Author Josh Bernoff has lots of actionable writing advice, and he prides himself on Writing Without Bullshit.
Lately he’s been critiquing apologies by CEOs who’ve been outed (and even ousted) for sexist behavior. His July 6 post confronts a different offense: trolling. He calls out the Reddit user who posted a video of Donald Trump beating up on a figure identified as CNN and then apologized for being a troll.
As usual, Bernoff takes the apology apart paragraph-by-paragraph. First, he quotes a portion of the apology verbatim. Then he gives a succinct analysis:
Analysis: This is true: “Trolling is nothing more than bullying.” Now one troll has seen the light. There are only a few million left to reform.
Finally, he boils the verbiage down to what he thinks the author is really saying:
Translation: Trolling is bad. Don’t be like me.
Then he asks, “What shall we do with trolls?” His answer: Expose them. “It’s a lot harder to be hateful if we know who you are.”
In response to those who take exception to his criticism, he asks, “Would you say it to their face?” He considers his comments fair if they critique “words and actions, not people or groups” and if he would deliver them directly to the person criticized.
His standards for fairness reflect a core principle of online etiquette, articulated by Virginia Shea in 1994: “Never mail or post anything you wouldn’t say to your reader’s face.”
Bernoff’s critiques are hard-hitting but civil. Taking on trolls without descending to their level requires a clear head and a stout heart. Thankfully, Bernoff has both, he’s willing to use them to expose self-serving apologists and trolls.