Free Speech Is Most Important When Your Reputation Is Threatened


I'm afraid of dogs. 

Especially big dogs. Especially when they bark.

One time we were looking at a house to buy. There were four dogs in there. Barking like crazy. We ran out like hell, and my older one couldn't be within a mile of a dog for years after.

Five years later we went to a friend's house for barbeque. Another big damn dog. Loud as can be.

I let it jump around me and tried to look happy (straining). Frozen with terror, I forced myself to relax. I had heard that when you tense up, the dog does too.

I was freaking petrified.

(Remember Rooney, the principal in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" when he confronts the dog in the kitchen and it takes him down? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about)

Eventually I learned that dogs are not necessarily dangerous. With a few exceptions. Including when they are backed into a corner or think you are going to re-enact a previous attack.

So I was worrying about the wrong thing.

It's not how big the dog is at all.

Rather it's how cornered the dog feels. (Which is exactly why they're good household pets - not only loving to the family, but magificent at scaring off burglars.)

People are not that far from dogs.

If you corner a dog, it will spring up and lash out at you.

Similarly, if a person perceives themselves boxed into a corner and attacked, they will kick and scream and thrash to get rid of the threat.

One way to do this is with your "fists" - physical self-defense with a rock or a club or a gun.

But another way, a more relevant way for today's times, is verbally - protecting your turf by taking the enemy out with words. 

In fact, today, people both attack and defend themselves using words. By communicating.

This presents a particular problem in a social media-driven world. 

Because where the attacks might have come from a few influential sources in the past, now they can spring up from anywhere. 

And there is nobody who can evade making mistakes.

Remember "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and the way Ferris made a laughingstock of Rooney the principal? The more Rooney tensed up, the worse Ferris got him.

Similarly, a leader's natural reaction to social media is protective. Like someone raising their arms to shield from an attack. 

If you tell them to relax and not tense up, you may get resistance.

"Look how many attackers there are," you may get told. "Be realistic."

To an extent that philosophy is correct. Hackers and social media slanderers can target your work, your family, your reputation, your bank account, and even the various defenses that literally keep the country running.

But just like in the martial arts, the only way to fight a dedicated enemy is to calm the mind and then use their force to your advantage.

To put this simply: It is a waste of time to try to meet force with force in the social media realm. It is time-consuming, energy-consuming, and ultimately counterproductive. In fact, you end up looking paranoid and bad.

Instead, be like the Buddha. Smile. Acknowledge the detractors. Embrace them as people, even as you disagree with what they're saying or doing. If it comes to an actual conflict, use the legal tools at your disposal to engage in it. But don't get down in the mud.

It isn't worth it, and if you do you've let them win the battle.

Peace everyone - have a good day. And good luck!


Photo source here.