How to commit acts of consumer advocacy during a season of hate

By now, it’s obvious to everyone except maybe the presidential candidates themselves that this is the most hate-filled political campaign in the history of American political campaigns.

But this isn’t a story about politics. You’ve already let me know, in no uncertain terms, that you would prefer to stick to the advocacy on this website. I respect that, and I will.

Instead, let’s talk about the challenge of waging advocacy against a backdrop of venom, ad hominem attacks and “anything goes” playground insults this summer.

It’s not easy.

I know, because the site attracts more than its fair share of trolls and haters. For almost two decades, we have been the targets of relentless attacks by company operatives, credit card shills and contrarians who were dedicated to our total destruction. (That’s not hyperbole. Several years ago, they even organized a campaign to persuade all of my editorial outlets to fire me. Those attempts failed, obviously.)

So, how do you stay the course without getting distracted? I mean, it’s human nature to want to retaliate — to say “I’m not a jerk, you are!” And, of course, that takes you away from your mission, which is to help people. That is exactly what they want: to not advocate.

Here’s what I’ve come to understand: Critics don’t matter. Their opinions don’t matter. Even your reputation doesn’t matter.

Only one thing matters: the mission.

One of my most outspoken critics likes to use straw man arguments to try to discredit our advocacy. When someone does that, your first reflex is to rush to your own defense, even if you know the rhetorical trick being used against you sets you up for an unwinnable argument.

It wasn’t easy, but blocking the chatter was the most important lesson I learned in dealing with these internet bottom-feeders. And by “block” I mean literally use the block function on Facebook and Twitter, and even going so far as to preventing the hateful sites from linking to your blog. (Yeah, you can do that.)

That shuts them down. When no one can hear what you say, what’s the point in saying anything?

Ah, quiet.

That, in turn, creates a lot of free time — time you can use to productively advocate for people or research company contacts or even spend with your own family.

I think we are now faced with a similar decision, but on a bigger scale. It goes beyond the corrosive campaign rhetoric of late and extends to the very people we are trying to help.

Hate’s second cousin, entitlement, is a common problem on this site and in our forums. In the last several months, I’ve seen our forum moderators use the “ban” function more often, as consumers spin out of control with wild allegations and over-the-top requests, finally hurling their angry words at us, the very people trying to help them.

Hate is an interesting thing. I mean that literally.

When readers become angry, they say the most interesting things. It can be entertaining and even funny.

For years, that anger drove the narrative on this site – anger against companies, against careless consumers, and eventually, against our advocates. Other blogs have nurtured the hate so that it could be trained on a target, like a weapon. One day, it’s pointed at “liberals.” The next day, the crosshairs are on well-meaning government regulators. And the next, the hate-weapon is trained on a writer whose media outlets you covet.

But there’s something I know about hate. If you let it fester long enough, it can metastasize into something incredibly destructive. Look no further than the frequent terrorist attacks against Westerners abroad or the homegrown terror that brings death to our own backyards. That’s hate.

We can’t let that become us. So the simple answer to my question – how do we carry on when everyone around us is hating? – is that we tune out the voices that would distract us and that would lead us down the road to more hatred.

Focus harder on the thing that we’re here to do, which is to help, not hurt.

It has taken more than 20 years for me to learn this key lesson about advocacy. I’m sharing it with you now, during this summer of hatred, because I think you need to understand what we’re up against.

The angry voices that tell you that we are stupid for being on the consumer’s side are leading you to a dark place. They misappropriate other words, like “freedom” and “liberty,” to beckon you to a place filled with paranoia, fear and terror.

The path to consumer advocacy does not go there. It takes you in a different direction, one filled with love and understanding. It’s a place where you compassionately listen to a problem and then dispassionately present it to a company so that they can address the issue. It’s a course that leads you to acceptance, not uncontrolled fury.

If you’re reading the site, you’ve already taken the first step down that path. But some of you hesitate. You still think helping people is a game, and the cases we present are here for your amusement. They are not.

We are going to survive this summer and come out better than before. We are too good to fall for the vile rhetoric and to give in to the rage. At least, that is my hope.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend