This is the fifth in my series covering the taxonomy of cyclist haters. Others previously covered include the Brat, the Beamer, The Gripper and the Codger.
I'm now going to talk about a fifth class of hater. A kind that thinks it is important but, strangely, probably isn't. A kind of cyclist hater that is rare, but vocal. Today I'm going to talk about the Trollumnist - already sent up wonderfully elsewhere.
At one time these folk would have been considered 'columnists'. They write cosy little opinion pieces in local or national newspapers, filling up space because opinion is cheaper than news (and actual journalism is hard work!). But the world of newspapers has changed - people aren't buying the paper for news. Heck, they're mostly not buying the paper at all these days, with news being available online or on the television, fast paced and updated constantly. Newspapers, or the shadows of what newspapers used to be, now rely on 'content' which is generated by 'content providers'. And 'content' that generates more hits is of more value than simple news where people look once.
The way a paper makes money in the digital age is through people clicking on the site, then clicking on adverts. The more 'hits' you get the more you can sell your advertising for. And the easiest way of doing that is to post in such a way as to get comments, because those who comment will keep coming back to respond again... Or, in other words, many newspaper columnists have morphed into nothing better than old fashioned internet trolls.
And trolls, as you know, tend to post to get people angry. But these trolls are trapped - they can't have a go at those of different race or gender quite as openly as they used to, so they're restricted to what they view as softer targets. And, regrettably, the current breed of Trollumnist sees cyclists as fair game.
You can pretty much select the 'opinions' of the trollumnist from a list. Select from lycra, arrogant, road tax (lack thereof), millions spent on cycle lanes, not using cycle lanes, not insured, not tested, rude, jump red lights, ride on pavements... You get the picture. The thing that unifies these articles is that they completely lack original thought. It could be an ignorant rant about cycle lanes not being used, ignoring the obvious conclusion that if they're not being used then they mustn't be very good. It might be a baseless accusation that we're smug and arrogant. It might even be a chilling statement that we deserve death or a frightening claim to have assaulted cyclists using a car as a weapon. There is a never ending supply of these lazy articles, and ultimately if you've read one of them, you've read them all. Let me paraphrase.
"Cyclists are a visible minority I'm not in. And I'm assuming you're not in that minority so I'm going to say some outrageous things about them - I'm going to extrapolate from the bad behaviour of one (and it is bad behaviour - thats what minorities do) to all of them, to reinforce your own prejudice, possibly adding in a few more points to give you new avenues to express that prejudice. Oh, and like all prejudiced folk I'll say I've got nothing against 'them'. I might even say some of my best friends are 'them'".
But trollumnists have exploded out from the opinion pieces and they now infest news like a metastatic cancer - they twist news stories to their own bizarre agenda to get as many repeat visits as possible.
The thing is, none of these columns, not a single one, gives us anything new. This isn't someone stating what they really think, this is an opinion for hire, a hollow, empty hack who isn't paid for their brains or their insight, they're paid to eloquently espouse any kind of crap to get a response. These articles state, and re-state, the same rubbish over and over again. Their purpose isn't to explore an issue or create discussion, their purpose is to troll for response. And you know what? If you link directly to them, if you post comments, they win. Do. Not. Feed. The. Troll.
How should we respond then? Well, its easy to argue that we shouldn't - but its not obvious to me that giving the asylum over to the inmates ever did much for collective sanity. If you feel you must respond then post a link to something that generically answers their generic crap. The As Easy As Riding A Bike article is a great start. If there are multiple haters commenting (and this is fertile ground for finding the codger) then stay above the melee. Roll around with pigs and you'll get covered in shit. If you must post then do so once, make it clear you'll do so once, and put the facts and details in. Don't go back, don't keep posting, don't keep responding - hit the bastard trollumnists where it hurts. In the pocket.