Sunday, 20 May 2012

I'm Controversial, Me

This week I achieved the honour of finding myself permanently banned from an internet forum. I'm still processing this peculiar gobbet of information, something I had never anticipated befalling one so ruthlessly entertaining and virulently amiable as myself, and now I'm processing it in public (in so much as the two people reading this could ever be considered a public) just like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn blowing the whistle on a harsh and oppressive regime.

I joined the forum in question about a year ago, perhaps more, needing some virtual water cooler where I could get away with the sort or remarks I tend to make in a supportive and nurturing environment without having people miss the point or respond with picture's of women's tits or derail into discussions of awesome metal that is like awesome and totally FTW LOL. I'm no Jeffrey Archer, but I try to maintain a certain standard. Anyway, I seemed to get on well there for however long it lasted, even inspiring a thread in which everyone acknowledged my apparent greatness, agreeing that I had taken to the forum like a fish to water having immediately understood the thrust of the place. This was not of itself unusual. Most long term members tended to warrant a thread dedicated entirely to singing their praises at one point or another. It seemed like a nice thing to do. The place became comfortable.

Time passed, the occasional disagreement arose as tends to happen on internet forums, but nothing too serious, and nothing that left me with any lingering resentment of any other member. I do my best to avoid taking that sort of thing personally, which is why I was a little surprised that occasions wherein I expressed any significant note of dissent were met with suggestions that I had misunderstood, and maybe I didn't "get" the place after all. This became a recurring pattern. If you disagree on something to do with the running of the forum itself, how things work, it turns out that actually this is usually because, contrary to any previous understanding, you just don't "get" it.

You might wonder just what there was to get. I began to suspect the existence of an unspoken mystic code, something esoteric and complicated, a veritable minefield beyond the ken of mortal minds or those who had only been forum members for a year or so; certainly something more profound than banter and ostensibly good natured name calling. Maybe I just wasn't doing the good natured name calling right, because almost every time I went down that road, I ended up being told that I just didn't "get" it. This is why I've tended to refrain from turning the full-force of my Rabelaisian satire on people I don't know particularly well. There's too much room for misunderstanding, and they might not always realise the term slack-jawed fudgemuncher is meant in an affectionate sense. I don't think it's that difficult to understand. It's why most human societies have developed manners.

Last week I made a suggestion regarding a flare up between two members, one of a series of increasingly venomous exchanges. My suggestion was that a particularly violent derail might be split, siphoning off the circular arguments from whatever the thread had originally been about. This came across as overbearing and I was told that once again I just didn't "get it". Unfortunately, my suggestion coincided with members of forum staff having bad hair days, and so they didn't appreciate being told what to do, which is how my post was taken. At this point, one member posting as Urizen, a good friend whom I have known across numerous other virtual drawing rooms pointed out that there might be some double standards here, staff failing to act with the sense of decorum they clearly expected of regular members. To illustrate this, he posted Gilray's cartoon The Table's Turn'd:

Urizen was subsequently banned from the place - nobody likes a smart-arse, apparently - and that was it for me. Feeling somewhat slandered, I made one last post, restating my case whilst channeling Henry Kissinger like a good 'un, conceding points, answering for the war crimes of having a different opinion and so on - to which the big cheese of the forum responded calmly and in a more favourable manner - and then I left, because I don't want to spend time hanging around the sort of virtual water cooler where a relaxed and easy going attitude is enforced with an iron fist, or where you can be banned for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person.

I guess I just didn't "get it" after all, and I said as much on Twitter, which I returned to whilst flailing around in search of a replacement virtual water cooler:

The forum that bans people for posting Gilray cartoons: strange that it doesn't turn out to be my sort of place.
Returning to the forum next day in order to copy a few contributions of which I'd once been unreasonably proud, I found I had now myself been banned for my reckless 112 characters of sedition:

Banned for posting cartoons? No, it was a ban for abusive behaviour. Here's a ban for slating this place on Twitter... happy "tweeting".

It was at this point that it began to feel like an achievement, that something so mild could have inspired my being blasted to the Phantom Zone never to return, suffixed by an ironic happy "tweeting". I had made my bed and would now be obliged to lie in it.

I collapsed to my knees, cursing God and this cruel Twitter that had lured me to such foul perfidy, tempting my basest desires into the lurid pornography of such slander. Indeed, oh happiest of tweetings now, but for the eternity spent in everlasting torment which shall be their reward...

And slating... I had to look it up just to make sure I hadn't misremembered that one: slating like in all those wonderfully toxic tirades that got the Sex Pistols in such hot water: Moderate Political Reform In The UK, Serious Reservations About The Monarchy, I'm Not Convinced Of Your Honesty, Bit Distracted and others. How could anyone be so delicate as to regard that as a slating, let alone anyone serving as staff on a forum which prides itself on the hilarity of its jovial insults? Remember when Adolf Hitler addressed the crowd at Nuremberg, explaining that he'd decided that, after much consideration, he now knew that Judaism just wasn't his cup of tea...

I'm a little sad to find myself banned, although the sadness is compensated by having been banned for such comical reasons. I wonder if whoever pushed that button was aware of the irony that my banning proved my point, that the place really wasn't for me.