ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

I’ll be Over Here, Thanks —

Here’s a scenario I find myself halfway through on a weekly basis.

Someone writes something stupid in their weblog. Specifically, someone writes something stupid that I think I have a more informed opinion on, or which causes me to want to point out the person has said something stupid, or which, in their usual hailstorm of stupid, a particularly memorable baseball-sized hailstone of stupid has come down.

The first question that might come to mind is why do you read the weblogs of stupid people, and the answer is usually two-fold: either this person or site occasionally dredges up a factoid or link I’d otherwise not hear of, or I’ve convinced myself that exposing myself to this person on a regular basis will keep my own degrading intelligence in check. The mental equivalent, in other words, of fiber.

Regardless, Mr. Stupid will post something in which he lays out some cataclysmic whopper, some mental hurdle that he fails to clear and leaves himself splayed out on the tartan. Particularly egregious to my own interests are complete misrepresentations of historical events, swapped names, or snickering and derisive commentary belying a canine ignorance of what they’re talking about. At this point, I feel like I must act, in that same impulse of seeing a tipped-over trash can in front of you that you know the wind will eventually drive out into the street. You will receive no personal benefit, the result is statistically meaningless, but you know in your heart there’s a tiny, tiny chance that you can avert some sort of disaster. So I wish to comment.

Most weblogs, with almost no exception, have a facility for leaving commentary on the page. There’s some vague differences in structure (some sites put the comments on a different page, others put them right there, others make you go to a forum to discuss the current stories), but the general template is the same: put in your name, your “URL”, and blart out some text into this little square until you get tired, then press submit. There’s a sad sort of blandness to the endeavor, a reflection of a step back from interacting with text manipulation, when no such thing need be the case. This incentive to go all-out in commenting leads to only the most driven and single-minded of writers adding thoughts this way. Or, even more likely, you end up putting a cramped set of words together and hitting “submit” when you exceed 120 characters.

So an element of “Salutations, Fucknut” in the responses should perhaps be expected. This is why it probably ISN’T an awesome idea to have the comments on the same page as the essay/entry – the layout says “I have spent some time composing my thoughts, and now you can get equal billing for 30 seconds of distracted type-blather”. But the “What Ho, Moron” should be particularly expected when you constantly say stupid things.

To group “bloggers” together is to group “writers” or “illustrators” together. This is a wide, massive field, with a lot of different approaches to a skill or art among them. The methods by which one weblog writer might approach his stories might sort of crawl near the “journalistic” altar, while others are content to say one ill-wrought sentence and then a 4 paragraph cut-and-paste from an actual informational source. I mean, you can get all these people around a table at a restaurant but I don’t know how scintillating the conversation will be, or more accurately how soon it will be before the group turns into a bunch of subgroups, each chatting about something a little more relevant to them than “I sure love my spell checker”.

So let’s go back to the situation that I’m commenting on. When I say someone has said something stupid in their weblog, I mean that they’ve composed an actual set of paragraphs on a subject, a withering attack or mealy-mouthed rant about a subject, and have done so with a beginning, a middle, and an end. In other words, they’ve at least got the accessible tools at their side to compose an idea and bring it to fruition to their audience – it’s just that their idea is stupid.

And now I wish to comment on it. I do. If reading my weblog has been any indication for you, I am not going to say nice things. I am probably going to start out unnecessarily strong, a fist pounding the table and making your nice china rattle a bit, bringing all surrounding conversation to a halt. I am going to, in other words, resist the urge to temper my criticism in sugar and chocolate in the hopes you will mistake it for a compliment because you are fucking wrong, motherfucker.

Anyway. So most sites range from posting your comment immediately to “holding your comment for moderation”, which in many cases means you have a URL in the message body (triggering a spam mechanism), or that somebody’s had so many spammers happen in their comments that they end up holding everything for moderation. OK, I can live with that.

But 90 percent of the time, easily 90 percent, my comment never makes it up.

So why is that? Well, most people would say, “of course, you were too hostile”. As if the person should, on the basis of the tone of the message, immediately delete it and never look back. As if a person says “give me your comments” and doesn’t, in fact, mean “give me your comments”. And wait for it, you know what this means: it means the comments are being filtered for people agreeing with the writer, which means that they are now artificially strengthening their own position with the sucralose of dainty oh-you-are-so-smart platitudes.

This is awful. It’s false advertising, it’s inaccurate. Some sites have little precious disclaimers like “please keep it civil” which, as far as I’m concerned means that I refrain from implying I’m of a mind to set their porch on fire. But every person has their own definition of “civil” and many of them mean “to my ideas”. In other words, don’t beat down what I just said with logic or clear cut talk; tell me how tasty these little treats I am laying out for you are, because I am not being directly paid for this.

A trope which sometimes comes out is that you are on their space and you will follow things according to their rules – and this takes me back. In the BBS Documentary I cover the sysops who would say “You are in my house and my computer and you will follow the rules as if you are in my home”. This holds, to me, even less of an already-flimsy grasp on reality when you realize these places aren’t even hosted in people’s homes any more. Well, except mine.. ascii.textfiles.com is actually located in my own basement. Yeah, that’s right, your calls are coming from inside my house.

Do I drink my own lemonade? Yes I do. Comments come into my weblog that are just vicious, personal attacks. I put them up. All of them. I wrote it, they wrote back, there we go. A harkening back to the goatse article of January of 2007 provides a fall harvest of absolutely terrifying logical positions, suitable for a gang rape. With popularity of the article came the greater and greater onslaughts of disinterested parties stepping up to the microphone to tell me I was everything from a babyeater to a pornographer to some sort of bran muffin. But they’re all up there. They speak for themselves, pro or con.

The solution, really, is not to comment at all on their weblogs. The best thing is to take the germ of the idea that Moron put on his site, link to it, and then compose a blood-on-the-walls attack, a direct point-by-point Jesus-Christ-you-should-have-been-aborted-in-the-twentieth-trimester no-holds-barred murder spree of their brain-surgery-with-toothpicks intellectual enterprise. In this way you control the floor, you are not subject to their whims of what gets shown and what does not get shown. This is an effective situation indeed.

But it means that someone coming to the original essay, the original entry in the weblog, will see just the pontificating dumbass and his slathering minions, and have no idea that someone, somewhere else, probably saw the same flaws they do. The incentive to search around to find responses to this entry will never be as great as the situation of seeing the dumbness and maybe commenting too. It is, in other words, a black hole of thought, with a lint trap attached at the mouth to look for sychophants.

A tragedy, really, that the network that allows all these ideas to share space is immediately split off into tiny whorls of me-too, you’re-right, I-agree. What a shame.


Categorised as: jason his own self

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8 Comments

  1. Tim says:

    “Splayed out on the tartan”??

  2. Angie says:

    I prefer civil discourse, with my definition of “civil” being something along the lines of, “I disagree with you because [data], [data], [chain of logic].” I have no problem with this approach, and enjoy getting into substantial conversations with people, whether they agree with me or not. I’ve even been known to change my mind occasionally, when presented with new data or a different way of looking at something. Weird, I know. :)

    No one’s ever commented on one of my posts with the opposite (Dear Illiterate Bitch: this post clearly proves that you’re a total moron, so go back to your dolls and leave the blogging to the people who can count to eleven without taking off their shoes. Signed, Snarky Fuckwad.) but I’ve seen it in other places. If anyone ever did leave such a comment to one of my posts, I’d probably leave it right where it was for purposes of pointing and laughing, ’cause seriously, people who comment like that are making idiots of themselves and nobody else.

    Angie

  3. Rubes says:

    I had one of those great feelings in my gut as I started to read this just two days after you posted a comment on my blog. Not quite a china-rattling comment, maybe more of a fist-pounder.

  4. Ryan Russell says:

    Allow me to test if I have correctly parsed your prose. Lint trap indeed.

    Are you *not* suggesting that the correct response is to link to their blather from your own vitriolic response on your own, higher-trafficked blog? And encouraging your own set of blog buddies to echo your sentiments? Are you shying away from the blog equivalent of an East Coast/West Coast rap war? Not allowing your Mase to backlink you?

    If that is *not* what you are suggesting, I demand that you rethink your position, sir.

  5. Larry Hosken says:

    Someone made a comment in response to my website. Specifically, they commented that I was a dickhead. I left that comment up on my site. And thus, for a while, I was the top Google hit for [dickhead]. I felt honored, like the whole internet had gathered together and given me a shiny trophy.

  6. James says:

    A different view on commenting. It’s a pity trackback failed thanks to spam, and Google’s “links to this post” is Blogger only, as they provide a happy medium – still on your site, but visible on the original post.

    Also on commenting. Finally, previewing then posting hits your time-based spam filter.

  7. Mirka says:

    Testing, testing, testing.

    I’m having no luck posting comments from Chrome. I consider this a kind of censorship.

  8. robohara says:

    Jason, I have to disagree with you on this one. As a blog owner, I do think I have the right to remove certain comments. Newspapers are not obligated to print every letter to the editor, nor are news programs required to air every weird off-the-wall comment that comes their way.

    Unfortunately the world is not black and white. We all block or remove some comments from our blogs, starting with spam. If spam’s okay to remove, what else is? I can tell you personally I have deleted vulgar/pornographic comments about my kids and a few other non-topical comments.

    I do agree that deleting someone’s comment simply because they did not agree with you is in poor taste, the electronic equivalent of playing God. If someone did that to me, it would be the last time I commented on their blog. Let them play God by themselves.