I have lost count of how many times I have found articles in the media (it can easily be more than a hundred) saying that the internet is supposedly infested by hordes of Russian professional trolls, directly employed by the Kremlin, who try to manipulate public opinion and put our holy democracies at risk making wide use of anti-Western rhetoric and pro-Russian posts. I don’t doubt that there have been such instances, but the scale of the threat, I suspect, has been widely exaggerated by a self-indulgent media. News stories like these have, after all, all the hallmarks of the perfect journalistic sensation, without which probably there would be no journalism at all: an imminent danger to our societies, a cyberdimension which smacks of a future dystopia, a lot of dodgy characters, a dark and scary place which closely resembles hell like the mythical Mordor of The Lord of the Rings, all in the shadow of a murderous tyrant who kills and aims for world domination because he is essentially the Evil.
I have been paying attention to the comment section of many news items for a long time, but I was never able to identify a Russian troll, in spite of the accusation of being a Russian agent being thrown around at every possible occasion. Basically we seem to have come to the point where if one dares to criticize Western policies in general, it is automatically assumed by some that one must do it maliciously to spread disinformation, “fake news” and put under question the legitimate moral supremacy of the Western “liberal” order (for an illustration of how the Western “liberal” order is in fact not very liberal at all, see for example here).
Instead I was able to identify, and without that much effort, a few online commentators’ accounts which could, almost without doubt, fall in the category of anti-Russian trolls. My short analysis here in based on the profiles I encountered on the Yahoo! News portal, which is arguably not a news item of the highest quality or distinguished for its balance (it is in fact, the fast food of news), but certainly a very popular one. People who want thoughtful considerations may well read books and being inclined to think for a while, sometimes for too long, before taking action. Hence a generic gossipy portal like Yahoo! seems to be the perfect choice in the battle for the hearts and minds of the general public. And who needs balance anyway when we are fighting a war for our own survival?
The user names of these “concerned citizens” fighting a solitary, heroic battle against the indolence of the effeminate West who surrendered before demonic Russia, speak for themselves: there is for example Putlero (from the combination of Putin and Hitler), Generations Putinoids, or even Kremlin Mafia.
These look like accounts set up exclusively to aggressively criticize Russia: and these “concerned citizens” tend to be in general veeery aggressive, many invoking for open warfare with Russia and NATO troops in Moscow, or for a lack of a better choice, a NATO humanitarian bombing of Moscow like in Belgrade in 1999. They seem to react only, or at least in a very large part, to stories concerning Russia (and now they are turning on Trump, dubbed as a Russian agent) and some of them are really impressively productive: the one who called himself Putlero was averaging 200 comments a day, and all the other ones were averaging no less than 100 comments a day.
I could easily imagine some of these users being retired US generals who bear an incurable grudge against the old Soviet Union, embittered men who have decided to the devote their last efforts to fighting the resurgent Communist Bear and enraged at the weakness of the Free World. However, the frequency and the patterns of these users constitute for me strong enough evidence to believe that this must be a concerned effort. It was really not difficult to find and identify these users. Either they are the real internet trolls or there must really be a lot of retired embittered generals.