Tuesday, June 19, 2007

From Nirvana to Neanderthals

I've been thinking a bit more about the various forums and bulletin boards that are out there following the "spat" that broke out on the RV List within the last week, and the comments I made it about it the other day. The more I think about it, the more I think it comes down to the question of the meaning of "community," a subject about which I've also written extensively, and one in which I dabble in my day job as an Internet news site editor, which believes in giving people a voice.

Simply stated: just because everyone should have a voice, there's nothing logical about believing that everyone needs to hear it. And while we salute the concept of "citizen journalism" and all the potential it has (and it does), we also have to recognize that there are a fair number of people out there willing to puke on a plate and call it dinner; except that everyone knows it's really just puke on a plate.

There were a couple of interesting comments in that thread, each designed to show how much smarter the poster was, I guess, than the person they were trying rebuke.

One went like this:

Arguing on the internet is like being in the Special Olympics...you may win, but you're still a retard.

Well, gosh, how do you adequately put a reaction to that into mere words?

I pointed out that sometimes you just have to shake your head and acknowledge that it can be a big stupid world out there from time to time. But ignoring it is about all you can do. You certainly can't convince a neanderthal not to be a neanderthal.

That was met with this from a different person:

Censorship and expulsion do nothing more than quell discussion and decrease participation. There is at least one list on this forum where the moderators acerbic responses and condescending attitude to the simplest of questions and responses has effectively censored the list causing a loss of input from many valuable contributors. Spend your time and effort on the barbecue, life is too short to develop an ulcer over someone else’s behavior

Yes, by all means, let's do something about the condescension problem. Let's be, oh I don't know, condescending, and see if that works.

You know, the more I thought as I read that prose, I kept thinking about this: The "N" Word.

I did that because sometimes, common sense to throw neanderthals into the great vacuum of indifference is met with charges of "censorship" or "political correctness," or any other word meant to trivialize what is a very serious matter. There are times when people should have a rag shoved into their mouths.

While, it's true that you just can't fix stupid, you can stomp on its head, beat it with a 2 x 4, pull the rug out from under its feet, banish it to an island, or run it over with a whirring propellor, because otherwise it'll breed, and the next thing you know, there's more stupid in the world. Sometimes, you just have to point out that something is, well, stupid.

What happened on the RV List last week was stupid. The comments of a small number of people, were stupid.

But it's also a fine example of a community at work. There are voices worth hearing, and then there are others who, while they have a right to use their voice, shouldn't have any access to a megaphone.

This is complicated by the fact that all of these lists have morphed from mere repositories of information, to social communities. And, as any cop can tell you, anytime you get together for a social occasion in large numbers, there'll be a fair number of people -- or conversations -- that make you look at your watch and send "signals" to your spouse that it's time to leave.

What is interesting to me, is how different all of the various groups are. All of them have the capacity and history to provide valuable assistance to builders. But each has its own personality. The RV List is the Old West, to me. It's a lawless, never-ending gunfight surrounded by nice scenery. Nice to visit, but you wouldn't want to breed there.

I like the Yahoogroup because it's small and while not terribly active, I think I've met most of the folks who post there. It's like a small school in an idyllic town -- almost quaint in its approach. Van's Air Force is like a Big 10 university. It's where all the best and brightest are, but you're still one person in a big, big classroom. Still, it's as wonderful as an all-night grocery store with a friendly person at the checkout. Rivetbangers is a Sunday barbecue. Only your friends show up. RVSQN is, well, how can you not like a place with a thread on "wheel spats?"

I've always been fond of considering this notion of community, but I always fall into the mistake of thinking about it in monolithic terms, because we're all building this one company's airplane. But when you think about, few communities are actually monolithic. They eventually splinter into communities within communities.

And that, I think, is where the RV "community," is. There are communities within communities -- some people are in the building community, some people are in the flying community, and some people are in the "I like calling you a retard" community.

There's also another community. The "I'm not online and don't want to be" community. Sometimes, especially when we see the same names from forum message to forum message to forum message, we begin to think that's the RV community. Then a Sport Aviation issue shows up and you see the "What Our Members are Building" section full of RVs, and you don't recognize a single name there. You go to a fly-in, and you've never heard of the pilot. Why? They're not online -- or don't post. Why? Well, have you read that RV List thread?

Communities come. Communities go. Communities change. When one doesn't fit anymore to the point it's not really about the RV brand of homebuilt airplanes, you really have to move to another community.

Because you just can't fix stupid.

1 comment:

  1. Well put.

    And the one point I thought about when the aforementioned "dialogs" were occurring was that *somebody* should evoke the words of Rodney King ... " ...can't we just get along? ..."

    I am now embarrassed that I did not raise a call for a "time out" such that the value of the different perspectives were not so overshadowed by the personal attacks.

    Thanks for putting down a few word on the matter, in a different space.