“Ken M” and the Wisdom of Trolls

It must have been Mockingbird that first introduced me to the “genius of Ken M.” […]

Larry Parsley / 4.18.17

It must have been Mockingbird that first introduced me to the “genius of Ken M.” Since then I’ve grown addicted to his commentary. Ken M (aka Kenneth McCarthy) is a 30something comedy writer masquerading as an opinionated 70something, dropping random comments on the internet. Flood Magazine called him “the world’s preeminent Internet troll,” only Ken M manages to use his superpowers for good. His comments, at times haughty-conservative, or faux-intellectual, or grumpy-everyman (but always ridiculous), are designed to draw the ire of fellow commenters.

When, for example, the Associated Press produces an article about “space junk” littering the orbit, Ken M responds: “so when i throw a cigarette butt out the window i have to pay a fine but when astronauts throw their trash out the window, taxpayers foot the bill? how do i become an astronaut??” When Yahoo features a story about a homeless man’s good deed resulting in a $16K donation, Ken opines: “he’ll probly blow it all on food and shelter.” Ken’s comments immediately trigger wrath from other commenters, who call him idiot and worse and generally launch their venom in his direction.

Ken’s career as a troll was launched in frustration. As a news junkie, he used to comment often on news articles, but quickly got turned off by the “toxic” responses. That’s when the idea of fake comments hit him. He started wondering how “idiotic I can be, but still be believable”? His comments caught on, and now he has a growing fanbase on Twitter (@horseysurprise) and Reddit among other places. 

Ken M’s comments (and the reactions they spawn) are not only good for a laugh, they also offer an added bonus: Ken M is the good troll in world of online nastiness. He says: “What I do is turn a toxic space into a source of belly laughter, so it’s not gross anymore.”

I see Ken M as the cyber version of a rodeo clown. He enters this space where people are just getting gored (verbally speaking), and he uses his ridiculous appearance and antics to distract and defuse the wrath for a little while. And just maybe, some of that outrage gets snorted out before truly harming someone. One can only hope that Ken’s foolishness causes our frequent indignation and moral superiority to feel pretty silly.

In Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner describes “worldly wisdom” as “what more or less all of us have been living by since the Stone Age.” He contrasts it with what the apostle Paul calls the “foolishness of God.” According to the dictates of worldly wisdom, Jesus was the “perfect fool.” That’s not all. “And if you think you can follow him without making something like the same kind of fool of yourself, you are laboring under not a cross, but a delusion.” Is it going too far to suggest that an internet troll has something to say to Christ followers? Now, I’m not exactly saying we are called to preach that “clean diapers are a privilege not a right,” but maybe Ken M could help us get a little less comfortable with venting outrage and a little more comfortable with absorbing it.