Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Truth or Consequences

I have an issue with the word "punishment" on adult forums and in virtual worlds when the term is not used explicitly for sexual roleplay. Makes me twitch. I'm an adult and I accept consequences, not punishments. I expect others to do the same.

I'm not in prison with the Captain from Cool Hand Luke. I'm not in a mental hospital with Nurse Ratched. I'm not in school with Professor Hand or Snape. I'm an adult on an adult forum. I do not accept the authority of anyone on a forum to "punish" me. Warn me? Yes. Ban me? Yes. But I'm a grown-up. There is no Mommie Dearest for me.

I don't get bullied, but I do get annoyed and, of course, baited. I've been hooked and I've given out my fair share of virtual goats. I pay attention, I take my chances, I accept informed risks and I deal with the consequences.

Seeing posters, across several boards and blogs, talk about "punishments" for other posters takes me back 30 or more years to school and makes me wonder if some people are attempting to gain and exert the control they could never quite clasp their little hands on back on the school grounds. Replaying that psychological script over and over again hoping for a better result. Perhaps someone could argue it would be a kindness to let them have their illusions, maybe even give them some kind of closure, but I think that's more condescension than kindness. And there's a kind of arrogance in doing more than wondering, right? Who the hell am I? Are we? And that's my point.

There is someone arguing for equal treatment of all posters without bias, history or context on, but she is arguing to a group that has bias, history and context, led by an administrator who has bias, history and context, about a poster that has bias, history and context while including her own bias, history and context about that poster in her arguments rather than separating the issue from the poster...which is, ironically, exactly what she is arguing for.

I read a couple of posts over on SC MKII from a poster who was irate about another poster who voluntarily left the forum as he was voted into the Cornfield. Why? Because it's not "punishment" if he voluntarily takes a time out. No pound of virtual flesh is taken if he buggers off on his own accord rather than taking his medicine from the group. I can understand quarantining someone who is making a mess in the forums. I can understand a mod deciding to give someone a warning or even a time-out, thereby giving everyone time to regroup, reset and breathe, but punishment? The arrogance of that astounds me. It seems small and mean and strangely personal to want to punish a poster on a forum. What an incredible investment it is too. It's not enough for me to ignore you or move on to a forum with fewer assholes or be glad you got quarantined or banned and enjoy the peace, but I want to see you punished...? I want to stand in the courtyard with the other peasants and watch you beheaded or drawn and quartered while I mutter bitterly, "That'll teach you." I want to see you get your comeuppance? Feel my version of justice? Sate my desire for retribution and control and a level playing field or a perfect world I don't have the power to create or maintain myself? On a forum? Wow.

I said on the Utherverse forums back when I was learning forum dynamics that it seemed to me the power is with the poster, or reader, depending on how you look at it. I think you abdicate that power to a stranger in the ether to your own peril and I think it is a foolish and unnecessary choice. It seems to me that if you are so invested as to rabidly and repeatedly decry the lack of punishment of another poster, you have already given some of your own power away.

I see it often enough to comment on it. Of course. It's the forum circle of life. Most of the time when I make comments like this one, it might follow or even link to something and someone specific, but it is usually motivated by having seen it enough to build to a comment on a pattern. Like a straw on a camel's back that makes me do something I know to be foolish (I'm observant, but not immune), which is to acknowledge and comment on the phenomenon at all.

The thing is, I'm all too aware of how much people love their forum fights. Stepping in between the players is to risk "getting cut." As I've said before, I know for many people forum wars are like embattled family dinners - stay the fuck out of them if you're an outsider - and like wrestling entertainment - fake fights with real pain. People take on character roles, none more obvious than the guy who skipped the pretense altogether and went straight for the bad-guy character and named himself "Fuckwad." And for every "Fuckwad" there is a foil and a "Nurse Ratched" who net nannies everyone to death and annoys the fuck out of all but her most loyal supporters and there is a "Mother Teresa" who is far better at tone and timing than "Nurse Ratched" so people appear to love her and listen to her when she makes her occasional call for peace (completely confounding the confused "Nurse Ratched" in the process)...for a while anyway. Each person playing a necessary part in the drama and each one getting something out of it.

I've been told my part to play is that of the buzzkilling curtain puller exposing the actors on the stage.

That's why I say...

Don't mind me. Carry on...and enjoy.

Repost. LeeHere Absent, Mar 14, 2011

Thought-provoking reply from Cody/Dakota here.

Interesting insights. A primal want and a kind of dependency. Interesting post, Cody. I read it twice. Thank you.


  1. Punishment? Over the internet? You have to be delusional if you take pleasure in moderating (in the correct sense of the word) someone's behaviour because you have the administrative power to do so. You also have to be an idiot to be annoyed at little Hitlers attempting to impose their personal version of morality on you.

    It's MUCH more fun to modify the behaviour of others remotely when you DON'T have any actual power over them; much more satisfying when they say publicly that they feel hurt - which of course is entirely their choice; much more pleasurable when they publicly claim some failed attempt at retaliation, but lack the imagination or vocabulary to do so; much more of a triumph when they make it quite clear, publicly yet again - it's great entertainment for the lurkers, isn't it - that they don't really understand how they have been pwned, even though it is glaringly obvious to those not-so-innocent bystanders whose silent approbation is noticeable by its public absence.

    Pep (enjoys this sort of thing.)

  2. Hello my little Machiavellian friend.

  3. Machiavelli was a wuss. He believed there had to be a point to being evil, rather than the means simply being the end in themselves.

  4. Who, then would be a better historical figure to turn into an adjective to describe you?

    Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia?

    I'm not going to Godwin you in my own blog in these early days.

    I'm going with Svengali. Yes, that fits. So let me rephrase my earlier greeting...

    Hello, my little Svengalian friend.

  5. It occurs to me that I have not yet afforded you the opportunity to make your usual speech about assumptions that you are *that* Pep.

  6. Pep...I have always found to be an entertaining poster.
    He has a lively wit, a good enough vocabulary to weigh his words, alive to the nuances contained therein.
    I have often wondered who he imagines his audience to many of his witticisms seem to fly over the heads of his targets.

    When he speaks of delusion...and then continues with...
    " even though it is glaringly obvious to those not-so-innocent bystanders whose silent approbation is noticeable by its public absence." begs the question how does he know the silence equals approbation...perhaps it signifies nothing more than supreme indifference.

    Perhaps being banned everywhere, and this silent approbation is his ultimate endgame...I confess I have no idea what motivates Pep.

    But Identity and Authority are familiar Pep themes. I have wondered about the genesis of these pre-occupations....would Pep Like to this shady corner of the internet.??

  7. My audience is universal,Orfeu. That some understand and some do not, and - even better - that some misunderstand, is precisely my aim.

    What is the point of posting and everybody agreeing with you? What is the point of posting and everybody taking exception. Both are intensely boring and would close a forum down if that was all there was to it.

    And, of course, encouraging others to make public fools of themselves is a great spectator sport.

    I know it is a great internet meme that "unpopular" posters claim to have hordes of lurking admirers who refuse to publicly out themselves and confine their golf claps to private messages, but my experience has been that non-public feedback from the intelligentsia (I don't count mis-spelled death threats with expletives outnumbing semi-identifiable words) is generally appreciative.

    Oh, and the only place I am banned from is SL Offworld, but I don't think anyone posts there anymore. As a recent post of mine on SLConfidential (discussed here by Lee and reposted, subsequently regretfully, in the official SL Forum by Scylla, has pointed out, you can have a considerable effect upon forums without actually posting!

    As to your last offer, I couldn't do justice to a formal exposition on Identity and Authority without boring readers senseless. Instead I shall continue to offer the out-takes in my usual digestible format.

  8. @Lee: Rasputin comes closest. My kids call me Gibbs (qv NCIS) and my son wants to be Patrick Jane (qv The Mentalist) because he thinks that is what I was like when I was younger and could wear a waistcoat without looking ridiculous.

  9. @Lee: Which Pep would THAT be?