Now, I’ll admit that I have rarely felt a need to go to war with someone on the internet personally – at least unprovoked. I have once started a war unwittingly, by linking someone who was being as Georgette Heyer would say “foolish beyond permission.” This is known around here I think as “the incident of the very pampered non-fic writer and her insane groupies.”
Most of the time, though, when I have something to say, I have something to say about ideas, not the person in particular. And since the ideas are usually stupid enough on their own, I don’t link the source – though I or my fans have been known to clue others on how to find it. This usually avoids counterstrikes, because the originators of the annoying ideas either don’t feel a personal incentive to counter attack, or they don’t recognize the ideas as their own. (People are oblivious, what can I say?)
This is not so much because I’m a wussy – I’m not – but because I’m your average, excitable Latin type. (Well, maybe not average, but pretty close. Sometimes stereotypes are true.) Once the fight has started, I find it hard to pull back and do what I’m actually supposed to do, such as write novels, that actually pay, so we can actually you know, keep roof over head and such. (Okay, being fair, husband keeps roof over head. But I pay part-tuition for the boys and other expenses of that ilk. And if the payment for those has to come out of his paycheck, roof over head becomes… challenging.)
Also, as I said before, I’ve been involved in blogs that went to war against other blogs/organizations. There are people you shouldn’t go to war with (more on that later, but let’s just say some of the more… ah… politically involved blogs… you know, the ones really involved, have connections who are either violent or plain crazy. The practice of Swatting for instance can get someone who is just having an argument with a crazy comprehensively killed.) But even if you go to war with a sane human being, (for values of sane and human being), if you both get so absorbed in the fight that it is the most fascinating thing in the world to you, you might not notice you’re boring your readers to tears. I’ve wandered off from at least two blogs under these circumstances. I agreed with their position in the war, but how many times can you say the other side are poopy heads without growing stale?
However, this blog has been – coughs delicately – involved in wars before, mostly when someone went after my friends, or said something so criminally stupid (as in, if you’re stupid enough to believe it you’ll do things that criminal in fact if not in law – and sometimes in law) that I must stomp.
From my own mistakes and er… unnamed (and unlinked) others in the Internet Art of War, here are some things you must do before going to war.
1- Know your opponent. I mean, at the very least CURSORILY google the person. This also applies to commenting on their blog. After all we’ve had people coming in here all hot and heavy, having heard somewhere I was ESL and lecturing me about my English based on my unproofed, un-caffeinated copy written early morning.
I’m not going to say I don’t make English mistakes – ya’ll do too, precious(es) – but I’m more likely to be using obscure slang and even more likely to have made some truly insane typo of the sort where my fingers think “head” is an apt substitute for “door” (this for some reason happens in my manuscripts a lot when I’m tired.)
Then there are the idiots who will run to other blogs and say “Sarah Hoyt, who is an indie writer” – before trying to claim I don’t know anything about traditional publishing.
Five minutes googling – or looking at the side bar – would tell them I write for a living and am still MOSTLY traditional. Then there are the precious flowers, on and off this blog, who lecture me about not knowing other countries since I never left this one… yeah. That’s funny too.
Of course, most of the time, when I get upset enough to go to war, my minions have already exhaustively researched the target. That brings us to point two.
2- If your opponent has hyper competent minions – by which I don’t mean ones who run to twitter to call your opponent white supremacist, but those who start posting funny (and true) stuff about your opponent in the comments to your blog – be aware that you’ve been researched and that some of it has been done by professionals who do this for a living. Your proposed opponent – or the person you just attacked because it seemed like a good idea at the time – probably knows more about you than you do yourself. If he/she isn’t using it, maybe he/she is being merciful. Of maybe he/she is too busy with real life.
Don’t assume they used everything they have. Depending on what you think is the possibility of a nuclear-level retaliatory strike based on what there is to be found out about you… not continuing to attack might be the best part of valor. Remember what they say about mad dogs and Englishmen. Let the sleeping Englishmen (or any other nationality that’s similarly nuts) lie.
3- If you make mistake one or mistake two, don’t try to add to them by doubling down and saying something utterly stupid like ‘Well, I still think’ or even ‘poopyhead, poopyhead, poopyhead.’
At this time, it is a good idea to – if you’re not smart enough to apologize or simply can’t do it without losing face before your followers (eh. Not mine, but some people have DIM followers) — either drop the matter entirely or make a cogent case as to why your opponent is still wrong WITHOUT having whatever characteristic you based your initial attack on. That brings us to point four.
4- Your opponent is unlikely to be a cardboard cutout. Yes, I know, some of you are young enough to have soaked in group-hate without knowing that very few people fit stereotypes. (I might be excitable, but I’m not flamboyant, for instance. Also, I’m only excitable after a point.) Just because you’re battling what you identify as a conservative, say, (and you’d better make d*mn sure of that identification. If you’re very young, be aware that anti-communist doesn’t necessarily mean traditional conservative. That error will get you laughed at.) don’t assume this is going to be a prudish, repressed, or even particularly religious person. Yes, I know what the movies and TV show you. You might want to consider that in capturing the heights of entertainment and news, the left left its followers curiously disconnected with the real world. (Which only works to a point.) In the same way, when attacking someone you identify as crazy left, don’t assume they have the rest of the package, including atheism. I’ve met a few hard left fervent Christians. People can be … bewildering. Don’t attack a “package deal” – few people are that. In fact, don’t attack people at all. Attack their ideas/beliefs/wrong-headed behavior that set you off in the first place. Calling anyone a poopy head doesn’t convince anyone. Explaining why an idea/belief is wrong might.
5- If you’re going to attack or counter-attack, nuke from orbit. That is, don’t just say something like “That idea/belief is wrong.” Show why it’s wrong. Explain how you came to that conclusion and don’t have it be just “I was told it was wrong, and only old people believe that’s right.”
Remember you’re not fighting a cardboard cutout. So don’t suddenly assume your opponent got his ideas at the old cardboard cutout emporium mart. To say “everyone knows this isn’t true” just makes you sound so young we’ll check for spit-up milk under your chin.
This goes double or triple when you’re talking about a country you’ve never visited; a time before you were born; a field that’s not your specialty.
Heaven knows, I engage in enough blather about things I’m not an expert on. I’ve also been known to say that a commenter I KNOW is an expert should check me on it.
BUT when you’re going on the attack, you want to be on your home ground and conquer the hills. Make sure – absolutely sure – of what you’re saying or doing.
Just because all your college professors told you things in country x are thus and so, if you’ve never been there, trust me – TRUST ME. I’ve lived through this – you have no clue. Chances are your oh, so learned professors don’t either. They’re usually just going after their counterparts in that country who can be – again, trust me – astonishingly divorced from reality.
The mistakes can be as egregious – I’ve heard Americans say this. No really – as assuming socialism works because “Europe has such beautiful buildings. Much better than America.” Or of course the idiot Michael Totten ran into in his latest jaunt in Cuba who told him that “They really love Che. I don’t think anyone in America is loved that much.” (Innocents abroad, indeed. Let’s hope this American tourist never finds out that when the penalty for not “loving” a public personality is death, people tend to “love” him, publically and loudly.)
Visiting a country on vacation won’t tell you anything about what life in it is like, either. You might come back knowing a ton about artifacts and the local food, but to really know a country you need to live there, at peasant level. (Or be a trained investigative journalist.)
So unless you’ve done that in a country, don’t lecture the people who live in that country on what they know/believe or what actually psychologically motivates them.
This is true for everything else. I don’t care if your postmodern psychology teacher told you that tons of wives get beaten superbowl Sunday. That is one of those things that sound right inside a belief system, but aren’t actually true (likely because the belief system isn’t congruent with reality) no matter how many made up statistics are brought up. And don’t you go using those made up statistics to lecture your football-fan friends, because you’ll just look like a total idiot.
Again, make sure what you’re using to attack can be backed up and is not just a “I was told this.”
Once you’re sure, strike at will, and have fun doing it. And then disengage. This is just a battle. It’s not your life, and certainly not your profession.
Always remember the motto “Peas Is Our Profession” (yes, if you get the reference, I’ll send a signed book to the first one.) even if war is at times needed.
*And no, there probably won’t be chapters this weekend. I have Godzillamicin and inhaler but clawing back to health is going to take time too. Meanwhile fiction takes more effort than non-fiction. Sorry.*