Monday, March 03, 2008
Out of the Loop
Many months ago I became fed up with the Politics and Religion sub forum at Bike Forums. Every political forum I have participated in had it's share of acrimony, ankle biting, sniping and insults. But the atmosphere there had become overrun with posters intent on insults rather than the heated exchange of political viewpoints. It seemed denigrating each other had become the goal rather than laying into each other with good political zingers.
I could say that I was above it all. I could tell you I refused to sink to the depths many had already sunk to. But I can't. I became one of the mob. I began to focus on personal attacks rather than sticking to the point of the threads. I was not as transparent as many were. But my responses had become poisoned by the animosity I felt from and toward others. So I left. Not because of any one poster or group of posters. But because I did not like what I was turning into.
Fast forward to the here and now. I just took a few minutes to re-visit the PnR sub forum there. And guess what? I am now no longer allowed access other than as a lurker. In an effort to reign in the worse offenses of non topical exchange, the forum is now "By invite only".
My knee jerk reaction was to be insulted and my feelings hurt. I had never been banned for any words I wrote. Not even warned. Since I had successfully shaken my addiction to this forum, I first thought, "Who the Hell cares anyway? I was just gonna pop in and say Howdy". But there were posters there I did miss.
As it turned out, restricting entry to PnR was what appeared to be the final attempt by the moderating staff to instill some civility back into that particular sub forum. I could see something like this coming before I left. A small group of trolls and whiners had combined their efforts so that the mods were being called upon to referee much too often. It was obvious they were fed up.
They could have just made the forum disappear. It is not as if a political forum is really needed in a cycling forum. But they did the decent thing and came up with this restricted entry policy instead.
I had uninhibited access to the rest of Bike Forums. The PnR section was but a small part of the huge place it had become. I could certainly say Hello in other threads. But It would not have been right. I was a PnR rat. I came for the bikes but stayed for the politics. The Politics dungeon where all the malcontents exist.
This whole experience has brought up the idea of community and just what that means today. The Internet with all it's possibilities for bringing people together has certainly tweaked the idea of community. Through impressive interactions of man made gadgets and a little electricity, I have connected with people all over the globe. Complete strangers come together without introductions or the formalities of travel or arranged meetings. No special qualifications needed, just a computer and a modem.
International borders do not mean what they used to. Because of the Internet, like minded souls from different corners of the World are finding each other. For obvious reasons, this bothers the Hell out of established governments everywhere. The threat the Internet poses to the stability of their hold on their various citizenry's is profound. No government likes the free exchange of ideas. Not even the USA. Information passed unfiltered without the desired twist is a recipe for trouble in government eyes.
We are in the infancy of the Internet Age. The beginning of it all. No one has a clue where all this new freedom will lead. It seems there are two paths. One leads the World to more freedom and the possibility of a better World for everyone. The other road leads to to more repression and less freedom. The World declines into a modern High tech version of the Dark Ages. Current trends are not clear cut, but many offer troubling conclusions for our future. Regardless, we are witnessing profound and historic re-arrangements of the World Order. And at it's center is the computer and the Internet that evolved from it.