the Internet Commenter, and blinks.
‘If someone is wrong on the Internet, the terrorists win,’ says the Internet Commenter, and blinks. ‘Also, you are a terrorist sympathizer.’
‘Someone who shares your convictions is a philandering fascist. Who was born in Indo-Kenya. And is a corporate prostitute who shills for the Koch Brothers and Soros,’ says the Internet Commenter, and blinks.
‘Also, American public education is part of the UN’s Agenda 21 conspiracy,” says the Internet Commenter, and blinks.
‘We Digg happiness,’ says the Internet Commenter. ‘And we tweet the ever-living, ever-loving shit out of it. #yolo’
What is the greatest the Internet Commenter could experience? It is the hour of being taken seriously. It is the hour where some poor soul’s flickering credulity meets the Commenter’s great despising, where that earnest soul briefly takes the Commenter’s stale invective and solipsistic repetition seriously. And so the Commenter is always engaged, but always alone.”
Zarathustra’s cursor blinked—pip, pip, pip—as he waited for the page to refresh. A message appeared on his screen.
“Congratulations! You just became the Mayor of The Pied Cow on @foursquare!”
Zarathustra was amazed; he groaned and spoke thus to his heart: “Could it be that anyone still uses Foursquare?”
He closed the message to survey the snarling mob. However, the Commenters carried on with their entertainment, lancing each other’s sensitive pustules, gnawing at the rawest parts, and ignoring Zarathustra. Just one stopped and hurled:
“LOLZ! Grow a pair, n00b!”
“What,” thought Zarathustra, “must one do to turn eyeballs like these?”
The cursor continued its mute flashing.
And Zarathustra wrote thus:
“Hark! You have laid up your treasure in bitter recrimination!
You would feel loved, but those sites are NSFW. You would be admired, but cannot keep your_ ressentiment_ concealed—even with the aid of an avatar and IP anonymizer. And so you settle for being noticed. For there is yet some warmth in a Klout score.
Conversation is like casual tennis—each speaker shoveling the ball over the net to encourage a return. But the Internet Commenter is a poor partner who plays for and with itself, and crafts each line to stylishly wound opponents. For the Internet Commenter, every shot is a cross-court backhand. It is not enough to communicate; for the Commenter, every acknowledgment is a new chance for a flashy put-away.”
“Lo,” pleaded Zarathustra. “The world has grown spiky, and the Internet Commenters span the gaps. And now they behold me and laugh: and even as they laugh, they reassure themselves of their detached, anonymous superiority."
The cursor blinked a moment.
“Heh,” said a commenter. “YOU’RE the $%&#ing troll.”
“:-<,” wrote Zarathustra.