If you blog, or you twitter, or you post to Facebook, sooner or later you're going to make an ass of yourself. It's inevitable — just as inevitable as it was for all our parents and grandparents, back unto prehistory, that sooner or later in some conversation everyone would act like an idiot.
How your moment of asshattery plays out depends largely on how you react when people call you on it. In politics, there's a venerable truism that it's the cover-up, not the crime, that sinks you. It's not the third-rate burglary, but the cover-up. It's not nailing the intern, but lying about it. It's not the actual stock trading, it's lying to the SEC about the stock trading. And so on. Being an ass on the internet is like that. If you just act like an ass, and remain aloof when one or two people laugh and point or call you on it, your asshattery will slip quietly beneath the waves, lost in the mad din of the web. It's only when you react and get defensive and self-righteous about your asshattery that your behavior will stand out.
Patrick covered a recent example of this phenomenon, in which a blogger, confronted with criticism of a profoundly dumb opinion, doubled and tripled down, wrecking his reputation.
This week brings an even more vivid example. Scott Baio, 1980s teen idol and veteran of Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chacci and Charles in Charge, offers political opinions on Twitter. When the vapid but highly-trafficked web site Jezebel made fun of a few of his comments, did he shrug it off? He did not. He elected to get into a fight with a snarky blog with many followers. He enlisted his wife, Renee Baio, to fight with him (Renee contributed the thoughtful insult "lesbian shitasses"). This went every bit as badly as you can possibly imagine, amounting to what Jezebel, without exaggerating, calls an "epic online meltdown."
Take Scott Baio as a cautionary tale. Learn from him:
1. If you said something stupid on the internet, or something that someone thought was stupid, either (1) apologize, (2) disagree with criticism briefly and firmly before moving on, or (3) ignore the criticism. You will never "win" an argument on the internet.
2. Unless your aim is to draw negative attention to your self, when you are called out for over-reacting to criticism, stop doubling down.
3. If you achieve any sort of fame — even silly internet fame — grow a thick skin about people criticizing and ridiculing you. If you respond angrily, you'll only encourage them. If you must, develop some sort of ritual to soothe your feelings rather than responding directly, like Andrew Brietbart's obsessive re-tweeting of every twitter comment about him.
4. If you think they're laughing at you now, just wait until you get done attacking them for laughing at you. Shut up, for God's sake.
Unless, of course, you want to be a laughingstock.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Hate Speech Debate on More Perfect Live - September 5th, 2017
- Popehat Goes To The Opera: Un ballo in maschera - August 19th, 2017
- Department of Justice Uses Search Warrant To Get Data On Visitors to Anti-Trump Site - August 14th, 2017
- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017