Twofish's Blog

July 20, 2006

Mutually assured destruction

Filed under: academia, massachusetts institute of technology, wikipedia — twofish @ 6:34 pm

Let me say this bluntly.

If you make my life a living hell, I will fight back and make your life a living hell. And what I can and will do to you will be a million times worse than anything you can possibly to do me.

Now that we have that clear……

I’ve been thinking about why people don’t talk more about their stories online, and the reason is because of the bullies. Right now, this blog is being read by a small number of people, but I think it is interesting enough so that a lot more people will read and respond to it. Most people are normal decent people, but the problem is that if you have a large enough number of people, then eventually you run into a bully, and one thing I learned on Wilmott is how utterly destructive they can be to real dialogue and conversation.

The thing that I’m afraid of is the thing that everyone who posted on the internet is afraid of. That some tabloid journalist will take the blog and it will be posted on the front page of the National Enquirer, and that someone will dig through the garbage and all of this sensitive information will get posted.

Google and the internet makes the problem worse. If you really want to know the messy details about what I’m talking about, it will take you minutes to figure it out. With the internet, you can get names, dates, places, phone numbers, home addresses, credit records, birth certificates, you can get maps of my house, the school where my kids to, pictures of my front lawn, pictures of my car, my patio, the place I ate lunch at yesterday, and where I’m physically at. You can get my resume, find out where I grow up, where I worked, and the names of everyone that has ever known me, and you can also find that information about everyone that I’ve mentioned in this blog even if I don’t use their names.
There is very little to keep someone from using this information for nasty stuff…..

Except for the fact, that whatever you do to me, I will do something much, much worse to you. Everything you can find out about me. I can find out about you.

I’m under the microscope. So are you.

Got that?

Now that we got that out of the way…….

I hate bullies. There aren’t many of them in the world, but they just *kill* any useful online discussion People are afraid of telling their stories, because they don’t want to be put ithrough hell. People are afraid of going into politics or giving their honest opinion. It’s a fear. It is a real fear, and it’s amazing who this justified fear causes such little real information to appear online.

What’s more, all real stories involve other people who have their own rights and privacies. I have the right to tell my story, but I don’t have the right to force other people to tell theirs or to deal with the consequences of my telling my story.

I’m leaving out information because it is difficult as it is for me to deal with this, because I don’t want to involve other people that I have no right to involve, and because that information is totally irrelevant to what I’m saying.  Anyone who wants to fill in the gaps can do so in minutes, and don’t think you are some sort of genius because you can use google.
I don’t want to be a celebrity. Being a celebrity is hell. I don’t want to be special. Being special is hell. What I do want is to do want wikipedia has done and to create a community of people. There is nothing really special about my story. There is hope, suffering, tragedy, loss, secrets, regret, complicated relationships in my story, but *everyone* has a story that has those things. As bad and messy as I think my situation is, I know of people that have much more difficult and interesting stories and situations to tell.

I don’t want to be the only one talking about my stuff. I want to be one tiny voice in a sea of people who are telling their stories. If you are a celebrity, then you get singled out by the bullies. If you are one of millions, there is safety in numbers.

One last thing…..

Sometimes you don’t know the consequences of your actions…. Actions have complicated results.

When Mark Latham wrote his diaries, he didn’t realize that it would inspire me to talk about things, and the impact it would have on Wikimania and academia. But if you do the right thing, the right consequences will flow from them even if you don’t know what they are. The thing that he got right is how sick the media has become. This actually hits nicely with some of the themes of the conference on Taiwanese democracy that I attended a few months ago.
No one wants to be a politician because they are afraid it will wreck their lives, because it will….

But in a democracy, isn’t *everyone* supposed to be a politician?

We all need to take back the internet and the media from the bullies.


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