(This article originally appeared as a thread in the forums. The unedited version can be found here. It is reposted here with the author's permission. The original post was a response to the thread in particular and to Medryn specifically. The content of the post would not have come through had I stripped out the specific language, so it is posted here largely as it appeared in the thread. While I believe the context is important, the article was posted here for the value of the general points it makes. If you are interested in the specific context, rebuttals can be found here and here.)
I don't feel that there is actually value to calling people idiots on these forums. This is primarily an Amtgard-based forum, for Amtgard, about Amtgard. In the Amtgard-based forums, wherein there are discussions about Amtgard, what do you think somebody who is called an idiot will be associated with? Well, in some way, you might imagine that they will be associated with Amtgard. To non-Amtgarders reading our forums, this person will be associated with the game as a whole, but to players from somewhere else, this person might be associated with a specific region of Amtgard. For example, when I joined Esam, and was repeatedly labeled a moron, and people found out that I was from Albuquerque, the association was made by Amtgarders that there was some idiot out there in Pegasus Valley who was causing a ruckus and licking windows. To this day, some people still make that association! This is not in defense of my own prior behavior, but I feel it is an important example to illustrate a larger trend.
Every time we have a Lurker, or a PAG, or a Viktor, or a Drelge, or a Didymus, a larger gathering of Amtgarders draws an association with part of Amtgard, often negatively, in ways that can be denigrating, harmful, or possibly worse to certain areas of the game. In theory (and this is separate, so I won't go into it here), we want as much Amtgard to exist as possible, and that Amtgard that does exist, we want to excel as much as possible. Contrary to popular opinion, stomping out the perceived dregs will not improve the standard of quality that exists in Amtgard, nor will it further the above-stated purpose of expanding the game whenever possible. Case-in-point, when money was pooled together to fly Clalibus to California to go assault PAG in non-Amtgard activity, that was a malicious act. The Californians acted responsibly, although to the disappointment of some posters, in banning PAG from attending the event in question, and accepting Clalibus graciously as a visitor. If the hypothetical "beat-down" game had happened, the results could have been disastrous, and California Amtgard would have suffered for it. Things only get worse if, for instance, the police had been called.
Why do I bring this up? Maybe if PAG had been better-received by our populace, that worst-case scenario would have never become possible. The series of events that unfolded in people wishing to donate to the cause of a perceived thug-ish player traveling to go lay down the justice on a mentally-handicapped individual for being moronic on an internet forum seems like a nightmarish sequence in retrospect. What if, instead, after PAG had posted his 2x4 sweatshirt armor, people politely responded with their thoughts regarding its validity, or, even better, said nothing at all? That thread could have peacefully floated to the back of the forum, never to be seen again. And, if he became a nuisance and started spamming the entire forum, as many would suspect a theoretically unreasonable person of doing, I'm sure it would eventually reach a point where moderation was necessary, and Glenalth would remove him from the forum (like he did, twice). The typical response to this question will be "well, we started by being reasonable, but he blew his chances!" I do not believe that there are a finite number of chances.
If the core poster group here repeatedly responded to PAG with kindness, or logically-oriented posts, that were attempted to be intelligent counterattacks in a rhetorical setting, he would eventually have modified his beliefs and or behaviors, or have left the forums due to an inability to appeal to other posters, given enough time. In a worst-case scenario, he would have never left, and constantly been asking questions about rules, posting weapon creations that were admittedly sub-par, and bragging about his 2x4 armor, and yet, due to a reasonable debate going on in response to his posts, bystanders who come to the forums to learn about Amtgard would be able to see that he is not representative of the actual state of Amtgard or its policies. This is often a chief concern; some guy posting awful stuff or flaunting a lack of knowledge of the rules will lead newbies or non-Amtgarders to draw incorrect conclusions about our game or its rules and culture! However, in a proper setting where "some guy" is instead met with clean, intelligent, rational debate consistently, such a case as that will never happen, so long as a sufficient number of people as capable as Medryn are here to represent our game positively.
To Medryn, I posit this one question: as an important figurehead in Amtgard's rule system, are you representing our game positively? Consider your posting style and who your supporters are. It is possible and plausible that people such as Didymus hold beliefs which are contrary to the rules as written or intended, and that, for the sake of public image and the availability of correct information regarding our rules, you should rebut his posts. During the course of this, I would expect you to maintain decency and refrain from actions which do not serve the aforementioned purpose of furthering the goals of an Amtgard forum, such as calling people morons in debates. To be fair, I think this is not a new problem you face; I imagine Brennon, and before him, Aramithris, as well as many people in similar but non-equivalent positions, have struggled with this issue for decades. Remember that from Brennon came such hilarious monikers as "Attention Retards". While this can add a degree of humor to the discussion, and humor is often a valid rhetorical strategy, I feel it affects our image negatively as a whole.
You mention in one of your replies the fundamental elements of rhetorical discussion: ethos, pathos, and logos. As Rules Revision Organizer, one would suspect that you maintain strong ethos in rules discussions. However, it is my belief that in your debate against "the Wonder Twin", you have begun to trade your strong, believable position, for one which emotionally rallies those who want to bully others. Among those bullies are especially people who neither have the understanding or position to make the same arguments as you are, nor have a mastery of our own English language that allows them to represent our game well. These people are hoping to latch on to your own credentials in order to represent themselves as important people. The problem for me occurs then that we now have people who are not posting with any sort of authority, expertise, or intelligence, but are arguing your same position, lending them similar importance to yourself, and therefore have become to represent Amtgard in a large, tangible way.
When you started calling somebody an idiot, you created a way for people who do not want to further Amtgard in this discussion to enter it as figures of importance. Now instead of having Medryn, Rules Revision Organizer, offering perspective on a rules discussion, in a positive, rational way, we now have Medryn, gatherer of bullies, bringing people like Etah, Maxam, and Drelge to a thread, who in turn deviate from a valid rhetorical forum and begin presenting a poor image. Instead of "the rules say this, so I believe this is true" or other plausible arguments, a good portion of the thread has become "lol shut up u moroon". You have loaned away your ethos to villains who have no place in this thread. This is not a personal attack on Etah, Maxam, or Drelge; I have in fact observed them being useful multiple times in other threads. But I don't think they are right in this case. I think they are bullies, here, in this thread, but the way your own argument has been presented will leave some bystanders leading to believe that they hold a correct position.
It is my belief that name-calling and humor have their place, but need to be used carefully. Further, as to the larger social trends I have identified, it is my belief that, in concert, these seemingly unrelated effects will have a larger negative effect on Amtgard, damaging individual chapters, discouraging players unnecessarily, and worsening the public image of our game in the eye of non-Amtgarders. As a first step, I would recommend that people be more careful about what they say and where, here on Esam.
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