I have some advice for those of you who find yourselves faced with haters.
Not critics, mind you. Critics are fine. Constructive criticism can be helpful, and many critics are themselves accomplished people. Haters never are.
And if you let them, they can suck away energies that you should be expending productively.
Now listen, I understand.
When someone attacks you – on a blog, on YouTube, or wherever – it’s extremely tempting to respond. But in most cases, you shouldn’t. I realize this is counterintuitive. But I insist to you that I’m right.
I myself didn’t always follow the sound advice I am giving you.
I used to have a Google alert on my name. Back around 2004 I used to respond to every attack on me on every blog, no matter how obscure.
Don’t do that. It’s a stupid waste of time. You’ll get nowhere, you’ll waste valuable time you could have spent creating, and you’ll keep yourself in a constant state of agitation.
Trust me, I know you want to take apart every last one of their stupid so-called arguments.
Here’s one problem:
Nobody cares about you, your attacker, or the dispute. So your three-hour, point-by-point response, far from making things better, will only make you look obliviously self-absorbed.
I know you don’t want to, but you have to just let it go.
I myself maintain WrongAboutWoods.com, which I quietly update from time to time, but that’s it. (I think my favorite one is: Woods contributed to Ron Pau’s “theocratic” homeschool curriculum. When I asked for evidence that any of the material could be described as theocratic, you’ll never guess — I got crickets. What a surprise. It’s almost like they were criticizing something they knew nothing about.)
Ron Paul gets attacked by moral and intellectual pygmies every day. Does he make three-hour videos responding? He ignores them. He lets his content speak for itself.
Occasionally, if he’s absolutely had to, he would say one thing and move on. But that’s it, and even that I don’t think he does anymore.
People find his content every day on their own, and start following him.
Then, if they even come across his critics at all, they’ve come to know him well enough to say: these claims are b.s.
There is a book available for sale on Amazon called Ron Paul: America’s Most Dangerous Nazi.
Now Dr. Paul could sit down and write a full-length defense of himself, explaining to this lunatic that he is obviously the exact opposite of a Nazi.
But why bother? His whole life speaks for itself. He is a good and kind man with a wonderful family and who preaches nonaggression, free markets, and peace. World’s worst Nazi!
Do you think someone who writes a book alleging that Ron Paul is a Nazi is open to reason? Do you think he will evaluate evidence impartially?
Do you think that someone who takes such a book seriously can be reached, or is worth reaching?
Remember the economic idea of opportunity cost. In the time you waste trying, how many other people you might have reached during that time never hear about our ideas?
So don’t bother.
Again, nobody cares about the latest drama in the libertarian world. People have bills to pay and mouths to feed. Karl Marx spent an embarrassing amount of time writing melodramatic responses to people of no consequence. Don’t do that.
This is a tough pill to swallow, I know.
If it helps you take it, though, here are two things to bear in mind.
As Ben Settle, one of the world’s great email marketers, put it, most of the people attacking you are self-hating, miserable losers. You don’t exactly have to hire a private detective to figure that one out.
Second, it’s very, very rare to be attacked by someone who’s more accomplished than you are. Virtually all the people attacking you will be well below you, in whatever metric you want to use: they produce less than you (usually nothing), they have less success, and often a general feeling of impotence. That feeling of impotence grows the more they attack you and the attacks don’t accomplish anything.
Anyone who has ever amounted to anything has had enemies. And here is the sentence you need to accept: if you amount to anything, you are not going to be the exception to that rule. Count on it. You will not be the exception to that rule.
Let your content speak for itself. This is a much, much better and more productive use of your time, and it also gives you much more inner peace.
Speaking of inner peace, here’s more advice, which I myself have adopted only recently. Block nasty people on social media, liberally. Anyone who tells you that that means you don’t support free speech is a fool who doesn’t know what free speech or self-ownership mean.
The kind of people who follow me have what Ben Settle calls a Mission. You should be single-mindedly devoted to your Mission. Don’t be distracted by nobodies who will hate you no matter what you do. I promise, even as someone who makes his living through words and persuasion, there is no magic combination of words you can utter that will get your haters to like or respect you.
People without a Mission have the spare time to attack you. But you do have a mission. Resist the temptation to engage with them and waste time and energy. Block them. To use a formulation of Ludwig von Mises, time is an irreversible flux. You can’t get it back. Spend it doing productive things that will help people and/or bring you happiness. Don’t do what they want. If you laugh at them or ignore them, it gets under their skin. So do that instead.
Now you’ll say to me: Woods, if I block them, they’ll consider that a victory. They’ll say, hey, look, so-and-so blocked me!
Here is my answer to that: let them have that stupid victory. Let them have it. Why should that bother you? Imagine what a loser someone would have to be to boast (as some people do in their Twitter bios) of being blocked by such-and-such person on Twitter. Meanwhile, you’ve saved yourself time and annoyance. And I promise you are living a happier life than they are. (Imagine how miserable you’d have to be to think attacking a podcaster is the best use of your time you can think of.)
If someone boasts that I blocked him, I just think: well, that’s really nice for you. I’m hopping on a plane to St. Lucia for a week, but yeah, enjoy your victory.
There are three exceptions to my general rule that you should ignore haters.
The first exception is when the attacks are high profile. For instance, if the New York Times attacks you, answer. I did that in 2005. They didn’t like one of my books, and said so on the editorial page.
And it was all stupid. It was stuff like: can you believe Woods said the Marshall Plan didn’t cause the European economic recovery after World War II? Well, yes, as a matter of fact I can believe I said that, because it happens to be true.
Now, did that hurt me? Not at all. By the next day, everyone who read their article had already forgotten my name. They have other things to do. But I had generated massive street cred among people who are still my fans to this day.
Another piece of advice: if any major media source, from the New York Times on down, wants to interview you for an article, and you decide to accept, make it contingent upon being allowed to record the interview. Then, if they twist what you say, you can release the full recording. If it were me, I would make it into a podcast episode.
In 2019, a reporter from Bloomberg/Businessweek joined economist Bob Murphy and me aboard the Contra Cruise, the annual event we held starting in 2016. As part of the story she was writing, she wanted to interview me.
Most journalists expect people to suck up to them.
And as a matter of fact we had been exceedingly pleasant to her up to that point. She was not expecting what happened next.
I sat down and said that I’d like to record our interview. She agreed.
Then I told her this (I still have the recording):
Let me tell you what’s about to happen. You’ve spent a week with us, and you’ve been treated with great courtesy and kindness. You have seen that our attendees are decent and smart people. The opening talk I gave made serious points that have to be considered. Yet none of them will be mentioned in your article. You have zero professional interest in being fair to us. It will get you nowhere in your career to do so. So go ahead and do your worst, but understand that we know what you’re about, and we’re ready for it.
She wasn’t expecting that, I can assure you.
So why would we have allowed her to join us in the first place?
Because if she did a hit piece on us, it wouldn’t have hurt us in the least. No one who would be put off by an attack like that was going to spend thousands of dollars with us anyway. In fact, I would want to repel anyone who would be turned off by a biased Bloomberg article, because they’re just not a match. Any attack from this journalist, meanwhile, would simply have given us added street cred with our own people, the people we actively are trying to appeal to, and with no downside.
As it turns out, I think I shamed her into writing a reasonable article — although she portrayed it as: Bob Murphy good, Tom Woods bad. But I’ll take it!
Similarly, the Southern Poverty Law Center – or the Soviet Poverty Lie Center, as Professor Tom DiLorenzo calls it – is the ideological enforcement arm of the regime. I would want to repel anyone clueless enough to treat it as a source worthy of a moment’s attention. Their articles would embarrass a fifth grader.
The second case when it can be acceptable to respond is if your family is involved.
Earlier this year a moderately trafficked and rather nasty blog ran a headline to the effect that I had abandoned my family.
I discovered this post while at a red light, with my kids in the car. My kids are right there in the car, and some idiot is accusing me of abandoning my family.
So that was a flat-out lie. And it was a dumb lie: all you have to do is take a quick glance at my social media feed, and you’ll see an uninterrupted series of pictures of me with my family over the years. I did not photoshop myself into those, I promise.
To those of you reading this who have been to my house – and there will surely be a bunch of you – those people you saw hanging around my house? That’s my family. I don’t hire actors to pretend to be my family. That’s really them.
And the whole thing seemed legit, complete with quotations from a distant family member, so it had to be true, right? Because nobody just makes things up or willfully distorts things just for political advantage, or because they’re nasty and envious people.
But it was all false. Every last stitch of it.
Now why would somebody do that?
Well, first, because some people – even in your own family sometimes – have an axe to grind against you. In this case, a certain wing of the Church considers me their enemy because I have been pushing Catholic social thought in a libertarian direction, for example with my book The Church and the Market. To them this is straight from the devil.
A normal person would have looked at this accusation and said: this doesn’t pass the smell test. Woods may have his faults, but nothing in his past or in his personality suggests someone who would abandon his family. Let’s proceed with caution before making such a serious allegation.
That thought never once occurred to them. Never once.
And that leads me to another point that will help you. The attacks on you are not personal.
Here’s what I mean by that.
You are whatever your haters need you to be.
Let me repeat that: you are whatever your haters need you to be.
If you are a libertarian, there are countless people who need you to be a villain. They don’t think to themselves: I’m sure that libertarian over there wants the poor to prosper but just has a different way of going about it than I do. No, they think: you want poor people to starve because that brings you perverse pleasure. You’ve heard ridiculous accusations like this. Now you know why people make them. They need you to be a villain, so in their eyes you will be a villain.
Likewise, the people in that wing of the Church need me to be a villain. For the sake of the coherence of their thoughts and their worldview, I have to be a villain. It’s no surprise that they jump on a ridiculous claim that they desperately want to be true.
The same person who tried to get that story accepted has since spread other stories about my family, nearly as lurid, since then, and this time libertarian haters, who evidently don’t know this psycho’s track record, gleefully ate it all up. Not one bit of it is true, not about me, Heather, or my children, with whom I have obviously had and continue to have excellent relationships. (It is surreal to me that I actually have to state the obvious like this, though it helps that probably thousands of people have met my children and know the smearers have been snookered — it’s not hard to snooker a group that desperately wants to believe bad things about someone.)
Now you think: surely some of it must be true. Whenever we hear someone say, “It’s all lies,” we instantly think: “Guilty.”
And of course that’s how people who are unlike you and me — would the thought ever cross your mind to try to harm a podcaster you dislike by making up stories about his family? — get away with what they do. They made up stories about Joshua Smith’s family, even trying to alienate one of his daughters from him, when he was running for chair of the Libertarian Party years ago. (He was recently elected vice chair.) Nothing is beneath these people.
It’s true that Malcolm Muggeridge managed to tell the truth about the horrors of what Stalin was doing in Ukraine in the early 1930s. But there were enough people determined to lie to get their way that the net result was that the world thought: I guess he might be doing bad things or he might not, but nobody can really know.
So in my case I just adjusted WrongAboutWoods.com accordingly, and I moved on. My children know all about the situation, and they understand that it’s a price we pay for the comfortable lives we live. If I want to, I can trot out a hundred sources to vouch for my honor. None of that would make a whit of difference. So I no longer debate or engage with people who are not of good will and whose psychological need for me to be a villain makes discussion impossible.
And neither should you. Let them shout into the wind as you board your own figurative plane to St. Lucia. There is no better revenge than that.
The third exception is if you can monetize the attacks.
Let me tell you a story about my friend Connor Boyack.
CNN recently ran a headline alleging that Connor’s excellent Tuttle Twins children’s book series amounted to “right-wing indoctrination.”
So Connor had a sale and guess what the coupon code was?
He earned a fortune from this.
And he was doubly right to respond: both because CNN is a high-profile source and because he could make money from the attack.
Let me share with you an excerpt from something one of my haters emailed me after reading that day’s issue of my newsletter. What you are about to see was sent in all-caps and in bold, just as it appears below.
WOODS; YOU ARE SO FULL OF RIGHT WING NEO CON ZIOJEW WALLSTREET [EXPLETIVE] YOUR EYES ARE BROWN.SANDERS KNOWS THIS AND IS INTERESTED IN A REAL EDUCATION.FOR FREE SUCH AS I RECEIVED IN THE 1950 S [EXPLETIVE].HE KNOWS THE SCORE , YOUR SO [EXPLETIVE] UP ON PAUL ZIOJEW [EXPLETIVE] YOU CAN T SEE IT.YOUR HERO KISSES THE ROMAN FT WALL AND WEARS YARMALKES AND SWEARS ALLEGIANCE TO THE ROTHCHILD AGENDA.YOU ARE A FRAUD WOODS AND A TRAITOR.
Now I could have responded by writing a long letter to this guy. What would it have gained me? Am I ever going to reach a person like that?
I could also have deleted it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Here’s what I did instead.
I sent it out to my entire mailing list.
I framed it this way:
Look at this lunatic, I said.
Putting my private group behind a paywall keeps crazies like this out.
And then I took the opportunity to promote my excellent private group, which got a bunch of new members and generated a lot more revenue that way.
Isn’t that better and more productive than letting someone like this get under your skin and let his dumb words eat away at you?
A few final thoughts.
There are plenty of things I’m no good at. I don’t do my own home repairs. I don’t know how anything works. I have no idea how my car works. For all I know there’s an angel under the hood who makes it go.
But I’ve tried to use the skills I do have to accomplish two things: to promote libertarian ideas to the general public, and to solve important problems libertarians face.
I’ve also tried to make libertarians’ lives easier.
For example, my Liberty Classroom, which I created ten years ago, offers dozens of courses for those of us who suffer from educational malpractice: so history, economics, philosophy and more.
I created 400 videos on history for RonPaulHomeschool.com, so future generations could more easily be educated in the history of liberty.
And then this year I launched my School of Life program, which teaches shellshocked libertarians how to start their own businesses, get their kids educated in a world that hates them, manage their money, be more effective communicators, and on and on.
Just recently, for instance, one of our members lost his job. Thanks to our job board he had a new job, same field and same pay, before the day was even over.
So I am both trying to spread the libertarian message and also solve problems that libertarians face.
This is a lot of work. Had I spent my time defending myself against every potshot that came my way, it would never have gotten done.
But it did get done.
If you happen to like and appreciate my work, and would like to stick it to the weirdos, I welcome your support as a Supporting Listener of the Tom Woods Show. Because if I didn’t monetize this post, I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.