How to deal with online bullying and media smear campaigns during controversial academic Internet debates

The Internet has become a militarized zone in Cold War 2. Cyberwar and War on Terrorism have brought psyops into the online sphere, cf Messing with the Enemy by Clint Watts. The Internet is also a gift to organized criminals in addition to being a domain partly infested by trolls and bots in a hyper-polarized West. Centralized corporate media conglomerates are active participants in the culture war, be it ultra-liberal woke CNN or FOX representing Republicans, Trump-supporters and alt-right viewpoints more or less. The social sciences have been relatively politicized too. And it appears like Wikipedia has become a place for untrue or misleading defamation, according to its co-founder in this Timcast IRL talk here (0:10:11 – 0:11:39). On top of it all we have popular bloggers and online newspapers that play fast and loose with facts in order to earn quick money, cf the book Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday. Not even “fact-checkers” can be trusted unless you first check their political biases and which institutions fund them. Finally, be aware of websites specializing in destroying people’s reputation, as seen in this article in The New York Times: The Slander Industry

If you are leftwing, expect to be assaulted by rightwing trolls. Cultural conservatives and even classical liberals must also learn to live with leftwing smears and neoliberal corporate accusations that are either plain wrong or relatively inaccurate/exaggerated, cf the book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson.

99.9% of all media coverage I had in Norway during the 1990s was fair, so personally I can’t complain about mainstream media despite Aftenposten, the most respected newspaper in Norway, letting me write about many topics except my unassessed Dr Philos thesis. The thesis is about using militant methods to take 10% of the fortune of dollar billionaires and give it to people dying of poverty in developing countries. But my research on neo-Nazism in Norway eventually motivated Antifa and similar leftwing militant groups to attack me in their publications. So I know how it feels to be in the crosshair of personal attacks. Here is my way of dealing with ad hominem arguments:

1) I basically don’t care what anybody writes about me online because the Internet has become such a joke that anything presented there has no defamatory power. The Internet is like a shady neighborhood, the bad part of town, so if you visit this place and people there start cursing and yelling at you it’s a high probability that you will not care about what they say because no civilized person takes them seriously. Have zero interest in what these “netizens” may write about me, and have therefore stopped googling my own name for example. Don’t follow Big Tech social media either. Spend time on better things instead.

2) The above is not nihilism regarding online communication. It’s not support of relativism, not a defense of fake news. It’s just healthy skepticism of everything and everyone when being in a bad part of town. Let’s be generous however and say – for the sake of argument – that 95% of the Internet represent the honest truth, and that 95% of science is true too. It may sound good until you realize that the remaining 5% of lies and untruths are dispersed all over the place, hidden among the 95% facts that are true, often without you being able to distinguish the unreal from the real. This poisons the entire online pool of knowledge. Put differently: if you are in an area where you know that on average you cannot trust 1 in 20 statements made by those living in this area, because 1 in 20 is a liar, without you being able to detect the liars, will you then not assume that everybody you talk to in this area might be one of the liars? So even if I know that I’m honest and telling the truth, to the best of my ability here on, you cannot trust me because you don’t have direct access to what is going on inside my head. You should be skeptical, especially when knowing that I’ve honed my communication skills since the late 1980s when I was a punk being present at small-scale anarchistic street riots in Oslo. Have therefore always taken police surveillance for granted and communicated accordingly. But maybe I’m a deep undercover informant? One “national anarchist” once suggested I might be a triple agent, maybe working for Mossad. How can you know that I’m not?

3) my decision to view the entire Internet as a bizarre cabaret in a cyberwar zone that one can interact with at will – a dadaist stage you can randomly visit or leave when you are bored – is a personal choice based on the fact that nobody can find real wisdom on the Internet, even though WWW is a relatively great place for learning maybe 95% true science and discovering many (disputed) facts (about the wisdom tradition of Buddhism for example). Science is the best method to satisfy curiosity when gradually getting closer to approximate objective truths. But curiosity may also kill the cat. Math and physics are the languages of economic power and military might. These academic disciplines are double-edged swords. Quantum physics is surely a joke, since nobody understands it intuitively (Feynman). String theory is “not even wrong“, according to some very respected scientists. And there is a replication crisis in the hard sciences. The methods/practices of science, as described by Sokal, Taleb etc, are nevertheless the best way to satisfy curiosity, but highly advanced science, “Big Science”, is not a path to wisdom. Ajahn Chah said Westerners are too addicted to reading books about wisdom instead of simply cultivating it when meditating. I’m not wise, however. Just a simple hypocrite viewing earthly secular life of modernity through the lens of Christian absurdism. (The latter means that earthly life, partly disconnected from God in a fallen universe, is sometimes an unavoidably absurd experience.) Everyone in cyberspace, including myself, is a clown in a tacky counterfeit Beckett play. CNN: Clownish News Network. BBC: Britain’s Best Clowns. No reason to worry about what all these pantaloons and accomplished farceurs say about you in public.

4) the Internet is now filled up with so many lies and biased narratives that in this freakish mask play of Byzantine deceit, manipulation, deny and disrupt one can actually be totally sincere and present one’s true persona (mask) and not care that it’s on your “permanent record” in cyberspace because nobody in the outlandish digital environment of the Internet can know if your online persona is real or fake. Feed the algorithms of NSA and other data collectors with plenty of meta-ironic junk. Garbage in, garbage out. Or truth in, truth out. Hail Vincent Gigante, the Oddfather. Bow to stereotypical Aspergers who always tell the truth. It’s up to you. It’s the Internet.

5) fight trolling with trolling. It’s fun. The Internet is like the party in the movie Untergang. Here we work hard and party hard in the rubbles. Nothing to be salvaged in cyberspace. If somebody disagrees, give him or her a drink.

6) be willing to live in a spartan manner in case you get fired from your job because of your political activities, impenitent oversharing, unfiltered transparency, cheerful lying, or freethinking academic research in the WWW zone. Be willing to live on welfare if that is necessary. I got narcolepsy, so I’m a welfare “parasite” in the eyes of some. That is okay. Zoology was my main hobby as a kid. I don’t have prejudice against parasites. Fascinating little creatures. But if you are not a sick person like me it’s best to find a non-corporate job. Be your own boss or work for a small business doing manual work such as carpentry for example.

7) get used to being unpopular. It’s an acquired taste. The more unpopular the better. Popularity is for losers. Do you think a Christian hermit or Zen monk worry about being unpopular? Being ostracized only makes your hyper-individuality stronger. Not in a fascistic way but like a palm tree adapting to a storm. Carlos Castaneda, a sinner who knew a bit about being exposed and shamed in public, wrote in one of his novels about a man who voluntarily took a job under a terrible boss because he wanted to get used to verbal harassment. Boot camp in the US Marines works too. Once heard about a Theravada monk who got a root canal fixed without anesthesia because he wanted to meditate on the pain. Pain is a good meditation object. You can learn to mentally detach from physical pain during meditation (a bit like ketamine I guess though I haven’t tried the latter). If a Buddhist monk is willing to pro-actively approach intense physical pain, then surely you and I can endure the psychological discomfort of verbal harassment. Again, I’m not tough. I’m too adrenaline sensitive to initially be calm under pressure. My body language is sometimes just messy. Have always enjoyed idiosyncrasy, going my own way. Got bullied as a kid because of it. On a superficial level I can even sometimes feel inferior to silent and calm John Wayne police officers and SF soldiers. I’m such a snowflake. But don’t let that stop me if really wanting something.

8) if you stay focused, hyper-focused on something that really interests you, then you will automatically be in a state of mind where you don’t care or notice what other people say about you. Being a nerd I’m primarily driven by curiosity. The latter focuses the mind. Since I was a kid I’ve always been too busy exploring life to spend time reflecting upon negative comments from people who say I’m “strange” or “crazy”. Relatively speaking: in one way it’s exquisite to hit a nerve when provoking faux “provocateurs” and to be kicked out of fake “rebellious” subcultures who pride themselves of being “individualistic” and “open-minded”.

9) make a list of accusations and unpleasant labels that you fear will be applied to you in a nasty online smear, and then deliberately apply those defamatory words to yourself, many times, until your amygdalae no longer react to them. For example, if you are afraid of somebody calling you a “woke hypocrite”, then say many times to yourself with a smile: “I’m a woke hypocrite!” And laugh. Have some self-irony. Similarly, if the label “white supremacist” scares you, go ahead and repeat to yourself: “I’m a white supremacist”. You’ll then notice in a “Zen” way that all words are empty, presupposing of course that you know in your heart that a negative ad hominem argument is wrong and inaccurate.

10) always admit that you are a sinner, a hypocrite. I’m not a good person. It says in the Bible that only God is good. Christian radical honesty regarding your own fallen nature is a positive alternative to being so indifferent or evil that critics just give up and say: “you can’t shame the shameless”. Radical honesty is one way you can neutralize “kompromat”. Once read somewhere that an intelligence agency told a man that unless he cooperated with them his wife would receive photos of him with a prostitute, but he proudly showed copies of the photos to his wife, to impress her with his skills in bed. The intelligence agency had no leverage after that.

11) Pride is part of our fallen nature, according to Christianity, so calmly observe that you are sometimes scared of humiliation and that real humiliation can hurt indeed. But welcome it as an opportunity to burn away pride and recognize that you, like everyone else, is a mortal with sinful characteristics. The desire to influence other people and seek power to improve society is another ambition which can gradually lead to hubris and naive dreams that cause pain when such ambitious projects fail. But it’s much easier to quickly let go of addictive leftwing or rightwing ideas when observing today that all the genuine progressives and real cultural conservatives who use the Internet to criticize the corporate Establishment end up with perpetual empty talk and few significant changes to the surveillance system of Big Government and Big Tech. No point exposing yourself to lots of online harassment if you get little or nothing in return. If being online at all simply present your viewpoints. Don’t stay around to hear all the negative comments that automatically follow when sticking your head out in cyberspace. Do you think politicians read all the negative opinions that people have about them online? Of course not. However, if true socialists and authentic conservatives get their act together and start combatting Big Tech in an effective manner, then consider whether more online involvement is worth the effort. But it’s probably impossible to stop Big Tech as long as not enough people support a non-AI military alternative to the defense system which Big Tech presents in the NSCAI report.

12) accept that you are not psychologically invulnerable. Only psychopaths and devils are relatively immune to constant negativity. It says in the Bible that if some people reject Christians the latter should shake the dust from their feet and just walk away. You don’t have to stay in a place where other people harass you, especially if you are a real Christian who doesn’t seek power, who doesn’t missionize through force or via stubborn presence (in non-public areas). Say what’s on your mind and then leave if you are not welcome. No worries. It’s not your problem when other people have negative thoughts about you inside their heads, as long as it doesn’t get physical.

13) it’s nice to be ignored. It’s freedom to be marginalized, because people then leave you alone. If others don’t want anything from you, it gives you time to do what you want. Nassim Taleb has an overwhelming backlog of emails. It will take him more than ten months to answer them all. That sounds like a nightmare. The advantage of nobody writings comments to my articles here on is that it gives me more time to read new books and discover new things instead of getting bogged down in moral or ideological arguments that are often futile and never-ending, because these discussions are often not primarily about facts but values/interests, and values/interests are (often) beyond science, so a bit like theology one can sometimes debate them endlessly without getting anywhere. For example, if LGBT propagandists are willing to risk that their global missionary projects enrage a rightwing fanatical microbiologist who may perhaps respond by releasing a deadly virus in San Francisco, then one can try to repeatedly warn about this danger but probably to no avail, because the whole debate basically ended once LGBT activists and their Establishment supporters decided to accept such extreme risks during their global woke missionizing attempts. In this absurd situation it’s reasonable to assume that LGBT activists and their supporters will just 1) ignore the debate about the causes which increase the risk of ultra-conservative bioterrorism and/or 2) turn to primitive ad hominem arguments, maybe pathologizing my political convictions by claiming that I suffer from anti-gay phobic tendencies for example, which is ironic since conservatives pathologized gayness in the 1970s and many Christians continue to view it as a pathology today. Anyway, this case illustrates that some discussions eventually reach a point where only power, and not reason, can determine who wins. This proves the limited value of the Internet, the limit of online (scientific) debates.

14) fame or media attention is air. It’s empty. In my early twenties a part of me wanted to know how it felt like to relatively often appear in national media. I got what I wanted, but it felt like air, nothing tangible. Also gave some lectures/talks. Emotionally it gave me nothing in return however. What’s the point of standing in front of many people teaching them about things you already know when you instead can spend time on reading new fascinating books written by the best scholars and scientists in the world? Me being a lecturer or academic talker is preposterous and pretentious and therefore awkward. Besides, if you want to impress a beautiful girl then learn to dance. Don’t waste energy on becoming “famous”. Furthermore, if your physical exterior occasionally attracts a pretty female in any case, why bother with media attention if your only goal is to start a family? How many academic overachievers are handsome? That’s a rhetorical question; you don’t have to answer.

15) If remembering correctly it was Schopenhauer who said that if you heard everything your friends said behind your back or when you are not around them you would have no friends left. Now and then we are all silly, pathetic and ridiculous creatures. It can’t be avoided. It’s in our nature. A biological fact. Gossip is therefore unavoidable too. If people don’t laugh at me it must be something wrong with them. But depending on the circumstances it’s okay to shake the dust off your feet and walk away when hostile ad hominem arguments start to infect serious academic debates about politics, ideology, morality, culture and religion.

16) only unenlightened people care about their own reputation. However, if you decide to let another human primate judge you, then choose carefully who you listen to. Digression: humans are primates according to science, but even conservative Christians recognize that humans often act primitively as if they were apes, so depending on your worldview you can here choose to interpret the words “human primates” in a metaphorical way or not. In any case, only listen to the moral opinion of humble and anonymous individuals, those who either actively help people in great need (in disaster areas for instance) or spend their life in prayer or meditation, like Christian nuns or Zen monks for example. If journalists, academics, “social justice warriors” and other hypocrites start condemning you online the best response is no response. Don’t participate in their Internet arenas. But what if they say something really awful about you? The more awful the better. It’s the Internet. Only unwise people take it seriously. I view it simply as entertainment, a circus, a bad taste party, a comedy show or absurd theater.

17) but how can you learn and improve yourself if not listening to people on the Internet? Live offline! Live a simple life. It’s silly to take advice from info junkies hooked on the Internet. I’m addicted to the Internet too, so also ignore my advice. Giving online advice is a vice. Alternatively, maybe start your own blog where critics can register to present all their counterarguments in the comments field, but if critics don’t do that, which so far is the case here on (according to what I can see on my digital screen), then view it partly as a blessing, since it gives you more time to for example study philosophy of science: Popper, Lakatos, Sokal, Polanyi, Peter Woit, Sabine Hossenfelder and John Horgan. Read moral philosophy from Aristotle and Kant to Habermas, Levinas and Charles Taylor. Enjoy all the (modern) classics in political science/philosophy. Most importantly, eat ice cream, lots of it, as often as you can.

18) I’m old enough to remember when academics in the late 1990s and early 2000s didn’t take the Internet seriously. However, be happy that millions of people take the Internet very seriously today. It makes the Internet more entertaining and comical. When Internet suckers (with or without grand titles and great authority) claim that we absurdists are wrong about the Internet, then congratulate them for having such good arguments in the realm of ethics and science. Say to them: “You are right. You win the debate”. Then have a good laugh. But, seriously, to enjoy earthly life, and squeeze as much entertainment out of it as possible, you need contrasts, because it’s boring if always remembering the bloody farcical nature of biological existence on Earth. It’s therefore imperative to sometimes ignore reality when occasionally joining the sleepwalkers who think the Internet is “godsend”. Be sometimes a very serious sleepwalker. Partly because you can learn many new things when bulimic scientific info addicts are hooked on the Internet where they constantly devour, puke and spew out more cool data and funny facts. Maybe the smartest among them also contribute to one day creating NZI cyborgs in a distant future. In the enlightened future of NZI we trust, though it’s probably like believing in 2003 that Americans would create peace in Iraq. Naive dreams are uplifting however, so embrace them. Whatever unrealistic dream makes you happy in an absurd and disgusting world, embrace it. Or not.

If you really believe that existence in its total entirety is absurd, which means that you believe in no afterlife, no heaven or nibbana, then lying is just as meaningful or meaningless as being honest. Anything is then basically allowed (as long as you don’t get caught and lack empathy), or as Dostoyevsky wrote in The Brothers Karamazov (in the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation which I own and have double-checked):

“Without God and the future life? It means everything is permitted now, one can do anything? ’ ‘Didn’t you know?’ he said. And he laughed. ‘Everything is permitted to the intelligent man,’ he said.”

19) but what about being honest and sincere online in order to reduce deaths and physical pain caused by human conflicts? Being honest is a Christian virtue. I’m primarily driven by curiosity, so I hate fake news. Lies and deceit in a Byzantine environment make it very difficult to satisfy curiosity. But the more you study human biases and deceptions, when reading the works by Keith Stanovich, Daniel Kahneman, Paul Ekman, Dan Ariely, Ian Cobain, Kathryn Olmsted, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz and John Mearsheimer for example, the less confidence you will have in human beings, especially when they are online where you can’t really know their identity, their agenda, their secret sponsors or whether some of them use bots to marginalize truth-tellers and push away real fact-checkers who try to correct untrue social media messages. This is the New Dark Age, cf James Bridle. My attitude to all this is to be honest while at the same time both trusting and distrusting everything I read online. I don’t trust Reuters for example, because of this article here, but neither do I trust Grayzone because it appears too biased, though I’m willing to listen to what they say only because Glenn Greenwald (who is gay btw as if that’s relevant info in a debate…) is willing to talk there. I trust some sources more than others but at the end of the day I’m open to the possibility that I may sometimes get fooled and tricked by “respectable” media outlets, leftwing or rightwing, so basically I view it all as entertainment here on the planet of (metaphorical) apes, devils and angels.

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