Saturday, January 29, 2005

Q: What happens when you put 3 chipmunks in a cage?

A: Two bond, gang up and eat the third

I had an interesting experience over the last few days. In an effort to bring attention to this blog I began to make daily posts to a list server community to which I subscribe announcing “the question of the day.”

Some of the list members took umbrage describing my promotional activity as spam. A few asked me to stop the daily postings. I turned more than a tad defensive questioning whether or not the list was public or private space, taking the position that promoting my blog was proper use of public space, but completely improper, if indeed the list server was private space. If the list is private space my posting behavior was indeed violating fundamental property rights. Yeah, I threw in a lament or two about the ongoing shrinkage of public space in our culture, Ownership Society and all. I like to take the intellectual high road when I feel as if I am being assaulted.

Then the list owner posted saying that I could “blog away”, but to be aware that I run the risk of pissing people off.

So I sent another two posts, maybe obnoxiously so, but with limited content, no more than three lines in the send. No such thing as bad publicity I figured.

Anyway, things got really weird. A small group of posts coalesced wanting me to stop the posts--

Bob you're getting annoying
Bob you're being icky and spammy

So I stopped posting, after only three posts mind you. And yet, a few responses to the now stopped posts kept coming. Then came the name calling, like so:

“Bob, just how far do you think you have to go to prove you're a jerk?”

At that point I sent a terse response to the list saying goodbye, in a tone that sounded a bit like a hurt puppy. I unsubscribed from the list.

Yeah, my feeling were hurt big time and I brooded over events for the rest of the day, which was yesterday. So today in an effort to come to terms with my feelings of defensiveness and rejection, I went to a 12 Step Meeting. The speaker was comforting and sometimes hilarious, despite his frequent use of the F word and the _hit word.

Toward the end of the meeting a guy in the audience spoke out, telling him to stop it, that his language was vulgar. The speaker took things in stride and tried to diffuse the situation. However, a few of the men in the meeting got out of their seats, One guy told the heckler to stop. Another told the heckler to leave. One even challenged him, asking the heckler to go “outside to settle things”

I was shocked. I mean 12 Step Meetings are supposed to be the safest place on Earth, havens for people who are accustomed to getting kicked out of everything.

Luckily, the meeting ended without further incident.

So what have I learned?

It seems to me that Arendt’s thinking on power is confirmed. Individuals do not have power. Groups have power.

And from where I sit, one of the ways that a group will promote and preserve power is to gang up on those who have less power, whether it be a cranky, somewhat self righteous, somewhat defensive blogger on a listserver, a poor drunk with marginal social skills trying to stay sober in an AA meeting, or some Persian Gulf nation that lends itself to violation.

Maybe there is wisdom in that Groucho Marx line: "I would never belong to a club that would have me as a member."


Blogger Joe Crawford said...

And yet, you were part of that group -- and seek to gain an audience from groups. Anytime you "promote" and "market" something to a community, you have to be careful to guage what the reaction will be.

And in some sense, none of those who "piled on" (including myself) have any more power than any other. People didn't want you to leave, so much as they wanted you to know that your promotional emails were entering the realm of "spam."

It's a shame, but as I saw you starting your promotional effort I thought to send you a message of warning, but instead I just took to deleting your posts.

It's a shame you left; I feel you have a lot to offer Web405.


Joe Crawford

11:10 AM  

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