"...somewhere between now and then in the hours from dusk to dawn, - where no-one is quite what you think, and nothing is quite what it seems."When I first had a piece published by ConHome, an old hand emailed to say "whatever you do, don't read the comments. But if you must read them never respond as it will only encourage them!"
Try as hard as I might, not taking a peep at what people were saying about me proved impossible and once you start reading it's impossible to stop - somewhat akin to a dog returning to his vomit! I have however resisted the temptation to respond and I have not used sock puppets to respond on my behalf; I will happily leave such self-flagellation to others!
The comments section however is a wonder to behold. First there are perfectly reasonable people who have taken the time to read your contribution and who post a coherent and thoughtful reply. Some are in agreement, many are against - but they have taken the time to read and consider your point and have replied in similar vain. To all of those, thank you!
Then there are the others, which fall into several categories.
1. Perhaps I wrote it in Latin
This group are quite amazing. They have clearly taken the time to post a detailed reply, but the reply is so 'off piste" one wonders if they have replied to the wrong article, or perhaps the Editor of ConHome translated my words into Latin and they clearly have not taken-in a word I had written. For example, In today's article on the EU Referendum I...
(i) Outed myself as having campaigned for Britain to leave the EU for over 30 years,
(ii) Praised the hardcore anti-EU rebels for changing the balance of opinion in the Conservative Party
(iii) Complained that the PM didn't bring home the deal I wanted
(iv) Castigated people for not working hard enough to deliver a Leave vote...
All of which led one erudite chap to post:
"Mr Kennedy is simply another Cameron loyalist and his faux outrage is hot air."
2. Full sentence myopia
Next we have people who read a fully formed sentence but only seem to remember 20% of it. Or more precisely, the 3 or 4 words which, taken in isolation, can be puffed-up into an outrageous slur, to which they must respond. For example I wrote
"The first are the 'laptop warriors'- people who sit behind keyboards firing off angry and accusatory emails and telling others what they are doing wrong, but are seldom willing to do anything positive themselves."
Now, taken as a whole (which is how sentences are meant to be taken), it should be clear that I am not attacking "laptop warriors" per se, but more precisely those who "fire off angry and accusatory emails, telling others what they are doing wrong, but are seldom willing to do anything positive themselves." The clues are out there! Now this really winds them up (and does so every time I write it - which is why I keep writing it as I love watching the faux outrage). My irritation is not with people who post comments, or with people who criticise the work of others, my irritation is very specific - those who fire off accusatory emails without lifting a finger themselves. Put up, or shut up!
3. The Land of Make Believe
Next are people who quite simply make something up so they can attack it. Maybe they genuinely believe that they thought they read something which wasn't there, or perhaps they simply lie as they are so angry they must have something to attack. For example, in my piece I wrote:
"Now there are two groups I intensely dislike....."
This prompted someone to post,
"Okay, so firstly you no doubt wrote this piece on a laptop so what exactly distinguishes you from those you "hate"?
Now this is quite interesting. Not once did I use the word hate, but the commenter actually went so far as to put the word into speech marks to add validity to his fantasy, which then prompted two or three others to jump on the same bandwagon and express outrage that I should hate them for typing on a laptop. What do they say about "if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself."?
What's my conclusion having typed up all of this? I think my friend comments were right all along!