My friend UncleMack has a regular feature on his blog: the Word of the Day. I didn't set out to steal his thunder, but I do seem to be establishing a pattern these days. Since they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (an idea that will be repeated a little later), I'll flatter him here.
Rather than the dictionary definition of Irony, I went to Wikipedia, which says:
"Irony, from the Greek (eiron), is a literary or rhetorical device, in which there is a gap or incongruity between what a speaker or a writer says, and what is generally understood (either at the time, or in the later context of history). Irony may also arise from a discordance between acts and results, especially if it is striking, and seen by an outside audience."
The irony I witnessed yesterday was striking, but not surprising. As I've noted here before, I am embroiled in a...difference of opinion within a hobby group which I helped found. A certain population of that group "separated themselves" to form a new group. One of the issues involved was the perceived violation of the forum rules by posters arguing for/against a variety of things/people. Forum rules state that anyone violating the rules will be warned via private message, then banned for 2 weeks if they continue to violate the rules. Certain statements that allegedly violated the rules were allegedly edited and/or deleted by forum moderators. It went so far as to have one member banned from the forums, though that ban lasted less than 24 hours. I myself argued that the 2 week ban was too severe for a first offense, and the rule was subsequently changed to 3 days for a first offense. Interestingly, the same person who was banned (and no, I was not privy to the warnings that were allegedly ignored, but I understand there were several warnings issued before the member was banned), was to my knowledge not even warned several days earlier when he called myself and three others, and I quote, "worthless back-stabbing pieces of s$%t!" Bear in mind, these forums are (with one exception, the "Members Only" section) viewable by anyone in the world with an Internet connection. Membership dues are not required for a forum account, and account registration is not even required to merely read the forums.
Fast forward a few weeks. Now the "new group" has its own forums. Membership in those forums requires "sponsorship" from a "charter member," (edited to say "most of" rather than "every one of") which are (I believe) still paid members of the first group, with full forum access, now with access to both forums. One must register for the "new" forums, even to simply read what is posted there, let alone reply. I attempted to register, somewhere between member number 7 and member number 9. My registration was deleted without comment. the "sponsorship" rule showed up the next day.
Fast forward to yesterday. To their credit, the forum's big cheese created a sort of "lobby" forum, where guests could post questions and such. A poster who called himself "AConcernedCacher" (yes, I know who it is, so did they) asked why the group's forums were not publicly viewable. Had he left it there, well who knows, but God bless him, Henry Kissinger he ain't! He further asks, "Aren't y'all just a fringe element of GOWT?" When his post appears, lo and behold "GOWT" has been replaced with "G-Spot!" In fact, everywhere the letters GOWT are mentioned, it automatically says "G-Spot!" I searched the Internet and found that, if we are "G-spot," we are apparently a highly sought after commodity! Much human effort is expended trying to find us! We should be RICH!
Mr. Kissinger later asks whether a filter that changes a group's name to "G-Spot" could reasonably be considered disrespectful, and thus a violation of their own forum rules. Here's where I use what in comedy terms is called a "callback," a joke which refers to one previously told in the set. Remember what "irony" is? Where do you suppose the "new" group got their original forums rules? Copied and pasted verbatim from the old group's forums, right! (In fairness, they have since developed a few rules of their own, but the resemblance is still quite noticeable.) A defense of sorts, is offered, talking about burying the past, along with an admonition that, in order to "earn" respect in these forums, one must clearly identify one's self (although they assure you, they know who you are, apparently by using a Top Secret decoder ring called an "I PEE address!").
So I post a little blurb there myself. I hope I can recall my exact words, they are no longer available to me, as we will see in a second:
This is Spencersb (I have no idea what my IP address is). The previous posting by a member of our organization is the opinion of the poster. This is mine.
(the site I choose not to mention) is what it wants to be. You have every right to form a group and run it anyway you choose. (Your city) certainly has the caching population to support a group, and I supported its formation. I even requested membership myself directly to (a charter member, who coincidentally is a high ranking, though AWOL, elected official of the first group) in the parking lot after [an event]. Apparently, my request was declined.
Respect can indeed be lost, and apparently has been, but I'm okay with that. But automatically changing the mere mention of an organization's name to a vague sexual reference? I cannot voice an opinion of the propriety of such better than the one which it engenders on it's own. If you truly wish to bury the past, insults make poor topsoil.
You have to power to make (the site I choose not to mention) anything you want it to be. "Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself." Elie Wiesel
Thank you for the opportunity to post on your forums as a guest. I will not post further. If anyone feels the need to contact me, I am readily accessible. Best of luck with your new group.
Without tooting my own horn, I felt that I expressed myself reasonably. A response almost immediately came back, quoting my statement about making it anything they wanted it to be, and saying basically, that's all we are doing. They apologized, sort of. Not for calling our organization "G-Spot," but that I mistook it for a sexual reference. I misunderstood. Insert rolling eyes here.
All of this remained visible on the site for about 10 hours. Then, inexplicably, the entire interchange vanished. Gone. Poof. Nothing to see here (sorry Jim!). [I have since learned that it was not deleted but rather moved to a "Members Only" section for being "antagonistic." I never said it was "deleted," I said it vanished, and I worked very hard not to be antagonistic, but apprently failed.]
You see, just because no one is elected doesn't mean no one is in charge. Someone has the power to throw the switches. The very ones who railed at the oppressive censorship are now in complete control of even who sees what goes on, let alone what actually does.
Any group formed solely on the basis of common disagreement will eventually disagree with itself, not have the maturity to resolve it, and split again. Revolutionaries always become the establishment against which revolution is necessary. Deleting any hint of disagreement and keeping targeted people out will certainly limit dissent, but it's a slippery slope. Once you start, you have to keep it up.
I wish their group well, I really do. The sad fact is, almost all of these folks are really nice people...in person. I hope someday the members of our two organizations can be friends again, and work together toward the common goal of promoting our hobby. But if so, it will have to be because they held out the olive branch in our forums. I can't see theirs.
Edited to add: The other forums I referenced are now [mostly] publicly visible, and I commend them for it. I have also learned that the forum rules which I said were copied from the our forums were themselves copied from another, older forum site before our site had them. I apologize for the confusion resulting from my own incomplete knowledge of the source of the rules.