Sunday, August 19, 2012

Haters gonna hate ... because they care

I tried to keep my footing on the high ground.

I've never been publicly vilified before. I'm not thin-skinned, I just want everyone to like me. And it's also a little unpleasant reading inaccurate personal smears about yourself on a "news" website.  Not one many people read or take very seriously though, so it's okay.

Long story short, a young journalism student - one with good intentions, from up here on the moral path - wrote a scathing article for a student paper criticising the culture at one of Australia's most influential newsrooms. She raised some important issues but probably undermined them a little by being too passionate and making a couple of silly comments - oh well, she's a student, she's learning.

And what a lesson. The angry mob of haters down on the low road saw her slip and went after her without pause. She got on the wrong side of some of the loudest, haters. (I'm not linking to any of it because I don't think it deserves any more attention, but it's easy enough found)

One group in particular, a small wagon of trolls who go by the name Vexnews, accused her of bullying and backed it up by launched a shameful character assassination in the most irrelevant, personal manner. I thought it was pretty disgusting, and ventured over to Twitter, where the higher road is so narrow its almost impossible to keep your balance, to make a point to the group's leader:
"Andrew Landeryou pretty much declared fair game for personalised hate & humiliation on himself. But I’d rather forget he exists #huntern"
I was trying to encourage some reflection without sinking to his level. It was condemnation of that bullying, not a rallying cry for revenge. Hence the comment was made and I moved on.

Until the next day when I heard I'd been quoted on the website, and was initially somewhat pleased that one small comment from a nobody like me had drawn a reaction. I'd gotten under their skin.



Being presented as the face of a group of  "winged monkeys" displaying "strident inner-urban leftist intolerance and viciousness", many of whom did actually make quite abusive, counter-productive comments, was unsettling. Seeing a photo and information they'd obtained by trawling through my Twitter feed and blog gave me the creeps. Being a diligent investigative journalist reporting in the public interest, I had been "closely examined".

Of course, expressing my displeasure only made it worse. His eyes lit up like Gollum's and he pounced at me. I was now accused of violent tweets and being a "yoga practitioner". Good grief!

Fortunately, I have a common name. It's highly unlikely that a potential employer, partner or stalker will come across this slander through a simple Google search. And I didn't cop anything like what the student did, and many many others have across all forms of media. Still, it's true, I'm not comfortable with the existence of this inaccurate portrayal of me out there on the internet. 

To the editor's credit, I do appreciate that he didn't publish my Twitter handle or blog address. Not that I think the site's horde of haters have any interest in me, which is exactly why I don't understand the whole response.

What do you do though. Until this post, nothing. And this is less a vengeful spiel as a consideration of how to handle these situations without stumbling down from the high ground.

No one ever convinced anyone of anything through aggression, anger, shouting, bullying or swearing. Which is a shame because it's so much fucking easier.

It's just likely to encourage a person to bunker down in their beliefs and more vigorously defend them; they become more concerned with defending themselves than listening to you. Unless they are a supremely calm, awesome person. I'm not, I regularly find myself frustrated and angrily stumbling down the rocky path down to the low road, usually on a Monday night, around 9.30pm. I like to think I avoid anything personal or vicious, but you have to keep your passion in check when it gets counter-productive. Slip ups and falls are inevitable, especially when you feel strongly about something, as the student did.

Are always going to yell and throw shit at you. It can be pretty hard to ignore once you start paying attention so it's best not to look down at them for too long, and the best response is a polite one. It's hard not to hate what Andrew Bolt writes most of the time, because so many people are misinformed by it, but there's no point taking him on or even engaging with someone so self-confident who thrives in confrontation. It makes them stronger. Sometimes you just can't defend yourself against a rampaging snowball of hate - getting caught up in it just makes it bigger. I don't understand what drives Bolt's personal attacks though, he doesn't seem to really care about much at all. Maybe he's just a professional shit-stirrer, and he is damn good at it.

On the other side of the debate, Catherine Deveny is someone with whom I share many views, but I can't bear her attitude and tone. It doesn't get us anywhere, just gives people a simple, flawed justification of their dislike for "lefties". Frankly, I think the whole 'left vs right' way of framing political and social 'battles' is lazy and distracting.

There's always a reason someone invests their time and energy into hateful attacks. For whatever reason, they care. Every spitball of spite they shoot up at you just shows they care, sometimes to the point of obsession. If they didn't care they'd be indifferent - indifference is the real opposite of hate.

They're loud because they need to be. Its easier than actually coming up here and talking to us. And this road is difficult enough to hold without looking down. Actions are more potent than words. It's better,  if much more difficult, to let it go and keep the high ground. If they want to engage, they can put their energy into climbing up a little and seeing how much better the view is up here.

And I ought carry on trying to make my way up a little further, so I can do something good with my time and energy.

I'm sure you lose points for assuming to have the high ground in the first place!

Comrade Ryan out, with a song that always gives me a boost above the shit flying everywhere, and a better outlook on life.


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