Friday, November 7, 2014

Backstory of Blogging Fatigue: Dealing with Religious Bullies

Well, hanged for a lamb, hanged for a sheep. Or is the aphorism I want, In for a penny, in for a pound? Whichever: I've decided that, having shared with you yesterday my feeling of intense frustration right now (post-U.S. elections) about, well, everything from the worth of my existence to the contribution (or lack of contribution) made by this blog, I might as well share some backstory stuff with you.

Yesterday's email, screaming headline in my inbox:

Your Stunning Ignorance, Intellectual Cowardice, and False Charge

And then, when I replied to the long diatribe underneath that headline, informing the Catholic religious brother who sent it to me that I would of course now block his email address and would of course not read his attack screed, he sent a second email in before I could block the address:

Consider yourself warned.

His beef against me: he lit on this blog several days ago with the express and sole purpose of attacking someone else making comments here. His initial comment when he appeared at this site said that this was his express and sole purpose in coming to this blog.

I allowed him to rant on longer than I should have, probably. I try to bend over backwards to make this site a place of open discourse, and I move to block people from commenting here only when it's obvious to me that they're outright spammers (the Russian bride-site fellow of a few days ago, e.g.), or when they're here to abuse fellow commenters or me.

After I'd seen this Catholic religious brother heap out as much abuse as I was willing to permit (and more than I should ever have permitted) to the person he was attacking, who was cordial and courteous in response to him, I blocked him from commenting here. Hence the enraged email about my stunning ignorance, intellectual cowardice, and false charge.

All of this comes on the heels of a taunt issued by another commenter here a day or so ago, letting me know that he and others have the capability to flag comments of people they target on threads here and make those comments disappear. And that I can't do anything about this except to watch for the disappearing comments and restore them to their threads, since I have no control over how the Disqus flagging system works, except to set the number of flags required to disappear a comment as high as Disqus will allow me to set it.

It has been no secret to me that malicious trolls lurk on threads here to mock and try to derail conversations when they can do so. Several contributors to NCR discussion threads have openly boasted about this in recent weeks. They came out of the closet after I stepped up and defended Jerry Slevin when he had been unfairly banned from commenting at the NCR site.

A few weeks ago, after I once again exposed these trolls and their activities (without naming any of them; all use confected usernames that disguise their real identity, and all — as with the Catholic religious brother who sent me the screaming email yesterday — have their Disqus accounts locked down tight so that no one can see their commenting history at any site), someone then tried to break into my Disqus account and request a change of password for it.

And all of this comes on the heels of weeks and weeks of abuse heaped on me by someone who routinely contributes articles to NCR, who began her bullying campaign within days after I publicly defended Jerry Slevin on this blog, and who called me every name under the sun and tried every bullying attack she could think as she sought to intimidate me.

The upshot: it grows wearisome to deal with these bullying characters who cloak their bullying under the cloak of religious zeal. They rarely do their work out in the open, in daylight. They prefer darkness to light, the dank, closed spaces under rocks to the open public forum full of sunlight. 

I am not saying I am intimidated by them. I have the kind of personality that grows courage by responding to bullies. Always have had that kind of personality. As a young boy growing up "different" in a culture full of homophobic bullies, I learned early on that the way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them, not run away from them.

I also learned that, in standing up and fighting, I can access an inner strength that bullies appear to lack, as they rely on throwing their weight around or lobbing their stones from their dark hiding places. So I'm not talking about feeling intimidated here.

I'm talking about feeling tired. I'm talking quite specifically about feeling tired of people who claim to be acting out of religious motives, but whose intent is to harm other people. I'm tired of dealing with people who watch for any admission of fatigue on my part at this blog site, in order to ramp up their bullying.

Like sharks waiting to smell a bit of blood in the water . . . . 

There is a cumulative effect when one does battle with people like this on an ongoing basis, battles I've often fought in silence here, not sharing with you readers what goes on behind the scenes of the blog, as it were. Revealing to people who choose to treat you as an enemy that you know the specific games they're playing and have taken certain steps to counter their warfare gives them an advantage they do not need to have. In telling you good readers of the blog what is going on behind the scenes, I'm revealing to trolls who lurk at this site to undermine and attack information I have not wanted to place in their hands.

All of us who do not intend to toe the current political line in the U.S. are in for some serious bullying following the recent elections, by the way. Lynn Parramore wrote a very good article about this at Alternet yesterday. Bullying, the right of a minority to bully the majority of Americans by gerrymandering political districts, suppressing votes of targeted minority groups, buying elections with filthy dark money: that's what this whole election was about.

And as per usual, in the American political context, centrists who claim to stand for what's best and brightest in our participatory democracy will do everything in their power to facilitate this bullying, and to try to whip critical groups and critical movements into the shape desired by the bullies. 

I do not intend to yield to these folks. They do not intimidate me. I do, though, recognize that I pay a price for fighting as I age, and that price begins to weigh more heavily when I have healthcare coverage after years without it and then see the prospect of its being snatched away immediately. Or when I legally marry, assuming I will enjoy the same rights other citizens have, and then see those rights erased by justices immediately after my marriage.

I recognize my fatigue when I think I've typed the name "Rusty" here, and then see, in a day or so, that I typed "Ross," instead. Or when I call Larry Benfield, a person I actually know (and admire) Larry Benefield. Or when I misidentify the 6th Circuit Court as the 1st Circuit Court.

Hence my questions about whether I'm really doing an effective job as a blogger here. I hope you will all be patient with me as I try to work through these questions. I very much appreciate the feedback about this many of you have given me here, or shared with me at Facebook, or sent to me in emails. I deeply appreciate it.

It may take me some days to respond to your messages. Please don't think I don't value them, if I take some days to try to regain a little strength. After a life of living with my on-switch always turned on (my mother often complained I came out of her womb just that way), I'm finding as I near the age of 65 that I have to be a little more patient with myself, and a little more willing to take periods of time to rest when I have over-extended myself.

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