Sunday, January 18, 2009

Some thoughts on the rash of blog on blog violence

This post will contain no links or pictures.

I am also going to refrain from using direct quotes if I can. It is not really my goal to pick up any hits or receive any traffic from the things I am writing about.

A few years ago I was a fairly active participant on a message board linked to a web comic. The web comic was awesome, and I had met the creator at a convention and was absolutely charmed by her and the hangers on in her booth. It was just a nice group of people. The discussions on the bulletin board ranged from the comic, to who was going to what conventions, to general video game chatter, etc. I think there were between 10 and 15 people posting there on a regular basis. It was fun and light and nice. The core was an extended group of friends, some who had known each other in real life first, some who hadn't, some friends of friends, etc. I wasn't part of the core, but that wasn't an issue, everyone was friendly and welcoming.

This was a message board attached to a comic that was great, but not exactly huge. The artist was nothing but nice and seemed to have fun doing her thing, and this was part of her public face. This was an aspect of her as a creator hoping to gain an audience or sell some merchandise, or just keep turning out a pretty fun and by no means controversial comic.

One of the people on the message board is a friend of one of the core friends. He has a friend who shows up and starts posting as well. He seems fine, although he doesn't seem like he has even read the comic... ever... He seems to enjoy the community. Everything is still ok until the attacks start. First there are a series of people who have also never read the comic that show up and maybe make a real comment or so before just using every opportunity to just attack this other guy and smear him in the group, etc. It was ugly.

Then the guy is throwing crap back at the attackers because he knows who they represent, etc. He knows who the kingpin is and he calls them out. Then the kingpin shows up and just spews vitriol. It was ugly. This person is a very well known comic book writer. I was appalled and a bit freaked out by it. The writer had a lot of claims against the guy, and while they may have all been valid and true, it was pretty shitty to use the message boards related to a really small time artist, working to carve out a niche and build readership, etc., for that kind of personal vendetta.

It greatly soured me to the writer. I WANT to like them, but I have difficulty doing so now because of how they comported themselves in public. It makes it hard for me to even pick up books they are associated with.

The questions I ask myself now are these: Would I feel the same way if the writer had a blog devoted to slamming this guy? What if they had a general blog, but took every opportunity to personally slam the bastard in their posts? What if it only happened every now and then? Would I still feel that everything they did was tainted, or would I just think they were petty and irrational, but their blog is their place to be as petty and irrational as they wish? Would I fault the company they write for? Would I refuse to buy that company's titles because they employ writers who do things like that? Would I call upon the company to fire this person? Would I suggest that this person was unfit to work there because of their personal views and personality?

Would I go on my own blog and blast the individual publicly? No I wouldn't. Honestly, after having seen more things this person has posted, my opinion of them is no longer really affected by that one time. They have a history of being really outspoken and fiery at times, but although I would like it if people carried themselves differently 'in public' I am not the civility police, or anything close to that. In fairness, the writer apologized for the way things went down, and for the fact that it played out how it did and where it did. They directly addressed the artist whose site it was, etc. It showed some class, but at the time didn't really erase anything that went on.

I am for civility. I am for a positive spin where possible. I generally believe that if there is a possibility of taking the high road on something (especially where others are involved) that it is preferable to do so. I don't think everything in life needs to be an I win, you lose situation. I don't think that the beliefs and opinions of others invalidate my beliefs and opinions. I don't think that people who disagree on something need to act like enemies.

I also am not a fan of link posts in general. I try to put links in my posts wherever possible to enhance the experience, take you to someone's site so you can see more about them, site an original post on something, that sort of thing. Many link posts, and places that use link posts as regular features, seem to do so in a way that doesn't serve any great purpose but to antagonize, name call, or 'call people out for the purpose of inciting others to jump on the bandwagon of attacking the person being linked to.

There is a lot of ground that can be covered relating to comics and the comics industry, and related fields of interest. I am a fan of snark. I am a fan of humor. I am not a fan of bad natured attacks and sweeping generalizations that are not presented tongue in cheek or with any sense of irony. Rarely will you find any two people with the exact same definition of a concept, even one that both would claim to embody or support. Discussion and debate are good things. Name calling and bullying are not. Civility should be a given. I don't care that this is done over the Internet. Civility is something that we all strive for. We cannot control the actions and behaviors of others, but we can each control ourselves.


John said...

I've always thought that a message board argument is like a game of Global Thermonuclear War: The only winning move is not to play.

Sandy said...

It's funny that you posted this, because only a few days ago I put up a post that sort of went after Steven Grant, the columnist for Comic Book Resources. Within a few hours, I decided that I didn't like putting up negative stuff on my blog and took it down. (Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way to recall it from rss feed readers, so people subscribed to my blog still saw it.) But yeah, I don't think I'll do something like that again.

Talkin Bout Comics said...

Well... I hadn't read that post until just now, but that post was about 100 times more civil and respectful than the stuff I am referring to. :)

I know that (although I may break this rule at some point) I try to stay relatively positive. I honestly feel better about what I am doing by keeping it at civil and not sacrificing my integrity, etc... We can still point out wrongs, injustices, differences of opinion, whatever, but I think that doing so with civility and some degree of restraint is always the best route. I don't think anyone has ever strengthened their argument or made themselves look better by launching ugly personal attacks against people they disagree with.