If only it were that easy.
Spotting an A-hole on the internet can be tougher than you think. Part of their talent can be making you feel like you’re the jerk for feeling the way you do. It’s a no brainer when the insults are direct and overt but that’s not always the case. Today I want to expose some of the more sneaky and subversive types of A-holism. The following tutorial will help you see through their crap, because if they’re pointing a finger at you, they’re probably pointing 3 back at themselves. (Get it?)
Knowing these signs will have you spotting web trolls and pompous editorials in no time. The only thing left for you to do will be to sit back and watch the author’s stupor at those who take offense. The very best examples of A-holetry will use most if not all of the techniques we’ll discuss here. Anything that only has 1 or 2, you’ll just have to make a gut call.
Without further adieu, things to look for to spot an A-hole on the internet:
1. Bias. Typically you’ll see this right up front. The author will lead with a quick but subtle bias in their introduction. They’ll use somewhat vague adjectives with negative connotations right away, things like “frivolous”, “impractical” or “well-intentioned”. An even more subtle approach you could see to undermine credibility is the use of nouns like “fad” or “hobby”. They might even compare the subject to something they know is entirely opposite or unrelated and will be offensive to their target.
Ex. Mainstream a-hole: The Paleo diet is the most popular whim since the Master Cleanse.
2. Passive-aggressiveness. A tell-tale sign would be to notice the author possibly being open minded to other opinions but quickly shutting that down with a backhand.
Ex. Paleo a-hole: You don’t have to agree with us; if you want to let your oblivion kill you, then best of luck to you.
3. Mis-characterization. This can be done in two ways. First, you might get the idea that this person has very little knowledge of what they’re arguing against. This is also known as ignorance. Second, the mis-characterization may come in the form of using only the most extreme examples to illustrate points.
Ex. Mainstream a-hole: On The Paleo diet, you can only eat animals that you have whacked over the head with a rock. Paleo dieters don’t even wear shoes!
4. Polarization. There will be no shades of gray, only black and white. Remember, they’re using extreme examples, so even though it’s not realistic at all to think that everything is so cut and dry you’ll notice that this will never be acknowledged.
Ex. Mainstream & Paleo a-hole: If you eat a Paleo diet, you can never eat dairy again…NEVER, EVER…EVER.
5. Using rhetorical questions as main defense. Imagine a scene from Law and Order.
Prosecution: “You wanted her dead didn’t you?…that’s why you left the toilet seat up knowing she would fall in.”
Defendant: “No, I uh, I….”
Defense: “Objection your honor, leading the witness!”
Are the points being made with an open ended cross-examination of the things being disputed? The key is to omit actual answers and substantiation.
Ex. Mainstream a-hole: How can you trust someone who eats raw meat and doesn’t wear shoes? How could fat (bacon) possibly be good for you if most M.D.s don’t think it is?
6. Contradiction. No A-hole postulation can be complete without this. There are 2 types of contradictions you’ll see employed. For starters, you may find the author says one thing and then draws a completely opposite or mutually exclusive conclusion just a few words later. Alternately, they could use contradiction known commonly as “the pot calling the kettle black”. Fighting dogma WITH dogma. If you notice the same methods being used as what one claims to be against, BINGO, contradiction.
Ex. Paleo a-hole: You should never eat “Paleo” food that replicates junk food, it won’t cure your psychological problems. By the way, here’s a recipe for Paleo Fried Chicken. (<– this really happens in Paleo blogland. A lot.)
Mainstream & Paleo a-hole: It wouldn’t surprise me that you’d recommend a different nutrition plan to everyone if you make a living off of personal consultations. You should buy my plan instead; it’s a one-size-fits-all plan that will help you figure out what personal adjustments you should make.
Paleo a-hole: I’m so tired of feeling like I should look a certain way based on societal pressure. Now let me tell all you “intellectually challenged” people how you should actually look if you want to be healthy.
7. Condescension. You will perceive this as being ”talked down” to. The writer will appear miffed that anyone would believe something different than they do. Patronizing commentary and sarcasm works for their purpose here as well. You will read things like “waste of time” or even simply quotes around a word to imply eye rolling.
Ex. Paleo a-hole: Questioning what we’re telling you to eat makes you stupid, that’s probably why you can’t understand what we’re telling you. Mainstream a-hole: Including more meat is a great idea, if you love horrible ideas.
8. Assumptions and generalizations. You know the saying about assuming right? NO? It makes an ASS out of U and ME. Enough said. But I’ll say more anyway, this one really ties back into #3 (Mis-characterization.) and #4 (Polarization.) but it’s worth mentioning. The A-train has to keep running and it’s fueled by assumptions and generalizations. You will find continued instances that ignore the practical side of what’s being debated and drive home a few more unsubstantiated accusations.
Ex. Mainstream a-hole: The Paleo diet is a low carb diet. The Paleo diet is impractical. The Paleo diet costs 10 zillion dollars a month.
9. Arrogance. Nothing crushes A-holyness faster than admitting you don’t know it all. That’s why this one is a little harder to detect since it’s more about what is NOT said. You may get a hint of this if you notice claims that are just as hard to prove as those denied…but…since the author knows only black and white (see #4) they will imply that their way is the ONLY way. With all due respect though, they probably are special snowflakes. (#1, #2, #6, #7, #8 all in one!)
Ex. Mainstream & Paleo a-hole: How dare you quote a random study to support your argument! I have a random study right here that says the exact opposite, except this one is right.
10. Big words. The author will need to seem like they are very intelligent so you’ll think, “well, they did say ‘ad hominem’ so they must know what they’re talking about.”
Bonus. Sketchy motivation. (This one is not required but it can really put the icing on the cake.) This can be as easy as selling a product that happens to be the opposite of what is being argued against or even needing attention. Other examples include denouncing things that threaten them or being the smartest, most interesting person on Earth and having a desire to make sure everyone knows it.
Ex. Mainstream a-hole: I work for the government where my job is to sell subsidized grains, however, I disagree entirely with the Paleo diet because you cannot be healthy without hearthealthywholegrains. Paleo a-hole: In case you didn’t know, sugar is not Paleo.
(Starting with “in case you didn’t know” is a classic.)
Well everyone, I do hope you’ll find some use in my tutorial. I wish I could say I totally fabricated my examples, but these examples come paraphrased (and admittedly slightly embellished in some cases) to you from mainstream news and Paleo blog sources. If you need further examples, they’re not too hard to find. If you’re like me you can’t stand a-holes, be sure to come back next week when I release my new e-book, How to Be Nicer and More Humble Than Everyone ($19.95).