(This is a snapshot of my old weblog. New posts and selected republished essays can be found at raganwald.com.)

Monday, November 19, 2007
  Off Topic: Please excuse my reddened eyes

There’s a nasty thing going around the weblogs. I think the disease made the jump from online forums. And the forums caught it when it mutated from something infecting UseNet. Raganwald was just exposed to the pathogen, but hopefully twenty-four hours of rest will set things right.

The symptoms are this: Someone, we’ll call them Person X, has been involved in heated debates and flame-fests over something-or-other, we’ll call it Topic Y. They are at the stage of taking it very personally. With every exposure to debates over Topic Y, they become more and more emotional. They also slide from seeing the world in colours to shades of grey to stark contrast between black and white. People are either with them or against them, no middle ground, no non-combatants.

Then you say or write something touching on Topic Y that fails to establish yourself clearly and directly as agreeing fully with Person X.

Person X flies into a rage. They read your words, combing over them for “inferences” and “suggestions.” They don’t read your words, they read what they think you meant, assuming that you are in fact one of Person X’s sworn enemies. They don’t read your remarks about Topic Y as parenthetical, or even uninformed. No, they read them as a deliberate attack on their views, and by extension, as an attack on Person X.

In fact, the less direct your remarks are, the less you openly disagree with them, the more they read your actions as being sly or manipulative. They see Topic Y as a battlefield, and everyone on the battlefield as combatants with an agenda.

And they attack you with everything they’ve got. Or rather, they attack whatever fiction they constructed to make you into the enemy. Even though, quite honestly, you have no axe to grind and no interest in sparring with them.

It’s unfortunate, because it is so divisive. These attacks come from a place of people trying to hurt other people, to insult them, to make them feel bad about themselves. There is no interest in furthering our profession and sharing our knowledge.

This saddens me greatly. I feel sorrow when a complete stranger brings unhappiness and vituperation from somewhere else and deposits it here.

And like another thing that saddened me, I have no suggestions. I can’t even really say it is a problem, other than that it makes me feel sad when it happens.

And now, dear reader, I will set this down by the river. Thank you for listening.

Comments on “Off Topic: Please excuse my reddened eyes:
Seems like an apt description of nearly every online debate I've seen, not to mention political discourse in this country.
Dang ol' topic Y. It always seems to end up that way. I'm beginning to really hate talking about topic Y at all anymore. People get so damn defensive.
I was recently bitten by a variant of this bug in the comments to a post of mine here though eventually I was offered an apology which I guess counts for something.
Yet more evidence for the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory
G.I.F.T. may be a factor in increasing the severity of the attacks, but not their frequency.

As I read Reg's description the first thing that came to mind was an allergy, in which your reaction to irritants gets progressively stronger, up to the point of severely crippling you.
Wow, Reg ... I had no idea you were so ... sensitive?

On the Interwebs, I start with the assumption that everyone is a clueless lunatic with poor reality testing and a self-esteem problem, and wait to hear something that proves me wrong.

It's not often I'm actually proven wrong. :-) Thank god for the sad state of humanity.

Of course, the upside from holding this position is that anything anyone writes that's inflammatory simply gets filtered out by my brain and I scroll past, perhaps shaking my head sadly now and again, but none of it ever gets to me.
Aw Reg, you can't say anything without pissing someone off.

All you can do is keep saying it.

And perhaps be willing to club other males to death if they try to steal your women or infiltrate your tribe.

Oh, wait...
I can't believe that you could bring this up without discussing the option of moderating comments. You're obviously against comment moderation, and by extension, decency on the web. Shame on you!

Just kidding. Sorry to hear that your site has experienced this very common malady.

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Reg Braithwaite

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