Blogging and Lying

October 27, 2005 | 307 comments
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Imagine that you and a couple of friends started a group blog — called it Heaven’s Banner — in which you all pretended to be fictional people having really bizarre conversations (OK, so perhaps this wouldn’t take too much pretending). You and your friends work to create a semblance of warped verisimilitude, and then watch the show. Here is an interesting question: Are you liars?

It is a rather neat little philosophical problem. If one defines lying as making a false statement to someone with the intent that they believe the statement to be true, then arguably our fictional bloggers are lying. On the other hand, they might respond that none of the statements that they made were in fact false. For example, if Heaven’s Banner blogger (HBB) writes as Sextius, “Today I decided to become a cannibal” one might argue that the statement is in fact true, since Sextius is a creation of HBB’s imagination and hence any statements that he makes about (the imaginary) Sextius are by definition true. A counter to this argument is that the statements about Sextius are made in a social context that carries an implicit affirmation about Sextius, namely that Sextius actually exists. (If he is suitably bizarre does this social understanding still hold?) To this argument, HBB might respond that it was nevertheless not his intention that people form beliefs about Sextius’s existence and activities. The response to HBB’s defense, it seems to me, is to say that the meaning of our language is not determined by our subjective intentions but rather by the social meaning that is conventionally assigned to those acts.

Which brings us, as you knew it would, to the law.

There is an ongoing debate as to whether statutes should be interpreted according to the intent of their drafters — or perhaps according to the intent of some idealized, fictional drafter — or according to the plain meaning of their text. For a good sense of some of the arguments, check out Justice Scalia’s response to (Mormon) law professor Steven Smith’s book. Basically, if you are a textualist the HBB is a liar, but if you are an intentionalist he probably is not. For what it is worth, I tend to think that Scalia has the better of the argument with Smith. It seems to me that language is a system of conventional social meaning rather than some emanation of subjective intent. We cannot make our language mean something other than what it conventionally means except according to the conventions set up for altering its meaning. Hence, if I say, “My wife has ugly clavicles” I am lying, even if I don’t intend for this sentence to mean that my wife’s clavicles are ugly.

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307 Responses to Blogging and Lying

  1. Geoff J on October 27, 2005 at 12:23 am

    Are you liars?

    Yes.

  2. Rusty on October 27, 2005 at 12:25 am

    I’m just glad it’s over. Time to take a nap.

  3. Eric Russell on October 27, 2005 at 12:28 am

    No doubt heated discussion will ensure in following weeks. But my take is no. Was Mary Ann Evans “lying” when she wrote as George Eliot? I tend to think not, and that a false identity can have purposeful, even valuable rhetorical implications. I think its morality is to be judged on purely utilitarian grounds. If no one is hurt, no wrong is done.

  4. Nate Oman on October 27, 2005 at 12:38 am

    I am not suggesting that even if someone were to hypothetically do the sort of thing that I outlined above and we decided that they were lying it would be some sort of a major moral lapse. It is a fun little knot to figure out exactly what lying might mean in this context.

    FWIW, I think that the George Eliot example is not quite apposite because everyone knew that her novels were fictional. There was also a social convention of pseudonyms. The question of gender is a bit trickier. Under the agument I offer in the post, I think we would have to say that George Eliot was lying as to her gender, unless the pyseudonym convention had sufficiently undermined public trust in the identity of authors to the point where no one would have understood the “George Eliot” byline to be making an assertion about the gender of the author. On the other hand, if George Eliot was lying about her gender to her readers, I don’t think it was necessarily a morally significant lie.

  5. kristen j on October 27, 2005 at 12:39 am

    Ah, but what is your definition of being “hurt”?

  6. Eric Russell on October 27, 2005 at 12:55 am

    Kristen, I suppose that’s something that only each can decide for themselves.

  7. Geoff J on October 27, 2005 at 1:36 am

    BTW — Even though my response is “yes” I do concede that not all lies are created equal…

  8. Kurt Neumiller on October 27, 2005 at 5:03 am

    If, in the end, when the curtain rises on the final act of the BofH players and the ending is sufficiently entertaining, then we will laugh it all off and all will be forgiven. However, if it ends badly, leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, then the stink will be on the participants and the BofH will go down in infamy. What we think about it now is, for the most part, irrelevant. How the cast of players choose to end it will determine how all of us remember it.

  9. Nate Oman on October 27, 2005 at 6:41 am

    I think that people can get too melodramatic about this. One hopes that no stink, infamous or otherwise, is going to be following anyone…

  10. Russell Arben Fox on October 27, 2005 at 7:42 am

    My gut instinct is that people shouldn’t write to deceive, in any fashion. Of course all communication is, in a non-trivial philosophical sense, deceptive–subjectivity and all that–and moreover the meanings of no spoken or written word are wholly, or perhaps even significantly, governed by the intentions of the authors or speakers (so, if there was an exchange at the Banner of Heaven which someone was entertained, informed, enlightened, or inspired by, there would be no reason to consider that entertainment or inspiration necessarily tainted or inauthentic just because one participant in the exchange had been acting immorally or falsely). That said, some things are written with the intent to be believed as true which are false. I don’t like that. I don’t like fictional tales which are presented as non-fiction as part of their “fiction,” I don’t like invention being mixed with reportage when there is no clear stylistic or narrative markers which enable one to distinguish between the two incorporated into the text, I don’t like people using documentary or first-person forms to tell subjective tales. I don’t like faith-promoting stories. I don’t even particularly like anonymous stories, unless the text can communicate clear reasons why anonymity is necessary to the telling or the writing of it, and sometimes not even then.

    I’m sure there are many inconsistencies in my own aesthetic standards here, so I don’t really want to press the point. Still, I think as a broad principle it can easily be defended. Nate’s defense of George Eliot above basically conforms to my parameters (i.e., everyone knew it was a novel, everyone knew it was psedonym, and there were sensible literary reasons for a 19th-century female author to mask her gender).

    I’m not an originalist, but I do agree with Scalia in understanding language as a tool and an expression of community conventions. This means that, on the one hand, someone who falsely appropriates those conventions in their communication does not therefore drain their communication of all meaning for others whatsoever…but on the other hand, it also means that to the extent such communications made use of what are communally understood as claims to truth, those people who made use of them falsely have been lying, and should be judged accordingly.

  11. Ronan on October 27, 2005 at 8:08 am

    Miranda’s first post was about her taking anti-depressants. Very funny. Mormon women and SSRI’s. What gets me, though (and this is all with a massive dose of hindsight), is that as I look over the comments to that post, I notice a few people unloading their own mental health issues. Then certain Banner bloggers come in and offer sympathy etc. Now, I didn’t post there, but I can imagine that some people might be horrified to know that they were talking about a deeply personal issue to a bunch of cartoon characters. That’s when a lie (“textualist” or “intentionalist” or “whatever”) goes too far. Just one example among many. Perhaps no harm was done, but the potential was there.

    And all this cloak and dagger Nine Moons stuff has only made it worse, as far as trust and friendship goes.

    OK, I’ve said what I think. That does it for me. I now invoke the “Underhill” law: “it’s only blogging.” (Still, it tastes bad. My problem I guess.)

  12. John Mansfield on October 27, 2005 at 9:07 am

    You’ve got to love the humor of that one where Septimus railed against the heavens and David O. McKay over the death of Royle McKay, and various parents of dead children responded. When I insulted the post, Steve Evans responded that I was crass. So, was his recent sensitivity regarding infertility just another act so he could spar with Adam Greenwood?

  13. Eric Russell on October 27, 2005 at 9:08 am

    Nate Oman – how many hours a night do you sleep? Or is “Nate Oman” really just a team collaboration of Kaimi and Rosalynde?

    I was thinking another bit of the BoH fallout is future suspicion of new bloggers. Imagine a sort of off-the-beaten-path type Mormon – which we all know there’s plenty of out there – discovers the bloggernacle, decides to start his own blog, and then is immediately sacked with accusations of sham or satire. He probably wouldn’t know what hit him.

  14. Matt Evans on October 27, 2005 at 9:11 am

    I don’t think there’s anything remotely wrong with writing a phony blog (though what is written matters). But the only reason anyone in the bloggernacle knows about BoH, as compared to other phony blogs, is that its authors had access to the chief bloggernacle sites, and used those sites to perpetually promote themselves and the hoax. If there’s anything immoral about the prank, I think it’s the participants promoting their stuff without disclosing their involvement. They traded on the reputation they’d established in collaboration with others not affiliated with BoH, to amuse themselves at the expense of those who took them at face value.

  15. Davis Bell on October 27, 2005 at 9:33 am

    Matt,

    “I don’t think there’s anything remotely wrong with writing a phony blog”? Really? You don’t think there’s anything per se wrong with that? You think the biggest sin of BOH is cross-promotion?

  16. Kaimi on October 27, 2005 at 9:58 am

    I’m not really much of a BoH fan, and I’m largely in agreement with Nate. Nevertheless, for argument’s sake, let me articulate a counter-argument that may (or may not) be how any of the site’s participants view the affair.

    We lie about a lot of things to keep the story right. We tell our kids about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. We smile and nod in Sunday School when the teacher says something totally wrong. Life isn’t about unfettered access to unvarnished truth; it’s about a construction that we accept and call truth, whether or not that actually corresponds to some objective version of reality.

    And simply making true things known isn’t always a worthy endeavor. There’s nothing praiseworthy about telling little kids that Santa doesnt exist, or about yelling out the end of a movie an hour early (the ship’s gonna sink!) and ruining it for others. Or, for that matter, with publicly discussing or exposing the sins of others. In fact (to use a source you’d never expect), didn’t Elder Packer say it’s best not to discuss the bad things about early church leaders’ lives, even if those facts are true?

    And just to cast it in as stark a light as possible — if I know that someone’s testimony of the gospel is based on some untrue fact, is there some overriding “truth must prevail” principle that requires me to expose that fact?

    All that said, I don’t think that the “you can’t handle the truth” defense really works for BoH. And I don’t think that the Santa Claus defense works either. As Ronan and John point out, Santa Claus doesn’t pretend to be having serious discussions of depression or death.

  17. Sue on October 27, 2005 at 9:59 am

    I don’t think it’s dishonest, it just shows that some people have WAAAAAAAAAY too much time on their hands. So ridiculous. It’s not self-promotional – it’s just silly. A bunch of people who blog online decide to create NEW online identities on a new blog in order to – I don’t know – protect their original identities from looking dull and boring and shallow? I don’t know what the point was really. So dumb.

    Meanwhile 99.9999999% of the mormons on earth could care less.

  18. Sue on October 27, 2005 at 10:00 am

    “If, in the end, when the curtain rises on the final act of the BofH players and the ending is sufficiently entertaining, then we will laugh it all off and all will be forgiven.”

    That’s the problem. It isn’t even entertaining.

  19. NFlanders on October 27, 2005 at 10:14 am

    What I find troubling, besides the necessarily unequal interaction between fake posters and earnest readers, is the fact that some people got to be on the joke (e.g. family members) from the beginning. While the blog was vastly entertaining, in hindsight it seems like it was more an experiment in unequal power relationships.

  20. annegb on October 27, 2005 at 10:37 am

    I fib myself at times, but if that blog is some elaborate joke and everybody lied to me, I am seriously p*******ed off. I’m slower on the draw than most of the rest of the blog, and am confused at the moment.

    But, ya lie to me, that’s it.

  21. a random John on October 27, 2005 at 10:38 am

    Even when I was convinced that it was fake I felt bad when the various bloggers there claimed to be offended. I am sure that someone (DKL) is still laughing over my heartfelt email apology to Miranda over revealing the name of the plant that her husband was laid off from. Never got a reply though.

    In any case I think it was fun. I still want to know who the sleuth was? An insider?

  22. Heather Oman on October 27, 2005 at 10:42 am

    “Nate Oman ?how many hours a night do you sleep?”

    Sleep? Nate? He’s given it up. Completely.

    “Meanwhile 99.9999999% of the mormons on earth could care less.”

    This statement, I believe, is the truest statement ever uttered on this blog.

  23. Heather Oman on October 27, 2005 at 10:43 am

    Let’s just chalk everything up the vast right wing conspiracy that pulled down Clinton AND Harriet Miers. It’s easier that way.

  24. Susan M on October 27, 2005 at 10:46 am

    I think it’s the best practical joke I’ve heard of since this.

    Where’s your sense of humor?

  25. Rusty on October 27, 2005 at 10:51 am

    The conspiricy aspect is what made it fun, it’s what kept me going back, not the actual content. The fact that I kept going back and forth in my mind as to it’s veracity is what kept me interested, and I suspect that was by design. I’m all for a hoax, but like I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t care much for the fact that A) my friends were snickering about me behind my back and B) I was forced to implicate every one of my friends at some point. That’s not healthy for any relationship.

    I like the Bloggernacle because of the community, but this seems to have turned out to be a community-damaging exercise. Good for them, though, they got a lot of attention, drama, presumably lots of laughs at our expense, and a fun diversion for six months. Sweet.

  26. Rusty on October 27, 2005 at 10:54 am

    Sue, it’s easy for you to dismiss it because you didn’t invest your emotions and deep feelings. To those who did, like annegb, I suspect the BoH people owe her a huge apology.

  27. Seth Rogers on October 27, 2005 at 10:55 am

    I don’t know. I’ve never had much use for internet anonymity here on T&S personally. Perhaps because I didn’t consider participation to be something to be embarassed about.

    Or perhaps it’s because I value religious discussion more than, say … a discussion of the NFL, or antique collecting, or any of the myriad internet discussion topics out there. I thought that if I put my own name on it, I’d have to be a bit more careful and responsible in how I post. Not sure it’s been working though …

  28. a random John on October 27, 2005 at 10:56 am

    Nate,

    When did you know it was a lie?

  29. Russell Arben Fox on October 27, 2005 at 10:57 am

    Matt–I think you may be on to something. If the BoH had just tootled along its merry way, it’s arguable that those who were suckered by it would have to confess that all it claimed to be was just one more site in the Bloggernacle, of which there on many, and the provenance of which most of us are basically ignorant; it is the internet, after all. But once the self-promotion began, the relationship between the perpetrators and those who read them changed.

    Annegb–you have every right to be pissed off. And I’m sure you’re not alone.

    Kaimi–good grief, do we have to go over this yet again?

  30. Nate Oman on October 27, 2005 at 10:58 am

    I actually pulled my second allnighter this week last night and haven’t slept in well over 24 hours. (I want to be clear, however, that I don’t expect Melissa’s sympathy.)

    I haven’t been a big reader of BofH, so I don’t if it has been funny, witty, or cruel. However, I hope it is clear despite my attempt at a provocative first paragraph that I am not accusing anyone of some sort a massive moral turpitude. (I also just really like the woed turpitude.)

  31. Raine on October 27, 2005 at 11:01 am

    I’m with Scalia on this one.

    As an aside, the problem with such a farce is that those who enter the bloggernacle with good faith in all (e.g., annegb) end up feeling foolish. Not nice, BoHers.

  32. Seth Rogers on October 27, 2005 at 11:01 am

    I agree with Sue. I could really care less about BoH.

  33. Russell Arben Fox on October 27, 2005 at 11:03 am

    “I’ve never had much use for internet anonymity here on T&S personally.”

    I agree with you Seth, for the reasons I outlined above. That said, there are a myriad of legitimate exceptions to that rule, so I don’t press it. Nonetheless, I think it is fair to say that the burden of proof or justification always lays heavier on those who mask their identity while communicating (and especially upon those who mask the fact that they are masking).

  34. Nate Oman on October 27, 2005 at 11:06 am

    Too little sleep. Me no coherent. Sorry.

  35. kristen j on October 27, 2005 at 11:20 am

    Ok, I’m sorry for being snotty here but I can’t take it anymore. It’s “I could NOT care less!” If you could care less it actually means you kind of care. Uh…if you are saying that you do actually care than I’m sorry, just forget what I said.

  36. BTD Greg on October 27, 2005 at 11:22 am

    You people in this so-called “blogernacle” (I’ve always hated that name) take yourselves way too seriously. Maybe this is a function of choosing to blog in the insular world of fellow believers?

    Yeah, I was in on it the whole time, so maybe I’m an object of scorn as well. (I might point out that there were others–and you obviously know who you are–who were also in on it, and it goes beyond family members. We’re talking some blogernacle heavy hitters.) I didn’t have anything to do with it, though, either in terms of writing or promotion.

    But I thought the whole thing was/is well-excuted, well-written and entertaining. I didn’t read every post, but when I did read, I found it to be pretty good. I can understand if some folks are bothered by the enterprise, I suppose. My first reaction when I heard about it was “won’t some people be pissed?” But I thought the execution was tastefully and thoughtfully done, and often hilarious.

  37. BTD Greg on October 27, 2005 at 11:24 am

    Another thing I enjoy about the bloggernacle — people take time out of their busy days to read a post and the ensuing hundreds of comments, then make a comment of their own just so that everyone knows that they “could/coudn’t care less.”

    Classic.

  38. a random John on October 27, 2005 at 11:45 am

    Does T&S have a privacy policy that would prevent Frank from using private IP address information in order to gain filthy lucre (ie the Obey Aaron t-shirt)? Because we know that Frank only wants two things in life:
    1. Filthy lucre
    2. The satisfaction of knowing that the burden of proof always lies with the person he is arguing with and hot himself.

  39. a random John on October 27, 2005 at 11:59 am

    I meant “not himself” not “hot himself”. Though he is hot himself.

  40. Rusty on October 27, 2005 at 11:59 am

    “You people…”

    Very classy, BTD Greg. I can’t express to you how condescending and insulting your words are, especially after you reveal the fact that you knew the whole time. OF COURSE it’s going to be funny if you’re in on the joke. You were never the brunt of any of their jokes so it’s going to seem very amusing to you.

    That goes for anyone on here, doesn’t it? All those who are saying it’s very amusing and not a lie are those who didn’t pay much attention and haven’t invested too much of their own emotion into it so OF COURSE it’s not a big deal. But what if we were to discover T&S had fake perma-bloggers, if we were to find out that Adam Greenwood was fake and he made up the story about his child passing so that he could see how people would react? The thought of it is offensive. Hindsight is always 20/20, but some of you need to consider someone like annegb who actually DID care for the people there, actually invested some of her emotion into the lives of these characters. That really is funny isn’t it. Stupid old annegb, why does she have to care so much about other people’s problems, what a FOOL she is!! Ugh…

    BTD Greg, yeah, it’s the other fellow believers who have the problem, you’re in the clear.

  41. Greg Call on October 27, 2005 at 12:01 pm

    I’m not personally offended by BOH at all, but I think it’s pretty unfair to tell someone who is offended, like AnneGB, to “lighten up! It’s all in fun!” Some people go to these blogs earnestly (and often) for friendship, spiritual nourishment (don’t laugh!), education, and advice, and I don’t blame them at all for being pissed when the rug’s pulled out from underneath them.

  42. Mark B. on October 27, 2005 at 12:07 pm

    It’s beginning to look like Kirtland in 1838.

  43. BTD Greg on October 27, 2005 at 12:08 pm

    “I can’t express to you how condescending and insulting your words are, especially after you reveal the fact that you knew the whole time.”

    *sigh* Um…I was joking? Honestly, I don’t mean to be condescending or insulting, I’m just making observations. You seem to be making my point for me on the over seriousness, and for that, I thank you.

    “You were never the brunt of any of their jokes so it’s going to seem very amusing to you.”

    Were you ever the “brunt of any of their jokes”? Think carefully, now. When did BoH ever single out any person for ridicule. I don’t think it’s nearly as malicious as you make it out to be.

    “BTD Greg, yeah, it’s the other fellow believers who have the problem, you’re in the clear.”

    Not sure what you mean here. For the record, I’m a Mormon who blogs, though I’m not really a Mormon Blogger. (But some of my best friends, as they say.)

  44. Rosalynde on October 27, 2005 at 12:14 pm

    A few notes on the larger issue: the blogging genre is still sufficiently new, still so wild and wooly in its forms, conventions, and techne, and still evolving so quickly, that it’s not clear to me that there is yet a fixed social meaning attached to blogging speech acts. Each blog, or each community of blogs, tends to develop its own, of course, in the way that each novel adopts its own p-o-v and relaitonship to the reader, but I don’t yet think we can say *in general* that the social meaning of blogging is stable.

    Second, it’s not clear to me that intentionalism and textualism cleave from each other so cleanly. If the intentions of the author are irrelevant to the meaning and effects of a text, then it is the text itself—not the author—that should bear the brunt of objecting argument (or emotion). Since we know very little about the intentions of the Bannerites, it seems that we’re forced into the textualist position, but the discussion here clearly shows that it’s not the *text* that people are upset with, it’s the intentions of the authors.

  45. NFlanders on October 27, 2005 at 12:14 pm

    Just for the viewers at home, it would be helpful to know that BTD Greg’s wife is one of the fake permabloggers.

  46. Kaimi on October 27, 2005 at 12:15 pm

    In scholaarly live-human experiments, lengthy disclosures and consents are typically required, right? (I’ve participated in a few social-science surveys and tests, and they all seem to have pretty strict disclosure-and-consent requirements).

  47. Kaimi on October 27, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    “relaitonship” . . . “scholaarly” . . .

    Despite appaerances, Nate Oman is _not_ in fact impersonating Rosalynde or me in the last few comments . . .

  48. BTD Greg on October 27, 2005 at 12:22 pm

    “Just for the viewers at home, it would be helpful to know that BTD Greg’s wife is one of the fake permabloggers.”

    Yes. Thanks, Ned. I guess I should have made that clear.

    It sounds like the title to a trashy exploitation film: “I Married a Fake Permablogger!”

  49. Crystal on October 27, 2005 at 12:24 pm

    Wait a sec. I’m confused.

    Did the reveal already happen and I missed it?

  50. Rusty on October 27, 2005 at 12:27 pm

    Oh, the old “I was joking” defense. Whatever.

    No Greg, I was never the brunt of any specific joke, but I was a willing participant and became the brunt of the Big Joke. I believed. I fell for it. I cared. Not for very long, mind you, but there is a sense of betrayal that you never once felt. You never cared, you never believed. You don’t feel stupid for having fallen for it. That’s why what you say about how we *should* be feeling is largely irrelavant.

  51. John Mansfield on October 27, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    Thinking back to May and June, a reason I was initially interested in Banner was that it appeared to significantly broaden the demographics of those participating in the Mormon web logs. So many Saints work in trades and live in small towns, but not on the internet. Even when it had demonstrated itself a hoax, I hoped it was the work of people I’d never heard of because there’s a big Mormon world out there. It turns out though that the bloggernacle really is an insular ghetto for a relative handful of professionals who sit by computers most of the day.

    I don’t mean this as any slight to Times and Seasons and the other sites. There’s nothing wrong with who you are and what it interests you to write. There just seem to be other voices that are missing. There’s probably nothing to be done about it; interest in writing is not uniformly distributed.

  52. kristen j on October 27, 2005 at 12:30 pm

    Yada, yada, yada…isn’t the issue that people wrote these bizarre posts about bizarre lives, causing other people to sincerely invest their time, emotions, energies, into helping or relating to the fake bloggers?

    Commenters never would have disclosed any heartaches or secrets at BoH if they’d have known that Miranda was some dude in Maryland getting his jollies at playing that he was a chick in boon docks Idaho with a crappy marriage.

  53. Russell Arben Fox on October 27, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    “[T]he blogging genre is still sufficiently new, still so wild and wooly in its forms, conventions, and techne, and still evolving so quickly, that it?s not clear to me that there is yet a fixed social meaning attached to blogging speech acts.”

    That may be true in a theoretical sense, Rosalynde, but I simply do not believe that it is true in practice. The overhwhelming majority of all blog-communication has followed either journalistic, bulletin board, personal exchange or essay forms. That is the way people have seen it; that is the way people have used it. Of course, one can experiment with the form, play around with expectations. A sufficient level of creativity and theoretical sophistication can allow one to get away with such in even the most venerable of forms: newspapers and novels and such. Still, the norms are there. Parodies are fun and have their place, but I don’t think, practically speaking, one can get very far with defending a parody that pretended it wasn’t a parody by pedantically claiming that no one really knows what a blog parody is yet.

    “[I]t?s not clear to me that intentionalism and textualism cleave from each other so cleanly. If the intentions of the author are irrelevant to the meaning and effects of a text, then it is the text itself?not the author?that should bear the brunt of objecting argument (or emotion).”

    I agree Rosalynde. But see my point above (#10): the fact that there is, unavoidably, a separation between the text and the intentions behind the text may not mean that the experiences brought about by the text are somehow flawed or untrue, but it does arguably mean that those who had every right to assume a certain norm of intentionality behind the text they experienced are justified in thinking they have been treated shabbily.

  54. BTD Greg on October 27, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    Crystal: SHHHH! DON’T TELL! (An aside: I hear if you dig through a post over at Nine Moons, you can discover hidden secrets. But you didn’t hear that from me.)

    Rusty: I see your righteous indignation and raise you a heaping helping of dismissive snark.

    I wasn’t really trying to tell anyone how they should feel and my advice to lighten up is worth less than you paid for it. That doesn’t mean it might not be sound advice, just the same.

  55. Geoff J on October 27, 2005 at 12:34 pm

    I think it’s pretty unfair to tell someone who is offended, like AnneGB, to “lighten up! It’s all in fun!”

    Amen Greg. The problem is that most of the offended and humiliated victims in this will probably never speak up. First because they are feeling humiliated already and don’t want to add to that, and second because they will likely get barked down with cries of “lighten up!”.

    Crystal – see the link to Rusty’s blog in the post. The cat is out of the bag. .

  56. NFlanders on October 27, 2005 at 12:36 pm

    Like Rusty, I too fell for it, and felt stupid when I found out it was fake.

    I wouldn’t have minded so much if they had simply not pretended so hard they were real. For example, Steve Evans claiming he met Jenn in real life probably added a month or two to my belief in them.

    John Dehlin, over at Mormon Stories, is fond of the phrase “It’s about community, stupid!”
    Well, you guys just relieved yourselves in the middle of ours.

  57. BTD Greg on October 27, 2005 at 12:42 pm

    “John Dehlin, over at Mormon Stories, is fond of the phrase “It’s about community, stupid!”
    Well, you guys just relieved yourselves in the middle of ours.”

    So….uh, Ned, are you saying that you never post under fictional aliases and personas?

    Just wondering. ‘Cause apparently that would be a scatological thing to do, right?

  58. NFlanders on October 27, 2005 at 12:45 pm

    BTD Greg– We get it: your wife was in on it and you are defending her. You are a good husband. I would expect nothing less.

    You are not, however, a good debater. You can’t seriously compare me using a pseudonym and blogging about my real life to what the BoHers did.

  59. BTD Greg on October 27, 2005 at 12:49 pm

    “You are not, however, a good debater. You can’t seriously compare me using a pseudonym and blogging about my real life to what the BoHers did.”

    You didn’t answer my question, really. I’m not talking about your screen name, pseudonym or whathaveyou. I’m talking about alternate personas. Are you saying that you haven’t ever created and blogged using fictious personas?

    I’m just curious about what your answer might be.

  60. Susan M on October 27, 2005 at 12:55 pm

    So I’m the only one who thought, “Oh THAT it explains it. They’re not crazy, they’re fake!” and laughed? And wondered who on earth was behind the annoying Miranda posts?

  61. NFlanders on October 27, 2005 at 12:58 pm

    “Are you saying that you haven’t ever created and blogged using fictious personas?”

    BTD Greg– That’s exactly what I am saying. Everything I’ve ever posted in the Bloggernacle has been 100% me. Frankly, I can’t imagine having the time to create alternate personas and I’m unemployed! We might not have minded if this came out after a month, but after six months of intense blogging? What did the permabloggers expect? A rose parade?

    Maybe this whole episode was good, in that it showed us that the internet is a far too unreliable a place to form a community.

  62. Frank McIntyre on October 27, 2005 at 1:09 pm

    ARJ,

    “Because we know that Frank only wants two things in life:
    1. Filthy lucre
    2. The satisfaction of knowing that the burden of proof always lies with the person he is arguing with and hot himself.”

    You are so off. That is not the order they go in AT ALL.

    “Though he is hot himself. ”

    You can’t prove this.

  63. Davis Bell on October 27, 2005 at 1:14 pm

    Who is BTD Greg’s wife?

  64. Sue on October 27, 2005 at 1:15 pm

    Susan – I’m halfway with you. I did think the posts were annoying and strange, but if they were trying for satire, they were a little too subtle. Finding out that a bunch of people went to a lot of trouble to make up a new blog in order to pretend they were annoying and strange for the amusement of, well, only themselves – it just seems sort of pathetic. But whatever floats your boat. We all have different hobbies in life. Some people might think that skiing is a pathetic waste of time. And maybe I am sense of humor impaired, because I didn’t laugh when I found out it was fake, I just went, “Huh?? Oh. Ok. That’s – – odd.”

  65. kristen j on October 27, 2005 at 1:18 pm

    I must confess that I feel some culpability here. You see my husband and I knew from very early on that it was a hoax. Geoff just refused to believe that it was real and eventually got a confession from a BoHer that it was indeed fake. He asked us to keep it under wraps which we agreed to do. Geoff expressed his misgivings to me about that at the time.

    In my own small defense I REALLY wanted to email a few bloggers and warn them not to reveal too much of themselves over at BoH but didn’t since we had promised to keep it a secret.

    I had fun with it, making outrageous comments trying to get the permabloggers to act even more crazy. I feel like an idiot for doing that now and my husband feels terrible about keeping the BoH secret.

    Geez, I guess I’m a closet drama queen!

  66. brother Tom on October 27, 2005 at 1:21 pm

    What the BoHers did was deceitful. There’s no arguing that. I don’t know their intentions. I don’t particularly care, either. Whether they did this as a big joke or as a sociology experiment, readers responded with genuine sympathy and interest to what they believed were real people and real problems. I was one of those people (I only commented once before the suspicions of others led me to be suspicious, but that comment was sincere and heartfelt) and I feel foolish.

    As to the technicalities of whether what they did is moral or immoral, I don’t know. I know it wasn’t a nice thing to do. Judging charitably, I would say that they are insensitive and didn’t realize that they would hurt people’s feelings. Judging less charitably, I would say that these are jerks who don’t care about other people’s feelings.

  67. NFlanders on October 27, 2005 at 1:31 pm

    Davis– Since no one else responded, BTD Greg is married to Allison from Don’t Let’s Start. She was posting as Mari on BoH.

  68. Davis Bell on October 27, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    I looked through the Nine Moons thread, which was a bit confusing. Is this correct?

    Jenn — Steve Evans
    Mari — BTD Allison Don’t Let’s Start Greg’s Wife
    Aaron — ??
    Septimus — Brian G
    Miranda — DKL
    Greg — ??

  69. Julie in Austin on October 27, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    Since I read 1-2 posts at BoH and decided that it was too weird for me, I have neither followed nor become invested in this. So I was having a hard time articulating to myself why I was so bothered by the BoH scam and some of the rationalizations that have been given for it on this post. Here’s why:

    http://amiralace.blogspot.com/2005/10/orphanage-happenings.html

    Here’s another reason why:

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php?p=2235

    Here’s another:

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php?p=2202

    Some of us–many of us–have posted personal, revealing, important things. My heart pounded for several hours after I published the post-partum depression post, because even though that’s a closed chapter in my life, it was a harrowing chapter, and it was difficult to share publicly. But I did it because I thought it might help someone.

    Rosalynde, there ARE standards for the bloggernacle. When I send money to Amira to buy diapers for orphans in Kyrgyrystan (or howevertheheck you spell it), I assume that Amira isn’t going to use the money to buy a beer in New York.

  70. NFlanders on October 27, 2005 at 1:47 pm

    Davis– Naomi Frandsen was Greg. No one has spilled the beans about Aaron yet, but considering how many people seem to have known…

  71. Rosalynde on October 27, 2005 at 1:54 pm

    Julie, I agree that the bloggernacle community—as opposed to the larger blog world—has more clearly defined conventions and assumptions, and that is precisely the source of the feelings of betrayal. And, of course, whether or not the conventions and assumptions are established, it would be manifestly wrong in any context to defraud another person.

    It’s not money that most of us send off into the bloggernacle, of course, it’s emotion and relationships and ideas. A blog is not statute law, or a short story, or any other conventional sort of text, although it’s useful to theorize it in relationship to those. Because readers encounter blogs on the internet, and because the internet has that mysterious capacity to produce a powerful sense of intimacy, the calculus of intention and effect has to be different than it is for a novel or a newspaper. I suspect this is where the BoHers misjudged.

  72. kristen j on October 27, 2005 at 1:54 pm

    Honestly Geoff and I had no idea who was who until Frank told us at 9 Moons. I thought Steve Evans was Septimus for a long time.

    I should have known Jenn was a guy though. The way she/he reacted to the “cupping episode” was really weird for a woman.

    I’ve really come to enjoy my friends and the community here at the “bloggernacle” I hope we can let this go and continue to learn and grow from each other.

  73. kristen j on October 27, 2005 at 1:57 pm

    Of course it’s different than a novel or a newspaper. I’m not revealing myself in anyway to the novel or newspaper while I’m in the process of reading it.

  74. Tatiana on October 27, 2005 at 2:01 pm

    So Nate, you are asking if trolling is okay? If it’s funny or cute? Of course not. It’s childish and rude. I put trolling on the moral level of picking your nose and wiping it on your little brother, just for the pleasure of watching him squeal. It’s a stage that many people seem to go through, and we try gently to teach them better, because many erstwhile trolls can turn into mature intelligent contributors in time. Let’s hope the trolls in question do. I’m glad I never came across that blog.

  75. Davis Bell on October 27, 2005 at 2:08 pm

    Okay, so who’s next up at defending BOH? Sumer? Naomi’s boyfriend? Brian G’s aunt (or J. Peterman)?

  76. Rosalynde on October 27, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    Kristen, your comment makes me think that I might not have been clear: what I meant was that the unique nature of the internet makes such experiments *more* dangerous and potentially damaging than do other media, not less. I’m not defending the Banner, I’m trying to figure out where the experiment went wrong.

  77. Geoff J on October 27, 2005 at 2:39 pm

    Rosalynde,

    The experiment didn’t go wrong, the experiment was wrong. If anything went wrong it was that somebody started believing it was acceptableto call a practical joke an “experiment”.

  78. Rosalynde on October 27, 2005 at 2:41 pm

    Yikes, Geoff! Many apologies for offending you with a word; I have no wish to add to the swirling hurt.

  79. Tatiana on October 27, 2005 at 2:43 pm

    Also “lighten up, it’s only the internet, it was all in fun, it’s no different than writing a fictional character in a book” are all typical troll responses as well. It’s not the people who were taken in but the trolls who are at fault. Make no mistake. Being taken in just means you are a caring person who trusts others until given reason not to do so. The internet is an excellent place to build a community, and trolls are people who act to destroy those communities (for whatever reasons), but they are far weaker, usually, than the communities they damage. There are no valid justifications for trolling.

  80. Geoff J on October 27, 2005 at 2:44 pm

    I was just clarifying, Rosalynde.

  81. D. Fletcher on October 27, 2005 at 2:46 pm

    I think I can pinpoint what went wrong with BoH, Rosalynde. It was meant to be fun, but it turned out only to be fun for a few, at the expense of many. And couch the ongoing *parody* dialogues with the acute psychology of certain religious people with very intent personal witnesses of a religious nature, and you’re setting up mass hysteria to happen. I would not like to find out that I had preached a sermon or borne my testimony to a room of cartoon characters. I’m vulnerable enough that that might make me lose control.

    I don’t think I ever read the BoH blog before the last few days (when Rusty’s “sleuthing” of the fakes took off, and that part was really fun!), and I don’t particularly care what they did over there, but I hope some lessons are learned. Deception is ugly; parodies and satire aren’t funny or even coherent unless everyone is in on the joke.

  82. Seth Rogers on October 27, 2005 at 2:50 pm

    Julie,

    It’s “Kyrgyzstan.” Thought you’d like to know.

  83. KentC on October 27, 2005 at 2:53 pm

    D. Fletcher’s comments are perfect. Satire is funny to those who are in on the joke. We watch a SNL parody sketch and we all laugh because we, the audience, are in on it. That is much different than the cool kids in Jr. High who pretend to befriend an awkward and needy outcast because it’s funny to see her reaction.

  84. Julie in Austin on October 27, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    Seth–

    As if I am going to remember that. Durn ferners.

  85. Kaimi on October 27, 2005 at 2:59 pm

    Julie,

    Alternate spelling: I’d-like-to-buy-a-vowel-istan.

  86. Susan M on October 27, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    You know what’s I think is funny? The prank isn’t what’s making me want to give up on the Bloggernacle. It’s everyone’s reactions to the prank. I understand some hurt feelings (like Anne’s), but I think most of this is pretty ridiculous. Maybe I’ve just had too many *real* bad things happen to me. Someone plays a trick on a blog? Who cares? No one’s dead, in jail, or in the hospital, I’m good.

  87. Seth Rogers on October 27, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    Sorry, I did my undergraduate thesis on a comparison of the political transition of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan following the collapse of the USSR.

    Obviously, higher learning prepared me for a bright and profitable future.

  88. Kaimi on October 27, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    Quick notes,

    1. Davis Bell has a post with somewhat similar themes at M*, discussing the ethics of humor that puts down others. http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2005/10/26/the_ethics_and_morality_of_humor_uses_hu .

    2. I don’t see the reaction you’re seeing, Susan. Nate is engaged in a pretty dry discussion of the ethics. He hasn’t condemned BoH himself; he has just mentioned a few possible issues and opened the floor to discussion.

    Some people have been upset — many of them BoH readers and regulars like Geoff, Rusty, and Ned. I don’t see why they shouldn’t be upset; they’ve invested time and effort into a fake blog.

  89. Kaimi on October 27, 2005 at 3:26 pm

    Also, my own confession: Like Kristen and Geoff, I knew of the secret early on. I was sworn to secrecy, and didn’t reveal anything to anyone. I felt bad when I saw people I knew and liked commenting there, in earnestness. I couldn’t break my silence, though. (What do you do when you’re sworn to secrecy about something of this sort?)

    I am more complicit than Kristen. I sent the Banner a few sidebar links early on, at the request of a friend. Also, once the real-or-fake question was out in the open, I linked to Rusty and arJ’s comments on it. Finally, I linked to Anne’s query about whether one of the (fake) contributors would be interested in dating her daughter, because it was a question which I thought was cute and touching and sad.

    I don’t know when the breakdown should have been absolutely clear. Perhaps with the discussions of marital problems, death, depression. Perhaps when a commenter said that belief in BoH was like belief in the Book of Mormon. Perhaps at-or-before Anne’s attempt to match up her daughter with a fake person. I don’t think the BoHers had ill intent, but my own bad feeling about the endeavor increased steadily.

    For my own small — but really too big for my own comfort — role in the deception, I apologize. I’m sorry if you relied on my representations to believe in the Banner.

  90. D. Fletcher on October 27, 2005 at 3:34 pm

    I admit to being relieved when ABC didn’t turn out to be you, Kaimi.

  91. John Mansfield on October 27, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    “What do you do when you’re sworn to secrecy about something of this sort?”

    At last we know the particular reason President Hinckley asked us last April to read the Book of Mormon again.

  92. Matt Evans on October 27, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    I’ve assumed that Aaron Brown was Aaron B. Cox because:

    – the name works
    – Aaron B. Cox writes poorly very well, like Holden Caulfield
    – Aaron Brown enjoys teasing the hyper-orthodox
    – Aaron Brown and Lyle Stamps have a long history, and Aaron B. Cox appears to be an outrageous caricature of Lyle

    Who are the other contenders for ABC?

  93. Bryce I on October 27, 2005 at 3:40 pm

    As long as we’re all confessing, here’s mine. I was aware that a fake blog was being planned before it actually appeared, but knew none of the details, and I promised to keep that knowledge secret. When BoH went online, I immediately recognized it as the planned fake blog, and paid it no attention. By the time I realized what was going on over there a few weeks ago, things were already out of hand.

    annegb, you’re right to be mad. Count me in the “bloggernacle = community” camp. The way this has all played out has damaged trust in our community.

  94. Steve Evans on October 27, 2005 at 3:44 pm

    I don’t like trials in absentia. I’ve said what I want to say about this over here.

  95. Raine on October 27, 2005 at 3:44 pm

    “What do you do when you’re sworn to secrecy about something of this sort?”

    This one’s easy–you email annegb and let her in on the farce since it’s clear she is emotionally invested.

  96. Adam Greenwood on October 27, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    I agree with Bryce I. But those of you who knew the secret and said nothing, or who actually helped promote it, are also to blame.

    Further, it seems to me that the cobloggers of a group blog are also a community in a way, and its abusive of that trust to knowingly link to a fake. I’m glad Kaimi apologized. That goes a long way to repairing the damage.

  97. Sue on October 27, 2005 at 3:51 pm

    It’s like the Phil Henrie show, with the guy who does all of the voices, and pretends to be a variety of outrageous guests every night. The show itself isn’t funny, the joke of the show is all of the folks who happen to catch part of the broadcast, and call in outraged about something the guest said – usually something offensive, sympathy inducing or calculated to get people’s dander up. All of the people who normally listen to the show are in on the joke.

    The blog is similar, except that the only people in on the joke were the bloggers and a few others. The bloggers weren’t trying to actually put together a good blog, they just came up with a way to get a laugh out of all the people who unknowingly responded to the posts. To the bloggers, the commenters are the joke.

  98. Geoff J on October 27, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    Mark B.: Sure, ?I could care less? means the opposite of the literal meaning of the phrase.

    Really? Where did you learn this? If it is so (and I am doubtful that it is, but willing to hear arguments to the contrary) do you think it started out to mean the opposite of what it says or simply grew to mean that because so many people mistakenly say “could care less” when the really mean “could not care less”?

  99. Adam Greenwood on October 27, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    I’m betting Nate Oman didn’t know anything sooner than any of us did, but I’m curious too. Nate O.?

  100. Kaimi on October 27, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    Odd, some comments appear to have been bumped up by an hour. Computer glitch? Something similar happened to a few comments in the weddings thread.

  101. Rosalynde on October 27, 2005 at 4:00 pm

    Okay, now that they’ve spoken, I feel I can speak too without betraying confidences.

    I was approached by the organizers early on, and at first was involved in planning the characters and stories. I became uncomfortable with the project, though, so I withdrew—but I felt bad for leaving my colleagues in the lurch, and agreed to do a guest post as myself. I felt that was a way to (partially) meet my obligation, and by the time I finally wrote the post (as is clear in the text), I didn’t think the Banner was deceiving anyone anymore.

    I also commented there from time to time, under my own name and with my own views. It honestly never occurred to me that this was an ethical breach. I see now the argument that my name and identity may have led others to participate as well, and that in this way I may have been unintentionally complicit. I apologize for this, and I feel just sick that people have been hurt.

    FWIW, although I haven’t been in on the internal discussion since before the thing went live, I can vouch that the initial discussions were all about developing compelling, moving characters and about telling good stories. Nobody seemed motivated by the challenge or pleasure of deception.

    (cross posted at BoH)

  102. Mark B. on October 27, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    To kristen j (#35) No problem if you’re snotty about an idiom, but it is a problem that you’re wrong.

    Sure, “I could care less” means the opposite of the literal meaning of the phrase.

    So does “Yeah, Right!”

    Are you also out crusading to get people to stop saying “Yeah, Right” too? Maybe you can get them all to say, “No, I respectfully disagree” instead.

  103. Davis Bell on October 27, 2005 at 4:06 pm

    “I don’t like trials in absentia. I’ve said what I want to say about this over here.”

    Steve, nothing is preventing you from commenting here. Nate started it before you decided to out yourself (note that you were comment #94).

  104. Davis Bell on October 27, 2005 at 4:46 pm

    Well, if Aaron Brown says he’s not Aaron Cox, then he most certainly must not be. No one would lie about such a thing.

  105. Aaron Brown on October 27, 2005 at 4:24 pm

    I am not Aaron B. Cox. Really. Cross my heart and hope to die…stick a needle, blah, blah, blah…

    Aaron B

  106. D. Fletcher on October 27, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    The irony in all of this (to me), is that the folks most damaged by this are probably the writers themselves. They’ll be hard-pressed to get anyone to take them seriously again, at least, in the Bloggernacle. If it had been me, I might have suddenly stopped BoH in midstream, and shut it down, and never told anyone the truth, to save face in my actual identity. So, I guess I should praise those writers for “coming out,” so to speak.

  107. D. Fletcher on October 27, 2005 at 4:28 pm

    Aaron, since you’re not Aaron, do you think somebody was trying to bait you, to get you to come ’round and defend yourself?

  108. a random John on October 27, 2005 at 4:33 pm

    Nate Oman,

    Once again, when did you know about this and what are the ethics of your response?

  109. kristen j on October 27, 2005 at 4:33 pm

    To Marc B (#99)- What ever dude! Go google “Could care less” and you will find out that plenty of people agree with me. If you choose to use the cliche that was born from it’s constant misuse that’s up to you.

    Are you going to jump on the “Alls I want” bandwagon too? I’m constantly hearing that fun little phrase. It sounds real nice when people use it.

    By the way, what’s your heighth?

  110. Ryan Bell on October 27, 2005 at 4:33 pm

    I keep passing over the title of this post with my eyes, and the wording that my quick skim relays to my brain is “blogging and lynching.” Perhaps Nate could change the title to reflect this? I think that would be more fun, and more true! :)

  111. kristen j on October 27, 2005 at 4:38 pm

    I’m sorry, I’m feeling really snarky with the bloggernacle today. I think I will take a break from the computer for a while.

  112. D. Fletcher on October 27, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    It must be a test for Daylight Savings — it happened all the time when I managed a computer-group (back when I was employed).

    Daylight Savings is turned off this weekend.

    P.S. Having trouble commenting — it says I commented less than 10 seconds ago — not true.

  113. Kaimi on October 27, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    Umm, I may be misrecollecting, but I could swear that I’ve seen Nate, or ___, or ____ (I can fill in the names if you’d like) having odd little conversations with themselves over at the < href="http://elders.blogspot.com">original Mormon group blog full of fake(ish) names.

    Am I just misrecollecting? Or is Steve following in some well-worn footprints here?

  114. Julie in Austin on October 27, 2005 at 4:48 pm

    Kaimi, there’s a world of difference between using a fake name (do you think I sign my checks ‘Julie in Austin’?) and creating a fake persona for others to interact with. No one in the bloggernacle thinks that RoastedTomatoes goes by Brother Roasted at church, but everyone thinks that if RT says something, it is a true statement. That’s where BoH went wrong.

  115. annegb on October 27, 2005 at 4:48 pm

    I’m not embarrassed at being fooled, dismayed is a better word, but I’m embarrassed at all the attention I’m getting for being fooled, if that makes sense. There are certainly worse things in life and I’m heartened that a few people, much smarter than I, were also fooled.

    I honestly had no idea it was a fake blog, I never go to Nine Moons, I will, now. I did think some of the stories were made up, but they were so well written it didn’t matter. Actually, I thought I’d found a blog with other crazy people like me which since they were made up, that makes me pretty crazy.

    I don’t have an opinion–yet on if they should have done it or not. I don’t think the main goal was accomplished, which saddens me because I want us all to like each other. Don’t think that’s gonna happen anytime soon.

    Kaimi, you are so sweet about my desire to fix up my daughter. She’s always been my beautiful wild child and since she’s now single, we do have high hopes that she will find somebody nice this time. Brian, send her picture to Davis. I think she’s too much woman for him, but you never know.

    But for me, the bottom line is how nuts am I to get so invested in the lives of people who don’t even exist? And what’s real here anyway? I’m going to seriously reflect on my own vulnerabilities and insecurities and neurotic tendencies.

    When I was young and thin and had silky tendrils, there were some people in my circle, well, other women, who didn’t like me. I thought it was because they thought I was nuts, lowlife, weird, because that was left over from how I grew up.

    When I realized only a few years ago, that they actually thought I was a slut and since I was so cute, were jealous of me, I was flattered and relieved. The lesson for me was I’d rather be a slut than a nut.

    Thinking hard about all this. Could care less, Kristen. And that’s what’s so galling.

  116. Steve Evans on October 27, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    annegb, you are the best.

  117. Adam Greenwood on October 27, 2005 at 5:10 pm

    Steve E. could tell a million lies elsewhere and I’d still know he was telling the truth in comment #116.

    Anne GB weighs pretty heavily on the plus side when I put the Bloggernacle in the balance.

  118. Eric Russell on October 27, 2005 at 5:10 pm

    LOL Davis. That was my reaction. And unfortunately, I think it’s a valid one.

  119. Heather Oman on October 27, 2005 at 5:18 pm

    A fake blog? Really? People really did that?

    People, get a life. I find the whole thing less offensive than just WEIRD! And I’m sorry, but it’s also a statement about who has WAY too much time on their hands.

  120. John C. on October 27, 2005 at 5:19 pm

    A further amen to the sentiments of 116 and 117.

  121. Ben H on October 27, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    As an “in principle” point, I totally agree with Rosalynde on the still-fluid-and-unclear conventional status of blogging and, for that matter, nearly anything on the internet that is not connected with a “real-world” relationship (including, say, commerce). That very unclarity, though, I think also puts a responsibility on persons of good character to be cautious about just how and how far they depart from the norms of analogous modes of communication and expression in other contexts. (spoken with a decent amount of familiarity with the internet, but very little with, say, Jenn/Steve’s blog, which on my first look what, a year ago? was a bit too bizarre for me)

  122. Davis Bell on October 27, 2005 at 5:22 pm

    “I think she’s too much woman for him, but you never know.”

    Lolololol. You are probably right, Anne.

  123. Adam Greenwood on October 27, 2005 at 5:32 pm

    Anne GB,

    I hate to break this to you but there is no Davis Bell. Too bad for your daughter.

    He and I both are written by Ryan Bell. Well, Davis B. is anyway. I’m written by Ryan’s oldest kid as a science fair project, but Ryan Bell polishes it up sometimes.

  124. Melissa on October 27, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    Anne,

    I think there’s actually good evidence that you’re among the sanest of the bloggers. Unpretentious, reflective, humble, honest, earnest, funny, genuine, open-minded, kind, sincere, matter-of-fact and down to earth . . . . you really are a gem. We’re glad you’re around.

  125. Matt G. on October 27, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    Heather Oman:

    Amen! I hope no one involved had children who were being neglected while Mom or Dad constructed fake identities and had fake conversations online for hours and hours. At least I know Steve and Naomi aren’t guilty on this front.

  126. Sue on October 27, 2005 at 5:44 pm

    I say Banner of Heaven should donate their IP to Anne and let her blog there. No doubt it would be the most popular blog in the ‘naccle… Talk about your class acts…

  127. Davis Bell on October 27, 2005 at 5:47 pm

    Adam,

    Ryan’s oldest kid is 3. No surprises there!!!!! Ta-dum! Hey-O!!! Tips in the jar, folks.

  128. Aaron Brown on October 27, 2005 at 5:52 pm

    Since I’m too lazy to review 126 comments, I just need to ask: Do we know who the other BoH characters were yet? Have they outed themselves somewhere in this thread? Do I take from #125 that Naomi Frandsen is one of the pseudonymous bloggers? Somebody please summarize the current state of the scandal. Thanks in advance.

    Aaron B

    P.S. And yes this means I’m confirming that I had nothing whatsoever to do with BoH, thank you very much. Like I would have time for such things! I’ve got other anonymous personalities to cultivate and maintain …

  129. a random John on October 27, 2005 at 6:10 pm

    Mr. Oman, answer the question!

    Your honor, I believe this witness is stalling!

  130. Jonathan Green on October 27, 2005 at 6:13 pm

    After a few early, odd page views, I didn’t read BoH again. I don’t mind that it was meant as a work of conceptual art, but where it went wrong was turning on the comment sections. Why not make it a commentless blog? Wouldn’t page views have been enough applause? That way, no one could have gotten hurt. Shame, shame.

    And if you did get taken in, remember what Mrs. Weasley says: Don’t trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain. With T&S, I’ve met a fair number of the participants, and with the other places I’ll occasionally comment, I either know one or two people personally, or we have common acquaintances. Everywhere in the world of Mormon blogs was linked by a chain of personal relationships–except BoH, for which the degree of separation approached the infinite. You couldn’t see its brain, so to speak.

    So the only solution I can see is for Steve E. and friends to turn the keys to BoH over to AnneGB. She has probably the most distinctive voice and original perspective of anyone here. Steve, I appreciate your intentions with Jenn, but I don’t think you can beat AnneGB, even on purely aesthetic terms.

  131. Adam Greenwood on October 27, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    Mr. A.R.J. Doe,

    Mr. Oman, despite impressions, is actually quite busy. Odds are the witness isn’t even on the stand. Don’t worry, though, I’ll use my position as Dean to put the screws on.

    Also, though he is discrete about it, Mr. Oman does suggest that he thinks the hypothetical Heaven’s Banner blog would be a lie. This suggests to me that he didn’t participate in the real thing.

  132. Adam Greenwood on October 27, 2005 at 6:18 pm

    I second Jonathan Green’s motion.

  133. Julie in Austin on October 27, 2005 at 6:37 pm

    Yep, the best way to make restitution is to turn the keys of BoH over to annegb for her own personal playground.

    I’d read it. Annegb is responsible for some of the best oneliners in the bloggernacle.

  134. John C. on October 27, 2005 at 6:39 pm

    Um, does annegb want it? By now she surely must know how highly respected she is. I assume that the reason she doesn’t have a blog of her own is that she doesn’t want one.

  135. JKS on October 27, 2005 at 6:44 pm

    I dropped by BoH only occasionally. I didn’t realize there was it was phony. Makes me wonder what I said….Guess some of you might have felt sorry for me actually reponding openly to people.
    I enjoy The Onion. Because you know its fake. Its funny.
    BoH I didn’t know. I respond the same way that I would if I met someone at a party and I had a few conversations with them but the whole time they were lying. Sure, I didn’t HAVE to talk to them, but they were there and I was there so I had the conversation. No, I wouldn’t think it was a funny joke if they were lying about their problems the whole time.
    My first forays to the internet world of message boards were about my son’s language disorder. I appreciated the people who posted their experiences and I learned so many things. I loved the support. I loved knowing that I wasn’t alone. I trusted people who posted their details like “my son is 2.5 years and doesn’t talk yet.” I gleaned information about speech therapy, SLPs, school district services, IEPs, diet, how to help my child now, how to help him down the road, etc.
    I found the internet very helpful. What would I have done without it? Probably not much, since I would have had far less knowledge about what I could do.
    I don’t post under my name, I don’t give out my address, for obvious safety reasons. But I am me.
    I have always known that I really have no idea who all these people are on these blogs. Perhaps that is why I haven’t gotten too personal. Sometimes it is hard to keep track of all these bloggers! I don’t seem to have enough time to memorize the personalities and histories. I’m pretty familiar with the women, but I’m pretty much out of the loop on all the guys. In fact, unless I go through and write down the fraud perpetuators, I won’t know who to be mad at.

  136. Mark B. on October 27, 2005 at 6:46 pm

    Geoff (104)–I suppose I learned it at my mother’s knee. And I went through the same stage that kristen is going through, insisting that the phrase really ought to be “I couldn’t care less.”

    But, I got over it. I’m over it still. I, frankly, could care less if kristen wants to ride this horse to kingdom come. (And I googled it, and found folks who agree with me and some who agree with kristen. You know, it’s the old “I say to-may-to, you say to-mah-to, Let’s call the whole thing off.”)

    By the way, kristen, I don’t remember the last time I stumbled down the back steps (well, three cinder blocks stuck into a manure pile) of my double-wide and said “Alls I want is another tall one.” I’ll ask the neighbor. I gotta tell you, though, he’s a real mean sumb**ch ’bout people that stick apostrophes where they shouldn’t be and who spell the good Anglo-Saxon Mark as Marc, so you better watch out for him.

  137. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 27, 2005 at 7:25 pm

    #

    annegb, you are the best.

    Comment by Steve Evans — 10/27/2005 : 5:01 pm
    #

    Steve E. could tell a million lies elsewhere and I’d still know he was telling the truth in comment #116.

    I’ve been hoping to get a guest post from annegb at my blog for a while. I’m hoping she will e-mail me one.

    I’m looking for one from Lisa M too.

    Don’t give them ideas about one more blog to publish in before I get those guest posts. ;)

  138. Geoff J on October 27, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    Yup Mark, that’s what my quick research showed too. Ya gotta love our ever-shifting language.

  139. Jordan on October 27, 2005 at 8:24 pm

    This is HILARIOUS!! No offense taken here. I’m just grateful that AARON is not real! PHEW!! I was really getting nervous to think that there might really be people like that in the Church!

    And be nice to Greg- he’s a good guy.

  140. Amira on October 27, 2005 at 8:43 pm

    I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to get annebg to blog for months (and I know I’m not the only one). I’d love to blogging instead of only commenting.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Julie.

  141. a random John on October 27, 2005 at 9:24 pm

    Jordan,

    There are people like that. That is what is scary. What was unlikely was that all these people would spontaneously get together on the same blog, having never appeared before, and then post so openly about such out there/personal topics. However I don’t think that any one of the characters on their own couldn’t be found in any stake of the church.

  142. Jordan on October 27, 2005 at 9:32 pm

    ARJ:

    While I have encountered shadows of Aaron, I have never actually met someone with such narrow views as he espoused. And now I will no longer have the burden on my shoulders of assuming that even though I have not met them, they must be lurking around. I feel much lighter now- and kind of silly to think that I had been harboring so much resentment to a CARICATURE!!!

  143. Aaron Brown on October 27, 2005 at 9:41 pm

    Hey, what happened to the Banner of Heaven link?

    Aaron B

  144. Frank McIntyre on October 27, 2005 at 9:48 pm

    Aaron, it received its eternal reward.

  145. meems on October 27, 2005 at 10:24 pm

    The BoH link is off MA too. :-(
    In the meantime, check this out.
    http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php?p=1766#more-1766

    (how come I can’t link this?)

  146. Bryce I on October 27, 2005 at 10:37 pm

    At last check we have yet to hear from Brian G, but nice link, meems.

    After re-reading that thread, I’ve decided I really want Battle of the Planets action figures for Christmas.

  147. Kaimi on October 27, 2005 at 10:49 pm

    Recall that Brian’s vocation is reality TV. I think that his particular niche involves taking some mix of willing exhibitionist people, a zany story line, and constructing reality/fiction out of it. So this whole thing probably seems like less of a big deal — his daily job is to work with folks who blur the line between fiction and reality.

    Also, there is a segment of reality TV (and similar media) that uses unwilling victims, rather than willing exhibitionists. “Punk’d” and similar shows are quite popular; radio DJ’s make embarrassing calls to unwitting victims and play them on the air; daytime TV features set-up ambushes by gay admirers.

    These stunts aren’t generally well received by the victims. No one likes to be punked. And the “hi, I’m your gay admirer” ambush led to a murder. Based on comments, I think that a significant segment of readers are feeling punked at the moment.

  148. a random John on October 27, 2005 at 10:51 pm

    Bryce I,

    Would this be of any help?

  149. Bryce I on October 27, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    Darn you, arJ! Always trying to enable my self-destructive behaviors!

  150. Sue on October 27, 2005 at 11:00 pm

    I just never thought the bloggernaccle was a place where I had to worry about getting punked. Yes, I realize I am probably taking this way to seriously – I commented occasionally, but not daily, and probably don’t have any right to be irritated. HOWEVER (there is always a however, isn’t there?), as a faltering/wavering member, the bloggernaccle is where I come to sincerely and earnestly try to work through some of my doubts. Even though I don’t always comment, I ALWAYS read. I find/found some strength here in the bloggernaccle. I went from reading View from the Foyer every day to reading Times and Seasons and feeling hopeful. The bloggernaccle is where I come to try to find alternate explanations for doctrinal things that are bothering me. It’s where I try to find alternate viewpoints from the ones I hear in Sunday School and RS. And to find out that people are just screwing around, playing mind games, and snickering with their fellow in crowd naccle buddies – it’s disappointing. And I’m absolutely shocked that Rosalynde was involved in any way, shape, or form, because I’ve always really respected her posts and viewpoints. And it feels like someone pulled the rug out.

    Anyway, I won’t bore you with the rest of my moralizing about it. I’ll let everyone get back to the back patting and self congratulation. You are all right – we should never take things we read on the internet seriously – it really isn’t a community, and we should never take things we read on the internet to heart. Or to spirit. Or whatever. It’s all just a joke. (And please don’t lecture me about trusting a bunch of strangers I found on the internet – boy, have I ever learned my lesson on that one. Trust = gone. But when you have nowhere else to try to work through your doubts, you take what you can get. And obviously, bad idea.)

  151. Naomi Frandsen on October 27, 2005 at 11:39 pm

    Hello from Washington, D.C. It’s been a full hour and 20 minutes since anyone posted to this thread, so it’s possible that I’ve come too late and the party’s over and the lights are off (that would be fairly typical, actually). I wanted to respond a little bit to what people have been saying all day long, though. This morning, when we woke up and realized that the meticulous and implacable Frank McIntyre had methodically stripped off our masks, we began e-mailing each other back and forth to decide what the best thing would be to do (by the way, this provided a bit of a quandery: between the 95 e-mails in my inbox, the 146 comments on Nate’s thread, and the 122 comments on the 9 Moons thread–all of which I felt I should read completely before I could be prepared to respond aright–I have not actually had a chance to post anywhere until just now, when, as you can see, I am quite alone in the bloggernacle). We had some pressing priorities: (1) we wanted to make our apologies to people who had been genuinely hurt. This is something Steve felt particularly deeply. (2) we hoped to be able to make our intentions clear, even (maybe especially) to those who haven’t been following the Banner, since they would otherwise have no context for understanding what was going on. What? People creating fake characters as some kind of social experiment to manipulate duped commenters into confessing deep and personal things and then laughing at them? Abominable! Yes. That is abominable. And it seems that this is the portrait of the Banner that has emerged on this thread. All of the permabloggers–yes, including Aaron–will, as soon as we can, put up a post at the Banner explaining his or her goals and inviting people to question, condemn, or dismiss as they see fit. I plan on posting my final Greg post tomorrow (although I must warn you, I usually think I can get things done about 3 days before they actually happen), and I’ll explain there why I created Greg as a character, what I hoped to do with him, what I liked best about him and the way he was treated, and how he would have ended, had the storylines continued to their planned conclusion (which, in case you haven’t heard, was to be in about 2 weeks, right before Thanksgiving). We are also planning on having Matt Bowman, Mike Van Wagenen, and Alan Morrell complete their touted “Mormon Hoaxes” 13 Questions. Perhaps that will be a fitting conclusion to the Banner. If you were interested in Matt & co.’s prospective post, please do read it and respond to it, even if you wholly disapprove of their hosts. Anyway, a word about how we, the fake bloggers of the Banner, had planned for and hoped it would turn out. This comes from the very first e-mail that was sent out to all of the prospective writers, way back in…I think it was March, maybe April. It’s a very short portion from a 5 page document. And from the outset, my apologies to my fellow bloggers. I’m blogging rogue here, and I may be acting out of my rights. But since this is where people are airing grievances, I wanted to just give you this glimpse into what we were hoping to do from the beginning:

    “[We] feel that our number one aim–besides having fun– with this project is to explore the potential of blogging as a story-telling form. More specifically, we want to explore blogging as a way of telling Mormon stories, and more specifically than that we want to tell stories that reflect back on the bloggernacle itself.

    This is a high-minded goal to be sure, but I feel like it’s better to be ambitious at the start and fall short than to set an easy mark and also fall short, falling short being a real possibility in this endeavor.

    More importantly, [we] want to point out that our goal isn’t to deceive people, nor is it to mock people, or to even parody or satirize. Our goal is to tell good stories. We recognize that the idea has great potential for parody and satire, and the day may come where we all throw up our hands and say we’re not good enough…One other thing, the one area of parody where I invite everyone to have free rein is self-parody. For example, among the great ideas that have been floated around are such things as having Steve’s character accuse Steve of poaching, or to have DKL’s character try and have DKL banned from commenting on our blog.”

    Some clarification: the [we] is (obviously) the person writing this document, but I wanted to not trespass upon other people’s disclosures more than I already am. Also, the “besides having fun” comment referred in no way to having fun at the expense of others. It was having fun writing, having fun putting ourselves in someone else’s mind, having fun trying to tell a good story for six months. The *least* fun parts have been when people have shared deeply personal things and we all felt like jerks. One blogger, in particular, felt like shutting the whole thing down quite early on, the first time commenters started getting personal. On that occasion, I think I made some reply about how truth can be what we are trying to do, the good we hope people can take out of this, kind of like Cyrano speaking through..forgot his name. The handsome dude who delivered the letters. Anyway, things didn’t turn out so well for Cyrano, either; perhaps we should have learned our lesson earlier. In any event, I’ve copied these sections of that first letter and I’ve written this rather long comment in order to try to disclose more about the real Banner so that, if you so desire, you can make an even more considered judgment of it. I realize, of course, that many of you simply will not care. But I wanted to let you know that we do.

    Now a few asides. Nate, when you came over and did your presentation at my apartment, you clicked on my bookmarkers, and among them–first among them, in fact–was Banner of Heaven. I immediately broke out in a cold sweat because (1) why on earth would Naomi Frandsen have the Banner bookmarked, and (2) had you clicked on the Banner, just for kicks, you would immediately have gone to the admin page, where I was logged on as Greg. Really, the game could have been up much sooner, had Nate only misclicked. Second, Bell brothers and M*, now you know why I was such a chary guest poster. It’s not just because I was cheating on you with the Banner, it’s also because you DEFINITELY would have fired me once this all came out. That would have been quite humiliating. Third, thanks to Rosalynde for bringing out her big guns of literary theory to defend her little sister.

    I think that’s it. I’ve been writing for an hour, and this is embarrassingly long. Again, the fake bloggers will be spilling their guts for the next week or so over at the Banner. In the meantime, I hope that the bloggernacle community continues with all of the good things it is and does.

    PS Nate was explaining that the term “bloggernacle” was coined in conjunction with the Catholic blogs’ collective name of “St. Blog’s Parish” (or something like that). Well, when a friend heard that, he promptly decided that Jewish blogs should thereafter be called “blogagogues.”

  152. Jordan on October 27, 2005 at 11:50 pm

    I think the best story-teller of all was Septimus, as far as that goal goes. I looked forward to every Septimus post about his encounters with the sister missionaries. I think the Septimus character earns the “storyteller” award. Indeed, the very mystery in which the whole character was shrouded made it that much more fun to read his posts.

  153. Naomi Frandsen on October 27, 2005 at 11:50 pm

    Sue, I’ve just read your comment (written since I started writing my last one). I’m sorry that we’ve yanked the rug out from under your feet. I don’t want to disavow the Banner (although I do want to make it a little more understood), but I will say that while the Banner probably wasn’t ever a very good place to go for doctrinal discussion or speculation (we specialized in melodrama), I think that many other blogs are and will continue to be. As for Rosalynde’s involvement in it, she pulled out before it began precisely because she felt uneasy about the whole thing. She has commented over there a couple of times probably out of loyalty to some of the bloggers, and she has even made herself the butt of some of the satire on several occasions out of a sense of good fun.

  154. Jordan on October 27, 2005 at 11:50 pm

    I think the best story-teller of all was Septimus, as far as that goal goes. I looked forward to every Septimus post about his encounters with the sister missionaries. I think the Septimus character earns the “storyteller” award. Indeed, the very mystery in which the whole character was shrouded made it that much more fun to read his posts.

  155. Naomi Frandsen on October 27, 2005 at 11:54 pm

    Sue, I’ve just read your comment (written since I started writing my last one). I’m sorry that we’ve yanked the rug out from under your feet. I don’t want to disavow the Banner (although I do want to make it a little more understood), but I will say that while the Banner probably wasn’t ever a very good place to go for doctrinal discussion or speculation (we specialized in melodrama), I think that many other blogs are and will continue to be, and I hope you will keep on reading them and feeling hope. That’s one reason I was wholly seduced by the bloggernacle–I felt like smart, faithful people cared about what I thought. As for Rosalynde’s involvement in it, she pulled out before it began precisely because she felt uneasy about the whole thing. She has commented over there a couple of times probably out of loyalty to some of the bloggers, and she has even made herself the butt of some of the satire on several occasions out of a sense of good fun. But she took/takes very seriously her sense of responsibility to the people who read her posts, and it was a desire to respect that that prompted her early withdrawl.

  156. Naomi Frandsen on October 27, 2005 at 11:57 pm

    Whoops! The comment loaded before I was finished–now you can see how I revise things. Really, this is all about complete and total self-disclosure here.
    Jordan: I agree–I think the Septimus character was exceptionally well written, and I also looked forward to every single one of his posts. I don’t think Brian’s talked about Septimus yet, but I think he’ll be glad to hear he had a fan.

  157. Sue on October 27, 2005 at 11:59 pm

    Naomi, you miss the point. Paraphrasing from my post on BOH – it isn’t even the fake BOH blog, it’s the fact that you lose faith in the whole idea of a bloggernaccle community of people whose “light” you might be able to borrow for a while, people who you might be able to trust a little not to deliberately lead you in the wrong direction, and ask occasional doctrinal advice from. You wouldn’t get advice from the folks from the Banner, obviously (because they were a little too strange), but the naccle in general – only it turns out you can’t trust any of them either – they’re all in on it – isn’t that hilarious? I feel like an idiot.

  158. Bryce I on October 28, 2005 at 12:15 am

    Sue, for what it’s worth, and not that it’s any consolation, very few people knew that BoH was a fake for sure. By my count, excluding the BoH bloggers themselves, those who had proof (as opposed to just suspicions) that BoH was fake were myself, Kaimi, Geoff and Kristen J, and Rosalynde (who was going to be a BoH blogger). And many of those who suspected a fake were vocal in making their views known.

    The only words I can offer in my defense are that I only knew of the plan to create a fake blog. When BoH was announced in May, I visited and saw that I didn’t recognize any of the bloggers, at which point I realized that it was fake, and didn’t visit it again until a few weeks ago, by which point much of the damage had already been done. I would like to think that I might have done something had I read the blog regularly and seen what was going on, but I didn’t, so I offer an apology as someone who knew what was going on and didn’t make it known.

  159. Sue on October 28, 2005 at 12:21 am

    Never mind, I really am taking it too seriously, and I recognize that. I have no idea why I’m letting it get to me all of a sudden. They aren’t slaughtering bunnies after all. That I know of. For certain.

  160. Ben H on October 28, 2005 at 12:50 am

    Hi Sue, I hope you will stick around the bloggernacle. I think a big part of its value is as a place for people to think through their spiritual questions, and the other questions (political, life rhythm) that ultimately connect so importantly with spiritual matters.

    For my part, I had no idea what was going on at BoH, and I suspect there are many denizens of the bloggernacle who didn’t pay it a lot more attention than I did. I had read it a little bit long ago, but I just thought it was bizarre and never went back. T&S is usually as much as I can keep up with. Obviously later BoH was much more convincing for a stretch. The bloggernacle is a big place, like any town, and a lot of things go on there, but I wouldn’t take BoH as necessarily typical of anything.

    Hope you’ll stick around!

  161. kristen j on October 28, 2005 at 12:53 am

    MarK B- Obviously you’re NOT over it still, you just changed horses.

  162. Blain on October 28, 2005 at 1:40 am

    I realize that I’m not one of the regular contributors, like those who have been commenting on this so far. But, I have to wonder–can one give this whole affair a name?

    — The BoH Fiasco?
    –The Great Banner of Heaven Experiment?

    or my favorite:

    Bannergate!

  163. Eric Russell on October 28, 2005 at 1:54 am

    Good idea, Blain. But Ronan beat you to it.

  164. Larrea on October 28, 2005 at 4:23 am

    I am a frequent reader of the bloggernacle, but until now I have never commented. I am not emotionally involved in this community, but am a passive, but usually entertained observer. As such, I asking you guys to excuse my motherly intrusiveness and overly long wordy post, and I will give the bloggernacle community more or less the same advice I gave my Beehives when some well intended pranks turned out poorly. You are also free to roll your eyes, I’m used to it…

    Human communities usually have a power structure, even if the community does not have any “real” power, we are human beings, and as such, social power is real power, and should not be dismissed lightly by those who wield it. Pranks often have subtle social messages embedded in them. The same prank may have very different messages, depending on the social structure involved. When someone of a lower social standing plays a prank on someone of higher social standing, there is often flattery involved. This message could be “we pulled this prank because you are powerful but we like you”, or “we recognize you are powerful, and think you need to be brought down a bit, but nevertheless you are powerful”. When pranks are pulled on social equals, the message may be “you are one of us”. When pranks are pulled on one of lower social standing, the subtle message is one of reinforcing the social status- ” I am more powerful than you, you are low class”. Those who are insecure in their social standing may misread a friendly prank as a malicious one. Therefore, a prank may be pulled on the Bishop or your best friend and may be taken well, but when you play the exact same prank on the inactive girl who rarely comes, it usually is not taken so well. The exception for the last scenario is when there is a strong safe relationship between the prankster and the victim, and the victim has no reason to be threatened by the prankster.

    The bloggernacle community, despite its egalitarian potential, has a strong hiearchy, and those involved with Banner of Heaven were either related to, or friends of, or part of the bloggernacle elite, with DKL being the possible exception. On top of that, a few other well -connected bloggers were in the know. If this prank or experiment was pulled off by complete outsiders, I suspect the outcry would be quite different, but it was pulled off by insiders (whether they wish to admit their insider status or not). Even if the pranksters had the most innocent of intentions, those who are the most insecure in their bloggernacle status are those who will feel that the intention of the prank or experiment was a self-congratulatory subtle reinforcement of the bloggernacle social ladder, a mark of who is part of the “in crowd” and who isn’t. I do not feel that was the intention of the writers, but I do feel that is what is driving much of the fury. If people are hoping to build a community of worshipers, whether that be a Beehive class or the bloggernacle, there needs to be a recognition that new-comers and others will often feel that a social structure exists, whether you think it does or not. Those who are part of that social elite have an obligation to be especially sensitive to how their actions are perceived. To those offended, sometimes people are more naive than malicious.

    Good luck and I hope everything gets patched up, with Bannergate being just an entertaining, if painful, blip in the bloggernacle history.

    Larrea

  165. John C. on October 28, 2005 at 7:09 am

    Larrea,
    Wow! Comment more often!

  166. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 28, 2005 at 8:17 am

    Larrea, when I ran across the Banner of Heaven problems I almost deleted my current blog entry about C. S. Lewis and the Inner Ring, etc.

    But, I think Ned Flanders ast http://vivanedflanders.blogspot.com/ catches the feel for how many feel, and his blog makes a nice place to centralize discussions.

  167. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 28, 2005 at 8:18 am

    Since this thread is pretty exhausted, my entry was:

    http://ethesis.blogspot.com/2005/10/and-of-course-everyone-knows-what.html

  168. Tatiana on October 28, 2005 at 8:42 am

    Over at Hatrack River, we have seemingly much more experience with trolling episodes than you guys have in the Bloggernacle. They really challenged the community over there for a while, but in the end the community emerged stronger than ever. Every rationale given there, even the ‘sociological experiment’ was echoed here. I find that really interesting. (By the way, being made the unwitting victim of a sociological experiement is much more insulting than just being lied to. Obviously, it doesn’t work as an experiment, either. Where are the controls? What was the hypothesis being tested?)

    I appreciate that the motive here was not the same. I’m curious, though, why if it was a work of art, a story, or a parody, could it not have been billed as that to its audience? Would nobody have been interested? Did that option ever come up in discussions? Why all this swearing to secrecy? None of that jives, to me, with the stated motives. Wasn’t the fact that it was a good joke to play on others part of the fun all along?

    I just wanted to share what the outcome was on Hatrack, hopefully to help rebuild some of what was damaged. It saddens me to see people lose trust and lose something good. At Hatrack the consensus emerged that we are real people and not invented personas, those who make up the core community. People you come to know over time are people you can trust, same as in real life. Trolls are usually recognizable fairly quickly by the flavor of their posts. And here a bit of experience helps to discern them. But after a while you get a feel for the flavor of people who aren’t being real, in the same way that you can often tell an urban legend from the particular piquancy or twang that it has. This sense is tremendously useful in real life, too. Lessons learned here carry over.

    The internet isn’t false compred to the trueness of real 3 dimensional life, they are just different media in which real life is carried out. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Both are populated by real people who sometimes don’t tell the truth.

    I hope this helps. There’s no reason at all for this lovely community to be spoiled. I have learned so much here at T+S. It surprises me very much, too, that this happened in this way. I really did think the maturity and honesty of the participants was higher here. In a sense I’m disappointed, but in another sense it’s awesome to realize that people are people, and the same things happen in Mormon communities as in the rest of the world. We’re still working on buildling Zion.

    I’ve come to rely on the insights into the actual workings of the church that I’ve seen here, the realities behind the surface. I’ve come to know and greatly appreciate some of the people. The bloggernacle serves an important purpose for me, helping me see that I really am Mormon, and that my reading, thinking, and questioning are acceptable and right. Because of this community I feel as though I’m part of the body of the saints, a feeling I have yet to feel in any of my wards. I would hate for this community to be damaged, for I think it’s a great thing.

  169. danithew on October 28, 2005 at 9:03 am

    I haven’t said much in comments about this whole thing. Perhaps silence is dangerous. Someone asked me this morning if I was one of the BoH permabloggers.

    For the record, I was not part of the “in” group who knew that BoH was a sham.

  170. John C. on October 28, 2005 at 9:21 am

    Rats! I had danithew in my Aaron pool!

  171. danithew on October 28, 2005 at 9:31 am

    If the AKA plugin at BoH is working as it should, Aaron B. Cox is Christian Cardell from Mormon Spinozist.

  172. danithew on October 28, 2005 at 9:34 am

    I think this AKA (also known as) plugin is a very interesting idea. DKL says it has been designed so that it can be controlled who has access to matching names (or pseudonyms) and IPs. Right now BOH has it set so that we can all see who has written comments under what names. I hope this plugin will be made available to the ‘Nacle community or even the larger blogging community.

  173. Space Chick on October 28, 2005 at 10:01 am

    Naomi,

    I suspect that whatever reasons and explanations you finally post for your characters at BoH will be insufficient to justify the hurt that many people feel about the entire thing. Your explanations will probably even appear to be self-serving, so don’t expect a lot of understanding and forgiveness to flow just because BoH has come clean. That’s just my instinctive reaction to your comment here, and maybe it’s too harsh.

    If your “number one aim–besides having fun– with this project [was] to explore the potential of blogging as a story-telling form…to explore blogging as a way of telling Mormon stories, and more specifically than that…stories that reflect back on the bloggernacle itself” then I think you achieved mixed results. I’ll assume you had fun–apparently a lot of other people thought they were having fun too, and have now realized they weren’t. Can you tell stories on blogs? Sure. Is it effective? I assume that’s what you were trying to determine. But I think there is a difference between telling a story for entertainment and telling a story to elicit heartfelt confessions and sympathy from the listeners. You probably could have, as already suggested, written your posts, provided a disclaimer, and solicited critical reactions to see whether readers thought your story was effective or rang true. Would that have tainted the results in a literary sense? Possibly. Does the way you actually went about it make you feel more tainted in a moral sense? Your call.

    If your goal was to hold a mirror up to LDS society in general and bloggers in specific, then I’d say you did that fairly well, by mimicking a broad range of legit bloggers and creating false drama in the fictional lives of your bloggers, which people responded to as if they were real. Were they Mormon stories? Sure. Did they reflect back on the bloggernacle itself? In several ways. You caricatured certain common Mormon behaviors and attitudes, and we can assess for ourselves whether we recognized them as caricatures and stereotypes or whether we accepted them as valid. By creating arguments between yourselves and letting everyone else jump in, we can see how volatile different commenters are and what inflames them. We can see how trivial our comments are sometimes, especially when we’re told the issue we were commenting on wasn’t even real. But I think you could have also taken a real blog, selected some real posts, analyzed the comments, and then posted the results of that analysis to achieve the same effect without leaving those being analyzed feeling suckered.

    You also stated that your “goal [was] to tell good stories.” Sorry, that one you missed. They weren’t good stories. I kept wondering why there were such huge holes in each character, and assumed I was missing something obvious, or that it was an natural result of reading a blog, because unlike a novel the writer isn’t going to give you a complete life history up front before jumping into current events. But most other blogs are written by real people, and everything they write hangs together and is consistent. They may not give the whole story, but what they write has *integrity*. It’s actually a relief to know that the gap wasn’t in my understanding, but in the characters themselves.

    So, as an external observer, I’d say it wasn’t a success. You achieved some of your goals, but I suspect you’ll find that the price was too high.

  174. Kaimi on October 28, 2005 at 10:07 am

    Danithew,

    There are serious limits to the AKA idea. In a nutshell, it’s just not as accurate as it might appear. A lot of people post from the same IP addresses due to the way IP addresses are used on the technical end.

    An “AKA” on one address alone — 128.187.0.165 — would bring up Jim, Wilfried, Nate, Frank, Heather O., Ben Spackman, Kingsley, Brayden, and dozens more commenters. Even Languatron, our resident Battlestar Gallactica troll. This doesn’t mean that Nate=Jim=Heather=Languatron. It just means that that’s the central address used by the BYU network.

  175. Kaimi on October 28, 2005 at 10:10 am

    (By the way, if you intend to reply to my last comment, don’t include the words Langu____ or Battlest__ Galact___. If so, our filter will likely think that you _are_ the troll, and put your comment on hold till approved).

  176. Kaimi on October 28, 2005 at 10:12 am

    Err, I read my last comment and I think I’m overstating the case.

    IP addresses _are_ very helpful. With more evidence, they can show who a person has claimed to be. But they have real limitations as well.

  177. danithew on October 28, 2005 at 10:13 am

    Kaimi, I didn’t see a whole bunch of names with that IP address. I did see two different spellings of Cardell/Cardall though. Not sure what that means. Just curious about it.

  178. Kaimi on October 28, 2005 at 10:16 am

    Danithew,

    I have no comment on your Cardall connection — I’ll let others speak on that topic. :)

    I was speaking as to the general usefulness / abusiveness of an always-on AKA function.

  179. Nate Oman on October 28, 2005 at 10:17 am

    “Mr. Oman, answer the question!

    Your honor, I believe this witness is stalling!”

    Sorry, the witness has been getting some sleep for the first time in two days. I wasn’t “in” on the BofH thing. I didn’t even follow or read the blog, except when something in the comments was linked to from time to time. I found out the “truth” from the thread at Rusty’s blog.

    From what I know, BofH seems like a bad idea. On the other hand, I hope that all of the folks involved both as bloggers and commenters there will continue to participate in the bloggernacle. At the end of the day, I don’t think that the bloggernacle has any cosmic signicance. It can be a nice place to hash out ideas, concerns, etc., and it can be a nice way of connecting with interesting people. At other times, it partakes of all of the worst elements of a singles ward. Still, it seems to have been a real help to some people. I hope that it continues to do that.

  180. maria on October 28, 2005 at 10:21 am

    I read BoH on a pretty regular basis, but I never once posted. Nevertheless, I feel an extreme loss of respect for those involved and a general disillusionment with the bloggernacle as a whole.

  181. KentC on October 28, 2005 at 10:42 am

    Naomi, I just got in this morning and am trying to catch up on the BoH saga. I haven’t read through all of the comments after your first apologia but I had to stop and respond, sorry if what I say has already been said.

    What really irritates me about the tone of your explanation and the tone of Steve’s on BoH is this high minded, intellectualized blather about “exploring blogging as a story-telling form.” This was an elaborate, well planned and well executed prank, and if I were still a freshman in college I’d give you all a high five and a, “dudes, you guys rock!”

    Your rationalizing sounds like high school students who, after being caught stealing their rival school’s mascot statue on the night before the big game, try to explain it by saying it is a protest against a white, eurocentric power structure that has co-opted and trivialized the symbols of a conquered people…yeah, right.

    I’m not saying the emails you cited didn’t get sent, I’m not saying the conversations about exploring Mormon story telling didn’t happen. I’m saying that these high minded explanations don’t jive with the format, tone or execution that existed at BoH.

  182. Rosalynde on October 28, 2005 at 10:49 am

    Naomi, I’m probably in no state to be dealing with this right now, and I shouldn’t have come back to it this morning, but I just can’t leave you alone in this thread. I feel terrible that I invited you to post here at T&S on the matter. I thought that T&S would provide a kinder environment for you than the Banner (although I know you’ll post there, too), but it turns out to have been (on this thread, at least) a particularly hostile place. I’m so sorry; I can’t stand to think of my little sister, especially my sister out of all of them most devoid of malice, being beat up in a place that I call home. Let me just say: I understand what you were trying to do, I stand by you, I appreciate your apology more than I can say, I love you. A defense from me will probably hurt both of us, but I just can’t not give it.

    Defending you, not defending you, staying out of it all together—they all feel like wrong choices. So out of all the wrong choices I pick you.

  183. Sue on October 28, 2005 at 10:57 am

    As I just said to someone in a private email – for anyone feeling badly because of what I posted – please don’t. I’m obviously spiritually fragile – that is NOT Rosalynde’s fault, it isn’t Naomi’s fault, it isn’t Brian’s fault, it isn’t anyone’s fault – except mine. I’m projecting, I think. I know there was no ill intent, and I felt foolish this morning when I woke up – remembering what I’d posted. Talk about misplaced blame.

    It would be nice if there was a divinely sanctioned place on the internet where you could find all of the answers to your questions and be able to resolve all of your doubt, but that isn’t how it works, and I doubt that’s what Heavenly Father would want me to be doing anyway. The bloggernaccle is a place where you have a bunch of people trying to come together to talk about their religious feelings, and to enjoy some good conversation and fellowship. Putting “faith” in anything posted online is dangerous, and intellectually, I know that. So in a way, it’s a healthy wake-up call for me – one I probably needed.

  184. Jordan on October 28, 2005 at 11:04 am

    RE Christian Cardell as ABC at comment 171:

    That would explain all the early battles between Aaron and Christian about whose website would garner the most hits!

  185. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2005 at 11:14 am

    Sue, I’m sorry. You’ve been abused and trifled with.

    Rosalynde W. does not speak for me. I have every reason to respect Naomi Frandsen, but her comment here was devoid of remorse. Perpetrators of vicious hoaxes shouldn’t feel that their good intentions justify it, and people like Rosalynde W. who helped further the hoax shouldn’t try and help defend it.

    The more I think about this, the less satisfied I get with how the hoaxers are responding. At the moment, I’d rather have a wavering Sue in my ward than a totally-committed but callous and cavalier DKL, Steve E., Brian G, Naomi F., or Christian C.

  186. Matt Evans (Not *The* Matt Evans) on October 28, 2005 at 11:15 am

    Hoaxes ultimately are hoaxes, but some pay off better than others. Check this out: http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/in_the_city/i_am_gary_benchley.php#004515

  187. Aaron Brown on October 28, 2005 at 11:21 am

    So here’s an ethical quandary … I was “in on it,” so to speak, in that I was aware that a “fake blog” was about to be initiated in the Bloggernacle. I was also vaguely aware that such a project was ongoing. However, I’m just so damn lazy (until recently, I only frequented the Big 3, with occasional exceptions) that for the longest time I had never visited BofH. After I did pay a visit, it was quite a while before someone pointed out to me that BofH was the “fake blog” that I “knew” about. I hadn’t realized it on my own (and hadn’t read BofH enough to even think about it).

    So does this make me complicit? Or does this make me the dumbest denizen of the Bloggernacle for actually knowing there was a phony blog, but not figuring out which one it was.

    I report. You decide.

    Aaron B

  188. Seth Rogers on October 28, 2005 at 11:24 am

    I agree with Larrea’s comment (#164). BoH was probably ill advised. I don’t think those who were involved in it were using their best judgment.

    This whole thread has been a bit surreal for me. I only discovered BoH a couple weeks ago when I had some spare time and checked out the side-bar a bit. I actually found it through the Snarkernacle, which regularly ridiculed BoH and checked it out to see what the fuss was. The threads I read however, had a rather juvenille tone and I went elsewhere.

    It’s just a little disconcerting that this juvenille drama seems to be pervading all corners of the Mormon blogging community, including some corners I actually have a bit of an investment in (like T&S).

    This thing won’t affect my participation. But I have to admit that the Bloggernacle does have “egg on its face” at the moment.

  189. annegb on October 28, 2005 at 11:32 am

    Okay I’m over it. Let’s don’t get mad, let’s get even. You guys on Banner of Heaven, be afraid, be very afraid. We will take our time and you never know when we will get you.

    Or perhaps we could sue, I could be pathetic in court and we could take a blogging cruise to Europe or Hawaii. Something expensive.

    Yeah, Naomi, you don’t sound sorry. How gold is your butt?

    Who’s Christian? No offense.

    At the very least you will never hear the end of it from me. Ten years from now we will be arguing and I will say, “remember when you guys lied to me and did that hoax and broke my heart and everything? What about that?” And you will feel guilty and give me what I want.

    I’m still confused sort of about who was who, Naomi, Rosalynde, Steve, DKL, Brian, two others? If Naomi and Rosalynde and Steve are friends with DKL, why don’t you let him post here again? Aren’t you guys big cheeses here?

  190. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2005 at 11:39 am

    “If Naomi and Rosalynde and Steve are friends with DKL, why don’t you let him post here again?”

    Naomi Frandsen and Steve Evans arent’ big cheeses here.

    Rosalynde Welch was not an active participant in the hoax, and, anyway, she knows better than to try and reinstate DKL here.

  191. Bryce I on October 28, 2005 at 11:52 am

    I have a very short list of people I never want to have angry with me. annegb is now on that list.

  192. Seth Rogers on October 28, 2005 at 11:52 am

    Rosalynde, I’m not sure that the responses are that unjustified. I wouldn’t go as far as Adam Greenwood (#185) and call Naomi’s response “devoid of remorse.” Neither do I agree with KentC (#181) that this was solely conceived as a “teenage prank.” There is something to Naomi’s explanation of this as an “exploration of a literary form.”

    I am willing to entertain the idea that the permabloggers at BoH are a bit misunderstood in this thread. However, that doesn’t obviate the need for an unconditional apology.

    It’s a fine line to walk of course. It’s perfectly OK to try and explain why you did what you did. But after the explanation, we all have to be willing to toss all our justifications away, admit that they don’t excuse the conduct, apologize unconditionally, and be prepared for a bit of a rought time while the listeners sort their feelings out.

    But I think you’ll find that such an apology will make it unnecessary to do much further defending of your position. In fact, other people will probably be willing to stick up for you against some of the more angry reactions. But they can’t do that until the apology is out.

    I sympathize with the BoH crowd. I don’t like to see anyone caught in an embarassing position. But I think, in the balance, it’s time to apologize so we can start to move on.

  193. Elisabeth on October 28, 2005 at 11:54 am

    LOL, annegb! I guess some of us need to go through all five stages of the grieving process.

    1. DENIAL — “Whaaaa?? A fake blog? Well, sure, but they’re fake people, right? Not people we KNOW!!!”

    2. ANGER — “%$@^##&!!! Those jerks! I can’t believe they suckered me in!”

    3. BARGAINING–“Oh please, please let me not have written anything embarrassingly personal on that blog. What if they really WERE laughing about me behind my back? I promise I’ll never write another snarky comment again! Not even if Adam Greenwood compares me to cow!”

    4. DEPRESSION — “Man, I’m SUCH a loser. Why didn’t I listen to a random John? I’m going to stay up all night watching reruns of The Office, eat the rest of the spinach lasagna and debate the meaning of the universe”.

    5. ACCEPTANCE — “Oh well, I don’t have anything better to do right now. Let’s see what’s on the blogs.”

  194. Bryce I on October 28, 2005 at 11:55 am

    Aaron B. —

    I thought you thought M* was the fake blog.

  195. Kaimi on October 28, 2005 at 12:09 pm

    Elisabeth,

    Awesome — I couldn’t think of a better way to put it.

    (No wonder “Miranda” thinks you’re “fascinating”. . .)

  196. Seth Rogers on October 28, 2005 at 12:10 pm

    For the record, Brian/Septimus’ apology on BoH is an excellent example of what I think is called for.

  197. Sue on October 28, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    Actually Adam, thank you, but I haven’t. I was just a little slower to get to #5 in Elisabeth’s post above than some other people were. I wish admin would delete my posts here at T&S – I should never post after 11PM and I’m so embarrassed.

    And LOL, Annegb and Elisabeth.

  198. annegb on October 28, 2005 at 12:22 pm

    Plus I think it’s hypocritical to remove your link to Banner of Heaven now when you knew all along it was a hoax and left it there. What is that supposed to mean?

  199. Aaron Brown on October 28, 2005 at 12:26 pm

    Perhaps M* is a fake blog … in a different way.

    Aaron B

  200. Frank McIntyre on October 28, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    Anne,

    Kaimi put it up. In my opinion he should not have. Except for Rosalynde and Kaimi, the rest of us T&S’ers were completely unaware of the hoax. So the link came down once the hoax was uncovered.

  201. meems on October 28, 2005 at 12:32 pm

    Elisabeth, you are so funny!! Oh my gosh, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    Annegb, like everyone else here, I love you. So many times you have expressed just what I wanted to say, but couldn’t. And I agree with you that T&S shouldn’t have removed BoH’s link.

  202. Kaimi on October 28, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    Anne,

    It means that some of Kaimi’s co-bloggers are ticked off at him, with good reason, for putting up a fake link in the first place. And that “no fake links” is definitely the rule, going forward. And that I’m going to be mowing lawns for my co-bloggers for some time to come.

    I was the one who blogrolled them to start; (most) others at T&S had no idea the site was a hoax.

  203. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2005 at 12:34 pm

    Ditto what Frank said. If we had known it was a hoax we wouldn’t have linked to it.

  204. Naomi Frandsen on October 28, 2005 at 12:43 pm

    You’re right, Adam and annegb. I went back and read what I wrote last night, and it is devoid of remorse. It skipped over the remorse almost entirely and got right onto the point of trying to explain. I also made a cheap stab at a certain tone of self-possession and humor, which really wasn’t very tasteful, given how people were feeling. I’m sorry. Trying to justify what we did just discounts and invalidates any apologies we’re trying to make. And it’s not a very good way to try to ask for forgiveness. I’m sorry for that comment, and I’m sorry for what a madhouse we’ve made the bloggernacle over the past few days. I’m also very sorry for and sad about losing the respect and good will of people I admire a great deal. It is something of a relief to me that I actually don’t know many of you in person. It seems like it makes it a little bit easier, but that’s also where I went very, very wrong, because if I had known you or considered how you were actually responding to all of this, perhaps I would have done right sooner. Anyway, I need to actually go and get some work done, but I am sorry, once again. Annegb, I guess my butt is pretty gold. What does that mean? Rosalynde, I’m sorry that this has been so very distressing to you. You didn’t do wrong in having me post something here–I just did wrong in what I posted. You really have never led me astray–it was my own very poor judgment which brought me here. If I paid more attention to how you did things, I would be much better off in all area of my life. Okay, it’s getting very embarrassing crying here in the Georgetown library. I

  205. KentC on October 28, 2005 at 12:45 pm

    Seth, I think this will be my last comment about BoH. Just to clarify, I do not believe it was conceived solely as a teenage prank. I do believe Naomi and Steve and anyone else who says they wanted to do this as an exploration of blogs, of writing, of Mormon stories or of hermeneutical constructs of post-modern meems in the bloggernacle…

    What I do believe is that the BoH site that they created does not support those impressive sounding goals. The group aspect, the phony pictures, the secrets, the blatant lies (“I have met Jenn…”) the active participation in the comments and the behind the back support given it by individuals at other blogs all have a tone that are more prank than academia.

    This disconnect between the actual product and the stated intent makes me suspect either a lack of self awareness or a healthy dose of disingenousness on the part of the participants.

  206. Naomi Frandsen on October 28, 2005 at 12:48 pm

    Seth, I’m not doing it as well as Brian, but his apology is what I’m trying to do.

  207. Bryce I on October 28, 2005 at 12:53 pm

    Hey, Kaimi, Battle star Gala ctica is a perfectly valid topic of conversation at a blog like this. In fact, if you were running slashcode, I’m sure a random John would have had several threads on it already. Free the blog!

  208. a random John on October 28, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    I’m wondering, what are the ethics of making a “fake” blog versus posting under various “fake” personas. I know that some of the people commenting here that are not Bannerites have posted under fake names at this and other blogs. Frank has no doubt run your IP addresses through the system and is compiling a list. In any case what are the ethics of commenting under various personalities (some frivolous, some serious) versus perma-blogging under such conditions?

    I’m also serious about my earlier question regarding what Frank did. Does T&S have any sort of privacy policy or are all of our IP addresses open to the persual of any of the perma-bloggers for any purpose?

    Full Disclosure: I posted under a variety of easily identifiable screen names prior to settling on a random John. Since then I have posted once under a different name using a technique to hide my IP address in order to viciously attack Aaron Brown. I will probably do so in the future if he falls off the wagon again.

  209. Seth Rogers on October 28, 2005 at 1:54 pm

    Naomi,

    Just to be clear, I was never invested in BoH. So I’m not really the one to apologize to.

    That said, I’m willing to accept it and move one. As far as I’m concerned, it was a lapse of judgment. And we’ve all had those.

  210. Wilfried on October 28, 2005 at 1:55 pm

    I am not sure I need to add my voice here. When Nate posted this post, it was the first I heard of this matter. Honestly, I was confused and didn’t know how to assess it, as I never read BoH and had no idea of what was going on. Still, I love the community as I know it from T&S. I admit that lack of time results in few visits to the other bloggernacle sites, though I often follow the links that posters and commenters offer. At the same time I do not want to give the impression that this matter, as it has been revealed through all the previous reactions, leaves me indifferent. I ache for all who have been hurt, but I rejoy too in their robust reactions and in their excellent analyses, as is obvious from previous comments. There is a lot to learn here.

  211. Bryce I on October 28, 2005 at 2:01 pm

    a random John, you ask good questions. I’ve been wondering about some of the same questions myself.

    I always assume that site administrators are looking at whatever information is available to them. I have a personal policy of not peeking unless there’s abuse, but there’s nothing stopping me from going back on my policy in the future. (It turns out I could have done what Frank did over at M* to figure out the identities of Jenn, Miranda, and Septimus).

    I posted a short piece on making your comments anonymous over at M*, because I think it’s important that truly anonymous comments be available.

  212. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 28, 2005 at 2:01 pm

    Well, given my experience with the AKA plug-in (it identified me as NFlanders and Steve EM as well as me, due to the fact we had all used AOL sometime in the last year) … I don’t think it is quite ready for prime time.

    I would like to see BOH continue to the finale they had planned.

    Anyway, I’ve come home for lunch, checked on things, posted some, and now need to go back to work.

    And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

  213. Aaron Brown on October 28, 2005 at 2:35 pm

    Who says I was ever on the wagon?

    Verily, verily, I say unto you that the ethics of “fake” personas are simple: It’s perfectly fine to use a pseudonym (especially given that everybody knows you can’t really hide your identity for long). But it is an unforgiveable sin to use someone else’s fake persona as your own. It is, of course, a capital offense to pretend to be the spouse of a fake persona (that means you, Heber Fielding …). It is just fine and dandy to speak vicariously on behalf of Kurt’s mom.

    Aaron B

  214. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2005 at 2:48 pm

    Good on ya, Naomi Frandsen.

    “I’m also very sorry for and sad about losing the respect and good will of people I admire a great deal.”

    I think you’ll find that you have a reservoir of respect around the bloggernacle that your apology goes a long way to fully restoring.

  215. Sarah on October 28, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    Wow. So I agree with everything Sue said when she was still upset, annegb said at all, and this thing JKB mentioned 60 comments ago:

    “I dropped by BoH only occasionally. I didn’t realize there was it was phony. Makes me wonder what I said….Guess some of you might have felt sorry for me actually reponding openly to people.”

    Also, I’ve never been so glad to be a “personal”/”light extemporania”/”sooooo not a bloggernacle blogger” person. Even the jerks on slashdot live up to a minimal “reveal your real identity or be seen as an annonymous coward” structure. I can’t really look down on them for being meaner or less considerate or less “real” than anyone in the bloggernacle now, now can I?

  216. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2005 at 4:09 pm

    “I can’t really look down on them for being meaner or less considerate or less “real” than anyone in the bloggernacle now, now can I? ”

    Why yes, you can. I am, unfortunately, a real person.

  217. alamojag on October 28, 2005 at 4:10 pm

    I have not been a regular poster for a while, and am embarrassed to admit that I was one of those who was taken in. Believing BoH to be real, I made some very personal comments in several threads. While I’m not sure those posts made any impact on anybody reading them, they were cathartic for me, believing I was sharing some of my pain and struggles with people who might have cared. I wasn’t as heavily invested as annegb, but am regretting posting nevertheless.

    I guess I’ll go back to just being another lurker. I find I can trust myself to read more than I can to write.

  218. Sarah on October 28, 2005 at 4:14 pm

    “Why yes, you can. I am, unfortunately, a real person.”

    Given the new uncertainty regarding such matters — and after all, several purportedly trustworthy people said that very thing and lo, and behold, they were lying — I have two words for you: Prove it.

    (not seriously that angry… but how on earth did sensible grown-ups who’ve spent all these years in the church and tell their kids not to lie and all the rest of it not think that this would make trust – and the lack thereof – a serious problem in this community?)

  219. Ronan on October 28, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    Adam Greenwood is indeed a real person. I have had a P.I. investigating him for weeks and boy, do I have some stories to tell. Scooter ain’t got nothing on this conservative.

  220. Ronan on October 28, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    Don’t delete me, AG! Don’t delete me!

  221. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2005 at 4:57 pm

    Sarah Doe,

    Unless you think Notre Dame is in on the prank . . .
    http://www.nd.edu/~ndlaw/prospective_students/profiles/clerkship_greenwood.html

    Nate Oman has met me, and he can vouch for me, unless you think BYU is in on the prank:
    http://farms.byu.edu/viewauthor.php?authorID=281

    and the Sidley Austin law firm:
    http://www.sidley.com/lawyers/bio.asp?ID=O278591336

    Ben Huff also:
    http://www.nd.edu/~bhuff1/

    I in turn can vouch for having met Ryan Bell and the Spackman cousins, and Brian G., and the late J. Max Wilson. I have known Bryce I. since I was a freshman in college.

    I’ve never met Frank McIntyre, Jim Faulconer, Russell Fox, Kaimi Wenger, Gordon Smith, Melissa Proctor, Greg Call, or Wilfried Decoo, but I believe they’re real:
    http://jamesfaulconer.byu.edu/
    http://www.byubookstore.com/ePOS/this_category=253&store=439&item_number=1732583&form=shared3/gm/detail.html&design=439
    http://fhss.byu.edu/econ/faculty/McIntyre/Index.htm
    http://www.tjsl.edu/index.cfm?rID_int=4&sID_int=43&xID=208
    http://www.wiu.edu/PoliticalScience/ (scroll down)
    http://smithinstitute.byu.edu/News/Newsletter/newsletterSum2003.pdf
    http://www.law.wisc.edu/facstaff/biog.php?ID=510
    http://www.mofo.com/attorney/individual.asp?Call10444

    My good friend Kirsten Christensen, formerly a German Professor at Notre Dame, knows Julie Smith intimately.

    I have no objective evidence or personal encounter with our other cobloggers here or at the Star, but they have never said anything to me that would indicate they were operating under false pretenses.

  222. MDS on October 28, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    Re: 183 and Sue’s statement that she is fragile: This seems like an “egg-shell skull” situation to me. In the law, a tortfeasor takes his victim as he finds him. If I hit someone lightly on the head and shatter their skull, it makes no difference that I couldn’t reasonably anticipate the scope of the harm my battery might cause. I made the choice to commit a battery, and I am liable for the results, strange as they may be. Here, it appears that the BoHers have to deal with some unanticipated harm caused by their wrongdoing. I am glad that they are taking steps to do so.

    I’m reminded of the song “When You tell One Lie”

    When you tell one lie, it leads to another
    So you tell two lies to cover each other
    Then you tell three lies and, Oh Brother,
    You’re in trouble up to your ears!

    So you tell four lies to try to protect you
    Then you tell five lies so folks won’t suspect you
    Then you tell six lies and you’ll collect
    A life filled with worries and fears

    ‘Cause you can’t remember how many lies you’ve told
    And half the things you say aren’t true
    And sometime you’ll slip up, you’ll trip up and then
    Whatever will become of you?

    So you lie and lie without even trying
    And each lie you tell will keep multiplying
    ‘Till the whole wide world will know you’re lying
    Then you’ll be
    Suspected
    Detected
    Rejected
    Neglected
    Disliked
    And you should!
    When you lie, you’re closing the door
    On everything good

  223. Kaimi on October 28, 2005 at 5:04 pm

    Sue,

    I feel really bad about any role that I’ve played in derailing you from your spiritual journey. It sounds like you’re doing better now. I hope so.

    You’ve mentioned that the bloggernacle has helped you with doubts about the church, and that makes me happy. I hope it can continue to do so. “Outreach” or whatever you call it wasn’t my original goal with this blog — my original goal here was just to have good conversations with others about interesting issues — but I think that the bloggernacle’s ability to strengthen others has been its best (unintended?) side effect.

    If you have any specific topics or concerns ‘d like anything discussed at T&S, let me know, and I’ll throw a post into the hopper for you.

  224. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2005 at 5:04 pm
  225. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2005 at 5:14 pm

    re #220:

    Mr. Gorbachev! Take down this comment.

  226. Sue on October 28, 2005 at 5:20 pm

    Oh gosh, would everyone please ignore my posts from last night!!! But you’re all very compassionate, and I appreciate it.

    (And Kaimi, I might take you up on that sometime. It’s hard when only the apostates talk about certain topics – there is no balance, and no alternate/hopefully correct viewpoint to consider. Unless you want to drive yourself insane over at FARMS.)

    And now I can’t get that “When you tell one lie” song out of my head MDS – talk about flashbacks – thanks a lot!

  227. Jonathan Green on October 28, 2005 at 5:36 pm

    I object to the nakedly political dimension of this whole incident.

    The Miers candidacy implodes, and with it the reputation of the Bush administration for invincibility…and no one notices, because they were too busy watching the implosion of BoH.
    A senior White House aide is indicted, and along with him the administration’s warmaking agenda…and no one notices, because they were too busy indicting the integrity of BoH.
    The rest of the nation wonders why Bush is still so popular in Utah. Now we know: because half the state is too busy following unfolding BoH revelations on three different websites. And people are upset that BoH created a weird parallel universe!

    Who benefits from this? Who would be fiendishly clever enough to orchestrate the whole BoH meltdown just at the right time to distract Mormon blog readers from a crucial moment in national politics?

    Adam Greenwood, j’accuse! Let the show trials begin!

  228. manaen on October 28, 2005 at 5:37 pm

    Late, but here’s my take:

    Sometime in the past, I stumbled across the Playpen Theory. It is that before God entrusts us with eternal exaltation, eternal sealings, and his eternal power, he placed us in an artificial sphere in which we would practice living eternal principles until we had learned to live them eternally. We’re isolated in the playpen, where we can’t cause any eternal harm outside of it, until we’re ready to enter the real/eternal sphere to effect eternal results. We’re given training toys here in the play pen to learn principles: tithing, Word of Wisdom, canning assignments, even though there won’t be, I suppose, money, cigarettes, or peach trees in the celestial kingdom.

    Here in the playpen, we’re free to love each other or not. Our common character determines the societies, governments (see chap. 3 of John Taylor’s “Government of God”), and economies that we create. These don’t evolve by themselves; they are created by the people in them. Our values infuse these. Everywhere we create evidences of our spiritual maturity. The artificial training toys aren’t eternal, but how we use them is. To borrow a phrase from Robert Pirsig, our actions within this artificial world are “a physical reflection of a spiritual reality” – basically, how well we’ve made Christ’s two great commandments our essence.

    A parallel in and to this artificial sphere is found in the artificial blog, BoH. Some of the comments about it reveal a belief that because the blog wasn’t real that the actions in it by the bloggers don’t matter. This might be right if readers were aware that it was a fake blog. However, it was based upon deceiving people. The bloggers were aware some people were investing heart and soul, but the bloggers set their own hearts on continuing the deceit over sparing the pain they knowingly were causing. Maybe someone could explain the difference between this and hurting you to get what I want.

    A hypothetical situation for BoH bloggers: you’re sitting in an office, across the desk from a nice man in a business suit, discussing your spiritual progress. How would you answer, if he were to ask something like, “Are you honest in all your dealings with your fellow man?”

    I see no problem with maintaining BoH’s link at T&S, if it’s under the right heading. Maybe “LDS Fiction,” if “Sucker Punches” seems too colorful.

    Some comments sought refuge in a moral fog, e.g. “the blogging genre is still sufficiently new, still so wild and wooly in its forms, conventions, and techne, and still evolving so quickly, that it’s not clear to me that there is yet a fixed social meaning attached to blogging speech acts. Each blog tends to develop its own, of course, in the way that each novel adopts its own p-o-v and relaitonship to the reader, but I don’t yet think we can say *in general* that the social meaning of blogging is stable.” (This commenter later said, “of course, whether or not the conventions and assumptions are established, it would be manifestly wrong in any context to defraud another person.”) . Blogs don’t “tend to develop their own” “social meaning.” People in the blog decide whether their own social meaning is to be honest and loving or deceitful and hurtful. The social meaning of blogging — and any other action — is stable because it’s a reflection of the character of who acts. Undefined situations are more revealing of this character because it isn’t constrained by accepted forms developed through someone else’s character. The answer is in the playpen: it’s not the toys but how each of us seeks to use them.

    Another foggy comment was about ”a responsibility on persons of good character to be cautious about just how and how far they depart from the norms of analogous modes of communication and expression in other contexts.” Should a person of good character depart from the norms (honesty, caring) of communication? Should the technology of the communication change the “principles of righteousness” we’re to be learning in this life?

    Another commenter said, “The experiment didn’t go wrong, the experiment was wrong.” This recalls the experiment years ago in which people were told to administer increasingly-intense electric shocks to others for giving incorrect answers, even if they caused heart attacks. The test wasn’t the answers given, but the willingness of people to cause others pain because it was in their minds justified by the experiment. In that case, people weren’t really hurt but in the not-real blog, people really were. This is like the serious pun “the trial of Jesus” in which, from the eternal perspective, it wasn’t Jesus on trial but the people conducting it.

    ”Maybe I’ve just had too many *real* bad things happen to me. Someone plays a trick on a blog? Who cares? No one’s dead, in jail, or in the hospital, I’m good.” Yes, you are good, but what of the tricksters? Here are people that continued to seek their own rewards in deception when aware that it hurt others. This isn’t the time for “who cares,” but time to care enough to help them repent.

    “What do you do when you’re sworn to secrecy about something of this sort?” Psychologists call this enabling. Judges call it being an accomplice.

    “At the end of the day, I don’t think that the bloggernacle has any cosmic signicance.” As noted earlier, artificial spheres have eternal consequences in the way that we act within them.

    “Defending you, not defending you, staying out of it all together—they all feel like wrong choices. So out of all the wrong choices I pick you.” Defend what? Stand by your sister, but what is there to defend? Even Mark Hacking’s family stood by him and gave him their love while saying that what he did was wrong and he had to face it. I believe it’s harmful to her to fog the understanding of what she’s done and soften their responses in the moment the people she hurt, and others that care enough to try to teach her something better, are working to show her why she was wrong. To deflect their comments dishonors them and retards the growth and healing of the offender.

    “I went back and read what I wrote last night, and it is devoid of remorse. It skipped over the remorse almost entirely and got right onto the point of trying to explain.” Don’t try to explain. Never ruin an apology with an excuse. The focus of an apology should be upon the person to whom you apologize. It should not tease the offended person into thinking it’s about them and then turn to asking them for understanding of your discomfort. Just say, “I hurt you and I’m very sorry. I promise to not repeat this. Please tell me what I do now to make restitution.”

    The last comment was followed by, “Okay, it’s getting very embarrassing crying here in the Georgetown library” More self-absorption, now with prestigious-name dropping. To borrow some other value to offset the current error? Please, let go of the crutches, accept the pain, and let it focus you on the growth now available. “Pain brings you to a humility that allows you to ponder.” (Rob’t. D Hales, GenCon 10/1998). This process transformed my life from much, much worse than we’re discussing here. I hope you embrace it.

    I believe BoH is an example of people’s intellectual abilities and pride outrunning their spiritual maturity in living correct principles. “And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard—have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves. Behold, I say, is not this the cause that the trees of thy vineyard have become corrupted?” (Jacob 5:48)

    I believe these people are rooted in the right principles and I hope that they’ll ponder what they’re hearing here and develop more Godlike characters. “Gaining knowledge is one thing, and applying it is another. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge to the development of a noble and Godlike character. A man may possess a profound knowledge of history and mathematics; he may be an authority in physiology, biology, or astronomy. He may know all about whatever has been discovered pertaining to general and natural science, but if he does not, with this knowledge, have that nobility of soul which prompts him to deal justly with his fellowmen and to practice virtue and honesty, he is not a truly educated man.” — David O. McKay, “Improvement Era,” Sept, 1967

    How should the rest of us treat BoH’s bloggers? “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.” (Rom 15:1-2).

    These people say they were experimenting. Maybe we could be guided by Pres. Hinckley’s recent comments about Ryan Cushing, who experimented with chucking a frozen turkey through the windshield of Victoria Rivulo’s car, smashing her face. She sought his healing and at his trial, “Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you.’
    “Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, ‘It’s OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.’ “

  229. Wife of Septimus / Brian on October 28, 2005 at 5:42 pm

    Okay. The wife of Brian Gibson has something to say about this.

    The irony is that I can’t even get to the damn BOH site to make my comment. Here, in the house of Septimus/Brian, at the computer next to his desk, I can’t find the site. I’ve actually only been to it a couple of times, and I always clicked on the T & S link to get there. Now the link is gone, and I’m too lazy to do a search and find it. So I’ll post it here on Nate’s T & S thread, even though it seems this discussion is definitely winding down. As usual, I’m late to the party.

    I should have known when Brian and Steve cooked this thing up months ago that it would all come crashing down around them. Remember, these are the two guys who simultaneously tried to date both me and Rosalynde at the same time while all four of us were in the same class together. Now it seems that ten years later they have reunited for “Brian and Steve’s Experiments in Poor Judgment: The Sequel.”

    The main reason I never went to BOH is because while Brian has been busy writing the life of Septimus, I’ve been even busier moving into a new house, working basically full time, and taking care of our baby. . .who has tended to run around eating sharp objects while Brian “watches her” (i.e. blogs on BOH).

    In all seriousness, though, the one thing that I did want to mention here is that throughout the whole BOH thing, I never once heard Brian and any of the other bloggers joke or ridicule the BOH believers. I never heard them call the BOH believers stupid or delight in fooling them. Obviously, I am not privy to every exchange the BOH writers had, but I thought that some who commented on BOH might feel comforted in knowing that I never heard them be mocked or made fun of. It’s true, the BOH writers really just wanted to tell good and interesting stories. Not that that makes what they did excusable, I know. And obviously, they didn’t think through the ramifications of their actions. But for what it’s worth, they would have kept the site going even if nobody at all visited.

    I can also tell you that they are feeling really ashamed right now. When I went to bed at 3:00 AM, Brian was still up writing his apology. When I woke up at 7, he was still there at the computer. And I’m seriously worried that poor Steve E is going to throw himself from the Brooklyn Bridge or something. Don’t jump Steve!

    Now, I think that there is really only one way to settle this business once and for all and make the BOH writers pay. I think that Rosalynde’s dad SHOULD kick Brian’s butt at the next Miller Eccles group. Believe me, he’s had this coming for a long time. I’m sure Brother Frandsen could give Brian a real good butt kickin. Since it was Brian’s brainchild, why shouldn’t he take the brunt of the punishment? And I’ll take photos of the butt kickin’ and post them on the snarkernacle.

    Nuff said.
    ~Shannon Keeley

  230. Adam Greenwood on October 28, 2005 at 5:56 pm

    “Who benefits from this? Who would be fiendishly clever enough to orchestrate the whole BoH meltdown just at the right time to distract Mormon blog readers from a crucial moment in national politics?

    Adam Greenwood, j’accuse! Let the show trials begin!”

    And who would be powerful enough to give ‘Adam Greenwood’ a link on Notre Dame’s website purportedly establishing his identity?

    Karl Rove.

  231. R.W. Rasband on October 28, 2005 at 6:08 pm

    It seems to me that the very basis of social interaction is the assumption of good faith; that is, you believe you are not being deliberately deceived by the other. When this most basic trust is violated, no matter that the rationalization is “good reasons”, then the transaction is corrupted. The New Testament advises us to let our communications be “yea means yea and nay means nay.” The lack of this clarity does make the internet a treacherous thing at times. I always try to hold up my end of the bargain by signing my real name to whatever I post. I kind of always suspected that the Bloggernacle was way too invested in big personal egos and showing off, and Bannergate just confirms my doubts. It’s sad when we have to view the Mormon neighborhood of the net with the same skepticism we use on more secular sites. It was supposed to be special, and now its revealed as something else.

  232. annegb on October 28, 2005 at 6:11 pm

    Naomi, I’m sorry. That was a snotty comment, thrown out offhand. I call my daughter Princess Buttgold because she’s so spoiled. Comes from an old friend from Mexico who used to say of some people, “they think their butts are made out of gold.” Picture it with a Mexican accent.

    You didn’t lose my respect, I still think you’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever known.

    Nobody killed anybody here, it was a silly prank. I didn’t say anything I wanted to hide, I don’t have too many secrets. No real harm done.

    Let’s change the subject. Let’s close this embarrassing thread. Enough apologies already. Please, please, please.

  233. Davis Bell on October 28, 2005 at 6:13 pm

    “Brian and Steve’s Experiments in Poor Judgment: The Sequel”

    Lolololol.

  234. Seth Rogers on October 28, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    “The main reason I never went to BOH is because while Brian has been busy writing the life of Septimus, I’ve been even busier moving into a new house, working basically full time, and taking care of our baby. . .who has tended to run around eating sharp objects while Brian “watches her” (i.e. blogs on BOH). ”

    Ouch! That hits close to home you know!

  235. Shannon K on October 28, 2005 at 6:52 pm

    Yeah, I guess that was a low blow. Sorry Brian, Seth, anyone else who was offended by my comment. I’ve been frustrated that Brian chose such a very busy and stressful time in our lives to do BOH, but obviously this is not the time or place for that conversation. . .
    My apologies.

  236. Davis Bell on October 28, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    “but obviously this is not the time or place for that conversation. . .”

    Agreed. The time is later tonight, over at BOH.

  237. Seth Rogers on October 28, 2005 at 7:05 pm

    Shannon, there are very few things I am offended about, to be honest. Your comment was not among them.

    There was a heavy dose of self-mocking in my response there. I suppose I should have tacked a =) on the end …

  238. Matt G. on October 28, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    What gets me is that the people running BOH are a Wall Street lawyer (Steve), a “Hollywood” writer (Brian), a PhD student (Naomi), a stay-at-home Mom (Allison), and a scientist (Christian?).

    Can you really make it to all those places in life with such an astonishing lack of judgment, common sense, and foresight?

    And you can do all those things well while creating a fake identity and tending it for six months (In addition to all you other blogging activities, your callings, and, as Shannon K. sadly points out, your *children*)?

  239. Laura on October 28, 2005 at 7:40 pm

    I don’t comment often, mostly because I feel overwhelmed by the knowledge and skill of the “regulars”. However, I read both T&S and BOH daily.

    When I did comment, I found a much warmer reception at BOH than I ever have here. They seemed to value everyone’s input, unlike T&S where it appears you have to be one of the in-crowd to be acknowledged.

    For all of the problems with the BOH situation, I think T&S could learn a little from it themselves.

  240. Matt G. on October 28, 2005 at 7:45 pm

    Laura: I think what bothers people is that “warm reception” was simply the set up for a punchline — the joke got better and better if they got more commenters. Is fake warmth and feigned interest better than the rough and tumble of a real conversation, where sometimes you aren’t heard? I don’t think so.

  241. Seth Rogers on October 28, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    Matt G.

    Yes, you can make it all those places with a lack of judgment. Apparently, you can even be President.

  242. Laura on October 28, 2005 at 7:51 pm

    The converstaion at BOH was real to me. Despite the fact that the writers were posting under assumed personalities, they read my comments, considered them and responded to them, usually thoughtfully. That counts for a lot.

  243. Shannon Keeley on October 28, 2005 at 8:06 pm

    I suppose you could argue that although the identities were fake, the warmth and interest were quite sincere. That was my whole point in coming on to comment in the first place, (and then I got sidetracked in taking a stab at Brian.) I just wanted to say that the BOH writers really appreciated their readers and wanted them to feel welcome. So thanks, Laura, for speaking up. It will mean a lot to Brian.

    I know that many of you are still very upset with Brian, and you have the right to be. Please know that the apology letter he posted on BOH is very honest and sincere (and a hell of a lot better than any apology he’s ever given to ME!:). His passion in life is writing, entertaining, and trying to tell a good story, and clearly he got carried away and took things too far.

    I for one am glad it’s over. . .I’ve got a long “honey do” list for him to tackle now that he’ll have more time on his hands.

    Now, out of respect for Annegb and her request to let this thread die, I am going to stop commenting about it.

    ~Shannon

  244. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 28, 2005 at 8:34 pm

    http://bannerofheaven.weblogs.us/

    Just for those who need to drop by.

    I’m hoping that they shake this off and finish up the project and the storylines.

  245. Steve Evans on October 28, 2005 at 8:39 pm

    Laura, a great big THANK YOU from everyone at BoH. DKL, me, Brian, Christian, Naomi and Allison were all touched by your words on this thread. We love you for them.

  246. Geoff J on October 28, 2005 at 8:55 pm

    Let me, for the record, say that I am more guilty of this mess than most others. Kristen mentioned some of the reasons for this earlier (#65) but despite my misgivings and in fact predictions that this hoax was a timebomb waiting to go off, I allowed BoH to be promoted at ldsblogs.org (the MA portal) along with all the real blogs. I suspect that link I provided led more visitors (victims?) to BoH than the “Big 3″ combined.

    I have lots of excuses I would like to attempt, but the fact of the matter is that I was a coward and didn’t make the choice to refuse or even to make any stand at all.

    I made some angry comments in this thread. I want to assure everyone that my anger is largely with myself. I hate the facts that I learned about myself from this fiasco. In a very real sense, I am the liar I was speaking of in comment #1.

    I’m sorry this admission is so buried in this dying thread…

  247. Matt Evans on October 28, 2005 at 8:56 pm

    Shannon wrote (Comment 229): “But for what it’s worth, they would have kept the site going even if nobody at all visited.”

    That will be interesting to find out. I’m doubtful, but maybe they’ll prove you right and post as much at BoH over the next six months as they did the last, with comments closed and a disclaimer that the site is a work of fiction.

  248. Steve Evans on October 28, 2005 at 9:00 pm

    No, Matt, BoH is done for good — this thread has sealed its fate.

    I’m not going to comment here any more, but thanks again to those who have shown their support and friendship.

  249. Matt Evans on October 28, 2005 at 9:09 pm

    Steve,

    You seem to misunderstand the source of the complaints against BoH. They have nothing to do with BoH. The grievances listed here are 100% centered on the site’s masquerading as truth. So long as there’s a disclaimer that the site is a work of fiction, no one will mind a wit that you and others continue honing your writing and storytelling skills there. There’s no better way to show that this was your motivation all along. Quitting all together makes it appear that you’re blaming those who are hurt, and are essentially saying to them, “Fine. If you don’t like us passing off our fictional stories as though they’re true, then we won’t write them at all.”

  250. Tatiana on October 28, 2005 at 10:05 pm

    I want to say that manaen’s post #228 was awesome.

  251. D. Fletcher on October 28, 2005 at 10:11 pm

    Cross-posted at Banner of Heaven:

    I admit to one and all, I never read Banner of Heaven even a single time, until Rusty questioned its reality. I suppose I’m more interested in gossip than anything else — I immediately [went there] and thought everyone a faux.

    I do think there might have been some very unfortunate ramifications from the “secret.” But, as it turns out, all’s fine.

    I think my friendship with all of you is undiminished. Some of you I know well, like Steve, and some of you I’ve had online dialogues with, like Brian, and I recognize all of your names from the various blogs. Steve is one of the nicest (and funniest!) people I know and I would hate for him to develop a depression about this: it isn’t worth it.

    I’m also good friends with some of the commenters and I hope this continues too. I enjoyed playing the sleuthing game, and I’m a little sad that it’s over so soon, and I didn’t win.

  252. Miranda PJ on October 29, 2005 at 1:47 am

    Deleted per DKL’s request

  253. Seth Rogers on October 29, 2005 at 2:04 am

    Yeah, I think this thread is definitely about over. I’m going to bed.

  254. NFlanders on October 29, 2005 at 2:08 am

    Laura wasn’t attacked at all; she had a good point. BoH WAS substantially more friendly than T&S. That’s why I spent more time there than I ever have at T&S. Unfortunately, that’s like saying I was robbed by a very nice looking man. It boils down to this, do you prefer real-life unpleasantness or genuine kindness under false pretenses? I think a case could be made for either; the problem is that you didn’t let people choose, did you?

    DKL, I have no doubt that you are trying to protect Naomi, which is a noble goal. I feel bad that anyone should cry over this ridiculousness, and we should lay off Ms. Frandsen.

    However, your refusal to take your lumps strikes me as more self-serving than self-sacrificing.

  255. Seth Rogers on October 29, 2005 at 2:12 am

    On second thought, who am I kidding? I imagine DKL’s comment will generate another 50 posts.

    I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.

    But I’m still going to bed.

  256. Yeechang Lee on October 29, 2005 at 3:25 am

    Heather Oman wrote:

    A fake blog? Really? People really did that?

    People, get a life. I find the whole thing less offensive than just WEIRD! And I’m sorry, but it’s also a statement about who has WAY too much time on their hands.

    Amen.

    The thing I don’t get is, why in the world would people bother to go to so much trouble for *six months* for absolutely nothing substantial? I can see some kind of genuine long-term, formal sociological study on the “readership of group blogs” (not the bogus kind that some of those involved are seemingly trying to claim ex post facto), or something, but just for “fun”? To “tell a story”? Geez.

    I’ve been on the net since before my mission. I am very familiar with all kinds of online trolling methods; heck, for years I’ve run a Usenet post almost every April Fool’s Day that has reeled in suckers by the dozen. I’ve been reading The Onion since 1996. I’ve been watching Letterman long enough to prefer his NBC years and Conan since back when he was in perpetual danger of cancellation. Alan Sokal is a minor personal hero. So I think I understand how parody and satire work.

    I also know that there are unwritten rules that we online trollers have to follow; in particular, you have to give subtle, but substantial, clues to the readers that are paying attention. The few times I read Banner of Heaven I didn’t see anything like that. SeptimusH was obviously fake, of course, but I figured he was just being weird for the sake of being weird and everyone clearly treated him as such. From the posts I read “Jenn” sure sounded like a lot of sisters I’ve known in the NYC singles wards and elsewhere, “Miranda” sounded like a somewhat-stressed young married sister, and “Greg” (as Naomi herself acknowledged) sounded like a nonmember who through circumstance knows a lot about the church (heck, I know of at least one blog run by a guy who exactly fits that description). I read a couple of “Aaron”‘s posts from near the beginning before stopping, figuring he was one of those members that
    makes even a firm right-winger like me nervous. I gather from some of the above comments that lately there were some posts that stretched credulity enough for Frank and Rusty to start an investigation that exposed the whole charade, but I hadn’t bothered to keep up because, well, I just hadn’t cared. I suppose if I had been personally invested then I’d be mad right now, too, instead of just bemused and puzzled.

    So, like I said at the top, I just – don’t – get it.

  257. Frank McIntyre on October 29, 2005 at 9:50 am

    Miranda and those who disagree with her,

    As Miranda does not exist, I would ask her to not comment on our real blog. But since many may wish to continue to discuss the issue with her, and she undoubtedly will be happy to heap more abuse on them, I invite all the co-dependents to do so at her fake house on the beach– found here.

    Have a great weekend.

    Laura,

    I’m sorry you didn’t get much attention here. As you probably noticed, we get a lot of comments and often they are from new people who disappear before we get to know them. This was not true back in the early days of T&S, when everybody got a warm greeting. BoH was small and so it was easier to keep track of people. And they may well have been better at doing it for other reasons. There are probably many other small blogs that are similarly inviting to newcomers and that, like small colleges over universities, are a better place for close community than T&S.

    Kaimi posted here about the very problem you mention. Hopefully you won’t harbor bad feelings about us and that you’ll find someplace, online or off, here or elsewhere, that is right for you. We’d love to have you and hope you feel welcome here. Do what works for you.

  258. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 29, 2005 at 10:05 am

    http://ethesis.blogspot.com/2005/10/and-of-course-everyone-knows-what.html

    I’d like to suggest a read of that post — which predates the BOH exposure — as a retrospective.

  259. Ronan on October 29, 2005 at 11:37 am

    Miranda,

    That was a bit of a blanket statement about T&S’s non-engagement in comments. Wilfried responded to every comment on his post about moving to Zion. The man is a gentleman. (Don’t invade Belgium!)

  260. Frank McIntyre on October 29, 2005 at 11:51 am

    Ronan,

    Take it to the Banner, where Miranda can respond.

  261. Ronan on October 29, 2005 at 11:55 am

    Yeah, I forgot about that, Frank. Sorry. But I still want to give Wilfried his due in public. Thanks.

  262. Mark B. on October 29, 2005 at 12:03 pm

    Blog. Blog. Blahg. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

  263. Wilfried on October 29, 2005 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you, Ronan, that was kind of you. Many more at T&S deserve recognition for the way they try to respond to every comment to their posts. At the same time we must ask understanding for the fact that the sheer number of commenters on some threads makes it hard to respond to all properly. And we should also recognize that the disparity in comments, the divergent paths taken, the threadjacks, do not make it easy sometimes. Overall I think we try to do as well as we can, and always open as to who we are. Apologies if we fail to respond to the expectations of a commenter.

  264. Ben H on October 29, 2005 at 12:46 pm

    Frank, that was kind of a harsh way to say what you just said (#257). Plus, telling someone who has a gripe with you to go over to the other side of town, and maybe you’ll drop by to listen some time, “maybe i’ll drop by (yeah, right)”, is pretty annoying if you ask me.

  265. Ben H on October 29, 2005 at 12:54 pm

    I don’t think it’s fair to hold Nate responsible for much of the direction this thread has gone. I thought he was originally trying to basically call attention to a confession that needed to be made, so that the people who needed to make it could make it and take care of things properly. That seems pretty civilized. If the thread has also been a forum for harsh words on many sides, that’s just because we try to let conversations take their course, right? (no, I haven’t read the whole thing, sorry, in the job application crunch still)

  266. Adam Greenwood on October 29, 2005 at 1:40 pm

    Go it, Frank.

  267. Nate Oman on October 29, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    A couple of quick points:

    1. Shocking as this may sound, my original purpose in posting this was to show how the different assumptions underlying theories of statutory interpretation would lead to differing assessments about whether or not BofH constituted a form of lying. I know that this sounds hopelessly geeky and abstract to a lot of people, but I am affraid that actually is the kind of person that I am.

    2. I think that the BofH experiment was deceptive and ill advised. Some people were clearly hurt and upset by it, and there are some things about it that I find troubling. On the other hand, I think that some of the attacks on the participants have been way over the line. I don’t personally know Allison, DKL, or Brian G. (although I do know Brian’s wife Shannon slightly, and the fact that he persuaded her to marry him reflects well on him). I have met both Steve and Naomi. In my mind, they are both intelligent, witty, generous people. I certainly don’t think that they — and the other BofH bloggers — deserve to be made persona non grata over this event.

    3. I am sorry that some people don’t find T&S as inviting as they would like or as inviting as once it was. Unlike Wilfried, I do not consistently engage with the comments on the posts that I write. This is not some sort of a judgment on my part about the quality of the comments or the commenters. Rather it reflects two facts. First, my blogging time is not infinite and frankly I already spend far more time doing this than I should. Second, as between deep engagement in the comments and putting up new posts, I tend to opt for putting up new posts.

    I figure that if there is value added in T&S (and perhaps there isn’t much) it comes from the fact that we are constantly trying to offer up new material or thoughts for people to play with. When people check the site out each day, I figure that they would rather have a new post than a thread with 200+ comments. Maybe I am wrong about this — different people have different tastes. For what it is worth, I got into blogging via the law blogs where there is much less emphasis on discussion in the comments and much more emphasis on the original posts. Again, just my perception of what the medium is about. I guess that I view blogs as being more like ezines and less like bulliten boards than some. This is not a universal judgment about the true nature of blogging, but rather my personal tastes. Other’s tastes may vary. On the spectrum between “It is all about community stupid” and “it is all about content stupid” I lean toward content. Again, that’s just me.

    4. T&S is not monolithic. We disagree with one another on religious, ideological, political, and “blogging” issues. We disagree with one another about what constitutes appropriate tone. We disagree with one another about how aggressive we should be about policing the discussion in the comments. We disagree with one another about how involved we are obligated to be in the comments. None of us has the time or discipline to be completely consistent about any of these things. Such is life.

    5. I spell very badly. This is a result of two things. First, the way that I learned to read. For a variety of reasons, I can’t do phonetics. I learned to recognize words essentially as pictograms. Hence, I spell by guessing at whether the word looks right. The only way around this problem is for me to run my writing through a spelling checker, something that I have tried to do of late with my main posts. Second, I am a poor typist. This is totally unrelated to points 1-4, but I thought I would throw it out now, just in case anyone was wondering.

    6. I think that the bowl system is stupid. College football should have a proper tournament.

    I am Nathan Oman, and I authorized these comments.

  268. Nate Oman on October 29, 2005 at 7:30 pm

    2. (amended) I’ve also never met Christian, but he seems like a nice enough guy.

  269. JKS on October 29, 2005 at 10:36 pm

    Nate,
    In response to your defense of the BoH’s bloggers (they are nice, generous, intelligent), I have to point out that there really aren’t two types of people: bad and good. Bad people are ones who make mistakes, good people somehow don’t make mistakes.
    Pointing out that someone made a mistake, doesn’t mean you are now classifying them as exactly the same as a murderer….and it doesn’t mean they can’t have some really great qualities.
    I realize that it is natural to go to court and look your best. Somehow, if you look like a good person, people don’t want to punish you as much for your crime. If you seem intelligent, seem nice, seem like them, and have lots of charactar references that you do some really good stuff, it is supposed to erase the crime.

    However, in reality you committed the crime, just as much as someone who needs a haircut, or is a complete jerk. The BoH bloggers perpetuated a fraud. No one is really claiming they did anything besides what they actually did. And I fail to see why anyone should be nicer to them because they are otherwise nice, smart, professional people, instead of below average intelligent, crack addicts, for instance.

  270. Jonathan Green on October 30, 2005 at 12:36 am

    “Banner of Heaven”: A Review of Mormon Art

    The aim of “Banner of Heaven,” according to its creators, was to tell interesting stories, to experiment with the blog as a narrative form, in short, to create art. As it was a work whose beginnings and exposition would be carried out over six months for a live audience, perhaps blogging should be considered one of the performing arts. Although blogging is a ruthlessly textual medium, it may have more in common with playing the trombone than with writing a novel; for that insight alone, “Banner of Heaven” deserves at least a smattering of applause as the curtain falls. Considering the artistic aspirations of Steve Evans and his collaborators, the question deserves to be addressed: how was the show?

    Whatever questions one may have about its execution, conducting the experiment has ample precedent. It is in the nature of artists try to push back against the confines of a medium, or to explore the possibilities of a new medium. Problematizing media is simply one aspect of art and has been for a long time. This is not a pipe. This is not a blog.

    At first glance, “Banner of Heaven” was a failure. The stories, narrated via pseudo-personal revelations accompanying looking-glass reflections of other Mormon blogs, were off-putting and not enough to get this reader, at least, to return often. I can find strange people on the Internet without help, thank you.

    But Steve et al. were not writing a novel. They were performing, and their performance, after a six-month prelude, began in earnest only a few days ago. For days now they have been engaged in a bravura strip-tease, peeling off layers of identity until at last, just as the lights go out and the curtain drops, all is revealed. All along, Jenn, Mari, Miranda, Septimus, Aaron, and Greg were six characters in search of their authors, almost begging the audience to pull off their masks. Lesser artists would have written a mystery novel. “Banner of Heaven” was a daily mystery in our midst.

    For the medium of blog as performance art, “Banner of Heaven” succeeded, perhaps beyond even what its creators intended. It made its audience think about the blog as medium. Was it real or was it fake, and can anyone tell the difference if it’s all just words in your browser? Are joy and outrage real emotions, if they’re caused by blog-roll politics or comment envy? “Banner of Heaven” implored readers to think about identity, including their own. Was Jenn a fake? Probably. Is “Steven Evans” merely a figment of our imaginations, created from the impressions formed from words on our screens? He isn’t–and he is, in a sense, and will be until we meet him in person; but even then will we imagine him entirely without reference to his Internet posts? Are all of those posts really his? And what about our own identities? This is my third comment on this thread, and all three offer a different response to “Banner of Heaven”; which one is the real me?

    “Banner of Heaven”–not the blog, but the event–captured the essence of art and discourse in the Internet era. It was radically decentered; its climactic conclusion unfolded primarily across three different blogs and in countless private e-mail messages, so that any respondant, any reviewer–including this one–can only form a judgment based on the portion of the event that was within his or her view. You couldn’t oppose “Banner of Heaven” without becoming part of the performance. The reward for unmasking the authors was to take the starring role in their production.

    The greatest amount of sorrow and anger has centered on the particularly anxiety exposed by this affair: not that art could imitate life, but that it could invade the real world. The authors have to start denying their creations, or start claiming to have met them before. People start forming relationships with fictional characters. People start to discover that the joy and the rage induced by a fictive website are indistinguishable from the joy of a freshly mowed lawn, or the rage of a stolen lawnmower.

    It’s here that we begin to see that “Banner of Heaven” was not just art, but Mormon art. As Mormons, we are a peculiar subset, a modern iteration of a tradition that says: your world, your life, is liable to invasion by things that you read in a book. That the games we play (and the names we pray) might walk off the page and into our homes: this is what we hope and fear. As in Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game,” the things we see on screen might be far more significant than we realize. “That same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there”: who can read this line cited at a Mormon blog and not be filled with both hope and despair? When I read sites like this, I keep bumping up against people I know, or wish I knew, or people I could have been under only slightly different circumstances. What if I have to spend eternity with them?

    “Banner of Heaven” was Mormon art because it was all about the mask slipping off one word at a time. Being or becoming a Mormon means acquiring several different habits of speech; whether one thought Jenn and Septimus and friends were real or fake depended on their words being believable. Is being a Mormon our identity, or a role we play? And how do we tell if we’re the only one at church who’s not in on the joke? (Tomorrow, in priesthood meeting, I may face an existential struggle not to say something distinctly non-Mormon if the interminable announcements are capped by a food storage order signup sheet. Will that be a failure of performance or of essence?)

    And, in the end, “Banner of Heaven” was Mormon art because it reminded us that in the end we have to make a choice. Some readers found solace there, and the solace was real. Maybe every permablogger and every commenter at “Times and Seasons” is really cleverly orchestrated by Adam Greenwood and his home teachers so that they can snicker at my comments. I find it unlikely, but it wouldn’t take much of a paranoid fantasy for it to be possible. Likewise, maybe everyone else in my ward only comes to church to meet hot singles. In the end, it doesn’t matter. I’ll keep going to church. I’ll keep responding to posts and comments that make me angry or make me laugh, and maybe in the end the joke’s on me, but my anger and my laughter and my response are real, and everyone else can do whatever he or she wants with them. Real life means real risk; people might get hurt, there are no guarantees, and that’s my choice.

    So, Steve, and Allison, and Christian, and Brian, and Naomi, and even you, David King–take a bow, and start working on your next envelope-pushing project. Just not another “Banner of Heaven,” please. It’s been done before.

  271. Kaimi on October 30, 2005 at 1:13 am

    Great analysis, Jonathan. I don’t know what more needs to be said.

  272. Johnna on October 30, 2005 at 1:56 am

    Well, I’m satisfied because I hated the “fact” those BOH’ers were all so beautiful, meaning I must be getting relatively old and ugly if random young things strike me so. Ha, I look as much like Miranda as her author does. And Naomi as Greg sure looks like my son.

    People return to a blog because it advertises a flavor and meets that expectation.

  273. manaen on October 30, 2005 at 3:27 am

    271
    “Great analysis, Jonathan. I don’t know what more needs to be said.”

    How about that it put what you call art, and I call deception, above the real pain knowingly caused to real people, who should have been considered sacred. To deceive someone is to disrespect them. What fruits come next from this inverted priority? “To push back against the confines of a medium, or to explore the possibilities of a new medium” (#270), would they:
    * for the medium of the endowment’s presentation, stage a Rocky-Horror-Show-like dance-along?
    * for the medium of a worthiness interview, bring their own probing questions to ask the Stake President?
    * for the medium of requesting help for needy people, start a fake Katrina fund with increasingly bizarre reports of allocations of funds, while letting real people invest in it?
    * for the medium of giving a name and blessing to a new-born child, stand in the circle and offer while the father is blessing his child their own snappy suggestions to be included?
    * for the medium of prayer, teach their children to invite God to pray to them?

    This “art” may have been Mormon but it was not Saintly. The false priorities at its base allowed what should have been held as sacred trusts to be abused for the sake of intellectual dithering.

    “Trifle not with sacred things.” (D&C 6:12)

  274. danithew on October 30, 2005 at 7:02 am

    The Bloggernacle got Punk’d.

    As a result Steve and his BoH co-bloggers have been flogged plenty in the last week.

    I know that some people have shed real tears, lost one or more night’s sleep or have felt betrayed by all the Bloggernackers they ever met. If you are having those feelings, it is a sign you need a break. Go hug your RL family and friends, take a nap, eat a good dinner, have another nap, go outside and breathe in the fresh air or the not-so-fresh air. See a movie. Eat some cheese you never had before. Maybe take a few days off from the blogs. Or a week, if necessary. Or two weeks. Whatever. Get some perspective. I’m not saying this to dismiss your feelings. I’m saying this because the feelings are real and these are (just) some of the ways to deal with them effectively.

    In my opinion, it’s time to give the man who brought us the word “chupacabra” a break.

    Forgiveness. Love. More forgiveness. We all need it.

  275. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 30, 2005 at 8:08 am

    Shocking as this may sound, my original purpose in posting this was to show how the different assumptions underlying theories of statutory interpretation would lead to differing assessments about whether or not BofH constituted a form of lying. I know that this sounds hopelessly geeky and abstract to a lot of people, but I am affraid that actually is the kind of person that I am.

    It is why I read your posts.

    This is not a universal judgment about the true nature of blogging, but rather my personal tastes. Other’s tastes may vary

    ;)

    Actually, where BOH seems to have gone astray is in issuing denials and instead turning to complicity. Ah well. I think everyone learned their lesson. (After all, there is another group of blogs fronting as LDS kids — twenty-somethings — and it is clearly fiction, with the authors not going “oh no, we really are real” and it has its own community. Not one linked to from BCC of course, but …)

    Everyone gets shelved in one what or another by someone else. At least no one got cheated out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, with any luck no one will get too self righteous over it all, and this thread will get enough posts that a SSM thread won’t have more.

  276. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 30, 2005 at 8:08 am

    Quite possibly the most friendly, yet witless, onymous Mormon group blog in history.

  277. Russell Arben Fox on October 30, 2005 at 9:40 am

    Jonathan, I’d suggested shutting down this thread a while back, thinking that everything had been said and there was no more purpose in providing space for discussion here. I’m now glad my suggestion was voted down….because if the thread had been shut down, we may not have ever had the chance to read your wacky, brilliant, insightful, and not-a-little-perverse pseudo-defense of the “art of BoH.” Kudos for writing one of the most ambitious “re-readings” of a thread I’ve seen in months.

  278. annegb on October 30, 2005 at 11:24 am

    Laura, I felt the same way. Although I am crazy enough to be a real person on Banner of Heaven. I know I certainly will try to implement some of the things I read there, like be a fake convert or something. Although I can’t keep a straight face for long.

    Frank, I have wanted for the longest time to thank Wilfried for his never failing courtesy and applaud his responses. He is a true gentleman. Thank you, Wilfried.

    Remember Marta’s comment, “the nicest group of people to ever completely ignore me?” It’s okay that you ignored me, I can’t be killed, but I think sometimes new commenters come on and it’s rude to ignore them. You guys, sometimes you’re rude and stuck up acting. Not on purpose, you are very busy and important and smart people. But still…

    You could learn something from Wilfried.

    I woke up this morning and got on-line and I could not believe we are still talking about this. Didn’t Cheney’s aid get indicted or something? George Bush is so screwed, but we are focused on fake people. Or art. whatever.

  279. John Welch on October 30, 2005 at 8:45 pm

    Jonathan,

    Thank you for the very novel insight into the blog as performance art. The blog is perhaps an especially interesting form of performance art with not just an audience who can recognize themselves reflected in the forms presented, but a participating audience who create, and thus from themselves reveal, the obtuseness, inconsistencies and unwelcome personal insight afforded by the forms.

    If Eugene England were reading these threads, he might recognize this as a form of what he called a “healing theater,” where a people are allowed to act out their own ill desires, but who are then shown their folly in time to repent. We have been, like blind Glouster in King Lear, deceived. We were brought to a false space where we could express our inner thoughts and desires and we were encouraged to do so on topics that push our social and moral norms. After throwing himself from a cliff (orchestrated by his caring son Edgar to be a harmless, small drop) Glouster is lifted up from the ground by his son who convinces him that divine providence has saved him from the demon who traveled with him to the cliff-top. Glouster says, “I do remember now. Henceforth I’ll bear affliction till it do cry out itself, ‘Enough, enough’ and die.” Glouster forsakes his hopelessness and internal isolation. By the next scene, Lear remarks of him, “Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse in a light, yet you see how this world goes.” Glouster responds, “I see it feelingly.” Our reaction to the deception by BoH has been somewhat different from Glouster’s. Then again, the BoH permabloggers may not have had the same care and intent as Edgar in orchestrating their little drama.

    Perhaps the enmity many have felt for the BoH drama has been because our experience was more like watching Neil Labute’s In the Company of Men than sitting through King Lear. In Labute’s film, unlike most healing dramas where the audience undergoes a subversion of identification, we are not privy to the sleight of hand until we have revealed our emotions. We, the great audience, who should watch the characters evolve transparently on stage, now find that we are part of the drama: we ARE Glouster, and we don’t like it.

    Mormons are a particularly trusting lot and we expect transparency and consistency of this muddled world, but not so much of ourselves. The BoH permabloggers anonymity granted them the freedom to write about topics beyond their usual personal and social norms. At the same time, the general anonymity of all blogs allows individuals to respond (for both good and ill) on a topic and in a tone that one might not use in one’s usual company.

    The obvious question, which Gene would expect us to ask while walking to the car or eating dessert after exposure to the healing theater is, What did this particularly Mormon art work teach us about ourselves? It is never pleasant to gain self-knowledge, but the value of such an experience is lost unless we stare down the ugliness seen in our reflection. Perhaps the BoH experience and our reaction to it tells us that we are not really as chaste and as kind a people as we think we are? Not a very pleasing demon to remember standing beside us on the cliff above.

    John Welch

  280. Julie in Austin on October 30, 2005 at 9:02 pm

    Wow, John Welch, that is the fanciest method of blaming the victim that I have ever seen.

  281. Bryce I on October 30, 2005 at 9:39 pm

    Jonathan —

    Well played, but really, what’s so Mormon about BoH and the reaction to it? I’m pretty well convinced in my mind that had I pulled a similar stunt over at my homeschooling boards (evangelical Christian homeschooling moms) I’d get pretty much the same range of reactions, and for many of the same reasons. I think most online communities go through situations like this one, and I don’t think there’s too much variation in the script. I’ll buy your reading, just not the Mormonness of it.

  282. Aaron Brown on October 31, 2005 at 12:34 am

    The real scandal of Bannergate is that the Bloggernacle has devoted so many collective hours to spilling ink about this are that aspect of it. That fact, in itself, is scandalous. I suggest someone start a thread where we can all vent about this issue via hundreds and hundreds of comments, and I further propose we call it “Bannergate-gate.”

    Aaron B

  283. Eric Russell on October 31, 2005 at 1:00 am

    John Welsh,

    As comments on Bannergate around the Bloggernacle reach over 1000, I think yours is one of the most – if not the most – insightful comment yet.

    I think that spite, contempt, bitterness and lack of forgiveness are always the fault of the person feeling them, regardless of the actions of the other person. It seems to me that this is why Christ said, “Come unto me…my burden is light.” The only way to be free of such negative feelings is to be like Christ, to love and forgive unconditionally.

  284. Jonathan Green on October 31, 2005 at 1:14 am

    John, I recognized you as a kindred soul the first time we met. Your true talents are wasted in the medical profession. Or, maybe they’re kept confined as a matter of public safety.

    John has caught the vision. Julie, Bryce, see what Russell said. In this post-theoretical age of uncanonicity, almost the only remaining standard for discerning a true artwork is that it offend several dozen Mormons. By that measure, BoH is art.

    Bryce asks: but is it Mormon art?
    To which I reply: Apart from the fact that it was Mormons writing about Mormons for Mormons, you mean?
    If that doesn’t convince you, how about that reference to Ender’s Game, and John’s meditation on Eugene England, Shakespeare, and Neil Labute? That pretty much seals the deal.

    No?

    Then how about this: One of the artistic achievements of BoH is its performance of fantasy fulfillment. Blogging is an agonistic medium; it relies on controversy between opposing sides. Give me an S, give me an S, give me an M: typewritten warfare is the nature of the beast. Every participant dreams of achieving mastery, the ability to dispatch ideological foes with a few well-chosen keystrokes. BoH let a lot of people live this dream: Jenn and Mari and friends have been obliterated from the blogging world in a way that can’t be accomplished with, say, Kaimi. But BoH also showed that the fantasy is self-defeating; to destroy your opponent ends the debate and prevents blog from happening.

    The particularly Mormon angle is this: If BoH had been a mock political blog of the left or right, the reaction at the conclusion would have been only anger and rejection. The story that BoH has involved us all in telling, however, is about transgression, contrition, and return to the community. The primary concern has been that no lurker or commenter or blogger become so offended that he or she leaves the fold and does not return. It’s not just about black sheep, but about lost sheep, too. I mean, I keep expecting the T&S bloggers to assign home teachers to Steve Evans.

    Besides, Bryce, if you’ve been posting on a board for evangelical Christian homeschooling moms, you’ve got your own BoH-style explaining to do.

  285. a random John on October 31, 2005 at 1:14 am

    Eric,

    What is more amazing is the amount of anger coming from people that had nothing to do with it. People that were unaware of the site until this T&S thread. If you weren’t there you aren’t in much of a position to judge. If you were, then please judge as you see fit. Honestly the whole thing was an experience. Ever see the Michael Douglas film The Game? It is probably rated R. In an case, I was gamed and I liked it.

  286. Bryce I on October 31, 2005 at 1:44 am

    Jonathan —

    At the risk of taking you a bit too seriously, I’ll grant you all of your points except that what you describe is peculiarly Mormon. We Mormons hardly have a lock on the transgression/contrition/redemption story. In fact, some would say we’re particularly bad at it.

    Actually, I’ll take issue with your characterization of blogging as an agonistic medium as well. The high-profile, high-comment count threads are, to be sure, but that’s not the whole story, or even most of it. I try to avoid controversy like the plague in my posts at M*, and Wilfried does a spectacular job of producing well-read, well-regarded posts that can generate lots of discussion without ever becoming adversarial in tone. There’s a lot more sharing and supporting than knockdown, drag-out fighting going on around these parts. You’ve got to stop reading kos and atrios.

    I do want Steve Evans back, though.

    And if anyone asks you who Kate in NC is, you don’t know anything.

  287. Bryce I on October 31, 2005 at 1:59 am

    “almost the only remaining standard for discerning a true artwork is that it offend several dozen Mormons”

    Jonathan, this doesn’t have anything to do with a recent conversation with your Bishop about a certain book, does it?

    It does have the ring of truth to it, though.

  288. Brian G on October 31, 2005 at 5:03 am

    Now that there’s not as much shrapnel flying through the air here I want to poke my head out of my trench and raise my fist in solidarity with my Benson brother Jonathan Green for having the courage to take a closer look.

    I also want to thank the good doctor John Welch for his thoughts, and although I can not speak for all my colleagues at the Banner of Heaven, for my part I never expected that six fake characters would reveal the true character of so many people, my own, of course, included. In fact, I’m ready for all of us to put all our masks back on.

  289. Brian G on October 31, 2005 at 5:22 am

    On a lighter note, regarding my lovely wife’s comment #229.

    Was that a de-peaching or what?! Thankfully, the monkey has now returned the precious fruit.

    All I can say is our relationship is a passionate one.

    I also want to say that in spite of the fact they share the same hobby of revealing details of domestic drama in public forums Shannon is in no way an inspiration for the one and only Miranda PJ–MPJ is a product of DKL’s imagination alone.

    And Nate, she’s a little miffed that you said you only know her slightly, what after writing a ward newsletter called “Pravda” together and everything, so I suggest you guard your own peach.

  290. Brian G on October 31, 2005 at 5:25 am

    Also, Eric and arJ, as some of the few commenters on this thread that actually read our blog day-to-day, I just want to say I love you guys. Now I’m going to slink away back to my home turf where I feel much, much safer.

  291. Kurt on October 31, 2005 at 8:42 am

    Re: comments 8 & 9. Hey, Nate, 281 comments later, what was that about people getting too melodramatic?

  292. Adam Greenwood on October 31, 2005 at 9:52 am

    “I want to poke my head out of my trench and raise my fist in solidarity with my Benson brother Jonathan Green for having the courage to take a closer look.”

    You made a splendid apology, Brian G. Don’t spoil it by suggesting that your critics are really just philistines or sloppy readers. Let others carry your water for you without your help.

  293. Jonathan Green on October 31, 2005 at 10:43 am

    Brian: Courage? I think around here it’s called “showing up after a battle to shoot the wounded.”

    Bryce: Taking me seriously? In a thread approaching 300 comments? The true artistic genius of BoH was that an aesthetic response to it prevented one from writing with tongue in or out of cheek; rather, the status of my tongue with respect to my cheek is, like Schrödinger’s cat, indeterminate, until I bite down on it (ouch!). Law of Relativity and all that, you know.

    Adam: New supreme court nominee. I want to read something non-ironic about him. Can I assume you or one of your colleagues is on the case already?

  294. Nate Oman on October 31, 2005 at 11:44 am

    Jonathan: Can real literary theorists distinguish between real lit crit and lit crit as joke?

  295. Ryan Bell on October 31, 2005 at 11:52 am

    “New supreme court nominee. I want to read something non-ironic about him. Can I assume you or one of your colleagues is on the case already?”

    Done, with conviction and feeling. See Nate’s new post.

  296. Bryce I on October 31, 2005 at 12:18 pm

    Law of Relativity (LDS version): Everyone is someone else’s relative.

  297. Christian Y. Cardall on October 31, 2005 at 12:28 pm

    Manual trackback: I, one of the guilty perpetrators, have responded to this thread here—for the noble purposes of (1) freeing Times and Seasons from this monstrosity of a thread, and (2) bringing readers to my own blog. ;->

  298. Brian G on October 31, 2005 at 1:05 pm

    Adam, all I wanted to do was express appreciation for people that have shown me understanding, that’s all.

  299. Nate Oman on October 31, 2005 at 1:16 pm

    Brian: Needless to say, I am eager and thrilled to say that I know Shannon more than slightly. I just don’t want to get carried away in tooting my own horn. I suppose that I do have letters that she wrote me on the back of xerox copies of her face, so I do know here more than “slightly.” ;->

  300. Jonathan Green on October 31, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    Bryce, a more serious answer, since it’s Monday. I think you’re setting the bar fairly high by demanding not just something characteristically Mormon before being content with the label ‘Mormon art’, but something uniquely Mormon as well. Identifying anything as uniquely Mormon is not easy, but I suggest that we do have a fairly well worked out epistemology of prophets, revelation, and confirmation. If the poet/artist is a prophet, communicating his or her particular vision to a wider audience, then a uniquely Mormon art could involve artists called out from among the audience and in constant, two-way discussion with them, and with the audience as responsible for the performance as the artist. I think that by that measure, Steve E. is not entirely off base when he looks to blogs as a new artistic medium for the Mormon vernacular.

    Nate: Generally speaking, yes, lit crits can tell serious criticism from parody, although there are borderline cases. (There is one post-classical Latin grammarian that I find absolutely hilarious; others think his description of varieties of Latinity was meant to be serious.) Certain modes of criticism intentionally blur the distinction between scholarly discourse and parodies of the same. They can be useful on some occasions, but tend to be hazardous if being clearly understood is one of your primary objectives. My preference is to avoid writing or reading that brand of criticism where possible. Am I guilty of it in my review? Yes, but it serves a useful purpose there, by making things just ridiculous enough for aesthetic considerations to be palatable while the ethical issues are still causing some people indigestion.

  301. Frank McIntyre on October 31, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    Jonathan,

    You have brought back to mind one of the single most bizarre artistic encounters I, as a philistine, have ever had. My friend and I attended a free music recital at BYU only to discover that it was experimental music. This turned out to be very bad. The climax was a variety of, presumably accomplished, violinists smacking their violins in various ways while a man at a mike shouted, “It can hurt, and still be art!”

    This was, naturally, the object of a great deal of later mockery by me and my friend, though the point is valid. Whether or not something hurts does not tell me whether or not it is art. The two are seperate questions, each important. Well, at least one of them is important.

  302. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 31, 2005 at 7:40 pm

    Gee, realized I can no longer find the “longest threads” collections of links here at T&S.

    Was curious where this was headed on the ten longest.

  303. Kaimi on October 31, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    Ethesis,

    It’s on the list, I think. I doubt that it has passed Julie’s Horse thread yet, or Melissa’s Powerful Women thread.

  304. Seth Rogers on October 31, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    What Kaimi?! No hyperlinks?!!

    Sheesh.

  305. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 1, 2005 at 7:50 am

    Kaimi — where is the list of longest threads? I must just be blind.

  306. Adam Greenwood on November 1, 2005 at 11:47 am

    Stephen M.,

    I think we’ve taken it down. We decided it was promoting posts on the basis of controversy, not quality. We have a replacement link to top posts in mind, but we haven’t done it yet.

  307. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 1, 2005 at 2:44 pm

    I feel better, I was afraid I had fallen to an attack of inability to see the obvious.

    Thanks Adam.