Who Does a Guy Have to Piss Off Around Here?


Better to win by admitting my sin
than to lose with a halo


Vance offends half the world: 115 views, and a crapload of comments.

Vance apologizes for the offense and attempts a reformulation along more sensitive lines: 25 views, and one comment.

How’s that for a MasterCard commercial?

Welcome to the wonderful world of bits and pieces. A world in which one’s image depends on the snippet view. A world in which, as Madalyn at Wary Wonderlust pointed out, opposition often carries more weight than fellow feeling, and anger becomes the motivating force that both drives and derails our desire for communication.

Last week, I set off a barrage of protest with a post I wrote about race and gender relations. Most of the protest centered around the fact that, being neither Black nor a woman, I should check myself before venturing an opinion. Much of it was valid. And there was much of it: my blog stats went through the roof. One of those situations where your graph looks like it’s flipping you off: nothing, EVERYTHING, and then nothing again.

In my perceived offensiveness, I became a momentary celebrity. Not because I said something worth celebrating, but because I opened myself to easy attack (perhaps justified, but attack nonetheless). I painted a bullseye on my head, and people opened fire.

Okay. Fair enough.

The day after everything exploded, in an attempt to rectify whatever foul I had committed, I wrote a second post, in which I tried to explain myself more clearly and less offensively, and to acknowledge the possible poverty of my initial approach.

Then, I sat back and counted the tumbleweeds.

The pitchfork-laden crowd that had done such an effective job of raining criticism down upon my head the first time around apparently had other barns to burn. A couple of the people who had taken me to task stopped by, but for the most part…silence. No linking, pretty much no commenting. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Now, you may be tempted to take this as me making everything about Me. But I’m really not out to be patted on the head, or to be showered with compliments for addressing my own misstep. That’s just what decent people do; no big whoop there. It is telling, though, that given the central remonstrance (men never listen) offered to the first post, no one had much to say when one of us tried.

But it’s a broader point I’m making here:

This bloggy-sphere of ours is the quintessential typecasting machine. It nails us to the lowest point in our rhetoric, and leaves us there to rot. It catches us on our worst day, at our darkest moments, and etches the image in stone. We become the villain of the story no matter what that story really is.

Now, I’ve been told exhaustively that it isn’t the blogosphere that does this, and that’s a valid point. The Internet doesn’t kill people; people who use the Internet kill people. At the end of the day, it’s us. We’re the ones who determine the nature of this beast, and the fact that its nature is so prone to conflict and confrontation says far more about us than it does about the medium in question.

We tend to choose the shortest possible route from A to B, and the shortest route from post to response is too often a bloodthirsty yell. It is your label of choice. It is the distance from the target, the remove that displaces responsibility from the one who pulls the trigger.

We are all human, and we all respond to criticism or disagreement in human ways which are often less than constructive, if not outright destructive. We all have our dark side and our light. We all have our triggers, and we’re all quick to pull them. And we all leave little chalk outlines strewn behind us as we go.

Sometimes we are the villains. More often, I think (I hope), we are simply people with complicated things to say and little clue how to say them, desperate for the patience and understanding of others, but unwilling to grant either ourselves. And here’s the rub: when we’re not willing to extend the same consideration to others that we desire for ourselves, everyone becomes our enemy. We arrogate to ourselves the best of intentions while assuming everyone else is out to get us. And you know what they say about assumptions…

They make bloggers out of U and Me.

7 thoughts on “Who Does a Guy Have to Piss Off Around Here?

  1. I didn’t comment on either post as you didn’t seem enamoured with me over on Madalyn’s. I am glad you two are still friends having this week just lost one of mine over a disagreement about … feminism.

    Esme objects to naming and shaming but much of what we write on the blogosphere is so intricately connected and interwoven. I think if people write posts that we disagree with and/or we consider damaging to groups of people it’s reasonable to share those thoughts. We put ourselves out there, so we are all up for examination, so to speak.

    FWIW I thought this was a good and interesting post.

  2. At the end of the day, it’s us. We’re the ones who determine the nature of this beast, and the fact that its nature is so prone to conflict and confrontation says far more about us than it does about the medium in question.

    A thousand times: this.

  3. I very much dislike the ‘name and shame’ element of blogging, and can’t understand why a friend would do that. It does open one up to a fair snowstorm of anger and criticism, and whilst one might disagree entirely, or be offended by someone’s views, if you’re going to hoist them by the neck-tie for the world to judge, then it’s worth remembering exactly what you’re offering them up as. And as you say, when you put up your own reply, there’s nowt but tumbleweed.

    You’d slipped off the radar at the Cloud, people disappear from my following list regularly and usually, eventually, I realise they’ve gone whilst catching up, or something reminds me. In this case twas when the recent spotlight was turned upon you. So the whole thing actually gained you a follower! Ha. Anyway, I’m still not clear as to just why you deserved such a fate, because you have always come across as someone who supports feminism, is against racism, and all for equality. I would not have followed you in the first place otherwise. I hope you have both sorted things out, for it is a shame to lose one of the good guys/gals/wombats as an ally and a friend.

    – Esme upon the Cloud

    1. Thanks. As it happens, we’re in the process of having (I think) a very deep and fruitful conversation about the situation, which I suppose wouldn’t have happened without a bit of kerfuffle.

      To be clear: I did not write this post as a comeback to that situation. It simply served to illustrate a dynamic I’ve noticed many times since beginning my blogo-journey. And also, while my intentions were definitely misconstrued, I recognize that some of that may be down to poor expression on my part. Which is to say, friends have the occasional spat, and all is at least in the process of being forgiven.

      P.S. It’s good to hear from you again. I’m sorry I haven’t shown up more often on your cloud lately…

      1. Yes, I know, I’ve just said this as I ended up here and had meant to earlier. Life on the Cloud has been very trying of late. Spats happen, these days in public I suppose for some, I’m glad you’re both still talking. When I first read about it, I thought that had you been able to meet in real life, face to face, the communication would have been clearer. Such is the Internet. I have met some very good friends on the web mind you, and wouldn’t part with them for the world.

        Don’t worry about Cloud visiting, I don’t follow to have followers return the favour. *smiles*.

        – Esme upon the Cloud

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