Let me tell you of a teaching adventure I recently had. It went from an open offer of free web hosting and bandwidth for a special group of people to an all out war in nothing flat. What was the lesson? The printed word can be miscontrued and interpreted negatively, even if nothing nefarious was intended. Have I intrigued you?
OK, the names of this adventure have been changed, not to protect the innocent, as I doubt there are any, but to avoid another firestorm of hate. Is everyone comfortable?
There is a certain brand of computer and video game systems that I and a friend of mine really enjoy. These systems have long since ceased to be manufactured. In fact, 1994, I believe, or near there, the company that made these machines took its last gasp. There is a small community of people remaining that still like to tinker with these old dinosaurs. Unfortunately, it seems they like to keep to their own part of the internet for whatever it is they like to be developing for these computers. Searching for them, and solutions to their problems tends to be a tedious Googling nightmare. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a central gathering place of sorts, but it seems to have devolved into a place for the self-appointed “elites” of the community. This web site has a lot of great sources on it, but most of what they have is scattered and unindexed. In fact, their solution to anyone asking about a problem, or a simple question is to instruct you to either search the forums for an answer, or to “Google it”. There are no attempts to help. In fact, I have observed that “help” only occurs if those “elites” in the group are having the same issues. You see then it becomes a valid request to them.
Well, my friend and I were kind of set back by this relative lax attempt at helping the community, small that it is. We wanted to have a central indexed portal where people could go and find answers to their questions, and search in data that doesn’t involve hundreds of irrelevant advertising “results” in a search. We also wanted to make it easier for the community to contribute to software development, by having a centralized location to develop and inprove code. One place where people had to look.
My friend is the senior network manager for a major ISP near where I live that peers many other carriers, and has stellar reputation. He also was willing to place a server in their data center with all of the storage and speed anyone could ever want. As long as people wanted space on it, and didn’t use it for for nefarious and profit making purposes, they would be giving access to this system and all of its services for free. This is typically what businesses pay over $1000 a month for, mind you.
I went on a couple of the forums out there to propose this offer. Which on it’s own may not have been the catalyst to the hornets getting pissed. One of my offer letters was to an individual who runs a museum web site for these systems (and others). He mistook my offer as some sort of accusation that his web site sucked (I guess). His response to me was:
“My site has been up for 15 years at the same URL which is known throughout the entire … community, I run my own servers on a 25/25mb dedicated fibre connect and sub host over 10 other domains on my servers, I have no interest or intention of changing this. A simple search of google finds any needed resource a person would want, this isn’t the days of gopher or the early days of yahoo, it doesn’t take much to find things on the net, thanks.”
While I was reading this reply, I was thinking “oh, ok, he’s doing fine. We’ll just link to his site.” as that is what portals do. However, where things got snooty was where he tried to “educate” me on search engines, thus proving my point I mentioned earlier. I was taken back with this snide remark. I thought it a bit douchebaggy. I replied and said “Wow”. All he had to do is say “no, but thank you; I am doing fine”. I did ask him why the snide response to an offer of free bandwidth? Oops, this lit a firestorm of hate that didn’t just involve him. He got so angry that he posted what a jerk I was for even making my offer to him in the first place, on one of these forums I mentioned.
Well, now suddenly I have “troll” status because one of the “elites” declared it to be so. What was once a private conversation, now suddenly became public. The response was suddenly like opening a door and having a fog horn directly on the other side blowing right in your face. The postings on this forum had the phrases like “Who the hell do you think you are?” and “what gives you the right to say that to [so and so]?” The problem with this little crapstorm, is they are responding to how he described the situation. Which was not what happened. He approached the whole thing as if I was saying his web site sucked and such. I reread my proposal and it did not say anything of the sort, only the offer of free hosting for any that wanted it. That’s it. Nevertheless, it’s not what you say, but what the elites decree you said, and then that is gospel no matter what happens and no matter what evidence to the contrary is shown. For example, I was dumbfounded at what was happening, so I posted the email chain so people could see the conversation. It made no difference. The narrative had already been set by the elites, and my reputation was destroyed. All over an offer to help the community with free stuff. In fact, I had been relegated to “troll” status before I even posted a word on the forum in attempts to set the record straight. Amazing.
To me I visualize a pack of wolves, and a guy driving up in a truck full of fresh meat for them, but the wolves choose to instead devour the guy instead of the vast supply of meat that is locked behind steel doors. I honestly thought I was doing a big favor, and contributing something major to the community. Nope, I broke the highest law of “thou shalt not do anything contrary to the elite’s status quo.” I should have remembered it was a pack of wolves.
I learned a very important lesson we can apply to politics. People don’t critically think anymore. They just emotionally react to the first thing they are told (especially if it is behind the safety of a computer, distance, and an anonymous account), and if a group or mob believes it to be true, then it is true. The actual truth has no relevance. It is something Saul Alinski, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and the modern Democrat party knew or knows very well. Propaganda is a very powerful tool, especially for people in desperate desire to become important or to gain power. It is something we saw in the Presidential election. The truth about Obama and Romney was irrelevant to people. What they were told by a biased press was what the “truth” was to people. They were taught what to think, and they emotionally obeyed.
For example, Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47%. It was what he said, but the meaning and context of what he said and why, was conveniently left out, but instead replaced with a narrative designed to anger people and apply to their emotions. When the truth about everything in context was told, it was irrelevant, as the new “truth” was the propaganda, and the approach was to say he had to defend himself against a narrative that is a lie. It didn’t matter what the truth was anymore, as the desired effect was to anger people with the propaganda, and once that happens, critical thinking ceases, as it is hard to convince an angry person that they are angry without reason to be.
Now you may be thinking, ok, what happened then, REALLY? I certainly poured gasoline on the fire by giving my two bits before I left. I did say this guy was a douchebag for doing what he did. I did express my disgust with how a simple offer of free services to the community was met with an amazing level of hatred and vitriol. My status of “troll” is now set in concrete. No matter, I don’t really care anymore. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. I did think and realize I really didn’t lose anything, as they never helped anyone anyway. It was just a place where everyone kissed each other’s backside. Why did I want to do them a favor anyway?