We're more popular than Jesus now.
When John Lennon uttered those controversial words, he unleashed a firestorm upon himself and the Beatles. There was a lot of negative reaction, yet the Beatles survived and even thrived in the aftermath of the controversy. Some would argue that the controversy helped propel them to a new level of popularity. There is one thing we can say. Saying it got them lots of free press and fans along the way.
Someone once said, "There is no such thing as bad publicity." The meaning of it was simple. It is better to be hated than ignored. Of course, it would be better to be loved, but you can't count on love. You have to do things to inspire people and make them feel better about themselves or the world. This is a difficult thing. It is hit or miss with mostly miss. But you can always make someone mad.
We live in a world awash in information and media and short attention spans. That is a lot of noise to cut through to reach an audience with a message. The easiest way to be heard above this noise is to be the loudest person in the room. Basically, it helps to have the biggest mouth. But that mouth must also say something to be noticed, and the best way is to be controversial. Controversy provokes anger, and this anger is met with more anger which stokes more controversy. This is not sharing information. This is battle.
The internet breeds a new creature, and this creature has a very large mouth. In various avenues of discussion and evangelization for ideas, we have angry bloggers and vloggers who present messages in the shrillest way possible. Every other word is an F-bomb. Anyone who disagrees is excoriated mercilessly. And the provocateur is paid back in increased readership and viewership as people tune in to witness the ensuing drama. It could be politics, religion, or even veganism. These apostles of anger use the same methods. This begs a question. Is this wise?
I used to be one of those provocateurs for atheism and libertarianism, so I know the drill. I am skilled at playing that game. Now, I am a Catholic and a conservative, and I can't use the tools from that toolbox anymore. It amounts to fornicating for chastity. The method undermines the message. In my case, the message is one of repentance, kindness, civility, decorum, and devotion to Jesus Christ. Now, I continue to make controversial statements, but this is not a deliberate thing. I am controversial now because the things I believe in are not politically correct. But I don't aim to be a jerk.
I write this as I watch a prominent vegan vlogger run to the endgame of this provocateur strategy. First, he merely defended himself from haters. Then, he unleashed hate on those who disagreed with him. Then, he stirred up hate when the original haters tired of his game and let him be. Then, he called for someone to be physically attacked and some teenagers to commit suicide. Then, he turned on his friends. He is now in a Fukushima level meltdown of epic proportions. I don't know where he goes from here except oblivion or jail.
Now, folks, this guy's self destruction is over food. FOOD. Who knew what you put in your mouth could be such a big deal? Somewhere, there are bigger bananas to pop in the Vitamix. If you're going to go to the mattresses, make sure it is something that really matters.
The genesis of all this anger and evil is simple desperation. This desperation becomes most acute when your livelihood is dependent upon views on YouTube. The real fear of the provocateur is that he will go back to being a nobody. He will be forgotten and ignored perhaps to turn up again in some bad reality TV show. The problem with the angry strategy is that it turns provocateurs into trainwrecks. It takes a toll on their lives and their souls.
I tuned out this particular vegan vlogger a long time ago because I noticed that he had very little to say about veganism. Instead, he talked about everything else such as his scantily clad girlfriend to his vasectomy to his aversion to ever becoming a parent and his stint in prison. He inspired a youthful imitator who can't seem to utter a word without it being sandwiched between two F-bombs. Both of them tired me out, so I tuned them out.
As much fun as it is to pick the speck from their eyes, I must work on the log in my own eye. I have eschewed the anger strategy as a blogger, but the impulse to hit back remains with me. It plagues me most acutely on Twitter when I leave comments on other tweets. But I also have that same impulse in the real world. I know two guys who are extremely chill in their response to mean remarks and deliberate provocation. I know because I used to be the one provoking them. Now, I envy them and pray to be like them. Those guys show me that it can be done.
It is harder to take the high road of gentleness, and the results are not immediate. But that high road will take you to a better destination. The low road is quick and easy, but it leads to oblivion in this life and Hell in the next. The biggest mouth comes attached to the largest ego. It is the deadly sin of pride. We must eschew pride and learn to be ignored.
I have been in the school of humility on this for some time. Once upon a time, I knew I could get some blog traffic by picking a fight with a particular group of people. I don't do this now. I try to write thoughtful posts, and I leave out the names if I can like I have done in this piece. My target is not the people but the ideas and the messages. We need to learn to speak the truth but without malice. We also need to learn to endure wrongs patiently. And it helps to just close our mouths sometimes and let the silence speak for us instead.