On Being Smug...and Cowardly
I know that some people felt that I overreacted or simply do not care to hear about my escapades...out of respect for you all, the rest goes under the cut.
I would like to point out that, as a child, I played with bees. This has led me to be stung over one hundred times, yet I simply could never resist.
Also, as a young teenager, I marched on Washington for various causes. Even to this day, I make a nuisance of myself in certain factions, knocking down everything from urban legends to bigotry. I say all this because, even as I found yesterday's incident with The Battling Bard quite revealing, it says something about me as well.
Yes, I am an idealistic, and I know that sometimes I do make a big deal out of things that will not shatter the earth. Blame being unable to get off the slippery slope: a death threat in a fanfic forum turns into a thread about "Who We'd Most Like Alone in a Closet with a Semi-Automatic" turns into threatening emails turns into finding people's true identities online (it's not that difficult, trust me) turns into threatening letters, phone calls...when will it stop? As satismagic said yesterday (based on a comment by telperion1, I believe...forgive me, I read a lot of posts yesterday!), must we wait for someone to get hurt before we start taking threats of violence seriously? Or (borrowing from the same women again), our world has become one where it is considered trivial and excusable to have a conversation about fan fiction where violence is threatened against a specific author?
I know that judgments vary on my decision to post my "concerns" to The Battling Bard's thread, with some feeling that it was the right thing to do--to speak out--and others feeling that I would have been best to do as I have done with regards to her lesser antics and ignore her. These are your opinions, and you are welcome to them. Regardless, it is done. And you know what?
If it were to happen again, I would do it again.
I am not stupid. I know that the minds--especially the public minds--of people like The Battling Bard are not going to change over anything that I am going to say or do to them. So why bother, more than one person has asked? Why give yourself the heartache? Why waste your time??
Because, sometimes, someone simply must stand up and say, "This is wrong."
I posted a few weeks ago about a real-life example of the Milgram experiment. I don't pretend to be so noble as one willing to interfere in the actual harm or abuse of another person, but having studied Milgram in detail, I do know that having the courage to stand up even when the issue is as "small" as a threat of harm over fan fiction is good practice for standing up when it truly matters. Social conformity is a sad reality for humanity. Without going into great, rambling detail, in one study, people were willing to change their perception of the length of lines--even when their perception was obviously correct--in order to avoid going against the incorrect but prevailing opinion (Asch 1951). Do we see the same thing in online forums? You betcha! You get "cults of personality" centered around individuals like The Battling Bard where her fanminions chirp cheerfully in reply to everything that she says. Do you think that one or two of them might have gotten a slight misgiving at death threats being used in fan fiction. Sure...but when the group says it is okay, then it must be okay, right?
No, it's not okay. I said as much. The forum in which I spoke out has since been deleted, and I have been banned from commenting in (at least) her "My Toes Will Never Be the Same Again" forum. (I haven't checked the others because, truthfully, I don't care to follow what she has to say about me. Let her and her fanminions have their fun at my expense. I think that I have the readers and reviewers and friends in this fandom to back up that Juno's version of S.M.U.G. is the truth.)
The Battling Bard is an interesting individual. In truth, this was the first real contact that I'd had with her. I'd sent her a reply on her reviews of my stories, as I do all of my reviewers, a few months. Of course, she didn't write back. She likes to paint herself as some sort of brave, no-nonsense crusader with a personal vendetta against everything from Mary Sue to being American. But here's the truth: She's a coward. This probably does not come as a surprise to most people. Bullies like her are almost always cowards when someone dares to put their fists up in reply rather than settling to whimper in a corner. If you've ever seen the movie A Christmas Story, think the Scut Farkus affair.
Why is she a coward? First, Jael stood up to her in the forum. Jael was summarily banned from posting.
I commented on the thread next. I asked if TBB intended to take the same high road with me as she had with Jael. In other words, would I be banned for speaking out against her?
I was told that Jael wasn't banned. Lo, upon Jael attempting to post again, she could!
Unfortunately, what TBB doesn't realize about us cranky old oversexed fancrones is that we have the tendencies to do annoying things like making screencaps. As Jael did, of the note she received about being banned. Oooops. So not only could TBB not take the "heat" that Jael was giving--and mind you, this was a discussion of canon, not anything so base as name-calling or even a bona fide flame war--but she couldn't own up to her own cowardice. When I mentioned Jael being banned, presto! She was back in.
The Battling Bard and I went around for a while. Despite this woman's purported dislike of everything American, she behaves much like an American politician does: She dodges the questions, she changes the subject, and she always finds a way to point the finger back at you. I went into the discussion wishing to have two questions answered:
Why do she and her friends actively seek out content that they know will disgust and offend them? (This is where my earlier point about playing with bees becomes relevant. I am simply curious! Do you ever wish for a moment to sit with someone whom you find baffling or deplorable and ask them the hard questions? I do...probably explains why I was a psychology major.)
And most importantly, why did she feel that it was necessary or appropriate to turn a conversation about fan fiction into death threats?
Do I need to say that neither question was answered?
I was told (and I quote, because I was emailed the comments in the thread): "You take yourself entirely too seriously."
What is the problem here? That my questions about her turned back to pointing the finger at me? No, the problem was not that she threatened the life of a specific author over the genre which that author chose to write. (And which--I kept bringing up but The American Politician kept choosing to ignore--she chose to read, despite clear warnings that the story was a slash.) The problem was that I was taking that threat too seriously.
Never mind the fact that I see every day at my job the price that we as a civilization pay for our cavalier attitude towards threats and acts of violence. Never mind that people all over the world do die over matters just as (and more) trivial than fan fiction: a muttered insult, the shape of their nose, a cut-off in traffic, the god(s) to whom they pray--or don't. So maybe I am overreacting to a threat that we all know in all likelihood could not be carried out. Or maybe I just think that we need to stop being so damned complacent in our acceptance that threats of and actual violence are an acceptable way to solve problems.
Cowards are not accountable for their actions. They change the subject or engage in rhetorical gymnastics to put the blame back on you.
Say what you will about me, but I am accountable for my actions. I have eaten crow and apologized for things that I've said that might have (inadvertently or intentionally) hurt people. I've made bad decisions in choosing to post some things that probably should have festered in a .txt file before being slung onto my LJ. And I've had stupid opinions that I now admit were wrong.
To me, being accountable for one's actions is the bare minimum for behaving in an un-cowardly manner. Of course, this is just my opinion. I'm sure that others would think that talking behind people's backs or making personal attacks in forums where they cannot defend themselves--having been banned--is truly an act of bravery.
But the true indicator of The Battling Bard's cowardice came when I continued to insist that she answer my questions. I wasn't asking to debate the finer points of Ancient Greek philosophy or applied physics: I was asking for her opinion, and it seems to me, when it suits her, she's pretty damned good about giving that any other time.
Instead, I received the following reply (and I quote again, from a forum that was until last night very public): "Yes, I would peel myself off the computer and get out there, except I've been signed off work for a month with heart problems."
I would like to say that I will never ridicule a person's illness. If The Battling Bard is indeed ill, then I send her my sympathies and my hopes that she has a complete and speedy recovery.
(Even though, I did only suggest that she log off the Internet and pick up a newspaper...over here in crazy America, they deliver those right to the house so one needs not leave. Also, I think that I would consider it acceptable for her to remain on the Internet so long as she was on a newspaper's website and not something related to fan fiction. I really wasn't asking the poor woman to take a five-year Peace Corps mission to sub-Saharan Africa.)
But the irony cannot escape me: Here is someone who feels that she cannot "win" an argument against me, and so she must (again) cast herself as the victim. It was not enough that I was taking myself too seriously and repeatedly harassing her over those piddly death threats that she made against another author. No, she is a sick woman, and I should bear this in mind in my dealings with her.
Since I know that she is trolling our LJs, I will ask her what I wanted to ask before she took the ultimate act of cowardice and deleted the forum post entirely: battlingbard22, if I told you that I spent the last month of my life living with the fear that I might die of cancer, would you show more empathy to me? Would you admonish those on your "Pushuruk Awards" to remove the posts that were intended* to be hurtful because of my condition?
*Clearly, however, considering that I am on YIM right now with Juno discussing giving out actual SMUG awards to individuals and groups that embody similar "smug" principles as Juno, Jael, and I do, the opposite effect of that nomination was achieved.
As people on my flist probably know, I did live with this fear for the last month. Luckily, it was a false alarm. But it does serve as further proof of why empathy and politeness is always necessary, especially online, especially towards strangers.
Do you think that The Battling Bard and her fanminions ever gave thought to what struggles the teenagers whom they so openly mock might be dealing with? Did they ever ask
Did she maybe recently lose a parent?
Is she writing because she's home, fighting cancer?
Or maybe her mom is fighting cancer?
Or she's fighting depression, depression so bad that she cannot go to school?
Or maybe she is bullied and ridiculed, and fanfic is her only escape?
Maybe she's tried suicide, though about trying it, or is about to try it again?
Maybe she is a victim of neglect or abuse?
Maybe she was raped?
The point is that we never know who is on the other side of that monitor screen. I will admit that I think The Battling Bard and her ilk are sad, deplorable individuals. I don't like them. But I also don't hate them, I would never wish them harm, and I will always show the bare minimum of respect in my dealings with people, including them.
The idea, then, that she tried to drum up empathy for herself--she who has shown so little empathy to anyone outside her core of unhappy minions--is amusing and ironic. As I have already mentioned, the forum post was taken down after that. According to my email notifications, Jael made one post after mine that replied to the canon "discussion" that she and TBB were having over the value of the L&C over the notes on Galadriel and Celeborn in UT. I don't know why the forum was taken down. I assume that The Battling Bard did it. I went out with Bobby for dinner and coffee, came home, bathed the dog, and it was...gone.
Today, for shits and giggles, I tried to reply to a comment (about me, again *sigh*) in her forum, and I found myself banned. I'd bet that Jael is banned too. Juno, probably, as well, though Juno never entered conversation with her and never intended to.
The Battling Bard has upset many people over the course of the last few months. Let this stand as yet another reminder of what a petty, rude, and cowardly individual this is. She is not someone worthy of our respect. She has not targeting Juno, Jael, and me because we're cliquish or smug or need to be knocked down a few pegs. She has targeted us because we have been very forthright in speaking out against the bullying, hurtful behavior that she and her fanminions embrace because they can't get the attention they crave based on the worth of their stories alone. I find it very illustrative that Jael's name wasn't even mentioned in the "smug author" award until she spoke out against The Battling Bard's death threats. I've studied enough social science to know that correlation does not prove causation...but it makes for mighty interesting speculation.