TULSA, Okla -- The blog poster known as "Slick Rick" was in a bad mood. A thin layer of Cheeto dust covered his desk and keyboard. He hadn't bathed in days. His hands hurt from hours of trolling around progressive Web sites, desperately trying to engage left-leaning commentors to take his bait.
His most recent comment: "You know, if you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about," in a post about the U.S. government's eavesdropping programs had gotten very little response, aside from a snide "Go away, troll" at the site Firedoglake.
"You know," said Slick Rick via Skype. "Being a troll used to mean something. These days, it's just work, all day, every day."
Slick Rick isn't alone. A full year ahead of the 2008 U.S. elections, the demands on right-wing trolls are higher than ever. Between questioning what law Scooter Libby broke, to assailing the patriotism of any and all that would question the long-running war in Iraq, to trying to get Cindy Sheehan's name into any discussion about anything, the average troll has a busy, if completely unfulfilling existence.
Which is part of the reason why a loosely formed coalition of right-wing trolls are trying to band together to form a labor union that they hope will help them receive health insurance, conduct collective bargaining or even set professional standards.
Organizers hope a trolls' labor group the importance of their roles in candidates' campaigns.
"There are progressive blogs everywhere and the GOP needs us to do whatever it takes to get their message scrambled," said Jocko, a troll who spends most of his days and nights monitoring the site OliverWillis.com. "I don't see Dick Cheney out there on the front lines like us, saying anything to stem the tide."
For the trolls, however, while they are much-hated and considered an outright drain on democracy by many, there have been signs of hope. The company Advantage Consulting has actively worked with trolls, sending out legions of them to "astro-turf" subjects ranging from stem-cell research to health care and the economy.
For many trolls, however, more needs to be done.
"When you create as many straw men per day as I do, It's exhausting," said Toad the Wet Sprocket, a right-wing troll who alternates between the sites Crooks & Liars and the Spacey Gracey Review. "We expect communists like John Kerry to flip-flop on issues. But we need to unionize."
Of course, there's the obvious question: Aren't right-wingers, by their very nature, anti-union? It would seem like something that would stop the movement directly in its tracks. Luckily for them, however, right-wing trolls have been shown to be nearly completely impervious to logic. Slick Rick was noticeably angered when the concept was brought up to him;
"Are you kidding me? What are you, a commie?" said Slick Rick angrily. "Of course we could, and should unionize. We need health care. We need financial support. We're fighting to save this country from becoming a welfare state and to keep people like Che Hillary from just giving away taxpayers' money."
This leads to another interesting dilemma for the trolls - according to a recent survey by researchers at Shakesville University, nearly half of right-wing trolls were clearly unaware that they were, in fact, trolls. Noted behavioral scientist Tyler Reynolds of the University of Hawaii said it's a perplexing issue.
"It's hard to get into the mind of some of these trolls," said Reynolds. "They'll argue - vehemently - both sides of an issue for hours, if need be, against anyone. Yet they refuse to accept their inherent trollness."
Reynolds listed a few common traits of a troll:
- Spending an inordinate amount of time where you're not wanted;
- A slavish, dog-like obedience to authority;
- A willingness to mimic any talking point;
- A willingness to change any opinion you hold at the drop of the President's hat;
- A contempt for those who challenge you on any point.
Reynolds admitted that the traits aren't foolproof in detecting full-time trolls - just glancing through them, one immediately pictures Alberto Gonzalez, who is the U.S. Attorney General, and only a part-time troll on such major sites as The Huffington Post, commenting under the name "Gonzo Tex-Mex."
Other right-wing troll traits include calling those that disagree with you communists, as well as not being able to actually define what a communist is. When asked what a communist is, Toad the Wet Sprocket angrily lashed out "Only a communist would ask a stupid question like that. Commie."
In the end, the battle to unionize a rag-tag group of anonymous typing graffiti artists would seem an impossible quest. When asked why he believe creating a labor union for right-wing trolls was possible, Slick Rick gave a rambling answer that had nothing whatsoever to do with the question.
"Why is it that you hate America so much?" said Slick Rick. "Our troops are over there fighting them so we don't have to fight them here. But the liberal media still wants socialized medicine? You know, people like you and the people of New Orleans are always looking for a hand out. Well, the free ride is over. You, and Rosie O'Donnell, and Ward Churchill, and Cindy Sheehan will be hung for treason one day soon. God Bless America. God Bless George Bush, and death to the Islamofascists."