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(what I think of Idazmi7’s latest rant)

As some of you who read this site and blog may be aware, I do from time to time indulge in online discussions regarding Star Trek vs Star Wars. You may also be aware that I’ve sparred with Idazmi7 before, on a range of versus-related topics. The latest ‘debate’ has been more of a mudslinging contest, with Idazmi7 accusing me of deleting posts of his (particularly posts concerning our argument over warp strafing).

I ought to make it abundantly clear that I have at no point deleted any of his posts. I am unsure as to whether I even could (to my knowledge, only the poster of the video can delete posts made to it), and at any rate, I see no need to even make the attempt. Idazmi7’s ‘points’ around warp strafing were easily refuted and quite frankly, I would rather they stayed up – they stand as testimony to how flawed his arguments are.

This hasn’t stopped Idazmi7 from continuing to make his allegations. Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t been able to prove anything, and equally unsurprisingly, this hasn’t stopped him from refusing to recant his allegations. At this point, he has backed himself into a corner – withdrawing his claims makes it pretty clear he was in error to make them – plus he loses face – continuing with them makes him look stupid.

This also begins to stray into libellous territory (or it would, if Idazmi7 was in an actionable situation). Allegations of what is effectively dishonest behaviour on my part is something I take very seriously, it’s not appreciated, and I am unimpressed by it. Rest assured, I am prepared to let the claims stand without providing a counterpoint.

So why is Idazmi7 doing this? In my view, it’s a smokescreen to distract from his own arguments and conduct. If he can cast my behaviour in a negative light, it would also, by extension, make my arguments look bad. It’s basically an ad hominiem attack, only a cleverer one than usual. It’s still not especially smart, and ultimately pretty obvious, but it’s a notch better than a lot of the efforts I’ve seen.

I’m not sure what Idazmi7’s end game is. His position is untenable, obvious and flawed. He hasn’t accomplished anything beyond making himself look bad. He hasn’t scared me off, or had me scrambling backwards. I can only chalk this off as a desperate gambit.

I have suggested to him that he repost his warp strafing arguments. I am not the least bit concerned by them and I would rather they were up, so everyone can see how flawed his position is.

As some of you may already be aware, I am a member of the SD.net forums, posting as darth_timon. Prior to that, I posted as Sothis, before leaving the forums for a while. I’m hardly the most active member of that community, but I still feel like I am part of that community, and that’s what SD.net has become – a community.

The original purpose of the site (and forums) was to present a case for why the Empire from Star Wars would defeat the Federation from Star Trek in a war (it was a versus site). Anyone who has been involved with this debate down the years will be aware that the site’s author, Mike Wong, took a bullish, no-nonsense approach to it. He was at times aggressive, calling out those who made unscientific or pseudo-scientific arguments and he wasn’t afraid to name and shame people who he felt were being idiots.

Mike’s chief approach to these debates was that honesty trumped nicety. One thing I would dare say about Mike is that what you see is what you get – he doesn’t sugarcoat things and he doesn’t (if you’ll pardon the term) bullshit people. His style of discussion has certainly earned him detractors, but I dare say supporters too.

After all, honesty is a trait that seems rarer and rarer these days. It’s far easier it would seem, to paint over problems or issues with lies and deception. Sometimes you do need to be careful with what you say (little white lies to spare someone’s feelings are not, in my view, harmful), and certainly how you phrase something can have a big impact on how it’s taken by the other person, but substance is better than style (at least when it comes to this sort of discussion).

Now, this is not to say I agree wholeheartedly with Mike’s approach. It is possible to be honest without being aggressive. The two are not mutually exclusive positions, but that is a different discussion. What I wish to talk about here is a misguided campaign against SD.net, Mike and the SD.net community.

I’m not altogether clear when this campaign started, but an individual (who shall go unnamed for now) has been waging a one-man war against SD.net for years. It would seem that he is particularly upset by some of Mike’s essays on Star Trek (regarding things such as racism, communism and philosophy), and he has also made some broad remarks about the forum.

For the record, I don’t necessarily agree with Mike’s Star Trek essays, but disagreeing is one thing – to fly the flag of censorship, as this individual does, is another thing entirely. Mike is entitled to his views, and he is entitled to express those views, and this person is entitled to write a rebuttal of those views (as he has already), but he is not entitled to have Mike’s views rubbed from the web, just because he cannot handle them.

Before I go much further, I should mention that last year, I was engaged in email conversation with this person. I had come across his anti-Stardestroyer.net Facebook page and I’d decided (perhaps foolishly) to express my opinions of his comments. The situation escalated and for a short time I named and shamed his page on my old site.

The result of this (which included, among other things, negotiations around removing any mention of each other from our respective pages) was that we agreed to leave each other alone. I dutifully obeyed the truce, whilst keeping an eye on him to ensure he did likewise. During that time, he has continued to post a great many anti-SD.net rants and comments where he has smeared the SD.net community with spurious accusations of harassment and censorship (which, ironically, is an action he has undertaken on his DeviantArt page and on YouTube). Recently I discovered his Facebook page has a comment on it where a third party has made an extremely off-colour post, and this individual has not only been content to let a highly inflammatory post stand, but has suggested he will actually expand upon it at some stage!

I emailed him, suggesting to him he should remove this comment. He has oft-repeated his claims that SD.net is an aggressive, vicious community, so quite why he would want to risk drawing attention to himself is beyond me. My email to him was on 2nd July. As of this post, I have received no reply and seen no action on this post.

So, if I am being honest, I am breaking this truce (not directly, but certainly in spirit. However, this individual’s ongoing vilification of SD.net and its community is an attack on me as well.) He is happy to make grand generalisations about SD.net, repeatedly posts rants about how terrible we all are, and drags our name through the mud. In the past, when I contacted him about it (I made precisely one comment to a YouTube video of his), I wound up being accused of harassment, and he deleted the comment. He had created videos for the purpose of getting attention, but seemed incapable of handling criticism of his views. He attempted (during our email conversation last year) to have me delete the versus page of my old Wix site (including my Idazmi7 responses and my defence of SD.net). Yet when challenged on this, he insisted it was not censorship, but rather, a means of protecting himself.

From what I am not sure, but it would seem this individual has tremendous difficulties accepting criticisms of things they like. If I were to guess, I would say they use things like Star Trek as emotional crutches, so something that criticises Star Trek, or runs contrary to Star Trek as they see it, is harmful to them and they take it very personally (this has also happened with The Lion King).

Maybe this post is a bad idea. Maybe it will stir up a hornet’s nest of trouble. Maybe I should grit my teeth and stay quiet. I’ve done that for over a year and just wound up feeling more and more irritated, so I kind of feel that I need to get this out. To the individual in question, I would advise you to check your emails and consider what I said. At the very least, you should be prepared to have a dialogue.

Back to Star Trek vs Star Wars

I’ve recently been engaged in a brief discussion with someone about a particular film, Titan AE. It’s wasn’t a particularly memorable film in my book, not terrible, but not especially good either. It might score 7/10 in a pinch, but only in a pinch.

I digress. The discussion concerns whether Titan AE can be regarded as a violent film. After all, it features earth being destroyed, which would involve the deaths of billions.

If examined from a military POV, yes, the act of destroying a planet is violent. This is not however, how film makers and raters define violence. There is no disemboweling, beheading or limb chopping. No is being burned alive, or tortured or raped.

(Film are also defined by nudity and language, but that’s rather by and by in this instance).

There is also the necessary distinction between the outlandish sci-fi setting of Titan AE and it’s fantastical technology, and realistic or true stories which involve genuine consequences (such as WWII stories). One is the portrayal of unrealistic events in an unrealistic setting and the other is something far more relatable. The authorities that rate films take this sort of thing into consideration.

There is the argument that the bad guys in Titan AE act for no good reason when they destroy earth. I disagree. Whatever claims the Drej make about being invincible are just that – claims. The events of the film demonstrate they are vulnerable and it’s established that the Titan Project was seen by the Drej as a potentially significant threat to them. To the Drej, a first strike policy is the best defence.

Now to quote directly from this discussion:

Are you out of your mind?  Titan A.E. should have been rated at least PG-13 instead of the PG rating it got.  If I were a dad, I would not only bar my kids form watching such a movie, but also teach them to despise Titan A.E. for its incredible and sometimes “clean war”-style barbarism.  I would not let my children play with war had I been a father.

The big thing here is simply that I would not restrict my daughter so unnecessarily, and I wouldn’t encourage her to hate things at all, let alone to the point of such enduring hate and fixation on a movie. I think I know which premise is more psychologically harmful in the long term.

So, just now, as I’m scrolling through Facebook, I come across an article from the Mirror that reported the Twitter user ‘@sweepyface’ (who was involved in a Sky News story about harassment of the McCanns) has been found dead at a hotel. This comes just days after her impromptu appearance on Sky News.

So, once again the question has to be raised about the influence of the media (and social media). Was Sky News justified in putting her face on national television? Whilst I did not agree with her stance, there were far worse examples out there, that I am sure even now skulk behind throwaway usernames, waiting to see who else they can torment.

The irony is, this woman, Brenda, may well have been targeted for abuse by the very people who were sending the most vile tweets to the McCanns.

Or she was targeted, perhaps even more ironically, by people supporting the McCanns.

Once again this highlights the perils of the media – one wrong step, be it on Twitter, or be it a national news channel, we have to remember that with freedom of speech comes the responsibility to use that freedom wisely.

So, this morning, having been watching the news (perhaps not the best thing for me to do), I saw a story about trolls on Twitter harassing the parents of Madeline McCann. Not being one to always know when to keep my mouth shut, I jumped in to offer my own opinion.

The conversation that followed quite eye-opening about my own attitudes to freedom of speech, and where the line is between free speech and hate speech. What is the point where voicing an opinion becomes an act of needless, hurtful aggression?

Some of the trolls on Twitter have spoken of how they’d happily recruit assassins, or burn the McCanns alive… they are grieving parents who have to live with the fact their daughter is probably never going to be found, and they don’t even have the closure of being able to say ‘she’s dead, it hurts, but we can bury her, say our goodbyes and try to move on’. They are suffering, and most certainly do not deserve the hate campaign that’s been going on.

I have a page on my main site about Internet Tough Guys, and the behaviour of a lot of these Twitter trolls certainly fits the bill. The main focus for the conversation I had on Twitter though, was about a Twitter user called @Sweepyface (who has since deleted her account) when she was tracked and interviewed on Sky News. Her tweets are certainly not the worst, but she said to Sky News that she was entitled to attack the McCanns and reportedly used Twitter to spread rumours about their marriage, and said she hopes the McCanns ‘suffer forever’.

I initially was highly critical of @Sweepyface (and to be honest, I still am – she may not have been calling for their heads but she was certainly not acting on anyone’s interests to harass them), but, is what she did to be considered hate speech, or is she merely voicing an opinion?

Well, this is where things get tricky.

The more I think about it (and the more I consider my conversation), it’s hard to argue that @Sweepyface did anything legally wrong. She is, like anyone else, entitled to an opinion, and Lord knows we allow far worse opinions to exist. I do feel that her position is morally untenable though.

I also have to wonder if she would have been so willing to say anything if she wasn’t acting anonymously.

Interestingly enough, I came under a bit of fire shortly after making the point that trolls rely on anonymity that I don’t put my real name with my Twitter posts. As a matter of fact, my real name is represented on Twitter, and just because someone puts a name and picture on Twitter, it doesn’t mean they’re putting their name and picture on there. In the end, we all have to be prepared to offer up a little trust to each other.

I certainly don’t believe we should be abusing the system to harass others.

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Don’t we all just love the internet? It has given us access to everyone, everywhere, at any time. We can use it to get to the entire sum of human knowledge and history in an instant (and, with the arrival of smartphones and wi-fi, we can do this from a field in the middle of nowhere). We can instantly share new ideas and thoughts, from scientific breakthroughs to new songs and art. It is  truly a marvelous creation, the internet.

Unfortunately, with the internet comes the opportunity for previously shy and retiring souls to take altogether more unpleasant qualities. Across websites and forums, you get people who just love to stir up trouble, for no reason other than because they can.

These people might think themselves impressive. Armed with anonymity, they can freely express themselves – and sling mud – without fear of consequences. There is of course another way to regard these people – cowardly keyboard warriors, or ‘trolls’.

Now, making use of an internet pseudonym does not, in this author’s humble opinion, make someone a coward. Nearly everyone on the internet does so, and with good reason – there are plenty of people out there who, if they get hold of enough of your details, can and will use that information to steal funds from your bank account, commit fraud in your name, etc.  That being said, there are people out there who use the cover of a nickname to become incredibly belligerent. They know they cannot be traced back to their words, so they can get away with virtually anything.

I’ve had the misfortune of encountering such keyboard warriors. They sit behind their computer screens, prepared (for years in some cases) to rant and rave about the people or things they hate, often making hurtful remarks or vicious accusations. The mentality of these people is just baffling.

Why do they do it? I think the mentality is similar to that of the playground bully – they need to boost a failing ego by attacking others, which the only way they have of feeling better about themselves. It’s a desperate cry for attention, and if we ignore them, hopefully they’ll eventually go away.