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Normally I wouldn’t write about this. I’d keep my head down, hoping that someone else would say what I might. Many of the people cited in Rafe Needleman’s post are friends, professional colleagues, and actors in the Web 2.0 comedy. But this stuff isn’t funny, trading in the politics of personal destruction is not professional, and letting this slide is not an act of friendship.

Writing or producing or performing for a living opens us up to the slings and arrows of those who feel helpless, unrepresented, or disrespected. The way the Internet works, anonymity is a shield to hide behind. The only thing worse than that anonymity is the fix for it: digital numbers tatooed on every arm. As we found out in the last administration, destroying our human rights to torture the potentially innocent backfires when we all are presumed guilty.

If anonymity is worth the cost, we have to find some other ways to keep the discourse at what my father used to call a low howl. As a father of two children (15 and 8) my responsibility is to leave them with a sense of what is the right thing to do. My father has been dead for 34 years, but I can conjure up at any moment what he might think about any action I’ve ever taken. Of course, I’m really just mapping my sense of what’s right on top of what he taught me to honor.

The actions of the haters in the virtual world may be excused as a function of the distancing of technology, but I think that’s just blaming the tools — guns don’t kill, bullets do. We all know better than to revel in the tyranny of the whisper, the flexing of the innuendo, the bullying of the vulnerable. But as parents, we fail when we let the hatred pass as just another day’s work, a kind of wink and a nod that excuses the drumbeat of thoughtless banter and real fear slipped in along with the childish and class cut-upping.

Do we really have to let this get as far as death threats before we realize how seriously off the rails we are? It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. And since it is, it’s time for a trip to the principal’s office, not for the kids but for us parents. The kids don’t know better, but we do and yet we condone this crap as entertainment, or competition, or all’s fair in love and war.

I’ll continue to joust with the haters and the ignorant, the ones who sign their names especially. But someone from the world I inhabit (and I dismiss the argument that the mainstream and new medias are fundamentally different) who treats hate as a parlor game will need to fix this before I will continue to respect and compete with him or her. Because entertaining with hate is teaching the young that this is OK, that they have something to aspire to, something to achieve, something to profit from.

We all make mistakes. I’ve made plenty, and I’m sure I’ll hear more about them after this. Three of the people in Rafe’s article are members of the Gillmor Gang, and Dave Winer is one of the main reasons we all have the power in our fingertips to speak our minds in this digital age of lowered barriers. These people don’t deserve these attacks, period. Neither do their families and friends. I take it personally. So should you.

  • Christian Burns

    The hours I have spent listening in on the hallway conversations of the Gillmor Gang and Morning Coffee Notes and bloggercon recordings, help to give a sense of who these guys are and know that the accusations are false. For the record I consider them all friends even if the don’t even know who I am.

    My kids argue and fight every day (ages 1, 2, 4, and 5) and are forced to make up within moments of each incindent. They are learning to get along everyday. Jenni and I lead by example. When we hurt each other, we choose to forgive.

  • Christian Burns

    The hours I have spent listening in on the hallway conversations of the Gillmor Gang and Morning Coffee Notes and bloggercon recordings, help to give a sense of who these guys are and know that the accusations are false. For the record I consider them all friends even if the don’t even know who I am.

    My kids argue and fight every day (ages 1, 2, 4, and 5) and are forced to make up within moments of each incindent. They are learning to get along everyday. Jenni and I lead by example. When we hurt each other, we choose to forgive.

  • Still Waiting

    …for Steve to report on the enterprise software business. Someone wake me if it ever happens.

  • Still Waiting

    …for Steve to report on the enterprise software business. Someone wake me if it ever happens.

  • http://brainimplant.blogspot.com Chris Harris

    Link to the Rafe Needleman post?

  • http://brainimplant.blogspot.com Chris Harris

    Link to the Rafe Needleman post?

  • http://techwag.com/index.php/2009/01/29/some-things-have-already-changed/ TechWag » Some things have already changed

    […] of a pie or say eggs which also seems to be popular) on Tuesday is not quite hitting the same blogosphere outrage that the attacks against Kathy Sierra […]

  • http://techwag.com/index.php/2009/01/29/some-things-have-already-changed/ TechWag » Some things have already changed

    […] of a pie or say eggs which also seems to be popular) on Tuesday is not quite hitting the same blogosphere outrage that the attacks against Kathy Sierra […]

  • http://instantwebmeetings.com atul abraham

    ( i should be working BUT ) – the entire furore over Arringtons´ Euro-phobic remarks a few months ago and then the back and forth if he should be banned was plain ridiculous.taking a leaf out of the UN book Iran and norht kore still ahebva seat in the UN, why not Arrington at LeWeb09 ? However Arrington IS extremely vocal in his opinion and this is bound to rattle unstable & crazy people — plus im not sure if this is true BUT there is definitely the IMPERSSION out there that he and TC are the strident voice of the valley. maybe im wrong.

  • http://instantwebmeetings.com atul abraham

    ( i should be working BUT ) – the entire furore over Arringtons´ Euro-phobic remarks a few months ago and then the back and forth if he should be banned was plain ridiculous.taking a leaf out of the UN book Iran and norht kore still ahebva seat in the UN, why not Arrington at LeWeb09 ? However Arrington IS extremely vocal in his opinion and this is bound to rattle unstable & crazy people — plus im not sure if this is true BUT there is definitely the IMPERSSION out there that he and TC are the strident voice of the valley. maybe im wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/moon paul

    Arrington chose to blog about this while at Davos knowing full well that the spotlight would then turm on him.

    • Steve Gillmor

      Blaming the victim is what this is about. Use your full name next time.

  • http://twitter.com/moon paul

    Arrington chose to blog about this while at Davos knowing full well that the spotlight would then turm on him.

    • Steve Gillmor

      Blaming the victim is what this is about. Use your full name next time.

  • http://www.drumsnwhistles.com Karoli

    I suppose I should be glad there aren’t more nasty remarks on this post.

    There should be no argument amongst any of us about this: death threats and spitting in someone’s face is never justifiable, never acceptable, and is entirely dehumanizing.

    Cheap shots on other people under the guise of anonymity are still cheap shots. It’s so reminiscent of the issues around Kathy Sierra two years ago. This is not gender-based mistreatment; it’s just mistreatment.

    Anyone who knows me knows I’ve tangled with Mike Arrington on more than one occasion in his comments and on my own blog. But it wasn’t a gratuitous slam on him — it was a genuine difference of opinion that was expressed in a less-than-kind fashion on both sides. Though I’m not proud of how I responded, I can at least say I responded with transparency and honest indignation, sans threats or other perjorative attacks.

    This is why I remained behind a pseudonym for as long as I did. I was a target when I was in the CNN communities (we were required to use our real names) and after leaving, I wasn’t thrilled about being hunted down. It took me six years to overcome my aversion to being known under my real name. I still am reluctant to use my last name.

    Words are powerful. When combined with acts of anonymous violent gestures, they can be frightening. I wish Mike and his family the best and hope his time off will give perspective and rest to these issues for him.

    If the ones behind his harassment are caught, they should be named. Publicly. Only cowards do violence behind the guise of anonymity.

  • http://www.drumsnwhistles.com Karoli

    I suppose I should be glad there aren’t more nasty remarks on this post.

    There should be no argument amongst any of us about this: death threats and spitting in someone’s face is never justifiable, never acceptable, and is entirely dehumanizing.

    Cheap shots on other people under the guise of anonymity are still cheap shots. It’s so reminiscent of the issues around Kathy Sierra two years ago. This is not gender-based mistreatment; it’s just mistreatment.

    Anyone who knows me knows I’ve tangled with Mike Arrington on more than one occasion in his comments and on my own blog. But it wasn’t a gratuitous slam on him — it was a genuine difference of opinion that was expressed in a less-than-kind fashion on both sides. Though I’m not proud of how I responded, I can at least say I responded with transparency and honest indignation, sans threats or other perjorative attacks.

    This is why I remained behind a pseudonym for as long as I did. I was a target when I was in the CNN communities (we were required to use our real names) and after leaving, I wasn’t thrilled about being hunted down. It took me six years to overcome my aversion to being known under my real name. I still am reluctant to use my last name.

    Words are powerful. When combined with acts of anonymous violent gestures, they can be frightening. I wish Mike and his family the best and hope his time off will give perspective and rest to these issues for him.

    If the ones behind his harassment are caught, they should be named. Publicly. Only cowards do violence behind the guise of anonymity.

  • http://twitter.com/moon paul

    If Arrington is truely a victim then he should go on Ophra

  • http://twitter.com/moon paul

    If Arrington is truely a victim then he should go on Ophra

  • http://blog.stealthmode.com Francine hardaway

    Time for a rule about putting your real name on your comments and threats. I am taking this very seriously, Steve, and felt such a sense of loss when Kathy Sierra stopped blogging that I hate the thought that this would happen to Mike.

    I think if we can’t have civil discourse, we should no longer allow open and free comments on our blogs, which are in a way our living rooms.

    • Francine Hardaway is a Giant Douchebag

      Great idea, Francine. I think your comment is spot-on. I couldn’t agree more. Keep those great ideas coming!

  • http://blog.stealthmode.com Francine hardaway

    Time for a rule about putting your real name on your comments and threats. I am taking this very seriously, Steve, and felt such a sense of loss when Kathy Sierra stopped blogging that I hate the thought that this would happen to Mike.

    I think if we can’t have civil discourse, we should no longer allow open and free comments on our blogs, which are in a way our living rooms.

    • Francine Hardaway is a Giant Douchebag

      Great idea, Francine. I think your comment is spot-on. I couldn’t agree more. Keep those great ideas coming!

  • Jeffrey Conroy

    “As we found out in the last administration, destroying our human rights to torture the potentially innocent backfires when we all are presumed guilty.”

    Steve,

    I keep hearing and reading this and similar charges, always with no evidence to back them up. I’m not defending the last administration, but what exactly are you referring to? I’m aware of three top Al-Qaeda figures being waterboarded, which some consider torture, in order to extract information; but I’m not clear on which of our human rights were destroyed. I’m not attacking your claim, but rather hoping to be enlightened.

    Thanks.

    • Jeffrey Conroy

      Steve?

      Unfortunately, this is the same response I always get when I ask this question: nothing but the sound of crickets chirping. I was honestly hoping for a thoughtful, cogent response. Am I left to conclude that your accusation has no valid basis?

      • Steve Gillmor

        Jeff,

        This country was founded on principles of due process and the presumption of innocence. The Bush administration flaunted and continues to via Cheney the notion that we can do anything to protect our way of life. As Obama has ably stated, this is a false choice that undermines the very special qualities we consider worth protecting. You may argue with the premise, but don’t mistake silence for not being thoughtful or cogent.

      • Jeffrey Conroy

        Steve,

        I thought that might coax you to respond. :) Unfortunately, you’ve given me talking points instead of specifics to back up your claim. I understand our founding principles, and was hoping you could shed some light on what specific actions violated which specific rights. I’m not trying to defend the Bush administration; rather, I was hoping to gain some insight into your way of viewing these issues. I meant it as a friendly inquiry, and meant no offense.

      • Jeffrey Conroy

        Steve,

        It looks like you aren’t going to supply any evidence to back up your claims, so I’ll stop asking. This isn’t the proper forum for my inquiry anyway.

        Though your response provided further unsupported claims, it does, in fact, help me gain some insight into your mindset. Thanks.

  • Jeffrey Conroy

    “As we found out in the last administration, destroying our human rights to torture the potentially innocent backfires when we all are presumed guilty.”

    Steve,

    I keep hearing and reading this and similar charges, always with no evidence to back them up. I’m not defending the last administration, but what exactly are you referring to? I’m aware of three top Al-Qaeda figures being waterboarded, which some consider torture, in order to extract information; but I’m not clear on which of our human rights were destroyed. I’m not attacking your claim, but rather hoping to be enlightened.

    Thanks.

    • Jeffrey Conroy

      Steve?

      Unfortunately, this is the same response I always get when I ask this question: nothing but the sound of crickets chirping. I was honestly hoping for a thoughtful, cogent response. Am I left to conclude that your accusation has no valid basis?

      • Steve Gillmor

        Jeff,

        This country was founded on principles of due process and the presumption of innocence. The Bush administration flaunted and continues to via Cheney the notion that we can do anything to protect our way of life. As Obama has ably stated, this is a false choice that undermines the very special qualities we consider worth protecting. You may argue with the premise, but don’t mistake silence for not being thoughtful or cogent.

      • Jeffrey Conroy

        Steve,

        I thought that might coax you to respond. :) Unfortunately, you’ve given me talking points instead of specifics to back up your claim. I understand our founding principles, and was hoping you could shed some light on what specific actions violated which specific rights. I’m not trying to defend the Bush administration; rather, I was hoping to gain some insight into your way of viewing these issues. I meant it as a friendly inquiry, and meant no offense.

      • Jeffrey Conroy

        Steve,

        It looks like you aren’t going to supply any evidence to back up your claims, so I’ll stop asking. This isn’t the proper forum for my inquiry anyway.

        Though your response provided further unsupported claims, it does, in fact, help me gain some insight into your mindset. Thanks.

  • http://www.drumsnwhistles.com/2009/02/05/identity-and-image/ odd time signatures » Blog Archive » Identity and Image

    […] the end, there’s a price for transparency. There are those who will prove themselves to be something other than what they represented, and […]

  • http://www.drumsnwhistles.com/2009/02/05/identity-and-image/ odd time signatures » Blog Archive » Identity and Image

    […] the end, there’s a price for transparency. There are those who will prove themselves to be something other than what they represented, and […]

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