If you are tired of reading about bannergate, don’t click here:
While some general comments have been made about the damage that bannergate has done to the bloggernacle community, I think that–despite that hundreds of comments about bannergate–very little has been done to flesh out how exactly the community has been harmed. So that’s what I am going to do in this post. If you are thinking that my goal here is to further punish the perpetrators or to continue to rub salt in their wounds, please know that I had no intention of writing this post until Christian Cardall asked me to. So here’s my take on how the community has been harmed:
(1) I have in the past used some material from the bloggernacle in my Sunday School lessons. Now, you’d have to be an idiot to think that a comment that begins, “My mission president once heard Elder McConkie say that . . .” should be included in a Sunday School lesson. But in a recent lesson on serving the poor, I discussed (in general terms) Heather Oman’s ‘Robbing the Poor with Floor Tile’ because I think a concrete example to chew on leads to a better discussion than asking, “How do we know when we are spending too much money on ourselves?”
In that same lesson, I also quoted from some of the comments at M* about LDS participation in Katrina relief efforts. This led to a very special experience: after I mentioned the small town in Mississippi where the Baptist preacher walked into the LDS chapel and said, “I will never again say another bad thing about the Mormons,” a woman in my class shot up her hand and with emotion choking her voice said (paraphrasing), “I used to live in that tiny branch and I know of the animosity that the missionaries encountered. If that man said that, a miracle happened.”
Because of bannergate, this will never happen again. Why? Because I, after reading maybe 2-3 posts at BoH, did not suspect it was a fraud. Hence, I now question my own ability to see through hoaxes and wouldn’t trust myself to quote from a blog in a lesson. Even if the blogger was someone I trusted immensely, I still don’t feel that I can use it as a resource because of the possibility that a member of my class with a passing familiarity with the bloggernacle will question my ethics or doubt my integrity.
(2) The bloggernacle sometimes brings us ‘celebrity’ interviews, book reviews, discussions with scholars, etc. It is now harder for that to happen. Imagine someone prominent with no familarity with the bloggernacle asking a staffer or associate whether s/he should grant an interview. The staffer, wary of the BoH incident, wonders if the person in question is about to be taken for a ride and advises against it. Now, this might not harm T & S too much–we can provide links with interviews for people ranging from game show champions to US senators to show that we are legitimate–but it may be the death knell for a newer or smaller blog that is trying to land a guest.
(3) I no longer trust those who either wrote for BoH or were aware of it but said nothing or were aware of it but lied about it. “But Julie,” you might say, “you must forgive them. They apologized. A few feel terribly about it.” And I respond, “I have forgiven them. But forgiveness and trust are two different things.” To use an overly-dramatic example, a mother might forgive a person who molests her child, but would be an idiot to allow that person to babysit. She doesn’t and shouldn’t trust him. Similarly, I no longer trust those of you who were in any way involved in the BoH fraud. This saddens me, because some of you I consider(ed?) friends.
(4) In the past, those with an ax to grind were just trolls. Permabloggers got indigestion trying to keep trolls from destoying discussions. Now BoH has added a weapon to the troll arsenal: fraud. Now a troll can pretend to be–well, anything–and we’ll get to talk them down from their thoughts of suicide, or whatever, while they grin in the background. Now, certainly, someone might have thought of doing this before, but now that several major players in the bloggernacle have legitimated fraudulent discourse under the umbrella of ‘art,’ they have a green light. Have at it, trolls! And when we get sick of the game and begin to ignore cries for help because they might be fakes and we’re tired, a real person with a real problem will get the cold shoulder from bloggers with compassion fatigue.
(5) I imagine that any new blog will now have a much higher entry barrier into the bloggernacle. In the back of our minds, we’ll all wonder–just a little–if it is real or not. There will be fewer new members of our community. Of course, if you have a lot of connections in the real world, people will know that you and your blog are real. But I am sympathetic, as someone who failed the Six Degrees of T & S, that those without connections will now get less of a hearing.
(6) In the past, some people have posted very personal, very important, very difficult-to-discuss things on the blogs. In turn, commenters have shared their own pain. I think that healing has occured that never could in real life. Real good has been done. But the next time someone posts (especially at a smaller or newer blog) about a sensitive topic, do you think that there will be the same outpouring in the comments? I doubt it. Once bitten, twice shy.
(7) Finally, at the risk of invoking the spirit of CX debators everywhere, I will point out that the impact of the BoH hoax is that orphans in Central Asia will go without this winter. Amira has told me that many people have contacted her wanting to donate to the orphanage that she visits. Do you think the BoH scam will increase or decrease the willingness of people to send money to someone they only know from the Internet?
I’m going to invoke some special rules for the comments. If you don’t like them, don’t post.
(1) The usual comment policy will be aggressively enforced.
(2) Any comment that, in my completely biased opinion, is an effort to discuss the ethics or lack thereof of bannergate will be moved to Nate’s thread. His topic was ethics, mine is not. I want to discuss the results of bannergate, not its morality.
(3) Any comment that, in my completely biased opinion, is rude or disrespectful or cruel to those who have asked for forgiveness will be deleted even if it does not rise to the level of violating our comment policy.
(4) Any comment that, for any reason, I don’t like will have every fourth word replaced with ‘ hossenpfeffer.’
Just kidding about (4). Completely serious about the rest. Again, if you don’t like the rules, you have no shortage of other places to discuss bannergate. The purpose of this post is to discuss the effects of bannergate on the larger bloggernacle community and hopefully disabuse those who think that the loudest ‘complainers’ about bannergate were those least affected.