So you’ve crafted your insights into an engaging and persuasive op ed, and the comment editor of your local newspaper has published the piece. Your inbox is now receiving congratulatory notes from friends and colleagues, and maybe even a query or two from broadcast media wanting you to expand on your subject on air.
So far so good.
But then you make the mistake of going online to check out the comment trail being generated by your op ed. And you discover that two dozen trolls have sneered at you for daring to disagree with a Rhodes scholar, for failing to raise a point that had nothing to do with your argument, or for having the temerity to distinguish yourself from a doormat (see Rebecca West*).
You are momentarily horrified. And then you get to the snide swipe by “Chazz” whose capacity for cogent analysis is limited to references to vomit bags and toilet paper.
That’s when it hits you: at least some of these unfortunate readers are actually would-be writers who have tried and failed to submit something worth publishing themselves. And lurking online under the cover of pseudonyms like “muscle280” and “Bait Master”, trashing other people’s opinions, is the closest they can get to feeling a sense of agency or influence.
So then you just feel sorry for them.
For more on dealing with backlash, see earlier posting, Implanted breasts and concerned scholars. In a future post, I’ll offer some tips on how to outsmart the trolls.
In the meantime, here’s a reminder of that famous quote, penned by the inspirational and prolific British author, Rebecca West:
*I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute.