It’s been a while since Kathy Sierra announced that she would be placing her blog on hiatus. (Warning, the link contains graphic images and strong language. Click at your own risk.)
Initially, I stayed quiet about the issue (except for a quick e-mail to Kathy), but I’ve now had a chance to cultivate my opinions. Kathy has a very real right to be frightened and all the people claiming that she’s blowing things out of proportion need to realign themselves with a thing called reality.
While the (sick and twisted) images that were posted online and the misogynistic comments left on the blog, in and of themselves, may be construed as “harmful, but not physically dangerous, fun”, it was brought to a completely new level when people begin posting her home address and social security number in a public forum.
Let’s review: Hateful and threatening images and comments were posted about Kathy and e-mails containing death threats were sent to her directly. To make matters worse, her home address and personal information has become a matter of public record. Any reasonable person would be frightened by that.
Darren Rowse was subjected to a psychotic reader. Lynn Terry had someone randomly show up to her home without notice. I’ve been the object of some crazy person’s attention. All of these situations, just like Kathy’s, could have become physically dangerous had they not been taken seriously.
As for people who are defending those involved with Mean Kids and Uncle Bobism, you’re missing something: Kathy did not state they actually made the comments or posted the images, simply that they created/owned the sites where they were published. And while the creators of the sites may not have directly published the threatening information, they created, participated in, and promoted the sites which allowed it.
Jory Des Jardin made one of the best comments I’ve seen on the topic:
I do not believe [Jeneane or Frank] wrote this content or condoned it, though by creating the forum they’ve become responsible.
To me, it’s like harboring a fugitive. You may not have robbed the bank, but by knowingly providing the robber with safe haven, you’re just as guilty. Mean Kids and Uncle Bobism was that safe haven which allowed the crazies to come out and play. It’s time those who created, condoned, participated in, and promoted the site pay the piper.
So, when I read about those people who are having their reputations ruined over this, the image of a porn star suing the producer because her reputation was ruined comes to mind. Catch a clue, maybe you should have worried about your reputation before you got yourself involved with the sites in the first place.
Just for the record, I’m not condemning anyone, however, I’m not absolving anyone either. I don’t think anyone who created or promoted the site actually made the threats, but I do believe they have some responsibility. It’s one thing to have a site that chides people, but it’s quite another to have a site with no moderation or rules with the sole purpose of chiding people. That’s an obvious recipe for disaster.
A lot of people we interact with daily seem very normal. But put them behind a keyboard and allow them to make anonymous comments and some really evil stuff can result. There’s no clear line as to what’s acceptable and not acceptable. (CrunchNotes)
The good news, however, is that Frank decided to pull the Mean Kids site and apologized. He realized that the effect it had on the community was not positive, it was just anarchy instead of “purposeful anarchy”. I respect him for that and I believe everyone can learn something from the situation.
Good bloggers are screwed because of bad decisions, other bloggers are being hounded and threatened, and just about everyone in the blogosphere is throwing stones. Quite frankly, this entire fiasco is tragic.
There’s a lot more to the story, but unfortunately, the only people who truly know it are those behind the sites in question, the person (or people) who made the threatening images, posts, comments, and e-mails, and those directly involved. I hope they speak out in coming weeks and share with everyone what they’ve learned.
Feel free to read up on the situation in case you missed it:
Maryam Scoble: Death Threats Against Bloggers
Chris Locke: re Kathy Sierra’s allegations
Jeneane Sessum: For the record
Shelley Powers: Disappointed
Radom Thoughts: Anonymity, Interpellation, Truth, Ignorance, and the Stakes
Frank Paynter: Mere anarchy
Stephanie Booth: Death Threats in the Blogoshere (Stephanie has an amazing round up of the conversation)
Seth Godin: Misogyny and anonymity (Insightful)