What do I mean by a troll?
I'd like to digress a bit on what I mean here by "troll" and how we'd know it when we see it. There are several types of trolls which all have their strengths and weaknesses, but I'll only discuss one.
I'm thinking here of the simple kind of troll which is semantically equivalent to climbing into the rafters during an Elks' meeting and dumping a sack of pissed-off cats right onto the dais. You know, something along these lines. I'd like to term this a "cat-sack troll". Now, the crucial feature of a cat-sack troll is that in addition to generating a whole lotta sturm und drang, you have to be speaking entirely out of your ass.
Here is a link to a Time article about the original article which, for the record, is an article entitled "La dolce morte di Papa Wojtyla" ("The Sweet Death of Pope Wojtyla") by Dottoressa Lina Pavanelli, which appeared in the Italian sorta-bimonthly MicroMega. (For the record, anyone who does not understand the need for a word like "sorta-bimonthly" when describing an Italian media outlet is not familiar with Italian media outlets.)
It's hard to know exactly what Time's motivation or intent is here. It seems plausible to me that they're just passing on the troll (journalistic integrity ftw), but it seems much more likely to me that they know precisely what they're doing. (I mean, hell, I'm sending all you guys over there with these links, i.e. Time pwns.) But in any case I link to the Time article because it's the best treatment in English I've seen.
As for the original article, it doesn't seem to be available online, but here at least is an article by Dott.ssa Pavanelli responding to a series of critiques of the original article. She here seems to be dealing line-by-line with certain critiques, but at the very least we can trust that the gist of the Time article is correct, since she reiterates some of her argument in the response:
Il mio interesse è focalizzato sul periodo che precede il 30 marzo. L'analisi delle informazioni di cui dispongo mi ha portato a concludere che, per qualche ragione non spiegata da motivi clinici, nei due mesi antecedenti la morte, il paziente non ha ricevuto una quantità di nutrimento sufficiente e non ha usufruito in tempo utile di quei presidi terapeutici che sono normali per molti malati con patologie simili.
My interest focuses on the period preceding March 30. My analysis of the data to which I had access leads me to believe that the patient neither received sufficient nutriments nor the appropriate therapeutic treatment for a period of two months preceding his death; moreover this has never been explained by the presiding physicians.
Long story short, this woman is claiming the Pope was euthanized. You know, the shit Catholics are really, really not supposed to do EVAR? Well, the claim is that a bunch of cardinals and pope-doctors got together and did exactly that.
Why is this a troll of extraordinary magnitude?
What makes a cat-sack troll effective? As I see it, it has two key features:
- Guaranteed to piss people off.
As far as this criterion goes, the article is brilliant; it is guaranteed to piss off tens of millions. You think Egil was bad? Essentially, this article is a "HI, ROR" to about a billion people worldwide.
In case anyone has missed the context, the reason this idea is provocative is that the Catholic Church takes a very strong philosophical and theological stand against euthanasia. To discover that the Church leadership have chosen to euthanize the Pope would have been roughly equivalent to finding out that the Red Cross has been making and placing IEDs.
Because of this, the fact that the euthanasia occurred is almost inconceivable. The doctrine of the Church on this issue is crystal clear, and say what you will, but people don't dedicate their lives to a theology without believing the core tenets.
- Lacking any evidence whatsoever.
So after reading the Time article, and Dott.ssa Pavanelli's response to a criticism, what I glean is that although she is giving her medical opinion, she never examined the body of the Pope (before or after death) or had access to any data at all, but she is basing her accounts on what she read third-hand in some accounts (ROFL) or what she saw on TV (LOLLERSKATES).
This reminds me of that Schiavo case, when one of the Republican guys who was also a doctor came on TV and gave his diagnosis from watching news clips. Seriously, it's like these people are trying to insult my intelligence. Like they're sitting in a cavern thinking "Alright, what will these clowns buy next? For my next trick, I'm going to give an expert opinion based on tea leaves and the profile of the Sun's corona during the next solar eclipse."
What can we expect from this?
Anyway, awesome troll. Quick summary: this woman writes an article saying "I SAW SOME STUFF ON TV" and one-sixth of the world's population is going to shit golden brick. This will make the cable news rounds if it hasn't already. There will be people outraged and people outraged at the outrage, etc. I'd be dismayed, but then it occurs to me that all these cable news pundits have children too, and somebody's gotta feed the little pricks.