39: Responding to Smear Campaigns

When we find ourselves in an aggressive relationship, we need to set clear boundaries. The kindest thing we can do for everyone concerned is to know when to say ‘enough.’

– Pema Chodron

Three and half years later, the smear campaign continues.

These people need better hobbies.

A few weeks ago I was asked to resign from a non-profit Board of Directors based on “several complaints and tips.”

About what? 

That I had an affair?

I haven’t exactly been quiet about my shitheadery as I’ve worked through the loss and grief of betraying my Love(s), life, and self. I made sure the Board President knew the story before accepting.

However, there has been no shortage of Flying Monkeys willing to spread rumors, lies, and innuendo.

Much irony, of course, but the one line in the attached email that fuels feelings of anger is the author(s) sent in “tips” and “complaints” from “different sources.”

Essentially, anonymous accounts. 

I thought about saying nothing about this incident. Taking some imagined high road. Hiding it, pretend it didn’t happen. Again. 

But I had a friend remind me today that this isn’t my shame. The need for people to do this is about their emotional issues, not mine. Perhaps talking about the impact will get others to reflect on their choices in their own life.

Plus, as I talk to others I’ve realized that many people won’t speak up about bullies and harassment for fear of being the center of attention. Maybe it will help the men and women on the receiving end of a smear campaign know that it isn’t their fault and that they aren’t alone.

Most importantly by saying nothing, I’m leaving a vacuum for further nonsense. In the past I only talked about the Monkey’s here and on Twitter.

I’m not doing that anymore.

If you have had bullies up in your grill or whispering smear campaigns behind your back, it is sometimes difficult to know how to respond. My family’s approach was to ignore problems and “they will go away” or “get thicker skin” or “don’t be so sensitive.”

Law enforcement suggested I ignore them.

Well meaning friends have minimized the impact and enabled their behaviors.

It was useless advice that has caused an immense amount of relationship and internal emotional damage. If I am serious about growth I have to be willing to practice a different approach.

Frankly, the people that chose to reshare rumors without evidence or just ghosted weren’t especially deep relationships anyway. The meaningful relationship showed up. The emotional fires around me burned off the superficial.

I cannot make people stop this crap by pretending it isn’t happening. I cannot live my life if, as I pursue life, some entitled Tool shows up, jaws flapping, spewing lies, and trying to be important.

I can ignore the jackass but this isn’t about one person. However, apparently after reading the email and talking to the Board President, multiple people went out of the way to share “tips” and “complaints” to a Foundation based on a grant application a non-Profit submitted. Incidentally, none of that information is public so this wasn’t a random act.

But it still feels hurtful.

We are all biologically wired for connection, and when the link snaps, as is so often around infidelity, everyone carries some form genuine grief. Even we don’t acknowledge it. Even if it doesn’t look like we expect.

Painter’s loss of trust makes perfect sense. Her ending the relationship makes sense too on any scale. Somewhere in her choices she carries her own relationship with grieving. I recognize the consequences of my choices contributed to a loss of connection in a relationship that mattered.

Those, and several other of Painter’s choices, are consequences. I haven’t liked all of the consequences but my approval or disapproval is not required.

When I step into the discomfort I feel I discover a place more fully liberated. Which is just as disconcerting as any other place outside the status quo. However, as I’ve learned, the Law of Unintended Consequences means there have been many excellent changes in my life.

That will have to be a different post.

However, the smear campaign is nonsense.

Frankly, it is an incredibly lonely, fear inducing, and frustrating place if you are on the receiving end of someone’s smear campaign. The goal of the smear campaign is to separate you from community, friends, family and make you doubt your identity and experience.

Despite their claims, the smear campaign of Painter’s Flying Monkeys and Broken Knights was never about protecting a wounded, helpless, and fragile woman. Unfortunately, the people most heavily invested in these self-serving, violent, and dangerous narratives imagine themselves Heroes.

Based on her experience working with law enforcement, Chef pointed out the danger and threats inherent in the actions of the Flying Monkeys. I didn’t fully appreciate the violent intentions lurking beneath their deeds and stories. Until now I didn’t fully appreciate how dangerous their rhetoric has become or how committed they are to this narrative of good versus evil.

However, through this experience I’ve learned I am responsible for defending my life. Ultimately, I’m the person responsible for my safety.

I’m not sure exactly how I will lean into the discomfort of what has been a 3.5 year-long smear campaign full of accusations without merit and spread by people projecting their damage outward, but the status quo of ignoring this threatening and dangerous harassment and abuse is no longer the default.

As Chodron reminds me, there are moments when the most compassionate act is to say “Enough.”

And so here we are.

3 thoughts on “39: Responding to Smear Campaigns

  1. blackacre02631 – I'm more than a betrayed wife - I'm a lawyer, a devoted mom of two awesome kids, a travel nut, bookworm, and a daughter - but I blog about the state of my marriage at betrayedwife.net .
    blackacre02631 says:

    I’m incensed on your behalf. You cheated on your partner. Okay. Can’t take that back. Are they seriously suggesting that because 1 board member had an affair that big donors will be scared away? That’s crap. Sorry, but the Chair has no spine.

    I hope the Chair shared the actionable “tips” and “complaints” with you. They’d better be 100% truthful or the flying monkey that wrote them is subject to suit for libel.

    1. Wanders – #Infidelity is an outcome of an unskillful coping mechanism, everything else is a story someone imagines. Sharing thoughts and letters with those the men and women that #betrayed their Loves, lives, and selves too. What you do today matters most. All anyone can do is own the experience and practice doing better.
      S A Muses says:

      One fight at a time.

      I haven’t resigned yet.

    2. Wanders – #Infidelity is an outcome of an unskillful coping mechanism, everything else is a story someone imagines. Sharing thoughts and letters with those the men and women that #betrayed their Loves, lives, and selves too. What you do today matters most. All anyone can do is own the experience and practice doing better.
      S A Muses says:

      Thanks BA.

      I’ll DM you.