To assume or not to assume
I've recently been insulted by a blogger I will refer to as Ms. X. that I have considered a friend for quite a while. Here's her capper:
"That kind of stuff is worthy of Bill Clinton, no[t] you."
I'm not going to link to the post because it contains private e-mails from another blogger, Ms. Y, I also consider a friend that have been posted without her permission.
That crosses a line for me. If you have to make your point about a private conversation, find a creative way to do it. Posting someone's private e-mail and address is not only wrong, it's fucking lazy.
The issue is a private e-mail list. Ms. X's original post mentioned some private e-mail lists she'd heard of among feminists. Finding out there were private lists pissed Ms. X off. Ms. X infers that private e-mail lists are all about "posses". A posse is a group of supporters a blogger can count on to come to her defense whenever anyone dares to question her behavior. So for Ms. X, it seemed, participation in a private e-mail list was equivalent to fomenting posses. She asked her readers to offer reasons why they would participate in such a list.
There are all kinds of private mailing lists and I have been on several over the years. I offered reasons why I believe private conversations in a mailing list and out of the public eye are useful and healthy.
In Ms. X's next comment, she mentions a specific list and a specific list owner, Ms. Y, without naming the list itself. I happen to be on a mailing list owned by Ms. Y. The list I'm a member of is private.
Is Ms. X talking about the private mailing list I'm on or is she talking about another private mailing list owned by Ms. X? I don't know. I'd have to learn a lot more about the list before I can make that decision. Also, of course, I have pledged privacy to Ms. Y and I intend to uphold that pledge. But I don't feel as if I'm in danger of violating that privacy simply by interacting with Ms. X in a conversation about the usefulness of private mailing lists in general.
Next Ms. X claims that she was banned from a specific private mailing list owned by Ms. Y and that she is receiving traffic directly from that private mailing list. Understandably, this makes Ms. X feel bad. People are linking to her blog posts directly from this private list and Ms. X can see that in her blog statistics. Ms. X asks that members of the list from which she was banned either speak with Ms. X directly or copy and paste her posts to the mailing list, rather than linking.
This is also the post in which Ms. X starts revealing private discussions between herself and Ms. Y. She claims Ms. Y told her her presence on the mailing list would be unwelcome. This leads Ms. X to believe that Ms. Y is using this mailing list to say bad things about her behind her back. Combine that with the direct linking and you've got a recipe for paranoia.
Here's a couple of reasons why paranoia might not be the first stop for that particular conclusion train.
First and foremost, there are lot of reasons why people on private mailing lists post links to other people's blogs. List members may be linking to posts they admire. List members may be linking to posts they don't understand, so that they ask for clarification from fellow list members. If you are a blogger that has posted about feminism consistently and for a long time, it is likely you will be linked by other feminists. Pretty cool.
Second, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of privacy that is going to be a trend in this story. Ms. Y happens to have a healthy respect for privacy and private conversation. I hadn't read Ms. Y revealing any private conversations. No mention of banning, no mention of unwelcome bloggers.
A commenter asks a question about why Ms. X was banned, and this prompts Ms. X to post a series of private e-mails between herself and Ms. Y.
Now a new story emerges. Rather than being banned, it is revealed the Ms. X wanted to JOIN the mailing list. Ms. Y replies that the list is in a rough period and the membership is currently frozen. Ms. Y assures Ms. X that there will be future opportunities to participate in private mailing lists together.
Do you see how things are shifting now? At first the argument is that mailing lists are bad. Now it is revealed that Ms. X wanted to join a list and was told she could not.
I responded in shock that Ms. X would post private e-mails. But I want to keep the discussion going. I point out that lots of people aren't comfortable with direct interaction. People say bad things behind our backs. The thing to remember is that I'm not going to change my opinion of Ms. X based on gossip (and remember, nobody has gossiped about Ms. X at this point). I pledged that I'd judge Ms. X by my own standards and that I'd expect she would do the same for me.
Alas, not true. Time for another side trip on the wayward conclusion train.
Ms. X now claims that horrible things are being said about her behind her back by someone who pretends to be a friend to her face. Next, she asserts that the mailing list she wanted to join is, in actuality, a list designed specifically to reject her and another blogger. She now returns to the argument that private mailing lists are always bad.
If you've read this far, and seen the twists and turns, I suppose you have figured out what a losing cause my further participation is. But I try to take Ms. X at her word. She claims that our friend, Ms. Y, has created a list whose purpose is to exclude her and talk about her behind her back. This obviously isn't the list I'm on, since Ms. X isn't a topic of discussion there.
But, maybe Ms. Y need to vent somewhere and has created the "I hate Ms. X" mailing list. Maybe she has recruited members from all over the internets. Perhaps they have badges, and cute little names and a theme song.
OK, maybe not.
Many comments ensue and eventually, the mailing list is named.
Yup. It's the one I'm on. Of course it's in completely unrecognizable form. I've got to wonder where Ms. X is getting these crazy ideas about the content of a list she isn't allowed to read. And now that she's revealed the name of the list, she feels free to reveal that I am a member of that list.
Remember what I said about privacy? I intended to keep my pledge to Ms. Y. But Ms. X didn't want to let that happen. So not only does Ms. Y's privacy get tossed to wind, but Ms. X chooses to throw mine along for the ride.
I suppose I should be angry.
Yes, the thread is patently absurd.
MailingList/Bad, MailingList/Good, MailingList/Bad.
But, dammit, I respected this woman right up until that thread. I've learned from her. I've laughed with her. I want her to be healthy and ready to rock and roll. I want to read more of her wonderful thoughts and opinions and be able to follow along as her mind zips from one interesting subject to another.
She's not there now. She's in a bad place. I'm not what she needs right now.
I hope one day she'll be back blogging and making me laugh and cry and think and smile.
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Thursday, December 20, 2007
To assume or not to assume