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.