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October 23, 2006

The creek’s dried up
Posted by Teresa at 06:02 PM *

Via Pharyngula, news of a regrettable loss: Chris Clarke’s weblog, Creek Running North, has been taken offline after a commenter threatened to do violence to the Clarkes’ dog.

That’s as much as I know, though I assume it must have been a credible threat. I won’t second-guess the decision. When you write online, you risk bringing yourself to the attention of nogoods and crazies. It’s one thing to be brave on your own behalf. It’s another to worry that you’re putting a helpless animal in danger.

Update: Zeke speaks! And Chris Clarke reopens CRN with First, they kill your dog, an essay on the long history of life-threatening harassment aimed at environmental activists.

Comments on The creek's dried up:
#1 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2006, 06:51 PM:

Alright, that's it. I'm saving up to buy a Buffalo. There's just too many damn crazy people in the world.

#2 ::: Janice in GA ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2006, 07:20 PM:

People suck. Alas.

#3 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2006, 07:45 PM:

I don't have anything substantial to contribute besides an expression of general dislike for people who threaten bloggers or their pets, but that really sucks.

#4 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2006, 08:00 PM:

Of course, when I say buffalo, I mean Buffalo. Some ground fortifications with good lines of fire would be nice too. hm. I need to save up to buy some land.

Is there a "Help Chris Finance a Private Military Corporation" to take care of the jerk in question?

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2006, 09:23 PM:

How about "Help Chris hire a private detective to find the guy and put him in jail for making terroristic threats"?

#6 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2006, 09:26 PM:

Were I the moral retard who threatened the blogger's dog, I would be very nervous right now. I think the act of taking the blog down for the animal's protection is a very serious decision, implying the blog's (and the dog's) owner is taking this matter very, very seriously. Probably seriously enough to track down the moral retard's IP information and convey it to the authorities.

This was a threat to cause harm in the real-world and it cannot be mitigated by the fact that it was made "merely" on The Internets, in a blog. Making such threats "merely" on The Internets may turn something like this into a federal crime.

Yes, indeedy. Were I the scum who threatened the dog, I would be very, very nervous right now.

#7 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2006, 09:39 PM:

Luckily, many people (including many police officers) are now aware that there's a connection between violence to animals and violence to people. Even if the threat-maker is not convicted of anything this time, the cops now have a reason to watch him or her.

#8 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 12:43 AM:

So the authorities have been notified? Good.

#9 ::: little light ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 01:07 AM:

That's a goddamn shame.

Chris, if you read these comments, I'm really sorry this has happened to you, and while I'll miss your blog, good on you for doing what you have to to best look after your family.

Hopefully we'll all still have Chris Clarke's insight as a commenter elsewhere, until he--if ever--gets back to blogging again someday. And hopefully the jerk in question meets up with some consequences for such vile behavior.

#10 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 06:07 AM:

When I saw Epacris' comment on this from last Sunday, I dashed across to see if it was still true. Sadly, yes. And even more sadly, the commenter reportedly used an anonymizing server.

The English-reading net-connected world has lost some of the most intelligent, deeply-felt and beautiful writing that I've seen in years. A place I've been pointing & dragging people to since the first time I saw it, a couple of years back. One of my few souvenirs:

A rock in the current will make a hole downstream, the river flowing through it. The hole is the same shape, more or less. Not an atom of it is the same from one minute to the next. This life flows cold and green through us. We stay the same shape, more or less. — The same river twice, February 21, 2006
I hope most of them have saved larger chunks of it to their drive, or excerpted larger bits for their web-presence, than I did, since I preferred to give a taste, then link to the original, and am mourning the loss.

#11 ::: Robin Z ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 07:38 AM:

Somewhat belated, but I'm saving the Google cache of this essay.

I guess there's not much to be done.

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 08:13 AM:

What kind of subhuman moral retard threatens a dog?

#13 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 08:45 AM:

#12: they're the people that are running this country now.

#14 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 10:20 AM:

I'm so mad I could spit. I don't have a lot of time to read blogs, and Creek Running North was high on my bookmarks. It's not that easy to find writing of such beauty and clarity.

Anything else I can thing of to say about it is unprintable.

#15 ::: mattH ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 11:19 AM:

Chris wrote an explanation in that same Pharyngula thread. It seems the threat arose as part of an intra-left argument, and he decided to take the site down, for now, because he didn't want to contribute to the acrimony.

#16 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 11:22 AM:

My parents had a friend when I was a little kid who worked in the local Fotomat. For those who don't know/remember these, it was a tiny little hut in the middle of a parking lot where people could drive up and drop off film to be developed, or come pick it up. This family friend would tell us how, several times a week, some random stranger (and not necessarily the same one each time) would drive up to the hut and scream obscenities and abuse and threats at her and then drive away; apparently all the fotomat employees had similar experiences.

I wonder if the escalating sense of powerlessness of most people in our society leads to a small few, unwilling to risk the consequences of taking out their rage at their own disempowerment on family and friends (if they have any), find it necessary to do so against anonymous strangers. By having an online presence, while you are obviously a real person, you are also just pixels on a screen -- the communication still feels one on one, even in a forum with many respondents, because it is one person typing on a keyboard at a screen which represents the Other. I think it seems, somehow, less of a crime to be rude or threatening or over-the-top abusive to your screen and the virtual person behind it, when you might never have the guts to do so in real life. Like the poor anonymous clerk in the Fotomat both, you can get out your anger at their expense and then drive away and there's nothing that can be done. You've gotten away with it.

I've been the target of death-threats online (in fact, the reason *I* own a dog is because of threats from someone online) -- and it's horrible just how easily someone can transfer their own powerlessness to you, take your own comfort and peace of mind away. And there are people who do it over and over again to one innocent person after another. Sometimes I think hard about reducing my online presence, removing my blog, no longer posting on usenet, but the value I derive from those activities and the importance of the social networks that are created by good-hearted people communicating in this medium outweigh the crazy badness, overall. So far. I deeply regret that one crazy has managed to tip that balance the wrong way for Chris, to all our loss, but I understand why he felt he needed to do what he did because I've been at that decision-point more than once myself, and will likely be again. I hope that, as some time passes, he feels he is able to rejoin us in safety; until then, his voice will be missed.

Threatening someone's *dog* is a new low.

#17 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 11:43 AM:

that Pharyngula thread is just bizzare. I can't believe that it continued to escalate into a who-insulted-who/who-should-apologize-to-whom* type flamewar. WTH is it with people?

Suzanne,
That was very well said indeed!

Periodically I throw away my online personas and start anew - I know I leave a little too much personal data lying around. I'm beginning to think of doing so annually - it would be kinda fun if there was an online festival of masks where everyone agreed to start over simultaneously. I'm not sure if that sounds like it should be a halloween-y thing to do, or more like a Chinese New Year thing to do. (Paying off of all debts to start the year, starting from scratch rituals, etc.)

-r.


*is there a word for this kind of flamewar?

#18 ::: Stephen G ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 12:05 PM:

Grf, the power of the Internet to enable anonymous putzes to annoy, harass, and terrify. I wish Chris hadn't felt he had to remove his blog, but I can totally and completely sympathize with that decision.

#19 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 12:11 PM:

*is there a word for this kind of flamewar?

Yeah, f-ing arrogant stupidity.

I skimmed through the thread. It's not even about the facts of someone being threatened online and taking down their blog. It's about whether the guy was a coward, and helping the terrorists, for doing so.

This tough talk appears to be coming mostly from a guy who posts under an anonymous ID.

#20 ::: Laila ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 12:43 PM:

Greg London's right. The tough talk is coming from an anonymouse, and he's being valiantly defended against those "trolling" bullies who dare criticize him by another anonymouse.

Just goes to show you that some people are infinitely petty, stupid and immature. Also, they don't know when to shut the fuck up. Azkyroth, our tough guy, just keeps coming back to cry about how everyone's misunderstanding him.

#21 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 12:53 PM:

I sense that Azkyroth is young. This "I was wrong but I won't apologize because you called me names" thing is a typical youthful response.

#22 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 01:15 PM:

I put an equivalent comment up on Phryngula, but since it got burried in the juvenille flamewar, let me beg your indulgence to repeat it here, to better the chance that Chris Clarke might see it:

Chris, if you're reading this, a lot of us have gotten a lot out of your blog. Thanks for writing it while you could. I hope that circumstances permit you to return to doing it soon. In the meantime, take care of yourself & your family.

#23 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 01:41 PM:

I'm disgusted with the anonymous thug and saddened that the most prudent thing for Chris to do at this point was to take the blog down.

Chris, if you see this, your essay on getting the ADD diagnosis and then having to reevaluate everything you thought you knew about yourself meant a lot to me. Thank you. And I hope this gets resolved, that everyone in your household is well, and that you're able to put the blog back up.

#24 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Threats against pets for what you write, flame wars over who is the bigger bully... That's it. Where's the reset button on this damn decade?

#25 ::: r@d@r ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 02:22 PM:

That's it. Where's the reset button on this damn decade?

i was trying to be all jokey and write a "reset decade" button for you in ASP.NET, but then i just got depressed.

#26 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 05:32 PM:

Hey, look!

#27 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 06:35 PM:

Lila's right, Zeke has posted a poem.

#28 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 08:11 PM:

Thank you all. I am as close to speechless as I am constiutionally capable of becoming at your generous comments and good wishes.

#29 ::: Lynne ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 09:03 PM:

On one hand, I'm glad the Internet is not so locked down -- yet -- that anonymous activity is completely impossible. It scares me to think of the draconian measures that would be needed to truly nail down who's who.

But on the other hand, if people didn't have this feeling of anonymity, they wouldn't be tempted to do stupid, assholic shit like posting threats against someone's dog. You learn SO much about a person from what he chooses to do when he thinks he's anonymous.

#30 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2006, 11:19 PM:

Creek Running North appears to be back up.

#31 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 12:45 AM:

I didn't know about CRN until this came up, but it sums up something that's been bothering me the last few days.

Chris owns his site and, as such, has every right to assess the nature of a threat and react accordingly. If he thought this was prudent, I am in no position to gainsay. I am not him. Taking the cautious approach for one's own sake is perfectly fine.

Now let's skip to our government. In the last week, we have seen a dopey guy who lives with his parents get arrested for making false bomb threats against stadiums and a 14 year old girl rousted by the Secret Service for posting a so-called threat against Bush. In both cases, neither the FBI nor the Secret Service thought the threats credible.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie in Newark, N.J., said of the stadium guy: 'These types of hoaxes scare innocent people, cost business resources and waste valuable homeland security resources. We cannot tolerate this Internet version of yelling fire in a crowded theater in the post-9/11 era.'

And I thought, wouldnt the analogy to yelling 'fire' be yelling 'bomb' in an actual stadium? Isnt yelling 'bomb next Tuesday' on the Internet the equivalent of yelling on a city street? The former would cause a panic; the latter is just an idiot to be ignored. Or am I just a better bullshit detector than whoever read this guy's postings? I would venture that the guy didn't scare innocent people, cost business resources and waste valuable homeland security resources. Our government did with this chicken little approach to security.

The 14 year old girl...on that bastion of internet credibility called myspace...was interviewed without her parents present, after her parents explicitly told the Secret Service to come back after school, and the kid's school, as a matter of policy doesn�t inform parents of police interviews because, imagine, they interfere. How is this not police state tactics? And I really have to wonder if she had a kill Clinton page if she wouldn't have qualified for a White House tour instead.

Don't get me wrong, the stadium guy was stupid, not funny and needs a life. But doesn't the First Admendment also protect stupid speech? If every law enforcement agent agrees he wasn't credible, why is he under arrest?

Chris Clarke made an assessment that seems logical to me and reacted appropriately. Our government made an assessment that seems logical to me and reacted ridiculously. I feel like I'm missing something. Should I be upset about the stadium guy?

#32 ::: Michael Sedio ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 05:09 AM:

You learn SO much about a person from what he chooses to do when he thinks he's anonymous

I agree. How a person acts when they think they can get away with it says a lot about them.

#33 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 08:15 AM:

#32 ::: Michael Sedio wrote:
I agree. How a person acts when they think they can get away with it says a lot about them.

Indeed - and 'get away with it' isn't restricted to anonymous posters by any stretch of the imagination, as we've seen in a wide variety of cases.

#34 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 10:19 AM:

Mark, there three issues, one the government overreacted to non-credible threats, two making threats versus free speech, three the police underreacting to threats made against the Creek site owners.

That the government overreacted to two kids and underreacted during, say, Katrina, is something that I have no solution for at all, other than election day.

The free speech thing is also blurry, but I'd say I'd be on the side of recognizing a distinction between free speech and yelling "fire" in a theater or threatening to bomb someone. Rules lawyers will no doubt love to exploit this and try to convert any valid political criticism into "fire" as an attempt to squelch it. But I support the distinction in principle.

As for the Creek site, I think whatever happened there was an under-reaction on the part of law enforcement. A threat of harm was made and from what little I know, the police were unresponsive.

But I dont think there's an easy answer to your question. Other than that there's a lot to be upset about.

#35 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 11:42 AM:

Greg London #34: The free speech thing is also blurry, but I'd say I'd be on the side of recognizing a distinction between free speech and yelling "fire" in a theater or threatening to bomb someone. Rules lawyers will no doubt love to exploit this and try to convert any valid political criticism into "fire" as an attempt to squelch it. But I support the distinction in principle.

Although my appreciation for Alan Dershowitz has been dimmed by some of the positions he has taken up recently, this reminded me of an article he had written for The Atlantic some years back. Basically, he accuses Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of doing exactly what you describe (and doing it for the first time, since he coined the analogy); claiming that a pamphleteer's political arguement that WWI draftees should resist the draft, was equivalent to shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater.

I liked the article well enough to clip it, but of course, I can't find the clipping now. But this is why we love the internet (or at least the internet + Google). If you have an online subscription to The Atlantic (I don't), you can follow up this link. For those of us who can't, I found this link; an analysis of the original article, which reproduces the original article at the bottom of the page.

#36 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 11:46 AM:

Re #35: "appreciation for" should be "appreciation of"; "arguement" should be "argument". Every time I'm impatient I regret it.

#37 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 02:35 PM:

Suzanne (16):

My parents had a friend when I was a little kid who worked in the local Fotomat. For those who don't know/remember these, it was a tiny little hut in the middle of a parking lot where people could drive up and drop off film to be developed, or come pick it up. This family friend would tell us how, several times a week, some random stranger (and not necessarily the same one each time) would drive up to the hut and scream obscenities and abuse and threats at her and then drive away; apparently all the fotomat employees had similar experiences.
If I'd been in her position, I would have gotten a cheap camera and taken a flash photo of every person who did that, plus a photo of their rear license plate as they drove away. If money's a problem, don't put film in the camera. What triggers that behavior is the belief that they're anonymous.

This is the same reason you'll sometimes see me respond to a troll by laying out all the personal information about them I've been able to gather. They're always thunderstruck, then resentful, then wheedling. It couldn't be more obvious that their bravado was fueled by their sense of anonymity.

I wonder if the escalating sense of powerlessness of most people in our society leads to a small few, unwilling to risk the consequences of taking out their rage at their own disempowerment on family and friends (if they have any), find it necessary to do so against anonymous strangers.
It's simpler than that. Some people just get off on verbally abusing others. Think of it as a kink. They don't generally commit extended verbal abuse at work, unless they're in a secure and powerful position. They may well do it at home. Verbally abusing people in other contexts -- f.i., these jerks are a staple of public-contact phone lines -- isn't a substitute for yelling at friends and family. It's an additional opportunity to do so.

I've always thought that one of the right wing's cleverer moves is the way they pander to that fraction of the population that's perpetually looking for an excuse to get angry. They feed them a constant stream of stories about supposed outrages committed by "liberals" who bear no resemblance to the real thing. They could just as well be telling those stories about commies or Martians, for all that it would alter the transaction.

I think it seems, somehow, less of a crime to be rude or threatening or over-the-top abusive to your screen and the virtual person behind it, when you might never have the guts to do so in real life. Like the poor anonymous clerk in the Fotomat both, you can get out your anger at their expense and then drive away and there's nothing that can be done. You've gotten away with it.
I don't know whether yelling at people online vs. yelling at them in person is a matter of distancing, opportunity, or courage. I do know that there are things you can do about it.

I mentioned flash cameras and ID-hunting earlier. Another technique is to verbally hit back harder, and refuse to back down. I know it can be distressing for onlookers, but I'm convinced that it can an appropriate response. For instance, I'll sometimes use it on ill-behaved members of the community whom I don't want to ban outright. I also use it in important arguments in venues I don't control.

Then there's making fun of them. That's always good.

The important thing is to make sure they don't have an emotionally satisfying experience. You can't stop them from being a jerk, but you can see to it that being a jerk gets them no payoff.

...[I]t's horrible just how easily someone can transfer their own powerlessness to you, take your own comfort and peace of mind away. And there are people who do it over and over again to one innocent person after another.
Believe me, I know. It's why good online discussion areas have to be moderated, and why the moderation has to have teeth. I value the contributions of you and people like you far more than I value feudmongers and anonymized trolls.

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 02:43 PM:

The important thing is to make sure they don't have an emotionally satisfying experience. You can't stop them from being a jerk, but you can see to it that being a jerk gets them no payoff.

"I can't make you be civil...I can only make you wish you had!"

#39 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 02:53 PM:

#32 & #33: Isn't there an aphorism from a couple centuries back which says the true measure of a man is not how he behaves in front of his betters, but rather how he treats servants, small children, and animals?

Can't remember the exact wording at the mo.

& also: thank you for linking CRN's "Life & Death" essay. That was chilling and beautiful.

#40 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 02:54 PM:

Robin Z, thanks for posting the link to that post and its discussion. (And thanks TNH for putting it in Particles.) I remember reading it some time back, but I don't think the comment thread was nearly so long then, and some of the comments are amazing too. There's just too much good stuff out there for me to even find it, let alone read it all.

#41 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 03:04 PM:

a pamphleteer's political arguement that WWI draftees should resist the draft, was equivalent to shouting ?Fire? in a crowded theater

Yeah, it gets abused and misused.
Yelling "Fire" inspires panic and doesn't really inspire individual choice. It causes a reaction. And it isn't advocating any political speech, it's just causing panic.

Arguing that someone should resist the draft on principle isn't inducing panic, and maintains that the person doing so also maintains their sense of choice. It is political speech, dissenting against the state, and should be protectd.

The problem comes when some knucklehead doesn't threaten you, but rather argues that someone else should do you harm. It isn't really political to imply that someone should come along and kill your pet, even though it implies said knucklehead assumes someone of free will doing the act.

It would seem that Free Speech should be protected as long as the one threatened with harm is the government in general (resisting the draft, no war for oil, whatever). But Free Speech that threatens physical harm against another civilian is a different matter.

I think the founding fathers had in mind the idea that one must be always able to dissent against your government, not neccesarily against your neighbor.

So, for those speaking against the government, free speech should trump all. For those speaking against another citizen, then Free Speech must negotiate with individual safety.

As with all rules, the more specific you get, the more the rules lawyers will try to find a loophole.

#42 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 04:00 PM:

Wow, Teresa. Yes, thanks for Particling me. And as the site's back up, there is a direct, non-Google-cached link available now.

#43 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 04:37 PM:

TNH:
If I'd been in her position, I would have gotten a cheap camera and taken a flash photo of every person who did that

Being inside a fotomat I imagine she had easy access to film, but I don't think anyone ever thought of that. She did quit fairly quickly. I was only maybe eight or nine at the time and all I remember was how shocking we all found it. I expect that if I heard that story now, it wouldn't surprise me at all, and that's kind of sad.

There's elements of that sort of behavior in road rage, too, with cars as the anonymizing agent.

It's simpler than that. Some people just get off on verbally abusing others.

You're right, of course. Somehow, though, I still keep expecting people to be better than that. )-:

The important thing is to make sure they don't have an emotionally satisfying experience.

When I had my most recent creepy-guy experience, I took a printout of all his emails to the local police, along with a copy of the guy's home address, resume, and even a photo of him (holding a big knife, scarily enough), because I had the superior Googlefu. The officer read through the various threats to my person and my friends, and then escalated the matter up to the state police. "We'll see how brave he is when a two-hundred-eighty-pound trooper knocks down his front door," the officer said. I took great comfort in that image, and never heard from the guy again. (I did, however, get myself a dog. She's 110 lbs, and she likes to sleep curled up in front of the all-glass front door where she is Very Visible. That's a *lot* of peace of mind.)

However, going back to these sorts of abusers, I spent some time tracking the guy who threatened me and found that both before and after the brief stretch of time in which he was fixated on me, he had repeatedly joined various online groups and then trolled just enough to raise someone's ire (usually someone female -- he would go on at length about how a) he hated all women, and b) for some reason women wouldn't date him [though he didn't seem to see a connection between those two things], and seemed to definitely be targeting his anger largely towards women) and then when they spoke up he would go to town threatening her until either she dropped offline or some outside force (police, at least twice that I know of) intervened and then he'd move on and set up shop again somewhere else. Some of the people he threatened had luck getting people in authority to take them seriously, some didn't -- the notion of threatening someone over email or via the web doesn't seem "serious" in some people's eyes. Over and over again it's the same pattern. One has to wonder if the assvalve who went after Chris Clarke is another serial abuser of that sort, and where he came from and where he'll strike next.

I don't know that there's any real understanding of the impact and scope of internet stalkers yet, and I think that's a serious oversight. Do they get bolder with time? How many of them go on to take more direct action? Do they have a club? Is their logo a goatse patch with their own faces stitched in the center? (it could be!)

All these things we don't really know the answer to...


#44 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 05:23 PM:

TNH (#37) wrote:

Another technique is to verbally hit back harder, and refuse to back down. I know it can be distressing for onlookers, but I'm convinced that it can an appropriate response.[...] I also use it in important arguments in venues I don't control.

Probably the most successful (in terms of Signal-to-Noise ratio) completely unmoderated forum I've ever seen was the rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan newsgroup in its mid to late 90s heyday. Long after many other usenet groups had fallen into chaos from trolls, fringe wackjobs, and "internet performance artists," rasfwr-j was still a readable, coherent community. The key was standards of behavior and language that were strictly maintained through, well, overwhelming verbal dominance. If you didn't post up to the accepted standards, it would be pointed out to you. If you continued to violate the standards, you would be ignored by most of the community. If you raised a fuss, and an explanation of why the standards were in place failed to rectify the upset, then you would be put in your place.

Sometimes it seemed like an unfair sport (battle of wits against the unarmed, and all that), and there were certainly plenty of people intimidated and disturbed by it...but the results were tangible. The community thus forged drew together and helped to develop some of the best writers I've seen on these here Intertubes, and it held together long past when most agreed the books had lost what drew us in in the first place. It's still a community, now, just somewhat more distributed (Hey, Cabal!).

Being able to just out-write and out-argue someone is a powerful, powerful ability...at least we can count on our hosts to use their powers for good.

#45 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 06:15 PM:

What skwid said, except s/rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan/alt.folklore.urban, and s/ignored/roasted over an open pit.

#46 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 08:39 PM:

Chris Clarke -- That was a terrific poem. Zeke deserves a biscuit, at the very least. (Link at #27)

#47 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 09:12 PM:

Lisa Goldstein: #46

If you ask me it's better than the original.

#48 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2006, 09:14 PM:

#43 ::: Suzanne wrote:
I don't know that there's any real understanding of the impact and scope of internet stalkers yet, and I think that's a serious oversight.

(Suzanne - not directed at you per se, but your comment reminded me)

I have to say that I'd say "stalkers", not "Internet stalkers". It's a major pet peeve of mine - but a bad thing offline is still a bad thing online. Stealing? Bad. Threatening people? Bad. Harassing? Bad.

Do we know how many stalkers are out there, and what they get up to? Nope. In some ways it's easier to track digital footprints than real world ones - the methods of gathering and sifting electronic data are typically easier than hiring millions of gumshoes - which makes many online issues (apparently) easier to quantify. Internet problem are also much sexier than "John Doe keeps on following Jane Smith around, and showing up at the Library and staring at her".

Circling back to earlier discussions - there's a place and a reason for privacy and anonymity online. It's a double-edged sword, I agree - most priviledges are - but the anonymity that lets one person be a twerp is the anonymity that allows another person a safe voice.

#49 ::: Sean D. Schaffer ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2006, 03:14 AM:

What amazes me about this whole situation is that I have heard conservatives, for years, calling environmentalists 'wackos' (sp?) and stuff like that.

Then the same people who call someone crazy for their views, goes and threatens to kill someone's dog, because they are open about those views.

Up until this time, I've never read the blog in question; I looked at the essay, and am just blown away. The fact that people are willing to harass and threaten other human beings, and threaten a dog, to get a point across, scares me.

I don't claim to know a lot about this whole situation, but I do claim to know that threatening an animal over their owner's viewpoints is wrong. I hope whomever did this gets caught....and prosecuted.

#50 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2006, 10:02 AM:

Sean:

The same people? Are you sure?

#51 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2006, 11:02 AM:

There is no shortage of people who will use threats or violence to silence views they can't stand. That's not primarily a right-wing phenomenon, it's a generic property of people. My feeling is that this is supported to some extent because a lot of people don't mind seeing someone offensive silenced, even if they personally don't want to do it.

For example, Arthur Jensen, Charles Murray, and Edward O Wilson have all received threats and had their speeches violently disrupted, because some of their ideas were really offensive to a lot of people. And it has always looked to me like an awful lot of people who personally weren't willing to do something nasty to shut these guys up were at least happy to see someone else doing that.

This sort of crap shouldn't be acceptable to anyone. People who silence others by violence or threat of violence ought to be shunned by everyone who cares about honest discussion. But it's really common to see people engage in special pleading for their cause.

#52 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2006, 12:18 PM:

Another technique is to verbally hit back harder, and refuse to back down. I know it can be distressing for onlookers, but I'm convinced that it can an appropriate response. For instance, I'll sometimes use it on ill-behaved members of the community whom I don't want to ban outright. I also use it in important arguments in venues I don't control.

My experience -- and this could just be a function of inferior verbal skills -- is that that's generally what they're looking for and it only makes the problem worse. I'd be interested in seeing examples where this reaction accomplished something other than personal catharsis, which is all I ever seem to get out of it.

#53 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 03:19 PM:

Xeger (48): I have to say that I'd say "stalkers", not "Internet stalkers". It's a major pet peeve of mine - but a bad thing offline is still a bad thing online. Stealing? Bad. Threatening people? Bad. Harassing? Bad.

Oh, entirely agreed. The "internet" modifier was not meant to imply a different "level" or seriousness of stalking, but simply to differentiate one of the means of stalking, and one that's not very well understood by law enforcement (or people in general). I suspect such stalking probably has some characteristics and patterns to it that are either somewhat unique or emphasized differently than "traditional" stalking which we ought to make some effort to comprehend.

#54 ::: Sean D. Schaffer ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 08:47 PM:

(#50)The same people? Are you sure?


I think you fully well what I'm saying, Sir. A number of prominent right-wing individuals are constantly referring to people like the blogger in question as 'Wackos'.

My beef was not with any one person; my beef was with a mentality. When I see people within the Right-Wing refer to Left-Wing activists as 'Wackos', I kind of expect that Right-Wing activists are not going to resort to threats and violence to get their point across. Such threats and violence would be considered, by a number of people, the kind of action 'wackos' would use.

I do not claim to know even who the person is that made this threat. It's the mentality that "It's okay for me to act like a complete idiot, but you had better not" that I have a problem with.

I apologize if I was not clear enough in my previous post, but no, it is the mentality of this whole situation that I find distasteful and repulsive.

#55 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2006, 11:25 PM:

On October 30th, 2006 Chris Clarke put Creek Running North into a posting hiatus. It's sad, but looking the final Gone fishin', and at other recent posts & comments you can see good reasons. More happily, at least for now it's staying online to read. So go & do that while you can.

#56 ::: Azkyroth ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 12:45 AM:

Greg, Laila, et al:

Does the fact that you complain about my having used an anonymous ID, as a supposed indication of cowardice, in a post on another blog which was, as I recall (though I may have been mistaken) not brought to my attention at the time and which I didn't find except as a "near match" search hit not seem even the slightest bit inconsistent to you? Wasn't "calling people names behind their back" the original complaint?

At any rate, I hope my inadvertent stint as "an enemy you can see" was helpful for stress relief. I was sorry to hear about Zeke, some months later, and I hope Mr. Clarke is doing well.

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