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How To Build A Career Out Of Being Wrong

Aug 16 Written By Anat Deracine

A Google search for Kate Clanchy brings up numerous headlines, including the BBC and the Guardian. However, a search for the writers she has threatened or attacked reveals practically nothing. While writers of colour decry the one-sided coverage of the issue in the media, the fact remains that when it comes to gaining publicity, Kate Clanchy is doing at least something right. So here’s a helpful 10-step guide to my fellow authors on building a career out of being wrong. 

1: Be wrong

If you’re trying too hard to be compassionate and empathetic to all peoples in your work, it will be considered socialist propaganda and not art. Find a way to piss someone off in a way that they will publicly call you out. Aim for people with a significant platform on Twitter. If, however, the person calling you out is a lone reviewer on Goodreads, you need to find a way to raise their profile first. Some ways to do this include reaching out to their employer, threatening them with libel, or posting a tweet to your own timeline quoting the person. The key is to be undeniably in the wrong.

2: Double down

Once you’ve been called out, double down. You’ve probably seen excellent examples of this already, from people as varied as J.K. Rowling and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Plant your flag on free speech without any troubling sense of irony over the fact that this all began because someone else exercised their free speech to oppose you. If you don’t double down quickly, the tempest in a Twitter-pot will be over within 24 hours, and you’ll lose the spotlight. Here’s how Kate Clanchy raised the profile of a Goodreads reviewer by lying about the contents of her own book. Masterful!

3: Ignore all attempts to be educated

At this point, people will jump in to educate you. In the case of Kate Clanchy, it was pointed out quite politely that the problematic words and phrases were in fact in her book, but Kate cleverly avoided replying to acknowledge this. 

In this phase, only reply to people who have a significant platform. Once you’re an expert at ignoring those who disagree with you, you may quote-tweet the few people whose attempts to educate you are full of anger and vitriol, as it will prepare you for Step 4. 

4: Perform helplessness

At this point, you must find the perfect performance of helplessness to bring allies in. Never claim actual helplessness, because nobody likes a whiner. Sarcasm and emojis are your friends here. You can say things like, “Is this really what Twitter considers moderation?  ” Don’t forget to add a crying-laughter emoji to show that you’re being strong through it all. 

5: Add a soupçon of vulnerability

Hopefully you’ve now got allies jumping in to help. It’s time to bring up just a pinch of vulnerability. Think of how much chili powder the average white person can take with their food. That’s how much emotion you need to convey, and no more. Maybe you’re going through a personal or professional crisis, and you “really don’t need this right now.” Put up a selfie of yourself holding a cat, and say something inspiring. “Finding time for the little joys in life to keep myself sane xoxo” is always good. When you post this sort of selfie, do wear a mask. Restrained emotion is more attractive than a bright red tearful face, and even when you’re pushed this far you’re not a Covidiot. 

6: Plead the misdemeanor, not the crime

As the wave of recriminations starts to crest, consider ceding ground, but only on the smallest infraction, not any larger ones. This is the equivalent to cutting a plea bargain. You can roll out your favorite non-apology language, whether it’s “I’m sorry people were upset” or “I’m sorry people felt that way,” and focus on the areas where you can admit ignorance but not fault. Also, keep the language focused on yourself, not on any people you hurt. Learn from authors like Clanchy on using language like “humbling,” “grateful,” and “self-knowledge” to seem vulnerable without actually being so, or admitting fault.  

7: Perform respectability

At all times, stick to perfect language and grammar. Being articulate is key at this stage of the process. If, at this time, you have typos in your tweets, seem too emotional, or misspell someone’s name, you immediately lose the moral high-ground, because you’ll be dismissable as low-class. When people attack you at this point, make sure to refer to their social class, how you helped them up when they had nothing, and how you can’t understand how people can be filled with such bile. Amanda Craig’s Facebook posts on this issue are a masterclass in this.

When people attack you, push back politely using the mores of social class to put the person outside the bounds of those who may have an opinion to be taken seriously. You can see Philip Pullman do this beautifully here, combining condescension with an aesthetic evaluation rather than an ethical one.

8: Find a justification for your actions

At this point, you need to think about your angle of invulnerability. This is the aspect of yourself that someone simply cannot attack without being an asshole. Kate Clanchy claimed bereavement as the justification for her actions. Like Achilles, maddened by the death of Patroclus, she dragged several authors of colour through the mud of far-right trolls, but she remains the protagonist of her story.

9: Sell your victimhood to the highest bidder 

Like a virgin in a book about Geisha written by a man, you’ll need to think about how to sell your victimhood eventually. Don’t respond immediately to indie publications who want an honest take, but wait for high-traffic publications like the Guardian or the BBC to make your case. If you keep going on and on about your predicament in every niche magazine that wants to use you to make itself relevant, you’ll tire the public. Wait to make a big splash, and make sure they have a flattering photo that still makes you look vulnerable.

10: Cast the next stone

Use your moment of fame to target something. Not someone, something. Whether it’s political correctness, censorship, Goodreads policies or Twitter algorithms, find a cause that will sustain your career. That way, the next time that issue rears its head in the press, you’re sure to be contacted for a byline.

This concludes the 10-step program on building your career out of being wrong. To follow my own instructions, here’s me casting a stone. Professor Sunny Singh, dear friend, you’re doing it wrong. Clearly, you need to follow this playbook to get the media to give you the coverage you deserve.  

Anat Deracine

Anat Deracine is the author of Driving by Starlight, The Divine Comedy of the Tech Sisterhood, and other stories. She is a member of the Authors' Club and can be found on Twitter @anat_deracine

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