How to Destroy your Enemies.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Nov 16, 2012
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An Obama poster from 2008. The quote’s Lincoln’s. ~ ed.

Constructive Criticism and Responsible Dissent is a Sacred Service worthy of Respect & Compassion.

Criticism is a sacred duty. In parenting, a relationship or friendship, it’s fundamental to honest communication, fun, free-flowing love and passion.

But trolling is a disservice to criticism. When I insult, I objectify the other and turn them into something they are not. We see this with Fox, and conservatives generally, and their picture of Obama as a socialist Kenyan etc etc. We saw this with liberals and Dubya, and Reagan. I see this with Yogadork, and Babarazzi. Both are fun, and their criticism is necessary, and I respect and want to like them both, and I’ve hosted them both on this site. But, like Gawker—another blog with a charming, funny, strong, occasionally cruel (but, to their credit, never anonymous) voice—they sometimes enjoy their barbs too much. We should never enjoy poking others, tearing them down.

On the other hand, there are too many “news” sites that leave behind journalism for the safe and happy-happy shores of Positivity and Death-fearing Health. Top 10 Tips to Please your Boyfriend! They never wade into the slippery waters of community issues. Sites like Daily Love, Positively Positive, MindBodyGreen, Intent are all good, and strong, and healthy, and helpful—but many of them play it too safe, too often. They, like the snarky sites above, can raise their vision and purpose and service by embracing, in an directly positive or constructive way, the good and the bad of society.

Here on elephant, we seek to do both, and we mess up frequently. You know, like a relationship.

But we’re open about it, when we do, and that’s why our relationship with our public, long-term, might bear real fruit.

We don’t do controversy ’cause we’re cool, we do it to uplift gossip into uplifted conversation—which is missing everywhere, including in my Buddhist community. It’s part of our mission.

We don’t do Top 10 Lists and health and love articles because we’re playing it safe, but because it’s possible to be fun and easy to read, and helpful and relevant to folks’ daily lives, without treating them like children.

When we criticize, therefore, we walk a middle path: a Middle Way—between mean-ness and sycophancy. When, as with the Michael Roach, or John Friend controversies, we break news, we try and do so responsibly, thinking about mission (to be of benefit) first, and traffic (which we love—it’s connection with our readers) second, and money (which pays our team of editors) third. Sometimes, we don’t report controversies at all—because we see no upside, no potential constructive conversation that may come out of our work and play. And we know we’ve succeeded when both John and his few remaining fans and his many ex-students and haters feel we’ve been too mean, on the one hand, or nice, on the other. That’s the middle way.

Long-term, that means we won’t fall into the nip-slip scandals and degraded bullshit that has taken over much of Huffington Post. Long-term, that means we’re here to stay. Because if we don’t love what we do, even when it’s hard, we will, like the rest, give up when we’re tired, or sell out when it’s convenient.

All that said, what we do is far from proper journalism. None of the above is said with pride. Pride is reserved for those organizations that, buoyed by sponsors and reader subscriptions, pay their writers, and pay editors and publish quality, consistently. We’re getting close to that: we now have a team of five, and while I see the occasional embarrassing article, our volume is such that we’re rapidly becoming sometime like a child of the new media innovative, crowd-sourcing Huffington Post (which publishes 500 new articles a day) and the real-journalism, old-and-new-media New York Times, which is, you know, both an old school powerhouse and a new media pioneer.

On a personal level, let’s remember to practice criticizing those we dislike and those we feel indifferent to with the same precision and reluctance as those we love. And let’s practice criticizing those we’re close to with the same forthrightness and clarity with which we assail those we don’t know.

It’s a practice, like yoga, or meditation, or shooting free throws, or archery, or horsewomanship or calligraphy, that gets better with repeated effort.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


9 Responses to “How to Destroy your Enemies.”

  1. It's occurred to me lately that I have friends in the face-to-face world who have views I disagree with even more than some of the people I've gotten into nasty tussles with on-line, but I don't want to fight with them, at all. The reason is that I see them as actual, flesh and blood people who are simply trying to get through life like I am, whereas I tend to imagine people on-line as simply embodiments of whatever I happen to disagree with. The internet simply makes it easier to dehumanize.

  2. My favorite line: "On a personal level, let’s remember to practice criticizing those we dislike and those we feel indifferent to with the same precision and reluctance as those we love."

    Reading this post made me love elephant even more. It's an honor to work with you, Waylon. You're an inspiration.

  3. Thanks for this, Way. This is why I'm here.

  4. elephantjournal says:

    Exactly. I've been bitching about a friend who's fallen into the soup of positivity for a year or so…then I talked to her and was very nice-nice. Showed me my own tendency to do trollery from afar, and nicey-nice up close. Neither is genuine.

  5. elephantjournal says:

    Aw. Thanks, you. It's been amazing having a low-drama, high-communication, caring, inspired team to work with. What you and Kate and Brianna and Bryonie and Lindsey and Bob and others do and have done with elephant is real service, hopefully.

  6. laydowninthetallgrass says:

    I second (and third) that. Thank you, thank you. ~ Bryonie

  7. Kablers says:

    Practicing Metta is a a lot of work, daily. I commend you all at Elephant for keeping this all important value to heart while intelligently informing the public on matters that matter. It takes courage, passion, balance and lots & lots of love to do what you do. Keep on doing the voo doo that you do so well. We are here listening and loving it!! Mahalo

  8. Lynn Park says:


    Criticizing friends and loved ones directly is about the scariest thing in the world for me. Actually I think we're looking for another word; this one implies such a split, with criticizer on one side and criticizee on the other. I remember the times when all I've taken away from criticism has been hurt and think that I'd rather keep silent rather than add more pain. But sometimes grace descends and I'm able to enter into an area of difficulty with someone. Then there may be pain but not inflicted hurt.

    I am so grateful for elephant. Seeing what you send each day is like welcoming my favorite cousin into my kitchen for a good visit.

  9. elephantjournal says:

    I think caring enough to get in there with our friends is love. We can do so without making them an enemy, but sharing our own faults and empathy, breathing deep and jumping in. Openness makes for longterm relationships.

    And: aw. That's awful sweet of you–that means a lot.