“me + richard armitage”: what I own (part one)

Continued from here. Discussing ownership in the sense of “admissions.”

It also makes me queasy to write this because I usually talk in this way only with my besties. It’s a story of which pieces will be familiar to long-time readers, but with a little addition of my own commentary on things I have said publicly and why I have said them.

I started writing here because the effect that Richard Armitage had on me in North & South made me wonder about my sanity. I could not get the television show or the actor or the man out of my thoughts for about six weeks. I added North & South to a syllabus at the last second in January 2010 so I could justify the thing in terms of work. Preoccupation with him hit me on an unprecedented level. And yet, I always felt that the way Armitage made me feel, to the point of getting me out of bed some days, early on, was a good preoccupation. I was in severe distress when Armitagemania hit, and it sustained me then, got me going again, made a series of difficult life events bearable, and has revealed possibilities in my life that I hadn’t seen before. Maybe it hasn’t ended because I don’t want it to end — it brings me good things, and even some of the bad things it brought have been instructive and identity-building.

I had blogged before, so I didn’t think. I logged onto WP and created a new blog without much reflection. I needed a space to write just about Armitage (not necessarily to discuss him with others — if that had been my sole need, I’d have joined a forum) and I had found in my previous experiences that blogging was a way to associate with people who shared similar questions but not surrender control of what I could say. I had also discovered that I enjoyed writing about things in public. So the sole initial purpose of the blog was encountering my feelings. And blogging ended a long period of writer’s block, so I was grateful for that, too, and for the friends who found me and told me they’d had similar feelings and reactions to Armitage’s work.

“me + richard armitage” was thus birthed as the cri de coeur of a highly confused person — hence the intentional stylistic error I put in the blog name, something for which I’ve taken a fair amount of both friendly and mean heckling over the years. The blog is really about me, viewed through the prism of observations about Richard Armitage and my fascination with him. It developed. Gradually it became about self-acceptance and integrating the confusing and contradictory parts of my life and personality, about learning to admit the truth about myself. Then it became about (re-)finding and accepting a writerly identity. I’m not saying that I’m always 100 percent aware of my motivation, and I also didn’t really know anything about fandom politics when I started writing, either generally or in this specific case. The first readers who got in touch were friendly, warm, enthusiastic. I kept writing. Soon readers found me who diagnosed me with various maladies, including psychopathy, attention-seeking or wanting Richard Armitage’s attention. I kept writing. There are certainly problems with my personality, no one knows that better than I do, but in my view, blogging was never about needing Armitage to find me. It was about needing to find myself. As I was writing again, thinking again, then writing well and communicating, finding an audience became more central to my project. At that point, I think it is fair to say that I sought the attention of people interested in the topics I wrote about, and I expanded this platform to tumblr, facebook and twitter to attract more of them, but nothing about writing or looking for an audience was never about seeking Armitage’s approval or notice.

Indeed, as my Armitage besties know all too well, because they have had to talk me down from the wall many times, I had a horror of that possibility, although readers of all persuasions regularly raised it. Every now and then someone read something they told me they hoped Armitage would read. Every now and then someone told me she had printed something and forwarded it to Armitage. People have occasionally interpreted things he said in messages as directed at me and told me so. Sometimes readers joke about him reading the blog and deciding he likes me. I’ve also been told at least twice that I’ve been “reported” to Armitage’s agents for being mentally unbalanced and seeking to harm him. Those who want to reproach me leave comments that I don’t let through moderation in which they write things like “Do you really think Armitage would like it if he read this? He’d think you’re crazy and disgusting!” Answer: No. I never thought he would enjoy it; I thought most of it would make him cringe.

Admittedly: I never worried too much about what Richard Armitage thought of me (whether I’m disgusting or not) because I never believed he did think of me in any particular way or that I in particular was on his radar. During the second year I started getting messages from people pretending to be him, but the thought was so implausible that I filed them in the notional folder of an increasing number of weird experiences that fandom has granted me. And when people raised the possibility that Armitage reads the blog, I always, always discouraged the discussion because of the queasiness it gave me. My standard answers to the variations on the suggestion were — and I have stated these many times: Richard Armitage does not have time to read blogs about himself; if you think that you overstate the relevance that fans and their day-to-day activities apart from their willingness to do things that keep him employed, like spend money, play in his life; Richard Armitage is several orders of magnitude more important to me than I am to him; if he’s smart, he’s not reading this stuff; Richard Armitage is not in the audience for what I write; that way [contemplating the possibility that he reads] lies madness. Most readers have thankfully taken the hint that I didn’t find pondering the chance that he was reading especially attractive, and left the topic alone.

Even though I didn’t customarily think about Armitage reading this blog (or rather: I quite intentionally walled myself from thinking about it), I certainly experienced and experience my own share of conflict about writing so extensively about one person. It’s not that I write about him in detail — he is a public figure, and public figures draw comment. I may feel fewer scruples on this point than some people. I’ve worked as a historian for so long and we write controversially and sometimes unkindly about living people all the time. Rather, my conflict comes from the fact that I write about him in such personal terms. And it’s not about what I say about myself; I certainly have the right to be as open or closed as I wish about myself and my own reactions to things. But for what it’s worth, as a reply to the many criticisms of myself I’ve read on this point over the years — I think the fact that this blog often objectifies or sexualizes him or occasionally over- or (mis)interprets him is a much less serious ethical problem than the way that it mobilizes the entity “Richard Armitage” on my terms rather than his. Objectification and sexualization have clear commercial and professional benefits to him — whatever I think about my own moral status when I engage in them. Armitage’s status as the object of fantasy (among straight, white, middle- and upper-middle-class women and girls with money to spend) helps get him hired. It’s not entirely clear that the personal writing has the same benefits to him.

I haven’t felt enough qualms on that point to stop me from writing completely, because I don’t think anything I’ve written here harms him, although that assertion would be controversial to a number of readers who’ve assured me in no uncertain terms that some of it is. Moreover, it’s not either / or, as if writing this blog presented constant dilemmas between my ends and Richard Armitage’s, and it could be the case that some of my personal purposes and preoccupations suit him just fine. But I have always acknowledged that it is only a rationalization of my ethical conflict to say that this blog’s existence as a prominent location of news, commentary, squee, discussion, and meta-analysis about Richard Armitage and his work has benefits for him. I know I am doing something wrong, but it is good for you is not an argument that something is not wrong. As I have said many times, I am not Richard Armitage’s publicist, and writing to promote him lies outside my intent and responsibility, but publicity in the social media sense is certainly an unavoidable side of effect of what I do. At the same time, I am independent of him and I write what I want — and if what I want to write, if I want to write it badly enough, does not directly serve him, I am still going to write it as long as in my judgment it does not harm him. My name is the first one in the title, not his, and that was intentional from the beginning. I make the editorial and ethical judgments here.

Now, the admission. What I’ve said — Richard Armitage is not reading — is not entirely congruent with what I have thought from time to time. First, it would be foolish to argue that Armitage was completely uninformed about what occurred in the fandom, because his messages always reflected awareness of what fans thought and cared about. They were never written in a vacuum (hence my point above about co-ownership and implicit negotiation of content). Secondly, there were occasional moments where things were a little too weird for complete comfort on that point — Christmas 2011 was a case in point, although I discouraged recognition or discussion of that. But I could always talk myself out of it on some level, not least because I’d talk to other fans about what his messages meant and hear things they thought he was saying to them and be skeptical. Sometimes someone made an argument for why Armitage was specifically responding to one thing or other in the blogosphere and I could always find a rational alternative explanation that made as much or more sense. In the end, trying to derive specific personal messages from rather general missives was sort of like listening to the Delphic Oracle. As Obscura will tell you, the heroes of Greek drama were always misunderstanding those messages and making the wrong decisions based on them.

***

spooks701_042Couldn’t resist putting this here — it’s Lucas North in Spooks 7.1 — with the Delphic maxim from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi tattooed on his lower abdomen. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

***

I think what someone else has called the pre-Christmas fan fallout points to something that I’ve wanted to ignore for a long time, which has been intensified by Armitage’s ostensible presence on Twitter. That is to say — the fact that he tweeted “no favouritism” doesn’t mean that he’s specifically reading this blog, but it does point inevitably to the fact that he was responding to a mood among fans that I was not responsible for creating — I wasn’t the only one who felt that way or even the first person who articulated it; it’s been percolating for months — but certainly for describing succinctly and articulating and proliferating and promoting.

That getting Armitage to respond to me hadn’t been my intent doesn’t really matter; what has changed is that I have now done something that I can be relatively certain Richard Armitage has noticed.

Next, how I feel about that and what I think it means. Me + entitlement.

~ by Servetus on January 26, 2015.

37 Responses to ““me + richard armitage”: what I own (part one)”

  1. […] Continues here. […]

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  2. Now I feel like you, giving an alternative meaning, but this is solely my impression. It could very well be that RA’s mention of favoritism had something to do with the pre-Christmas fan fallout. But that would only be if 1) his people have been actively monitoring your blog; and/or 2) RA is in closer communication with MB than we think. The probability of either of these being true isn’t likely IMHO. I just don’t think his people have time for specific blog watching or that RA has time to dedicate to a colleague’s hurt feelings over what some fan thinks of her interviews.

    I read the “no favoritism” remark to mean that he was going to publish his own messages instead of handing it off to another fan site as a replacement for the defunct one, which is what he would have had to do had he not enlisted social media.

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    • I don’t have a definitive explanation and I’m not saying you’re wrong. That said, my feeling about this changed quantitatively and there were reason for that, which I will talk about in the next post. But they wouldn’t have to be monitoring my blog. They could simply have observed the posts on twitter and the resulting storm, i.e., if they were monitoring Marlise Boland.

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      • Okay, I’ll look for your next post. I won’t deny that RA’s presence on Twitter, brings a sense of him coming closer to us – the people that write about him.

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    • oh, and: I think your reading is legitimate IF you were not observing the level of traffic on that issue on those days.

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    • I agree with Servetus that the pre-Christmas conflict was everywhere, But I noticed something else, that could be coincidence and those were tweets wishing that he would promote a non-UK charity – and then it happened, sort of obliquely, in his Salvation Army tweet.

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      • That was something that I said (pick a US charity), but I wasn’t the only one by far. The thing that made me pause was that about 36 hours after I asserted that fan art was suffering from the presence of @RCArmitage in the fandom, @RCArmitage tweeted in support of fan art. Afaik I was the only person who said that.

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    • Hi Judiang, I also thought RA’s “no favoritism” in posting his Holiday message on Twitter referred to the RA Online site no longer being updated. Cheers! Grati ;->

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  3. The thing with “ownership” – I take the liberty of continuing the citation marks from your blog and my original e-mail to you – is as you state: RA “owns” his own messages, because he’s the author of these.

    I certainly didn’t take his statement of “no favouritsm” to mean that he was now going to publish his own statements rather than send them to a blogger (fan or otherwise). I took that phrase as a direct link to and as proof of him being aware of this Christmas fallout. Whether RA reads your blog in particular, I couldn’t say, but I’m certain he reads some remarks somewhere which stem from various social media. What is certain is that RA’s PR team will most definitely keep themselves abreast on what goes on and report back to him.

    He owns his messages, but, as you state, these messages become open to the readers’ interpretation once they are ‘out there’ in cyberspace. From his messages over the years, I have deduced (inferred?) something about him. My conclusion could be wrong for all I know, and others will possibly conclude something else from his messages.

    I have – on the silent – been quite aware of the fact that he may possibly ‘tune in’ once in a while to your blog and to those of others, but also always been aware that this blog wasn’t specifically about RA, but rather you discovering yourself. And as you discover yourself, I may learn something about myself in the process.

    So, “ownership” is a delicate issue, and if this comment isn’t going astray, I’d say that I take his messages provide an indication of what he thinks, believes and considers at a particular moment in time, and it may not even have the intentional meaning I infer from it.

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    • The reason I haven’t yet answered your message was two fold — one was that I had planned to go in this direction anyway, and the other is that I am really trying to open up space for frank discussion again. People were afraid after what happened last spring, and the blogosphere suffered and a lot of conversations that were essentially unproblematic went underground. So I apologize — and I will still reply.

      re: interpretation gone awry — certainly. Communication is definitely like a game of telephone. I’m not saying this was the only possible interpretation of what happened on his part, just the one that struck me, and if there’s a shred of truth in it I really have a problem on my hands (next post).

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      • My intention wasn’t to get a reply (to my e-mail), only to express my opinion about a certain issue without infringing blog rules (or hurting others’ feelings).

        If we could have a frank, sincere discussion again, I would definitely appreciate it.

        I forgot to mention in my above comment that I’m personally very satisfied that RA took ownership of his Christmas message via Twitter. I had no squabbles with his messages being posted on the now closed ‘Richard Armitage Online’, because this page/blog(?) had a very, very professional run.

        Looking forward to your next post.

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        • She is inter alia very skilled in both IT and writing. That said, I think because most fans who read this blog were not fans back then, we tend to elide the fact that at one time Armitage made an effort to deal evenhandedly with groups in his fandom that grouped around several sites (not just hers but two others that have since been deleted). When I became a fan she was the sole purveyor and I accepted that as the normal state of affairs. But that was not always the case. His previous history with the fandom (and something he said in a message on this score) also influences my reading of his statement about “no favouritism.” He has been through this before.

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          • Interesting. Your history is about nine months older than mine, and I also only saw the RAO site. It was the site to choose for me then, because I didn’t want to ‘enlist’ as an army member.

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  4. I’ve never really wanted to leave comments before but today I felt like I needed to share what was on my mind.

    I don’t think Richard Armitage has any favourite fans/blogs/websites at all. What upsets me is that we are all his fans he is our mutual liking. Whether it be from liking his accent to his acting. His long legs, eyes even nose. All Armitage fans like him for a reason.

    It upsets me a lot to see supporters of Armitage be horrible to each other. Life is hard and RA could be an escapism for somebody who is going through a hard time in real life.

    I’ve always wanted to write to RA but because of all this favourite fan, blog etc etc. It puts me off and sometimes I wonder what RA would say about his supporters acting in such ways.

    Rant over…. I just wanted to express my views

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, and welcome.

      I don’t believe that Armitage has favorite fans, either, although that is a separate question from whether he engages in behavior that looks like favoritism. (As I said in a previous post, if that’s he meant by that comment, from my perspective, he missed the point.) I do think that he has a longer relationship with some fan groups — this was part of why the non-updates of Richard Armitage Online hit many of us very hard — because he had had a very long relationship with that website and it was the last of the three websites that had originally received his messages to throw in the towel on updates. Favoritism isn’t really the word for it — but because he had the long relationship with that site, his messages went there for dissemination and not elsewhere.

      As far as “being horrible to each other,” you’d have to define what you mean by that. Frank discussion of our reactions to things in the fandom and to the way that Richard Armitage is interviewed is IMO not “being horrible.” Do I care about people who are suffering? Absolutely. I believe this blog reflects that in multiple ways. If what I write troubles them, they should not read this blog. Escapism is not the only reason to engage in fandom — there are many purposes — and all the ones that are not illegal or immoral are legitimate ones.

      As far as what Armitage thinks about his supporters, or what he would say about me, as I have tried to indicate above, that is not a consideration for me. Richard Armitage is not G-d, my parent, my rabbi, or my moral arbiter in any sense. He is my crush, and someone I admire.

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      • 2014 was the very first year that Richard did not post his Holiday message on a fandom website. I admit that I prefer him to distribute his messages their rather than on twitter. But that is just me I found it to be a far more personal touch from him.

        I do think this and please know that I say all my words with kindness towards you. I do think that RA is aware of your blog and others too! The reason that I think this is because of the long period of time you have been running this wonderful blog. I don’t think he reads all blog posts by you but I believe that he is aware of this blog.

        Whenever I type RA name in google this very blog comes up and it makes me smile. In fact when I first stumbled upon it I thought you knew him personally.

        I don’t think that you are crazy! I think you are simply saying what others are thinking which takes a lot of guts to do!

        As for fans being horrible to one another I see it a lot on social media. Which is probably why I recoil from those types of media outlets.

        So please carry on blogging I enjoy your reading.

        As for me writing to RA I wouldn’t know just where to start to express gratitude his acting gives me.

        Liked by 1 person

    • oh, and: if you want to write to him, you should!

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  5. a lot to digest here. I’ll have to read through it all again but my initial chaotic thoughts in no particular order:
    1.) multiple people have written to you claiming to be Richard? that’s messed up.
    2.) a bit off topic but: IF fans could influence what Richard says in his messages I’d say bring back that goofy fellow that teased about fan abandonment and uber-super-duber spy stuff; he was fun! it’s probably thought that he’s too old for that silliness now but I hope that he does still show that side to those in his personal life. it would be a shame to box away that kind of sunshine.
    3.) I personally don’t think the references in fan messages are specific to things that may have been said in the fandom, though I’m not opposed to the possibility. someone is reading the blogs and might point out a specific post to him from time to time, but I just can’t see him keeping up on fan politics or the general goings on here of his own accord. women are interested in that kind of drama, guys run away from it 😉 I just hope no one goes through my words with a grammar pen, that could be scary! 😛
    4.) I applaud the honesty in these posts. you’re addressing things that you’d rather keep quiet about/not give power to. but just as fans are curious about Richard and what he thinks of things, we’re curious about you and what you think of things that you’ve had personal experience with.
    5.) this is probably a given but: you know some people are going to take what you’ve said here out of context. I’m sure you’re used to that though.
    okay, going back to reread! 🙂

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    • 1) yes. It is. Although in the interval I’ve started to think it was funny — as I have with many things that have flabbergasted me over the years.
      2) I think communication is such that inevitably people influence what each other say. That said, too, I think there are phases and moods. I notice that with my own writing. Another thing was that at the point of those messages I think Armitage thought that most of his fans were either British or at least in the Commonwealth and they shared a common vocabulary of humor. There’s a point in the messages where you can see him acknowledging that his fans aren’t solely from that one group anymore, and it occurs parallel to a fall in humor. That may be attributable to mood, or also to the general difficulty that it is really hard to be funny in ways that are internationally realized / recognized.
      3) To me, what happened this specific time goes beyond the “Delphic Oracle” method of re-appropriate cryptic utterances. If there hadn’t been such a huge synergy between my blog and Twitter that week, I probably would be less likely to make this assertion. Normal traffic here from Twitter is less than 5 percent of page views. That week it was more like 25%. There was one other cue that specifically put me off in his tweets. But again, this will depend on what sources one was watching. I like to think I have a fairly comprehensive view of what happens in fandom / social media, but I don’t see everything.
      3.5): I’m sure you didn’t intend to be misogynistic, but that aspect of your comment really troubles me.
      4) One of the problems last year was that (aside from the fact that many of the interesting conversations disappeared from view) the things that we weren’t talking about were gaining power to motivate people precisely because there was no vent. If there are things that are hidden, that are a problem, then let’s bring them out into the light and look at them so they are not so powerful.
      5) Yes — but as I mentioned in the previous post, miscommunication is an inevitable byproduct of communication. I’ve read so many misstatements of things I have said — supposedly I published an entire essay on Armitage’s foreskin; not that I might not have liked to, but I haven’t in fact done that — that I’ve started to laugh about that, too. People who already dislike what I have to say (or react to it in terms worse than that) are not going to be persuaded what I say here, but that’s no reason for me not to be honest. If people think I’m crazy, well, they’ve thought for a long time already.

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      • I’ve seen distinctions through the years between how men and women approach fandom. this may have to do with the type of men I’ve conversed with and in which fandoms,etc. but generally I’ve seen the men wanting to discuss the story universe, the technical aspects of the film, and the marketing. women like to discuss those things too but they’ve also been very interested in relationships: whether that be story based, production based, the celebrity’s personal life, or fans relationships to each other; all of which invite disagreements that tend to get personal. I won’t say men don’t get upset about things or take things personally, but in my experience men don’t react to those types of issues as much as women. I’ve seen these same types of behaviors in my everyday encounters with men off-line as well. my comment was rather flippant but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was misogynistic- stereotypical yes. regardless, I don’t see Richard as someone who would get caught up in all of that (keeping track of what/who was said within the fandom). any one fan’s impression of him is individual and so might differ from others; this is my impression.

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        • The thing is that there are practically no men in this fandom (people who hangout on datalounge aside). In the Hobbit fandom it’s pretty clear that men caused plenty of drama (around Armitage), and in my workplace, it’s currently the men who are causing all the drama. So I guess I don’t share the experience that men are less drama-inclined than women, but obviously everyone has a different perspective.

          re: his tendency to get caught up in what happens in the fandom, he did in both 2008 and 2009. The 2009 incident was a result of fans contacting him directly about things that were being said on imdb and LJ. Does he get caught up in who said what? I don’t know and doubt it, but that wasn’t my argument. I didn’t say, he read this blog and responded to what I said, but rather asserted that his Christmas message was responding to a mood that I was responsible for engendering / intensifying / spreading.

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  6. If I had only known you were accused of writing an essay on RA’s foreskin. I would have been inspired to write possibly my greatest poem yet, surpassing all others dedicated to his various beautiful body parts. I guess I will have wait for that one. Nape curls, nose, eyelashes, thumbs, all pale in comparison with that which we will never, (probably) never see. Sorry, I had to insert some levity in here, the thought of that fictional essay made me laugh out loud. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had a very bitter post draft a while back entitled “essays I could write if I wanted to immediately tank the blog” and I think that was on it … 🙂

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    • what I did say was something along the lines of that I liked fanfic that referred to the fact that he most likely has one. A foreskin is a hugely enjoyable part of foreplay with an uncircumcised man.

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      • I remember that post. I had never really thought about the topic in general except during cultural anthropology classes many years ago. Those classes never mentioned enjoyable foreplay as a side effect. Once again you opened my eyes to unexplored territory, broadening my horizons in unexpected ways. 🙂

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  7. Liberation! 🙂

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    • OMG! That is my “happy” for today….just love that there are people who can laugh about this and snark it up! Liberating indeed!

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  8. Fabricated messages from Armitage. That’s completely insane. I’d love to know what “Richard” had to say to you. Lol

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    • It seems the truly messed up nonsense still goes on behind the scenes in email in this fandom. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, the most ridiculous wank is still out of the public eye. On the other hand, it’s out of the public eye and so there’s never a complete record of what’s happening at any given time.

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      • I’m not the only person it’s happened to — I remember a moment on tumblr a few years ago when someone claiming to be Armitage got in touch w/a bunch of the stalwarts and convinced some of them that he was Armitage. I never respond. Just save the messages in case I ever need evidence of anything.

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  9. Do you accept bribes, serv? Because I would love to read that foreskin post. (LOL)

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  10. […] This section is continued from here. […]

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  11. […] I don’t mean to claim that it’s not a matter of dispute — consider the discussion here, in which superfans disagree on this question. We’ve been through this question several times […]

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