The fanboys versus the critic

Rarely has a review of mine generated so much commentary or so many viewings; and even more rarely has so much bile been directed to it and, by extension, to me. That review I entitled ‘Unreadable nonsense‘, a critique of a pseudohistorical publication pretending to have identified not just one but two candidates for King Arthur.

It provoked a range of responses, from readers agreeing with my assessments through to commentators prepared to politely disagree, and on to fanatical supporters of the book’s authors, many of whom share a common inability to answer criticism with any degree of logic. It is the comments from this third cohort I want to discuss here because they seem to me to exemplify the irrational side of some individuals, the type who believe that being contrary indicates a valid antiestablishment position, regardless of how nonsensical the taking that position is.

Note, roughly half of the sixty-plus comments on that post are my answers, and the antagonistic comments number just a handful.

Screenshot taken 3rd May 2021

Online views of my review leapt from 207 in 2020 (when the review was first put online, in July) to 696 in 2021 by early May — they’re rapidly approaching 800 now — while the average views per day went from one last year to five this year. This rise in interest is interesting, but what it signifies one can only speculate. The fact that views of that piece outnumbered combined views of the following posts — on Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone, the benefits of isolating during a pandemic, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein — may indicate the obsessive nature of some of those adhering to this pseudohistory, typical of trolls.

I’m going to refer to these adherents as fanboys, despite the fact that I shall later be deprecating any insults. I use this term in a neutral but accurate sense: they not only all fanatically support the author’s hypotheses but they are to a man all, well, men. I also use a couple of terms to describe them that are equally accurate. Be warned, I’m going to quote these fanboys at length (you may see the comments with my replies under the original post) and I shall refer to them as Fanboy A, Fanboy B, and so on — partly because I’m not even sure if the names they use are their own or if it’s one or other of the authors using multiple names.

Here’s Fanboy A. First, he responds to a comment I made to another blogger about antivaxxers, this being a full five months after the post and initial comments. He accuses me of being against people not sharing my opinion (presumably he means he takes my views as a personal affront) and concludes by making unscientific and unsupported statements.

Calmgrove, so you are obviously against people having a different opinion than your own. Why give yourself something that you don’t already have. Vaccines are supposed to work, by giving you a mild dose of the current sickness. Why are there so many Schools for vaccine injured children. Vaccines cause autism.

He then reappears (using a different email, I should add) with scattergun statements dressed up as rhetorical questions, seemingly thinking he’s refuted my critique — he hasn’t — but in effect tilting instead at straw men. Oddly, my response elicits no further response from him but is followed up by Fanboy C (to be discussed later).

Calmgrove, so you are saying an Engineer has no right to use his skills to determine fact from fiction. Are you saying as a Welshman he could not read the Welsh language, seems strange. Are you saying this applies to all Welshmen, or just Alan. Did Alan not read the Egyptian hieroglyphs, did he make that up. I think he has stepped on your toes sometime.

Fanboy B now puts in an appearance with this rancourous diatribe and the odd emoji:

Well the fact that you are trying to push an oxford Imperialistic anti anything before the Anglo Saxons , you are just contradicting yourself with your text book history knowledge. It is in the names in Welsh towns, and landmarks taken off modern maps is why your text book history knowledge can’t get around it. Alan makes it very clear the linguistic properties, as well as recorded history that it’s quite literally set in stone. If you try to say it’s bad Latin I am pretty sure Latin would of been altered in Britain to suit the Celtic tongue. If your any way educated on the Brythonic (Celtic ) languages you know it evolves quickly and frequently and the linguistic pattern arranges naturally second spoken languages in its own way. If you don’t believe me look at Yeats’s earlier plays it shows how Hibernian English was spoken in the same linguistic pattern of the Irish language. Also you couldn’t be more wrong linking up Alan, and Barram to be far right pushing historians, they are trying to say descendants of a lot of us came from Syria and near modern day Turkey for god sake! What far right wing historian would want that to be heard?😂 You push imperialism not wokeness my friend, so stop contradicting yourself and state what your real “academic” agenda on your imaginary thesis will be…

Fanboy B demonstrates why precisely it’s pointless attempting a reasoned discussion with his ilk:

  • Assumptions. I’m accused of pushing an Oxford imperialistic [sic] point of view, with only a text book view of history, also of having no regard for placename evidence, and no understanding of how languages can evolve over time and space.
  • Inaccuracies. I don’t ever link up the two authors with ‘far right historians’. They’re far right, beyond doubt, because they stood as British National Party candidates in local elections; but they’re not historians in the academic sense, and even right-wing historians would have utter disdain for their illiterate grasp of all the requisite disciplines.
  • Insults. Whenever people resort to insults (and especially insults on someone’s personal blog) they’ve lost the argument. The sarcastic use of “my friend” for example, and the pejorative use of the term “woke” earned Fanboy B the threat of having similar ad hominem comments sent to spam; and that in fact turned out to be the case.

On to Fanboy C, in response to Fanboy A.

congratulations Dave Owen u r the first on this page to say something intelligent

I’m not sure if I have anything to add to this. Fanboy D came next. I admit it, I’m sceptical that Modern Welsh can decipher ancient hieroglyphs, so therefore I have no braincells, I’m brain dead, and I’m a scoffing preducial [sic] moron.

Wilson and Blackett have proved that you can use the Welsh language to decipher the hieroglyphs.
If you have 1 Braincell you should know that you can’t “fake” the cypher, so if you can’t follow and see that it works you are just proving that you are utterly brain-dead. Just a scoffing preducial moron.

Let me introduce you to Fanboy E with what could be his totally devastating putdown of my careful review.

“The lady (calmgrove) doth protest too much, methinks”

And finally, here’s Fanboy F, who then provides, as ‘evidence’, an academic presentation of recent research into ethnic movements around the Old and New Worlds over time. Forgive me if I missed the reference about the Tribe of Dan being the Scythians, whose migration to Britain confirmed the medieval Brutus legend. At least it’s acknowledged that the two pseudohistorians were a bit wobbly around the edges — though I’d emend that to very wobbly, and throughout.

You do know that new DNA evidence is proving their thesis that it was the tribe of Dan that were the Scythians who eventually moved through europe and got to Britain, as the Brutus story explains? So what if they’re a bit wobbly around the edges…

I’m sorry to resort to imposing these illiterate passages on you all; my main purpose has been to share certain observations regarding this sordid experience, what in fact led me to characterise it as ‘unreadable’ and ‘nonsense’.

  1. Fanboys never directly answer specific criticisms; instead they offer rhetorical questions which, if you counter, they ignore; they introduce spurious new assertions designed to direct one off the main argument; and they offer no proper references to independent academic research, apparently on the grounds that such work is part of a widespread Oxford imperialistic conspiracy to hide the truth.
  2. The language of fanboys often displays two facets. The first is of persistent illiteracy in terms of grammar, punctuation, phraseology and sometimes spelling; an inability to express yourself frequently leads to an inability to offer a cogent argument. Secondly, with little warning, they’re liable to skip a few gears and go straight to top insult gear.

All the foregoing characteristics was what led me to call off a correspondence with the authors four decades ago. It’s a bit dispiriting to find that, all this time later, their supporters feel no need to pursue a civil line to win arguments and influence people.

42 thoughts on “The fanboys versus the critic

  1. Ugh, that was… Interesting, but only for me as a reader, not a recipient of all that ill will and flood of ungrammatical English. Looks like a proper witch hunt, with the fanboys knowing each other and spurring each other on! Though on the bright side, it means there are only few of them 😉

    Sorry you had to weather through all this, Chris!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh, I found it interesting too, Ola, having seen a lot of this behaviour on social media when following political matters, along with the same ad hominem bullying, the same whataboutery, the same inability to address criticisms in anything but a scattergun and evasive way.

      What is also interesting is that there has been a concerted but ineffective effort to browbeat me — it may work on Twitter where the only recourse is to block and report, but here all I need do is send it all to spam and let the fanboys choke on their own bile.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That seems like the wisest course of action, Chris!

        Though honestly, I’m astounded at how they even want to expend all that energy for something so negative and (self)destructive…

        Liked by 2 people

        1. It is, I think, a good example of how if one invests so much in something — however nonsensical — as being the best thing since sliced bread then it becomes next to impossible to extricate oneself once the light dawns (if ever) without losing face. That takes real courage, and is something fanboys of any description are generally unable to stomach.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m going to prove my own prejudicial moron status by asserting, without evidence, that the Fanboys and the authors share identical genetic sequences. One of the reasons I enjoy Twitter is the power of the Mute button and I do occasionally wish there was a similar feature on WP, although I’ve been fortunate not to get too many trolls on my blog. They do turn up with alarming frequency on Goodreads though, where again I feel their writing style often mirrors that of the authors I’ve panned… 😉

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m inclined to agree, at least in a few cases. That there are real live fanboys is beyond doubt as I’ve read interviews with one or two of them in some South Walian papers in the past — but I also have a handwritten scrawl to one of my letters in 1982 or 1983 which pretends to be by a third party but which is almost certainly by one or both of the authors: the grammar and patronising phraseology is near enough identical, just as you’ve found to your irritation on Goodreads. The mask doesn’t need to slip because it’s patently transparent.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Well, that was an amusing read. I agree it is dispiriting but also highlights the importance of people having the skills and being able to express themselves. That can only come from unbiased education.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I veer between mild irritation and pity reading their sorts of comments—irritation at their inability to communicate intelligently or respectfully, pity at a mindset that is so lacking in human decency and self-awareness. I can’t say I’m a lot better but at least I try my best to be respectful and aware of my own inadequacies.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. So sorry you’ve been attacked by trolls. On the one hand it’s sort of a sign that you’ve made it on the internet, your profile has gotten high enough for them to notice you … but it’s a nasty side effect of success. There’s no use in trying to comprehend the mentality, it’s just not penetrable by logic or common sense. I hope you can evade them in future.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t mind the trolling on the blog, Lory — easy enough to deal with, especially when it’s mildly amusing — and it’s more than compensated by conversations with intelligent, informed and witty dialogues with bloggers like your good self who’ve made up 99% of the interactions here. It’s only when there are aberrations like these, which you characterise so well, that I’m reminded how lucky I am in the usual run of things and why I continue with blogging. So thank you!

      Liked by 3 people

  5. piotrek

    Oh, wow, that’s a lot of hate… quite sad, really, and an illustration of the same mechanisms that are destroying modern politics. People that used to be on the margin – and, in most cases, rightly so – can find likely minded fanatics on the internet to harass serious researchers like you, Chris. As you show, it’s not new, but it’s certainly easier for them to coordinate.

    It’s amusing to a point, we have similar people here in Poland, and analogous conspiracy theories… important thing is no to take take it personally, but rather point out why they are wrong, for the benefit of the wider audience – they are lost causes themselves.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. On my personal blog I can of course moderate comments as well as respond to them, which means that I have the advantage of pointing out falsehoods and nonsequiturs while denying them the pleasure of responding with personal slurs. So I don’t take it personally — they don’t know me of course — but I can as you say correct their wilder statements for the benefit of that wider audience.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ugh. That made for painful reading — sorry to see you‘re experiencing this. You seem to be taking it with a commendable amount of equanimity! Ultimately, fanaticism (particularly when combined with sheer moronics) will always be the best agent of its own destruction, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous and supremely nasty while it exists; and it‘s a sad sign of the times that „don‘t feed the troll“ is no longer the only response necessary to deal with the occasional idiot showing their face (because it‘s no longer just the occasional idiot to begin with).

    I haven‘t looked at the original discussion, but I have no doubt that you‘ve proved your ability to counter nonsense by rational argument way beyond anybody‘s reasonable doubt. Maybe it‘s time to close the discussion on that post by way of administrative means to cool them off? (Or even on your blog as such — I have no doubt that your legitimate followers will understand, especially if you preface it by way of a short announcement.)


    1. Thanks for your reassuring words and advice, Ulrike, I appreciate them (and of course those from other genuine bloggers). To be honest I find such trolling here rather amusing if predictable, and giving logical and sometimes sharp answers (to which there is never any real engagement) is at least a chance for me to sharpen my counter arguments.

      In any case the replies have rather trailed off after I sent without approval a particularly virulent reply to where it belonged, the spam folder. In Margaret Thatcher’s memorable phrase, I denied them the oxygen of publicity — on that post, anyway — but unlike the late harridan’s unsuccessful policy my ploy seems to have done the trick for now.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I could’ve just deleted their comments, Jeanne, but I thought it would be apt to give them enough rope to hang themselves, or at least let them be hoist by their own petard, or [insert suitable metaphor here]!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Good grief! What a bunch of idiots! I’ve just gone back and read your original post and it seems eminently sensible to me. Unfortunately, the Internet does provide space for innumerable conspiracy theorists to promote their crazy theories… Thank goodness for spam filters!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t know about you, Karen, but I do check my spam folder every now and then as genuine replies sometimes get diverted there, but Akismet sadly doesn’t seem to recognise conspiracy theorists and similar idiots, only those involved with porn sites and fake branded footware. But we can’t have everything, I suppose! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL! I check mine too and it’s mostly people thinking I possess an item of male anatomy that requires their attention…. There is the *occasional* genuine reply, which is why I check it. At least you can mark particular commenters as spam and get rid of them, which is something!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I wonder how many bloggers not of the masculine persuasion manage blogs; certainly the majority of literary bloggers I interact with aren’t from Mars, either mentally, physically, spiritually, temperamentally or quintessentially, despite what these one-track-minded spammers seem to think (though my guess is that they possibly are…).

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Trolls live in such a nasty, negative world that they’ve created – I almost feel sorry for them except that they are so indiscriminate about throwing their dirt around. I’ve never been able to decide if they’re trying to convince themselves to stay on the ‘true path’ or if they seriously think they’re convincing any one else with their delusions.

    You’ve handled the situation with commendable patience and humor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you characterise them very well, Julé. Trolling exhibits a complex of almost pathological behaviours, it seems to me, a mix of stalking and bullying from individuals without a shred of empathy and, too often, lacking a sense of perspective. Possibly patience and humour are the only way to cope with them as they appear unsusceptible to either logic or being persuaded away from their delusions.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s astonishing that people get so wound up about things which ultimately don’t matter all that much. I just think they lead very sad lives where they clearly have nothing else to occupy their brains (assuming they have any of course).

    Social media is a wonderful development that enables us to connect with people all around the world. Unfortunately it is so easy to use that it gets abused by people who would never dare make the kinds of comments in real life that they rattle off on Twitter/FB/etc etc

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a weird mentality, evident in the comments I discuss here, consisting of a conviction that the commentators have access to a vital truth which — on examination — turns out to be somewhat banal: that a parochial King Arthur was somehow a historical nexus, combining divine descent, great military success and goodness knows what else (who cares? I don’t) in an illustrious career which English imperialists have tried their best to diminish or destroy.

      They all live in a virtual Da Vinci Code world which the rest of us primitive lifeforms refuse to acknowledge as real. Whyever does it matter that they convince us if we’re so perverse?


  10. This sort of thing makes me so sad. I am glad you are able to see the funny side, but I’m sorry that you’ve been trolled like this. Your posts are some of the most considered and beautifully written that I read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m blushing but thank you, I do aim to be considered and to write as beautifully as I can. And as for trolls, it says something about their lack of soul that they don’t recognise let alone appreciate considered prose when they see it.

      Liked by 1 person

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