The Tears of a Troll

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 16 2014 10:13 AM

The Tears of a Troll

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Do not feed

Photo by Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images

When a headline informs readers that a "former South Carolina Republican Party" official has made a shocking statement, the answer is always Todd Kincannon. Briefly the executive director of the state party, a designation that is more than enough for HuffPost or Salon hate-reading, Kincannon keeps a hyperactive Twitter schedule. Joking about how Travyon Martin would have grown up to be a crackhead? Done. Calling Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis a "whore"? Done. If a liberal site (or a cluster of liberal Twitterers) explodes with outrage, he did his job. "Politainment is the wave of the future," said Kincannon during one Twitter carnival.

"Said," past tense. After having one account shut down, and after launching a new one this year, Kincannon built up a fan base of more than 50,000 followers with jokes about having Bowe Bergdahl assassinated (the next attorney general would likely be "a friend" who could pull it off) and with gut-busters like "Why do third world countries let athletes do anything besides mine blood diamonds? Your children are starving and my wife needs earrings!" Then he went silent. In a widely circulated letter to people who'd ordered his new e-book, Kincannon explained that Christmas would not come this year. "In early June, just as I was preparing to send out my book," he said, "I received an unexpected notice from the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel that the investigation was going to continue because of comments I made on Twitter regarding a left wing political activist named Col. Morris Davis, a frequent guest on MSNBC."

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Kincannon's legal complaint about the matter is worth a read, if only for the amusing bluster about how famous and funny he is.

Kincannon is actually nearly 2 million followers shy of cracking the top 1,000 Twitter accounts on Earth. He's just a troll, and an interesting test animal for free speech. "We rarely need the First Amendment to protect likeable people saying nice things," argues Ken White in the post that brought this nonsense to my attention. "We need it to protect unlikable assholes, like Kincannon."

We do, though there's really nothing in the First Amendment that allows someone to say whatever he likes, wherever he likes, and never be harmed in any way. Kincannon is claiming that his enemies are abusing the legal system to silence him, and to damage a law practice that he brags (of course) is phenomenally successful. But he's only in this position because he uses untold hours of his mortal existence to crudely insult liberals, foreigners, nonwhites, women, and whoever else hovers into his field of vision. And because the liberal hateread-industrial complex needs trolls to act out and make their readers click and click and share as they sputter about how offended they are. I'm with Ken White: Don't feed the trolls. Don't sue the trolls. If possible, ask yourself if you really need to respond to (or ask your enemies to reject-and-denounce) the trolls. If someone wants to joke in public about dead black people, you can ignore him and focus your attention on someone sentient.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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