SO someone said something terrible/stupid/hateful/wrong somewhere. And you saw/heard/watched it. It happens. And you’re angry, upset and all fired up, ready to verbally or Tweeterly smack down. Or ready to compose a letter to the Local Newspaper Editor and send it via the Post Office (apparently this still happens? Not sure how. )
Before you arrange your arguments, refutations and general or specific abuse regarding the offending statement and the utterer, tis wise to pause and reflect. Take the time to ask yourself a few vital questions. This is so as to save possible retractions, embarrassment or legal fees* later.
Check the source. Someone said something stupid/hateful? How about you check when, where and to whom this was said, broadcast or demonstrated. Assess the source – who is doing the quoting/misquoting – a High Court Judge mostly = good source. Some ranting columnist found offence at some misheard secondhand rumour found at some gossip site = bad source.
Could this so-called offensive person have been misquoted? Who is the person and importantly is this person an outrageous comic or media type? Is this some kind of comic situation? Could this have been in the context of a sketch comedy, or was it during Parliamentary Question Time?
Is anything missing – could it be half a conversation? What point are they trying to make? Could this be sarcasm and you can’t tell because you’re 1) reading a tweet/half a FB status response/YouTube vid halfway through buffering or 2) American?**
What’s the bias? What’s there to gain? Before you go attacking, work out if your response will add fuel to an attention inferno. Attention for some people, no matter if negative or positive, is Fried Gold. Sometimes a righteous attack could actually benefit the person or group you’re criticising. Then suddenly they get invited onto Dancing With the Stars. Sometimes it might be better to Ignore, Unlike or Bar.
Remember an offence felt is not always an offence shared. Just because you abhor a statement or action doesn’t mean it’s universally derided. Will you be a lone wolf in your refutation? Are you ok with that? It’s a big world and not everyone agrees on how to live. Hence conflict.
Effort. Ask yourself is this issue big enough to warrant your attack? Is your target worth your pithy scorn in 140 characters? Is the target of your unaffected outrage so big they could attack you in return? If you’re gonna throw rocks, get outta the greenhouse and remember, you may think you’re anonymous, but the net is a tricksy beast…
What’s the aim? Is your argument about you scoring a point and getting attention for yourself, or is it about correcting a mistaken belief? Or is it for fun? Check your motivations and be clear about why you feel the way you feel and why you want to engage in the Argument Arena. The first rule of Argument Arena is…
Also be prepared. You may have composed the greatest Tweet or SMS to a newspaper ever, yet many times, the person you’re directing your criticism at won’t know, or won’t change their mind or even feel bad as a result of what you blog/Tweet/sky write.
I hope, Gentle Reader, this little piece helps in your quest in to Right Wrongs and Fight Injustice and Offence everywhere. Keep safe.
* this blog should not be considered legal advice.
** that is a joke.