Troll, defined: One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument."
Ted Cruz is a troll, although his venue is Senate Committee Hearings rather than online interaction. Between his behavior during the Chuck Hagel confirmation process and his behavior yesterday during the committee debate on Senator Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban and clip limits, he's proved he's only interested in disrupting and getting a reaction from his prey.
He wanted a reaction, and he got one:
“I’m not a sixth grader. Senator, I’ve been on the committee for 20 years,” Feinstein said. “I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in, I saw people shot, I’ve looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons, I’ve seen the bullets that implode. And Sandy Hook youngsters were dismembered… I’m not a lawyer, but after 20 years, I’ve been up close and personal with the Constitution. I have great respect for it.”
“You know, it’s fine, you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it, but just know I’ve been here for a long time. I’ve passed a number of bills. I’ve studied the Constitution myself. I am reasonably well-educated and I thank you for the lecture,” Feinstein said.
He also got one from Senators Chuck Schumer and Sheldon Whitehouse. Schumer:
In reference to the question my colleague from Texas asked, would you limit books? Would you name specific books? Yeah. It’s constitutional within the ambit of the First Amendment to eliminate child pornography. And we have lots of laws that are very explicit about that. Very explicit. That are constitutional, that have been upheld as constitutional. Similarly, you can’t falsely scream fire in a crowded theater. Similarly, we have libel laws. Every one of these is an impingement on the sacred First Amendment, upheld as constitutional. There are reasonable limits on each amendment, and I think it is anomalous, to put it kindly, for either side to interpret one amendment so expansively and another amendment so narrowly that it just doesn’t add up because your interpretation of the Constitution should be consistent.
Whitehouse followed up with the death blow:
It is hard to imagine that it would be a violation of the First Amendment for somebody to yell fire in a crowded theater but it’s not a violation of the Second Amendment to prevent somebody from bringing a hundred-round magazine into a crowded theater in a Aurora, Colorado.
Of course, trolls don't really care about whether or not their quarries lob the ball back with actual facts. It's enough for them to be trolls, and Cruz proves that over and over. He's fine saying that there were communists at Harvard whether or not it's true, because it provokes the reaction he's looking for. He's fine saying that Chuck Hagel received funding from a group that didn't exist (Friends of Hamas), because it creates a firestorm.
Cruz is with us for at least 5 years and 9 months more. But he should be identified for the troll he is, and given no attention. He's just playing that game in order to make himself into the biggest pain in the butt the Senate has seen yet.
Josh Marshall shared his memories of the Harvey Milk shooting and why he was so rattled by the exchange:
Feinstein was on the scene at one of the biggest American political assassinations of the post-60s era — the murder of George Moscone and Harvey Milk in San Francisco in November 1978. Feinstein was actually the first into Milk’s office and made a momentary and vain effort to revive Milk who was clearly already dead.
The other part of this story was that Feinstein was then head of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. So Mayor Moscone’s death meant she was the new mayor.
I was a little boy growing up in California at the time, 9 years old. We lived in Southern California. But it was still a very big deal even there. And it came just a week or so after the Jonestown mass suicide, which was in Guyana but grew out of San Francisco and California, which added somehow to the sickness and horror of it. I remember the whole thing vividly. A very surreal and obviously tragic story, and even more surreal because the murderer wasn’t some random loner but a guy who himself had just resigned from the City Council.
The story is obviously part of the story of Harvey Milk, who was then the first openly gay person elected to anything anywhere in America. But Feinstein was also deeply part of it.
Obviously, trolls don't care about the humans they might unnerve with their trolling, but I'm with Josh on this one. It was a particularly cold and psychopathic thing for him to do.