Disengagement Tactics

May 7, 2008

So, here’s the thing- how do we operate online and create spaces where we’re not constantly subjecting ourselves to foolishness? The big push I’ve seen in the last few years in terms of the way many of us are dealing online is a certain set of tactics for disengaging from the crazy.

The fact is, the more we utilize the power of the internet to speak truth where we once were silenced, the more folks will try to shut us down.

Mentally & Emotionally

The first step to disengaging is disengaging mentally and emotionally.

The problem is, some part of you imagines that the person on the other side is listening, rational, and simply doesn’t know better. Or maybe, that if you talk s-l-o-w-l-y and clearly enough comprehension will occur. Or that if faced with enough truth, the stupid must melt.

And sadly, like the comic demonstrates, this is a battle you cannot win. So how do you get your rational side to admit this? (or your emotional side to give up on them?)

I like to imagine the situation this way: If a random screaming street person came up to you, would you attempt to have rational debate with them?

The internet is a big street. There is a lot of screaming.

No, I don’t have to listen

There’s a trick that abusers know well- they convince folks to keep taking abuse by appealing to their sense of fairness, to “giving a second chance” and all those sorts of things which are great tools when you have a situation built on good faith.

But the problem is, these people aren’t working in good faith. Odds are, by the second or third exchange, if there was any good faith to be found, it would have shown up by now.

There is nothing that says you have to give equal time, or “free speech” to people on your blogs or forums. Even more so if they’re not paying you for the right. These same people would shout you down if you did the same on their spaces, the only difference is, why take the time and energy to shout them down when you can simply moderate comments or ban them?

My house, my rules. And the internet is full of places they can go, no need to squat on my property!

Moderated comments are your bestest friend

You want discussion but you don’t want flamewars? Moderated comments. Or, have limited posting rights to the people you know are cool. Foolishness loves to get a soapbox and especially if it feels that certain views are “underrepresented”. Because, you know, sexist, racist, and heterosexist ideas are totally totally oppressed views these days…(“Man, did you hear? They lynched another straight white guy! Then the cops shot him 50 times. Then he got raped! We’re so silenced, it’s like being invisible! Maybe if we got a white guy in political office, we could change things!”)

And there’s no reason you have to be anything BUT arbitrary about who you let comment or don’t let comment. A lot of times they’ll accuse you of being the very thing they’re doing, yet for some reason, despite their “crusade” for equality, you notice they never seem to be slamming on Stormfront, or gay bashers, or sites that advocate rape or violence against women… Funny that.

Do not read

If anyone ever makes you seriously angry, like personally angry? You should disengage immediately. Not because being angry is wrong, or bad (odds are Nazi McSexist needs his or her ass beat anyway), but because being angry feels crappy. And enough of it is bad for your health. If you know someone writes TeH CrAzY, then don’t read it. Like, if it ends up in your inbox as an email, or as a comment to approve, delete it on general principle.

You may wish to take secret heehees that they could have spent a good hour crafting some perfectly crafted argument about how slavery was good, rape is not rape, and gays are bringing the hellfire and you casually, cheerfully, deleted it without a thought. By not reading the crazy, you win.

“But what if they’ve changed?” the Jimmy Cricket asks. So what? If they’ve changed, good for the world. But they’ve already taken enough of your energy and time, why waste any more on the -chance- that this one person learned not to be a complete fuckface?

They can take their new and improved ass elsewhere and others can talk about what great people they are. Your victory is in being free. Remember, they’ve already proven they don’t like to read. Why give them the consideration they won’t give you?

Fuck you, I’ll stay positive

Feel free to keep your comments to just your friends, if you want. Maybe the internet could do with more examples of sane posting, instead of insane, asinine snark. Maybe it could do with a reasonable discussion that isn’t interrupted by random screaming street person pissing on the party.

Anyway, I’m hoping to find more of the folks I consider friends on my blog here, and less random people. You may find the commenting moderation to get more strict, probably if I see a dramatic upswing in asinine behavior.



  1. Man, yes. No one is entitled to my (or your) attention.

  2. This is the only way to do it! Never get in an serious arguement with random people on the internet, unless of course you like to troll them yourself.

  3. […] we not engage, when do we stop giving second chances. Well my friend Bankuei just put out a post, Disengagement Tactics, that touches on some of these issues while discussing ways to limit your interaction with the […]

  4. I’m just going to point to this the next time someone calls me a coward or unfair cause I tell them “I never promised you a rose garden”

    Cause they don’t seem to get the phrase. Of course I could just be damn old and they don’t know the song. But Google is a friend.

    Seriously, this is pretty damn close to how I roll. I also add in, not going to their blogs and reading their stuff. You can call me whatever the hell you want in your space. My space comes with sound proofing.

    This last recent bit though? Was me just straight up boggling.

  5. There’s nothing cowardly about refusing to accept abuse, from strangers or people you know.

    Ever see Training Day? It’s a great example movie about an abuser, everytime dude tries to make a decision on his own, he gets attacked on some “what are you a coward” kind of stuff, or even “you’re being unfair” etc.

    Again, is it cowardly to NOT sit there arguing with the screaming street person? No, it’s common sense, because you know you will gain nothing good from it.

  6. Here via Naamen’s link. This is a great post, & hooboy, do I need to keep some of this stuff in mind more often. Also I am always happen to see more people reminding us that we don’t have any obligation to allow anyone & everyone to comment in our space. Does that make us censors? Who cares, it keeps us sane(-ish). And like you said, they can find plenty of other places to play on the internet.

  7. I think the internet has a very different standard for “censor”. When we talk about censoring stuff, we’re generally talking about making it so specific viewpoints cannot be heard. On the internet, though, you can find people who argue that it’s ok to marry horses, eat people, or anything, really. Denying someone access to -your- space online != denying someone access to make their voice heard elsewhere online.

  8. I think the internet has a very different standard for “censor”. When we talk about censoring stuff, we’re generally talking about making it so specific viewpoints cannot be heard. On the internet, though, you can find people who argue that it’s ok to marry horses, eat people, or anything, really. Denying someone access to -your- space online != denying someone access to make their voice heard elsewhere online.

  9. You may find this article interesting as well: http://www.informationweek.com/shared/printableArticle.jhtml?articleID=199600005

    (Cory Doctorow talking about how to keep jerks and assholes from destroying your blog or Internet community.)

    Personally, I’m fond of the mantra “Freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee you the right to an audience.”

  10. An example in how to deal with asshattedness.

  11. You CAN disengage respectfully: “You’ve said some interesting things that I’ll need to think over for a few days. Thanks for reading my blog.”

    • This is what I mean by not respecting boundaries. 1. Don’t assume to put words in my mouth. 2. Don’t go looking for alternate ways to continue closed conversations.

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