The past nine months or so have been rather scary for those of us who have been called elites, liberal snowflakes, or worse. Suddenly our whole way of life, based on open borders, a rainbow of friends and a career based on checking facts, is under threat.
The first thing to come to terms with is that the angry mob is in the ascendant. Last century, ‘people like us’ ended up in the camps. If we are to avoid that fate for ourselves, our friends and those more immediately vulnerable than us, we must do our bit not to accelerate the process.
The first and most important rule is never, ever to belittle the trolls. We already remind them of their cocky sibling who got all the parental adoration for climbing the ladder. We have lots of followers, we can articulate something well in 140 characters and we get quoted on TV or in the papers. Our individual voice is heard. Theirs is not. So the next time an anonymous Twitter user attacks you, do not sneer at their bad spelling or grammar. Humiliating an aggressor in public might give you a little endorphin hit, but you have just pushed yourself that little bit closer to the gulag. Practise ‘noblesse oblige’ instead.
This is the most difficult rule of all and I find myself muting and unmuting a lot. But if we only talk among ourselves, then we are all doomed. It is imperative that we engage politely with those who disagree with us, however rude they are back. It is the only way they might, just, see another point of view, see us as human and decide, after all, not to wipe us all out.
Credit where credit is due
In my experience ‘the enemy’ will only engage back if you stay scrupulously polite and go out of your way to acknowledge any time you even vaguely agree with them. That means retweeting it, liking it, telling them you see their point. They get just as much of a hit out of retweets as you do. Make jokes, mock yourself. If you know they are experts in a particular area, ask their advice. They will see you as human and not as some ivory tower ponce.
Once you have gained their trust like this, you then have the opportunity to point out things that never cross their timeline. I have actually had initially aggressive tweeps thank me for (gently, politely) demonstrating that their previously held assumptions were false. Tip: post a screenshot of the key point and not just the link, as they might never click through otherwise.
All of the above can be summed up in one attitude: compassion for our fellow mortals. I realise that will sound a bit snowflakey to some. But for those of us who are active daily, with lots of followers, it is the greatest weapon we have in these dangerous times.
By Fiona Mullen, Director, Sapienta Economics Ltd