In the eyes of the innocent

I love Richard Dawkins. But sometimes I think he is a bit too nieve. Take for example the recent goings on on the Forum. A few weeks ago they announced that the forum was going to be replaced by a new system. A system which was “similar to a forum” but had some differences, most notably threads would be tagged instead of categorised and that all threads would be moderated.

They announced they would be leaving the forum operational for 30 days and then replacing it with the new system. However two days later the forum was locked down with a message from Richard saying the following…

Imagine that you, as a greatly liked and respected person, found yourself overnight subjected to personal vilification on an unprecedented scale, from anonymous commenters on a website. Suppose you found yourself described as an “utter twat” a “suppurating rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum inside a dead skunk that’s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino’s twat.” Or suppose that somebody on the same website expressed a “sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails” down your throat. Also to “trip you up and kick you in the guts.” And imagine seeing your face described, again by an anonymous poster, as “a slack jawed turd in the mouth mug if ever I saw one.”

What do you have to do to earn vitriol like that? Eat a baby? Gas a trainload of harmless and defenceless people? Rape an altar boy? Tip an old lady out of her wheel chair and kick her in the teeth before running off with her handbag?

None of the above. What you have to do is write a letter like this…

You can find the entire thread here. Needless the say the letter that was written wasn’t in any way offensive – it was very pleasant and upbeat. But never the less it attracted widespread abuse from forum users. Here is why I think the reaction was nieve though…

Firstly, Richard’s first assumption is wrong. “What do you have to do to earn vitriol like that?” The answer actually is write a letter. Post a YouTube video. Visit /b. Basically anything on the internet attracts that kind of abuse, it saddens me that, that is the case but unfortunately that is how the internet is. Every time I post a YouTube video someone makes a stupid, inane and abusive comment, that’s life unfortunately.

Secondly I think it’s also a mistake to assume these comments are coming from people sympathetic to your cause. I suspect they didn’t. One possibility is they came from religious people just looking for any way to get to him but I suspect such comments actually came from general internet trolls who don’t really care about science, reason, debate or maybe even Dawkins, generally get off on the idea of annoying religious and non-religious people and just wanted to cause trouble. Basically imagine an even younger, more irriguous version of my friend Will.

I also suspect that it may be a nieve thought to think you can control and moderate the internet. I suspect a lot of the user base will be lost because people don’t like moderation because of the pressure it puts you under. However I could be wrong about this, only time will tell. At very least though you can see why this would annoy people.



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This entry was posted on Sunday, March 7th, 2010 at 8:48 pm and is filed under Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.