Thursday, October 13, 2005

Moral Dilemma of a Bloggy Sort

There's a regular commenter on a high-traffic site who has gained a certain degree of credibility as a snarky hipster. Here's the thing, though: over the time I've spent lurking at that site, he's provided enough information about himself that I know exactly who he is.

He's a grad student in my own program, and the ex-boyfriend of a good friend of mine. He's a total tool--and I knew this much well before he behaved like a total asshole to my friend. He has perhaps the stupidest tattoo I've ever seen in person--the shape of a common soup vegetable outlined on his forearm. He was annoying, pretentious, and ultimately stupid in seminars; he was irresponsible and cowardly in his relationship with my friend.

So, here's the dilemma. Every single thing he's written on that site reeks to high heaven of false consciousness and pretension--since I know him--and yet it would seem so damned cruel to attempt to undermine him in a virtual space where he's found happiness. Not to mention the very real possibility that I might not be able to find the words to do so!

But, gah. This guy is posting as a male-feminist on a feminist site, and I know for a fact that he was unwilling to accompany his ex-girlfriend to an abortion that she found traumatizing. I read his posts and I curl the lip.

I know myself better than to think that I'd really try to intervene in a site where he's got a public-sphere reputation going. What I have against him is my impressions and the reported wickedness from an interested party. Still, it's damned tempting.

And, yes, I'm sure I know who it is.


Blogger hilzoy:

Wow. That's hard. Offhand I'd say: don't do anything other than keep track of what he says, since if he makes (e.g.) some claim about what we male feminists think, it would be likely to be utter garbage, and worth contesting.

(The general point being: don't let him do any actual damage.)

Hmm. I don't envy you the task of resisting this temptation.

10/15/2005 12:42:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

I'm resisting with both hands. Continually.

I do think you're right, though: as long as he's not actually doing damage, whatever my impressions of his false consciousness may be, I have no right to intervene.

Ughk, but I do have to sit on my hands when I read this sites' threads, and I've never trusted my control enough to comment there.

10/15/2005 01:10:00 AM  
Blogger rilkefan:

If your assessment is apt, I think allowing the deception to continue is bad for the blog in question. After all, what if some day the truth comes out and people there who read and trusted him feel crushed?

It might be difficult to call him out without provoking a real-world confrontation, but if you could engineer it through a third party that might be a service. Or why not anonymously write to his email address, "If you're so-and-so and you're not representing your actual views at blog x, you should stop"?

10/20/2005 02:05:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Sorry for not responding earlier, Rilkefan:* triangulating the hating on, not really hating, and responding to Charles Bird at the other site has taken up some of my productive, bloggish attention.

With this particular person, I know that it's not a case of deception but rather one of hypocrisy, laziness, and probably all kinds of psychological things I can't speculate about even when intending to be mean.

The guy believes in (I think) and is an advocate of all kinds of pro-female positions that, in his own life, he's fallen far, far short of.

What I've heard of the really awful things, I've heard from his former girlfriend. She's a friend, I love her, but she has been unstable at times. I believe what she says about those times, but I also suspect I didn't get the whole story. If I aired those three year-old complaints on that blog, it would be equivalent to some drive-by commentor claiming to know gruesome secrets from a divorce complaint.

From my own observances: he's a mediocre prat and a pseudo-hipster snob. Since I have always disliked him, even before he started dating and allegedly mistreating my friend, I really distrust my motivations in this instance.

(Oh, and since he's a medievalist and I'm an 18th-19th centurist, we don't cross paths, except, oddly enough, on the net.)
*Without effective date-stamps, though, who is to tell how late I was in replying?

10/21/2005 02:07:00 AM  
Blogger rilkefan:

Ah, the usual muddle, best left alone without an attempt at unmuddling - one can't get the ketchup back in the bottle, or is it unscramble an egg, or shut up before turning a clear sentence into a mistake.

10/23/2005 12:36:00 AM  
Blogger Gary Farber:

Rilkefan suggested: "If your assessment is apt, I think allowing the deception to continue is bad for the blog in question. After all, what if some day the truth comes out and people there who read and trusted him feel crushed?"

It's not at all clear to me that any of us have a moral duty to correct perceived "deceptions" by people we barely know to people we barely know. There's a clear argument for such intervention, sure, but my own practical sense suggests that there's also tremendous potentional for a variety of possible kinds of unintended damage and complications, as well.

I completely understand the desire to speak up, but I'd tend to advise extremely caution until one reaches absolutely clarity on the best course of action. I'm also sufficiently unsure of my own opinion on this question as to be hesitant to offer any of my own advice at all, though, as well.

There are some vaguely parallel cases I've been involved in in which I've more or less concluded that I was going to cede venue X to person A (without telling them), and that although it made me sad, it seemed the less complicated, less painful for all, and least obviously bad, response. But I can't say I've ever been sure that was/is the best, or even a good, response.

I'm also influenced in my reaction by having been on what some might consider to be something of the other side; I've had experiences with people attempting to tell third parties "the truth" about me, based on a deeply faulty understanding of the facts based entirely upon the version told by yet another person; my own version was never asked for. I find that sort of thing most bothersome, as well as inadvisable.

So one of my leanings tends to be that if something isn't clearly my business, maybe I should stay out of it. (Of course, I hardly always follow such a guideline, and I'd never suggest it as a universal rule, either.)

Sorry I don't have a Clear And Wise Response. But at least it was speedy.

12/07/2005 08:46:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Farber:

Ah, the argument for date-stamping comments presents itself.

12/07/2005 08:50:00 PM  

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