27 Aug 2012, 10:50am
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Four ways to use YOUR social networking skills to build a large community of assholes

This weekend’s entertainment (aside from seeing PARANORMAN–review upcoming) was yet another author (and surrogates) behaving badly. The Readers Digest version: after passive-aggressively complaining that her wonderful readers hadn’t pushed her to #1 on a best seller list (apparently she landed on the #2 spot for the nth time) her husband, assistant, and readers began writing outraged notes to people who had posted negative reviews on Amazon.

Eventually, they dug up the phone number of one of the reviewers and began leaving scary messages on her voice mail. When the author heard about this, she suggested all this would blow over if the reviewer would just take down her critical post (and boy, she sure must love all this attention).

But hey, maybe YOU would like to have legions of assholes willing to bully and threaten readers who leave negative reviews. Maybe you would like to be surrounded by people who think it’s romantic when your spouse calls a reviewer a “psycho.”

If so, here’s a four-step method (because the internet loves lists!) for building your own community of bullies:

1. Be yourself but not, you know, your actual self.

Your bullies will expect you to share your authentic self but will be put off by your actual self. Your actual self might acknowledge ambiguity, might equivocate or feel uncertainty.

You don’t want to show that. Simply talk about your enthusiasms, your goals, and your belief in a fairer, better world. Try to avoid any kind of self-doubt and reserve your negative or critical remarks for your chosen out-groups (See below).

2. Your assholes need regular feeding.

And nothing feeds an asshole quite like unequivocal praise. Tell them you love them. Tell them you could never succeed without them. Thank them profusely. You “owe” it all to them, don’t you? Bullies love to be told they are important

Even better, if possible, is to share “inside” information with them. How publishing works, how TV production works, how Congress works, whatever. Let them feel they’re getting the inside scoop that out-groups are not getting (the poor, deluded fools). Insider info can limit your community to people with an interest in the insider topic at hand (rather than the more diffuse praise-devouring mobs) but it can also intensify the bullies’ attachment. Use your judgement to decide which is best.

3. Can you believe the cruelty of [out-group]?

Assholes love the rush of power that comes from bullying people online, but the ones who use their cruelty solely for the rush are not numerous enough for your purposes and they are difficult to control; what if they turn on you??? Best to avoid them.

What you want is a mob of closeted bullies, people who think of themselves as essentially good people but are willing to bully and insult people at the proper instigation. And there is nothing that pleases a closeted asshole quite like a Just Cause.

This is why it’s important to identify an out-group who are the essence of cruelty, who believe themselves intelligent and authoritative but are in truth utterly deluded. Your chosen insider information will be useful for this: Are you sharing tips on successful self-publishing? Advocating for a return to the gold standard? Pushing for single-payer health care? The out-groups suggest themselves.

If you’ve decided not to narrow the focus of your community with insider info, you’ll want to turn them lose on more personal enemies. Remember in point 1. where you were told to share your dreams and goals? Well, this out-group threatens those dreams with their negative reviews, personal attacks, and nasty schoolyard rumor-mongering.

4. Where ever you’re standing, that’s the high road.

You can’t turn your personal assholes loose on your chosen out-group without a Just Cause. You yourself must maintain the appearance of fairness and honest dealing while hinting at personal attacks you’ve hidden from the community. Also, every negative review or disputed fact must be attributed to personal attack and/or a secret agenda. If you’re going to insult your out-group by, say, calling them “pinheads” be sure to insist that “They started it.” In fact, no matter how nasty or ugly things get keep asserting that the out-groups are the ones making everything awful.

Never directly ask your bullies to go bully. It’s much more effective talk about your personal pain, caused by someone on a particular site. Don’t be specific and don’t link directly, but make sure the assholes can easily find it on their own.

Talk about how much it hurts to get a negative review, and how obviously personal it all is, and that you suspect this is the same person sending (undefined) awfulness to you privately. Your assholes, seeing a threat to their steady diet of praise, will do their best to drive that negative review off the internet, and the person who wrote it as well. After all, you’ve convinced them that you “owe” them, right? They will feel a powerful urge to protect their emotional investment.

It’s possible that you will feel the faint urge to ask them to stop–perhaps you’ll think there’s something vaguely wrong with calling a woman’s home and threatening her–but you should squelch that urge. Ignore it until it goes away. Remember to always act as though you and your bullies are only responding in kind, and that the whole kerfuffle would stop as soon as the other person stops.

Finally, you may be asking yourself: Why the fuck would I want this?

I have no idea. People do, apparently. I’m convinced they don’t do it consciously. They take their offline behavior and bring it online, where it creates this awful crowd of self-justifying creeps and bullies, and they convince themselves it’s what social media success is supposed to be.

Personally, I’d never go online again if my own readers started doing this.

 
  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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