I’m oddly attached to insults people throw at me. Not the ordinary garbage, like the steady stream of boring hate I get in my twitter mentions or someone yelling from a moving car, but specific insults. Carefully crafted ones, selected with care. The specificity of them.
One sweet plum of an insult came from Margaret Wente when, in the wake of my writing a piece about her for Torontoist’s annual Heroes and Villains feature in the wake of her plagiarism scandal, called me a “Marxist dilettante.” When I started the column Girls Don’t Like Metal, one of my favourite insult-threads of all time sprung up which game rise to the nickname Groce Count (someone tried to call me a “gross cunt” but misspelled both words). Much more recently, I’ve been called a “little feminist,” a “harpy,” and a whole bunch of exquisite barbs that I am for sure forgetting right now but that I gleefully tweeted about at the time (feel free to remind me of any I’ve misplaced).
My favourite type, however, are things that are thrown like they’re meant to hurt but are actually profound compliments, only delivered in a snarling voice. Unquestionably the nicest cruelly-delivered thing anyone has ever said to me is, “you’re the bright, warm centre that everyone clings to.” There is no tone, no matter how mean, that could dull how lovely that string of words sound hung together. I think about them often.
And, that phrase has made me think a lot about compliments masquerading as insults all over again. Especially with #gamergate (and to a sad, much lesser extent #metalgate ) still somehow horribly happening. It’s endlessly hilarious that a person who happily refers to themselves a troll (and means it in the Unseelie, Shadow Court way) would lob a term like Social Justice Warrior or White Knight as an insult and think it was going to sting. When a literal Nazi bestowed the title of High Inquisitor SJW in the Court of Star Chamber on me I was so thrilled that this happened:
I never thought I’d be so lucky to have my enemies think so well of me.
I haven’t had been insulted nearly as often as you seem to have been, but I think I will always hold dear the time some twit compared me to none other than Seymour Hersh because I criticized a novel serialized in Analog that he especially liked.
Here, indirectly, via Twitter’s algorithm. And writing, in part, to let you know I’ll be acting on that algorithm and following you due to this column.
My favourite insult was when a guy in high school looked at me with sincere disdain and said, “You remind me of Murphy Brown.”