Friday, November 22, 2013

A Moron In A Hurry: Fandom Drama Edition

Fandoms have existed forever, it seems. They certainly pre-date the internet as, for example, the Beatles fan community in the US is celebrating the 50th anniversary of their appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February 2014. As a group that fan community -- not just in the US but internationally --  gets along because if there's wank at all they've had half a century to work it out.
If you're new to fandom in general you may not recognize the word "wank" as I used it in the last paragraph. In this context it means drama and there's plenty of it across the board. Author Cassandra Clare still deals with wank generated during her time writing Harry Potter fan fiction from a decade ago and charges levelled against her have included plagiarism and bullying. I'm not judging whether this is fair to her because if that information is completely suppressed then how is that fair to one with a genuine grievance against her?
One thing I will say in Clare's favor is that she has not so far, in information that you and I can equally access, distanced herself from anything that she has written or said under her online identity. The name Cassandra Clare is a pseudonym but she owns what she has written under that name, as in she stands behind it. I cannot find an instance of her using a sockpuppet, or an alternate identity, and though I may not agree with what she says in a particular case that alone takes grit and especially at her level of the game.
The same cannot be said for the Armitage fandom. Sockpuppets abound here. I can think of two people just off the top of my head who have multiple identities within the fandom and there are others that I question. I'm not talking about a pseudonym here because no my mother did not name me jazzbaby1. But if you're maintaining an image as being above a particular type of discussion and then you jump into it under a different identity you are being fundamentally dishonest and the only interests you're serving are your own. It also helps to maintain the incredibly convenient fiction that there's only one bully in this fandom and that's also unfair. Crap gets attributed to her that happened before she even joined the fandom and that is just that, crap. This is NOT an endorsement of anything that she says because oh my yes do we disagree about mostly everything but fair is fair.
This is a huge and freewheeling community and it grows every day and as that happens by necessity it changes to reflect it's members. But there's no rule book that governs us and your worldview is not the only one. If you want to carve out space for your view have at it. As for me, as Billy Joel sang, "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun."

30 comments:

  1. and only the good die young :)

    Absolutely right that pseudonymity is something very different from anonymity. If you need citations let me know :)

    I also agree with your subpoint that sockpuppets seem to be a particular plague in the Armitage fandom. Not least because it makes it really hard to know who you're talking to at any given point. I used to be very open to new friendships with people who wrote to me but I've become incredibly suspicious, and I wish I weren't.

    I want to ask a question, though -- there are writers who have multiple pseudonyms (JK Rowling is the most recent example). What about having two consistent but relatively different personas? The greater problem is the anonymous sockpuppet, no? Because the pseudonymous sockpuppet can still be seen as a bully?

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    1. I'm not talking about having multiple pseudonyms. Writers do that all the time and in addition to Rowling I'm thinking specifically of Anne Rice who wrote the erotic "Sleeping Beauty" series under a pseudonym. What I'm talking about here is being in community with people and that's impossible without trust. I have to be able to trust you to deal with you. I don't mean agree here, either, because we can disagree all day -- and you and I do on some things -- but if you're trying to get me to bend to your will by deception that's both dishonest and manipulative. This happens all the time in families. I've had a running argument for years with a member of my huband's family about what she said was an unbreakable Christmas tradition that my husband has no memory of at all. She eventually backed down but how am I supposed to trust her after that (and there have been epic blowouts about it)? For me a sockpuppet who stirs the pot is doing the saz

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    2. Sorry, hit publish too soon. For me someone who says "I'm not getting involved" and then turns around and makes up a new id to get involved is doing the same thing.

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    3. I agree that the "new pseudonym" dodge is a known and respectable strategy for people who want to write erotica or some other genre, for instance. Still, that technically or potentially means a sort of break in trust of the kind you're criticizing. I think what you're saying points to a problem in definitions of identity, if people think they can't be all the things they are in one identity. (This is my fundamental problem with Servetus as an identity, I think. She exists because I struggle being everything I am in my own identity. Maintaining Servetus is enough work that I don't have time for sockpuppet identities, however. It would simply be too exhausting.)

      But if we all have those issues -- a person with a more mainstream profile and opinions who attracts friends on that basis can't suddenly expose herself as a writer of erotica (a battle I fought and it really hurt at the time) -- then it seems that some kind of sockpuppetry is necessary. So I guess the point is malicious sockpuppetry, not multiple identities per se. Servetus / ServetusRA / Michaela Servetus is my consistent pseudonym across all my fandom social media. Would be okay to have another ID as long as I didn't use it to pretend I was different in sentiment than Servetus is? Because it seems to me the one possibility (protective multiple pseudonyms) justifies the other (multiple pseudonyms with strikingly different opinions). If I had a second identity in order to write erotica, what would happen when people I knew in my Servetus identity attacked things i had said in my erotica writer identity? Would I not have the right to respond? And would I not then be engaging in the kind of thing that you're talking about?

      I'm confused. I want to agree with you that sockpuppets are bad (in the case you cite -- creating sockpuppets in order to suggest your isolated opinion is more broadly shared, there was a weird case of that in the NYTimes recently)

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/nyregion/online-battle-over-ancient-scrolls-spawns-real-world-consequences.html?_r=0

      but I think that sockpuppets are less the problem than malicious intent. And people can be equally malicious in their pseudonyms, no?

      Or am I missing something about your arguments?

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    4. I don't think you're missing anything. I think it absolutely has to do with intent. I can't speak for the Armitage Army or C19 forums but on other message boards registering more than one handle from the same ISP without a good reason (say spouses who share a computer) is forbidden. I've watched sockpuppetry decimate communities unrelated to fandom and the remedy employed is normally banning. It's like trolling, as far as I'm concerned.

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  2. I have no idea what this post is in regard to, but I do know I'm one of the people you know with multiple pseudonyms. So I will say this, if someone is going to have multiples, they damn well shouldn't do so to be two faced. Mine came about because I wanted to write racy RPF and didn't want to get flamed on my Wordpress blog. I think it's sad that our fandom is one where that's a legitimate concern. But I tried to make sure that I never hid the fact that 1. I liked that kind of writing and 2. that I supported those who do write it.

    Some of the stuff I've seen going on lately is just appalling and I'd hate to think it was people I knew in the fandom, operating under different names.

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    1. Jas!! Hey, let me know if you need a beta for that RPF! ;)

      I thought of your Maggie & John ficlet a few weeks ago as I was meandering about the Louvre again and boy does research make navigating that museum an absolute breeze now!

      One can get in, see everything on their list and out in just a few short hours! Also, the Louvre now houses an underground luxury mall - so it's good 'Maggie and John' took place years before the arrival of this: http://www.carrouseldulouvre.com/W/do/centre/accueil

      Thinking of you and hoping you are enjoying your writing!!!

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  3. People have different ids online for different reasons. If a blogger goes to register on a board and finds their blogger handle already taken, for example, that isn't an issue or if a business owner uses one id to manage business online and another for fantasy football that isn't the same thing. That's an issue of establishing a boundary between two parts of your online life and you have the right to establish that in whatever way makes you comfortable. But once you enter the community -- when you're talking to me -- I need to be able to trust that you, JasRangoon, are the person that you say you are. It's mostly a problem when things get contentious because creating multiple ids and posting multiple times in the course of an argument is an attempt to win by sheer number rather than by the virtue of your argument. You can't speak the truth if you're lying through your teeth.

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  4. Hi Jazzy,
    Having possibly experienced what you refer to as a "troll" on my blog in the past week, I wonder who has the time for all the agitation that they attempt to cause. Between you and others, we got the situation "diffused", but it was a strange exchange to say the least.

    I don't think I've seen any sock puppet comments, but then, I don't get around to other blogs/forums as much as I would like these days. Might you FB msg me an example of a suspected sock puppet moniker if you want to? I hear "about these comments", but have not seen these sock puppet comments. So it is a little hard for me to get a handle on what they're doing without an example in my head. Or, are we only talking about the IMDB forums which are suspect anyway and to be avoided at all costs? Ha!

    And given that there are thousands and probably millions of RA Fans now, if there are a few folks who just want to be ornery, can't we just ignore them as a statistical outlier? It's hard to ignore them when they're attacking "you"--as in that "troll" was. But isn't the one thing they are craving most of all attention? So let's not give it to them and maybe they'll go away and find their LCD.
    Cheers! Grati;->

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    1. Agitation itself is less a problem for me. Pi from NevermindMr.Armitage is a dissident thinker about all this and while I may not agree with her she asks questions that would never occur to me and that I would never think about otherwise but that are interesting to contemplate. She's not a troll, she's someone with a different point of view. The person who went out of her way at your blog last weekend to dig up something you wrote in July and then chastized you for it was there to do just that, to stir up trouble.

      Please let me be clear here. The posters at the IMDB boards, while I may disagree with them on this or that issue, have a right to establish boundaries around what they're willing to discuss in order to keep their community functioning. They don't discuss his personal life because for them it's disrespectful and because it always descends into mud slinging. AA and C19 have the same rule for the same reasons. However, IMDB is vulnerable to trolling in a way other boards are not. Because they're outspoken and it's a violation of a boundary they've fought hard to maintain discussion they feel veers off track to his personal life is likely to become a bloodbath. We all know this.

      I want you to know that I took a break between that paragraph and this one to really get my thoughts straight before I continue. On the eve of Comic Con 2012 someone claiming to be a friend of Armitage posted to the IMDB board under the handle JamesDixon19** (I don't remember the last two digits, sorry) about blogs that go too far. The post is gone because the remainder of the discussion focused on a completely different issue and got incredibly vicious so the entire thread was pulled. Screenshots of the original post exist, though. I will warn you all now that if this gets bogged down in who did what to whom when I will delete your comments because that is NOT the issue at hand and we've been over it.

      That being said, I think the IMDB board was trolled in that instance because the poster knew that the reaction would be harsh. The poster claimed to have known RA for years and was concerned about certain types of attention directed at him. This is not typical behavior of the friend-of-a-famous person. That is not to say that it never happens because I can think of one instance where one actor asked another's fan to back off but the circumstances are long and involved and have nothing to do with this. The atypicality of the post is what made me look askance at it. JamesDixon19** registered in May, posted a handful of times on different boards and then disappeared, which is typical of sockpuppet behavior. In the body of his post he used words that didn't jibe with what he said about himself, that he was a long-standing acquaintence of Armitage. When you write you can never completely hide your tics, like I will give examples in groups of three when I'm writing a first draft. That's how I was taught to do it in school and it's subconciously the way I do it. I cannot imagine that anyone in any British school would think it was okay to use the word "mellow" as a verb as JD did. That's a typically Western US use of the word, as in the phrase "you need to mellow out." If he's in LA chances are he's too savvy to get involved in the fan politics of someone he claims to know but can't prove. Additionally, IMDB itself is a professional environment and the chances of RA's management peeking in are high. A post like that is a passive aggressive way to alert them to this issue that I have a problem with but I don't want to get caught contacting you directly. I'm not going to name a name even privately because I know who I suspect it is but the damage that came from that one post was epic.

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    2. Speaking as a primary target of that one, I had it down to two people in my mind, and both of them had MMO. In one case it was extremely self-interested.

      This is the thing -- what I wish would happen before a kneejerk reaction to anything -- that people stopped to think about that second "M" whenever someone relatively unknown shows up to bully. People seem to think there are no political or financial interests in Armitageworld and that's completely wrong.

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    3. Can you define MMO for those of us playing at home? And on your other point, it always kind of flummoxes me that anyone thinks we're part of some kund of marketing effort. Would you hire me? Please.

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    4. MMO=means, motive, opportunity

      I think that divide is precisely the problem. Because the 99% are not in it for anything other than fun, they fail to see that there is a 1% there who think they have something to gain (falsely IMO, but nonetheless it's there). Even if that something is just contacts / influence or the *potential* for same (also unrealistic, but again, something people believe). So when someone starts something that you know is going to cut through the fandom like a knife and make everyone bleed -- you have to ask in whose interest that is. Because it explains a lot.

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    5. Should clarify -- when they do that with a sockpuppet. People who start things in their own names -- that's somewhat different.

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    6. Ah! Thanks for the clarification, Jazzy!

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  5. armitageagonistes.wordpress.comNovember 23, 2013 at 6:55 AM

    Recently a poster on one blog disclosed that she had a different identity on a forum. Her comments, attitude, point of view, beliefs - all have been consistent,and I assume she had reasons for that. I would have liked to know it was her in her blog comment, but I can think of a few, none of which are questionable. I know of a few fans in a similar position. To answer Servetus's question about the problem of what to do when someone is commenting to you as one identity about yourself in another identity - it's tricky, but I would not answer or deflect. As a blogger, I wouldn't want to be on a forum in my blogging identity. Just wouldn't. But my basic outlook would be the same. And, I wouldn't promote my blog.

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  6. Sorry, my comment is garbled. What I was saying rather ineffectively was that I assume the commenter/forum user had reasons for holding two consistent and I think honest identities, that I could think of a few reasons myself.

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  7. Just to be clear, perry is the blogger from armitageagonistes so those comments are both hers. That's a really good illustration of what I'm not talking about. Blogger can be touchy with WordPress ids so sometimes you have to improvise and there's not a thing wrong with that. Additionally, there's nothing wrong with protecting yourself if you want or need to due to online stalking. As an example from a place unrelated to fandom, there's a board I've been a member of for over ten years that discusses family dynamics. It's a really highly charged emotional atmosphere and it functions as a safe space to vent as members grapple with huge issues -- PersonA's in-laws keep trying to slip her a food that will kill her, for example. Every once in a while a member will switch ids for his or her own safety but we're all aware that this is a necessary evil given the nature of what we're discussing. That's not sockpuppetry because the other part of that is the act, the aggressive shit kicking.

    I want to make clear that I'm also not talking about exploring a new idea in a safe way. You have a particular online image and suddenly you have a new interest in something but maybe you've spoken against it so you ask questions anonymously or whatever. That's not the problem. Everybody's thinking does or should evolve with new information. I used to be registered at both AA and C19 but withdrew because I had a problem with the way a particular thing was handled. It was MY problem, though, not theirs. Eventually I got over it.

    I also want to say that I first encountered one of the funniest people I know and someone I consider a good online friend when she was being a sockpuppet in another fandom. She got busted, apologized and I'm glad she did because otherwise I would have missed knowing her.

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  8. Great explanation and oh- the irony of posting two comments back to back with two different names on a post dealing with different identities. LOL. But I struggle with the comment system here, and have no idea what name this will be published under. I think Perry and Armitage Agonistes are known to be one and the same. Now if I could just figure out notifications here. Sigh.

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  9. I'll poke around and see if there's something I need to activate. My sister let me know that I didn't have mobile viewing enabled about six months into the blog but I had no idea it was a problem until she mentioned it.

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  10. I think I know what you mean. If I went on here and said this as, well, me - and then came back and commented again expressing a completely different opinion under a different name, perhaps opinions I felt I couldn't express using my established online identity. Still a strange thing. I can understand if, like Servetus mentioned, if you're a writer and want to branch out to a different genre. If you're known for a particular genre, say ... erotica, and wanted to do a crime drama, odds are no one would take you seriously using your established erotica-writer name. But on forums? Really?

    Anyway. I was actually just going to say "I had no idea Cassandra Clare wrote HP fanfic! Her Mortal Instruments books are really enjoyable" or something like that. :)

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  11. She wrote a fic commonly referred to as The Draco Trilogy that has since disappeared from the internet in general but individual people downloaded copies of it to their own computers when she was posting it to FanFiction.Net. It was pulled from there due to charges of plagiarism and it caused a huge schism as some of those involved established fic sites of their own. This is all searchable if you know where to look but, yeah, she was a Big Name Fan.

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  12. As usual, I'm on the fringes of RA fandom, so I'm never too aware of what goes on. However, as I've been on the fringes of quite a few, I can tell you this. Sockpuppets are a blight in nearly all fandoms, and they create a lot of drama. Or wank. Fandom Wank is a corner on the web where plenty of those online dramas have been talked about.

    Also, sockpuppets are absolutely not comparable to adopting new (online) IDs. The latter is more or less created to start afresh, without the many connotations that are attached to a more well known name. Indeed, a good case in point is JK Rowling and her crime novel. The facade is different, but behind the front door you'll find the same person.

    A sockpuppet however are created out of malice. A good lightning rod when drama needs to be created. A whole new persona is created, though not always, mostly used to uphold someone's point of view and/or used on the offense. And these are the more benign aspects! There are real life events involving truly mind boggling deception and fraud based on elaborate fake personas. And some involved fandoms.
    http://www.dailydot.com/society/fandomwank-10-best-drama-stories-anniversary/

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    1. Welcome to the blog and thank you for posting that link...Snape wives? I think my brain just twisted into a knot. :)

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  13. I've been staying firmly on the fringes of RA fandom for a while now. And it's blasphemy, I know, but I don't like the Hobbit so I haven't had much to contribute. I haven't defected though, except maybe to a ship that pre-dated RA anyway, and that ship characters, not real people. Anyway, that means that the recent dramas have largely passed me by.

    Anyway, I just stopped by to burst your bubble that any fandom can get along (sorry). Members of he Beatles fandom were recently involved in an epic wank on Wank Report (most of it deleted now) about another fandom member. The whole thing lasted about 4 weeks, descended into a cesspit of racism, over 1000 replies and it spawned 2 separate threads there. (plus if you go back a few pages, one of our own had an epic meltdown there too!)

    Seems to me that 95% of people (I'm feeling generous today, usually it's 99%) have the asshole gene.

    Sorry things kicked off again but with the swell in fan numbers following the Hobbit, it was kind of inevitable; the bigger a group is, the bigger the proportion of dickheads within that group will be.

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    1. Dude, you're not bursting my bubble here. I've seen the wank that goes down in Beatlesworld. I was starting there to make a larger point that while any individual fan may be new to fandom in general there is bullshit that happens in every single one and has since the beginning of time and it's best, I think, to not take it too personally. In order to detach from it you have to have an idea of what's really going on or you wind up just leaving because maybe in a debate you got jumped and it looked like everybody was against you so you just stopped talking. In reality, though, it was one or two people who created sockpuppets. Of course we're going to disagree about stuff and Lord Almighty yes there are assholes everywhere. But be aware.

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    2. I honestly don't understand the modern mentality that everyone must agree with your POV (your in general terms, nit you specifically).

      When I first got an internet connection,then the time to learn to use it, I was part of the Buffy fandom and quickly made the City of Angel my home base (the spin off had just started). We all had different ships (canon and non canon) and different favourite characters, and there was only one board to post on (it was 15 years ago, things were simple then), so shippers weren't segregated to different areas as they are now and you know what? We got along fine! There weren't even any moderators. Well there were, but they had lives and didn't monitor the boards, when they came online, it was to join in, not start deleting shit. They would have intervened, but we didn't need them to. They even got people associated with the show to post occasionally, or give interviews, which was a much better use of their time, IMHO.

      No one argued about which ship was better. We discussed it, sure, but nothing ever got nasty. Sometimes we had a troll and everyone ganged up against them until they left but they were really very rare. I made 4 real life friends through that side, and we all had different preferences.

      I look at fandoms now, where it's like a war to get everyone to hold your point of views and sometimes i feel like weeping. We're not discussing war here, just works of fiction, why do we have to agree? Even if it is that important to you, what makes you so arrogant that you can change someone else's mind?

      I know that even back then, the CoA was an anomaly (the Buffy boards had a bad rep but I was lucky enough not to have posted there) but I still miss that place.

      I wonder why there cant be more places (and people) like that, and why things only seem to get worse and more extreme, year on year.

      The RA fandom was actually as close as I have come to that atmosphere again, with only one crazy who kept herself mostly to one place I don't venture often. I wondered if it was because there was a more mature crowd here, people who have known real life manners for longer than the post-internet free for all we have online.

      Now even from the fringes, I can see the crazies taking over. It's such a shame.

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  14. I think in this fandom specifically there's a sense of having watched him grow up and that gives context to certain dramas. Last year someone said publicly that she didn't think that he'd actually written any messages and we'd all been bamboozled. She may well have been joking but that's a sacred cow to a lot of people: he once took the time to look back and we remember that fondly. For what it's worth, I think the one we got from the Wellington premiere is the last one we'll get. He seemed to take extra care in writing it and to me it felt like a bookend. I would be perfectly happy to find myself wrong on that. New people cycle in all the time and the fandom changes when it does and either we accept all comers or we don't. No single one of us directs the conversation.

    On another note, you used an inflammatory term in your comment for a poster who I know that you have history with. As I said up above and in the comments of another post I don't want this to turn into who did what when. Please respect my boundary on this because the only way to actually deal with this stuff is to discuss it and using inflammatory language shuts debate down.

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  15. If you knew everything that woman had done, you'd be admiring my restraint! I'm only half joking! ;)

    And I know you have to take new people into a fandom, it's not new people I don't like, it's just that as a group gets larger, the number of trouble makers does too. If there's 1 bad apple per 100 and you have 100 fans, that's easy, everyone has a voice and the bad are easy to avoid. if you have 10,000 fans, you get 100 troublemakers (and in my experience, they do tend to be more vocal than the easy going fans). That's a lot of bad apples to navigate around and a lot of voices shouting you down. That's what I wasn't looking forward to, not new people per se. I like new people and new perspectives and am following a lot of new blogs, although i rarely comment these days.

    There's a lot that I read and don't agree with, but just because i disagree or it makes me uncomfortable, I have no right to tell anyone hoe to behave or what to think. Like I mentioned earlier, I don't like the hobbit film and wont bother to see the second. I don't want people trying to "educate me", any more than I would demand people boycott the films because I don't like them.

    So what if someone thinks RA's letters are fake? It doesn't alter my opinion, that they are real. I might try to offer evidence once or twice perhaps but if they still think they aren't real, se la vie. I've been in fandoms where idiots have impersonated actors and I'm cynical about such communications myself, so i can hardly blame them for being cautious, even if they are wrong for a change.

    I just wish we could get back that 'live and let live' vibe. Just because someone has a different opinion, doesn't mean that can't be their friend. I don't think I have a single real life friend who has the exact same views that I do, but that doesn't stop us having interesting conversations about those issues, and still being good friends.

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    1. Exactly. It's fandom, it's supposed to be fun. It becomes less fun when people take themselves or what they see as their position too seriously and then it becomes about their being right.

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Thanks for commenting!