In the last week, I’ve traded insults with a slippery propagandist – someone who regular readers might suppose is a bête noire of mine. Certainly, his dirty politics and dirty PR activities have attracted some of my criticism.
I called him a ‘proven liar’ who ‘talks big up from nothing’, and said he and his team are ‘reality challenged’ and ‘white trash’. He called me a ‘fool’, ‘lazy’, an ‘ex-hack’*1, criticised one of my friends and said we only focus on conspiracies.
Yeah – same old same old. Neither of us is sobbing into our pillows, I’m sure.
But this morning I read an article by someone whom I admire, Quinn Norton, which opens with …
For the better part of a year, I have embarked on a terrifying social experiment: Being kind on the internet.
I stopped getting in fights on the net, and tried to practice gentleness and kindness with people I found here. I didn’t defend myself, rally the troops, or pick sides. Instead, in the ever-growing Mexican stand-off of social media, I decided to put my gun down first.
It’s worth reading in full. (Honestly, it is very, very good. I recommend you read it.)
Good on her.
As I said last time I was confronted with the idea that my strident criticism of dishonest behaviour might not be A Universally Good Thing (see: ‘Biggest lesson learned in ten years of blogging …‘), ultimately I think it’s a case of ‘horses for courses’.
At the risk of descending into a suckhole of naval-gazing, I do try to consider the impact of my criticism – and not just on my ‘targets‘, but also (and I think this is the point I get from Quinn’s article) also on my own mindset, demeanour and spirit. (I’m deliberately not using the word ‘soul’ but it could fit, right?) Also: to use Quinn’s phrase, I ‘never internet angry’…
‘My rule is this: never internet angry. If you are angry, internet later.’ — Quinn Norton
For new readers of The Paepae (welcome!) an important recurring theme here is the idea: ‘Choose your enemies carefully because you will become like them‘ — see: ‘The Paradox of Animosity‘ which asks the question:
If we agree (you and I) that bitterness of spirit is a dangerous and toxic thing, how do we keep a clear vision, maintain our standards (which implies rejecting some actions and behaviours as, at least, ‘inappropriate’) … without slipping into the slimy pool of ill-will?
Glancing at those ‘insults’ I cited in the opening paragraph, it may be hard to distinguish which of the ‘combatants’ flung which. That terrible ditty: ‘Never argue with an idiot. People watching might not be able to tell the difference’ springs to mind. Rats.
But, in the face of aggressive deceit and malfeasance and actions driven by a sinister Hidden Agenda™ (yeah, I’m talking about the dirty politics crew, Slater Jnr et al) what’s a bloke/observer with an attention span to do? Look away?
Or live like this?:
Well, it’s a balance, sure. I muck it up sometimes, but I think I’m doing that. Being selective.
*1 aside from any jokes resembling ‘You can take the hack our of the newsroom, but you can’t take the newsroom out of the hack’, this is literally untrue – I still work as a journo.
Update: This article, ‘On criticism as a form of living‘ by my co-conspirator Giovanni Tiso is worth a read too.