Anyone who is familiar with the BBC’s long running science fiction television series Doctor Who knows what a Dalek is. Even if you don’t watch the show, you may well be aware of the Daleks and what they are.
For those who don’t know, Daleks are the most feared enemies in the Doctor Who universe.
The Daleks are merciless and pitiless cyborg aliens bent on conquest of the universe and the extermination of what they see as inferior races; their catchphrase, “Exterminate!”, is a well-recognized reference in British popular culture. The Daleks were engineered by an evil scientist, genetically modified and integrated with a tank-like, robotic shell, removing their every emotion apart from hate. The Daleks view themselves as the supreme race in the universe and are intent on purging the universe of all non-Dalek life. Daleks are shapeless and defenseless blobs of flesh encased in armor so they are invulnerable. Though only armed with a single laser and a menacing suction cup, in the context of the show the Daleks are the deadliest foes that the Doctor comes up against.
Today on the internet there is a type of person known as a troll. An internet troll is a person who sows discord by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory or offensive messages in online communities with the deliberate intent of provoking readers or otherwise disrupting normal discussion for their own amusement.Trolls deface Internet tribute sites. causing grief to families. They attack groups and individuals online with sexual, emotional and intellectual harassment.
But maybe trolls is the wrong name. Perhaps we should start calling them internet Daleks. They surround themselves with technology and online anonymity, making them feel invulnerable. They travel about the various internet byways, swooping in and shouting “Exterminate! Exterminate!” and terrifying and infuriating online citizens.
Perhaps all vestige of humanity has been stripped away. Perhaps the echo chamber of their own ideas blared back at them has driven them mad over the years. Perhaps their bodies are slowly de-evolving into a soft and shapeless mush. Fearful of anything different from themselves, ensconced in the darkness of their parent’s basements, never seeing the sun or encountering any others that are not also Daleks, their hatred of others has grown like a cancer and is spreading.
Indeed, trollish, or Dalek-like behavior, is becoming ubiquitous online. Protected by the armor of internet anonymity they are compelled to attack any whose ideas or political affiliation is different from our own.
Internet Daleks hack their way into databases. laptops, smartphones and they pillage and rape the electronic landscape, making away with stolen emails, naked selfies or incriminating videos, which they eagerly disseminate far and wide. Privacy is laid waste by the rampaging Daleks. One’s most deeply hidden secrets are dragged screaming into the light like villagers being dragged from their burning homes by pitiless raiders.
They seem unbeatable. Just as the Doctor is the only one who can defeat the Daleks, only the most rigorous of intellects can stymie the internet Dalek. Even so, the Dalek will never be destroyed. They may scuttle off to their little home on the web but they will regroup and grow emboldened again, ready for another attack.
Just like on Doctor Who, the Doctor can never fully defeat his greatest enemy. No matter how many times he engages them, somehow they always come back.
That’s the thing about internet Daleks. They always find a way to come back to threaten again.