It goes without saying at this point that the internet is full of trolls—we expect any trip to Twitter or Facebook to be disrupted by some sort of angry person who views all ideological opponents as subhumans, and we anticipate that any article (not on The A.V. Club, of course) will be followed by poorly spelled shit-takes from newly online grandparents. And yet this 20-minute documentary by Kyrre Lien for The Guardian draws its power by doing the opposite—not making internet trolls confront the subjects of their hate, but by making us confront those trolls even more clearly.
The people we’d normally picture as an old-man avatar or a screaming anime character or a classic Twitter egg are visited here in their homes. We see the stacks of detritus that surround their old PCs and watch them eat meals in local diners. The international superteam of haters spans anti-European Union activists, Trump train diehards, white nationalists, and many more. At first, it seems as though Lien wants to humanize these subjects; we see that one man hates the EU because of the financial burdens it caused for his wife to emigrate to live with him. We watch a man defend mass murderer Anders Breivik, then pet his mom’s old dog, which he is now taking care of. It’s a rangy mutt that sort of looks like its new owner.
But that quickly falls away in favor of footage of these “internet warriors” just reading their impressively vitriolic tweets and comments directly into the camera. Like The Act Of Killing, it seems to aim to find catharsis by making perpetrators relive their transgressions, but the result here is somehow less and more chilling. The subjects remain unapologetic as they either splice hairs in order to make the most offensive possible points or express pride as they take a sledgehammer to political civility. The point seems to be, instead, that we confront them, seeing them not as mere trolls but as sad, frequently lonely humans rooted in specific geographic and economic situations.
It does not offer a reason to be kind to them. That is up to you, and whether or not you care to stomach FreedomEagle1776’s cutting Picard facepalm macro today.