Monday, April 18, 2011

‘I’m Sorry I Peed in Your Cesspool,’ or "Shaddup Shuttin' Up!'

Soooo, here’s a conundrum:

Who is the bigger jerk in this matchup:

1) The relatively new author who, in the context of criticizing a lightly critical review of one of her books totally melts down, drops a few f-bombs, and then storms off in a huff amid an Internet-coordinated flame war of just about everything she has created and posted on the web,


2) A seasoned author and illustrator who, in the context of trying to set the record straight on his views on various subjects, sock puppets on a highly-popular weblog and then is threatened with an outing by the admins of said site because, well, the site has no privacy policy to speak of.


3) The site that threatened to out the sock puppeteer unless the sock puppeteer outed himself.

I’ve got to admit that, in the grand scheme of things, probably No. 2 is the winner here, though No. 3 comes in a close second. Although they did have some legitimate news reasons – in the sense of yellow journalism – to out the puppeteer. Who is Scott Adams of Dilbert fame. Who outed himself on his own blog.

I’m not saying sock puppeting is a good thing. I think it’s an incredibly stupid thing to do. Unethical? Yes. Boneheaded and vexing? Sure, especially when, like Scott Adams, you sign into something using another account (in his case, PayPal) that identified himself by his real name.

Listening to Metafilter (where all of this went down) and Gawker preach about the no-no that is sock puppetry is kind of entertaining, as in general the Internet is to ethics as bowling is to Windsor Castle. But the little guy – and this is one of America’s most endearing qualities that has oozed onto the Internet like a melted malted – likes nothing more than seeing the other guy in the cagal, and it’s even better if it’s one of those snobby, rich, toffee-nosed bungholes with a past (as Gawker brings out) like Scott Adams.

Gawker’s follow-up coverage is especially funny, as they pick on Adams for saying:
Adams goes on to explain that the reason he has to keep bashing his critics anonymously on message boards is that lazy internet media like "Gawker, Metafilter, and any other cesspool with an IP address" take his words out of context, and various "advocates for one cause or another use me as a whipping boy to promote their agendas."
And then they go on to do exactly what he writes about:
He throws his lot in with the racist California Republican official who forwarded a picture of Obama's face photoshopped on a chimpanzee:

If your only context is what the Internet says about this story, you assume it's a typical racist act by a Republican who is already guilty by association. But if I add the context that Googling "George Bush monkey" gives you over 3 million hits, and most of them are jokes where President Bush's face is transposed on a monkey, you see what's really going on. Democrats and advocates of civil rights are using the media to further an agenda at the expense of a woman who was probably so non-racist that the photo in question didn't set off her alarms as being a career-ending risk.

We actually agree with Adams on this. You should feel exactly as bad for making fun of Scott Adams as you should about this Republican official's situation.
(And, no, it doesn't matter that the person who sent the Obama-as-monkey email has a habit of sending racist and questionable emails, folks -- what matters is that you're doing exactly what Adams accuses you of doing, and you can't even see it.)

So Scott Adams does indeed have a point, though it’s too bad he had to stoop to this kind of stupidity to make it. And in his eyes, it’s clear he feels he’s done nothing wrong and is turning this event into yet another way to get back at his enemies – does he keep an enemies list? Signs point to yes – with backhandedness.

As always in these situations, there’s much back and forth, with one side saying one thing (like this) and the other saying something else. I’m not going to bother presenting both sides here, as I’m not quite exactly sure both sides are saying. I’m just here for the “Dance, Monkey, Dance” factor, for which both Metafilter, Gawker, Scott Adams and others are obliging nicely.

Then again, this goes back to something I, Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius, tweeted a few days ago:

Reminds me again what Nathan Bransford (this is a good day on MFB for him) said about accepting criticism:
Publicly: Ignore them completely.

Privately: Complain like hell to anyone who will listen.
What Adams learned (or not) this week is that sock puppetry isn’t complaining in private. Especially if you sign in under your own name and call yourself a genius. You end up looking like this:

When you should be doing this:

And, at a bare minimum, remember you wrote something like this (as Gawker points out):

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