Friday, July 23, 2004

In the trenches: Message Boards

Imagine most of the people who visited this blog have gone on to greener pastures. I've been absent for quite awhile, conducting sociological experiments at a message board.

Years ago, Freenets were the writer's masochistic playground. Far more peaceful and educational, Freenets were comprised of local community members who actually endured the hardships of time limits, IP logging, and good manners. Being local meant maintaining real, civil discourse. It also meant more difficult navigation, so forces for evil hadn't a roadmap yet. With the advent of AO-Hell and the home computer revolution, everything's changed; bringing credence to the motto: If you build it easy enough for morons, they will come.

At the board which will remain unnamed, they came. Carrying all their baggage, poor spelling skills and silly games along for the ride. Interesting phenomenon, in that anonymity and the ability to use a mouse bring out the worst in some people. I was at first celebrated (it's the whole being able to spell miracle) by those who agreed with me and rapidly vilified by others, as people who disagreed with my messages sought the age-old practical magic of discrediting the messenger, instead. What's most amazing is that other people who said the same or similar statements were not quite smacked with the "tag, you're it" sticker. It could have been my being female. It could have been about their lack of desire to be challenged. Or, it could just have been a response to having a mirror thrown before them. Perhaps it was my failure to pull punches when needed, often saying with sarcasm things that should have been said kindly. Whatever it was, pitchforks and torches ensued.

Believe it or not, this all became personal to me, somehow. In using my real first name, the myriad unkind conjecture about my alleged trailer park existence, drug use, supposed communist hippie lifestyle (those Fundamentalist Christians -- such kidders!) and questionable dominatrix career charges eventually felt all too real. Before opening the Adam and Eve catalog to search for new employment leather power suits, I pulled the plug.

Funny thing is, they haven't. For days now, the board is still clogged with messages about where I've gone and what happened. Despite the rampant hatred hurled in my general direction, the personal attacks, the utter disgust at my very existence, I'm still somehow part of their collective -- in both admiring and disparaging terms.

Proving that the power they vested in me was not emanating from same. It was provided through them, willingly, in exchange for whatever it was they wanted. But, the people who want to fight the good fight do have that power. Rather than invest it in discussing my absence, it would be best to recognize most of them can, and often did, say exactly what I said. Many said it much better. It just requires the energy to do so and a belief that they can try to make a difference. And one helluva thicker skin than I had.

The whole experiment? An abject failure. All the way around. Armed with a teeny amount of wit and seeking discourse with others, I discovered that the so-called safety and security of hiding behind a computer is nothing more than an assumed contract. When a person refuses to adhere to the terms and places his or her true feelings out for the world, it becomes a very unlevel playing ground. The results can often be painful. Still, it is better to remain true to yourself and your beliefs, even when you're worlds away from other people, connected only via electricity and a cable modem. Leave the playing behind for others who are fully comfortable in the contractualized anonymity and supposed freedom it brings to attack others without giving it much thought.

In the coming days, more lovely anecdotes from a message board teeming with ill-bred vipers and blessed with the presence of some really cool, smart, decent people. I've missed the friends made here, like Miss Moon, and am still wondering when Andy Kaufman will show up at my local Wal-Mart. If ever. All those responses to his last post at the andykaufmanreturns/blogspot and he's yet to answer a single one. Now that's disappointing.

[ETA: I had a comment on here and lost it somehow. When I try to republish this post it simply stays at zero percent published. Anyone have an idea how to correct this problem?]

Hail, Spirit of my only-a-movie in some parallel world.

All soldiers are tired and need a rest some day, especially after irrelevant battles. Do you think *I* wanted to be worshipped and spat on ? Do you think *I* wanted to be anyone's leader ? Do you think there's more reality to the media and the rumour in what is supposed to be real life than the praise and the slander in what is supposed to be a virtual community ? Yes, a star or a leader is nothing more than a particular form of polarized energy coming from elsewhere. Yes, he/she enacts the passive forces of millions and by doing so, both frees the people by giving them a voice and alienates them by keeping them from self-appropriation. As strange as you might find it, I've met people who blamed me for not giving them any answers.

And no, nobody wants to suffer, not even Jesus, who saved humanity not because he was tortured, as sadistic cretins like Gibson would have it, but because he accepted the position he was unwillingly put in, out of love for humanity. I chose to do so : it takes a messenger to carry a message. But I wouldn't blame those who would give up instead. I would blame calling it a failure though.

O Spirit, you know my only-a-movie was a kind of pretext. It was the hand shaking the sleeper, the thump on the TV watcher's stomach, a shriller frequency among the sounds of silence. You know I like answers more than elusiveness, questions more than answers, dialogue more than questions, and awareness more than all of these. The message was blank. There wasn't even a message. Still, I have to carry it.

Only a movie ? A place where things are moving ?
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