Notes Antic Disposition

The Decline of American Civility

Trolling drama like this is bound to infest any website as popular as Ravelry, but what is interesting is the way that the creators of the site have gone about dealing with these trolls:

There are a handful of moderators for each discussion forum on Rav but he recently instituted a "peer review" service (better known as "mod attack") for contentious conversations on the main boards. When this is activated, 10 percent of the readers of that forum are randomly given the power to nominate specific posts to be "hidden" - generally those that are personal attacks, etc. So far it seems to be working very well and people don't seem to be abusing their new and unexpected powers; one girl said she treated it like jury service where she just thought about whether a post complied with community guidelines, not her personal view on the matter.

During the US elections Casey set up a technical block so that members of pro-Republican groups couldn't post in pro-Democratic group threads - and vice versa. It was the only way to keep the trolling under control.

The funniest example would have to be when someone started a thread complaining that another user had "stolen" (copied) her avatar. Casey did something behind the scenes so every person who posts in that thread finds that their normal avatar has been replaced with an identical picture of Ben Affleck.

As interesting and creative as the response from Ravery may seem (in the vein of Understanding Uncertainty), there is something about some of this behavior that seems to be symptomatic of a more general problem – less about plain old ‘internet trolling’, perhaps, more to do with issues particular to a very specific country...

It took a completely different tangent on a different topic for this whole issue to make sense for me. As Jay Smooth explains, Joe Budden vs Raekwon is an essentially masculine version of this same fractured nonsense, where it seems vindictive dispute and mutually escalating aggression has become the norm in American culture. The ‘decline of American Civility’ is an uncomfortably accurate frame.