How we make others feel about themselves

[ETA: proofreading]

Let’s take as the text for today a comment reflecting a fandom phenomenon that crosses my electronic path roughly every ten days or so — often randomly, but more often when I say something someone disagrees with. Note that I am not complaining that this happens — at the beginning it used to shock me, but now I understand that becoming the target for this sort of thing is part of the cost of doing business in the social media world if you ever say anything beyond the largely uncontroversial. And you wouldn’t believe the utter triviality of some of the things people find controversial. My fascination with cuticles, for instance. Which does indeed point to something. Is that saying something about me, as Richard Armitage would have us believe?

rage

Background: You may remember that a little while back, I had the audacity to disagree with Richard Armitage that it was a good idea to ask people to change their language on Twitter, not on his behalf, but on the behalf of mums and children. I didn’t expect that a lot of people would agree with me, but for reasons that have to do with the effect of Armitage’s presence in our fandom, I did feel the need to say it. (Note: the statement I made about me there. I’ll come back to it.)

The comment above was one of the responses I got — not the worst or the most violent or vicious, but one that’s fairly typical for what I see when this kind of thing happens, not an outlier but a typical “enraged” comment. You’re seeing a screenshot of a chunk of the message that I get when a new commentator appears on the blog. I’ve erased the screen name out of sympathy for the commentator because s/he uses it elsewhere, and I have omitted the part of the message that gives his/her email and IP address in order to protect his/her privacy.

Now: I don’t object to concrete disagreement. Commentators did disagree with me on that post — there were over a hundred comments. As far as I know, beyond a few likes on tumblr and Twitter, no one jumped to support me elsewhere in the blogosphere — which is why I found another comment that I was “crushing everyone with my eloquence” amusing. I got probably a dozen affirmative expressions all together and Armitage got more than a thousand favorites on his tweet. I get it. It’s not like I’m ever going to make much headway with my position on the dangers of fan-on-fan policing or Armitage-on-fan policing — too many people agree with the general disposition of his comments on this point or at least are not convinced by my repeated outlining of the effects this sort of thing has. Most people don’t seriously consider the possibility that they might be the object of policing — after all, they are not doing anything they consider to be troublesome.

Although this comment doesn’t quite qualify for the category of “bullying” in my book (it might, in terms of the non-profit Armitage follows), as a personal attack on me, it does transgress the comments policy. I didn’t publish it for that reason. Sometimes I am tempted to let people see more of the backside of the blog, but I hesitate to let this sort of thing through moderation because I suspect that in least some cases the statement is made at a point of acute emotional reaction, and the speaker might feel some remorse if s/he thought about it a few days later. I know how much things lie on my spirit that I regret having said, sometimes for years. It’s also hard on the mood of the people who are regular readers, some of whom identify with me and my struggles. I largely don’t unsay things on this blog, but I sometimes allow anonymous commentators not to reveal what they’ve actually said.

This particular commentator apparently really wanted to be seen on the blog, however, because s/he left the comment three times, in progressive stages of anger. (Moderation doesn’t allow that, incidentally, so I didn’t actively block the comment — indeed, in case this is a mystery to anyone, I can’t see a comment before it’s made, so yes, I do see everything that people want to say to me, I just don’t let the entire readership of the blog see those things. That’s what a blog is — a moderated discussion forum in response to things the blogger says). Thus I feel no qualms in giving him/her the attention now that s/he apparently sought at the time. The commentator is also not a native speaker of English and s/he gradually eliminated grammatical errors from his/her English as the comments progressed and s/he got frustrated that the software wasn’t letting him/her through.

Here’s the text in its final form:

rage

Allowing for the problems of the non-native speaker with English idiom, this is what I understood him/her to be saying:

“For G-d’s sake, what kind of human being are you? An unloved and envious woman. Why not find a cliff to jump off of? … Do this for the sake of humanity!”

I interpreted the commentator to be imploring me rhetorically on behalf of the deity to say what kind of human I am. S/he then answers the question him/herself by asserting that I am “unloved” (I am not sure if this means “someone without a lover,” or “someone whom no one loves” — it seems to me from the context in which we find ourselves — a fan blog devoted to a particular celebrity on whom I am severely crushed — that it could be either or both) and “envious” (of what the speaker does not say). The commentator makes a suggestion as a solution to those “problems”: the proposal that I should jump off a cliff (hypothetically speaking, this is a metaphor for the wish that I should severely injure or kill myself in doing so). I should harm myself “for humanity,” which might mean “in order to do the world the favor of ridding itself of my presence,” or perhaps something like “out of humanity,” i.e., in order to be kind to the world, or at least the segment of it that has read my blog.

On one level, the speaker is responding to something I said — my vehement disagreement with something Richard Armitage tweeted.

What does that speaker’s reaction to me (how I “made him/her feel about him/herself”) say about me?

Of course what I say says something about me. If I take the trouble to write about something, you may assume that I care about it enough to spend the time doing it, and that, while I am interested in what others have to say about it, I am not going simply to cave in if someone disagrees with me. I have a relatively high tolerance for controversy that does not degrade into personal attack, and an aversion to personal attack. I have, I suspect, an extreme need for openness about my reactions to things. Some of that has something to do with the original purpose of this blog — it only works as a writing tool for me when I am speaking from the heart. I am also heavily invested in this fandom after five years and when I see something that troubles me that doesn’t fall under my own personal rules about what I say or don’t say about fans or Richard Armitage (chief concept: “apart from actual crimes, let every fan have his/her own conscience” and/or “disagreement and difference of opinion are fine, but let’s try not to police each other”), I think about it for a while and if I still feel strongly, I speak out.

But what does that speaker’s reaction to me (“how I made him/her feel about himself”) say about me? Given that it’s not that unusual of an occurrence that someone leaves a rage-filled, sometimes violent comment, in response to something I’ve written? That people who leave these comments are not crazy, but represent a significant subset of the fandom that is troubled enough by the blog to leave comments like that?

I would say: that there’s something about my writing (“how I make people feel about themselves”) that causes some readers to feel things intensely (even negative things). Something about what I write, or some things that I write, tends to provoke shame or ashamedness in some readers. It even makes some people feel so threatened that they lash out with threats or worse.

I can own that.

Someone’s suggested to me recently that that is my fault, that the emotional reactions of others to what I say are something I cause, and that anything that has happened to me as a result is something I deserve because I laid the road open to it.

Now, that’s certainly true in an absolute sense. If you’re not walking down a dark alley where someone might be waiting to rob a passerby, you won’t get robbed in that way. If I weren’t writing this blog, I wouldn’t get grief about what I wasn’t writing. That’s a tautology, incidentally, a truth so obvious that it doesn’t constitute an argument.

But think about that for a second. Is that really the world we want to live in? In which no one ever walks down a dark alley — in our case, no one ever says anything because of all of the reactions that someone might have — every instance of “how I make people feel about themselves”? More specifically, is that really the fandom we want to live in?

[As a Jew, I’m more a proponent of the silver rule than the golden rule, but even so, it’s not like that’s sufficient for the weight that is placed on it here. The political implications of that position are stunning — but we’re not talking about politics here. I’ll just point that it is a stance that inherently justifies the status quo of existing oppression.]

The artistic consequences of it are also troubling. If other people’s reactions to things we say truly bear on us in a meaningful sense, it should give an artist — any actor who plays any controversial role — pause. If we can assume that Richard Armitage is “making others feel things about themselves” when he plays Francis Dolarhyde — and I assume that is an essential goal of successful acting insofar as it plays with the question of empathy, to make people in the audience feel something about themselves — and that makes us disgusted, angry, rage-filled, frustrated, disappointed — what does what he is “making us feel about ourselves” say about him?

What does it say about Richard Armitage that some of these things he tweets make me angry with him and frustrated with myself for trying to support an open fandom? I suspect that people who disagree with me would ultimately undermine the statement they’re supporting — they would say that how Armitage “makes me feel about myself” does not say anything meaningful about him. They would attribute my reaction to me, either to my misunderstanding of what he meant, or to some flaw in my personality. Perhaps those who are especially angry at me would say that it’s evidence that I’m some kind of warped person because I disagree with him and my reaction is evidence of that — not, indeed, as his own tweet would imply, that he is asking something that if taken literally is not only nonsensical but damaging to the world of expression.

Those people would be right, incidentally, even as they contradicted Armitage’s apparent point in the tweet. As many people figure out around the age of eighteen, a fundamental step in attaining adulthood is realizing that one is responsible for one’s own emotions, reactions, and behavior. How Richard Armitage makes people feel about themselves may say something about him, his talent, or at least his desire to please, but it says a lot more about the people who are having the feelings. I blog in response to my feelings, but I don’t blame the feelings on him (except tongue-in-cheek) and I don’t refuse to accept the consequences of what I say.

I mention that because there’s another piece of this. Yes, I write this blog. But I write it about someone. So in terms of the causal relationship “how I make people feel about themselves” vs “what it says about me” — I’m not writing in a vacuum in which that relationship is direct. This blog is an example of that — I started writing it because Richard Armitage made me feel things about not just him, but also myself, hence the title. Most of my audience would not care, for instance, if I had something negative to say about macaroni and cheese. (No worries.) A few of us would, probably, but would anyone blame that reaction on my attitude toward starchy, fatty carbohydrate meals? No, we would say it was about their allegiance to the dish. So “how I make people feel about themselves” is not only about me and what I say, it is also about the other associations people have with one of the subjects about which I write: Richard Armitage. He “makes people feel a certain way about themselves,” which is why, if I criticize something he says, they are reacting not only to what I have said, but also to their own reactions to “how he makes them feel about themselves.” They are angry at me, but they are angry because I said something about him that affects their own emotional ties to him.

So there’s a segment of Armitage’s fans whom “he makes feel about themselves” so intensely that they feel justified in leaving the kind of comment I’ve reproduced above. (I’m not the only person who gets this, I assume — I know that some other bloggers are the recipient of this stuff as well.) When they perceive that I am threatening him, they feel threatened and they threaten in return. Or “he makes them feel about themselves” so intensely that they think it’s worthwhile to do other stuff, that does qualify as bullying, that may be illegal, that doesn’t need to be rehashed here.

Insofar as “how he makes people feel about themselves” apparently causes some fans to police or even bully other fans, are we really ready to claim that that “says something about him”? I think fans engaged in these behaviors are not protecting him, but rather their own identities, but since Armitage fans who police or bully do so ostensibly for his sake, does that say “a lot” or indeed anything about him?

I suspect most of us would say that it doesn’t.

~ by Servetus on April 26, 2015.

139 Responses to “How we make others feel about themselves”

  1. Whenever you talk about the negative sideeffects of blogging you leave me speechless and sad! (But I think it is good to talk about it now and then)
    Different opinions, discussions – yes but pure hatred – no!!!

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    • Yeah, I think a lot of people don’t encounter this but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real (which is what people have told me — that I am imagining this stuff). I don’t want to make it the keynote of my blogging but it is present.

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  2. I can’t help wondering how people making such comments would feel if the person they are sending such comments to actually did what they suggested. I don’t think they always consider the consequences…if ever!

    I know this stuff happens but it makes me sad that people feel it necessary to be so vile.

    As for Armitage, I don’t believe it says anything about him. It only shows the commentator up for the sort of person they are. The Internet is a handy place to vent your meanest thoughts. I don’t always agree with him, you and lots of other people. I just see that as life. If we all agreed it would be terribly boring! 🙂

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    • yeah, it absolutely makes one wonder. Presumably they think that their addressee won’t attempt to follow their directions (it would be hard around here, not a lot of cliffs), or else maybe they think their addressee will understand them metaphorically rather than literally. Although the metaphorical implications of such an utterance (“I wish you were dead”) are also disturbing and that kind of thing is particularly hard on teenagers.

      See, this is how I’d put it. What I say says something about me. How people feel about what I say or how they feel about themselves in response to what I say — that says more about them.

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  3. Reading this, it almost feels like a vicious circle in the sense that one can become embroiled in a controversy that wasn’t initially intended to be one, and one does not want to take part, but is somehow trapped in this controversy. Am I making any sense?
    I like honest, sincere discussions, and – yes – discussions often take their point of departure in disagreements with opposing arguments (no fallacies, thank you very much), and that’s the challenge in open, honest and sincere discussions. Discussions where all parties respect each other.
    To become so enraged for the benefit of a third party (Armitage, who wasn’t even part of the discussion – only indirectly) that one resorts to hate – No way!
    I know I’m naive, but I don’t understand the need for controversy and hysteria. (Sorry, if I’m policing – not intending to be – feel free to moderate.)
    Yes, it does say more about ‘them’ than you.

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    • re: controversies one didn’t realize one was in — yeah. I could say a lot more about that but I think I’ll save it.

      re: controversy — the issue is that what is controversial for me is not controversial for someone else.

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      • Or – what’s controversial for somebody, may not be controversial for me. Interesting how this perspective is different for different people.

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        • yeah, it’s why “tweet as you want to be tweeted” doesn’t really work as a general rule. I can write a totally (from my perspective) innocent post in which i joke about rescinding my approval of Armitage’s footwear choices and someone can show up to suggest that I need to be more respectful. I wasn’t tweeting anything that I would have a problem with, but other people have a problem with my apparent lack of respectfulness. It’s an impossible standard to live up to in a near-global community.

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        • At the risk of pointing out unpleasantness, which I try to avoid doing, take a look at this Twitter thread (make sure you page all the way up the page). https://twitter.com/BrophyJed/status/592854050862977024

          Tweep makes what I was sure (even before I saw the whole conversation) was a joke, but two different people took it seriously — in striking different ways. One tried to conciliate, the other to chastise. The result was that the original tweeter apologized abjectly and repeatedly for something that was not ill meant but nonetheless tripped a few triggers. In the end, no one (except the original tweeter) apologized for the misunerstanding — everyone simply justified their statements (to greater or lesser success).

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          • At the risk of outing myself as a complete nincompoop with respect to Twitter, the aspect that strikes me the most here is actually not so much the ‘conversation’ itself, but rather the exclusion of several of the @(names) and then inclusion of other, new @(names).
            From what I’ve learnt about communication (and what I also teach my students) is that you carry on the conversation/thread with the intended target audience until the conversation has ended. The purpose of this is not to spoil the thread. The sender(s) should not include someone new or exclude someone who in their perception should or should not receive the message, unless specified which – granted – is difficult in tweets.
            These threads of conversation become so complicated in the end that the message may vanish. This applies to e-mails and may apply to tweeting as well, in my opinion
            In this case, the message was clear ‘stay out of the conversation and don’t tell us what to do’, one tweeter picked up on that, and others felt sorry for the original tweeter, who – as you write – apologized to no end.
            Nonetheless, look at the inclusion/exclusion of @(names); the purpose of this is unclear and rather interesting (maybe due to carelessness?)

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            • This is actually one thing that Twitter is supposed to facilitate — joining a multifaceted conversation with multiple unknown people — that is one of its attractions for the user. At some point someone aske to be removed from the conversation, I think, but there was also someone who joined in who saw what was happening and was apparently looking to shame …

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          • And to follow up on your message above. Yes, it is astonishing how people perceive – in this instance – humour.
            Humour in writing (on electronic/social media) is difficult to master because it’s connected to other devices that could assist in its transmission, i.e. cultural background, personality, age etc.
            We also miss out on the non-verbal devices, i.e. gestures and facial expressions.

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            • yes — if the tweep had said, “get your buddy @RCArmitage to answer his fans a little more, nudge nudge wink wink” everyone would have understood it as a joke (and those who did not would nonetheless have to acknowledge that the original tweep had meant it that way).

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  4. Hi Servetus!
    (not a native speaker…)
    I left the RA tag a while ago because all the bickering was so frustrating :/ but there are a few blogs I check every once in a while and yours is one of them – especially when it’s not (only) about RA but about fandom.
    I have a suspicion that when he tweets things like that, he doesn’t really think it through… He clearly values politeness and respect (isn’t that what he said he craves in one BOFA interview… I thought that was interesting) and he’s a huge people pleaser. And every time he uses his popularity (on twitter, Christmas messages et al) to “make people be nice to each other” I just want to pat him on the shoulder and say “you tried…”. It’s his Rev. Armitage mode. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s (how shall I put it so that it doesn’t sound offensive?) the world’s best analytical mind and I don’t think that he’s ever thought through what fan policing really is all about and what his part might be in it.
    The sad thing is that I don’t think his opinions count at all. It’s nice to be inspired by him, but people quoting RA in order to shut other people up always reminds me a bit of Life of Brian (tbh it reminds me a lot of people throwing around Biblical quotes too… and that the question of his relationship status is divided in “believers and non-believers” (sic) is actually another example of that worrying analogy). Idk why he should have any “authority” at all. But somehow I get the feeling that he thinks he has and tries to use it to do some good. Personally I just find it very patronising (I wonder what that says about him 🙂 )

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    • Rev. Armitage Modus: grossartig! Und ich glaube auch, er ist beileibe nicht der Analytiker vor dem Herrn. Macht mir persönlich nichts, alles menschlich, aber manches würde erst garnicht hochkochen,wenn es kurz vor dem Lostwittern mal reflektorisch überprüft würde 🙂

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      • haha naja als angehende Pfarrerin rieche ich moralinsaure Predigten drei Meilen gegen den Wind 😀 und mein Autoritätsproblem kommt noch dazu… es sagt halt doch mehr über mich als über ihn aus, wenn ich sage, dass mir solche Äußerungen auf den Geist gehen 😀 aber wie gesagt, ich schätze, er meint es gut. Es wär halt schön, wenn seine messages an fans mehr “empowering” wären, ermutigend, bekräftigend, ein bisschen mehr JA!, ein bisschen weniger erhobener Zeigefinger. Das fehlt mir ein bisschen. Aber mei… vielleicht hat er’s halt einfach auch nicht in sich. Bei den meisten scheint es ja so wie’s ist gut anzukommen. Meine Reaktion ist halt doch “er war stehts bemüht” 🙂

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        • Du rennst offene Türen bei mir ein. Vielleicht liegt es am fortgeschrittenen Alter: ich werd auch zunehmend allergisch, wenn mir einer sagt, wie ich mich “benehmen” soll. Aber “war stets bemüht” huh, wie komplett wundebar ist das denn! Ich glaube wirklich, er funkt auf einer anderen Frequenz als der gemeine Durchschnittsbürger. Bißchen sehr verstrickt in seinem eigenen Kosmos und vielleicht nicht immer im Blick, was sich so abspielt im gemeinen Leben. Aber wir sind ja mächtig verständisvoll….. 😉

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          • I do think that there are significant and unrecognized age issues in this fandom — when someone tells me how I should behave and it turns out they are 18 — well, let’s just say my eagerness to listen, let alone comply, falls drastically. Maybe he thinks he’s speaking mostly to teenagers.

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            • Ja, das mit der Bandbreite im Alter ist in der Tat nicht zu unterschätzen. Immerhin kommt man da mal locker auf schlappe 30 Lebensjahre Differenz. Das ist dann schon sehr ambitioniert, wenn man das alles unter einen Hut bringen will. Geht eigentlich garnicht.

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        • Yes! Exactly. He used to be more empowering and inspiring in what he said.

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        • Bei 140 twitter Zeichen muss Mann sich schon sehr auf das Wesentliche beschränken und wenn ich ehrlich bin, bisher habe ich das immer meinen unvollkommenen Englischkenntnissen zugeschrieben, verstehe ich nicht immer was Mr. A uns jetzt genau mitteilen will. Vielleicht ist er manchmal zu überambitioniert um eine für ihn wichtige Botschaft rüberzubringen, ich stimme der erhobenen Zeigefingervariante zu, etwas mehr “einfach Mensch sein” wäre vielleicht besser. In die ‘Botschaften’ interpretiert sowieso jeder etwas anderes…….
          Danke nach ‘oben’ für die wunderbare Konversation über “Pfarrer” und erhobene Zeigefinger 🙂 LoL

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      • Rev. Armitage kommt aber, glaube ich, von Servetus selbst. Jedenfalls nicht meine Kreation 🙂

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    • hi, mrsjohnstandring, I am honored to be a survivor on your list. I agree he’s not the greatest analytical mind — although when I said that the number of ad hominem attacks provoked was high even for my experience — and above all not a systemic thinker. It’s not even that I disagree that people should try to be nicer; I just think it s really pointless to say it to the audience to whom he is speaking because the people who might exert themselves in that sense don’t see themselves as the addressees of his request. I just think because he is not really a member of the fandom he doesn’t really understand how this fandom works. And I wish he would stop delivering the brickbats for the policers. That doesn’t take away from how he moves me as an artist, incidentally.

      I can think of things he could do that probably would have more influence than what he does, but they would require some attention to the way things really are that I suspect he doesn’t have time for. Twitter is a marketing venue for him and he’s bothered by some of the things that happen there.

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  5. “I interpreted the commentator to be imploring me…” made me laugh. Out loud. And I felt bad about it. But not really. Does that make me a shallow person? What indeed does that say about me? Hmmm, I don’t know and probably don’t want to know. I just found it strangely funny. I am sad that that person said that to you but strangely amused that that person felt so strongly about it — a little out of proportion I would think. I get it though, sometimes my buttons are pushed and I want to say something and am glad I didn’t; because later on I know I would regret it. Or even worse, be totally wrong. I often don’t agree with what you write, at least it is often my first knee jerk reaction. But I always mull it over, and consider things I hadn’t thought about, and often times my view is changed (not always!). I always respect what you have to say though and am definitely hoping you will never throw yourself over a cliff. I’m just guessing, but I really don’t think humanity would be better off for it.

    The ‘how you make others feel’ thing to me is about consciously and maliciously hurting someone’s feelings. I certainly never think that that is something you could be accused of based on any of the posts of your blog that I have read.

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    • well, I was trying for that effect. Reading a request that the author jump off a cliff is hard for an audience, so by making a joke, I was distancing myself as the author of the blog from being the direct target of that request.

      I definitely think our buttons get pushed, and precisely because we are fans — we are emotionally invested in all of this. Note that I didn’t say she shouldn’t say these kinds of things, only that I don’t publish them on my blog most of the time.

      Not planning to throw myself off a cliff. Not really my speed. Perhaps I shouldn’t joke about this, but if I were to do that, cliffs would not be involved. Too much risk involved.

      re: how you make others feel about themselves — I don’t ever set out to make someone feel badly about him/herself. I do publish things that are critical of other people’s work, but the point isn’t to make the person feel bad, it’s to criticize the work. I realize that those two things are very close together and that it may not be possible for someone to separate herself from her work, but that’s really the distinction that anyone works toward who is having a discussion about anything — keeping it about the subject at hand, not about the personality of the people involved. That being said, I see all the time that people say things that are not maliciously meant that nonetheless make the addressee feel bad about themselves. I did this all the time when I gave poor grades, for instance. Does my failure to stop giving low grades for poor work when I knew that it might make people feel badly about themselves mean i should have stopped doing it? It certainly said something about me — but in order to find out what, you’d have to interview people who might see the matter quite differently.

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  6. Du bist ganz klar deutlich zu reflektiert und analytisch in deinen Betrachtungen und das stresst sicher einen Teil deiner Leserschaft immens. Und manch einer ahnt nicht, auf welchen Diskurs er sich mit dir einlässt. 🙂 Egal, es fordert manche deiner Texte auszuhalten und ich kann mir gut vorstellen, dass viele Kommentare zunächst aus dem Bauch heraus abgegeben werden ( kommt mir bekannt vor 😉 ). Deine Art des Bloggens ist schon mächtig speziell und (bewusst) anspruchsvoll und dadurch per se ein ständiges “Ärgernis” für manche Leute. Stichwort: Einschüchterung bzw. “Dem bin ich nicht gewachsen”. Aber hey, das ist eben Servetus’ Style. Und klar ist es viel einfacher, dir die Hölle dafür heiß zu machen, dass du am Sockel unseres Helden kratzt, als sich damit auseinanderzusetzen, was dieses aggressive Verhalten über uns/den Kommentator selber aussagt. Du sprichst es aus, also wirst du dafür hingerichet. Ist doch ganz einfach. Und dann weist du die Leute noch auf die Zusammenhänge hin! Ich sag dir nur eines: mach bloß weiter so!

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  7. Wow. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the shite that gets thrown your way, but here we are. A couple of things that came to me: First, and most important, this is your blog & you say whatever the hell you want and police it in the same way. No need for democracy. Readers can either play by the rules or eff all the way off (I am really struggling to write this without swearing! Sorry, Serv.) Second, the person who wrote that awful piece of bile really isn’t living life the way in which the Chosen Armitage has exalted us all — and that makes me laugh my non-so-inconsiderable arse right off. He said ‘Be Nice To Each Other.’ His little disciple disagreed with your observation & proceeded to hurl insults including the suggestion to throw yourself off a cliff. Nice. Finally, I agree with your concerns (? is that the right word?) about policing. Frankly, I’m maybe farther down the road than you in that it’s more than a bit “nanny-ish” to present that to a fandom as a way govern behaviour. This ain’t daycare, Buddy. People are going to say what they want — but I do think they should realize there are consequences for it. So, if someone writes something like that — go ahead & post so they get the online shredding they so richly deserve. As for the random death wishes, I save those for when it’s really important, like the other drivers with whom I am forced to share the road. Those guys are real asshats. (For the most part though, I really find commenters here to be reasoned, thoughtful and pretty funny. Which is cool. Thanks for creating a fun sandbox for us all!)

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    • Obscenity is not prohibited here 🙂

      And yes, I thought the paradox was hilarious. The person in question felt free to say something that Armitage’s maxim would mitigate against, to the person who was suggesting that Armitage’s maxim was wrong-headed. My world creates room for that person’s utterance, at least as an utterance; his suggests that those thoughts shouldn’t even be articulated out loud.

      Other drivers are annoying … 🙂

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  8. It would seem that a more logical approach to voicing one’s disagreement with another’s comments would be to tell them “hey, I disagree with what you said and here are my reasons why”. Obviously, in this person’s case it’s just a emotionally based reaction. You touched a nerve and the easier route is to go for the personal attack which has no reason nor substance to make an argument I actually do appreciate that you moderate this blog. I wouldn’t want to read those kind of comments as they are irrelevant to the topic being discussed and besides they are a huge buzz kill!!! I love reading your blog and even when I don’t agree with your opinion, I still respect that it’s your opinion. I would never feel the need to verbally beat you over the head for having it. I do feel that on this site if I strongly disagreed with something you wrote, I could comment and open up a respectful debate.

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    • yeah, absolutely as long as you didn’t engage in insult. I am even known occasionally for praising someone for raising an issue I didn’t think of, lol.

      that person’s reaction was absolutely symptomatic of a suddenly struck nerve — his/her nerve.

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  9. Hmm..hard to accept that this is also Armitage’s fan.
    Please, don’t throw yourself over the cliff ,Servetus. Humanity wouln’t be better without you for sure but OMG Richard Armitage fandom would be boring as hell!

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    • This is an interesting point, and it’s part of why I am relatively inflexible about the “fan policing” part of the comments policy. It is indeed hard to accept that this is a fellow fan of ours, but apparently s/he is. Which makes me think that there are probably a lot of things about fellow fans that I would find unappetizing if I knew them (and vice versa). So I try to limit my blog policy only to things that I find really undermine discourse.

      the thing about jumping off a cliff: it would leave a huge mess behind, and it would hurt. Unless I jumped into water, in which case there would be no mess but it would still hurt and then I am afraid of water. So no real worries there. 🙂

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    • Me too, Joanna! Agree on all points!
      Love you, Servetus – that you can maintain your sense of humor with all this garbage simply amazes me…. you need a raise (lol!! 😉
      Can’t help but believe that The Armitage would also be aghast at such a comment by a fan.

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      • I’m sure he gets hate mail, so he’s probably aware of the problem if not the specific instances that fans experience. Most celebrities do.

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  10. That comment’s so incredibly vile, and if that’s not even the worst of the lot, holy shit, you’re one tough person and I admire you for it. I think I would have folded after one or two, I’m pretty thin-skinned.

    I didn’t really agree completely with your original post about RA’s tweets, but I appreciated the perspective. Thanks for sparing us from the horrendous messages people have been throwing at you, and for keeping your comments open to respectful discussion.

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  11. I really like the communication model by Friedemann Schulz von Thun. According to this model every message has four sides: fact, self-revealing, relationship, and appeal. I think in the case of the violent comment the self-revealing aspect is very strong. You touched a sore spot, perhaps with your opinion, perhaps with your writing style, perhaps with your personality and the person in question reacted very emotionally. May be the unknown author is an unloved and envious woman because this are the words that came to her mind…

    I second your statement that “one is responsible for one’s own emotions, reactions, and behavior” and I don’t think that you are to blame for such emotional reactions. Some people are not trained to analyse messages and emotions and don’t appreciate polite disagreement…

    For me it’s kind of funny that a message like that is exactly the opposite of “what RA would have liked”…

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    • “unloved, envious” — they are words often used to describe both fans and single middle-aged women. The thing is that I know they’re not true, and at my age, I’m also old enough to withstand insults hurled by clueless strangers. It would obviously have hurt a lot more if this were someone I knew (say, a former lover).

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  12. Comments like the one sent to you really make me wonder about humanity. I fear there are far more people capable of this type of behavior than I would like to believe.

    I appreciate and admire the courage you show in continuing to share from your heart and to encourage us to think.

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    • I imagine that under the right circumstances most of us, me included, would be capable of it. It would just depend on the issue. There are things I have deeper convictions about than my love for Richard Armitage that could possibly contribute to bad behavior on my part in that sense.

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  13. It is a shame that people can be so mean. It makes me wonder if they have the problem and are trying to hide that fact by putting the light on you. It seems that is what bullies do best. We all have a right to like something or not and I for one have not always liked everything that Richard has said but he says them with the information he knows. I am sorry that you and other bloggers have to deal with people who can be so mean. I am pretty sure that it is not just fandom, all one has to do is go the youtube and read the comments some of those can be very mean.

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  14. I think the reasons for bad behavior are negative emotions, feeling helpless and having no other means to react appropriate… someone who is to full of bad thoughts and feelings…like feeling hurt and just want to hurt somebody else… Of course everybody could be in such a situation but not everybody would express such hate and violence to an unknown stranger…

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  15. That escalated so quickly I feel like you need a Ron Burgundy gif.

    It seems deeply ironic that someone so publicly involved in anti-bullying has fans who go right for the throat like this . . . because someone disagreed with him?

    You’ve been around longer than I have – has it always been like this behind the scenes, or is it more common now that he’s gaining fame among among a more widespread (possibly younger) audience?

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    • I think that this kind of thing was always limited to the unmoderated boards — topixx, imdb — before blogs appeared. You couldn’t say this kind of thing on the forums — they were moderated and you’d probably have been expelled for making this kind of remark. I would say the first year and a half I blogged, I got one malicious comment (not necessarily with these words) about every 2-3 months. It escalated around the spring of 2012, but I don’t know if that was because Armitage’s career was taking off or because the blog itself was more prominent, or some combination of those things. What’s weird is that I am much less adventurous nowadays in most of what I write than I was four years ago. The boundaries of what the critical mass of the fandom find acceptable are apparently narrowing. (Which is why I find Armitage’s statements especially troubling.) I do think the fandom is probably 10-15 years younger on average than it was in 2010, but that’s mostly my feeling / guess.

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  16. So sorry !
    Je suis choquée et bouleversée , que votre liberté de parole engendre de telles ignominies .
    De part ma petite expérience dans ce domaine , j’ai été amenée à penser, que souvent les injures proviennent de personnes intellectuellement ou émotionnellement incapables d’argumenter .
    Cette personne peut également INTENTIONNELLEMENT vouloir vous faire du mal ou vous discréditer . Mais ses propres écrits , à cause de leur monstruosité , ont l’effet inverse , ils la discréditent .
    L’ humanisme de RA et l’humanité en sont indirectement les cibles, les victimes collatérales . Votre blog , vos pensées , les fans fervents de vos écrits en sortent confortés dans leurs convictions ( qu’ils adhèrent ou non à vos opinions ).

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    • you know, it’s interesting — you’re right that the collateral damage is the fandom and Armitage (which is another reason for not letting too much of this stuff see the light of day), although some people would say that my writing has the same effect — “the kind of thing that gives fans a bad name,” that’s been said of me more than once. I think in the end we have to take a deep breath, all of us, and ask, how important is this really? And in what sense?

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      • Vous avez autant raison de censurer que de divulguer cette m…e . La cause ne méritait pas de tels propos extrêmes de leur auteur . Alors pourquoi les sortir de l’ombre ?
        Je suis dubitative , mais au fond approuve .
        (ps : no fandom’s damage , we ‘ve all different views , but humanity damage : the language is becoming worse . Am I getting too old !!

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        • You have as much right to censor as to disclose this s..t . The cause did not deserve such extreme comments of their author.
          So why take them out of the shadows?
          I am doubtful, but basically approves.

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  17. So sorry!
    I am shocked and upset, your freedom of speech generates such ignominy.
    Share my little experience in this area, I was led to believe that the insults often come from people intellectually or emotionally unable to argue.
    This person may also INTENTIONALLY want to hurt or discredit you. But his own writings, because of their monstrosity, have the opposite effect, they drop a dime on him or her .
    The humanism of RA and humanity are indirectly targets, collateral victims. Your blog, your thoughts, RA’s fans ardent of your writing come out strengthened in their convictions (whether they agree or not with your opinions).

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  18. There’s a difference between how we make another feel about h/hself as we go about our day to day activities living our lives, or in your case, writing your blog, and how we make another feel about h/hself as a direct effect of an interaction with that person. We’ve been struggling with this in our house this week, with the young love, who got into a bit of trouble at school by making baby noises at another kid. That was a direct interaction and, I can assume, would have been humiliating to the other kid. The way he made the other kid feel in this case does indeed reflect on him, and poorly. And he had to craft, practice and deliver an apology that specified what he’d done wrong, why it was wrong, admit that it was mean of him, and ask to be forgiven. To me it says nothing about RA as a person (in the example you gave above) if in the course of his career and activities as an actor he performs a role that disturbs me and makes me uncomfortable, as I think Dolarhyde will do. It may say something about RA as an actor, namely that he’s doing a good job. =) In the case of the commenter who suggested that you throw yourself off a cliff, that’s obviously a direct interaction with you that was intended to make you feel bad. If I were his/her mom, you can believe you’d receive a full apology tomorrow morning detailing what s/he was apologizing for, why it was wrong, that it was mean, and asking your forgiveness!

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    • the comparison to what we might call “classroom” or “playground” behavior is an interesting one. (I’m sure you know that parents of highly talented kids often have to make some extra effort to teach their small children empathy, it’s not that unusual, and it sounds like you’re doing what you believe you nee to be doing.) I would say that a child is defenseless in this sense — an adult, or a mean kid on the playground, can indeed “make” his/her target feel badly about him or herself. So when I say, people are responsible for their own feelings, I don’t necessarily mean children. I think learning to take that responsibility is something that happens in the later teen years or into young adulthood.

      To cite an example — in December of 2013 Armitage made a joke on the Josh Horowitz show (was photographed making it) that many fans found offensive, to the point of in, at least one case, leaving the fandom. Those who criticized it and then left didn’t make that decision about them, however. They didn’t say “Armitage shouldn’t have made that joke,” they said, “he made that joke and now I don’t feel at home here anymore.” They took responsibility for their own feelings. (Of course, another group of fans jumped in to say they shouldn’t have those feelings, or that they were being ridiculous and couldn’t take a joke, but that’s par for the course lately.)

      I think it’s fair to say I may have given an example of something that Armitage would have interpreted very differently than I did — or that in this case he might hypothetically be talking about the commentator and not me, i.e., how that person made me feel about myself says something about them. (Although I purposely haven’t stated how this made me feel when I read it.) As several commentators have pointed out, presumably this message is exactly the kind of thing that he wanted / wants to stop.

      I am not saying that I am thrilled to get messages like this and hey, send me more. I’m saying that I get them because I say things that fans interpret as problematic enough to start disputes over — meanwhile because he keeps insisting that fans shouldn’t bully each other, he has never defined what bullying is, and given that some people interpret any kind of disagreement or dispute or refusal of someone to back down from something they’ve said that troubles someone else as bullying, everyone is liable to eventually receiving this kind of comment for saying the “wrong” thing. That effect has little to do with the speaker (who can, in fact, be blindsided by fan anger over things they didn’t realize were a problem) and thus says not much about them, at least necessarily, and has everything to do with how the respondent is “made” to feel by the speaker, which is, in fact, not really or at least not entirely the speaker’s fault.

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      • Now I’m curious about the joke you referred to that offended some to the point of leaving the fandom. I entirely agree with you that it is each person’s responsibility to own their reactions to what others say and do, rather than blame the person who made them feel that way. At least as adults that’s what we can hope for and expect. This isn’t the school yard. That said, I couldn’t help but feel the commenter was behaving childishly toward you in the rude personal attack. =) Just out of idle curiosity… if the commenter had said something more along the lines of “Servetus, when I read this type of thing it makes me so mad that I question what kind of human being you are and want to tell you to go jump off a cliff”… (i.e., still rude, but owning his/her reaction) would you have approved it?

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        • re: the joke: Armitage was photographed apparently hanging himself from his tie in response to the prompt “sad.” https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/0e/f7/5e/0ef75ea064f5144e536cba810c803e93.jpg

          The thing is, my comments policy can’t say, “don’t behave childlishly,” because sometimes I behave childishly.

          re your question: it would depend on the context, probably, what I had said that called the comment forth, and the wording, and particularly on whether I had a history with the commentator, but there would be a small chance that I would approve it. Saying ‘You’re wrong and I hate you’ is not much of an argument, and I think the implication “I don’t believe what you are saying because I despite you” is still ad hominem, an attack on the person rather than what I am saying, but it’s a different kind of statement than ‘you suck and I wish you were dead.’ In response to the first, I can say, ‘why do you think I am wrong?’ but there’s nothing to be said in response to the second — that kind of statement kills any rational discussion.

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          • Thanks for the link. I can see why that might be a trigger for someone. And yes, I think you were absolutely right not to approve that comment. There isn’t any rational discussion to be had after an ad hominem attack. It’s why I avoid political discussions on social media- far too many on either side love to lob ad hominem insults rather than rationally discuss the issue.

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            • I think, too, that we cut people who we “know” some slack (however we define “know”) — I react different to my father’s statements about politics than I do when acquaintances or strangers make the same statements. Social media erases all of that context and since we dont know people, we are less incline to cut them slack.

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  19. The Armitage for me is a Dr. Jekyll in constant struggle with his inner Mr Hyde.
    I could go on a rant like I did on your last post re the “moms & little ones” … but since it’s 2am I’ll keep it short 😉
    His voicemail is (in his own words) very moody and says “and why are you calling me?” … cough I don’t know about anyone else, but I would feel like shit listening to something like this when calling someone. I’m a person who chooses to simply ignore calls when I’m not in the mood for talking, but have a very nice voicemail 😉

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    • I can’t throw stones. I hate voicemail so much that I have never ever set mine up on my US cell phone. If you call me, you get a message that the owner of the voicemail hasn’t set up service and you get disconnected 🙂

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  20. as someone who has lashed out from time to time in regards to things I wasn’t ready to hear yet, I value your stubborn streak! when I agree with you, I give you a silent fist pump of solidarity and when I don’t agree, I give you another hand gesture altogether (LOL!) but you always make me THINK. you force me to examine how I do feel about an issue and why, instead of just falling in line behind the masses. for some reason it’s seen as a betrayal to disagree with Armitage or to not think everything that he says or does is swoony magic. he’s human and we’re human and so I personally think it’s healthy to find fault with him. perfect is boring 😀

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    • This is a really intriguing comment and it touches on stuff I want to say tomorrow, so I’ll just say, keep on making the gestures 🙂

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  21. Just one more thing: the longer I am watching/being a part of this “fandom”, the more I am convinced that my astrological musings about it nailed it.
    In the beginning on twitter he favorited some tweets of fans, but ceased to to do, surely because of constant outcries “why have you fav’ed hers and not mine? I commented on that first, it should’ve been me you fav’ed!” Remember the X-mas message (“No favoritisms, I promise”)?
    I totally get it why some stars don’t get on twitter in the first place or let their agents manage their accounts.
    I don’t buy this pedestal thing – if I comment some tweets I’ll do it just if I would be talking to him. This can be nice and also critical at times, just as I would talk to any other being on this planet.

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  22. I didn’t judge RA’s tweet as all that important at the time but found it mildly ridiculous. People tweet a lot of “not very intelligent” things and I certainly have done so on twitter as well.

    Having said that I will NEVER be able to understand why people react like in the comments you published above, and I don’t want to imagine what the even worse comments look like…

    I think I would not be able to be at the receiving end of so much hatred even if I knew that those sending it probably have some real life issues that don’t have anything to do whith you or me. A few times on twitter I was attacked by complete strangers and I immediately blocked them. Of course you can’t do that on a blog (at least not in a way that prevents you from reading those vile comments).

    I have enjoyed your blog for years. I don’t agree with everything you post but as you always say – it’s YOUR blog. We don’t have to read the posts which we perhaps don’t like or we can comment on why we don’t like them. I always think that the way your readers comment is also influenced by their various cultures. Before I joined social media I had – for instance – never realized how different the U.S. and Europe are but there are many more differences which also influence on how we behave as fans. It’s puzzling and fascinating at the same time…

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    • I’ve been pondering (since he’s apparently decided he wants to take a regular role in policing his fans) why I am taking him seriously, as well, lol 🙂

      It’s really hard to combine the comment cultures of different groups of people — how people discuss in a German academic setting is quite different than from a US classroom — and I’m a hybrid, so I tend to annoy everyone 🙂

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  23. Some time ago, I was part of another fandom where the star’s often controversial/blunt statements were like the Bible for most of his fans. I was not prepared then to question that and it let me attempting to resolve “squaring the circle” and being very frustrated and eventually leaving the fandom. So in RA’s fandom, I can’t take it anymore, even if RA’s allover attitude is far more consensual (too much consensual actually) than the other star. I don’t want to be frustrated more than necessary and I don’t want to leave the fandom. However it’s still not entirely easy for me to “criticize” RA, and I’m grateful to you Servetus that you help me point out what could bother me. I don’t always agree with you, but I appreciate that you allow people to think otherwise. I was wary of the comments’ policy at first but I see now they are the essential conditions of respectful and fruitful conversations.
    I agree RA is a huge people pleaser (he said it himself), he acts like a parent who wants peace among his children, at any cost. But he’s not the father’s fandom (perhaps you are right, he thinks he’s speaking to teens, but what of the middle-aged ladies who listen to BBC Radio 4?). 😉
    What baffled me in the comment you received, outside of its vehemence, it’s that it was repeated. I can understand being angry and lashing out, but three times and with death wishes! It seems that the commenter can’t analyse and formulate what makes his/her mad about your posts and seeks annihilation of both your words and his/her feelings about them.

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    • On some level, I feel like stuff puts me in a “take it or leave it” situation as a fan. That’s not how I think about the world or people, but it’s starting to be really off-putting and truly has changed how I think about Armitage. (Of course, that was entirely predictable, as we mentioned in the fall).

      re: comments policy — a lot of that is based on years spent in classrooms conducting discussions of very controversial matters, especially religion. There have to be a few rules — usually something along the lines of “I think transubstantiation is a crazy idea” is okay but “people who believe in transubstantiation are crazy” is not, is the basic distinction. In F2F discussions I do think there are natural boundaries to speech not functioning in social media. At the same time I think the social media also have their rules for a reason — the whole point of Twitter is that you can say (almost) anything. If you want people not to be able to do that you should get out of Twitter and start blogging. But that bugs me less than how I know his words will be used.

      I agree — I get that kind of thing because someone has feelings in response to whatever I have said that they find uncomfortable and it is easier to wish for someone else’s demise than to address those feelings. There is a kind of euphoric buzz for many people who write on social media that lies in “being right” and perhaps that was part of the appeal of continuing to try to post the comment.

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      • True, the euphoria of being right can be very addictive, if not questioned, from time to time.
        I must say RA, at least his public persona, is quite the opposite of my previous crush, but fans’ worshipping of every word isn’t (and I don’t think he seeks worshipping). I do like him and some people too in the fandom and I’d prefer to stay despite the regular bickering on Twitter and Tumblr but I’m not exposed as you are as a known blogger. I really hope you are not leaving, despite the burden. 🙂

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        • If I were going to quit, it probably would have been last October 🙂 I think, though, that there is a sense in which a blogger tends to ask herself frequently, is this worth it? In the end, i have a lot of effort sunk into this, but everyone’s got a deal breaker, me included.

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  24. I find it highly ironic that the commenter who theoretically agrees with RA’s request for decency and respect is throwing nasty invective and wishing you mortal injury. How kind.
    Her inability to communicate any kind of rational, polite disagreement completely validates your concerns about the subject at hand!

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    • There’s always, in communities, I find, a kind of slippage between what we believe and what we do. I am guilty of this as well. I believe that we should always turn the lights on before leaving the building, for instance, but I don’t always remember and I am sometimes too lazy to go back and do it once I’m out. Or to cite a more extreme example: a friend of mine in Texas was an abortion provider. She said that more than once she provided abortions to women who were outside picketing the week before and the week after. It’s one thing to believe that everyone should be respectful (I think most people believe that) and entirely another to behave respectfully oneself, especially when one feels provoked. There’s an interesting disconnect, too, between the belief that behaving respectfully toward Armitage doesn’t involve behaving respectfully toward other fans, or, as we’ve occasionally seen, the belief that respect for Armitage demands that we treat other fans who do not share our definition of “respect” in mean ways.

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    • 🙂 This is what makes it absurd , abstruse, as I wrote earlier .

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  25. Wie auch immer man den Austausch auf einem Bog verstehen will, er sollte bereichern: der Austausch von Informationen, von Gedanken und/oder Gefühlen, Gleichgesinnte zu finden, einfach nur mal rumzualbern – und wie im realen Leben auch, ist man nicht immer einer Meinung. V.a. wenn man sich über einen Menschen austauscht den von uns niemand kennt. Wir interpretieren zwar gerne und viel in diese Person hinein, die sich uns in den wenigen 140 twitter Zeichen oder auf dem Bildschirm präsentiert, aber das war es dann auch schon. Das ist aber eine sehr einseitige und oft zu kurz gegriffene Betrachtungsweise.
    Ich finde es toll, dass Du auf Deinem Blog die Möglichkeit des Austauschs bietest, das Fangirlen wäre langweilig, wenn es Deinen und andere Blogs nicht gäbe. Schade, dass es immer wieder Menschen gibt, die nicht mit dem “Meinungsaustausch” und der kann ja auch schon einmal kritisch sein, umgehen können und persönlich und bösartig werden. Es steht jedem frei sich “nicht” zu äußern oder auch seine eigene Meinung zu vertreten und zu diskutieren. Diese Menschen tun mir fast (oder auch doch nicht) leid, wenn sie sich nur durch Beleidigungen mitteilen können.
    Ich freue mich, dass Du Dich nicht abschrecken lässt und trotzdem weiter machst!

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    • This is what I mean when I say that people need to be responsible for their own feelings and behaviors — you are free not to say anything if you’re that disgusted by what I have to say. I apparently “make” a subset of readers feel negatively about themselves when they read what I have to say, but I don’t know what that says about me specifically.

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  26. My 10 cents worth?? First, trudystattle I ditto what you said. Also, some people have entrenched themselves so deep in the imaginary world of RA that they cannot see the light of day! People […] have made it their life’s work to protect someone they do not even know. For heavens sake who says they have to read your blog! They don’t like what you say, push a button and you don’t have to read it. I don’t always agree with you Servetus and I have often told you so, but I appreciate your intelligent point of view, and it makes me smile to be able to contradict you or disagree with you on certain points. About RA writing those comments. First of all I believe he can’t handle it, because mum’s certainly can and little ones do not tweet, and the ones that do especially the teenagers who definitely do, their knowledge and understanding of what goes on in the world today, would astound RA. Sevetus, I look forward to your writings, comments and explanations. It comes from a good, intelligent place and don’t allow angry [people] to stop you!

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    • Hi, Bernice, thanks for your support; you kind of did the thing to the anonymous commentator that she did to me, so I edited those parts out. But absolutely, disagreement can be a really useful tool!

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  27. This reminded me of a thing that’s been making its way around tumblr:

    “Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority”

    and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person” ” (http://stimmyabby.tumblr.com/post/115216522824/sometimes-people-use-respect-to-mean-treating)

    While I don’t see evidence that RA expects to be treated as an authority, it does seem like some of his fans think his word should be final, and that disagreeing that he’s an authority is the same as disrespecting him as a person.

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    • I didn’t know this particular “concept” but it somehow makes sense in the light of some Tumblr’s bickerings. Thanks for the link Antigone.

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    • I assumed when he said “respect” was his Arkenstone that he meant respect in the industry he works in (shrugs)

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      • Well, yes. I don’t imagine that RA espouses this idea of respect, certainly in terms of himself (it’s possible, but it’s at odds with his public persona). It just seems over the last . . . maybe year or so? it seems to have gotten more virulent in the last 6 months, for sure . . . that there’s a subset of fans who see RA as the deity of the fandom and themselves as high priest/esses.

        Fan A says something Fan B disagrees with; Fan B says “you’re bad and you should feel bad.” And if Fan A objects, Fan B goes to the argument from authority – “RA SAID SO.” And disagreeing with what he said/how other fans interpret it is so very very disrespectful.

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        • I feel like his presence on Twitter has accelerated fan willingness to defend what he says to the death.

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  28. 67 comments already there, so I have little to add except to say that there is no justification for personally hurtful and frankly despicable comments such as you quoted in this post – and I am glad you are ploughing on, regardless. On the subject of fan-on-fan policing – I personally never had the impression that Armitage’s emergence on Twitter has really brought fan-on-fan policing to the fore. It certainly was there before he acquired his own mouthpiece, but then again you probably can tell better, as based on frequency of such comments pre and post Twitter premiere of RCA. It doesn’t help that posts (particularly retweets) like the last one are conveniently vague, do not reference any actual event that triggered them and therefore are open to interpretation, misunderstanding and conjecture. In that sense I find them deeply unhelpful, although I guess we need to allow RA the right to post whatever he chooses to post – just as we support everyone else’s right to do so?

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    • I have to disagree re: the incidence of policing. His emergence on twitter became the occasion for intense episodes of policing in September and October (beards, fan art), and regular episodes after that — ongoing spates of fans complaining about what other fans had said, insistence that fans not say those things.

      Of course we allow him to post what he wants: have I, or has anyone, said that he may not post these things? Is anyone standing between him and his phone saying “thou shalt not tweet”? I’m just arguing that they are ill advised and generally have the opposite effect of what he intends.

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    • oh, and there’s the new, improved, and more frequent argument of the thing we always heard in the days of periodic messages: “behave yourself or he’ll withdraw from twitter!” I’ve been told that at least six times in the last six months.

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      • I think we are in complete agreement there on the generally unhelpful nature of those tweets. I didn’t mean to imply that you did argue for him to be gagged, I was more thinking aloud how that issue could be resolved…
        As for the new argument that we have to behave on Twitter otherwise he’ll withdraw – yes, that’s a new sledgehammer to put people into place. (Although his “I am never offended” tweet could be read as a carte blanche – have the fan police ever thought about that?)

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        • I don’t think there is a resolution. He is who he is, he’ll say what he wants to say (as he should). It will have the effect that it has, and he will or won’t change his strategy as appropriate.

          Liked by 1 person

  29. Coming late to this discussion and all the salient points that sprang to mind when I read the article have been covered.

    Strangely, this is the third blog post about nasty comments that I have read in the last week or so and it makes we wonder why there is so much outrage out there. The other two blogs are unrelated to any fandom – one was a mommy blogger and one was a crafter. Who on earth gets irate about a woman who posts photo’s of her latest hand knits? I think the clue might be that this blogger has nearly 40,000 followers- you ( and she) attract attention by being successful. That’s what the commenter can’t stand, IMO.

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    • I think the question of behavior on social media in general is getting a lot of traction at the moment. It used to be a rule that if you wanted a working comments section, for instance, you needed a comment policy and someone who paid attention to comments and participated. That general rule of thumb seems not to be effective anymore, i.e., even if on moderates comments and takes care to try to create a thoughtful atmosphere in comments, one gets nastiness. There’s a growth in the sentiment among some that people should be able to say anything anywhere, which seems to be leading to a backlack that argues that no one should be able to say certain things anywhere. As usual, I’m somewhere in the middle …

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  30. Servetus, you are correct in calling me out, however, what you write is constructive and thought provoking. What was written to you was deliberate nastiness and anger. I feel that someone who is deliberately and publicly nasty to another should be called out. They should know that it is unacceptable and no one appreciates it. I wonder how RA would feel if he knew that his words brought so much anger??

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  31. I have no problem calling them out, it’s just that if it’s done here, it shouldn’t be done by name-calling.

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  32. Must Richard’s every word and action be over-analyzed to infinity?!? And so much strang and durm! I’m interested in his work, so I drop in on some of the RA blogs on occasion, and I’m always perplexed by the emotional investment and time spent (where do people find the time?) putting Richard under a microscope. He’s busy to the max, so why can’t we just appreciate his efforts to communicate? I especially like the info on what he’s listening to on Spotify. That gives me great insight into the research he’s doing for his work.

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    • Like any hobby, there are always going to be people who can give more time and energy than others. For the most part, that is positive for the fandom and makes it a more interesting place for the rest of us. I agree that when people find themselves getting upset to the point of posting nasty messages they could be over invested but that doesn’t seem to me to be the case for the majority.

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    • Patricia, please see the comments policy, under C, points 5 and 6. This is a blog about Richard Armitage, I will analyze him at the length and with the intensity I deem appropriate and appreciate him to the extent I wish to do so. If you would like to have a venue where he is solely appreciated for his efforts to communicate, I suggest that you found one. I am sure it would be popular.

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      • Of course you will continue your deep analysis of RA the person and his work! After all, this is your blog. I find it difficult to read sometimes because I’m more comfortable having Richard separated from his fandom by a slight scrim curtain. Perhaps I feel in protective mode because I’m a mother of sons? Since I am free to read or not at will, it was unfair of me to express irritation in my comment above. I sincerely apologize. As for your kind suggestion, I could never write my own RA blog. I’m a brain researcher and much better suited for writing scientific papers. In other words, I would be an utter failure and completely boring.

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        • Thanks for the comment, Patricia, and I’m sorry for the delay in replying (been sick and a bit listless). No worries. I think we all define “slight scrim” differently. To me, Armitage decided to break that wall when he joined Twitter and I see his presence in the fandom as signalling a willingness to break a wall I would like to see in place — where I get to be a fan without him and he gets to be an actor without having to notice me.

          I think if you wrote a blog people would be interested, though 🙂

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  33. I have enjoyed reading your blog most times but when you do what I consider cyberbullying to prove your point I stop and go on to something more enlightening. What happened with The Anglophile Channel was awful. Karma happens to help us see how it feels when we do similar to others.

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    • I’m confused – can you show me when Servetus has gone to another person’s blog and left comments telling them to kill themselves? Did she leave nasty comments on the Anglophile Channel’s youtube videos?

      Or did she just post her own opinions on her own fucking blog, which no one – including you – is required to read?

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    • For the first time I’m speechless!

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    • Me too!

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    • sigh unbelievable!

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    • Mary: Your remark demonstrates the point I’ve been trying to make for months that as long as Armitage isn’t going to say what cyberbullying is, fans are going to say “if you say something I don’t like that’s bullying.” You may not like what I said about Marlise Boland; that does not mean that I bullied her. I said I didn’t like her work, and when she shamed me for doing that, I responded.

      Plenty of fans don’t like me, they don’t like what I write — and they say so, elsewhere. That is not cyberbullying.

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    • I am sorry Mary but I disagree with your use of the term “cyberbullying”.

      Here is one definition of cyberbullying (There will be other definitions of course).

      “Cyberbullying is defined in legal glossaries as
      *actions that use information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm another or others.
      *use of communication technologies for the intention of harming another person
      *use of internet service and mobile technologies such as web pages and discussion groups as well as instant messaging or SMS text messaging with the intention of harming another person.
      Examples of what constitutes cyberbullying include communications that seek to intimidate, control, manipulate, put down, falsely discredit, or humiliate the recipient. The actions are deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior intended to harm another […]

      Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberbullying#Legal_definition

      Please note terms such as “repeated”, “intimidate”, “intention of harming”!

      I think it’s dangerous to “overuse” the terms bullying or mobbing as it eventually makes actual bullying appear less dangerous than it is.

      Expressing – in no uncertain terms – that I don’t agree or that I condemn what another person has said or done doesn’t constitute bullying.

      I can understand that you didn’t like Servetus posts about Mrs. Boland and that you disagreed with them but they didn’t constitute “cyberbullying” in my view.

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      • Thanks, suse3, for supplying a basic definition. I think “intent to harm” is key to understanding cyberbullying.

        I think it’s fair to say that people may perceive that matter differently. That I didn’t intend to harm someone whose work I criticize may seem like an intent to harm them from their perspective, depending on the context, of course, and what they and I believe to be at stake in the criticism.

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        • You may be right. However, even if a person verbally attacks another person once that may be bad behaviour and should be dealt with but it isn’t bullying. Bullying happens over a longer period. It is really dangerous and affects the victim’s mental and physical well being. I have had to deal with claims of being mobbed/bullied amongst my staff several times now. Every single time it turned out that it wasn’t a case of mobbing/bullying but an inability to address a conflict openly – a failure in communication by all parties involved… All to often people lack the courage to express a different opinion and to have a proper argument.

          As you see this is a sensitive topic for me. We mustn’t use the terms bullying/mobbing too easily…

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          • Oh, I absolutely agree that it has to be an ongoing behavior. But even ongoing criticism doesn’t really constitute bullying. No one would say that (for example) a newspaper columnist of a left-wing newspaper was bullying the UK PM simply by publishing a column critical of his government’s policies, even if he did it every week for eight straight years, and even if what the columnist wanted was the collapse of the government.

            I absolutely agree that the misapplication of the terms is destructive; we lose sight of what the real problem is.

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  34. I fear sometimes that misery finds its release in cruelty. In this technological age our ripple effects reach individuals throughout the world. Your sphere of influence, Servetus, is vast, and your ripple effect is good. Thank you for that! 💙

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    • Thanks, what a kind thing to say! I don’t think my influence is all that vast but I do what I can.

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  35. The level of casual brutality so evident in social media these days continues to astonish me. I was targeted recently by someone who used the words “betrayal” and “harass”, who said that God would not like me, etc. Fortunately, I saw these comments as saying something about the person who said them, rather than about me or my behaviour. I have been appalled at the level of vitriol coming from people who think that they are being “good” and “nice.”

    I applaud your courage to keep saying what you think, and I am always glad to hear it.

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  36. Gestern gab es einen interessanten Link auf twitter:
    http://www1.wdr.de/themen/digital/socialmediarecht/
    Teil 3 behandelt auch die Äußerungen die in den sozialen Medien getätigt werden dürfen, oder eben auch nicht. Theoretisch könntest Du den Absender des comment verklagen und abmahnen lassen….. 🙂
    ich glaube zwar nicht, dass Du das wegen dieses comments` tun wirst aber da ich nicht weiss, was sonst noch so alles Schreckliches in Deiner mailbox landet……. Ich wünsche Dir, dass dies hoffentlich eine der wenigen Ausnahmen ist!

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    • To me this isn’t really a credible threat (that’s one reason I said that I don’t put this comment in the category of bullying); it’s just venting. There’s also the whole question of tone — lots of people make jokes about suicide. It doesn’t make sense to overreact, IMO.

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  37. […] commentator said it succinctly [my translation]: “It would be nice if his messages to fans were more ’empowe… That remark also echoes something another friend of mind said a long time ago, that one reason we […]

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  38. I for one heart your audacity! It saddens me you have to contend with such horrible comments. I hope the good will from most readers goes some way to nullify the bad. xox

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    • Welcome back, Officer. Yeah, 95% of all fans are a joy to be around. Also, my skin has gotten much thicker over the years.

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  39. […] of failure to launch romantically, as the common wisdom says, or dried-up middle aged loneliness, as is so often charged. I think in many cases these reactions do respond to concrete life situations — but they are […]

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  40. […] Richard Armitage’s directions about online behavior have been, are being, and will be used by a segment of fans to try to control the behavior of others. Attempts to […]

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  41. […] How we make others feel about themselves (April 26, 2015). Discussion of the passive aggressive elements of the Golden Rule as they applied to one of Armitage’s prescriptions for fan behavior. […]

    Like

  42. […] concrete. My original discussion of how disturbing I found that choice is recorded here and here. Cybersmile announced Armitage as its ambassador on June 3. His initial Cybersmile piece is […]

    Like

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