Anti-Social Network Like many (overwhelmingly male) geeks, I made the jump to Google+ at the first opportunity. I didn’t really need an additional social networking site, but as far as superfluous social networking sites go, Google+ is a good one. The Circles thing is genius and well-handled, and the integration with all other Google sites, especially Gmail, is actually quite useful. Also, it allows you to start over on a social network--to only add the people you want to add again, now that you’ve learned all the lessons of who not to add after years of regrettable interaction via Facebook.
This ability to reincarnate as a higher, more enlightened, organism is behind all the social networking migrations of the last ten years, from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook to, maybe, Google+. You get a chance to start over, with only the baggage you choose to carry over.
This has the downside, as I commented on Google+ just the other day, of leaving me with no one to argue with on Google+. Whatever my virtues, it is clear that one of my vices is my willingness--actually, if I’m going to be honest with myself and y’all, my eagerness--to argue with people on the internet. If you became my Facebook friend, then you could pretty much count on me calling one of your racist and homophobic friends either a racist or a homophobe not to shortly after they started appearing in my Feed.
I’d argue health care with libertarians, the stimulus with the disciples of Ayn Rand, God with the Christians, or whether the endings of Lost or Battlestar: Galactica were insults to the intelligences of the fans who nevertheless lapped it up. If you’ve got something stupid to say, I’ve got a boring office job and the time (and more important, the inclination) to indulge you and give you the response you deserve.
Shetterly is someone with such a bad reputation that, when you search for his name, right below the Wikipedia page, Livejournal Page, and blog page, the very first entry is entitled “Will Shetterly, Do Not Engage,” documenting his inability to interact with others, make sense, follow an argument, or argue in good faith.
Here, let me quote: “Online he makes ad hominem attacks, false accusations, straw-man arguments, weird personal assumptions about people who disagree with him, shifts ground when cornered, does not respond to logic, and sounds like a total racist. Logic will not penetrate. He is in his own world. Do not join him there.”
Recently, Shetterly got irritated that this was so high up in the Google standings (primarily because people tend to link to it every time he shows up and demonstrates once again that it’s the most accurate and insightful thing ever written about him on the internet), so he started demanding that the author of the Do Not Engage post delete her post and recant. Otherwise, he’d publically reveal her real idenity to the world. He gave her seven days, and posted every day about the perfidies she’d performed upon him. He didn’t seem to grasp that you can’t be an asshole while demanding that someone stop calling you an asshole. To make things worse, the person he was threatening was away for the entire time he was making these demands, with an easily accessable message that she’d be away without internet access for the time he was making the countdown.
Anyway, so he’s a malicious little troll who can’t read too good, and Mamatas devoted a couple of posts to having fun at his expense; I got involved as well, because Mamatas always has the good shits. As the Will Shetterly Do Not Engage post should indicate http://coffeeandink.livejournal.com/881075.html, if you value intelligent discussion and well-thought arguments with give and take, then talking with Will Shetterly is a huge mistake. Buf if you enjoy scoring points and repeatedly getting off well-crafted insult after deserved insult, then Shetterly’s your guy. He will never stop, ever, with his belief that somehow he’ll manage to salvage his reputation and your respect with some last minute miracle argument. He’ll just keep coming back until you tire of savaging him. You’d feel a little sorry for him if he didn’t totally deserve it.
I enjoy doing these things. I’m not proud of it, but I enjoy it. As the classic XKCD post says, I can’t come to bed: Someone is wrong on the internet!
And rarely has someone so clearly been wrong and stupid as Will Shetterly. Talking with him reminded me of when I was young and would play the game Civilization 2 on the computer, on the easiest setting. The feeling of ease as you roll over all other civilizations, build all the wonders, nuke all the cities that oppose you, and conquer the world...it’s a very satisfying feeling. Sometimes you don’t want a challenge--you just want to steamroll something that can’t fight back. It’s like the neocons said, “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”
By the fact that I just compared myself on the internet to the neocon rationale for invading Iraq for no good reason, it should be fairly clear that I realize that this is character flaw, and a pretty serious one, at that. I’m working on it. I think the fact that--no matter how much you berate them--stupid people never stop being stupid should be argument enough to get me to stop. We’ll see how effective that is.