Anatomy of a Furore
As the row over gender-segregated seating in certain university lectures rumbles towards its inevitable end with total victory for the press and campaigners, I thought it'd be worth taking a look at how such ferocious internet fistfights are made.
This particular case is an especially daft one, relating as it does to an administrator at some university body or other deciding it'd be a good idea to separate men and women at talks given by glowering, intolerant religious nutters, out of a misguided sense of "inclusiveness".
A wacky plan, but pretty much what you'd expect from the type of academic chuckler who manages events involving fundamentalists who like dressing up like Jedi Knights and arsing on at length about what God does and doesn't want you to do with your genitals. Since academia really is pretty infamous for this kind of right-on howler, you'd think this would be a straightforward point-and-laugh story.
Not so, for nowadays we have a pre-packed plan for dealing with such treasonous criminals. Some people pray for this kind of event and grab it with both hands whenever the chance arises, because all they want for Christmas is woo.
If you fancy a bash at this yourself, here are a few pointers on how to take some minor administrator's twatty idea and turn it into an intergalactic confrontation between secularism and The Forces Of Darkness.
Choose your opponents carefully
The most important thing to consider when selecting a target for a massive hissy-fit is that you should never, under any circumstances, have a go at anyone who wields any actual power.
This makes academia a prime target, since it's notorious for producing vast quantities of woo, especially in the humanities, and because professors and suchlike have no real power outside of their own little fiefdoms.
Other excellent opponents are human rights NGOs, allegorical feminists or even a generalised section of society, but beware - all of these people are quite capable of defending themselves, and there is a possibility that they may alert the public to any wildly overblown claims that you make.
The ideal target is one that barely exists in anything more than a symbolic sense. Recall the way that sections of the media responded to the Rochdale sex abuse rings case: by waving their arms and screeching that they wouldn't be cowed or silenced by the PC Brigade, and that they would tell the terrible truth regardless of the certainly horrendous repercussions Tha Librulz would undoubtedly wreak upon them.
In reality, nobody attempted to silence the Times or the Telegraph or the Express - there was no barrier whatsoever to any of these vast media organisations saying whatever they liked, in whatever tones they liked, whenever they liked. And yet, there was much back-patting and self-congratulation at the time for facing up to this non-existent, supposedly speech-strangling colossus.
The lesson here is that the best opponent to pick a fight with is an imaginary one. After all, real people respond to your statements, but fictitious ones never do.
If you must pick an actually-existing gorgon to slay, always ensure that it's some ludicrous fanny of gargantuan proportions; somebody that no sane human being is going to pipe up in defence of. This will assist you no end if your wails and screams amount to an uncontroversial statement of the obvious.
Of course, it always helps if your target is someone you've always despised, or if they can be said to represent people you've always hated in the first place.
Pick your issue well
The issue itself is less important than getting yourself onto the side of truth, justice and the American Way. In this sense, it's actually better if it's some minor procedural daftness or a dodgy statement to denounce, because these can easily be spanked up into an epic battle between secularism and religious totalism.
Remember, something like this seating plan malarkey isn't just an administrator talking bollocks - it's an urgent fight for liberty against apartheid, part of a vital battle against medievalist obscurantism and repression. Some academic saying something cretinous is not merely a geezer talking nonsense, but the frontline in the great intellectual battle against relativism.
Stop sniggering at the back there, this is a serious matter, damn you.
You're a noble, embattled campaigner who just happens to be a well-paid columnist
All of Europe may have been crushed under the Roman sandal, but there is one village in Gaul that still holds out, and this is you.
Remember, your actual opponent may be some ineffectual tweedy dork, but he represents a great marching legion of all-powerful monsters. You, on the other hand, are but a single voice and any victories you score are incredible feats of awesomeness.
Here's an actual comment I saw on Twitter the other day, from one of the noisier segregation wailers:
David Cameron has now come out against Uni segregation by gender. Keep pushing, folks. We may just win this.
Yes, with nothing more than your courage and determination, plus the agreement of platoons of opinion columnists and editors and the full endorsement of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, you have somehow triumphed over some daftie who had a mental idea, against all the odds. Who could've predicted such an astounding outcome?
Strike hard, with all of your power
There's no time for pussyfooting around - strike your opponent with maximum violence immediately because if you don't, he or she may back down before you've had a chance to really get on your high horse and suck some political capital out of the situation.
Plus, if you're an opinion columnist, you'll have to file about some other issue next week, so you'll have to milk this opportunity for all that it's worth while there's still time.
Remember, your new hobbyhorse can be ridden into literally anything, so if e.g. you've been told to pretend to be horrified by a celebrity divorce, for instance, you can just wedge the fucking thing in there at right angles, however incongruous it looks.
And when your triumph arrives...
Do not be modest
Once you've chased off whatever intimidating academic or threatening NGO was menacing the populace, it'd be rude not to celebrate by the internet equivalent of cartwheels and ostentatious badge-kissing. Whoops and hollers are mandatory, as are cries of In your FACE, you elitist ivory-tower administrator! and so forth.
This is your victory, so enjoy it. Well, yours and all those countless hacks and politicians, but let's not quibble.
Eyes on the prize, everyone
Remember, this is but one battle in an ongoing war against whatever it is you usually spend your time whining about. We can pause for a moment, but you must also issue reminders that whatever it is you were arsing on about has not gone away, and is merely waiting for the chance to say some other damnfool thing or invent a newer, crazier rule.
Take a breath and turn a watchful eye back to the battlefield, for some prick is guaranteed to make a loopy pronouncement sooner or later and when they do, you'll be there to batter them into submission with the twathammer of truth and the lance of getting really, really sanctimonious about things.
Stay vigilant, people.