I follow Jesus’ General regularly, which does in blogospheric fashion the same schtick as Stephen Colbert, ironically making fun of conservatives by trying to be a hyper-extreme version of them. A few days ago, he made this post that references this post at Nashville is Talking. In it, NiT blogger Brittney referenced a really hateful post about the very recently departed Steve Gilliard. As it unfolded for those of us (like myself) unfamiliar with NiT, Brittney is a liberal blogger and was citing a post by one of her blogging enemies for its ironic value. Many people gave her a big load of shit about how not putting in any disavowal of the post was a tacit approval of the words. Ultimately, Brittney resigned and even JC Christian feels a little bad about it. I agree that she made a mistake not qualifying the post. The whole thing would have been different if she had prefaced it with two words: “Oh my.” JC seems to still insist that she should have apologized. Franky, I think she screwed up by not commenting but that’s not anything that requires an apology to anyone and it is a shame she resigned over the whole incident.
I recap all this to get to a few points of my own. One is that I feel that regardless how big a dick the original poster was and how great a man Steve Gilliard was, the many people who gave as their reason for disapproval that “it was disrespectful to talk ill of a man who wasn’t even buried yet” is invalid. As some pointed out, no one was held to that standard for Falwell that I saw. I myself waited about 12 hours before I made my own disrespectful snarky post about his death. So, I don’t find that a particularly compelling reason for outrage unless you apply it across the board even-handedly.
The other is that most of the trouble in blogs seems to involve drive-bys. I think the lowest ebbs I’ve ever had with this blog involved swarms of drive-bys coming by, people who never had heard of me 5 minutes ago making lots of imputations about who I am, what I do and why, how I think. In one ugly case, that person was a fairly well known science fiction writer/blogger and someone I had on my list of people to interview for Voices in My Head. Afterwards, I couldn’t think about said writer without getting pissed off so I just scratched said name off my list. Another was when I had the horrible taste to say that Ze Frank didn’t do so much for me. It got linked from the Ze Fanboy Funtime forum and brought a lot of people in to tell me how stupid I was or how little taste I have. The most personally troubling was when my post about the flooding in New Orleans become a top Google hit for “New Orleans jokes”. I found people leaving comments about how Americans deserved this while people were still in the process of drowning in their own attics to be as bad a day as I’ve ever had with this blog. I did the jujitsu of adding an Apache rule forwarding anyone with that search string in their HTTP_REFERER to the Red Cross donation page when I couldn’t take it anymore.
All of this goes to say that drive-bys are fun for bringing new readers by, but can really be damaging when a mob of them come in with torches or pitchforks. Merely having an agenda can be sufficient. I write with context, reference things I’ve said previously, make assumptions that most of the people reading any post have read other things I’ve written. That will always fail for someone new to me with that post, but in the main I think the assumption holds most of the time for most of the people. When you happen on something outrageous on a site with which you are unfamiliar, impose a waiting period. Read more than just that one post. Dig a little before you deploy the outrage siege weaponry. Life is short and hard, so take a minute to give people a break now and then. You might be sparing someone an unnecessarily bad day.