Column: A Case Study in How to Lose a Fight Online
In Scottsdale, Ariz., there is a restaurant so far gone that even Gordon Ramsay’s shouting cannot save it. In fact, the owners of Amy’s Baking Company so terrified the man behind Kitchen Nightmares that he decided to quit working with them rather than endure them any longer.
If you haven’t visited the nooks of the Internet where discussion of this has been bouncing around, you are missing out. It’s brilliant and unhinged in the way of all things that go viral. The owners were shown taking waiters’ tips, berating customers, insisting that patrons do not know what kind of food they want, firing waitstaff, shouting at Ramsay and generally refusing to accept any criticism.
Then, as if to counter viewers’ suspicions that this insanity was staged, the Facebook page of Amy’s Baking Company lit up with insults as, it appeared, co-owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo inveighed against the Web sites where “online bullies” had given them negative reviews. Most posts are unprintable, but some highlights include: “I AM NOT STUPID ALL OF YOU ARE. YOU JUST DO NOT KNOW GOOD FOOD. IT IS NOT UNCOMMON TO RESELL THINGS WALMART DOES NOT MAKE THEIR ELECTRONICS OR TOYS SO LAY OFF!!!!”
As a general rule, if you are the one typing in all caps, insisting that everyone else is wrong, they are not wrong.
The page featured several posts along those lines and then suddenly announced: “Obviously our Facebook, YELP, Twitter and Website have been hacked. We are working with the local authorities as well as the FBI computer crimes unit to ensure this does not happen again. We did not post those horrible things. Thank You Amy&Samy.”
Hmm. This “hacker” has an awful lot of spare time and an uncanny ear for dialogue.
The Amy and Samy story is essentially a master class in How to Lose an Argument on the Internet. The basic steps, for anyone curious:
∎ TYPE IN ALL CAPS.
∎ Explain that God is on your side.
∎ Call the other person a rude four-letter, three-letter, five-letter, 10-letter or 12-letter name.
∎ Explain that you are right because the other person is an idiot, while misspelling something.
∎ Use erratic punctuation or grammar while calling the other person stupid — also while typing in all caps.
∎ Describe your cats as “little boys in cat bodies” or “little people in cat suits” or “children, but actually cats, but really children” or “non-human children.”
∎ Refuse to stop arguing.
∎ When the backlash starts, insist that you were hacked.
Amy and Samy — or someone posing as them — managed to do all of these things, sometimes in a single post. They did everything short of comparing someone to Hitler. To call this kicking the hornet’s nest would be an understatement.
Folks, it’s not the Internet. It’s you.
Alexandra Petri writes for The Washington Post.