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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Oh my God! There are MEAN PEOPLE on the Interweb!

I'm not sure what the backstory is here, but apparently someone named "Deborah" posted photos of Aaron's niece to her blog back in October, helpfully describing this two-year-old girl as an "ugly freak child". This, of course, was discovered online by the parents of the poor toddler (we're talking about a two-year-old here), who were, I suspect, none-too-pleased at a public insult of their child. Well, apparently "Deborah" and her partner-in-crime "Julie" were caught by surprise, because they hastily (a) deleted the entry in question, (b) altered the main page of their blog so that the archives are pretty much inaccessible, and (c) posted two caustic entries to the main page of their blog thusly:

JULIE: What on earth is wrong with you people? Well, here are my suggestions: 1) Get OVER it! Jesus! Did someone call you a doodoohead one too many times in elementary school? Obviously Deborah didn't expect you or anyone who has anything to DO with you to "stumble upon" this website, and obviously she wasn't deliberately insulting you, or I'm sure she'd have done it straight to your face (and, likely, to the face of your child, who I'm sure is a REAL looker). Next time you go stumbling about the Internet, try not to stumble in places you don't belong, and next time, think twice about telling people what they should and shouldn't include as website content. Because it's really none of your business. If Deborah wants to, I'd even encourage her to make a website called "Why Your Baby is the Ugliest Damned Baby Ever", because she has a right to express her opinion just as much as the next person, particularly if she doesn't anticipate unwanted visitors.

DEBORAH:If anyone else has anything to say about what a horrible person I am, please keep it to yourself. I don't need a complete stranger's help to feel bad about myself. If you want to comment, you'll have to register. I don't get anonymity here so neither do you.


Well now. Let's count the errors of these two mental geniuses, shall we?

Firstly: let me cite two bits of related wisdom from John Scalzi. We have the Law of Internet Communication, which states:

Anything bad you ever write about someone online will get back to them sooner or later.

And we also have its corollary, the Law of Internet Invocation, which states simply:

If you name them, they will come.

Nearly everybody Googles or Yahoos their own name every once in a while, just to see what comes up. And if you say something about someone by name, and you say something bad about them, either they or someone they know will find it. So the fact that the two prize-winning thinkers behind "Pleasantville" are evidently shocked -- shocked! -- that someone they didn't want to see their public blog did in fact find their public blog marks them as, well, complete idiots.

When you post something publicly on the Internet, you don't get to choose who sees it, and you don't get to pick their reaction for them. The "If we really meant to insult you we'd do it in person" line is absurd, because an insult is an insult, whether one says it publicly, skywrites it publicly, paints it on a billboard publicly, or posts it on the Internet publicly. You don't get to pick your visitors in Blogistan: your visitors pick you. If Deborah and Julie don't understand this, well, then, it's Deborah and Julie who need a remedial course in how the world works, not the understandably and justifiably offended parents of a two-year-old.

Secondly: if you get caught posting something nasty about someone, doing cute tricks like making your archives inaccessible and deleting the entry in question will only get you so far. There's a thing called a Google cache -- with the Google cache of Deborah's insulting entry being available here; just scroll down until you see the words "ugly freak child" -- that keeps web sites available for a period of time. You can't cover your tracks, especially if the people you've offended are smarter than you and know about little things like Google-caches. Which, it suddenly occurs to me, might suggest a second corollary to John Scalzi's dicta above:

There is a high likelihood that people you insult online are smarter than you.

So, Deborah and Julie: you behaved like asses, and your response to behaving like asses was to behave like dumb asses. You could have simply apologized for the insulting remark; that you failed to do so and instead decided to stand up for your "right" to do so only marks you as petty creeps. It's fitting, perhaps, that from what I can tell, Deborah and Julie's blog focuses on The Sims, because it's pretty damned clear that neither of these two is equipped for interaction with real people. You know, the kind that have real babies, and not the cyber kind.

UPDATE: In comments here, Lynn points out that the comments there are disabled too. So Deborah says that you can't comment anonymously, and then prevents commenting at all. I didn't know that they were letting nine-year-olds into college these days.

UPDATE AGAIN: It turns out that Julie also has a LiveJournal, and that she's unaware that on LJ if you're not a LJ-user, you have to comment anonymously. She is also probably blissfully unaware that LJers can turn off anonymous commenting, and thus shut out all but LJers. Ah well. Now there is someone who's getting some bang for her college buck.

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