A bad thing happened recently. A very
bad thing, right here at E2. It disturbed me
enough that I couldn't get it out of my system until I'd talked about it, so
pull your chairs up a little closer to the campfire and let's talk.
As a preface let me say that I'm new around here myself, but I've
already developed a deep appreciation for what Everything2 is and the
potential for what it could become. I'm writing this in
the hope of helping to achieve that potential, if only
in a small way. That being the case, I don't think I'm going to be
specific about the who and what of the events discussed below. It's more
important to focus on the issues raised, in general sense, rather than to judge
or punish the individuals involved.
A friend of mine recently exercised his rights, as a member in good standing
of the E2 community, and posted a writeup of some original fiction. He
hadn't posted anything in a while and it took a little prodding from his friends
to lure him back. He's a grumpy old fella, like me, and has had a
long and rich life. He's got a lot of stories to tell and a
wealth of knowledge to pass along. An ideal candidate for
the E2 many of us would
like to see develop.
So, the writeup went live, and almost immediately garnered some favorable
attention and a few upvotes. Then, along came
trouble in the form of a cocky young noder,
let's call him the BluePunk, with more attitude than sense.
BluePunk stumbled on to my friend's write up and decided he didn't like it. Didn't like it one damned bit. Hey,
fair enough. That's
what downvotes are for and he used his.
No worries mate. Then he encouraged a few of his pals to come
along and dump their little rain clouds too. I've still got no problem
with that. Pack behavior is an unsightly but common behavior in young
Outside my window this morning, a half-dozen ugly yellow-eyed Grackles were
chasing all the other, smaller, birds away from the birdfeeder. The Grackles
weren't even hungry anymore, but they didn't want anybody else to have any, just in case they
got hungry later. Same deal with BluePunk and his crew when you think about it,
But then the BluePunk stepped over the line. He felt the need to insult
and humiliate my friend in addition to expressing his dislike for the writeup
through his votes. So he pulled together this salient critique and fired
if off like a chemical warhead:
BluePunk says re The Work in Question The fuck is this
Tacitly concluded and succinctly stated eh? I don't think we need the linguistic skills of Gritchka to ferret out the meaning here. BluePunk
didn't understand the piece, but he was sure, and he wanted the author to be
absolutely sure, that he hated it. In its own feeble and
inarticulate way, his
message is a complete success.
Okay, I can see you out there, shifting a little uncomfortably in your seats, but
bear with me for a moment. E2 is a rough and tumble place with a free flow
of ideas and attitudes. That's one of the things we all value about
it. I've heard some thoroughly wack shit in the Catbox, that has made me laugh and cry. I don't want E2 to be too polite any more than you
do, but I think there's a deeper issue with
BluePunk's behavior that is serious and profoundly troubling.
Why do you suppose that BluePunk felt at liberty to indulge in such insulting
behavior with someone he didn't even know? In real life there are serious
consequences to that sort of thing. I don't know BluePunk, but from
reading his work I gather that he's a student, likes music, a
little fussy and snobbish about his personal interests. Not too
outstanding in any respect, but probably fun to hang out with. Doesn't strike me as the kind of fellow who'd
either have the grit to make a comment like that to my friend face to face, or
who'd fare very well if he did. Us grouchy old guys are more
than we look. So why would he feel empowered to engage in an act of random
cruelty like that here on E2.
I think the answer is that he's been here for awhile and has, like most of
us, developed a little following and a group of friends, and he knows how the
place works. In short, he's an insider, part of our community, one of
us. And I think he took a quick look at my friend's home node, sniffed a
defenseless newcomer and felt that most dangerous of human impulses: the strong,
feeling authorized to prey on the weak If you think about it, I think
you'll agree that this impulse, taken to its extreme, has been the root of the
deepest evil known to man. I think BluePunk did this because he felt that it was
safe and acceptable to spit in the face of an unknown noder. I think he
did it because my friend wasn't "real" to him in any meaningful
sense. I think he did it because he forgot that there was a living person
at the other end of the network.
Of course, this wasn't taken to an extreme. Perhaps it's not even a
great example, but it is representative of a dissonant
thread that runs through our community. A glaring spot of rust on a
shiny, polished, surface. Hopefully it's not the kind of rust that
crumbles to dust when you press your finger against it. The kind that
reveals a deeper problem that gets worse and worse the closer you look.
I don't think it is, and I hope it's not, but this incident has opened my
eyes to the problem and I'm vowing not to indulge in gratuitous meanness at E2,
no matter how much I disagree with your point of view, no matter how
inarticulate or unskilled I think your writing is, no matter what. There's enough
hate in the world
"All that is necessary for the forces of evil to
win is for good men to do nothing,"
Coffee will be served in the
lobby. Thanks for listening.
June 2006 Update
Three years since I posted this and to my surprise it still gets read now and again. I recently was asked whether I thought E2 had "moved on" past this sort of thing and I wasn't sure how to answer. Oddly enough, a few days later I received a message that leads me to believe we still have a ways to go. I'm reprinting it below with the author's permission.
2006.06.18 at 06:47shaogo says I just read Chautauqua, and although it was penned in 2003, it addresses what I believe to be the reason so many E2ers have fled. I'm new myself, and am gonna stick it out. I, personally, have received some abominable responses to /msgs intended to act as a cyber-handshake. One in particular was a question posed to a New Yorker about a subject I was writing up. The response was sarcastic and unnecessarily pompous. I'm going through a lot right now in life, as evidenced by my daylogs. I look forward to Laura Elizabeth's delightful morning greetings and "on this day X happened." E2 is also making me a better writer. in conclusion, there's plenty of *real* crap in the nodegel that perhaps those who need to flex their egos should address, Not the work of the moment. I liked your w/u a lot.