His painting pretended not to be a painting, erasing the boundary between image and reality some twenty-five centuries before upstart poststructuralists like Baudrillard started to proclaim their undifferentiation. It’s notable that while Zeuxis painted an idealised image, something with the kind of natural Aristotelian beauty and unity that Greek society upheld as its model, Parrhasius appears as a proto-Modernist, painting the mundane and the incomplete (or, as Samuel Beckett observed of Tal Coat’s work, a ‘total object, complete with missing parts’).Later histories tell us that Parrhasius enjoyed creating erotic and obscene art; it’s not hard to see him today, tweeting an eternally unfinished list of inanimate objects he wants to fuck.
They crouch in pixelated catacombs, slimily glabrous, leering behind glasses, their hunched vertebrae give them the look of something primeval and saurian; or else they’re brutish blobs of undifferentiated flesh, six pints down and ready to kick someone’s head in.
Either way, they’re creatures of pure hatred and we need to destroy them. Here in the UK, Twitter trolls have been in the news rather a lot.
The concern troll is old, its roots go back for thousands of years before the bucolic infancy of the internet.
There’s a famous story in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
It’s arguable that the really notable thing about trolling isn’t its ability to annoy the gullible but the superposition of image and reality it creates.
When an ordered society depends on maintaining a hierarchy of images, the ability to wield this kind of ironic superposition has a concrete political power.
A troll-free utopia is one in which you can be as reprehensible as you like, as long as you conform to the measured, ‘objective’ tone of the opinion pages.
The introduction of a single ‘report abuse’ button on Twitter could be the foundation of a new White Terror for the digital age, in which celebrity commentators can marshal their thousands of followers to shut down anyone who objects to their pronouncements in less than genteel tones.
It all sounds a little like what’s been called ‘cupcake fascism’: the stifling tyranny of the nice.
Apart from all this, one major complaint (as powerfully put forwards in this piece) concerns the semantic shift in the word ‘troll’: a word that used to signify a dextrous and entertaining form of online (mis)communication is now being used to talk about careless and barely directed abuse.
This aspect of aletheia is at the heart of any good troll.