Trolling History (A Rant)
By Morgan Gates
I am not a troll, but I like to go trolling, and I have never been guilty of trolling…
A Troll: a mythical, cave-dwelling being depicted in folklore as either a giant or a dwarf, typically having a very ugly appearance.
To Troll: to fish for or in with a moving line, working the line up or down with a rod, as in fishing for pike, or trailing the line behind a slow-moving boat.
Trolling: making random unsolicited and/or controversial comments on various internet forums with the intent to provoke an emotional or knee-jerk reaction from unsuspecting readers to engage in a fight or argument
English, I have been told is one of the hardest languages for a no native speaker to learn for just the reason cited above. One word with many meanings depending on context. I am a rather big and hairy fellow, and with a size 14 shoe I have been accused of being Bigfoot, but I don't live in a cave or under a bridge, and I am most certainly not mythical, so I am not a troll. When I was a kid my family had a johnboat with a trolling motor on it, and it was fun to go fishing, but today I enjoy fishing for historical tidbits much more. Trolling in its modern meaning is new to me. You see I'm one of those ancient ones who remember a time before the internet! I remember when snail mail was the only mail! I remember when phones were attached to the wall and dialing them sounded like shook..di di di da! Amazing but true! Back when if you wanted to say something snarky of mean to a stranger you had to walk up to him and say it to his face, and you would likely have been punched in the nose! But now through the miracle of technology, you can do it from the privacy and safety of your living room. Who says technology has not made the world a better place.
Ok…I’m through ranting now (maybe). As you know, we've been working hard lately on 2018 Breakfast with the Generals / Vicksburg Civil War Symposium and my last several posts have been in connection with this event. By the way, the proceeds of this event go to support The Old Courthouse Museum and the Vicksburg Civil War Roundtable, and of course we are trying to help Vicksburg get some of the historical recognition it deserves as the true turning point of the Civil War. Everybody participating is doing this at their own expense. Some of the participants are coming from as far away as Pennsylvania, local B&B's and Hotels are chipping in by offering our out of town participants deep discounts. This is a community effort; this is Vicksburg rising! This is a good thing.
Enter the trolls…I don't know who first came up with the name troll for nasty internet comments, but it is apt. In its original meaning Trolls were malevolent creatures who dwelt in dark hidden places (the only light coming from their laptop monitors) and struck unwary travelers who were minding their own business. Though inherently evil the troll was not very bright (don't have to be very smart to spout men comments) and could be outsmarted or outmaneuvered by the wary traveler who was on his guard. As I said an apt description.
So, I recently reposted my becoming John C. Pemberton essays from last year. They are about my attempt to understand Grant’s opponent at Vicksburg and in many ways the most difficult character to understand in the melodrama that was Vicksburg 155 years ago. Everybody wants to be the winner, and a surprising number of people like to play a villain, but Pemberton was neither just a man of his day caught up in an extraordinary moment of history. So, I share these around to various Civil War related Facebook pages, and there are quite a few around. For the most part, the responses are good, but then the trolls emerge from under the bridges. Now admittedly nobody has really gotten vulgar (the woman who said if I wanted to become Pemberton I needed to cut my balls off, got close though) another fellow says I don’t look anything like him (Robert Duvall who played Robert E. Lee in Gods and Generals didn’t either) but that’s not the point, I am portraying him not trying to pass for him (duh)!
Ok so maybe I wasn’t through ranting yet, but I am now… so make your plans to come to Vicksburg this July 4th and check us out, Curt Fields who portrays U.S. Grant is world class as is Dean Cass as William T. Sherman. There will be many more as both Union and Confederates and ladies in period attire as well. It will be fun, it will be educational, and it is all for a worthy cause. If you are a troll, just go fishing that day.