Witch-hunts are becoming increasingly common. A list of over a hundred names purged from their jobs for unpopular beliefs or controversial statements can be found here. American political warfare has reached the same state as actual warfare, where the line between combatant and civilian is blurred. Americans used to put aside their political beliefs to work together, and now they actively use their beliefs to purge each other from the public sphere through modern Inquisitions.
This is guide for surviving modern witch-hunts. If you or someone you know is the target of a witch-hunt, or in a position where you could be targeted for a witch-hunt, please forward them this article.
Just as traditional witch-hunts were not always about purging actual witches, modern witch-hunts often target innocent men for political reasons. You do not have to actually be a witch to be targeted by a witch-hunt. The best cure is prevention—don’t wait till you’re a target to develop a strategy.
Develop an anti-fragile persona. Anti-fragility is a term coined by author Nassim Taleb, to describe any system that gets stronger under stress. A wine glass is fragile and shatters under stress, but your muscles are anti-fragile because they get stronger when you use them. A public figure like Ann Coulter can get away with making statements that would get another person fired from their job because she has an anti-fragile persona. When people write about her, it gives her publicity and drives her book sales up. As Hunter S. Thompson put it, “if you’re going to be crazy, you’d better get paid for it.”
Be self-employed. If no one hired you, no one can fire you. Artists who own their own intellectual property and entrepreneurs who own their own business find themselves in an anti-fragile position. Had Orson Scott Card been a hired-gun on the film adaptation of Ender’s Game rather than creator of the underlying intellectual property, he would have certainly been purged for his views on gay marriage, the way he was purged from the Superman project he was writing. Because he owned Ender’s Game books, his film collaborators could only distance themselves, but not fire him.
Find your tribe. Most people who survive a witch-hunt do so because they have a loyal fanbase or tribe they’ve aligned themselves with. You do not have to have an inherently political business to align yourself with a tribe. While it might not seem like a family business making duck calls lends itself to conservative Christianity, the reason the patriarch of Duck Dynasty kept his job was because he aligned himself with a very large, loyal, and vocal Christian fanbase.
Being self-employed with an anti-fragile persona, and strong tribe will actually set you up to benefit from and monetize witch-hunts. Yes, modern political discourse incentivizes divisive behavior and extreme views. If you think that’s bad, wait till you see what the dating market incentivizes.
Expect The Inquisition
Realize it’s happening. The biggest mistake the targets of a witch-hunt make is not realizing a witch-hunt is happening. They are good-natured people and assume their opponents are too. They believe there’s just been an honest mistake and if they can explain their position clearly it will clear the whole thing up. Wrong. As Science-fiction author Vox Day writes about his own purging from the Science Fiction Writers Association:
Most people have the causality backwards. They think the purge is taking place due to whatever it is that they did or said. That’s not the case. It is taking place because of who you are and what you represent to them. The truth is that the faction behind your prospective purge already wanted you out and they are simply using the nominal reason given as an excuse to get rid of you.
Never apologize. They don’t want an apology, they want your job. Apologies are blood in the water. If you apologize, you’re telling them you can be shamed and their tactics are working. There is not a single incident of someone giving a public apology and their apology ending a witch-hunt against them. Remember, it’s not about what you did, it’s about who they are. Hold your frame, agree and amplify, reframe, but never apologize for who you are or what you believe. They may not like you, but they will respect you.
Expose your opponents. Write down and publish everything your opponents do. When Adriana Richards purged a python-programmer for a private a joke at a tech conference about the word “dongle,” she was counter-purged from her own job.
Purges are rarely carried within the rules. Vox Day’s opponents bent SFWA rules, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich’s political contributions to stop gay marriage were private at the time he made them, and Donald Sterling’s statements about race were illegally recorded. If your opponents try to do something in the dark, drag it into the light.
Remain in the truth. If you’re under scrutiny, don’t give your opponents a real scandal they could nail you for. Don’t lie. Never do anything illegal. Stay blameless. Make sure anything you say about your opponents is entirely factual and clearly documented. Also, if you haven’t found a tribe, as mentioned above, do so immediately, because none of this documentation will matter unless there is someone willing to read it.
Go On The Offensive
Counter-purge. Once a mob has been assembled, they will have blood. Make sure it’s not yours by giving them a new target. Call your opponents out by name. Return of Kings and similar bloggers have managed to survive several witch-hunts by writing SEO-friendly articles documenting opponents actions using their full name. You can read a breakdown of this strategy here and here. Calling-out your enemies also prevents future attacks and ensures no one without an anti-fragile persona will even consider attacking you.
Make firing you difficult. When the film studio Paramount was considering firing Francis Ford Coppola from The Godfather because they didn’t like Marlon Brando’s iconic performance (they couldn’t understand what Brando was saying), Coppola made a list of everyone who could replace him as director – assistant directors, associate producers, etc. – and fired all of them. The studio had no idea what to do, since firing Coppola now meant shutting down the film. A week later Coppola was nominated for an Oscar for writing Patton, and the studio backed off. If you aren’t an owner, make yourself irreplaceable.
Find the real enemy. The controversial statements made by NBA owner Donald Sterling were illegally recorded by a woman with ties to Magic Johnson. Johnson and his partners have been trying to buy the LA Clippers. Purging the current owner would certainly be convenient for Johnson.
Most purges are not initiated for their stated reasons. Accusations of thought crime are often a cover for political control. There are even rumors that Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was actually purged for refusing to to build NSA surveillance into his browser. It’s easier to fight your enemies when you know who’s pulling the strings.
Remember that no one can harm you without your consent. The mob can only control you if you need something from them—money, validation, acceptance, etc. If you can find other ways of fulfilling your needs, you can live life on your own terms. Think of this as an opportunity to expand your abundance. Own your own business, create your own art, and align yourself with people who accept who you are. If someone comes after you, shine the light of the truth on them, because even if you lose the world, you gain your own soul.
Read More: Donald Sterling’s True Mistake