Re: An attempt at perspective

Tom Boland (
Mon, 2 Feb 1998 00:37:08 -0800 (PST)

"Answer not evil with evil."
"Kind words turn away wrath."

Anitra, thanks for your insights on responding to angry critics.  Your
comments are caring and cogent, and remind me of the above two proverbs.

How to respond both ethically and tactically to character defamation is
indeed a difficult question.  Clarifying facts can help, I think, at least
with those who intend fairness.  As to defending against unfounded (and
sometimes unattributed) smears, I find that a direct defense (especially
returning blow for blow and countering point by point) usually does little
but fan the flames.

I think it's wise, fair and needed to submit to fair review, but not to
inquisition.  Sometimes it's tough to know the difference for sure, when
what seems to be a mix of both fair and unfair criticism comes from the
same source.

Then again, no pre-set response to attack works in all cases.  Sometime the
best defense is to speak out against unfounded allegations, and apoligize
and reform when we've made mistakes.  Sometimes all we can do is to
continue our work as best you can, without replying to unalloyed smear

To victims, it may seem unloyal for me to usually not reply directly to
those who persistantly mount personal and unfounded allegations.  But for
some attackers in the Net World, any response, even a fair and caring one,
only seems to spur the flamers to continue.

True loyalty, I think, is not a public display of whose side we're on, but
a quiet effort to help others (even those who we think treat us unfairly -
or who think we do them wrong).  If I attack anyone for attacking my
friends, that may expose, not protect them, by drawing more fire.

While it's useful to retain hope in everyone's eventual reform, some verbal
attackers will not soon (or perhaps ever) desist, no matter what we do or
don't do.  In those cases, silence can be the best protection for victims
of verbal abuse.

Thanks for your post, Anitra.  We do indeed need to sort out the general
issues and interests that specific cases of attack can illustrate.  Both
personally and politically, noting broad patterns can help us keep out of
useless fights and heal divisions where possible.

As organizers who work to end grinding poverty and injustice, we need to
continually test and revise the theories that inform our practice, or else
we get stuck in ruts.  I'm glad you help to refocus us back onto the
underlying power issues, and the task of ending homelessness.

Write on!--Tom Boland

>Several people on the CSF list have been adamant about having heard
>quite enough of the negative personal attacks and intergroup
>squabbling, *thank you*.  I don't want to post anything more to that
>list about it, I don't want to appear to be fanning the flames.
>But I'm going to use this group as a sounding board for something I do
>want to eventually post.  A more general discussion about why such
>things erupt, and what to do about them.....Anitra

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