Saturday, July 9, 2011

Don't Give Up the Ship

[Editor's Note: If you don't get the subtext here, count yourself among the lucky. And apologies in advance if you came here looking for old school Nappy ship rules.]

The free exchange of ideas is often a contact sport.

There can be heated debates, some even quite vitriolic, in the the pursuit of that exchange. But at the end of the day it presumes--or used to presume in past mediums--some kind of baseline accountability. It used to presume in most cases that something in print had a face and a name attached.

I have no problem with tough, principled discussion, debate, and satire. I guarantee that most people pay lip service to that principle, if not the practice.

The anonymity and virtual distance factors, though, in recent old school blogosphere cases thumb their nose at that accountability. It has dialed back the quality of conversation for everyone--and even reduced the value of satire and taking the piss out of people. And now we are seeing it becoming true out and out bullying, hectoring people until they quit.

Looking at how the temperature went up in the last two weeks, I can understand why people look at the cost and benefit analysis of running a blog on a friggin' leisure activity and say: “it's not worth it. I am out.” But please don't delete your blog. Take a break, stop posting forever if the mojo doesn't come back. Just don't surrender.

As I see we have a few options as a loose community of sorts on this:
1. Grow a thick skin. Prepare for the fact that your ideas, your character will be picked apart.

2. Take legal action. U.S. libel laws lean pretty heavily in favor of those who publish. (I can attest to this having been on the defendant side in a past day job, wrongly of course). A plaintiff must prove actual malice, that the person maligned is not a "public figure", and that it did tangible harm. A tough legal standard, but previous case law around anonymous blogging does mean that identities may have to be disclosed.

3. Close ranks. Being crystal clear (that phrase again, Whisk) that we promote a culture of solidarity, that if you don't sign your name and present your face that you forfeit the right to throw bombs in our blogs and forums. Most importantly, it means that we show our public support for those who are being bullied (not just made fun of, or criticized in a relatively principled way). An injury to one is an injury to all. 

Frankly, I am not a big fan of options one or two.

I certainly plan on trying to practice the first myself. An honest person has to say that telling people to grow a thick skin--or to be wary of their online acquaintances is an insufficient answer. It can also be a surrender.

There may be better answers than three, I leave the best answers for better minds around the “meta”. I am not a big fan of bandwagons or echo chambers and I certainly chafe sometimes at the idea of presumed community standards. I hate even feeling like I need to have written this preachy bit of editorializing.

But sometimes I feel like you have to get out of your comfort zone, you have to stand together against something poisonous. You have to act.  


  1. Good post. Quite frankly I'm sick of some of the idiotic vitrol being spewed by these anonymous feces throwing monekys. I'm saddened that Stefan didn't stick around, but then I can also understand that these are blogs about games and games should be fun. I'm all for the solidarity part. Mostly, I'm just going to choose to ignore them.

  2. I don't know everything that's going on but I vote for more satire. Always satire.

    And more puppy hugs for everyone.

  3. Well said! It's sad that some of our peers have closed up shop, but the rest of us should carry on, I think.

    Satire also helps.

  4. I dunno Whisk can herself get pretty mean-spirited in her attacks. It's all the unremitting hostility that awarded her the Worst Old School Blog from me.

  5. I don't know everything that's going on but I vote for more satire. Always satire.


    And more puppy hugs for everyone.

    Eh? Come again? Satire so soon.

  6. Satire so soon.
    It's five o'clock somewhere.

  7. Great post. Well done. Thanks!

  8. Great points all around here! I think more puppy hugs are required! Now! Where's the cake?

  9. I'm aware of about 20% of what you're referring to, but honestly, deleting blogs because some jackass pissed you off is pretty childish. Whatever happened to ignoring people who made stupid comments? All the "internet tough guy" crap is laughable: I've seen what these dudes look like. I am not intimidated whatsoever, so why is anyone else? Delete their stupid comments and move on.

  10. People react to douchery in different ways, I'm certainly not going to fault someone who feels like they need to get out of Dodge because it stops being enjoyable.

    My main point is that the anonymous douches shouldn't be tolerated.

  11. Well said. I am saddened when great blogs get pulled down, but of course honor the right of their creators to do so, whatever the reasons.

  12. ...deleting blogs because some jackass pissed you off is pretty childish. Whatever happened to ignoring people who made stupid comments?

    If they had made fun of "Limpey" or "aldeboran" I wouldn't have cared. If I was just 'Brad' (no last name) it wouldn't have mattered. But I have a pretty unusual name and that was what they use to slag on me... so these accusations are going potentially affect other areas of my life.

  13. limpey,

    You have an interesting blog which you can easily restore.

  14. Solidarity is always best. Legal action is a last resort in a failed society. Saying 'grow a thick skin' is merely to excuse bullying.

  15. @Rob L: The idea that ignoring idiots is somehow excusing their behavior is symptomatic of a modern victim culture. As "internet bullies" only have words as their means of attack, simply refusing to acknowledge their comments completely disarms them and makes them irrelevant. I'm sure a few of these guys need a beating or two to really shut them up, but as they're anonymous cowards, why even bother worrying about them? Since you can't punch a guy through the internet, piss them off by turning them into non-persons.

  16. And again, The troll of my troll is not my friend.

  17. As someone who once posted a screed that did nothing but insult me and my nature, Brad, you could take some of your own advice about ignoring 'idiots.'

    Chris, growing a thick skin is all we have. I'd love to reach through the screen and practice a little organized culling, but reality dictates that we put on our big booties and wade in the mud. The mud will always be there, and no matter how many of us walk together in it, all our feet will still be dirty.

    But I both disagree and agree with your sentiments. Bloggers should not give up; except for those few who should give up immediately. Bloggers must hang in there and keep at it ... except those few without the fortitude to keep going. Those bloggers should quit sooner.

  18. Rather than have teh macho totally overtake this discussion and close it down as usual (if you can't handle some rotten eggs you shouldn't go out in public? Really?), I have a question about standing together: what do you mean actually, Chris?

    To the extent it's supposed to be punitive or retaliatory (coventry for bullies, render them unpersons, etc.) that seems like it just adds more bullying to the environment. Pretty soon you'll get a genuine misunderstanding that gets blown up out of proportion, self-appointed policemen, scarlet letters, the whole stupid censorious apparatus.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I found the support for Christian really heartening, a kind of anti-bullying. I'd like to see more of that (although again, it would be a mistake to try to institutionalize it).

    I don't know about

  19. ...sorry about that last hanging line: that's what I get for writing on a phone.

  20. What I cannot understand is how someone can get so pissed off with what a blogger might write about RPGs that they turn themselves into a nasty, spiteful troll. If some blogger writes about games in a way that I'm not into, well, so what? If you think a group of people who you don't know, who have no effect on your life, are kissing each others arses, so what?

    I certainly can't see the justification to behave in such a way that, if conducted at an offline gathering, say at a panel discussion at a conference and not on an online forum, you'd get thrown out, probably land yourself with an ASBO, and maybe even get sectioned.

    But that's exactly how they do behave. Instead of saying, 'so what?', these trolls react so personally to the inoffensive content of other people's blogs that they decide to spew nasty, vile abuse. And then they accuse the victims of that abuse of taking things too personally.

  21. What I am NOT calling for. I am not calling for a code of conduct, lynch mob, or simple civility.

    It's ok, sometimes healthy even, to get angry and vent in the heat of a discussion. It's ok to be the occasional jackass with people who comment idiotically on your blog. It's ok to be sharp with a criticism or a send-up.

    Often even with the hurt feelings, later there can be reconciliation or at least grudging respect. The conversation pushes forward. It presumes an overall good faith though--which the faceless don't have.

    Case in point was Brad's post attacking Alexis for attacking James of Grognardia. I behaved a little badly on that one too, but it made me start paying attention more to Alexis' blog.

    And guess what? I found a lot of profoundly insightful stuff that I would have missed otherwise.

  22. For some reason Blogger hates me today, now having eaten two very lengthy comments.


    I once had Joshua Long, the writer of a host of famous musicals like South Pacific, tell me that: "if you can let anything stop you, let it. But don't let anything stop you."

    Being a surly adolescent at the time I thought it was a profoundly stupid thing to say. But later I saw the wisdom in that Yogi Berra statement. Don't let anything stop you.

  23. @Richard
    In a large part the closing of ranks behind Christian is what I am talking about. I agree that it was a pro-active display of solidarity and anti-bullying.

    Part of the problem here is although we are all likely loathe to admit but YDIS has a lot of covert, titillating appeal. Many don't agree with it, hate it even at times, but will continue to read it.

    It's a lot like Confidential magazine was to Hollywood in the 1950's. Humphrey Bogart nailed its under-the-table appeal when he said, "everybody reads it but they say the cook brought it into the house."

    It's the same impulse that compels people to rubberneck at car wrecks or watch COPS. Some will on principle stop looking, many others won't. It can't be policed.

    But we can support those in the cross-hairs--and we can drag that little dirty secret of a cesspool out into the open.

  24. I write whatever I feel at the time on my blog. My opinions change over time, but usually the process is simply a cathartic exercise. From reading some of the responses to this post, my guess is that some people take things more seriously than me, which is fine, but they also shouldn't expect me to care as much as they do.

    1) Yes, if you go out in public, expect some rotten eggs. Expecting the world to be a place filled only with sunshine and rainbows is naive. It would be great if we lived in a utopia, but we don't, so expect some disagreement and outright hostility.

    2) The post about Alexis was indicative of a reaction I had to something stupid he wrote best left off "gaming blogs". I think the real reason I was so pissed about it was because he has a really good blog that doesn't need to be littered up with pseudo-political/theological rhetoric. I stand by my comments, which is why I never edited that post. He's certainly free to disagree with me, but I still read his blog as it is well written and provides a lot of good ideas.

    3) I think I proved my point: the insinuation is that I'm a "troll" of some sort because I offer a different opinion on how to handle situations like this. If you honestly believe that, it's time to reevaluate your ability to deal with confrontation. No two people in existence harbor identical belief systems; disagreements will always occur. The ability to handle attacks on your beliefs and defend them is a vital part of being a capable adult. Dismissing stupidity and not giving it much thought is a trait of maturity. Sometimes things will get to you, but acting like a child only means "they" win. Do you want "them" to win? Successful troll is successful if you get your panties over their comments.

  25. "in a wad"

    I suppose you could take "get your panties" to mean you have become a girl, but most women I know would never be kowtowed from dumb trolls.

  26. I have been remiss I realize in this whole exchange in not saying that while I respect and understand Limpey's decision, I miss Aldeboran's voice.

    The blog wasn't afraid to have sharp opinions and often had a refreshing honesty to it. It's a loss for us not to have it around.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. Limpey,

    I don't see how taking down your blog is going to stop the Google effect on your name. If anything is going to stop that, it is going to be prolific posting on your part to steal those top results back into your pocket.

  29. Limpey,

    I'm sorry you took it down. I felt you wrote a quite decently expressed position.

  30. Alexis:
    Don't be sorry. Although everything I said may be true, it probably ought to go without saying that I've spent too much time thinking and talking about the whole kerfuffle. I went to 'Your Dungeon Is Suck' and saw someone complaining about the amount of quiet on those boards over the situation with Christian's blog. "Where is my amusement?" this person had written.
    I also go an email from another blogger saying that he hoped things were OK because he thought something really life serious had happened to me, and, in that conversation, he mentioned some of the things he had been through in his own life. Since that was real shit and not just internet drama, this made me wonder if I was like a guy complaining about an infected toenail in a cancer ward. Having had both of those afflictions and survived them I can say with confidence that there are few things that would make me wish for an infected toenail, but, if I had to choose, cancer really sucks.
    So, even though everything I may have written may reflect how I feel, in the scheme of things it is definitely time to move on.

  31. "Part of the problem here is although we are all likely loathe to admit but YDIS has a lot of covert, titillating appeal. Many don't agree with it, hate it even at times, but will continue to read it."

    I'm not loathe to admit it at all. That's why when I became a regular reader of YDIS I went ahead and liked to it on my blog and called it what I thought it was. I think what has happened here is that YDIS started for a reason... to push the occasional, deflating pin into the self-aggrandizing world of OSR blogs and it just got out of hand. The site wasn't just titillation, but a sometimes much needed blast of perspective.

    Yes I'm playing the role of apologist here, but hell... I'm not the only person checking there for updates, apparently, so I'm owning my role as a consumer here at least.

    The folks that seemed to take the ribbing in stride, Jeff Reints and Alexis to name two, have effectively disarmed and used to their advantage what's happening on YDIS. These are two smart, savvy guys. I'd recommend more bloggers finding themselves in the crosshairs mimic their approach or ignore YDIS all-togther. If YDIS was riding my jock I'd link to every such post with thanks for expanding my readership.

  32. I was feeling a little neglected by Mr. Suck. Glad to see that you were prescient, James.

    In the words of the immortal W.C. Fields--or was it the undying Emma Roberts?--"I have arrived."

  33. I never wanted to join a University fraternity or similar organization that requires people submit to being paddled on the behind or dress in women's underwear in order to join.

    Other people will have to make their own decisions about 'joining in the fun' at "YDIS" or "Skull and Bones" or "Kappa-Gamma-what-the-fuck."

  34. James advice does seem pretty masochistic at the end of the day.I have very little problem with laughing at myself, but I balk at the conformism of there being some kind of necessary script to make you not look like an ass. It's a crap choice.

  35. Ckutalik: Other people may be fine with it -- I don't know and try not to presume to tell other people what a particular event should 'feel like' to them. I tend to think that a line was crossed at some point in my case by a few of the 'satirists' in particular since it seemed to be very motivated by a personal beef against me... or maybe that's just me being a overly sensitive. But last time I visited YDIS, I saw one frequent poster in the general OSR community (who seems to have a real love-hate relationship with his own self identity I am just not smart enough to understand) trying pretty hard to strike up friendships (or 'strategic alliances?') with other people on the site. I don't get that. I don't get wanting to be a part of that.

  36. What's missing from my post above, because I deleted it while trying to edit it down, is my own belief that while YDIS might have begun for a good enough reason, lately its mostly been more bile and vitriol than legit satire and it has often crossed the line, particularly in Limpey's case.

    I'm not actually advocating anybody line up to have their asses paddled, though I see how it came off that way. Alexis threw it right back in YDIS's face and Jeff Reints gets his digs in as well. Other common targets ignore YDIS completely. I'm only advocating one not allow someone else to make a victim of them. Unsolicited advice perhaps, but I'm really not presuming to tell anybody anything... feel free to ignore both me and YDIS.

    As for the comments section, many of the cretins there make YDIS look like Pollyanna.

  37. And Chris, glad it worked out for you. Sit back and enjoy the traffic and possibly a new regular reader/ commenter or 12.