Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's the same old story

I rarely join in on the blag-o-spheroid buzz of the day but I do feel compelled to throw in my 2c on the events that have a massive number of people all a-twitter today. Essentially, a rather high-profile (and rather good) blogger, Kathy Sierra, has been subject to some extremely vile and graphic harassment. She details the events here on her blog (I should throw in the obligatory warning here - I wasn't joking when I said graphic. Consider yourself duly warned before you follow that link.)

The actions of the people involved are utterly reprehensible and inexcusable. And you know what else? This. Is. Normal. This is how people behave online. The only difference I can see in this case is that the perpetrators seem to be connected to some incredibly high-profile people. I imagine those people are in major arse-covering mode right now.

I find the majority of reaction from other bloggers slightly confusing. The outpouring of support for Kathy Sierra is fantastic but the recurring "I can't believe this happened" theme simply boggles my mind. Really? You can't believe people would do this? What fucking internet are you using?

It isn't that I'm not outraged by this - I am. I'm just not surprised. Maybe I've spent too long on YouTube (as xkcd put it so eloquently, the behaviour of YouTube haters is bad even by internet standards.) I've gotten so used to receiving violent, anti-semitic (ironic considering I'm not Jewish) and homophobic (ironic considering I'm not gay) threats that I thought everyone was used to that standard of behaviour. I've also repeatedly seen the most vile, disgusting attacks imaginable levelled at women and children.

Ever wondered why I post anonymously and wear a mask when I make videos? Astute readers will note that I've done that from day one. It wasn't an afterthought. I'm not doing it retrospectively as a results of some vile little troll. I thought it through ahead of time and realised it was going to be very important. Sometimes it pays to have a very low opinion of humanity in general. You're so rarely proven wrong.

So I am having a little trouble understanding why people are so surprised by this. I remember one prominent female YouTuber said she was going to stop making videos unless something was done about the haters. I hope she does the right thing by herself and never goes back to YouTube. Nobody deserves to be treated like that and if you don't have sufficient psychic armour to withstand the assaults then you're far better off staying out of the online fray altogether. It's a sensible response (I'm not sensible).

Kathy Sierra has cancelled a public appearance and is seriously considering not returning to blogging. I can't blame her. I would like to throw a few questions at Robert Scoble, who's taking a week off blogging in support/protest. In his announcement, one of the things he said was "We have to fix this culture. For the next week, let’s discuss how." Fix it? You mean change the behaviour of thousands of (mostly) young (mostly) male fuckwits who get their jollies by launching cowardly, vile attacks against people who don't deserve it? You really think you're going to fix that?

Short of rounding them all up and shooting them (they aren't as anonymous as they think) there is no "fix" for this problem. So far as I can see, there's just dealing with it and not contributing to it. And as for taking a week off, it's a noble show of support for someone who deserves support but don't you realise that these gutless little dweebs would see that as a victory?

This is how the internet works. I thought people realised that.

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