Monday, April 09, 2007

The Internet Code Of Ethics

There are many rules of the Internet, some written, some not. One of the most important rules that anyone on the Internet must bear in mind is that, if you use the Internet long enough, your life will be threatened. There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule. If your life hasn't been threatened yet, it just means that you haven't been using the Internet quite long enough, or you haven't been exposed to the Internet Proper that exists outside the world of AOL Hometown pages that feature sparkling GIF images of sheep and public domain MIDI files. If you respond to threats on your life with any modicum of shock or horror beyond eye rolling and abject sarcasm, this is undeniably the case.

People make death threats on the Internet all the time, because people are stupid. If they disagree with anything you say, your life will be threatened because it's much easier to puncture a person's e-skin than to devote one's neural synapses toward forming a well-reasoned counterargument. In fact, AOL is practically the Internet with kids' gloves, and you can't go to a forum thread listing a cookie recipe without the original poster's life threatened with obscene desecration by a fervent, Bush-supporting Baptist pastor. I've had my life threatened. If you go by the sheer number of threats I've received on any number of web forums, I've been killed more times than Rasputin's perpetually re-animated zombie corpse. I've handled it by rolling my eyes, laughing, and telling the troll in question he was a massive fail because he had nothing on me besides a user name taken from an F-grade horror movie, a location of "Here" and, generally, a picture of Shockwave. Sometimes, if I have time, I make fun of them so eloquently that all they can do to respond is repeat the same copy and pasted capslocked sentence hundreds of times until they're banned from the forum for being clinically retarded.

I'll tell you what
the absolute dumbest way to handle an Internet death threat is, though. Locking yourself in your house and failing to attend a conference where you're delivering a workshop. If you do this, you're revealing a lot about yourself, such as the notion that maybe you don't deserve to exist in the real world. Being alive is a death threat in itself because your life can be taken by anyone, at any moment, for any reason. Wasting your time terrified of an anonymous person who threatened you anonymously over an anonymous medium exposes your fragility, and that fragility is a weakness that will be exploited immeasurably. You are giving them power over you. You might as well be walking up to them and handing them a contract surrendering to them consummate control over your very will. Why would you give someone who doesn't know you from Adam that much power over you? Overcome their push for dominion over you by not letting it bother you. In fact, if at all possible — and it's generally not only possible, but outright probable — make fun of them for it. They're your intellectual inferiors. Exploit that. If they're going to hate you with that level of ferocity, at least give them a reason to.

You can't reduce these people's behavior to abstract psychological concepts like some have tried. I've heard explanations that these people feed on misery and chaos and hate people whose message spreads hope. That is a farce, because people hate me for my Blog and all I do is ridicule people. It'd be closer to the truth to say that people read something on your Blog which reveals to them a truth that they refuse to accept about themselves, and it infuriates them. Instead of accepting this truth and working to correct the negative feature, they attack the person who has done nothing more than reveal it to them. They can't argue against whatever revealing statement was made because they know it's true, so instead they channel the hostility better directed at themselves toward the person who made the statement. They attack with the vehemence they feel about themselves.

Someone who sends you a death threat in response to something you've written reveals more about themselves than they do about you. They reveal that they are immature and not at all properly grounded in reality. Most of these people are teenagers whose idea of prolific writing is mindless profanity, gore, and Marilyn Manson shock value. If they say that they're going to kill you, they're saying, as intelligently as they know how, that they respectfully disagree with your position. I may toy with these people for a comment or two, exploiting every psychological flaw they reveal, until I get bored with them and banish them to the desolate wasteland they fear most: passionate disinterest. The main thing these immature, unintelligent Internet trolls feed off of is attention, and once you cut them off from the attention splurting teat they may try a little more assertive vie for it, but eventually they will give up and move on to someone else who will buy into their tired shock tactics and give them the attention they crave. Rewarding Internet trolls with passionate disinterest is akin to waving a tennis ball in front of an ADHD golden retriever and then throwing it, and hiding behind the nearest building while the dog runs off to retrieve the ball. You'll be lucky if the dog makes it to the ball without getting distracted by a free porn site.

The worst thing you can do for yourself if you've been the victim of an Internet troll is spread your story across the Blogosphere like a California wildfire across a field of dead grass on a particularly windy day, demanding that Internet users adhere to a valiant code of ethics. For one, you're pretty much asking already law-abiding citizens to obey the law because the people you're asking to adhere to the code of ethics either already do or don't much give a shit. I mean, Christ, this is a medium where people will post pictures of themselves eating their own shit for other people to masturbate to. Do you honestly expect a divine code of ethics to be followed amongst these people? This exercise in futility just feeds the trolls the attention they crave most. Congratulations, you've stroked their egos, they've won.

If you have a problem with anything I have to say anywhere on the Internet, you may address your concerns in a reasonable and thoughtful manner, and I will respond in kind. I enjoy friendly, intelligent debate, even when I am in the wrong. However, once you resort to baseless insults, expect to have your reply picked apart and given all the respect I feel it deserves, then be put on forcible ignore. That is the only code of ethics anyone on the Blogosphere should ever need.

np: Simple Minds - "Stay Visible"


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