Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on July 21, 2013
Discuss this article at the Guerilla Internet Free Speech Table inside the Diner
For anyone who has never experienced what occurs when people with diametrically opposing viewpoints that are unresolvable by normal means start butting heads, an Internet Napalm Contest is a rather unpleasant experience. Not exactly pleasant for a Veteran of MANY Napalm Contests like myself either, but at least I know what is going down and mostly how to resolve it. We recently had one here on the Diner, not the first by any means but one which involved some long term Diners, not drop in Trolls who cruise the net specifically to disrupt Blogs and Forums, either because they are paid Trolls who do this for Goobermint or Industry or because they simply derive pleasure from causing Havoc.
This was not the case this time, the folks who went at each other’s THROATS all know each other pretty well, and all have been discussing & debating Collapse Topics mostly amiably for quite some time. In the course of just one day of posting though, a Napalm Battle ensued which escalated to positively THERMONUCLEAR levels. Collateral Damage all over the place, Civilians hit as hard as the Soldiers involved directly in this Battle.
What was the CAUSE of this? Why did normally REASONABLE people start pitching AD HOM ATTACKS at each other, start using vitriolic language designed to enflame the emotions of even the most passive of readers and generally make everyone feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable with what was passing across the keyboards?
IMHO the main reasons are two-fold. First in this case there was a Newz Story being discussed which itself enflames emotions, the recent Trial & Acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvor Martin case. The story brings up the Racial Divide which still exists here in the FSoA in SPADES (sic, intended). The Black Population of the FSoA has always been the main Underclass here since the Explicit Slavery Days, and Affirmative Action did not do very much to change that. A few of the smartest and most able with decent family support got bootstrapped up during this period, but statistically speaking as a WHOLE lot more Black Boys ended up in Prison than at Harvard Law Skkule. The population was Ghettoized through the Industrial Era, most took on jobs that no white person would and for this community, life AFTER explicit Slavery was no better under Economic Slavery. They get blamed for their own problems, failure of Black Men to take on Family Responsibility, Internal Violence in their communities, non-stop Violence and Drug Abuse. They are delivered by the TRUCKLOAD to the Penitentiaries we run for those who fail to find a way to make an “Honest Living”. We Pay Through the NOSE to keep these “Failures” of the Industrial Systeam alive inside the largest Penal Colony ever devised here in the FSoA, to the tune of around $40K a year for a typical Prisoner, by the time you account for the food and the Prison Guard salaries.
Second reason, probably even more important is the “Little Things” that accumulate over time between people who feign a respect for one another, but get bugged all the time by off the cuff comments that signal underlying differences of opinion on fundamental matters. If someone persistently demonstrates a Disrespect for say the Underclass people of the world and does not see or acknowledge why these folks have the problems they do, it grates on you. Eventually, some story comes across the internet which Crystallizes this, and the recent story about the Martin-Zimmerman case was such a story.
It is not JUST the differences of opinion about the Underclass that grate though, it is also the difference in personal circumstance that infuse such a debate turned Napalm Contest. One person is Well to Do with a Pile of Gold Coins in the Basement Safe; another barely subsists on a Social Security Check or Pension fund. One Diner cruises about in a Brand Spanking new EV, while another Diner can’t work up the change necessary to get on the Bus or Subway. One Diner lives in a Gated Community with most of the world problems still held at arm’s length; while another Diner lives in a flea infested SRO surrounded by Drug Dealers and Prostitutes. Why on EARTH would you ever expect these people to get along AT ALL, and stay “Polite” with each other most of the time? That MOST of the time they can is pretty remarkable, but on ocassion the dichotomy here is too great and the CLAWS come out. They GO AFTER each other.
By no means is this the first time a Napalm Contest has gone down on the Diner, and it is common enough on other fairly Open Boards and Blogs also. Probably the most Intense Napalm EVER to go down in the Internet Collapse Blogosphere occurred on my old haunt of The Burning Platform, run by Jim Quinn who in the commentary is about as big a Napalm Artist as I am, and there were a few others there as well Throwing Smoke in the Good Old Days. Here’s a post I wrote on TBP in the aftermath of one of those Napalm Contests, and you will quickly recognize the similarities:
Recent “Quitting Events” related to the vitriolic and hateful Napalm that passes for debate here on TBP have caused me to put on hold yet another Daily Rant I was more than half finished with on the nature of money. The meta-topic of how the members here behave is more immediately important in terms of determining how successful we will be with carrying the message of how the Financial Collapse and the effects of Peak Oil will transform our culture, however you personally think that transition will turn out. I know that is Jim Quinn’s primary purpose here in administering this forum, he has told me so several times, and it is my primary purpose in writing as well. We don’t see all the outcomes precisely the same way, but we both do want to warn people that “Something Wicked this Way Comes”.
Predating the financial collapse of Bear Stearns, I participated on and administered message boards on other topics, and like all message boards they were subject to differing levels of Napalm. Napalm can be subtle or it can be blatant, but in all cases it is Ad Hom argument. It attacks the writer rather than addresses the ideas being presented. I will write examples of both here.
First, subtle Napalm:
“You clearly have not researched this topic well enough and do not understand the graphs I presented.”
This sentence isn’t addressing anything the person actually wrote, it’s merely attacking his intelligence. Its going to anger the person it is directed at, and he is likely to scale up the napalm himself in his next response.
Next, blatant Napalm:
“You are a fucking moron. Your wife is a goddamn slut who sucks my 11.5” Smokestack. You Eat Shit.”
This form of Napalm doesn’t just attack the person, it takes the debate completely off topic into sexual innuendo and scatology, two forms of imagery that evoke emotional responses in anybody who reads them. Distilled down, those 3 sentences represent 90% of everything Smokey ever wrote on TBP.
Now, like JimQ, I never censored any Napalm on my message boards. In order to SQUASH the Napalm artists who joined my boards, I would just out-napalm them. I would get positively mean and vicious to do so. Generally I don’t use sexual innuendo or scatology to do it, I either use Comedy to ridicule the opponent or I draw from the Chattaqua School of Fire and Brimstone preaching. After absorbing trash from LLPOH and Smokey for a few weeks a while back, I got really pissed off and LET IT GO.
Room gets suddenly still and when you’d almost bet You could hear yourself sweat – he walks in Eyes black as coal and when he lifts his face Every ear in the place is on him Startin’ soft and slow-ow, like a small earthquake And when he lets go-o, half the valley shakes
I Damned to Hell LLPOH in what is generally regarded as one of the most hateful posts ever made on these pages. At least that is how Stucky characterized it at the time. On my own boards, this was pretty effective, but they were much smaller boards than this one is and I never had anyone turn up on the boards so insistent on perpetuating Napalm contests as Smokey is/was.
For a while here, I engaged both Smokey and LLPOH in Napalm contests, but neither one was going to quit and it was making it very difficult for me to continue my primary goal, which is to inform and to analyze the issues at hand from my POV. When I reformatted to the Daily Rants, I decided as part of that to stop responding to any napalm in them, whether the Napalm came as the Subtle or the Blatant varieties. It hasn’t entirely stopped the Napalm in the Rants, but there is quite a bit less of it now than there was before.
In the recent Napalm Contest between Stuck and Smokey, the emotions ran so high as to instigate a “Quitting Event”. Quitting Events happen when people on the board become so disgusted by what is going on that they no longer want to participate on the board. Its not JUST the people involved in the Napalm Contest either, there is Collateral Damage done in terms of Lurker Readers who stop reading the board because of these contests. I had a few Quitting Events happen on my boards, but again not to the scale you see on a board this size.
Now, in the aftermath of this event, Stuck has returned to the board and Apologized to Smokey, which is a pretty impressive thing to do since the kind of Napalm Smokey was using to taunt Stuck was of the most visceral and personal kind. He sensed a weakness in Stuck because of aspects of his personal life he had written about here, and used them to make Stuck feel even worse than he otherwise does about the situation. In the world of Napalm, this is a “Low Blow”. Hitting below the belt. But of course a true Napalm Artist respects NO Rules at all, because there are NO RULES in a Knife Fight. I did find it interesting that Smokey himself quit in the aftermath of this, which shows that Smokey has a conscience, or at least an inability to face the consequences of his actions, which is that everyone on the board was pissed off at him for causing Stuck to quit.
There was also something of a change in Smokey recently, the fact he came into my Existential thread and debated it free of his usual napalm was rather odd. It did not fit in with the persona he was pursuing here at all. Unless someone admits to outside circumstances impacting on them, you cannot know for sure why their behaviors will change in writing on these pages. You can speculate on it, you can observe the effects, but you cannot really know the underlying cause. Stuck has been fairly open about the problems his son is facing, so we can understand his reactions and behaviors in light of that, but Smokey’s behaviors are more opaque.
As we move forward here from this, I am going to offer a few words of advice. First, I never believe in Censorship under any circumstances, so to Jim Quinn my advice is to Carry On as he has, letting the membership post as they will, whatever the outcome of that is. I am even sorry that Jim chose to delete both DP and Hugh Betchya. However, it is his board, so he can do that if he so chooses.
The REAL POWER though to control the Napalm Artists is not in the hands of the CHIEF, it is in the hands of the TRIBE. The way you control people as a group who will not maintain community standards is by SHUNNING them. Do not respond to Napalm Artists, pay no attention to them. In the aftermath of Smokey quitting, Colma Rising has attempted to “assume the mantle” of the board’s chief flamethrower. If you buy into that shit, he will continue onward. If you ignore it, he may continue onward if he is a persistent sort of fellow, but he won’t get any satisfaction from it. If/when Smokey returns and pursues this paradigm again, I suggest the same tactic. He is a bright enough guy, he doesn’t really need to write that sort of shit to make point. I certainly won’t respond to any Napalm they pitch, although if like Smokey did in the Existential thread he writes good stuff to topic, I’ll treat them like any other good debater and welcome the input. Smokey is a smart fellow clearly, but he took on a certain persona here which overall was not real productive. Why he did that is unclear, and probably will remain unclear unless he returns.
What ARE our Community Values? Is it really that important to us to value Napalm Artistry just because it can be creative and sometimes even funny? Or is the Value of this board to INFORM on the important topics of our time? I believe the latter is the important Value of this board, and if we expect it to be successful, being a good source of information and opinion on these topics, this is what we must strive for.
For each of the Writers here, whether you are a Contributor or just respond in the Comments, I have two suggestions. First is to watch your own writing carefully for Subtle Napalm. Its often an unconscious thing to make an Ad Hom attack that will cause someone else to escalate up in napalm. Try to respond only to the ideas, rather than the author who writes them. I get a lot of Napalm pitched my way simply because it comes off the keyboard of RE. Even when I write stuff most of you will agree with, I get responses like “Much as it PAINS me to do so, I have to agree with RE here.” That is a subtle form of Napalm of course. You take the opportunity to say that even though you think what I wrote is correct, you STILL think I am an asshole. See how easy it is to write Napalm?
The second suggestion is to SHUN the Napalm Artist. Don’t perpetuate the contests by responding with ever increasing levels of Napalm. Nobody “wins”, everybody LOSES. Even if you enjoy these exercises in creative scatology and sexual innuendo, it’s a fucking waste of time and makes the board unreadable for most people. It’s a major turn-off for the average reader. If you support this stuff, you are marginalizing the board as an effective communication medium.
As for me, here in the Daily Rants I will continue to observe and analyze the collapse, and respond to anyone who makes a good argument. I will also continue to Troll other threads, and I no doubt will use both logical argument and my gift for comedy to make fun of the IDEAS other people write, but I will try very hard not to attack ad hom. Be your OWN censor. As far as challenging me goes, I welcome all challengers who will write to topic. TAKE ME ON. It is what I live for as an Internet Debater of the topics of our time. I will respect you as long as you respect me.
LLPOH brings up a point here in the Self-Censorship debate, which is that in addition to censoring the type of prose you write, you should also self-censor on its length. He prevails upon me to make my posts SHORTER. Does he prevail on Jim to make his posts shorter? No he does not, because he mostly agrees with what Jim writes. Jim’s stuff is just as long as mine is, he just doesn’t write quite so often as I do at such length. Quality is not an issue here, merely length and frequency. Length in and of itelf is not a bad thing, its only bad if you pursue ad hom in the diatribe, which I do not do. When I write LONG, I write to topic. When I Napalm in response to napalm thrown my direction, its in the Comments, not in the OP. I do not see a reason to make my articles shorter, I am not attacking anyone by having diarheah of the keyboard. LOL. My means of delivering my message is to write at length and exhaustively. It is not Napalm to do that.
Please realize one very important TRUTH if you do take me on, which is that I will NEVER quit, and I will write long and in detail responding to what you write if I do not agree with it. I have a Fast Gun here under my fingertips on this Keyboard, I will use this gift, and I will spit the bullets out faster than you can, or anyone else. In fact I will write it faster than ALL the anybody elses will together. Live with it. NOBODY can keep up with the pace I write at, I think I have proved that one beyond a shadow of a doubt. I run the Marathon on the keyboard against a few sprinters, I’ll grind you to DUST over the whole course of the race. Unless you are the kind of Zealot I am and are as smart as I am, you will be crushed over time. Are you that far up the end of the Bell Curve of Smart People and Ideological Zealots? I have not yet run into someone who can compete on this playing field. LLPOH thinks he can, and I welcome his challenge. Fair and Square, my arguments of IDEAS against his, I am all for it. I will match my intellect up against his anytime, it’s a fun thing for me to do against another smart guy. Think of it like John McEnroe against Bjorn Borg at the US Open. Clearly,I am the Bad Boy Johnny Mac here of course. LOL. Regardless of being a bad boy though, I am a better Tennis Player than LLPOH is. He has more MONEY than I do (update 2013: well, back then he did. lol), but elsewise he has little to defend himself. He isn’t as smart as I am, and he cannot keyboard so fast as I can. He will eventually lose as result. (OK, I admit to doing some TAUNTING here. This still IS TBP after all. LOL)
LLPOH writes his “Short Stories” as means to pontificate on his perspective. All well and good there. I will challenge his Short Stories when I think they represent WRONG ideas, but that is not Napalm. I’m not attacking LLPOH, merely what he is trying to communicate as a philosophy with his short stories. I welcome him to challenge my ideas as well in any of my Daily Rants. This is not Napalm, as long as it is the IDEAS that are being attacked, not the WRITER of those ideas. Please Place Your Bets here on TBP, LLPOH vs RE, who do you think will be proved correct in the long term? Side with the Unrepentant Capitalist or the Repentant Tribalist, your choice. I KNOW my Sins, I admit them and hope for forgiveness in the Great Beyond. LLPOH does NOT Repent, this is his CHOICE, and if you side with him your choice as well. We ALL will have to pick our sides here in the maelstrom before us now, this is only the first of many choices you will have before you, but in that choice you reveal the core of what you believe in. Principles you cannot abandon without giving up how you define your understanding of the world.
Nobody DIES in these Gunfights in Cyberspace, so they will continue onward for so long as TBP lights up the Internet. Who “wins” here when we engage in good debate? EVERYBODY WINS. Good debate elucidates the underlying ideas and principles so everyone who reads grasps a better understanding of them. I learn things all the time from these debates, and my ideas evolve as a result of it. If you read for comprehension, your ideas will evolve as well. The TRUTH is that we must ALL evolve if we are to find a Better Tomorrow, although to be sure, its not going to come in our lifetimes.
See You on the Other Side.
Here in this post, I am not going to make a Value Judgement on this, who I think was right or wrong in the Napalm Contest that went down this time on the Diner. I personally was SURPRISED that some long term Diners lost control as badly as they did this time. I was caught unprepared, despite my years of experience as a Board Moderator on AOL, where the shit went flying on a Daily Basis. However, once it went down, I went into Overdrive on Board Moderation, with all the tricks available to me as ADMIN, POWER OF GOD on a Forum. I had to stop this stuff, and stop it fast. Not really ALL the tricks are available to me in reality, because I am COMMITTED to Non-Censorship and No Banning. I have to find other means to defuse these things without resorting to that, and trust me, it is not EZ. I want a platform where EVERYONE can speak their mind, without the fear of Banning. I have been Banned MANY times, on MANY Blogs and Forums. I am a Troll of the First Order, I can overwhelm a commentary with the volume I write anytime at all. When you do finally get SHUT DOWN as a Troll, particularly on a board or forum you have spent a lot of time on, it is EXTREMELY frustrating. When I got Shit-Canned from Peak Oil, I went through a real tough period where I only was able to keep going because I started the Reverse Engineering Yahoo Group, and got a few friends to follow me there. If it was not for my dear friend and fellow Admin on the Diner now Surly, there would BE NO DINER. If it was not for Peter who I met briefly before Karl Denninger Shit Canned me off Ticker Forum, there would BE NO DINER. If it was not for Haniel who Rode to the Rescue with the Database Cavalry from California, THERE WOULD BE NO DINER. This is why making FRIENDS is important, particularly when you write on unpopular topics or have an unpopular spin. I don’t want the Commenters here to have to go through what I did, and I also know most if not all would not have the persistence and expertiese to keep going regardless of what happens on a given Blog or Forum. It is VERY hard to shut me up on the Web, I know how the whole thing works too well and have been at the game too long, since the Jurassic Period on AOL. The Diner is the EVOLUTION of all those years, all those boards, all those Napalm Contests. I WILL NOT allow the Diner to be undermined in this way, but at the same time I will make it possible for any Diner to speak their mind unexpurgated without CENSORSHIP. I am COMMITTED to this principle of Free Speech, and if this means occassionally the emotions run hot and people get mean to each other, so be it.
One final warning to the other Napalm Artists out there. Do not take ME on here on the Diner. Here I am ADMIN, POWER OF GOD ON A FORUM. You CANNOT WIN. I will make you REGRET THE DAY YOU WERE EVER BORN. In the words of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson:
If you can’t stand the HEAT, stay out of the Diner Kitchen. You just never know when the Oven will EXPLODE. I certainly got surprised by this one. In the end though, the Diners recovered, there were no Quitting Events. Diners are TOUGH.