In ancient times, you burned books and killed scholars to control information. In modern times you rewrote books and banished scholars and opinion leaders or sentenced them to death for political crimes or trumped up charges. Censorship has existed in one form or another. If it’s not a dictatorial regime, it’s the herd mentality dictating what’s right or wrong. In this day and age, you set bloggers on each other. What could be more effective for censorship? You kill two birds with one stone by watching two bloggers fight it out to their bitter end.
My sympathies go out to Kathy Sierra for all the recent fear from death threats. The thought of being the target of character assasination is a scary one indeed. There’s an element of creepiness to seeing semi-anonymous attacks made with violent words and grotesque photoshops that can’t be expressed in words. It proves that even as people grow up with the net, sometimes our online personas are left in a Michael Jackson-esque state of embalmed childhood where we fail to make good judgements.
Flame wars are the typical fodder of blog discussions. Much like shock TV, the artists of provocation rise to deliver controversial feuds against other bloggers. Others weigh in and the debate goes on until everyone has their say. It can get vicious but it gets disturbing when it crosses an invisible line (one that any prominent blogger will rarely cross).
What was disturbing about the Kathy Sierra saga was that many prominent bloggers were implicated in the attacks. This in itself is disgusting (if it indeed was true) but that is also an essential question. Where is the proof? The attacks are certainly real and as they say, there’s no smoke where there’s no fire but what happened to the concept of innocent until proven guilty? Obviously, blogs can’t wait for that verdict.
Another bizarre twist in this saga is that one of Kathy Sirra’s alleged attackers got his online accounts compromised. Cathy Siepp, a blogger/writer who recently succumbed to cancer, had her account compromised hours before death by an enemy who made a final vile post in her name. That’s the thing about the internet. You can be anonymous or not but nobody really knows who you exactly are. All you have is your reputation when your identity gets hacked.
I think Michelle Malkin has a valid point that some people (like her) have suffered more vicious attacks. The A-list tech blogging circle is usually a safer place than the typical mix of gossip or political blogs.
The internet can be a vicious place to live in that’s for sure and being a woman can expose you to all kinds of sexist trash from anonymous geeks. Being part of any minority probably sucks for that matter unless that minority happens to be ex-gang member and super cracker.