Mar 3, 2011

It's not about the story, it's about the discussion

Follwoing my recent article in the Alphaville Herald about the Hippiestock event last January, a number of accusations have been made about my failure to mention a Second Life resident, Suspiria Finucane. In a thread on the SL Offworld Forum, Suspiria took me to task for omitting her contribution to the event, implying that I had intentionally done so because I was "biased" - presumably against her?

As I read through the comments, what was interesting was that a consensus was beginning to develop regarding my motivations, and people were using what I had said on the article to support their hypothesis - that I was involved in some sort of conspiracy of silence against Ms. Finucane.

Fascinatingly, the "proof" of my bias was based on what I didn't say, a classic example of using the rhetorical device called "argumentum ad ignorantiam" - or "arguing from ignorance." And no, the word "ignorance" in this context does not mean "stupid" - it simply means "being without facts." It's similar to the "Area 51" devotees who argue that because the government cannot prove there are NO aliens, then they must exist!

It's worth looking at the discussion because there are lots of little examples of how one can use anything to support a position if you want to. But ultimately, the truth is that I didn't mention Suspiria because I also didn't mention other people. I was also trying not to fill the article with names because I wanted to avoid spotlighting some folks over others, especially since the organizer, Hippie Bowman, had said that he felt this was a community event and not a one-person show.

There is also another spin-off post at Prokovy Neva's blog - which I haven't read because I'm too busy with Real Life things to do it - that took the discussion alog even further. So the post in the Herald had unintended consequences and crossed to a forum and a blog. And that's ignoring Suspiria's riposte, which you can read here;

Suspiria Finucane's riposte to "Hippiestock."

Although something of a storm in a teacup, it is instructive as far as the basic premise of the actual article went. What I was trying to talk about was the dual nature of Second Life folks who can go from being full of love for each other at a festival to using spite and hatred as a mode of rhetoric - yet still manage to avoid any cognitive dissonance. A new book, Virtually You by psychoanalyst Elias Aboujaoude is an excellent introduction to the subject of how the real and virtual selves can be different, but also how one can have an effect on the other.

No doubt this may rumble on for a little while and I am curious to see how people are affected by it. Pixeleen Mistral, the editrix of the Herald, once told me that the power of the Herald is not in its articles per se but in the discussions those articles generate. A successful article is one that creates debate and interaction. On that basis, I consider this article a success - even if I have to endure some abuse, or should I say, even if Sigmund Leominster has to take some abuse. After all, "I" am not just "Sigmund Leominster" but a real person, and somewhat different from dear Siggy!

1 comment:

Johnny said...

I must say that you have been admirably restrained in your reaction to this. I thought your Herald article was warm-spirited and positive, especially when one considers that "Hippiestock" was the sort of event that it would have been very easy to be snarky about, and for you to be called hate-filled and incompetent is terribly unfair.

My take, for what it's worth, is that cases like these usually involve narcissism coupled with low self-esteem. On display is the defence of projective identification - projecting hostility directed towards the self into others, (so the intolerable "I hate myself", becomes the more manageable "They hate me") and acting as if this external hatred actually exists, with the resulting objectionable behaviour eventually invoking negative responses in others, thus validating the distorted perception of reality. As a bonus, the whole process also gratifies the narcissistic need for attention.

It's very easy to get drawn into this psychodrama, and end up playing the part of the persecutory hater (the internet is of course fertile ground for the propagation of such dysfunctional interaction). The more adaptive response is to do exactly what you have done - just patiently explain the reality of the situation. Theoretically this should model a desirable pattern of behaviour, which everyone else will follow, but, in this case, that might be a bit optimistic.