” If You Don’t Know…”

” I’m not going to tell you.”

How often have we heard that one? It was the constant litany of the Kool Kids at school when the rest of us asked a question. It was used to make us feel left-out…even more so than to begin with. And it worked very well for the first few times that it was employed. We would go off sad and insulted, and there seemed to be no answer to make.

I bring this up because of a Facebook posting recently that floated past my feed line. It was a topic I would normally have taken no interest in, but it appeared because a friend had entered the general discussion. She was interested in one person’s assertions regarding nutrition, and asked very politely for some references that she could pursue in her studies.

Well, she got a sneering version of the standard reply. And then some equally rude passing commentary from other anonymous sources. It was the schoolyard all over on the internet.

I mentioned earlier that this sort of thing worked well for the first few times. My school days were a long while ago, and it has stopped working – indeed it stopped working long ago. But the interesting thing was that it was a standard ploy used in many situations for a very long period of time.

When I encountered this sort of rudeness from people of my own age I was able to dismiss them as fools or braggarts that had no information or knowledge to back up their assertions. When I encountered it from a lecturer in the University of Western Australia’s Dental School I was taken somewhat aback. But it took a further 10 years of solo practice to harden me enough to respond to it when it happened again.

The chap had moved on to be a specialist consultant in a mechanical branch of dentistry. I had a patient who needed the sort of thing he did – and referred the patient by letter to the specialist. Apparently they did not get on well – and I eventually received a high and mighty letter sneering at me for sending that referral and telling me not to do it again. And I never did – I sent the people who needed a prosthedontic specialist’s attention to other practitioners and everyone was happy. I did have the satisfaction of writing a polite note acknowledging the order*.

I suspect that whenever this sort of thing happens it is because of a number of factors:

a. The person being rude does not know what they are talking or writing about .

b. They have no material to which they can refer.

c. They are naturally ill-mannered. Or they have developed ill manners as a cover for worse characteristics.

d. They are writing from Mom’s Basement, with no other connection to social interaction than the reactions to their trolling posts.

I suppose we can be grateful that at least they are not in specialist practice…

* Good manners in the face of bad is always the best answer. Public good manners is even better…

Detrolling Your Life – Part Two – The BGA Way

The Backstabbers Guild Of Austalia is nothing if not public-spirited. When we see a wrong we right it. No dragon can threaten a fair maiden when The Guild is present. At least not first.

Ignoring and blocking the troll is still the best legal way to cure the problem. Remember that as you read the list of alternatives.

a. Most trolls are misfits. But that having been said, even the least socially active will have some contact with other people. A job, perhaps, or a family. A club or organisation that they belong to. These are known in the general world as “outlets” for them – to a Guild member they become ” inlets “. Places where the armour of trollery is weakest…

b. Find this place. Make friends with the troll’s friends. In sight of the troll. But do not include them in the discussion.

c. Bad language can be a specialty of the troll and a way that they shock and bear down on their victims. But trolls frequently have only one language to use…at most two. There are many more for you to choose from.

Find a teacher or speaker of a language that the troll does not know. Latvian, Urdu, Samoan…whatever you fancy. Pay them well to teach you some choice foul expressions in their tongue. Real corkers. Curses that would make native seamen blanch and lean against walls. Practise these until you can deliver them faultlessly, and then deliver them faultlessly. Your tone of voice will cut as deeply as if you were speaking English, but you cannot be frowned on for bad language. Occasionally you may horrify a tourist, but that is the price you pay for sophistication.

d. On no account go to a furniture auction and purchase a sturdy kitchen table. Do not wrench off one of the legs and then go and beat your tormentor about the head and shoulders with it. This is illegal. And it spoils what may otherwise be a perfectly good table.

e. Even trolls pay tax. But do they pay the correct amount? The ATO has hot lines over which you can raise this very question.

f. If your troll is physically findable, do so, and go to them and forgive them. Do it publicly, and do it sincerely and in detail, with others listening.

Then do it again the next day. At the same time.

Repeat this for a month – day by day. That hour – the Hour Of Apology – will be come an accursèd time for them for the rest of their life. Once a day your ally, the clock, will haunt them.

g. Do you like to eat and drink well? To dress fashionably and in comfort?  Save up some cash and then arrange to do just this within the sight of your troll. You need not acknowledge them, but you might want to listen for the sound of their teeth grinding together.

In all of the above remember that whatever comfort there is in the sight of an enemy discomfited, there is far better enjoyment to be had in actually forgetting about them. They wither and fall away if not attended, and leave the earth clean for better growth.



How I Cleared A Social Media Memefield

Well, for a start, I got a meme detector and learned how to operate it. The modern ones have a battery pack that you wear and an electronic probe on the end of a frame that you hold up close to the screen. The meme detector has a small suction motor that draws the air in from around a Facebook posting and sends signals to its computer for analysis. Once the signal is processed the meme detector notifies you via headphones whether the sample is bullshit or not.

The detector is connected via a WiFi transmitter to the snopes.com website and can access all their recent data. If something has been rehashed and presented to the gullible public as a true image or real thing that happened…but is not…this information is sent back to the meme detector and I can be warned. Usually it is done by a discrete red light on the side of the casing, though the new model Fraudbuster 800 will play the sound of a cynical raspberry into the headphones.

None of this will stop well-meaning people from lighting upon something that triggers them off, being taken in, and then re-broadcasting the original meme. But it may prevent me from being taken in far enough to react to the thing, or to cast it further over the heads of the populace. To paraphrase Harry Truman, ” The fuck stops here. “.

Detrolling Your Life – Part One – The Sensible Way

A friend recently had the recurrence of an internet troll, and was somewhat disturbed by it. Fortunately other friends skilled in social media counselled that it was much better to block the nuisance than to react, and this was done. There should be less distress felt in the future.

That advice was good, and has been with me for nearly all my life…but I did not recognise the value of it when young. In those days there was no internet…the only computer we had ever heard of was Univac and it was on television quiz shows. The idea that we would be using a personal one to communicate with people who were going to be unpleasant would have been inconceivable. We got bullied in person, and ignoring the bullies was a physical process. It was probably more effective than I realised at the time against individual offenders, though the fact that there were different cliques and groups of tormentors made it seem as though the business was never-ending.

The current term ” internet trolling ” seems to be a number of aggressive and passive-aggressive behaviours that hearken back to playground bullying. The irritating part for many is the fact that, to the perpetrator, the whole thing is an amusement rather than an offense. It is an important thing for the victim, and they are even more distressed to realise that their plight is belittled. It is never improved when the bully tries the old trick of saying ” Can’t you take a joke? ” because this is just shifting target for another attack.

Blocking or ignoring the troll is the idea, and many do by utilising the social network settings to stop direct contact. Unfortunately there are other pathways for the aggressor to operate through mutual net acquaintances. Unless they are prepared to entirely remove themselves from otherwise useful social communication systems, the victims are still open to attack.

Here is where the advice of The Guild comes in. And tomorrow the second part of this article will detail this. Those of a nervous disposition would do well to read it with the lights on and a strong cup of tea.

A Modest Apology

I wish to apologise for a recent Facebook post that ridiculed Facebook posts. I have been brought to realise that one may ridicule the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Australia, or the Premier of Russia ( or is that President…? Whatever…) but one does not hold the most popular social media network on the planet up to ridicule. Not if one knows what is good for one…

My legal adviser has urged me to throw myself upon the mercy of the Court Of The Internet and plead for a reduced sentence. Okay, Manny, if you think that would help. Here goes:

I’m sorry that I laughed at the people who share things on Facebook. From early childhood we have been told that it is good to share. Fine advice, when it comes to making 7-year-olds cut a birthday cake into even portions, but not quite so good when the sharing involves foolish opinions and political propaganda. But who are we to say what is foolish? The opinions that are hawked about like broadsheet ballads by People Who Sit At Home may be correct, for all we know. They are not backed up by any personal experience or practical demonstration, but then neither is the selling spiel for a washing machine by some sales clerk in Harvey Norman – they just sell you the box full of white goods. Perhaps the political opinions of formerly successful politicians can wash clothes as well as minds…

Enough, Manny? No? What do you mean, No? Jesus, Manny….Okay, Okay, Moses, Manny, how much grovelling am I expected to do? I’m not Johnny Depp, here…

Take Two: I apologise unreservedly for laughing at the people who share things on Facebook. I realise that they do this for the good of the planet and my soul. I am infinitely grateful for the tired anti-Trump memes…


Manny, why are you making that noise? I’m doing the best I can here. I haven’t mentioned Nerium face grease once in the whole apology, and at no time have I yanked the Meminist’s chain. I’m being as good as gold. With a bit of luck I will get through the whole weekend without being unfriended by anyone. What do you mean, you’re crossing me off your list? Crosses, Manny…?

Featured Image: Voting Booths for the constituency of Facebook.


I’m Going To Start A Movement

And about time – I haven’t had one for a couple of days. I feel bound to express myself.

I am brought to this resolution by yet another ” shared ” post on my Facebook – this time one that upbraids me if I do not agree with the writer and pay attention to their political beliefs. Having someone rant at you from the hustings, the speaker’s corner, or the university campus ( not in exam time, mind… ) is no new thing. We’ve passed through American, Australian,and French elections recently and will be subjected to the British ones soon.

It would be nice to think that we watched the news feed from Paris with all the attention that we gave to the previous ones but frankly, My Dears, all the damns had already been given. We may have managed a small ” Tiens! ” or a deflated ” Zut Alors  ! ” but that was about all. The political organ can only remain distended for a certain length of time.

The Facebook meminist who wrote the post that others shared was indignant that people were tired of politics and wanted to avoid it. She blamed them for being privileged and white and male and American and rich. In reality they were simply tired of politics – her politics – and tired of hectoring. Tired, if you will, of her.

And I don’t think she will succeed in scolding them into paying her attention. No-one owes it to her and the dump button is one click away.

Things That I Am Learning From Social Media

There are any number of lessons that life teaches us – all the way from the one about not licking Canadian light poles in January to the business of how to dispose of a disgusting canapé at a cocktail party*. The recent advent of the social media has taught me a few new ones:

  1. If you are unhappy with yourself, you are unhappy with everyone else. If you can develop a mental scenario that focuses this distress upon someone specifically – Muslims, men, or Monsanto for instance – it means that you can relax somewhat – someone is stabbing your back for you…
  2. Personal unhappiness is portable. You can take it anywhere.
  3. Personal unhappiness can be because of personal faults or personal failure…but if you are wise you never admit to it. The world has billions of other people – at least one of them can be selected as the author of your troubles. And even if you are abject, you can afford to blame the rich and powerful – the famous and successful. You can aspire to own the enemy you always dreamed of.
  4. If you can’t quite figure out who your enemy is, you need not fret – one will be provided for you. And they need not be obviously evil – I’ve heard bad things about the Dalai Lama, and not just from a Chinese government spokesperson. Fortunately I am under no contractual obligation to believe it.
  5. Personal distress is distressing, but socially salable. If you are prepared to accept emojis and the word ” hugs ” as a substitute for thinking and actual assistance, you can be comforted 24 hours a day. Don’t be afraid to collect these as they cost nothing.
  6. ” Meme ” is a new word. It is newer than ” wisecrack “, ” vulgarity “, or ” propaganda “. One day it will be an old word, so use it now while it is fresh.
  7. Lists are read by everybody. I think they keep on to the end in the hopes that it will either get better or worse. It always does.
  8. The acquisition of a new contact on Facebook is pretty standard – either you or they accept a request. The disposal of the acquaintance is a more delicate matter – akin to disposing of the blood pudding canapé we mentioned before. You can ignore them entirely, but still continue to see their posts, hide their posts, unfollow them, or unfriend them – each of these a step further into disengagement. I like to imagine further steps – ones that allow us to actively insult and then physically assault the former Facebook friend. The trouble with this is that the social app is truly worldwide and it would be expensive to fly to foreign countries to beat people up. I think we need a reliable international service to do this for us – people on the ground in other parts of the world who are prepared to go and pummel our enemies for us. Perhaps it could be paid for by PayPoke.
  9. Social media is no substitute for actual social contact with actual people. Mind you, it means you do not have to shave every day…
  10. No social media platform is predicated upon observation of etiquette. It is the electronic version of Friday night down at the pub, and in some cases it’s the cheap pub. Do not expect kindness or polite behaviour. Indulge in it yourself, by all means, but be aware that only you will know that you are doing it. It is a measure of your character if you find that sufficient.

* The best alternative  for ditching blood pudding on a cracker is to feed it to the host’s dog. It will cement the friendship and make you welcome in the future. If they don’t have a dog, see if they have a potted palm. Failing that, a velour sofa. If all else fails, balance the offending snack on the lightbulb of their bedside lamp and leave at the end of the evening knowing that your revenge is yet to come. You won’t be invited back but would you wish to visit people who serve blood pudding on Ritz crackers anyway?