Saturday, January 03, 2009

Ramblings for the Afternoon (1/3/2009)

Time for the whip around.
So, without further ado: FANDANGO!
A Vicious (and Expensive Cycle):

Wait. What? Oh wait...WHAT????!!!!

Sigh. And the world keeps spinning, and nothing changes. There is a great Simpsons episode (Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington) where Lisa looks at politicians and sees fat cats and pigs scratching each other's backs. I'm not sure the show is wrong here.

And finally:
Anonymous Hippopotamus:

I am not the first to talk about this, and I won't be the last, but anonymous comments are the boom and the bane of blogging and the online world.

I comment and post over at MNSpeak. I may not necessarily fit with the people over there, but they usually have interesting discussions that then breakdown because they haven't all matured yet. Regardless, there was a piece written by Max "Bunny" Sparber where he mentioned Mole Men. An anonymous commenter made a shot at Sparber about its similarity to John Hodgman. While Max does not need me to defend him (he has the power of snark all on his own), it shows the problem of the internet: It's so easy to hide in the shadows and take shots at people when they don't know who it is. Hate a classmate and know they have a blog? Leave an anonymous comment on it calling that person a name, or tell a story that's damaging.

So why do we do it? Well, there's a few reasons:

1. Conflict, in the modern world, is frowned upon: We don't like to argue, and we look unfavorably on those who do. For example:

I was flying from JFK to Minneapolis with my wife and son. My son was feeling very ill, and had already vomited once. Because we had some bags with us, we put one up above (a backpack), and had two others under our seats. Because we had a child, we were able to board early and get set. My son needed to sleep. It would be the only way he would get better and wouldn't piss off people on the flight.

So he's sleeping in his mother's arms, and on comes this woman with a bunch of bags. The bins in the back of the plane are closed to signify they are full. This woman, apparently, doesn't care. It turns out she is in the aisle across from us, and wants to put one of her bags up above. So, she opens the bin and looks long and hard at it. Then she grabs the backpack and says, "Whose backpack is this?"

"Mine," I reply. "Please put it back."

"I need to put my bag up above, and you can put this under your seat."

"No, there's something there, Ma'am," I say to her. "Please put it back."

"No. my bag won't fit under my seat." She then puts the backpack on the floor, and begins trying to shove her bag in. It doesn't fit, but rather than put my bag back up there, she calls to her son (I think it was her son..maybe grandson..maybe love slave) and says, "Give me your bag." He hands her a backpack (a little bigger than mine) and puts it in the space.

It is at this point that I begin to lose my temper. I am a pillar of temerity, but this woman just tossed my stuff on the floor. She is also holding up every single person trying to get on the plane because she wants her stuff up.

"HEY!" I yell. "Take that bag out, and put my bag back up there. What the hell is wrong with you?"
The kid listens and begins to remove his bag.
"No!" says the woman. "Leave your bag there. He won't do anything."

She is wrong. I stand up and say, "Wanna bet, lady?" While I am moving toward her, the woman has opened another bin and removes a rolling bag, a jacket, and a shopping bag. She shoves her bag into the open space, and then begins trying to shove the shopping bag back in.

I arrive in time to hear a snap within the shopping bag.

"OH MY GOD!" a woman sitting near the bin yells. "Did you just break my painting? Did you just BREAK MY PAINTING?!?!"

The woman whose bag is now up says, "There's nothing we can do about it now." And she sits.

I reach the bin and remove the boy's backpack and start to put mine in. "Lady," I say, "There is something seriously wrong with you. I hope, for your sake, that you sleep on this flight, because the people sitting around you want you to shut the fuck up!"

As I am about to put my bag back in, the airline attendant comes up and asks me to put his bag back and meet her in the back of the plane.

I could argue, but there's a line of people wanting to get on, so I comply.

"I will store your bag here," the attendant says pointing to a small amount of room with the oxygen tank. "You cannot argue with her. Everything now seems to be ok, and we can't have a scene or we'll have to take you both off and deal with it. Do YOU want to hold up the whole plane? Hmm? Do you?"

I know the woman is in the wrong, but I understand the airline attendant's point. I don't want to hold up everyone for this bitch.

Still, I'm told not to cause a scene. The guy sitting behind me says, "You should have just taken the bag. Now we might be late."

At one point, I was waiting outside the lavatory to use it and there was a guy there stretching.

"You don't argue, kid," he says to me. "People don't want to hear it, and people don't want to see it."

He's right. We don't like seeing the status quo change. So when someone comes along and tells us we're wrong, we try not to get loud...because, you know, it might upset people. I'm not that way, and it has given me much trouble.

But if you can argue and no one knows who you are, then there's an advantage. This leads to number two:

Anonymity allows you to remain part of the group. If people know you're arguing against them...they may not like you...but if your can say whatever.

And this is the problem. We want to be part of society. We don't want to be the kid sitting alone at the lunch table, and many of us don't want ANYONE to think badly of us.

It's basic psychology. Pack mentality. To remain part of the pack, most will follow the alpha. If, however, a second alpha arises that has enough people following him or her AND has the same thoughts we do...then it's ok to say it. That's how politics works in some ways.

So of course the internet is the place for this. Why leave your name when you can attack someone's point of view without them knowing who you are? That way, you get to flame them without having to deal with the fallout.

This can be seen all the time with Fanboys. Create a fake account, then go and flame the "nemesis". You're a Playstation fan and some guy is on your board talking about the Xbox. Flame him. He doesn't know you, and you can say whatever you want. Who cares.

This is what "Anonymous" was doing on MNSpeak the other day. Why give your real name when it is easier to flame a guy and run.

This has also happened to me many times. In fact, one commenter went so far as to say, "Your blog makes me want to vomit." That's fine, but tell me who you are if you're going to do that. Don't be a chicken. Tom even said the same thing to this person.

That's why I love what one guy did on his website. He was so sick of people leaving stupid or anonymous comments, that he published their email addresses so anyone could write them. This, of course, angered all of the people who had left comments because EVERYONE knew where to find them and who they were.

Think of it this way. If you have to leave an anonymous comment...that means you're either afraid or saying something you shouldn't. Just think carefully.

Of course, what do I know? I'm just some anonymous schmuck you've never met. I could be wrong.


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