The whole Kathy Sierra incident is coming to a close, with an NPR interview and a call for a blogger’s code of conduct. (Details at the links; basically, Kathy wrote an innocuous blog about software development, and was harassed into quitting her blog by a few nasty commenters.)
The latter item has touched off a rant by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, about the necessity of moderation:
Bloggers can ban anonymous comments or not, as they please. The problem isn’t commenter anonymity; it’s abusive behavior by anonymous or semi-anonymous commenters. Furthermore, the kind of jerks who post comments that need to be deleted will infallibly cry “censorship!” when it happens, no matter what O’Reilly and Wales say.
Anyone who’s read ML for more than a couple of months has watched this happen. Commenters who are smacked down for behaving like jerks are incapable of understanding (or refuse to admit) that it happened because they were rude, not because the rest of us can’t cope with their dazzlingly original opinions. It’s a standard piece of online behavior. How can O’Reilly and Wales not know that?
By coincidence, I got mail from Charlene Blake recently. Back when I bought my current van, I explained some of the reasoning behind my choice: poor customer service from Toyota caused me to decide to buy the Honda. In that post, I linked to a petition and some other information Charlene had put out there. Little did I know that Charlene had her own little “fan club” who liked to search for references to her and troll their little hearts out, trying to stifle any criticism of Toyota by lies, intimidation, fraud, and other nasty stuff. At first, I tried to be civil, but the stalkers got so vile that I was forced to do some “censoring” to keep my site from becoming an anti-Charlene haven.
Well, it’s two years later, and they’re still at it. As far as I can tell, she attempted to get some advice on cyberstalking from counsel.net, and got a lot of abuse instead. Here’s a sample:
If you can dish it out, you have to be able to deal with the
push back. Evidently you can’t. Whining about those who
don’t agree with you won’t get sympathy from myself, and
undoubtedly most other folks who read similar pathetic
moaning from anyone!!
It is clear you are the kind of individual who always blames
others for your problems.
My advice–get a life!
Interesting legal advice, that.
Now, it’s possible that the fine folks at counsel.net just take a dim view of Charlene. You’d expect, though, that if these people were regulars at counsel.net, they’d have more posts on the site than just posts attacking Charlene. So let’s take a look at some of the names of the people who replied to her: Dave Nightingale, Garnet Williams, Roger Francis, Cheryl Martell, Marisa Decker, Vincent Gagnier, Bruce Coristine, Walter Matthews, and Rick Fasan. Right now, not a single one of those searches returns a post that isn’t about Charlene Blake. (Just in case they try to obfuscate the point with irrelevant posts elsewhere: try to find a post by any of those people on counsel.net that was posted before April 24, 2007.)
By contrast, here’s one other poster on that thread: CK in Delaware. The person’s Charlene comment shows up, but so do a number of other posts, some of which predate Charlene’s initial post. That’s what a regular (or something vaguely close to a regular) looks like. If any of the names above really were regulars, they’d have search results looking like CK’s.
(For the sake of completeness, there’s only one poster left besides Charlene: T. Tonary, a defender of Charlene, also appears to be a one-timer. Ironically, “Bruce” above accuses Tonary of being a shill!)
It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.
Charlene comes across to me as a tough woman; certainly she has to have backbone to have pursued this for so long and with such opposition. But why do the Charlenes and Kathys of the world have to put up with this stuff? People talk about “censorship” in regard to deleting nasty comments, and I suppose it is. But Kathy is no longer posting, and Charlene can’t seem to post anywhere without vicious stuff following her. It seems to me that Kathy and Charlene are the ones getting censored.
And if we’re going to have censorship, of one stripe or another, better it be the pond scum than Kathy and Charlene.
Sadly, even I have been made to participate in the anti-Charlene campaign, even if by accident. If you search for Charlene Blake on Google, my blog is the second link, and Google’s excerpt from my initial post linking to Charlene’s petition is from one of the troll commenters. If you don’t actually click the link, you get the impression that I’m trashing her in the main article.
Oh, well. Time to make amends.