Imagine you’re a part of an Internet clique, and some individual has called you a “bully”. Leave the substantive details of your past arguments, and even the particulars of your accuser’s case, to one side.
Just a little reflection shows there’s a way of demonstrating that you’re only engaging in a bit of ‘rough and tumble’ style political banter. A way that won’t be falsified.
You have to retort of course, in the first instance, that it is indeed banter you’re engaging in. Yet not to the extent that you’re merely pretending the gadfly; you’ll want to maintain that there’s a substantive critique underneath your ’bullying’ (not that you need to articulate it clearly).
“Rough and tumble”; “rhetorical flair”; “panache”; “pugilism’” and so on – the point is to illustrate that what’s being misinterpreted as “bullying” is in fact normal, at least in your circles, and preferably at large in public discourse. This shouldn’t be too hard (easy gambit!), given that it is in fact reasonable to expect some degree of emoting, satire, ridicule and questioning of character in any contentious matter of public debate.
Remember – you aren’t beyond the pale, or out of the norm, it’s that your accuser has unrealistic expectations. This is easy enough to state, and easy enough to follow through upon.
If the allegations against you don’t acknowledge your clique, it’s likely that they will be implicated, at least by inference. It’s safe to assume such a wide ranging smear even if it hasn’t been stated – it is after all, an example of high character to defend your friends’ honour.
Try this on for size…
‘You’re trying to marginalise our perspective from the public square by using false accusations!’
It also helps to counter-accuse your opponent of autocracy, of being like Pol Pot, and of whatever else gets the job done. Admittedly, this can sometimes be overdone – the job at this point is to position yourself as an open minded freedom fighter. You’re taking a stand for your people.
The full extent of your recriminations come later.
If all has gone well, by this point you’ve established that your people are being accused as well, if that wasn’t already clear. Now, it follows that if what they’re being accused of were true, then surely you wouldn’t want them to do it to you.
This is where you mock your opponent’s false-martyrdom by placing yourself in the role of potential victim.
‘Hey, my lot argue like this all the time. When someone makes a joke at my expense, I just ignore it and laugh, and then we all know that the joke’s finished. I don’t go and whine and make accusations about ‘bullying’ like you do. You need to ignore it and get thick skin like me.’
You need to follow through on claims like this by presenting a gambit with a largely pre-determined outcome – perhaps you could hold a contest for the best insult to your person, from one of your friends. Perhaps you can think of something similar.
When you’ve decided upon your gambit, be sure to trot out a self-deprecating example or two of ‘rough and tumble’ banter, showing just how light-hearted and open-minded you really are…
‘Maybe I’ll draw an MS-Paint picture of myself; it’ll have me being decapitated, with someone sticking a stainless steel cactus up my bum. Ha!’
Even if in fact you have thin skin, concerns you’ll suddenly be set upon by your friends are ill-founded. Banter sends the agreed upon signal; when you laugh, the joke’s over, so that’s the end – no more. With an act of self-deprecation, you give the signal to your clique to stop before the gambit has even begun.
Of course, nobody can prove this signalling, which means it can’t be counted against you. It’s not like there’s a formal code book of in-group social cues for your enemies to refer to.
In the absence of such proof, your display of an invitation to experience said “bullying” first-hand, shows not only that you consider it normal, but that you’re a role model, and a figure of political stamina. (This despite the fact that very few people, if any, are going to take you up on your offer.)
Moreover, you’ve shown that the spectre of supposed “bullying” does not in fact inhibit you from exercising your right to free expression. Now if that doesn’t show that the accusation levelled against you is fatuous, nothing will.
After you’ve exonerated yourself, all that remains is to capitalise on the gambit – to expose your accuser of being a tyrant and a fraud. Recriminations should abound.
‘Professional victim!’; ‘Anti-free-expression!’; ‘Political correctness gone mad!’; ‘Thingy-Nazi-Stasi’ or any number of other epithets and charges are in order, the doubling-down on any prior references to totalitarianism being a given. All that is left to do is bask in the appreciation of your fellow members of the oppressed, which likely involves the freedom fighting subscribers to YouTube and Reddit – the most oppressed of the oppressed.