What a dismaying sight, seeing Tony Walsh, a man whom I used to have a great deal of respect for, acting like a grumpy old school marm and permabanning me -- and csven Concord -- from Clickable Culture. Please go file a note of protest there in the comments, as it will likely fill up with an SC idiot like Thunderclap Mortgidge who relies on SC's freedom to rant on himself, and is only to ready to pull the plug on anybody else he doesn't like.
I realized when I began to be savagely attacked on CC last week by an unhinged csven Concord, who ranted for pages about things like Wisconsin drinking laws, that I hadn't read CC in quite a while. I used to run to read it every day -- last year. Then it steadily became more and more dull and difficult to participate in. It went from being a kind of institution, the only serious blog in our world that wasn't paid-for, wasn't run by a company, wasn't sponsored by a metaversal agency, wasn't run by self-serving careerists, into being a kind of diary featuring quick and often irritable entries from Game Geek Guy on the Go, traveling, in demand, letting us know that he was getting all kinds of paid trips and consulting trips to go teach, watch, talk about games. It used to nettle me only a bit that Tony Walsh would be speaking about intimate relationships in virtual worlds when he was never *in* them -- always scornful and elitist about Second Life and never spending any significant time in it.
Then I saw that I went from being nettled to be really dismayed -- how does it happen that people become so self-serving, so caught up in their careers and their need for their blog to "look good" and not have any "embarrassing posters" on it and have its "optics" be always attuned to the Next Gig? I guess it's what happens when you have to make it as an independent Game Geek Guy. It's a luxury, coming out of someone's hide, trying to make the only independent institution for discussing games, worlds, technology *critically*, without fear or favour.
The other problem I saw increasingly nettlesome for the former high-quality journalism and discussion group Clickable Culture was that Tony was becoming more and more a bore about his anti-corporate and anti-American opinions. His slip was ALWAYS showing. We understand that sure, liberal Game Geek Guys in Toronto are going to be anti-American and anti-corporate. But...did Tony ever meet a corporation he didn't hate?
Did I somehow go and grief up Tony's blog because I found his quality of independent thought and discussion going downhill, being substituted with numerous tech beat sort of entries that look like reviews on amazon.com, with hardly any discussion?
Of course not. I maintained respect for him, and tried to keep up now and then. But his snotty claim of "child porn panic" in SL was really over the top. His snarky slap at the Whyville dude was out of line. I think he got a serious and certainly normal discourse from me about this and others. There wasn't flaming or trolling.
So what happened? Tony, like so many other freespeechniks who pride themselves on their civil libertarian values, refused to moderate, and refused to set the tone. He refused to put people in their place that needed to have that done. csven was writing longer and more wierd and more unhinged diatribes against me, and starting to use my RL name as a weapon, and calling me a "liar" and a "worm" -- and nothing was being done about it. I could ignore it, and would let it go -- and then I'd see it was persisting and persisting and spilling into every single thread.
Days before he permabanned me, here's what I wrote Tony, imploring him to "do something" about csven Concord's really unbalanced behaviour:
I know you're no fan of mine and barely tolerate me -- if that. You've been especially grumpy lately. No matter -- I hope that because you *are* a decent person that you are annoyed or even as troubled as I am
by what csven Concord is doing on your site to me -- bullying, outing my RL name constantly, harassing me, making outrageous personal attacks.
The thread about the Lindens asking for adult verification which is probably the longest on your site (for no good reason) is unviewable and unpostable and buggy. I simply moved my responses to my own blog
since there's no reason for it to be on yours, really. It's just as well that it is not viewable, as csven has chosen to link my avatar's name with my real-life name there in a bid to harass and intimidate me.
I don't know what policy you have on the outing of RL information on your own blog, but I cannot reasonably ask you to do anything, given my belief in freedom of the press. I just feel as if I want to speak up to
lodge a protest about this, that's all.
In fact, because my identity was forcibly outed against my will on the SL forums in June 2005, I can't really do much against the people who keep using this form of bullying tactic to harass and silence me. Each
one who does it -- and there are only a few who are notorious flamers and abusers visible to all anyway -- is doing it not because it's of journalistic interest, but as a means to silence my criticism. I feel I must protest that.
When Mitch Wagner does a story for Information Weekly, or David Kushner does a story for Rolling Stone and interviews me and links my avatar, it is done for the sake of journalistic due diligence (their editors
may even require this; I know the Times does). They do it cursorily, mentioning the link, but not making some huge commentary and fuss over it.
When Ian Betteridge and csven Concord do this, they do it to bait, harry, intimidate -- as if to say -- we will draw you into polemics and force your comments to Google up ever after so that your RL name is
always associated with taking a position critical of tolerance of virtual pedophilia which we'll try to use to intimidate you in RL in your profession involving work in human rights groups. That is indeed what they are doing. It's wrong. Actually, I fear not, as I know all my RL colleagues would be appalled at the tactics being used.
My solution for such bullying tactics and outright sexual harassment (csven has made some really awful comments on the Herald), is not to crumple like Kathy Sierra and boycott myself or stop posting. I think
if anything, fire must be fought with fire. It's really an awful thing that it *takes that kind of fight* to establish a space for oneself on the Internet for a critical voice.
Tony Walsh could have *moderated* by closing the comments. By putting all his posts with italics, bold, and spacing coding csven might well have contributed to making the section unusable and buggy. Tony could have also done what I wish more civil libertarians would do: no cut or censor comments, not waste time on elaborate guidelines, but just *set the tone and take a personal stand*. It isn't censorship or foisting of mandatory guidelines to say: "csven, I don't like what you're doing here -- it's aggressive and unnecessary. Please take it to your own blog".
When csven is getting a pass to write miles of vitriolic commentary about me, however, and Tony is doing nothing -- not removing comments where my RL name is used to bait and harass me, not responding even with some mild personal reprimand (Urizenus is so good at this at the Herald), then I fight back. And I definitely fight fire with fire, that is matching line for line. If you look at the post I did here copying what was removed from Tony's blog, then you'll see that I do not use any of the gross tactics of mendacity and intimidation that the odious csven/Sven uses. None of that matters to Tony whoever, who responds that he is busy in RL and if I don't shut up, he'll pull ALL comments.
His so casually nuking ALL our comments for YEARS doesn't strike me as a mistake -- that could only be done consciously as the tools on blogs allow for searches of comments but you have to consciously decide to delete them. Deletion and banning are separate things. And it was likely nuked in anger. Now, Tony has somewhat thought better of it and restored remarks of mine and csven's from the past, but apparently from what I gather of his remarks, only to satisfy some of his readers who were disturbed that he'd tamper with a former open public forum like that by removing EVERYTHING from posters.
Tony's illegitimate, unnecessary, uncalled for, and oppressive step is what we will see more and more of in the "Metaverse" because people's careers and egos are so much at stake. Tony wasn't a tenth in the news 2 years ago that he is today, with the explosion of interest in games and worlds. And, like other big deals in the field, it has made him feel all-powerful and also arbitrary. He no longer wants to bother with upholding principles.
As I contemplate the other fora I am banned for, I'll note that there's a very obvious common thread, and it isn't what my detractors imagine -- because I "spew vitriol". In each and every case, *someone else, usually a friend of the moderator, or someone whom the moderator is afraid to take on* is FIRST spewing vitriol because they simply don't like what I say.
o Second Life official forums: I take on Aimee Weber, Cubey Terra, etc. and the FIC; the thin-skinned and neuralgic Aimee, and her legion of pudgy fanboyz with AR-trigger-button fingers, scream a the Lindens that I must be banned because I protest at the favouritism shown this bunch and the suspension of the rules for them. Their impunity, their ability to fly over the radar of the TOS ever time is something the moderators have a big blind spot to. A Linden admits I am being banned "because the community wants it," not because I "violated the TOS" -- because I didn't. Not the rule of law, but the rule of the tribe and its code-as-law.
o Second Life blog: I take on Cory Linden and the libsecondlife, asking why Cory is giving a pass to reverse engineers who have let serious serial griefers into their midst and unleashed products like Copybot on to the grid. A little pack of forums jackals begins to snottily peck at my heels, calling me a "Republican" or a FUDite or whatever, and no one steps in. They're allowed to get away with it. I say *exactly what everyone else criticizing libsecondlife is saying in the same thread* and Im' banned by Torley, ever vigiliant when her bosses are singled out for criticism. By the irony of SL fate, my questions asked in this pre-town-hall forum are asked anyway; by the irony of fate Cory Linden keeps answering them and calling them "good questions" even as Torley gives me the boot from the town hall. The damnest thing...
o Second Life community round table: Pathfinder's baby, so he is already pre-disposed to ban me. He makes no rules for this list, but only after I've already committed what he has post-factum decided are "two strikes" he invents and promulgates a "two strikes and you're out rule" which he enforces AFTER notification for pre-notification offenses (violating a basic principle of just law). And...what are these "offenses"? One is simply telling him that LL is publishing everybody's email on the list, and some idiots are using this for personal griefing. One total asswipe decides completely erroneously, that because he sees my email somewhere, that I'm "spamming his email" with this list. It's a technical glitch, however, for which I have nothing to do -- a function of the Lindens not knowing how to set up a listserve that even I, a dummie, could set up better. This dweeb swears at me, and twice I try to get Lindens to realize they are opening up the door of people's private email addresses to get griefed -- they ignore me. So I finally *publish the swearing at me on the list and say, Hey, Lindens, this is happening, get on it, fix the listserve*. Oops, strike one, for *merely explaining that a matter of disclosure is happening in a list that is not my fault" -- and a strike *itself called disclosure* (nutty, or what?). I showed this to a lawyer -- they said it was such an absolute open and shut case that they feared taking it on, because Pathfinder would *have* to lose, and knowing his need to stay large and in charge, it would only lead to both of us losing our accounts.
Strike two involves me fighting back against Laukosauros -- again, so typical of that problem of non-moderating so aptly explained by Ziggy Figaro/Mitch Wagner as lying at the root of a lot of blogs with problems. Lauk complains that there are no public spaces to use for events besides a few Linden places and complains of the high cost of land, etc. I explain I have a land preserve and a public space program, anyone can use it for a symbolic fee. She snarks back at me that she doesn't want "all this commercial crap". I explain that such socialism will never get anything paid for and there must be partnership with business. Whoops, I'm told I have two strikes and I'm out under the just-created two-strikes law.
o secondlifeinsider.com Aimee Weber, bearing a long grudge as I've explained in detail elsewhere, prints a column minimizing and ridiculing the fact that Plastic Duck called me at home and harassed me and my child -- ugh. She blames the victim. I struggle to reply about the seriousness of the matter here. This follows up from another Akela column where he has been disgracefully soft on PD and such. I'm permabanned by Akela with Aimee's approval, giving her eternal plausible deniability -- and I'm unable to stand up for myself in a column dreamed up just about me, to belittle and harass me -- just because -- and liken my claims of stalking and assault to be "like misusing the word genocide". Once again, a failure to rein in Aimee herself, and get her to stand down from that kind of ad hominem column that was completely beside the point, unnecessary, and just stalking of me in the extreme.
o sluniverse.com -- Yet another example of how a forums where Weedy Herbst and other Toxic 20 regs are reining supreme are allowed to harry, harass, hammer, and humiliate me, and yet if I answer back, whoops, wow, that's out of line! At first, Cristiano does the right thing and reprimands Weedy for her bad behaviour. Incensed, she fights back like a shrieking banshee, and he caves, banning me, and leaving her. An example of where a moderator at first tried to do the right thing, but couldn't in the end stand up to his long time "regs" and caves like the weak ninny he is. As always, it's failure to moderate properly, firmly, fairly -- and moderation doesn't always mean draconian bans and permabans and mutes, but putting people in their place. I don't know why more moderators don't do it. It's appropriate. It needs to be done. It cries out to be done.
o Hiro Pendragon -- just a baby, neuralgic, unable to take the slighest bit of static.
New World Notes -- Hamlet nee Linden Au pre-banned me even before his blog opened up -- what a sissy.
And now Clickable Culture joins those dishonourable ranks -- unable to moderate in time, to get rid of a menace like csven, unable to stand up for what is right, leaving someone like me to have to fight it out to the end -- the punishing me for fighting. Unable to distinguish who is really right, merely getting irritable. Calling all the posts "a lot of bile" -- thought it's abundantly clear who started in with the vitriol, personal attacks, and alarming bullying tactics -- csven.
When men are able to stand up and be decent and do the right thing in the Metaverse, people like me will never need to be permabanned.
So what does that leave, besides my own blog, which has not silenced my voice?
o twitter.com and jaiku.com
o planet.worldofsol.com -- this is a blog of blogs roll, and I often think that Tao Takashi, who is very much with his finger to the wind all the time to tilt to whatever is favourable to elites and Linden Lab, will be glad to delete me the minute he feels he has enough social backing for this.
o raphkoster.com Raph previews all comments, and I've never known him not to post one of mine. And that means he might well not be posting some nasty ones harassing me, as I've never had to go and really duke it out with a monster like csven on his boards, because csven wouldn't be able to get away with that crap at raph's.
o terranova.blogs.com While still able to post here, I've had to face some really brutal offlist bullying by two of the moderators there which is really, really appalling.
o secondlifeherald.com where I myself write stories, and where I've had to endure the most incredible hatred, venom, vitriol, and abuse that I think few people have ever had to endure. It makes the Kathy Sierra day-long tempest-in-a-twitter seem like a day at the beach. I'm told I'm ugly, fat, and should never have been born (and hey, it's my birthday!). Just curse up and down the pages and watch your hair curl. But fortunately, Urizenus, presiding over what is arguably the SLogosphere and the game/virtual blogosphere's most independent and free and uncensored publication, MODERATES. He moderates not by rules. Not by censorship. Not by permabans and mutes. But by *taking a stand*. He tells people off. He puts them in their place. He does this briefly, and with authority. AND IT WORKS. We need more of this approach. It's what keeps the world free.
o SLOG -- surprisingly, this bastion of the FIC, once they got over their clutchiness about having no comments at all, left it to me to be able to post here.
o Sheep Blogs -- I think I'm banned from one or two here, but able to post on most of them, including Jerry Paffendorf's.
o 3pointd.com -- Walker often loses my posts. God knows why. If I persist, I can usually get them to stick.
Anyone who silences me has only let the bad guys win. I believe strongly in that. I wouldn't have to keep assailing the same bastions of tekkie wiki assholery over and over again with increasing sharpness and shrillness if the people moderating these assholes in the first place STOOD UP TO THEM. It's really that simple. Moderate by setting the tone, and visible, vocally standing up to bully tactics. Call people on their bad behaviour. Tell them they are out of line. It's not about guidelines, rules, bans, mutes. It's about the kind of real-time, really-present interaction that social media demands.
I'm going to add the point here that a lot of this stuff that goes on is very much a gender issue. You'd think that a person who is transgendered in SL and representing as male would not be playing the gender card here. Unfortunately, one has to point out that this IS about gender. I got a LOT MORE harassed and bullied and ignored as to my legitimate issues by Lindens once my RL gender was widely known.
In each of these cases I've cited of my permabanning somewhere, it's involved some male geek type who is in fact a despotic ruler out of weakness and insecurity. Unable to stand up to bullies, he bans the person who *is* willing to stand up to them. Any impartial observer studying all these cases here would see that.
And for some insecure males, especially younger ones, there's nothing they can't stand more than a mouthy, opinionated older broad. Makes them crazy. Even as a male avatar; no; ESPECIALLY as a male avatar.
I don't know any virtuality and game blogs other than gamegirladvance.com which I never read anymore that has females -- and mature females moderating them. They might do a better job. I think they have an easier time standing up to bullies socially rather than handling the problem of the backlash against bullies that occurs through ban-hammering.
Permabanning me only says something about the weakness, insecurity, and neuralgic reactions of the person doing the permabanning -- it's not a statement about me being some sort of "troll" or "flame warrior". It's about men being unable to stand up to other men who behave like assholes -- and women who behave like assholes, too (who are, more often than not, transgendered m2f who get into a frenzy at the idea that a women is also playing transgendered -- makes them crazy, for some reason).
There you have it. I fear not. I will go on speaking out, criticizing companies in the virtual world and game biz, and individuals and groups who seek and obtain power in them. The space for me hasn't shrunk, but widened as more and more social media that is neutral as to content and moderation (like blogging, podcasting, tweeting tools) becames available and can be used more readily by non-geeks like me.
We're here, we're queer, get used to it!