A Special Kind of Mean

We all know them almost as soon we see them. They are condescending and arrogant. They harass anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They yell and scream until you surrender and go away. They live in the purgatory of the internet, the comments section. I speak, of course, of the troll.

Most of us can easily dismiss these people as we presume them to be sad, lonely, crazy hermits. But there’s another kind of troll. A special species, if you will. The kind that walks among us unsuspectingly every day wearing their socially-acceptable mask going about their socially-acceptable ways.

What makes these trolls so special is that they are highly adept at their craft, so much so that they are capable of living double lives. Vicious and unrelenting by night, next-door neighbor and all-around-community good guy or gal by day. They skillfully berate and belittle people in such a way that makes them appear to be superior in wit and intelligence, leaving little room for the audience to sympathize with their victims.

What’s more, these special trolls do not limit their territory to a few select websites where they may eventually be admonished once people catch on to their malicious intent. No, they create their own sandboxes from which to bait unsuspecting prey while also building up an army of gullible friend trolls.

Before facebook, these sandboxes came in the form of surreptitious websites, group blogs or newspaper forums. These folks would set up multiple fake names and carry on a wide variety of conversations, all under the guise of “healthy debate” or “open dialogue.” In order to maintain their true agenda (to manipulate public opinion), they would have their friends join in when necessary. If their friends weren’t readily available, they would simply resort to creating multiple fake screen names to give the appearance of support for whatever propaganda they were pushing at the moment.

Their weakness is self-control. When their efforts lose credibility, their emotional state heightens and they resort to more desperate tactics. They delete posts (theirs and others); they send anonymous emails; they hack into private information; they engage the press with fluff pieces filled with skewed data and trite phrases while bemoaning that “we need to all be positive;” they spy on people and report back online when they spot them at places like Starbucks or Wal-Mart; and sometimes, they go so far as to create entire websites and pretend to actually BE their prey.

We have more than our fair share of special trolls in Oak Ridge. And for years, I’ve put up with my share of their crap. I’ve been called an ignorant slut, a bully and a liar. I’ve even had death threats lobbed at me. For the most part, I silently tolerate it and will continue to do so. But when you go after good people who tried so hard to better themselves and better our community, I can no longer remain silent. When you hurt people who have suffered so much already,  you’ve crossed a serious line.

Anonymous emails and phone calls – that is what the press has reported on today. Though they have been handed far more incriminating evidence over the years on public figures who are already in office, who have committed far more serious mistakes, the newspapers have refused to print those stories and, instead, opted to reward anonymous trolls with front-page stories about the mistakes of a grieving mother from five years ago.

I received the email below and a reporter asked me whether or not I knew about Laurie’s DUI. This was my complete response:

“Before she ever pulled the petition, I knew of Laurie’s past mistakes and still encouraged her to run for office. I have no regrets in doing so. Laurie Paine is a loving mother and a passionate activist for all of our community’s children who I am PROUD to call my friend. She is a fighter and a survivor. She is also human. Unlike many in our society who shift blame or make excuses, Laurie has taken full responsibility for her actions. Her story should serve as an inspiration to all who have suffered unspeakable pain and to all who have fallen short. I will fight alongside her just as I did in 2008 to ensure that all of our children are afforded safe and equal access to the one key tool (public education) that will provide them with the same opportunity to overcome any hardships they may be facing.”

She’s not perfect, but she’s got more integrity and morals in her pinky finger than any of our little town’s good ol’ boys. And, unlike you, she can’t bury her mistakes using her inside court connections. She may never have a building named after her and she’ll certainly never win your precious shit-covered shoe award, but she has done more for this community than all of you combined. And she has done it openly and honestly.


From: ————————
Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 12:19 AM
To: trina.baughn@gmail.com
Subject: laurie paine

I’m shocked you would endorse a candidate with a hidden dui in her history.  But after researching it tonight, I found out that her child was in the car when the arrest happened.  It’s all public record, plenty of people already know and two of them told me and YOU and as guilty as her of trying to deceive the voters.  Trust me, I will do everything in my power to tell everyone what a deceitful group of people you are.

We do not need this kind of representative in Oak Ridge.  I don’t know which is worse, the lie or the cover up.


  1. Keep doing what you do. You know you are right. In the end, all of this does not matter. The only thing that will matter is how you conducted yourself, and how you served others. An interesting read about the kind of people your were describing is: “The People of the Lie”, M. Scott Peck, MD.

  2. Robert is spot on. There are right ways and wrong ways to get a point across. You and Laurie Paine continue to have my full support. The school lobby feels very threatened.

  3. Some things never change. True character, or lack of, also shows itself. I can not even begin to imagine how I would act it such tragedy occurred in my life. I hope I, or anyone else never have to experience what Laurie did.

  4. I have no reason to attack anyone, yet every reason to support the betterment of our community. I know that there are disparaging comments made, and it deeply disturbs me, as I know our children and youth are watching. I appreciate you for your tenacity, dedication, and courage, Ms. Trina Baughn. You are correct that there is no need for such venom launched at the upstanding members of our community. It causes me to pause, and consider the dog that is carrying the bone.

    If our community well being is what matters most, why all of the personal and very unprofessional attacks? Shouldn’t we support upstanders? I support you, Trina Baughn, Laurie Paine and others for your courage and fortitude in the face of very ugly and uncivil behavior. To me, this has nothing to do with my politics or whether or not I will vote for you. I can’t believe that this is even a topic in our community, when all you have to do is look around us.

    What has worked and what has failed? Where is your heart? What is the legacy and lesson that we would like to leave behind for our children? Hatred and gossip in the face of challenge?

    Proudly using my real name,

    Valerie Holland Hughes

  5. Who can say that they have done something in their life that they haven’t regretted?
    There is a cancer that afflicts all of Oak Ridge, in the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and the local newspaper, the School Board and every Board and Department of the City. The cancer is fed by power and money. When these people start attacking someone my ears perk up because what they are really saying is that the person they are attacking is a threat to their corrupt enterprises.
    I believe Miss Paine to have the best of motives and none of the current Board of Education members do.
    I say, “Give them Paine”.

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