Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Thing With Freedom And Abuse…

This ties back in with yesterday, in part, and goes beyond it.

Angie put up an excellent post called The Rudeness of Strangers and I wanted to point you in her direction today.

Now, as I understand it, Miss Snark has the Crapometer going these days. As though it isn’t enough to brave public humiliation by putting your work down in front of someone who will happily dig their stilettos in and twist hard and then let Killer Yap use the remnants for ‘business’, I hear that some snotty readers are adding insult to injury by trashing the submissions in the comment threads.

I have not read any of this myself.

The reality is, some people use the internet to bully and harass others. I’ve seen it on forums. I’ve seen it on blogs. I’m always tempted to fuck with these people a bit, but really, it’s pointless. They’re self-appointed assholes. And, unfortunately, they’re something the world has no shortage of.

If you decide you’re going to be active online you do have to make decisions about how to handle yourself and protect yourself. I recently took the unprecedented move of emailing someone I don’t know off a forum, warning them to be careful about sharing personal information. In this particular case, they’d openly admitted it was their first time on a forum, and the poster who responded to them, asking some personal questions, is a known troublemaker who was recently booted off of another forum for inappropriate behaviour. I don't think my email was appreciated. It'll make me more reluctant to warn the next flakey female that hits cyberspace - after all, you can't be everyone's keeper, right?

Now, lord knows I’ve gotten into my share of online scraps. It was less than a year ago that I bickered with a few gentlemen over at Sarah Weinman’s, over the issue of the Edgar nominations. And I didn’t kick Steve or Kevin at Harrogate. In fact, I’m theoretically interviewing both of them next year for Spinetingler. My secret plan is to get them to admit they were wrong. (Joking! Although I’d like to add that Steve’s latest post made me snort coke out my nose. Worth the uploading time - the most festive thing I’ve seen so far this holiday season.)

Okay, but setting aside legitimate disagreements that come up from time to time, just going around being an obnoxious jerk? Really, do people have nothing better to do?

I don’t need to add to this. I think Angie said it well, and this is one of those (rare) times I’m exercising some self control and staying far far away.

Bottom line is, I decided that I didn’t need to invite this level of frustration into my life. Which is why I’m also steering clear of unmoderated forums. Free speech is nice but being harassed and abused online isn’t. Trolls like the ones plaguing Miss Snark’s place and some forums shouldn’t use their ‘freedom’ as license to abuse others.

See, the thing freedom is that it’s all good and fine, as long as nobody uses it as a way to abuse others. And this is where I could get a bit naughty and say that even though these people are harassing others from the comfort of their own home it’s still wrong!

That’s part of where the discussion yesterday ended up. One of the things evil kev didn’t add in his comment was something I’d hoped he’d talk about – the problems the fire department faces in Chestermere, which is a community in our district. Chestermere is an affluent area, surrounding a lake, lots of new homes going up, close proximity to the city (much closer than we are). And they have a serious problem with grow-ops. One of the things they do in these to protect from theft is take out part of the floor and put a bed of spikes down. There have been fires (grow-ops are definitely a fire hazard) and firefighters enter and – bam – down on the spikes.

It’s a nice idea to say anything is okay in the privacy of someone’s home but that isn’t something I can completely get behind. Every time Kevin goes out on a call I know there’s a possibility he won’t come back, or won’t come back in one piece, all because of a decision someone else makes – legal or illegal. These are slippery slopes. We say it’s okay to shoot up in the privacy of your own home, but who protects the fire fighters when they enter to save that family, and maybe get stabbed with a needle?

You can’t look at any one part of a situation in isolation and say that, because in theory it’s good, it should be this way.

Now, I’m treading into touchy waters, because there were some strong opinions expressed yesterday. My darlin’ brother Bill and evil kev disagreed on some things. Fortunately, they handled it like grown ups and didn’t resort to kicking and screaming and temper tantrums, at least, not on the blog.

But there is one thing that Bill’s latest comment made me think about. The fact that doctors here have refused to treat patients who won’t quit smoking. It’s a contentious issue, one that prompted much debate and you know what?

There are no easy answers.

So add that into the mix. Someone wants to smoke. We say it’s their right.

Should doctors be allowed to refuse to treat them? Isn’t that their right? Particularly in Canada, where we have a public health care system ‘free for all’ should doctors be allowed to prioritize people who actually don’t engage in destructive habits?

But then, where do you draw that line? Obesity? Should someone waiting for cancer treatment get bumped down if they smoke? Should someone waiting for an organ transplant be placed lower if they drink?

I don’t have the answers.

Getting back to free speech, I believe in it, in principle. But in reality you have to face the fact that there are stupid, abusive and sometimes dangerous people out there you have to protect against.

You’ll notice I’ve put the word verification for comments back up. I’m not happy about it. But the reality is, I’ve been getting so much spam lately on the blog that I couldn’t take it anymore. It was turning up on the backblog, mostly older posts. But it seemed to work like a magnet, and once a bit of spam went up one place and wasn’t removed they kept at it. I had to go on some threads and delete 8+ spam posts that had come up within a short span of time. One night I got something like 15 spam posts over a half hour. By the time I'd cleaned them all up it was a considerable amount of time gone.

All that stuff ends up in my inbox, and that gets old fast.

I’m not that desperate for emails. I recently went off one listserv because I wanted to thin out my email.

So you could say that while I tried to have a free, unregulated blog, the abuse of some has made it necessary for me to protect my inbox and my time and that means all of you must now use the fucking verification.

I hate verification. They have to make it so long and unreadable. But sometimes life sucks. And I really don’t have time, now that I’m working on the book featuring Micky Rickards (From the short storyFucked Again which doesn't seem to be up on Demolition anymore. Shame. If you haven't read it and want to, you can always email me. That email, I don't mind.)

So, peace, liberty, freedom everywhere else, but it’s back to semi regulated comments on my blog.


Anonymous said...

Well, yesterday was about as heated as I allow myself to get, and I worried all day if I'd trod too close to Fuckwad. Does evilkev wanna beat me up? Because if so, I understand. Just not the face, okay?

I'm assuming grow-ops refer to people growing pot in their houses? And they booby trap the place because they don't want people breaking in to go after the dope?

Of course, I would, ahem, argue you should be able to grow all the pot you want. If it was legal, then we could all grow our own doobage. It wouldn't be rare or valuable or worth booby-trapping if anyone who wanted some could put it out with the roses and cherry tomatos. It's pretty easy to grow, turns out (not that I do, or have, but my grandmother used to grow it and sell it to supplement her fixed retirement income. Oh, and she's been dead for over 20 years, so Mr. DEA Agent, put your willie away.)

BUT . . . since it IS currently illegal to grow certain plants, then the booby traps used to protect the plants would make the homeowner criminally liable for injury caused to folks like evilkev doing their job to save a burning house. Even if you booby-trapped your house without doing criminal activities inside, you'd certainly run the risk of being civilly liable if anyone was injured by your booby-trap. And, well, would it be worth it? It's like guns, which I support the right to own, but let's face it, statistically a gun kept for self-protection is as likely to be used against yourself as an intruder. (Someone will argue that, then someone will argue with the arguer, quoting studies which may or may not exist).

I'm not sure how this might work legislatively, but I would say if a firefighter on a call learned the house was booby-trapped, I think the the responders should be allowed to say, "Oh well, this one's gonna burn."

It's a matter of risk. Whatever you're doing inside, legal or not, if you put others in harm's way you have to be prepared to face the consequences. Maybe the consequence is your house burning down. Or maybe it's you being sued or arrested for criminal negligence or something like that.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Obviously I'm in the "you can smoke in your house, grow dope in your house, and booby trap your house" camp. But I'm also in the "you reap what you sow" camp. Spikes under the window, let it burn. Next!

Sandra Ruttan said...

No, he doesn't want to beat you up Bill. Not to worry! You were fine.

To be honest, it was very interesting. This is one of the things about having a blog, where people can interact and exchange ideas. Okay, nobody completely sold me to their pov yesterday, but that doesn't mean that I don't think people raised excellent points. They did.

You can legally grow pot in Canada. There is a licensing system in place. However, the issue around such activities in the home goes to electrical output and fire hazards. In the same way that we aren't allowed to keep pigs on our property (not that we'd want to, but still) because we live in town limits, and we're not allowed to just build an addition without applying for permits, you can't grow pot unless you have the licence.

So, you could argue that these people could pursue this legally and don't, and therefore deserve to be labelled as the criminals they are.

One of the most interesting stories I've heard has to do with a murder near here over the theft of drugs from a biker gang - ask me about it at LCC. It's not the kind of thing I'm going to share online.

And what can you do about liability if the peope don't have insurance, or the insurance is waived because of a rider that procludes coverage for illegal activities? End of the day you're still dead or crippled. There was that situation recently in Toronto where a house blew up (gas explosion), guy was rescued and then they found out that he was trying to commit suicide. A lot of other houses were damaged in the neighbourhood, people risked their lives to save his.

Talk about thankless. And believe me, this guy is not Mr. Popular. To be technical, he was killing himself in his own home...

angie said...

I see blogs as a way to invite folks over to your living room & hang out, chat, etc. It's your blog, so you set the rules, no? I have no problem kicking folks out if they prove to be giant rude-o's. Hey, if I wouldn't put up with that kind of behavior in my own home, why the hell would I tolerate it in my virtual living room? And no, I'm not going to debate with a troll...feeding the trolls only leads to them inviting their friends over to trash the house.

Re. spiked "security" measures for would for sure get the homeowners in deep shit in the U.S. (pot growing illegality aside). The thing is, people come up with crazy ideas whether it's related to a grow room or plain ol' paranoia and there's no way to stop that. So maybe there's more of this with the illegal/unlicenced growers, but the issue is the spike pits, not the pot. Unfortunately, emergency service folks put their lives at risk for everyone - idiots and innocents alike. And there's no time to sort the one from the other when you're racing to put out a fire or get someone medical care.

Sandra Ruttan said...

"Unfortunately, emergency service folks put their lives at risk for everyone - idiots and innocents alike. And there's no time to sort the one from the other when you're racing to put out a fire or get someone medical care."

Too true Angie.

I agree I have no problem kicking rude people off my blog, same if I had a forum. My real problem with unregulated sites is that they're taken over by people who push the reasonable, respectful users off. As far as I'm concerned I'm not going to take the time I have to waste it being agitated by people like that. I'll have a civil argument with anyone. I can disagree with someone like Steve Mosby, for example, and end of the day call him a good friend and appreciate the lively discussion. That's the foundation, though. Respect. I don't need to prove my point on everything. Some things it's easier to let go of than others, as we've all seen when I feel someone is being rude to a friend of mine. Then I'm a bear.

Anonymous said...

My most brilliant post yet got eaten by the Booger Monster.


I'm going shopping. Save me.

Sandra Ruttan said...


Better you than me!

Lisa Hunter said...

RE: Miss Snark's crap-o-meter:

The reader comments can go the other way, too. Although most of the "hooks" don't float my boat, I read one submission (a memoir about being an army-brat teenager in Saigon in 1963) that I found absolutely fascinating. Amazingly, Miss Snark eviscerated it. I told her in the comments that I'd be willing to plunk down money right now for such a book -- heck, I'd probably buy a half dozen as Christmas presents. I was glad to see that other commenters had said similar things. We probably kept a writer from burning his manuscript.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Which is really important Lisa. I'm glad to hear that some people are expressing honest opinions and supporting those they think have talent.

You know the old joke. Put seven agents in a room with manuscripts and you'll get eight opinions... I respect Miss Snark, but that doesn't mean her opinion is the be all and end all. Different work for different agents, publishers and readers...

Daniel Hatadi said...

The appropriate way to deal with trolls is to completely ignore them. This method works well with children and cats as well, although sometimes finger-wagging and saying "no" is equally effective.

But the thing that really jumps out at me from this post, Sandra, is your inappropriate use of coke.

Next time, snort 'in', not 'out'.

Sandra Ruttan said...

See Daniel? I really needed an uncle like you.

JamesO said...

You can't ignore cats, Daniel. They plot behind your back and the next thing you know there's a bird's severed head in your bed

Evil Kev said...

I think that we see so many assholes on forums is that the internet gives all these passive-aggressive jerks who get insulted by their boss, humilated by their spouse and belittled by their children a place to focus all that rage.

Tip for all those people; stand up and take control of your life. Being a troll just shows you bring nothing useful to the table.

And if you can't stand up, get some medication. It dosn't fix the problem, but at least in that case, you won't be a bothering anyone else.

Hey Bill,

I was not even remotely bothered by any thing you said. Freedom of speech among intelligent people is one of the most important tools for coming up with solutions for problems. I agreed with some of your points, but it is vital to look at as many sides as possible.

Political correctness is the enemy of all intelligent discourse.

I strongly believe that many of the issues we face today will never be resolved until we look at all sides of the issue, not just the ones we are comfortable with.


I can't believe you wrote that you snorted coke out of your nose. I am shaking my head...

Anonymous said...

I think I was more worried about my tone and presentation than anything else. I get a little worked up about anything even remotely touching on civil liberties -- a side effect, I think, of recent events south of the 48th Parallel!