Monday, April 15, 2013

You win when you walk away

Yeah, no "word" in the title of this post.

But there are more words in that title, because the whole thing is, "You win when you walk away with your head held high and your integrity intact, and they can't follow you where you're going."

You don't win when you hang around the pigpen and play their dirty games with them.

If you've been following this blog at all, you know how I feel about trolls and book review stalkers and authors who pad their records with fake reviews and all that bullshit.  The advice is the same in all situations:  Don't, for the love of all that's good and light and wonderful, don't feed the trolls.

And whatever you do, don't lower yourself to their level.

Oh, I know how tempting it is.  I've spent many a night on the computer, arguing online with someone I knew was wrong, someone I knew I could persuade to see the issue -- whatever it was -- my way.  And you know what?  It never happened.

And sometimes I justified my efforts as being for the lurkers, so they didn't fall prey to the error of the other person's ways.  Every once in a while I'd get rewarded with an email or a posted reply from some sweet little lurker who appreciated my effort.  I'm not putting down those dear souls, because it is indeed gratifying to think that the effort wasn't entirely wasted.

The truth is, however, most of the time it's all mental masturbation, it's self-righteous exhibitionism.  I know I'm right and I really, really, really want everyone else to know it, too.

And they don't give a rat's ass, because they all know they're right, and they're entirely wrapped up in their own monologues.  No matter what you tell them, they aren't going to get it.  They aren't.  No, don't argue with me.  They aren't.

(Yeah, that was supposed to be mildly humorous. Ha ha.)

No matter how great the temptation, no matter how convinced you are that you have a moral obligation to get The Truth out there, your only path to victory is to walk away.  Do not engage them.  Do not feed the trolls.

No matter how well constructed your arguments are, no matter how air-tight your logic, no matter how much evidence you've stacked up, none of it matters.  (And here's where a word or two might come into play:  It's "evidence," not "proof."  You can present evidence that they've lied, evidence that they've taken comments out of context, evidence of anything, but evidence isn't proof.  Just sayin'.)

Now, I don't care which side you're on when you're reading this.  Again, it doesn't matter.  Each side, both sides, all sides are so thoroughly convinced of their own rightness, and so vested in maintaining that stance, that nothing is ever going to change.  It's not.

Yes, you can cite all the instances of writers, readers, bloggers, reviewers, editors, sock puppets, who have written stuff they're later so ashamed of that they take it down and then they have to be reminded that it doesn't matter, because the Internet, like a DeBeers diamond, is forever, and someone somewhere is certain to have a screen shot.  Writers who suddenly are made aware of the awfulness of their prose then clamor for Goodreads to delete their book, only be told nope, sorry, it's there and it's going to stay there.  And sometimes, it's true, they will sort of apologize.  But for the most part, confronting them in public is a waste of time.  They're as eager to save face as you are.  And why wouldn't they be?

If what they've done is so far over the line of civility as to constitute an actionable threat, then for crying out loud, take action.  Screen shot the evidence of threats, record the voice mails, wrap the snail mail letters in plastic and take it to the police.  Do not become a vigilante.

If it's not actionable, if it's not a threat, if it's not unlawful, then walk away from it.  Do not become a vigilante, because they have done nothing wrong.

If what they did was in violation of a website's Terms of Service, report them to the website.  The website has the authority to deal with issue.  If the website says it's okay, who are you to challenge them?  If you don't like it, walk away, hold your head up high, wrap yourself in a mantle of honesty and integrity, and walk away.  Do not become a vigilante on a site you don't own.

If you choose instead to become a vigilante, to take whatever law there is into your own hands, then you cannot cry out for the protection of that same law.  You have, after all, denied that protection to "them," so how can you -- without hypocrisy -- claim its protection for yourself?

You cannot complain that they are goading you and teasing you and bullying you, unless you steadfastly refuse to do the same to them.  Oh, I know, you're going to say you're doing it for the right reasons, you're fighting fire with fire, you're giving them what they deserve.  Where have we heard that before?  Oh, of course, those are all the same justifications "they" used when "they" started it.

I know it's difficult to ignore their lies, their taunts, their jeers.  I know there's a deep seated desire to challenge them, to prove them wrong and yourself right. 

But it isn't going to happen.  Oh, I know you think it will.  I know you think you've got right on your side.

"They" don't care about right or wrong.  They only care about getting attention.  You know that.  You know you know that.  But that little voice inside you is cheering you on every time you get out there in that forum or on that blog and proclaim The Truth.

And you know what?  You're probably 100% correct.  Your truth probably is the correct one.  You probably have far more evidence of their wrongdoing than they have of yours.  But it doesn't matter.  There is no victory in this battle, not until one of you refuses to fight.  Not until one of you says to the other -- and means it -- "You're not worth my time and effort.  I have better things to do."

They win as long as you keep fighting, because that's what they live for -- the fight itself.  They don't care about winning in a traditional sense; they just care about the fight.  As long as the fight goes on, they can't lose.

But if you win by walking away, that's the end of the fight.  And they've lost.

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