Armchair Warriors: the Know-It-Alls of the 00s

It seemed innocent enough and it should have been fairly simple: he’d posted a question on Facebook asking about a particular gun he was considering purchasing for his wife. She wanted a gun for self-defense use and the Kimber in question was the current front-runner on her personal gun list. The replies to follow varied wildly from supportive to rabidly insulting. One poster went so far as to advise the wife divorce her husband since he was – according to the poster – so clearly incapable of making a wise choice of caliber. The idea of answering the question simply for its face value – is this a comfortable firearm for smaller hands and will it perform reliably – never occurred to most of them. We are a nation of armchair warriors, and it seems to worsen on a daily basis.

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” (Mark Twain)

Armchair warrior. It’s a phrase that has gained popularity and seen increasingly regular use in recent years, but it isn’t new. Actually, the term “armchair warrior” was used in an old episode of The Twilight Zone. The apparently monumental occasion took place in the episode “No Time Like the Past” which aired on March 3, 1963. While the use of the term in that television show varied somewhat from today’s typical usage, the gist remained. It was also used by Don Henley in his song “The End of the Innocence” which was released in 1989: “O’ beautiful for spacious skies/but now those skies are threatening/they’re beating plowshares into swords/for this tired old man that we elected king/armchair warriors often fail/and we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales.” If you were unaware of just how far back the term goes, you’re not alone. So why is it so prolific today?

The internet is definitely the culprit in this case. Thanks to the world wide web, literally anyone can cozy up to their keyboard and make themselves out to be the expert of, well, everything. There is almost no way to know the credentials or qualifications of the person residing somewhere in the world who is joyfully spouting advice from the comfort of their chair. Back in the 1990s when chat rooms and message boards were new, unknown quantities to the general public, the full potential had yet to be recognized. Of course, it didn’t take long for predators to realize they could manipulate the situation to their advantage, but armchair warriors are an entirely different breed altogether. You see, the armchair warrior may not mean harm, but they’re likely to do harm nonetheless.

KeyboardOne evening my daughter became frustrated with a classmate who was making some rather ridiculous claims online. When she came to me for help, I gave her two separate pieces of advice: the first piece was an answer of sorts because the matter in question pertained to animals, which just happened to be my specialty before I became a full-time outdoor writer. The second piece of advice she felt was less helpful, but it was the part I attempted to reinforce at length: walk away. I warned her that her classmate would have no problem hitting Google and digging up some sort of support for her personal viewpoint, because that’s the gift the internet has given us: misinformation, and lots of it. Any argument can be supported at least in part no matter how ludicrous it might be. More importantly, people feel protected by the impersonal nature of an electronics screen which allows them speak their minds freely. No filter needed on social media, apparently.

This is about more than the issue of irritating know-it-alls online. It’s about more than the frustration of the easily butthurt and the cruelty of those with unfettered, scathing sarcasm. It’s about safety.

In the gun world, asking for advice on social media is not unlike sticking your head into a wood chipper and hoping for the best. Unless you know your audience personally and are fully aware of their qualifications – or lack thereof – you’re taking an incredible risk. Bad advice ranges from the seemingly mild such as one man who informed another of the fantastic performance of a subpar gun to the truly dangerous such as another man who saw no problem with spreading the idea that eye and ear pro are unnecessary hindrances to a good time at the range. And then there are the ridiculously foolish ones giving potentially life-threatening advice or at the very least creating the kind of training scars it can take a good instructor great lengths of time to repair. So, who can you trust?

“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” (William Shakespeare)

It’s tempting to trust those who are pro-staffers if you’re a hunter just as it seems logical to trust a competitive shooter or instructor if you have questions related to self-defense. Or maybe you follow the Facebook page of a certain gun writer you feel is a font of valuable information. Here’s the thing. Facebook and other social media platforms have created apparent experts out of fools. A startling number of so-called “pro-staff” members are pros of only the staff they’ve created in their basement or backyard. Thinking of trusting a pro-staffer? What company do they represent, and how do they represent it?

When it comes to the industry experts, well, that’s another issue entirely. The internet has allowed people to write terrible articles about guns – dangerous articles, even – and find an outlet for them whether it’s a self-published site such as a Hub page or one of the thousands of little-known gun-related sites out there. That’s not to say that all major gun and hunting publications are perfect, because heaven knows we as gun writers are only human. Humans who get paid to test guns and go hunting, yes, but human. You are definitely far safer trusting a well-known, proven source than one with no backing. Even then it’s best to trust your instincts. In addition, you should never hesitate to ask questions and do your own research. Just remember, the internet is a double-edged sword and it can be hard to discern good advice from bad.

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” (Mark Twain)

Aside from the dangers of bad advice as it relates to firearms and hunting the armchair warriors have also created an era of false bravado. It would be impossible to discuss this issue without delving into the aspect of the many, many keyboardists out there who claim to be the second coming of Rambo. This is an issue that has certainly gained ground with the recent terrorist attacks both on foreign ground and here on our own soil. Thanks to the empowering nature of electronics and that fantastic degree of separation, an increasing number of people are seeing themselves as unstoppable forces to be reckoned with. And while there are some entertaining aspects to that particular delusion, it can also be a dangerous one in more ways than one. Mostly it’s just irritating.

TypingAh, armchair warriors. They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and it seems all too clear they’re only gaining ground online. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any way to deal with them other than simply walking away. A popular phrase online for years now has been “don’t feed the trolls” and perhaps now it should be changed to “don’t encourage the over-inflated egos of the armchair warriors.” Every so often you run across one willing to listen to reason or consider some small change but that tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

“To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

I’ll be the first to admit that walking away from certain online discussions can be almost painful in its execution. Even so it tends to be the best plan of action. However – yes, there’s a however – there are times when it’s best to throw in your own two cents. When one of these self-proclaimed experts is giving advice that is blatantly bad or dangerous or spouting off in a way that disrespects our nation’s military, those are the times it makes the most sense to speak up. Just remember why you’re risking increased blood pressure and raging frustration: for the well-being of the person who asked the question. You’re not there to engage the armchair warrior, you’re there to answer the question. In the case of those times you feel the need to defend our flag or our military, make your statement and move on. An alarming majority of people making inflammatory statements online do so for attention or simply for the fun of irritating others. They tend to be ignorant and are typically unteachable, at least for you. Speaking your piece and moving on will result in less frustration or righteous anger on your part; the “turn off notifications” option on Facebook is a miraculous creation as is the ability to block people.

It would be great if this generation of armchair warriors would simply fade away leaving logical, rational people in their places. Sadly, the opposite seems to be taking place. The upcoming generation is rife with ignorance, not just ignorance but a blatant disregard for knowledge. It may age me a bit to say this but in my day we wanted to learn. There was a hunger, a thirst for knowledge, and we followed it through high school and into college. Far too many of today’s younger generation seem apathetic and lazy, and the idea of them running this country one day is more than slightly disturbing.

If there was a miracle solution to the armchair warrior epidemic I’d be first in line to help it along, but the only real cure, as with any problem of this kind, is a personal desire to change. People have to change their mindsets from one of laziness and believing they know it all based on having watched television at great lengths to a desire to learn. A return to a thirst for knowledge would be good not only for the future of social media but for the world in general. People today seem to have forgotten the concept that knowledge is power despite frequent examples proving it is true.

Now for the moment of truth: are you an armchair warrior? Do you give advice – often unsolicited advice – on topics you actually know little about? If so, maybe it’s time for a change. We all have our areas of expertise whether it’s guns or watercolors. Best of all, gaining knowledge of previously uncharted territory is as simple as putting the time and effort into learning about the topic at hand. Of course, you have to be sure a little knowledge doesn’t go to your head – reading one article on the history of 9mm cartridges does not make you an instant expert on ammunition. Take your time and learn something new. We all have room to learn, and there’s not much more enjoyable than expanding our horizons. Just, for the love of all that is holy, please do not turn to armchair warriors as a source of knowledge. Perpetuating the problem helps no one and may lead to an unhealthy increase in high blood pressure among some of us.

Type on, but remember the value of walking away. Walk away. You’ll be glad you did.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth
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2 thoughts on “Armchair Warriors: the Know-It-Alls of the 00s

  1. Another interesting and thoughtful piece Katherine. Your advice to walk away is sage!

    The Internet has a number of characteristics in common with guns. The first is that it can render the weak powerful beyond either their means or their worth. It can also engender courage in those ordinarily of faint heart.

    Similar to a gun, the Internet doesn’t necessarily bestow it’s newly powerful and courageous user with either the wisdom or the common sense essential to wield that power and courage well. That can only come with time and insight, neither of which are guaranteed by Internet use.

    The Internet has more in common with a long range rifle or even artillery piece than a handgun in that it bestows a level of anonymity upon the user that is absent when a shooter has to stand in close proximity to the target of a handgun. Indeed, the kind of Internet users you describe are not so much long distance snipers as indiscriminant artillery users who neither care what target they hit or how much harm they do, provided that they hurt someone!

    But I believe it is wrong to blame the Internet for the failings of its users. It is commonly argued that guns don’t kill people – people kill people. Similarly the Internet is simply the messenger and it’s proliferation in use has merely served to underline just how many bitter and twisted people have access to a computer these days.

    Thank you to you and your fellow bloggers for providing interesting, challenging and provocative reading during 2015. I look foward to reading more from you all in the comming year. At the risk of being politically incorrect, may you and your families all have a peaceful, safe and joyous Christmas.

  2. To add a bit of( irony? ) I am going to comment on your article, but no trolling.
    I agree with previous commentor. Great article that touches on many good topics.
    I would say that as being an older gentleman I also see an issue with not only getting “facts” online but also from experts or someone who should be an expert.
    I have asked 4 different “experts” about certain topics and the information ranges from wildly contradictory to actually unhelpful. Not to say they did not have reasons or backing for their opinion but I knew that I needed more than one opinion and needed to sift through the information for what I thought were the best answers.

    The point of my rambling is to agree that the younger generation is interested in quick easy to digest answers but are usually unwilling to work on acquiring knowledge.
    No the Internet is not bad but in my opinion, take it for what it is, is actually an Underutilized tool.
    Keep up the interesting articles and I will continue reading and thinking about them.

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