Compassion: How Not to Do It

UPDATE 5 June 2014:

Troll on, brave trolls. Bravely continue reacting to honest, heartfelt systemic critique with anonymous, ill-informed, personal attack, all from your helpless and brave stance hiding behind a stupid user name.

Troll on, ever so bravely.

I am not here to deprive you of your God-given right to lob petty personal insults at a person you have never met who never did anything to hurt you. Troll on. Troll away! Trollolololololo!

19 thoughts on “Compassion: How Not to Do It

  1. Rebecca, you are awesome. I heart you.

    Also, fuck all the lifeboaty fuckwad jerkfaces. I’ve had enough of them.


      • ahhh so much fun again here! these people who live in their dream world of “i-will-be-the-winner;” they exactly follow what capitalist rules are teaching us to become. let’s wish for their best, a quick recovery, and a painful (since all true insight comes through pain) wake up in the near future. namaste.


  2. Wow. Your article itself in an exercise in compassion just by offering people a forum to express their grief. Most striking is how many of these stories reach back decades, and were clearly not just outliers. What does it mean that we have been playing this same game for decades, with the same sense of shame, heartbreak, farce, horror, incredulity?


  3. Eventually you get over it, and just find the academic types tiresome in their feelings of superiority or whatever. They can’t help it. They’re just limited, inexperienced except in their academic jail house, and dumb. Keep reminding them, Rebecca. And the reading public in general until the public/parents/students demand some change for their high tuition!

    Joanne Kantrowitz


  4. Rebecca: If he’s issuing any kind of threat/intimation of/or harassment of you/your friends online, it’s time to file a complaint. NOW. For real.


  5. Hey Rebecca,
    Every time I see the “Don’t be a dick” message on the comment box I laugh. Humor is also an excellent salve for rejection and other hurtful things. Thank you for making me laugh so much! And thank you for linking up to me in the Chronicle. Much appreciated!! And of course, great piece. It’s such a simple message: be nice–why do some academics make it so complicated?


      • Not super-illuminating. Am I being a troll if I say that? I’m honestly asking, and not even for that made-up friend. It just seems like taking disagreement as trolling is taking argument personally, which, even (or especially) if you’re talking about personal things, makes it hard to have a conversation. Thanks for taking my call, and I’ll take your answer off the air.


      • The comments highlighted are not indeed principled disagreement and are indeed trolling–meant, specifically and intentionally, to hurt me and to invalidate both my story and the stories of the 50+ people I talked to. You can disagree with someone without going on the personal attack, belittling their career and their job, telling them they’re young and stupid. There were plenty of comments in that thread that disagreed with me and I have no problem with them. These two are trolling. And now, so are you.


  6. See and, I thought I was being charming, what with the Diane Rehm allusion and all. But if I were being straight with you, I would have just come straight out and offered you unasked for advice, which would be that I appreciate many of your arguments and respect your taking on important issues like this one on the blog and on Slate but think maybe you could ease up a little on the vitriol in the essays and in your reactions to comments, including taking disagreement as trolling more often than maybe you need to (though of course it’s out there). You write in a way that seems intended to start an argument, right? So you shouldn’t be surprised if sometimes people come back at you argumentatively. So maybe I should have just said that. I’ll shut up now.


    • Let me put it this way. One person offering “constructive” criticism is like having a pebble thrown at me. It’s fine. Often it’s a nice pebble and I should consider it, etc. But 1000 people throwing pebbles at me (and a few jagged, shit-covered boulders thrown in) makes me feel like I am drowning. I am a human being. Most of the work I do–I’d say 90%–is just regular workhorse journalism that does not go viral so nobody pays attention to it. That other 10% really sticks in people’s craws, and I am fine with disagreement, but I am a human being and there are some days–like this week–when a bunch of shitty stuff happens all at once and I feel like I want to die.

      I refuse to stop speaking my mind and telling the truth, but I also refuse to stop being a human being. I actually have a much thicker skin than most people I know–I have to deal with much, much, much more criticism than all of the people criticizing me; put yourself in my shoes for one second and just think about how you’d do–but even I have my limits. When I quit academia, I got to be honest again. I have no intention of stopping anytime soon, and if that means holding trolly mctrollersons accountable for saying abjectly shitty things in the name of “criticism” that is solely meant to hurt me and not help me, then I don’t mind if I have some fun while I do it.

      So in the end, I think I’ll kindly decline your advice, since my writing career is going really well, and the more honest I am, the better it goes (just usually with less controversial work you don’t read).


      • “So in the end, I think I’ll kindly decline your advice, since my writing career is going really well”

        – I’m really glad to hear this. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your writing. You write passionately and honestly, and there is no great writing without passion and honesty.

        People who tone-police you and keep offering these “kind” suggestions of how you could attract more people by toning down your arguments should feel absolutely free to start their own blogs and write as many tepid inanities as they please there. This will be the great way of showing the world how much interest lukewarm writing can generate.


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