As I read far too many author blogs, one of the things that continues to bug me is how many spend time arguing with nitwits. To be clear, I’m defining nitwit as a particular kind of Internet troll who spends their time endlessly sniping at a target or otherwise running their yap in a state of self-importance/attention whoring. True, true, this defines most message board interactions, but the nitwits tend to focus on a primary target and fixate.

I’ve had my share of nitwits (fairly insulting blogs, e-mails, letters, phone calls, and message board threads dedicated to me included in the prize package) and answering their charges is simply not worth my time. I don’t care (as long as they link to me). Seriously, the first thing I ask is “who are they?” because while I don’t mind constructive criticism, not every critic is equally worth hearing from.

It’s fairly common for the newbie writer to seek to establish themselves by going after a few easy targets, whoever the perceived bad boy is (in the horror community, Nick Mamatas and Brian Keene are popular targets). These would be iconoclasts may rationalize their behavior by declaring that they simply won’t put up with the behavior of an unprofessional martinet or what have you, but it’s so regular a practice that I’ve taken to calling this the Brian Keene effect. Since the theory is that you make a name for yourselves by going after someone bigger, not smaller, take heart in the fact that you’re a target.

They know you, they read you. That’s not a relationship you’re obligated to reciprocate. People have a right to free speech, buy you are under no obligation to be given a platform in your house. The Internet is a big place, so let them go start their own blog/message board and run things their way. You don’t need to expend energy validating their opinions or otherwise giving them a platform. If you feel that their comments rise to the level of slander or harassment or threat, that’s why God created police and lawyers. Not taking up your blog space.

Unfortunately, sometimes nitwits can take over a forum. It’s funny how it takes only 2-3 prominent voices to seemingly poison a whole community. That will happen if they are allowed to dominate discussion. They can change character of board by simply posting so often they become the face of the message board. So, sometimes folks have to be asked to leave for the health of a board. It can seem unfair or even arbitrary but “you talk too much and spew little of value” can be just as abusive to folks’ sensibilities.

(To prevent this, whoever has the “vision” for said board needs to be a main voice on the board either through themselves or via their mods. In a lot of ways, the vision/voice is the main draw to the message board, which means that their mods need to not only grasp that vision, but also have the necessary people and communication skills to facilitate the discussions. Not let the nitwits run amuck.)

In the end, arguing with a nitwit only reduces you. Oh, I know it’s hard to not swing back and crush them. Lord knows, I know. Think of it this way: you swinging back at them is a no lose situation for them. Suddenly you are bringing your audience to them and when it’s the strong (read) versus the weak (not read), you are the bully. You don’t want to let the nitwits drive you to being unprofessional. And there is no reason I need to know who the members of the legion of nitwits are because you keep giving them air time. Notice none of mine were mentioned by name. Or linked to. And the Internet is a better place for it.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.