There's been a few "heated" comment threads here recently, where people are - apparently - trading insults and claiming that this is "just how they are", and that they claim some right to be an asshole because to have anyone else require otherwise is some kind of Orwellian totalitarianism. It's an excellent use of Godwin's law, and for that alone they have my respect.
Now, here's the thing. I am quite capable of being an asshole. I've had training, over many years of old-school Internet flamewars. I have a thick skin, asbestos underpants, and a decent command of a wide range of insults. Moreover, I've been in this game long enough that I've accrued plenty of experience in things technical, so I generally know what I'm talking about.
In fact, let's face it, I am a consummate asshole. I have to work at not being one, and it's frankly not easy. Being an asshole comes naturally to me. It's a gift. But I've understood, over the years, that I while I have many rights, including freedom of expression, it's much more effective not to be an asshole. I don't do this because I kowtow to some nefarious Big Brother Ben Halpern, even if it is his site, and I suppose he can make the rules. I do it because it gets better results.
This is difficult when that target of my ire is, indeed, flat out wrong. I mean, what were they thinking? Do they even ... Well, do they even? Clearly, they are complete idiots. But - much to my irritation - they often turn out not to be, when approached with mind-numbingly boring politeness. Yeah, they're still wrong. But when I query them calmly, and explain why I think they "might" be in error, it's amazing how often they revisit their statements. Yes, I do mean that they're not idiots only because they realise I'm right. I did say I was an asshole.
I mean, it'd be a hell of a lot more fun to unleash my inner asshole and really flame them to oblivion. There's no doubt they deserve it. But then I wouldn't get the same reaction. I know, because I know what I'd do.
When someone's an asshole to me - and as I say, this has happened many times over the years - I ensure they do not win. Even if they may have a point. Even if, let's face it, they're right and I'm wrong. And that's human nature - I can just about accept I may be wrong. Sometimes, I mean. And it's not often, okay? But I will never accept it - and certainly not admit it - if that asshole is right. I mean, no way am I giving him (and it's always him) the satisfaction.
And sure, I accept that these other idiots - the people who get everything wrong, and I mean all the time - probably feel the same way. And it's my duty - as someone who is right (pretty much) all the time - to help these idiots see the error of their ways, right? So if it's more effective to tell them nicely, and to lead them toward the truth in kind and gentle steps, shouldn't I do it that way?
So, yeah. I'll pretend to be a "Nice Guy", if I really have to. And if this means everyone ultimately accepts how I'm right all the time, and they're clearly so desperately fucking wrong, isn't that a win for me? Um... I mean, our community?