Saturday, October 24, 2009

A flame war in the making 

There's a guy on a forum I actively participate on who's THIS CLOSE to having a flame war unleashed on him. The reason; he posts more "complaint threads" than average, and he's not an established enough member to be "allowed" to do this, nor is he buddies with any of the "heavy hitters" (which would grant him immunity).

Sound ridiculous? It IS, of course it is, but every forum has a similar set of silly unwritten rules, and those who violate them, which typically means doing something as trivial as posting an opinion that a group of established members disagree with and not totally giving up said opinion when they post said disagreement, are in for an amount of misery whose only boundary is the admins... which all too frequently means no boundary at all.

The attackers started by repeatedly pointing out that he was posting too many complaints; he honestly DOES post enough to make even ME roll my eyes a little, but he's not doing anything objectively improper, and certainly not against the OFFICIAL forum rules. He, naturally enough, hotly defended his opinions; nothing improper about THAT, either, but totally the wrong thing to do when this happens on a forum.

In response, they escalated it; they're jumping on him even when he's saying the same things as others are... and those others are NOT being criticized, just HIM. Sometimes you don't see this particular pattern until an open war is already underway, but any time you see this nonsense of singling out just one person who holds an opinion to argue with it ALWAYS signals that things have moved beyond just habitually disagreeing with, or politely debating with, the target, to actively trying to "get" him/her. (This particular escalation does NOT work in meatspace, where if you publicly attack one person in a group who have all expressed the same opinion ALL of the group members feel attacked and react accordingly; why people do NOT react that way in cyberspace is a mystery, but it's totally consistent.)

The attackers never tire of this game, and they'll be happy to attack the target in every thread in every sub-forum, week after week, month after month, literally FOREVER, if the admins permit it (and they all too often do).

If you're the target of a situation like this, and you're a mature adult, it seems like if you point out that what they're doing is unreasonable, unfair and just plain ridiculous they'll see that it's true and probably stop, and that the other forum members will side with you and criticize them if they DON'T stop... but that's NOT how it works. Logical arguments and facts do NOT make people stop disliking you or stop attacking you, EVER. They're not attacking you because they mis-analyzed something, they're doing it because THEY DON'T LIKE YOU, and arguing with them or trying to make them look foolish only makes them feel more justified in attacking you, and more eager to do so. And if you think that the observing forum members will see all this and feel sympathy for YOU and disapproval of THEM, you must be new here; if other forum members see you arguing with multiple people at a time, they assume, no matter what specific things are being said in the argument, that YOU are in the wrong. People ALWAYS side with the group rather than with the one, even if the one is objectively, OBVIOUSLY an innocent victim and the group are launching the nastiest flame war ever... sucks big time, but that's human nature for you. (See my post of 12-1-06 for a detailed description of this phenomenon.)

Once a group of attackers has escalated once, it's a near certainty that they will again. Why? Because they CAN, and, just like with sex, it's more fun for them the farther they take it; this is what good people don't realize, that the cockroaches of the world LOVE to participate in these online gangbangs. And, they HAVE escalated a 2nd time; they've started posting references to things that the victim has said in other threads, complete with links, as part of their "proof" of how "terrible" his posts are. This willingness to take the time to search out previous comments as part of their attack posts shows that they've really dedicated themselves to "getting" him.

It's a small, small step from this point to outright flame war; once the first person in the group posts a PERSONAL attack, in other words switches from saying "he DOES" things to "he IS" something bad, that will be when it starts. As a side note, it's typical for them to begin with calling the victim a troll or a thread-cr@pper, although in my experience those terms never actually apply to the victim; the fact that it is THEY who are actually being trolls and thread-cr@ppers by making those posts never occurs to them, or apparently to the other members or the admins.

I've contacted the target privately to try to show him how to head it off; all he needs to do is post that he's tired of the playground BS and is putting them on Ignore, and then DO it. If they keep blabbing after that, and there's a good chance that some of them will because they can't bear to stop, THEN the other members will probably belatedly turn against them and start posting the beating-dead-horse "smiley" and telling them to shut up already. Even if they don't, it's no fun for the attackers to keep going when the victim isn't even seeing what they say much less responding, so they'll stop on their own; either way, for the victim the aggravation will be instantly over.

He hasn't responded to me yet, and I have no guess as to whether he will or not, since we've never "spoken" before. I don't know if he'll take my advice, or is too emotionally invested in fighting back in this battle that he can't win to do so. One thing I AM sure of; if I see him being flamed, I'll intervene on his behalf, because part of being a good person is taking action when someone is attacked.

Next time you see a group attacking a lone victim on a forum, what will YOU do?

Friday, October 23, 2009

The winner... 

... of the Pink Together/MyBlogSpark Inspiring Hope gift pack is Jane G. She has been through a terrible ordeal with her own fight against breast cancer, yet still manages to be gracious and maintain a positive attitude. I hope the goodies will brighten her day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Breast cancer 

Long-time readers will remember that my mother has had breast cancer twice. It was therefore especially meaningful to me that Pink Together in partnership with MyBlogSpark sent me a gift pack of items from


the merchandise branch of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure website


(where you can donate $ and/or find ways to get involved, hint hint) in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Inspiring Hope gift pack contained a sleeved travel mug, a pink ribbon charm bracelet, a pink leather strap keychain, a pink cinch bag, and a set of inspirational note cards. They're letting me give an extra pack away, so the first person who tells me how breast cancer has touched their life will get it.

In the meantime, here's something everyone can do to help:

"...in addition to donating $2 million to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, General Mills will also donate $1, up to $20,000, each time a comment of encouragement is posted, a virtual flower bouquet is sent, or a story is shared on


through October 31st."

Monday, October 19, 2009

The winner... 

... of the Fiber One Toaster Pastries gift pack is; Christine F!! :-)

If you didn't win, don't fret; you can find coupons for this and their other products in most Sunday coupon sections... you KNOW you need more fiber, and this is probably the most painless way to get some. And then, you could become a REGULAR reader, LOL!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fiber One Toaster Pastries 

The kind folks at MyBlogSpark and Fiber One sent me a free sample of these Brown Sugar Cinnamon Toaster Pastries. They're TASTY, with plenty of frosting and filling; you can't tell you're getting any fiber, but you are... 20% of your daily value, to be exact. I eat this sort of stuff anyways, so why not go for the fiber and whole grains? It'd make me feel less guilty about not eating gravel (aka Grape Nuts) or some other middle-aged-person-appropriate breakfast if I wasted time on food guilt. If you don't care for cinnamon, they've got fruit ones and a fudge flavor, so if you're into a little morning sweetness, or want to give your kids something a little bit healthier for breakfast that they'll eat without a battle, give them a try.

One lucky reader will try them for free!! The Fiber One Toaster Pastries came in a gift pack with a thermal lunch bag, a slick-looking travel mug, and a planner, and they're letting me give a gift pack to one of you; whoever tells me the funniest story about how breakfast can be a disaster at their house will win it.

For the rest of you, go here


and you can get a coupon, plus coupons for other Fiber One products, plus FREE samples of their cereal and bars (my husband is WILD about the bars).

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