The Better Part of Valor

If you’re going to get into an internet flamewar, my first word of advice to you as a working or aspiring writer is . . . don’t.  No matter what you say, you’re going to alienate at least some of your potential readers, and not necessarily the ones that you’d want to alienate, either.  You can just as easily get ripped up one side and down the other by the people you think you’re supporting.  Better to keep your mouth shut and let your work speak for you.

That said, even if you don’t go looking for a flamewar, sometimes the flamewar finds you.  Resist, in that case, the urge to leap at once into the fray in your own defense, or in defense of a friend.  Hasty words in the physical world vibrate in the air for a moment, and – absent the intervention of recording technology – are gone; hasty words on the internet will stick around and haunt you forever.  Some variation on “You make/[Name] makes some telling points; I’ll need to think about them for a while before I can respond properly” is a useful reply, and the kind of thing you can keep ready against a time of need.

Sometimes, though, neither silence nor delaying tactics will do.  In that case, here are a few things to remember:

There may come a day, possibly in another century or so, when the words “strident” and “shrill” can be effectively applied to human discourse, but that day is not now.  For the foreseeable future, the use of these terms should be restricted to descriptions of fire alarms, police whistles, and piccolo solos.  Their deployment in any other context will result in Critical Argument Fail.

There was a time, for a couple of years several decades ago, when the term “politically correct” was an effective descriptor of a certain attitude and outlook on the world. At that time, it was an in-group term for the excessively zealous and doctrinaire who were, nevertheless, on the speaker’s own side — but it didn’t take long for the word to escape from that closed circle into the wider community, at which point the other side seized upon it and made it their own.  The use of the term in its original sense is no longer possible; any attempt to deploy it will, again, result in Critical Argument Fail.

And if you don’t know by now that the use of “hysterical” will generate an automatic Critical Argument Fail, then I will charitably assume that you’ve had an incredibly sheltered internet upbringing.

Either that, or you’re doing all of this stuff on purpose, in which case you’re on your own.

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