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Friday, September 08, 2006

And your little dog, too

In a post entitled "Help Me Out Here", girl-geek and fempowerment blogger extraordinaire Ragnell advises --
I should have joined in the conversation in this post, but I'm trying to keep to my "Don't Comment While Angry" rule. It's difficult, because whenever I read the discussion, I get to a single comment and freeze in my tracks.

It's a very condescending comment, one that goes out of its way to oversimplify the opposing argument (and completely disregards my oft-stated opinion on Steve Trevor). I try to pass by it, but I can feel my fingernails turn to claws and snakes rustle in my hair. That comment colors every comment after it. It brings out the monster in me. I read through the rage and neutral statements seem like unprovoked attacks. I'm licking my fangs as I formulate my responses, until I realize that if I join in I'll find myself attacking every commenter and making no headway in the process.

To prevent this, I wait a few hours, look again, and freeze again.

The only way to solve this, is to take that comment out of the conversation and study it directly. And I need some help with this.

Once again, finding male companionship is equated with marginalization of female characters.


What do you think, readers?

It's important to note here that while I am one of Ragnell's regular readers, she isn't addressing the question to me. She doesn't want to hear anything from me; or so I intuit, given that the last time I posted a pretty innocuous response to one of her comment threads, she doused me in kerosene and set me on fire in those same threads.

And that's kind of what I'm talking about here. Not the specific conflict between Ragnell and I, which essentially could be boiled down to, we're both assholes and we've decided to be assholes who dislike each other, and that happens roughly one billion times a second throughout reality, so who cares? No, I'm talking about a more general phenomena that I see every day on the Internet, specifically, on blogs – the "somebody tell me if I'm wrong" plea for help – directed specifically into a continuum that the poster knows is populated almost entirely with sycophantic asskissers who will reassure them that they are correct, regardless of the situation… a continuum that the poster has, in fact, deliberately created, by resolutely running out anyone who has shown the temerity to disagree with them in any way over the course of the continuum's existence.

Or, as I sometimes refer to it, "Seeking validation in Echo Canyon".

Ragnell is hardly the only person who does this, she's just the most glaring example I have in front of me right now.

Nobody who comments regularly on Ragnell's blog is going to provide her with the help she is pleading for. None of them are going to give her anything remotely like a valid reality check. Why? Because anyone who tries to tell Ragnell anything she doesn't want to hear gets hit with so much public vitriolic hostility that they tend to just give up and go away. And if you don't believe that, and don't want to accept my example as binding, just take a look at the comment threads underneath that entry, and see where West, the guy Ragnell is pissed off at, ends up.

Ragnell's commenters are, many of them, intelligent and articulate, and during the brief time I was allowed to post comments there, I myself enjoyed taking part in the conversations. Ragnell herself is bright and perceptive, most of the time. But, like most people, she prefers to hear opinions that largely agree with her own, and the intelligent discourse she is looking for is largely something that will allow her to continue to see herself as the smartest person in the room.

This is hardly uncommon, but it is really sad… and, well, when you see a statement like the one I started this entry with, it can be borderline scary.

Ragnell advises us that because of this one comment, she "can feel [her] fingernails turn to claws and snakes rustle in [her] hair". That this comment "brings out the monster in [her]". That she "read[s] through the rage" and wants to "attack… every commenter".

What has provoked this Olympian, Amazonian bout of fury? What has driven Ragnell to the very limits of her self control, to a point where, were she a cousin to Bruce Banner and she had just received a transfusion of his blood, would see her transforming into a raging half ton of scantily clad, fanboy favorite distaff emerald fury?

Well, it's because "it's a very condescending comment, one that goes out of its way to oversimplify the opposing argument" and "completely disregards my oft-stated opinion on Steve Trevor".

Did you get that? Someone posted a comment that in her subjective opinion was 'very condescending', that 'oversimplified the opposing argument' and that (and this, I suspect, is what really irks her) 'completely disregards' (emphasis hers) one of Ragnell's most frequently stated opinions regarding an obscure comic book character.

Letting yourself get this crazy about this stuff is, well, crazy. I don't know if Ragnell is overworked, or not getting enough sleep, or just found out she has cancer, or someone she loves just got carried off by a twister, or she just badly, badly needs to spend twenty minutes' private time in a vibrating La-Z-Boy recliner. Whatever the case may be, however, going into a near murderous fit of psychotic rage because, you know, somebody posted something in her comment thread – something that was in no way personally insulting or abusive – something about, you know, frickin' comic books… well, this is not the response of a reasonable person of wisdom, maturity, or good will towards their fellow beings.

Ragnell. Sweetie-Baby. Take a deep breath. Release your death clutch on the mouse. Back slowly away from the keyboard. Go outside. Get some air. Get some chicken in you. Have a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone. Buy yourself a book. Get a back rub.

Nobody in your comment threads is going to tell you how absolutely batshit freaked out nutzo you sound right now. Why? Because it isn't something you want to hear, and when your commenters say things you don't want to hear, you flog them through the streets of Jerusalem and up the slopes of Golgotha and crucify them without nails on a cross of humble yew with a shingle upon which has been lettered THIS GUY PISSED ME OFF, HOW ABOUT YOU, CHARLIE? above their heads, and you damned well do it right out there where everyone else can watch, too. And if you think the commenters who stick around on your blog aren't smart enough to learn a lesson from how you treat anyone who pisses you off, you are sadly underestimating them.

I am offering this response to your post, not because I care, particularly, as in point of fact, my personal opinion of you is every bit as low as your personal opinion of me – but because you do have some writing talent, and you are intelligent, and you're even capable of genuine wit on occasion, when you aren't trying to see whether you can get both shoulders up past your lower colon along with your head this time. (I'm also offering it because you haven't been terribly nice to me in the past, and given an opportunity to slap you around in public, well, I should probably rise above it, but, hell, sometimes I just ain't that enlightened. Like Dick Jones, I say good business is where you find it.)

Intelligence is rare, writing talent is rarer, and actual wit is a pearl beyond price, especially out here on the Internet amongst the geeks and the trolls and the "Hehe totaly PWNed yr ass dude" subliterates.

So, out of respect for all these rare qualities you possess, I say – take a breath. Take a break. Take a powder. Take a vacation. Take a chill pill.

It's just frickin' comic books. Get a damn life.*

*Please note, I have to be pretty gravely concerned before I would use a phrase I normally abhor as much as I despise 'get a life' to a fellow geek, however much I may dislike her.


At 7:26 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

My infrequent dealings with comics bloggers with big feminist chips on their shoulders have resulted in wastes of time, so what you showed there was no surprise.

Probably the most frustrating thing in her piece is that "my oft-stated opinion on Steve Trevor" is not also a hyperlink to one of those "oft" statements so someone wandering into this minefield could better evaluate the substance of her reaction. I suppose she's simply too used to having a dedicated audience, but as a newcomer it's extremely uninviting and there's scant evidence in the posts I did read that digging for the answers would be worth the effort.

At 7:44 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

I'm reading now that she really liked MYSTERY IN SPACE #1, which is horrible, and I'll be going into more detail about later this weekend, when I post about the disappointing buncha comics I picked up yesterday.

I don't know. Sometimes I'd like to talk about comics with new people. But it never goes well. I've discovered that generally, any one with any kind of chip on their shoulder at all makes a poor conversationalist... but, then, we all have our buttons.

At 8:17 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

I'm fairly sure I passed on that one (MIS) as it was another miniseries and I presumed that I'd make the call on a trade, one way or another.

Getting my comics every two or three weeks (depending upon how the month splits) continues to leave me behind the newest comics trends most of the time. At best I'll have that week's comics (along with the previous one or two weeks) by Friday... and then comes the question of when I can get to them. I've come close to some comics posts but most of the time I lack the energy to put something together I feel is worth posting. I'm apparently too lazy to clear things off the scanner and grab appropriate pages and panels to illustrate (literally and conceptually) my comments.

Most of my live conversations with people about comics these days tend to be with people who have either been out of the hobby for a long time, so it's placidly academic, or people who are 10-20 or so years younger than us, and so have different perspectives on what works, what doesn't and why. More often than not the latter seems to be informative for both sides.

Online exchanges... generally don't come out so well unless they're between people who already agree. Too much nuance is lost, and it's perceived as too public for casual give-and-take - it too quickly becomes a contest and then a conflict - or at least that's my evaluation.

At 9:13 AM , Blogger West said...

For what it's worth, I don't think everyone who agrees with ragnell is a sycophant (not saying you do, either).

It's unfortunate, though, when folks DO disagree with someone, but are consistently unwilling to say so.

Encouraging the "Echo Canyon" dynamic is certainly problematic. I agree that ragnell, among many others, is guilty of this.


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