The Bullies Don't Actually Know You: A Vital Reminder In How Crowd-Sourced Jerks Work

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

During the Hugos – the science-fiction Oscars – a friend of mine made a pro-LGBT Tweet about the future of science fiction that caught the attention of the anti-Social Justice crowd.  Needless to say, things turned ugly for her fairly quickly.
Watching the insults mutate was a welcome reminder in how bullies work.
At first, they told her to shut up about science fiction, as she apparently didn’t know how things worked in the business.  Bad move, as she was an officer of the Science Fiction Writers’ Association for several years, has edited anthologies, and handles the PR for several quality authors.  Accusing her of being ignorant is ignorance, and could have been neatly sidestepped by a simple Google search for her name.
When they lost on that front, they moved to accusing her to being undesirable, ugly, and was doing this entirely because she was unable to get laid.  Which also doesn’t work. She’s stunningly attractive, and while I can’t speak to the fine details of her social life, she does not appear to have any problems attracting companionship.
When that didn’t work, they then…
Oh, does it matter?  It doesn’t, really.  Because that’s how bullies function.  They really don’t care who you are – they’ll just keep flinging shit at the walls until one of the insults eventually sticks.
Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t hurt when they eventually fumble onto an insult that describes you – but some of that pain comes from the shock of Oh, they’ve found me out, and really, they haven’t.  Most Internet pileups are an insult dictionary-attack: they haven’t guessed your password because they have a deep and meaningful relationship with you, they’ve guessed it because they have this list of “the 10,000 most common personality flaws” and they tried each one out in descending order until they stumbled across yours.
These insults are fundamentally meaningless because they don’t actually know what the fuck they’re saying.  They just hated what you had to say, and are trying to shame you into shutting up by trying keys at random in your door.
They will literally say anything if they think it’ll make you feel bad.
And that’s the inverse of how society usually works:  You smell like funky cheese, so your lover rejects you.  You’re incompetent, so your boss fires you.  You’re boring, so your friends don’t invite you out.  All painful, but it’s a clear sequence of cause and effect – here’s the reason, here’s the consequences.
Whereas when bullies come around, they have decided upon the consequence – this bitch needs to feel bad.  And then they start hunting for reasons to justify the consequences.
Yet if you watch carefully, their reasons don’t actually make sense most of the time.  Hey, you’re a – no I’m not.  Well, then you – no, I don’t. Certainly you must – I’ve never done that in my life, actually.
Now, none of this isn’t to say that an internet dogpile doesn’t suck syphilitic moose ass. It does. It’s always a little unnerving to realize that a bunch of people are working their asses off to try to make you cry.  And alas, society has trained most of us that if a hundred people are jeering and pointing, you must have done something wrong.
But you haven’t.  You said something they didn’t like – something they can’t actually argue with, because if they were smart enough to debate your concepts, they’d be off explaining why what you said was wrong.  And having lost the intellectual argument due to a lack of functioning neurons, they have now moved to the Shut this person up phase and will now throw bricks until one of them hits.
Chances are, they’ll eventually luck upon a bad description of you that fits.  But remember: they don’t actually care about that.  All they want is your tears followed by your silence.
You’re allowed either tears or silence, you know.  Engaging is exhausting.  Nobody’s obliged to battle phase-shifting morons.
But if you really wanna show those fuckers up, want to enrage them in the best way possible?  Keep talking.  Ignore them, and concentrate on spreading that original message they couldn’t effectively deny.  Because when you focus on that message and properly categorize the thousands of insults they’re blindly trying out on you, you come to realize that these aren’t insults but a modified jamming technique – filling the air with thousands of messy signals in an attempt to drown the broadcast that terrifies them.
The insults feel personal.  But just like what happened to my smart and competent friend, they only feel personal because they tried out several variations of insults that were so laughably not you that they didn’t fit, running down a long list until they found something that jarred.
That’s not actually personal.  They don’t know you.
They just know they want to shut you up.

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