Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Random Thoughts: Baiting, Shunning, Status, Reframing, Psychoanalysis, and Rehumanization

Don’t gaslight me you son of a bitch!

I’ll tell you their strategy. They dole out the thinly disguised insults, the snark, and the snide remarks in an effort to steadily goad you into lashing out. If you do… you are liable to make an error when you have lost your temper. At that point, they will seize on this and use it to pillory you in whatever social media they feel safe in. I’ve seen it happen. I guess I do feel a little bit of a desire to be treated at least with a semblance of noblesse oblige from my “betters”, but honestly… I feel sorry for them. They don’t really know how to stop doing this, and end up treating each other like this reflexively. As a consequence, they really aren’t that familiar with genuine camaraderie. They lead a pretty empty life.

So yes, I’m being teased for admitting that it hurts to be shunned. I am mocked, because I do not know about “real” oppression. And they are right, I suppose. But I have seen the consequences of their preferred methods of enforcing conformity. I’ve seen Amish families separated as a consequence of “the ban”. Call it a first world problem if you want. This can be pretty serious stuff in the right context. And though their actions do sting my pride a little, at the end of the day they really aren’t that big of a deal. After all, I am not a member of their cult and neither do I seek status within it.

So why would they want to exert social pressure on people that are not even part of their own group? They simply don’t have any kind of hold on the people they are trying to bully. Well I’ll tell you… it’s not about you. They want to have status within their cult. They want a reputation for towing the party line and bullying people that look like soft targets is how they get it. They don’t get much out of it. Not that really matters much anyway. Because ultimately, it as an “eat me last” strategy that’s being applied in the context of a community that will consume itself as soon as it runs low enough on targets. “Choices have consequences” they like to tell us. And they get theirs sooner or later.

When they reframe your argument in order to sneer at it, they will always go after the weakest element and ignore everything else. The second thing that they will do is change the wording. Sometimes they will just alter a single word… but it is always the kind of thing that would make Wormtongue proud. You will want to punch them or something and you will not always know why, but it’s often because of that one word change. It’s invariably chosen for maximum humiliation value. Neutral observers will not be able to grasp why it is that you are so enraged because it is often very subtle when you aren’t the target of it. This is their chief method of delivering potent insults while maintaining plausible deniability.

Another common strategy they employ is to bypass argument altogether in order to psychoanalyze you. “If you think such and such, then you must be insane.” Your capacity to doubt yourself is surprisingly high. Distributing this style of argument over a dozen people operating in tandem multiplies its effectiveness exponentially. This technique is why cults exist. It is also why it so hard for people to leave them. Human nature being what it is, it’s actually a pretty rare person that can stand up to this and scream back, “THERE. ARE. FOUR. LIGHTS!”

When you are pissed because you feel like someone is failing to treat you like a human being, it is in your best interests to figure out just what it is that’s ticking you off and what it’s that’s gotten under their skin. What ever it is, let it go. Ask them anything that redirects the conversation into something that highlights the fact that they are human beings. They might be after you to rub your nose in something and it might be humiliating for whatever reason, but none of that will matter if you end up geeking out on a topic of mutual interest. If you’re willing to concede the pissing match for just a few minutes, there’s no telling what can happen.

And maybe they really are terrible people. It doesn’t cost you anything to try this. If this is going down in a public venue, then even if it fails then the neutral people around there will more than likely notice your efforts. But that’s still not the best thing you can do. If you are surrounded by hecklers, then the sort of people that get off on stirring things up will sabotage any breakthroughs you are liable to achieve. So the best circumstances for rehumanizing yourself and your nemesis are to isolate them from the sort of mob that amplifies their worst tendencies.

You don’t have to be very sophisticated for this to work either. One guy was on my case the other day and I was so mad, all I could respond with was “pleased to meet you” like I do sometimes. The guy corrected me with a story of how we’d met previously and we somehow got to talking about something else.

And that’s the other thing: just let them unload on you. Very few people can go on for long eating you up one on one. (It’s the mob that makes this sort of thing perpetual.) Just let them beat you down and then smile. There’s a good chunk of people that just want to be heard anyway. If they’ve had their say, they are pretty well done.

But you don’t have to apologize and submit or dishonor yourself. Shoot, you can pretend to need some clarification on a few things, start asking them questions about other stuff, and before long both of you are liable to be unable to remember what the outrage was all about.

Does it turn enemies into friends? Not often. But it does deescalate conflict even in the middle of a nonstop flame war.


35 responses to “Random Thoughts: Baiting, Shunning, Status, Reframing, Psychoanalysis, and Rehumanization

  1. Brian Z June 12, 2015 at 6:16 am

    But I have seen the consequences of their preferred methods of enforcing conformity. I’ve seen Amish families separated as a consequence of “the ban”.


    • jeffro June 12, 2015 at 6:22 am

      Do you think that’s funny?

      • Brian Z June 12, 2015 at 9:55 am

        Jeffro, “heh” with sympathy and grim, sorrowful, wry amusement over the idea that that is how (part of) fandom enforces community.

      • Brian Z June 12, 2015 at 11:14 am

        Reading the subsequent comment here and your response to it, let me add to that. I went through a lot of grief over there when I started commenting regularly a month or two ago. I stuck it out because I liked Mike, I like the site in general, I share a bunch interests with some of the people there, and I’m stubborn. But it was very dispiriting, and I admire your attitude.

  2. MercuriusAulicus (@JacobiteRelic) June 12, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Look at it this way – now you’ve got a few more things to add to your “What People are Saying” section!

    You might want to listen to the Buddha in the Dhammapada (Verses 227,228) -“It is not new, O Atula! It has always been done from ancient times. They blame one who is silent, they blame one who speaks much, they blame one who speaks little. There is no one in this world who is not blamed. / There never has been, there never will be, nor is there now, anyone who is always blamed or always praised.” Or take the advice of Marcus Aurelius at

  3. Rogers Cadenhead (@rcade) June 12, 2015 at 9:57 am

    I’m not seeing you try to make friends with these blog posts about File 770.

    You went into a community and engaged us in discussion of your work and SF/F philosophy, then got some comments from those of us who strongly object to your choice of publisher. So we discussed that, but most of our criticism was couched in praise because your Appendix N writing seems pretty good. That’s why we care about your business association with Theodore Beale. If we thought your work was bad, we wouldn’t care where you publish it.

    Despite our praise, you took the critical parts of our comments as if they were a coordinated attack, then you dragged us into your personal blog. Though you adopted an “I tried to be nice, I’m dumbfounded by this” posture, you knew your readers here would react to your feelings of persecution by ripping us a new asshole.

    This attitude of yours generated some stronger criticism on File 770 (surprise surprise!), which you’re now using to further the idea that we’ve been persecuting you from the get-go.

    As a fan of your blog and someone who hasn’t made things personal — the only quote of mine you used said you were “pleasant and friendly here and is motivated by promoting good books in the field” — I find the game you’re playing now insincere and way too complicated.

    I took harder shots on File 770 than you did when I talked about remarks by Samuel Delaney I consider grievously offensive. But I didn’t spin how I was treated into something bigger than it was. I recognized that the regulars there are fair even in tough disagreement.

    I think you’re trying way too hard to be offended.

    • jeffro June 12, 2015 at 10:28 am

      This is a post about how to cope with the sort of treatment that most anyone can expect to receive when they visit your online community.

      If I do not have you guys quite right here, please note that my counsel to my peers and supporters is to treat your people as if they are human beings no matter how insulted or provoked they may feel.

      If you think this is posturing, you are wrong. If you think I should be grateful for the many backhanded compliments I received in my encounter with your people, then you are unreasonable. If you think I am trying to be offended, then you do not know me.

      My business associations are my business. They are not the business of anyone at File770. If someone over there is willing to take responsibility for their beliefs in “guilt by association” and can outline an ultimatum that lays out the precise details of any negative consequences I can expect for violating the dictates of a cult for which I am not a member of, I am happy to hear it.

      If no such cult and no such negative consequences exist, then there is no problem and we have nothing to argue about. In that case, I am happy to drop this and move on.

      That said, I am deeply offended by the overall comportment of the commentariat of File770 as a whole. My feelings may seem silly to you, but they are my feelings. If the response of the people at File770 is to seize on those feelings as a display of weakness and to use that as some kind of pressure point to continue some sort of bullying strategy towards me, then I will rest my case.

      • Rogers Cadenhead (@rcade) June 12, 2015 at 11:13 am

        I didn’t become a commenter on File 770 until the Hugo ballot takeover, so I have no particular interest in defending the community.

        If you’re offended by things said about you there, that’s your right. Nobody has to like a site where people engage in sharp-elbowed commentary.

        But the compliments you received were hardly backhanded. If you think the only reason you’d be praised there is to facilitate a personal insult, that sounds like an inferiority complex to me. (Further evidence is calling yourself a “nobody,” as you did in a comment here.)

        As for the notion that your professional association with Beale is none of our business, people who are engaged in writing for the public are inviting the public to have an opinion on those activities. You writing for Beale is as much fair game for comment as John Scalzi writing for Tor or Larry Correia writing for Baen.

        A few times you’ve faulted us because no one directly asked you to refuse your slate nomination and laid out the reasons why. This feels like a trap to me. Let’s say a month ago I did that with a few of the other File 770 regulars.

        Can you really say that would have been welcome? I think you’d be using our emails against us as proof of an underhanded attempt to exclude others from the Hugos.

        Shortly after the Hugo ballot’s release, I commented on Annie Bellet’s blog about how I thought the bloc-voting campaign made it impossible to say that the nominees were deserving. I thought the comment was fair, but she responded that it hurt her feelings so I strongly regret posting it. I was commenting on a bunch of sites that day about the Hugos and didn’t think enough about how my comment might be received in her space.

        I didn’t tell Bellet to refuse the nomination, but you were still so angry over what I posted that you outed my actions on File 770 and called me a dick “tenfold.”

        So when you claim you wanted to hear from us about declining your nomination, I’m not buying that for a second.

    • Joel Salomon June 12, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      Your Appendix N writing seems pretty good. That’s why we care about your business association with Theodore Beale.

      This, folks, is the tactic known as “concern trolling”.

      • Rogers Cadenhead (@rcade) June 12, 2015 at 12:30 pm

        Bullshit. I was a fan of Johnson’s work for years before the Puppies got him on the Hugo ballot, because I’m always looking for interesting RPG bloggers to read. I’ve posted around a dozen comments on File 770 in which I mention liking his work. I read some of his Appendix N essays in the Hugo packet and I think they’re the best of the slate-chosen nominees in his category. (Though I’m still planning to use No Award to protest bloc-voting.)

        His choice of publisher for Appendix N is the only thing that keeps me from reading it. Beale will get no money or web traffic from me, ever.

        Calling someone a concern troll is a tactic that Johnson would call “enforcing conformity” if it was used against him.

    • jeffro June 12, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      Just going to address one thing. I gave you a piece of my mind over that Bellet thing. But that’s all in the past for me. I don’t hold it against you and I won’t bring it up with you or anyone else again. I don’t demand an apology and I accept your word that you did not intend to be taken the way that I interpreted it.

  4. Meredith June 12, 2015 at 11:56 am

    I’m furious. You say we’re a cult, and then you try and say you’ve been piously treating us like individuals the whole time? No. Those two things are not compatible. I defended you, repeatedly, I come over to your blog to try and explain that you were taking something the wrong way and no-one intended some unspecified retribution when they said consequences, and I get told I’m part of a cult that despised you all along? And that’s your peacemaking? I’d rather have someone come over with the SJWs always lie schtick than someone come over pretending to be a peacemaker and calling us a cult behind our backs. Its more honest.

    • jeffro June 12, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      I saw what you did and I appreciated it. I think I understand more now what contributed to the breakdown. It may not seem so right now, but I actually was trying to listen and understand.

      • Meredith June 14, 2015 at 4:02 pm

        I’d give that more credit if you hadn’t let MercuriusAulicus call us lunatics with absolutely no pushback from you, and that’s just one example, from just one thread.

  5. Nick Mamatas June 12, 2015 at 12:42 pm


    Let me ask you a few questions, as you asked me some the other day. I even promise not to edit them into a faux interview.

    1. How old are you?

    • Nick Mamatas June 12, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      Oh, and to what sect of Christianity do you belong? (I’m asking this immediately after the last q because I forgot to press the “Notify me of new comments” button.

    • jeffro June 12, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      You know Nick, it’s nothing personal… but I don’t want to talk to you. That may change some day, but right now… I’m done.

      • Nick Mamatas June 12, 2015 at 12:48 pm

        Do not refer to yourself as a person to whom honor is important again.

      • Rogers Cadenhead (@rcade) June 12, 2015 at 1:08 pm

        Why would you ask him a bunch of questions seeking answers and then not reciprocate? It seems like simple courtesy would compel you to do the same you asked of him just a few days ago, particularly since you turned his answers into an interview without asking his permission and called it a “prank.”

  6. TheConservativeDM June 12, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Stay strong, Jeffro. You’re doing great.

  7. Robert Eaglestone June 12, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I’ve seen (and heard about) this on other online communities, as well — and ones far less important than books and politics. RPG communities. Battlestar Galactica communities. Those, at least, are ridiculous.

    • TheConservativeDM June 13, 2015 at 3:03 am

      Tell me about it. It’s almost enough to cause one to start up a parody blog relating to something like RPGs in order to hang a lampshade the culture warriors. You’d have to be a special kind of crazy to do something like that.

  8. MishaBurnett June 12, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I just realized something that I should have seen before.

    You, Jeffro, keep asking what you have done or not done to be shunned. That’s a reasonable, question, but not one to which you can ever get an answer.

    You are not accused of doing, you are accused of being.

    Seen in this context, I suddenly see why so many threads like this are so fruitless.

    One side, the side that you and I share, is concerned with actions. We are under the impression that people are responsible for what they have or have not done and only that, and that is an objective matter. Either the evidence exists and can be produced that a particular person has preformed a particular action, or it does not.

    The other side is concerned with identity. Their ire is unleashed against people who are, in their opinion, are a particular sort of person. Thus the accusations are never that a person has done anything sexist, racist, homophobic, and so on, but that such a person IS racist, sexist.homophobic, and so on.

    Our side is concerned with deeds. Their side is concerned with the condition of a person’s (for want of a better term) soul.

    Thus the disconnect in the attempts at conversation. They accuse someone of being sexist. We ask for evidence–some proof that the person has done a sexist action. For them, that kind of evidence is irrelevant. A person who is, of essence, a sexist person would be so even if that person never acted on it in any way.

    We are concerned with what we do, and try to do what is right. They are concerned only with their orthodoxy–what they believe. If one is a right-thinking person then one is among the elect, no matter what one does. Contrariwise, if one holds beliefs deemed improper, no amount of good works will erase that black stain from one’s heart.

    Thus their insistence on the importance of proper associations. Since there can never be any objective proof of one’s inmost thoughts, one must be ever vigilant in one’s demeanor, eschewing even the appearance of impropriety by always being seen standing with the elect against the fallen. To avoid sinning in thought one must never read impure words or speak with impure persons.

    • jeffro June 12, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      This is something I’ve been watching for. I’ve started saying lately that (to use current parlance) that different things “trigger” each side. I think I could (for a spell) bite down on the things that “triggered” me, but I gradually “triggered” more and more people over there even though it was inadvertent. Some of their people couldn’t imagine that being the case, and gradually escalated their insinuations until I could not take any more.

      Anyway… I think your description is pretty useful. It fits with my experience in my opinion.

  9. Mark June 13, 2015 at 4:50 am


    I came back to continue our conversation (bit of a delay due to RL busy-ness) and thought I’d better check the conversation hadn’t moved on…

    I’m really not sure where to go from here. A bunch of people try to engage with you over your concerns (and possibly the fact that it is a bunch makes it appear a bit of a pile-on) and you appear to be getting more and more bothered. In particular, your language portraying the “commentariat” as a monolithic bloc applying tactics in concert is escalating from blogpost to blogpost.

    From the other thread:
    “Do you have anything against me personally for having a nomination? Do you personally think I have done anybody any sort of wrong?”

    The Hugo is an award that a great many of the people who receive it are inordinately proud to receive. Even a nomination is considered real recognition for your work. You’ve spoken about your feelings on this yourself, so I feel sure you understand. This year, five people in Fan Writer were going to be given recognition and made to feel very proud, happy, etc etc, because people thought they were among the 5 best fan writers based on reading the work out there. Unfortunately, 4 of them were replaced by people named on the SP/RP slates. We won’t know who those people were until the final voting tallies are released after the awards.

    The 4 SP/RP nominees were not placed on the slate by being the best out there. They were selected for their association with those choosing the slate, the humorously named ELOE. Can I be 100% sure of this? No, of course not, because the process of choosing that slate wasn’t public. Can I be 99% sure? Yes, because the nominees were either Sarah Hoyt’s fellow bloggers at Mad Genius Club Amanda Green, Cedar Sanderson, and Dave Freer, and VD’s blogger at CH: you. Is that choosing on merit, or on association?

    This is a pretty harsh thing to say to someone, particularly when I think your work is pretty good, but nevertheless: you are not a Hugo nominee on merit, you are a Hugo nominee on nepotism. Worse than that, someone else is not a Hugo nominee because of nepotism.

    Are you personally responsible for that? Well, you made it pretty clear that you didn’t have much involvement with the process and weren’t really up on the consequences, so it’s hard to point a finger of blame in the purest accusatory sense, but you asked “ Do you personally think I have done anybody any sort of wrong?” To which the answer is yes, there is someone out there who doesn’t have a Hugo nom because of you, and they are very much wronged.

    • jeffro June 13, 2015 at 5:15 am

      If it helps you, you can think of it as me saying “this is what the net effect of interacting with your group felt like for one person.”

      Also… thank you for making an effort to do what I’ve asked without questioning my motives even when I was provoking you.

      • Mark June 14, 2015 at 6:11 am

        Jeffro, I appreciate the problem of the pile-on effect. If you still wish to engage, but posting on F770 hasn’t done it for you, maybe there’s some other format available? (I don’t know what, just musing aloud).

  10. Eric June 13, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    “To which the answer is yes, there is someone out there who doesn’t have a Hugo nom because of you, and they are very much wronged.”

    You realize can say that about about every Hugo winner ever, right?

    • Mark June 14, 2015 at 6:09 am

      The distinction, in the eyes of those opposed to slates, is that most years someone has lost due to being beaten in an open competition, whereas this year someone has lost in an open competition where an organised campaign to vote in concert has boosted their opponents to victory.

  11. MercuriusAulicus (@JacobiteRelic) June 13, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Sir, Just try to do the best you can do without trying to please demanding lunatics and their insistence that you jump through their hoops. The Internet makes them seem more numerous than they are in reality.

    • jeffro June 13, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      You know how I was talking about how they bait you out into making an embarrassing mistake? Well… I just got a master class on it.

      • twilaprice June 14, 2015 at 4:35 pm

        I typed in a long reply that got eaten by the gremlins…. so this will be shorter. I am not a commenter on File 770 although I have been reading the Hugo roundups and a goodly proportion of the comments there, and I have not seen any ire in the comments you reference. What I see is puzzlement that you cannot seem to comprehend people’s refusal to visit the Castalia House website. You may not see the ways in which VD has made himself distasteful to many people due to “being treated like a rock star” (and may I ask whether the green M&M’s and groupies are satisfactory?), but I assure you that even conservative people can find his stated views distressing and his open attacks on others (and the comments by others on his blog can be even worse, imho) scary. I would not call myself an SJW nor a liberal, since I live in smalltown middle America and I haven’t talked about intersectionality or cishet white males or any of that, and I often find myself bemused at the language of those young whippersnappers. Grins. On the other hand, I am even more bemused at the various strains of puppy rhetoric, as it seems even further from the reality I live in, which is more concerned with paying bills and hoping that my son survives his deployment etc. than worrying about the liberal bias of sf and whether or not someone twittered something rude.

        On the gripping hand (obligatory Mote in God’s Eye reference), as you may recall, I enjoyed your review of Abraham Merritt ‘ s Dwellers in the Mirage and agreed that it should be more widely read than it is. That doesn’t mean that I despise current sf. I buy on average five books a week. Self-published or traditionally published. Books by men, women or possibly the odd tri-gendered Martian. I don’t like every book that is published in sf— for example, I, like you, do not like The Game of Thrones. It is too grim dark and rape – filled for me. However, a whole lot of my sf – reading friends and family think it is wonderful. And that is fine. I don’t need it to be censored or boycotted, and I wouldn’t blink if it won a Hugo, no matter how distasteful it is to me. Because my taste is MINE and idiosyncratic as heck. I like old writers and new writers and heroic manly men characters like Tarzan and Leif from Dwellers and I also like the neat strong seamstresses from E. Bear’s Karen Memory and the lone ancilliary Breq. And I even like yaoi. Because, hey, it is all about the fun and wonder that sf has always held. So. Please. Do tell me what more recent works have you read and liked — it doesn’t have to be anything super recent— something from the last twenty years will do.:-)

        [Jeffro: The most recent book I’ve read that is actually a recent book is Thomas Mays’s A Sword in the Darkness. I was so excited about that one that I interviewed the author for Castalia House. I don’t think I’ve made any sweeping attacks on recent authors… as far as I know I’m just celebrating the awesome stuff that I do like– which right now is all before 1980 because of a specific project I’m working on.]

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