The Truth About Critique, Criticism, and Cancellation
As consumers are becoming more discerning about who they work with, they are starting to ask more questions and push back on some of the bs online shenanigans that we’ve talked so much about on Duped. Unfortunately, this critique is not well received by the perpetrators of the online bs. This is why in this episode, we’re talking about critique, criticism and cancellation.
Let us explain what to look for and how it can be a big old red flag when you’re thinking about your next business investment.
The good news: More and more people are talking about the dark side of online business. There’s more conversation around business practices and marketing that has, up until recently, gone relatively unexamined.
The bad news: There are a lot of people who are not handling the critique well or wonder why people are even talking about it.
Some business owners take this critique personally and feel like it’s criticism. What’s the difference between critique and criticism? We will dive into that in a moment, but before we do, we wanted to remind you that…
Duped now has a Patreon. There seems to be a lot going on with the dark side of online business. So we wanted a community where we could share bonus content that delivers just-in-time episodes of the scammy goings-on, deep dives into specific tactics we are seeing, and much more.
If you’d like to support this podcast and have a community to talk about what’s happening in the online space join us for $7 a month. You can click here to join now.
Critique vs. Criticism
What’s the difference between critique vs. criticism?
According to the book: Writing Alone; Writing Together, criticism finds faults typically with a negative, sarcastic tone. It’s generally aimed at a specific person.
Whereas critique looks at the structure and the system. Critique analyzes and evaluates the good and the bad. Duped has always been a podcast dedicated to critiquing.
We want you as a consumer to spot these tactics, practices, grifts, and scams so you can make the best purchasing decision for your business.
It’s for this reason that we won’t name names on the show. Maggie recently wrote a barn burner of an email on why she doesn’t name names that you can read right here.
Critiques can make people uncomfortable because they have to analyze how they’ve been doing business and their complicity in the status quo – which means sometimes people rely on bad faith arguments to respond to the critique.
Bad Faith Arguments
- I’m just asking questions.
- Not all coaches. Not all business owners.
- You’re not having enough orgasms if you’re critiquing business.
These are all examples of bad faith arguments that have been made in response to the critique of online business.
The Cato Institute defines bad faith arguments as “one in which one or both of the parties has a hidden, unrevealed agenda—often to dominate or coerce the other individual into compliance or acquiescence of some sort.”
Aaron Huertas, a political consultant, says bad faith arguments “simply come from a place of not wanting to confront the actual arguments someone else is making.”
Instead of responding directly to the argument, this response turns it into an all-or-nothing argument. Basically, they are saying – your argument isn’t valid because it’s NOT ALL coaches. While you never said, “it’s all of anything.”
Unfortunately, bad faith arguments abound online; but fortunately, being able to spot them is a great way to vet business owners before you invest.
Vetting: How Online Business Owners Respond to Critique/Criticism
How people respond to critique or when people ask good-faith questions really tells you a lot about the brand, their values, and what they stand for.
There are three ways we see online business owners respond to this pushback that are major red flags to us, and if you see them – it’s time to slow down and proceed with caution.
The Block and Bless Mentality
ETA – After the original episode aired, Louiza Doran provided some much-needed context around the term “Block and Bless” in a comment on Maggie’s Instagram. The term block and bless was originated by comedian Amanda Seales as a way for marginalized individuals to prioritize their well-being and safety in online spaces. It’s since been co-opted by the greater community. We’re leaving this as is for a learning moment, and it’s a prime example of how this practice is being misused.
We want to be clear that there’s nothing wrong with blocking and blessing someone when that person is being a big old jerk to you, and it’s clear they are just there to stir up shit.
You should have your own policy about when to block and bless. This policy can become a red flag when any question or a bit of pushback gets the person blocked.
Recently, we saw a coach call other life coaches “front-line mental health workers.” This controversial message got pushback from front-line mental health workers like therapists and social workers.
Instead of addressing the concern head-on, the coach blocked these people, deleted their comments, and didn’t respond.
Now, it’s sometimes going to be hard to know if this is going on, but if you’re following people who are talking about getting blocked by certain people, this is a big old red flag.
If they can’t handle tough questions on social media, how will they answer tough questions in a program? They can’t block and bless once you pay them (although they can kick you out, I’ve heard of that happening more than once). But they are not going to handle your questions or critique well.
According to Wikipedia, whataboutism is when a critical question or argument is not answered or discussed but retorted with a critical counter-question, which expresses a counter-accusation.
This is another way to deflect critique or ignore tough questions about a message that’s put out there by throwing out a red herring.
We see this all the time in political discussions. We recently saw a thread about the war in Ukraine, and someone posted underneath, “what about the baby formula shortage? Shouldn’t we be focused on that and spending money on that?”
This drives us batshit because the two topics have nothing to do with each other and should be debated separately.
The “not all coaches” deflection is a form of whataboutism. What about all the other coaches doing it right? Good for them, but that’s not what we are talking about.
If you see a business owner responding to a comment with a “what about” question, this should tickle your spidey senses.
Is it cancel culture?
Now, we are NOT experts on cancel culture. But what we’ve observed is that when people get pushback they talk about being canceled.
Michael Hobbes, host of the podcasts If Books Could Kill and Maintenance Phase, in his video “Is Cancel Culture Really a Threat to America” says the best definition of Cancel Culture he has found has come from Fox News:
“When individuals or groups are removed from platforms or lose their livelihoods because their opinions are deemed offensive.”
What’s even more insidious is that the same people who claim they’ve been canceled then monetize “their so-called cancellation” by creating offers and courses that teach you how to handle being canceled.
They play on their followers’ fears of being canceled to make money. This is another example of how they have not been canceled and how they capitalize on the moral panic.
What to Watch For: Critique, Criticism and Cancellation
Critique is how we make business better for everyone. Pointing out what’s wrong (and even what’s working) moves the industry forward. As business owners, we are always learning to do business better and critique lets that happen.
As you’re thinking about what coaches, consultants, and mentors to invest with, look at their social media following and how they engage with good faith questions about their work.
Do they engage with a spirit of openness and willingness to re-think? Great! Proceed with vetting them.
Do they “block and bless”, respond with “whataboutism” or cry that they’re being cancelled (when you know they are still making money and haven’t been tossed off the platform)?
Hoist the red flag, and slow way, way, way down before you buy.
Links for this Episode
- Writing Alone; Writing Together
- Why Don’t You Say Something on IG
- Maggie’s email on not naming names
- “Good Faith” vs. “Bad Faith” Arguments or Discussions
- A Field Guide to Bad Faith Arguments
- Is Cancel Culture Really a Threat to America
- The State of Ethical Marketing and Online Business for 2023
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