Recently the site A Guide To Bad taste referred to Ivy-Style.com as a “community,” and I found the term both apt and a compliment. Someone else lately noted that the comments section is perhaps the site’s most entertaining feature, and while the Left vs. Right battles may grow tiresome, I have to admire the effort people put into arguing their points. And by the standards of the Internet, arguments do stay fairly civil.

Yesterday I had lunch with Bruce Boyer and Richard Press, and the first thing Boyer said to me, with a laugh and a nudge, was, “The amount of bad things said about this guy on the Internet…”

“You have no idea…” I replied. Then again, it’s really not so bad. Imagine being in the presidential race.

Internet vitriol has always amused me, and as I write for a living, I’m used to anonymous criticism. Though sometimes it’s not so anonymous. Early in my career I was writing op-ed pieces for a local paper, and my own sister denounced me in a letter to the editor, so inflamed was she by my essay. I still consider it a career highlight.

The thing that always amuses me is how often the criticisms contradict each other. I’m sure there are plenty of Ivy Style readers who think the site has a liberal bias, while others think it’s conservative. Some would say it romanticizes the past, while others would complain that it covers too much contemporary stuff. Contradicting critiques always tell me I must be doing something right.

By far the most incessant slanders against Ivy Style — and many others in the menswear industry — come from the forums at Film Noir Buff. While on assignment for The Los Angeles Times back in 2006, doing a story on menswear forums that was ultimately killed, I interviewed a number of longtime players in the forum world who referred to FNB as “Devil’s Island” — basically where all the Internet’s loonies and rejects wind up. (There’s a user there named Tony Ventresca who’s perhaps the most negative human being in the world.)

Whenever I chat with my father, he always mentions Ivy Style, politely saying he enjoyed one post in particular. Then he’ll say, “And there’ve been a lot of comments, I see.” Finally, he’ll pause and mutter, “There sure are a lot of crazy people out there…”

Father knows best, and all of us visit websites — YouTube, Yahoo! Finance, Huffington Post — where the discourse is not as civil as it is here, and the nastiest side of human nature rears its anonymous head. Obviously, the well adjusted man says, “They must be unhappy about something in their lives.” But today a little ray of light shone into the dark cave where trolls live and revealed just what makes them so miserable:

Chronic pain.

That’s right, the simplest explanation possible. Just like animals that are prone to attack when they’ve got a bad tooth or a thorn in the paw, people who are chronically negative on the Internet are in pain, and spewing vitriol on the web apparently offers some kind of temporary relief.

In this revealing thread at FNB’s Talk Ivy forum, several members disclose decades of struggling with chronic pain. GI Zhou reveals this:

As I have four spinal injuries, including the brain stem, a five year old girl can beat me in an arm wrestle.

And later:

You get good, bad, indifferent and fucking awful days. I also take morphine which shows in some of my comments.

4F Hepcat, author of the most inspired railings against Ivy Style, next shares this:

I’ve a spinal injury myself in the neck and I’ve been warned by the specialist to expect lots of problems in later life, most of the time its bearable, but when it starts aggravating with shakes in my right hand, tingling, loss of feeling, hot and cold sensations and acute pain, its hell for a couple of months. And then, as if by magic the symptoms vanish and I am okay for the next few months.

Previously he’s noted that his job is unfulfilling and that he used to dream of being a writer. Finally it all starts to make sense.

And lastly, Tradsville’s most notorious troll gives us this:

I have recently graduated from Tramadol to Morphine… My bad back goes back 21 years now after a car crash in which I lost my ‘pretty’ looks and messed up that front tooth of mine that I’ve never bothered fixing. Pain is a terrible educator and led me down many blind alleys as I self-medicated to try to get some relief, turning a stomach ulcer brought on by too much work into a tumour in the process.

… Give me pain and if the pain relief on offer is inadequate I will always top it up with whatever I can lay my hands on. The result is a ruined digestive system.

So the next time we come across hysterical meanness on the Internet, perhaps we should be more sympathetic. These aren’t just souls in pain, but bodies as well. —CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD