When the odious get onerous.

After a short week overseas I came back to find myself involved over the weekend in another argument about blog etiquette. It started out when I read Not PC’s post on  a troll. The issue basically boils down to the fact that one particularly nasty right wing frother (think Jesse Helms channeling Joe McCarthy and Glen Beck, but without the charm of either; to wit: racist, homophobic, foul-mouthed and pig ignorant)–who in the spirit of things we shall call “ratbuggered–” did enough to get himself banned and named by the blog owner. I weighed in on the side of the owner in the comments section, even while noting that here at KP we have put ratbuggered on auto-moderation so as to see if he has anything reasonable to say (so far he has not), and that as practice we do not “out” people who we have had trouble with (even though we have the ability to identify them). I noted that there are no universal laws or code of ethics preventing the outing of individuals using pseudonyms on blogs, for whatever reasons the blog owners may choose. There was much to and fro in the comments section, including from ratbuggered himself (who apparently lives in Tauranga. I shall leave you to draw conclusions).

The argument got picked up at No Minister, and things got pretty heated in the comments section. I weighed in some more, in further depth, arguing that market logics should determine blog traffic and that the blogosphere was ( come to think of it, like the Hobbesian “state of nature” that realists see to be the basic structure  of international relations) a self-enforcing society with no universal values or ethics (even if some may share implicit ethical constraints and some others may develop mutually binding rules of conduct)). For that I got robustly vilified by ratbuggered and his ideological soulmates (including the No Minister contributor aptly calling himself “Adolf”). I lot of it was name-calling rather than counter-argument.

What did surface as a counter-argument was amusing. Apparently these champions of free speech, liberty, freedom and individualism–the same ones who delighted in the outing of the two beneficiaries by Paula Bennett a few weeks back–believe that it is “unethical” to name an unwanted and repeatedly intrusive troll once all other appeals for him to desist have failed. PC weighed in as well and the entire argument turned into a circus. Rather than try to repeat myself and capture what others said, I urge you to read the entire thread as it is quite entertaining.

What it confirms in my mind, besides the fact that ratbuggered lives in a parallel Strangelovian universe that can only cause one to pity anyone sharing his household (should that even be feasible), is how hypocritical some of the rightwingers are. They love the free market when it suits them, but step on any of their self-righteous beliefs with market arguments and their closet social authoritarian viscerally jumps out. Ratbuggered is clearly an armchair bully and coward of no consequence (and is, indeed, a troll of the first order), but it sure is wild to see  some of the blogging right turn against markets, choice and individual responsibility when these run counter to their preferred view of the world.

All in all it was glimpse into a netherworld of unreason and hatred that, like plane crashes and train wrecks, is morbidly fascinating if intellectually terminal. Although I do not agree with most of Not PC’s political views, at least his is a reasoned discourse, which is precisely why ratbuggered found no haven on his blog. May the same occur here, regardless of the ideological persuasion of the commentariat.

14 thoughts on “When the odious get onerous.

  1. All in all it was glimpse into a netherworld of unreason and hatred that, like plane crashes and train wrecks, is morbidly fascinating if intellectually terminal.

    Very true.

  2. Pablo, please believe me when I say I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for you, your work, and your blogging. I do.

    But please, please, please stop feeding the troll. Participating in threads on two separate blogs and then writing up a post of your own, all about some highly intemperate attention-seeker, is way below your payscale. Treating the troll as a subject worthy even of thought lends him/her enough of your authority to legitimize (subjectively) his/her messed-up project.

    The problem of trolling and incivility is implicit in the medium of blogging—anyone can publish, commenting doesn’t cost anything, and people tend to be less civil to people they don’t know—, but I don’t regard it as being something worth agonizing about: it’s just one drawback of what’s a really fun medium that has compensating strengths.

    Just as there’s never going to be a perfect language, there’s never going to be a perfect medium.

    How people—bloggers, readers, commenters—deal with that is up to them. For exactly the same reasons there’s no single “Code of Blogging Ethics”, the quality and civility of discourse is going to be even patchier than in other media.

  3. The problem with RB is that his behaviour is so offensive, hypocritical and cowardly that he turns every thread into a discussion about himself.

    Over the years I’ve noticed that left wing forums tend to be tolerant of dissenting opinions, but will quickly react to and shutdown bad behaviour. These simple rules foster intelligent debate.

    By contrast the right is often intolerant of opinions they do not like, but openly permit, encourage even… the worst possible behaviour. Result = cesspit.

    The crucial distinction here is understanding the difference between opinion and behaviour.

    Obsessive individuals whose political outlook is deeply entangled with their own ego are generally incapable of telling the difference between their opinions and their behaviour… their identity is so bound up in their obsession these people really cannot tell the difference. It means that if you respond to their bad behaviour, in their mind it is the same as attacking their beliefs. These people cannot help but be trolls.

    The correct response to trolls is to rigorously ignore, warn and then ban. Some learn, some do not. Anything else is, as BKD above says, merely feeding the troll.

  4. BK–I had not thought of it that way. But your are right, it is a bit too much attention given to a sociopath. What I was most interested in when I saw the first post was on the lack of universal rules and impact of pure market dynamics on blog traffic. Everything else cascaded from there. The troll just happened to be the precipitant, not the subject of my comments there, at the second blog or here. I shall now desist from mentioning the troll in any other post.

  5. RedL: You are way ahead of me in figuring out what makes these people tick. I just assumed they had major life issues that made them bitter and twisted in public fora.

  6. RedL: You are way ahead of me in figuring out what makes these people tick. I just assumed they had major life issues that made them bitter and twisted in public fora.

    Nostalgia. RB was outed many years ago when his behaviour on Usenet nz.* offended somebody. From vague memory, comprehensive address and personal details were published.

    Frankly, once you know a poster offends you, surely the best option is to avoid and/or ignore. If sites become cesspits, the owner has choices, but other readers should just accept the smell and excrement, or move on.

    I dislike provocative pseudonymous posts, and the comments section of some blogs ( eg Kiwiblog ) provides a loving, nutritious, community centre for such posters.

    I encourage those blog owners to continue to provide such support – to promote freedom of expression. It makes it easier for me to avoid those blogs – and the associated excrement.

    It’s bad form to entangle Real Life into these illusive worlds. There’s usually insufficient data in posts to sensibly characterise posters – I usually hope that I’m not living in the same street or at the same workplace.

    Bruce Hamilton

  7. I would generally agree that it’s poor form to “out” someone who’s engaging in constructive debate, but why shouldn’t someone who’s being constantly obnoxious and odious (like RB) be exposed? Especially when they’ve been asked to go away.

    Where is this blogging code written? I’d love to know which rules I’m breaking, as I may have to ban myself.

  8. If you think that the blogosphere is bad, I invite you to log into an XBox Live match or play World of Warcraft on a PvP server. You will see that the blogosphere is tame in comparison. I look at these online worlds as proof positive that Libertarianism has no prospects (the fact that these failed virtual communities are American is testament to their belief in hands off non-organization).

    Redbaiter is, among other things, an easy beat. He used to regularly get his ass kicked on the old Herald BBS (this is 10 years ago when he was posting under the moniker “Sovereign Individual” and in various other groups. He’s just one of a group of extreme authoritarian personalities who have nothing better to do than make a nuisance of themselves. None of them have any brains whatsoever.

    I would have thought that RB was burned out by now. Everyone in the NZ blog community is used to him, such that he’s become a parody of himself, a clown with Tourette’s.

    IIRC he challenged me to a fight once. That’s how stupid he is. Nothing wrong with outing him.

  9. Where is this blogging code written? I’d love to know which rules I’m breaking, as I may have to ban myself.

    My dictionary defines etiquette as “unwritten code restricting professional men…”, and you’re asking for it’s location?. If you need to find it, you’re past redemption :-)

    One common blogging etiquette reference is Rebecca Blood’s Weblog Handbook, often referenced in academic publications on blogging behaviour….

    If you want to intrude in RB’s real life space, it’s your choice – nobody said you could not.

    I was merely pointing out that he had been outed many years ago, so the latest incident isn’t really an outing, but just another slice of the vindictiveness cake.

    Please keep having fun.

  10. I wrote at NotPC where I was suprised to find Pablo [ I’d call it slumming :-) ] that the code was made by sensible mature people and detested by others. You naturally know how to behave and others do not. Though I have noted one person I thought incapable is actually quite capable when not on her own site.

  11. Hi Pablo, and thanks for your reasoned support.

    You and BK are right that it is all “a bit too much attention given to a sociopath,” but for me at least it’s important to keep the roads swept and the paths clean at NOT PC so that healthy but robust debate can be had there. Can’t do that with a shit-flinging attention-seeking moron around who refuses to go away when he’s asked.

    RedLogix, I like your observation: “The crucial distinction here is understanding the difference between opinion and behaviour.”

    That’s very good. I’m not so sure however that left wing fora do tend to be more tolerant of dissenting opinions (for example, in recent months I’ve had what I thought were well-argued points moderated from Tumeke, The Standard and Brian Edwards’s blog — and who gets to raise any dissenting opinion at NRT’s place?), but agree that in general that the right is “often intolerant of opinions they do not like, and openly permit, encourage even… the worst possible behaviour.”

    And strangely, I think that’s because the religious right, from whom many righties get their debating points, have a faith-based argument — and once a faith-based argument is challenged, there’s nowhere for the holder of that opinion to go but to say “my faith is bigger than your faith.”

    No wonder Ayn Rand talked about “faith and force” being so strongly linked. She observed: “There are only two means by which men can deal with one another: guns or logic. Force or persuasion. Those who know that they cannot win by means of logic, have always resorted to guns.” Or failing that, to invective — or the worst possible behaviour.

  12. Well, I learned a few things from this conversation. I had no idea of RB’s past, much less his past outing. More the reason for him to wise up and others to stop whinging about PC naming him (as well as for him to be ignored). I also had no idea that there are manuals for bloggers–oh, the heresy!–and much liked Bruce H’s definition of etiquette, which pretty much explains why there is none on the blogosphere. I do not do video games on PvPs, so am clueless as to the behaviour in such places (although it strikes me that this is like saying that Wellington rugby crowds are not so bad when compared to your average WWF or cage fighting crowd). I stand by my view that the political blogosphere is as close to a representation of an unregulated (micro) market as one can get.

    I do not consider reading and commenting over at Not PC as slumming. To the contrary, I find the aesthetic posts marvelous and while having a skeptical view of Rand and her followers, I believe that PC brings a lot to the table when it comes to economics, philosophy, social theory and (to some extent) politics. I may not agree with most of what he and his commentators hold to be true, but I sure do enjoy reading them. Plus, where else on the right side of the blog spectrum do you get such prodigious reading lists and argumentation?

    My only objections are that sometimes his tone gets a bit too personal and he uses vulgarities (but then again, the latter is a Kiwi trait), which in turn at times leads to a bit more argy-bargy than I would like.

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