Starring: Andrew Auernheimer
Directed by: George Russell
Running Time: 1 Hour 19 Minutes
Reviewed by: Dan Oles
What was the point?
The question can be asked of ‘trolls’ themselves. The answer is provided here several times: for no real reason. Extremely skillful very bored people are taking advantage of a society neutered to the point of direct vulnerability. This is their ‘story’ which showcases and expounds individuals who have spent all their time and energy manipulating people because they can. The utterly mystifying element of this documentary remains the completely solemn way that those interviewed regard what constantly boils down to pranksters. You might feel your heart sink to witness that the grand legacy of this generation will likely be deliberately offensive web dwellers who muck with electronics and bother celebrities just to have a few minutes in the limelight.
Ordinarily the purpose of a documentary is to explain or to at least investigate a deeply important or deeply interesting piece of history or technology or scientific achievement or the lives of someone who touched the lives of others. You can’t blame this film for not trying to change up the traditional purpose of documentaries: to highlight significance. This is an hour long heaping of praise on men and woman devoted to sadism, sensationalism, and degradation. It’s fascinating in a traditional sense as the sheer inconsequentiality of internet vandalism is awe-inspiring, and no more so that somewhere out there is tons of devotees to this kind of contemporary nihilism. It’s never implicitly stated but the underlying subject isn’t so much the power of hackers so much as the utter lack of direction the current youth culture has. In the absence of leaders, these potentially smart people have turned to drugs, jokes, and The Internet.
All this technology, all this privilege, all this power…and the use is to redirect strangers to porn for cheap laughs. The most sobering scenes of the doc are sequences in which our merry band of goofs are being hauled into court, their smug grins replaced by dour expressions.
The central focus of the doc on the hacking of iPhones and the email link scandal is intriguing, but it’s told from exactly the wrong perspective: that of the hackers themselves. So you might suppose the story explained by those responsible for the hack would be the most in-depth and objective, but instead you get barely coherent cackles of glee from children delighted to have caused so much trouble and considering being arrested a badge of honor in retrospect. It is very funny that a pivotal moment in the only potentially historical event involving trolls (the AT&T data breech) was all due to laziness, and that itself is indicative of the whole troll tale.
Laziness. Paranoia. Arrogance. Apathy.
It’s not nearly as interesting as it sounds. The documentary itself is kind of a scrappy little production. Graphics don’t quite sync properly. Text appears pointlessly over on-screen documents. Sound is decent quality but nothing studio worthy. The music is all stock assets. I realize it’s a budget production, but there could have been a little more polish applied to make the pacing seem less glacial.
It takes a lot of effort to make you cheer on the SWAT officers kicking in pedestrian doors and aiming weapons at unarmed college students, but Troll Inc. manages to make you believe the best place these sociopaths can be is behind bars where the weight of their actions might actually mean something to them. If this was all for some kind of cause as the hackers sporadically attest was their purpose you might be able to take their damaging japes with a grain of salt. The issue of ‘freedom of speech’ is raised again and again, but the underlying sneer to all actions undertaken seems to indicate vindictiveness, not dedication.
The sheer glee they take in destruction and disruption is more disturbing than fictional villains. At least a heavy from a science fiction or fantasy tale generally means harm with an intended purpose…not just because they’re bored and want to be famous.
If there’s one thing that trolls don’t need it’s further publicity. Legends in their own minds they can remain.