You know that kid on the playground? The one who called you a stupid-head, or a kaka-brain, or who was more than gleeful to be able to tell you that you had more than a few cooties? His persistence was obnoxious, even if his comments held no truths or resonance. He was more annoying than harmful, even to the fragilest egos. He was the one who would pull your pigtails, then run away before you could find a teacher. When you were growing up, adult figures told you not to play with kids like him--if you ignore him, he'll go away. But the truth is, he never goes away, and never really changes.
From those early interchanges on the playground, it's not immediately clear how he'll evolve into an adult. He might become a lawyer, or a doctor, or an actor: a profession in which he's paid to talk and people pay to listen. The only thing you know for sure is that after the recess of your education is over, he vanishes. And you're glad.
You grow up, get a job, a life, etc. So does he. Theoretically. He grows physically, often intellectually, even reaching a place where he can use language fairly effectively. He might become a writer of sorts, immerse himself in himself (as he always liked to do), and emerge on the other side of the struggle as a scraggly, cantankerous, provocative version of his younger, pigtail-pulling self.
He has learned from his time on the playground that if you hate someone, you don't have to have logic on your team; you just need to assert yourself, louder than anyone else. He has learned that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that he can pull your emotional pigtails much more effectively if he can infect others with his opinion, and effect a manner of wounding even wider than usual.
Say there's a former playground-dweller who has refused to take a recess from his desire to make other people feel uncomfortable and unworthy. Say he finds himself on a different kind of asphalt, but with the adult-size representations of the kids he liked to make uncomfortable when he was a kid...
Say it's because of his own feelings of displacement that he's internalized the lesson that making other people feel bad about themselves, their professional ability and their worthiness generates an intoxicating power. Say he's masquerading as a paragon of religious virtue, but his actions convey a certain sense of Satanic soullessness.
Say you become aware of such a man-child, so consumed with himself-as-empty-calories that he feels the need to take cheap shots at others without cause. And say he's selected you as his target. In loco parentis, on a protoplasmic level, your cells are screaming, "ignore him, and he'll go away." But you can't, because you are wounded, however mildly and illogically, by this person who doesn't even know enough of you or your work to make the statements he makes. You know it's wrong to engage him. "It's what he wants," your inner voice warns.
So you don't engage him directly. You do what you can with the tools available. And you hope that he doesn't notice that he's gotten to you, because you want to be so much better than that. But you can't help your humanity. And that's where you differ.
Say there's someone out there (and there is someone out there) who always seems to hate what you've written. He spews negativity about you and your work. And yet, he keeps reading you.
You might wonder what his motivation is.
I'm just saying.