Never 'beef down' to an internet troll

You've probably heard the Mark Twain quote, "Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference" because it's just one of those timeless pieces of wisdom which rings as true today as it did a 150 years ago.

The obvious problem with this advice is, what if you're the fool?

Many people consider me such and are quite happy to tell me via email and social media though, tellingly, I've never had a reader approach me in person - which happens regularly - to insult me. 

Interestingly, it's also rare I'll get a snarky email or comment from someone who has a larger media voice, which makes sense; why bother sniping at a two-bit newspaper columnist and blogger when you've got your own TV or radio show?

The opposite, however, seems to apply to online trolls and social media malcontents who habitually "beef up", or attack people with a higher profile, so they gain exposure if the mark is naïve enough to engage.

Our media's current, lazy obsession with publishing as news the tweets of celebs, sportspeople and politicians no doubt encourages these muppets because they know their handiwork has a good chance of being picked up.

ESPN's Bill Simmons recently wrote about "the golden rule of hip-hop: Thou shalt never beef down".

He was referring to the practice of up-and-coming hip-hop singers drawing attention to their songs through insulting lyrics about more high-profile rap stars.

The rule of "never beef down" suggests prominent singers shouldn't retaliate to provocation because by doing so, they're only giving the upstart the attention they crave and diminish themselves in the process.


This law is just as pertinent in other walks of life, particularly online, where you have a seemingly endless supply of bored mouth-breathers trying to bait notable people into saying the wrong thing.

You could fill a piece of butcher paper with the names of folks who'd still be in a job or have a lucrative sporting contract or endorsement deal if they'd only not beefed down.

However, it doesn't matter if you're a hairdresser, banker, truck driver or accountant: if someone is trying to lure you into an online, words-on-screen-or-phone-argument, do not beef down, give 'em nought.

There's nothing to be gained from it and every chance your words will be twisted, misinterpreted or taken out of context and you'll be tempted into even greater indiscretions defending yourself.

As most of us have experienced in romance, the worst feeling of all is not being rejected, it's being ignored; when a person cannot even be bothered to dismiss you.

Remember this feeling and know when you succeed in not beefin' down, the idjut on the other end feels a little bit of that.

In my earlier days as a blogger, I'd often respond to people's nasty emails, then find what I had assumed to be an in-confidence correspondence posted on their blog for all the world to read.

It's a shame people don't respect the traditional conventions of communication anymore, but even more of a shame if you're the one trapped by some dope's lack of integrity.

I'm always amused by the fact my fiercest critics tend to be writers (or wannabe writers) who have a blog - no doubt because they feel they can do what I do and are frustrated I'm being paid, rather than them.

It reminds me of a quote by my current favourite big brain, Will Durant, who writes:

"We have always goodly stock in us of that which we condemn: as only similars can be profitably contrasted, so only similar people quarrel, and the bitterest wars are over the slightest variations of purpose or belief."

Hello Syria.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here