Come over here and say that

Everyone’s talking about it. No, not that. Chris Anderson’s recent pre-emptive nuclear strike against the flacks on behalf of the hacks.

Now comes the fallout. Two PR companies are argufying after one bragged that it didn’t appear in the list, triggering the other to have a bit of a dicky-fit and retort that it was going to offer bounties to its staff to steal its business. And in case anyone was in any doubt, the email concluded:

Great move moron… this is war!

Yikes!

Notice I said ’email’ there. I think this is the real the problem. Over the years as a regular forum participant I’ve noticed how most ‘flames’ emerge: there’s a forthright, often ill-conceived comment on a post; the reply copies that post and addresses its points individually but wilfully misconstrues them to prove its own argument; and so on ad infinitum ad nauseam.

I have to confess that my first forum forays were a bit like that. I used actually to feel my heckles rise when someone had a pop. But I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now, as Bob Dylan squawked. At least I learned.

I learned that words have power, often too much when wielded carelessly. This is because it’s easy to be vague and difficult to be precise, particularly when using the keyhole surgery required to get a sense of emotion into copy. It’s also because you’re not physically present while your words are. In this respect it’s like road rage, in that people feel protected because they’re not actually confronting each other.

What’s shocking is that these PR companies clearly haven’t learned. They’re flinging emails at each other like mud, and they’re going to regret it. One thing I guarantee: put the correspondents in the same room and there will be much shuffling of feet and averted gazes, then they’ll probably shake hands and have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit together. But the damage will still be done.

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