Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On grabbing the third rail

This piece by Stephen Walt has been getting a lot of play on the web recently, and I can see why - it's a pretty good guide to surviving the smears that inevitably result when one states unpopular or controversial truths. Of course at the Hub Review, I don't so much grab the third rail of controversy as never let it go. And one thing I've learned is that time proving you right is in the end, little comfort emotionally - because it only makes your enemies more pissed off than ever. But you can find some comfort in the experiences of those who've made the same essentially-romantic gestures that you have, and the following bits of wisdom from Walt really resonated with me:

The more compelling your arguments are, the nastier the attacks will be;

Don't be surprised or disappointed when people tell you privately that that they agree with you and admire what you are doing, but never say so publicly;

And most of all:

When someone challenges a taboo or takes on some well-entrenched conventional wisdom, his or her opponents invariably have the upper hand at first. They will seek to silence or discredit you as quickly as they can, so that your perspective, which they obviously won't like, does not gain any traction with the public. But this means that as long as you remain part of the debate, you're winning.

So here's to winning anyway.