Jakob E. Wagner, of Antigo Wisconsin, shot two people at the Antigo High School prom this past Saturday night. His motive is still unknown. Chances are, by the time it is known, the national media will have moved on. After all, a so-called “mass shooting” where the only fatality was the shooter is hardly big news. But, while the news media might have the attention span of a 3 year old on crack, the internet rarely forgets; and its bottom-feeders are usually the last to move on.
This is essentially a follow-up to my previous piece on professional trolls. Here I’d like to examine a different trolling niche: tragedy trolls. This is a special kind of troll. Maybe the worst kind. Tragedy trolling is really a larger category made up smaller, still more niche categories: think rape victim shaming, think your-soldier-offspring-died-because-god-hates-fags bating (videlicet: Westboro Baptist Church). Jakob Wagner’s story, though barely a day old, has already attracted trolls.
The initial Washington Post article on the story was quickly trolled.
Heavy.com’s article was likewise quickly trolled.
Unlike self-proclaimed “ethical trolls”, tragedy trolls don’t seem to serve any higher purpose. Other than occasionally feigning outrage at something or other, they don’t even bother with the pretense of having some for-the-greater-good motive. They’re just assholes.
Now, I admit, being an asshole isn’t generally a big deal. It just makes you less likable and perhaps more likely to run for political office. But, in situations like this, I think it can be a very big deal. After all, who are they hurting? In Wagner’s case at least, the answer would seem to be the shooter’s family and friends. Saturday morning, he was just an unremarkable geeky “good guy”–loved by some, ignored by many, unknown to most. By Sunday morning, however, he’d become a mass shooter, a psycho killer, an open wound; and, eventually, hopefully, just a bad memory. For the people close to him, the world has turned upside down. They are doubtless having trouble processing what has taken place. They do not need random cyberhaters inundating them with anonymous vitriol.
I really don’t have much to say with this post. This isn’t a complicated issue. Yes, Wagner did a really bad thing. He hurt people. And he paid the ultimate price for his crime: He was shot down where he stood. His name will live in infamy in the hitherto unknown and soon to be forgotten small town of Antigo, Wisconsin. But the point of this post is that tragedy trolling is just a dick move. It doesn’t benefit anyone, and it can hurt those close to the tragedy. Bad troll.
I’ll close by showing an argument an Instagram troll had with a girl who knew the shooter. It’s what inspired this post in the first place.