The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive
 

I’m glad you’ve come to me with this, fellow interneter. The stakes of our fight against the oppressive language flung at us online by people we’ve decided to engage could not be higher. Our march is marked by minor victories and consecutive, regressive losses to “justice”. I can’t put a point on how important the work we do is, so I will no longer bother trying.

I understand your anger, your fear. A single person on the internet, whose opinion you’ve previously established holds no sway with you (as established by your recent social media message directly to this person mentioning how you “dgaf what u have to say”) has made a disparaging comment on the internet about something you like. Not you, mind. A product you’ve sworn your loyalty to by consuming it in some form.

You’ve established this person, who may as well be a cartoon as far as you’re concerned, as one of “them”, the ones who threaten your hobby by developing arguments criticizing and examining our mutual interest with more scrutiny than you’re comfortable with. And in your passionate attempt to defend the honor of a product or work you have no affiliation with, you’ve become a shitter on the internet.

It isn’t that you don’t want a better discourse to emerge. You like it when someone mentions something you like. You appreciate that your culture has a reached a point where its influence has caused others to give the medium second thought, where before your interest in it marked you with a scarlet letter (oh yeah, I read that book too). So by saying you want more people to take your culture seriously, you of course welcome more perspectives. Am I right so far?

The issue is that these internet naysayers simply don’t understand what we want out of them. Criticism must always draw a fine line between saying things that sound cool when you write them and not saying anything at all, least of all something that offends sensibilities. Describing, in meticulous detail, the way light reflects off the barrel of a gun in a videogame, or how the explosions and acting in a film elevated the a particular piece of media above mere aspirations of artistry and into the realm of utter emotional devastation and/or nirvana is fine with you. You have nothing against that.

It’s when these “critics” besmirch their editorial pedestal to point out an aspect of something that isn’t in line with your way of seeing the world. And now they’ve passed their judgment down, given the piece of media a score higher and/or lower than you would have liked, and sullied the whole fucking thing.

And so you came to me. I’ve been around the bend before, dealt with these usurpers firsthand. I once had someone tell me the product and/or work I held dear was not as important as I thought it to be. And I know how to stop these people. If nothing else, I know how to upset them. Some of them have been personally affected by the things I’ve said. Can you imagine?

So here is what you do, how to tame this overwhelming anger you have building inside of you and turn it into something useful for our cause.

Begin not with a flurry of incomprehensible rage directed ad hominem as you clench your teeth, a pool a foam forming on your chapped lips as your tongue lashes at its enamel prison and your head vibrates with fury, but rather by pretending to come in good faith.

Helpfully point out the one logical inconsistency they’ve made in criticizing your favorite product. The way this person has criticized the thing you’ve solemnly swore to defend was either inconsistent or not to your liking, and so if you’re going to make your attack, make sure it’s about methodology. It’s not what they’ve said about the racial politics, portrayal of outside cultures, or other elements worth discussion that aren’t the gears that make the product go, it’s how they’ve chosen to say them. With this wedge, you open the door to the complete logical dismantling you’ve been craving.

Use this minor error to let loose your powers of debate, any time, anywhere. If an argument is not copacetic, its content isn’t worth considering. Point out a few other minor things about the piece they’ve written (or hell, why not just stop at the headline? You’re a busy man with YouTube videos to watch). Let them know how serious you are about the one minor negative thing they wrote in an otherwise glowing critique, or the many things they got wrong about a negative one. It depends on what you think.

If they retaliate with an accusation that you’re a delirious, unrepentant fanboy, present a few problems you have with the product yourself. You’re not just some mindless sucker extolling all its virtues and waving away its problems -- you have problems of your own. The frame rate dips when there are too many enemies on screen. A boom mic noticeably reflects off a biker helmet in the highway chase scene. There are problems with the piece of media, but these are the aspects where the artists have failed, this is the conversation that matters. Not in their handling of controversial topics or some such nonsense.

Insist something must either be without issue or entirely dismissible. The problems you pointed out are minor caveats, still allowing you enjoy the media as a whole. Their criticisms, on the other hand, betray a secret hatred for the piece of media, and the medium in general. If they’re being so negative about a “problematic” aspect (be sure to use quotes — they’re extra condescending), why don’t they simply disengage from our culture forever? They were probably faking their interest anyway.

Swear you’re only doing it to enforce the high standards you expect from discourse about the media you’re criticizing. We have standards for discussing media (see above), and this person has not followed protocol. Not only have they said something you disagree with, but the topic they’ve decided to zero in on in their critique is not the one you would have gone with. It’s about more than filmmaking, about game creation, about music composition. They’ve discussed something outside the realm of the acceptable in a review, and it’s causing a rift in the discussion. The death threats? The harassment? The phone calls to private addresses and attempts to ruin their lives? They could have avoided all of this if they just stuck to the talking points.

At some point, find a way to point out how they’re only doing it for the attention, for the clicks. When fusing their social justice ideology with mass media, they’re counting on the outrage market. Making people angry on the internet is more lucrative than how-to videos, eSports, and cat pictures. Everyone knows this. Ask them how they could dare to exploit you, the target audience for all things related to your medium.

Be calm in explaining every point you’re making. Inspired by your comments (and the comments of several hundred other people flooding them with similar messages), they will eventually make some sort of response you consider “emotional”. After you’ve told them that’s not how you would have defended yourself, they’ll make some other remark about not caring about all the comments you’re making. Only then do you pull out the single worst word you can think to call this person, the tool you reactively use in any situation where you may be threatened. Is it creative? Probably not — you see it on forums all the time. Does it have impact, as part of the slew of insults this person is probably getting right now? You bet.

Finally, sitting on the other side of a screen, miles away from your adversary, cross your arms with the satisfaction that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. You’re done here.