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October 09, 2003

Somewhat Rambling Follow-Up

Another widely distributed post, another influx of new readers, another orientation session with John Scalzi. As I've noted before, new commentors are often taken aback with me, since I tend to respond to attempts at condescending invective with even more condescending invective, and attempts at flamage with pure mockery and derision. Honestly I don't see how that can be too surprising, given the general rantful nature of the posts of mine that seem to get wide blogosphere distribution, but there it is. I do believe it's further confusing that I tend to respond to serious posts in a reasonably normal tone of voice. Since both kinds of posts are equally interspersed in the comments, I guess it's disorienting.

Here's the deal: With comments, I generally respond to what I'm given. If someone decides to be snippy and condescending, I don't have a problem taking a swat at them. I mean, why not? It's my experience that people who leave snippy and condescending comments tend to whine like Bill O'Reilly on NPR when you hit them back instead of collapsing into a pile of milquetoast quasi-reasonableness like you're supposed to. And of course I enjoy watching that happen. It's fun.

And then one of three things happen: They retreat like kicked dogs, which is good, they spin towards flamage, which is okay too, though inherently self-limiting, or they realize that I do smug and condescending just as well as they do, and settle down and talk like a normal person. In which case, I do too. And obviously this is the best option of all. At least a couple of people in yesterday's comments went from troll-like to normal human over the course of the thread. I'm pleased with that, as it allowed me to do the same.

So the lesson, I suppose: I have a low tolerance (or depending how you want to look at it, a high avidity) for certain types of comments. Engage in rhetorical silliness at your own peril.

I do wonder what those who have never read me before think of me on the basis of a rant like yesterday, which, however fun it may be, is not exactly an accurate representation of my overall personality, either in real life or even here in the Whatever. I do imagine I come across as something of a nutbag. And I do know people tend to project their own assumptions on me. If I had a dollar for every time someone assumed I was a partisan Democrat yesterday, in the comments and on other sites, I could buy loaded pizzas for a week. One site had me listed with a set of links to Democrats whining about the recall, which included links to Terry McAuliffe and Jesse Jackson. It was mildly terrifying to be in such company.

Another interesting side effect is that a growing number of people (primarily AOL Journalers) know me only from By The Way, where as I've discussed before, my persona is rather more, uh, controlled than it is here. So when one of them stumbles on to this site (which I don't link to from my AOL site), it can be a little surprising. But as I've mentioned before, one incarnation is not the "real me" more than the other -- the helpful, mostly nice John Scalzi of By the Way, and the occasionally screedy rantmeister John Scalzi of the Whatever are part of the same whole. One can want to help millions of AOLers integrate peacefully with the blogosphere and call millions of California voters total morons. Yes, it's a fun time in my head. You should visit.

I did get calls from Californians yesterday, incidentally. "It sounds like you hate ALL of us," one -- who also happens to be one of my dearest friends -- said to me. Well, to be clear, I don't hate any Californians (well, except the ones who were already on my enemies list -- and they know who they are). And, rantyness aside, I don't especially believe they're all morons and losers. I do worry about the long-term implications of the recall, and I do wonder whether people looked past venting at Davis (and alternately, past the idea of Ah-nold as governor) to hazard a guess at what the implications of the vote are.

Having just completed a book on stupidity, I can tell you stupidity is not lack of intelligence, it's the lack of appreciation of the consequences of one's actions (this is why very smart people can do very stupid things). I suspect that not enough Californians were looking at the long-term picture, and that's not smart.

Of course, it wouldn't have been as much fun if I said it like that, all nice and reasonable and stuff. Which goes back to why I write rants: I enjoy them, and, given the number of comments, apparently people enjoy reading them. I don't suppose I want to end up being known as the online world's go-to "ranter" on things, since I can do other things too (what I really want to do is direct). But I guess I do have a talent for it. I expect I'll do it again.

Posted by john at October 9, 2003 11:04 AM

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