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Putting some of the story that follows into context ... as events begin, I've just met Fred Cherry, and I have absolutely no idea of who he is, but I do know that an argument that he's involved in has splashed over into soc.culture.israel. Who is in the right and who is in the wrong? I don't, at that point, know or particularly care - I just want the off-topic flamewar to move somewhere else. I don't seem to be alone in this, but those who are already trying to persuade Mr.Cherry to move on sound, even in a present day context, like people who really need to read a little Dale Carnegie. They aren't trying to reason with the man, they're just screaming at him and trying to browbeat him into leaving.

That is not a particularly effective strategy for dealing with anybody, anywhere - even reasonable men will turn irate given that kind of disrespectful treatment - and this wasn't just anywhere or any time. This was Usenet, it was the mid 1990s, and the FBI sting operations on the online kiddie porn operations wouldn't begin for another few months. The virtual Wild West was still going strong, nauseatingly strong, and this man who I had never heard of before was talking about a group with which I was all too familiar - NAMBLA - having been treated to some unpleasant times online in retaliation for my having spoken out against that group and others like it. So, what I was left with was the appearance of a man (Mr.Cherry) who was being ganged up on for speaking out against the sexual exploitation of children - mainly by flamers who've since had Google delete the record of their flammage.

Or, more likely, Dejanews, which had not, at that point, been acquired by Google. The trolls of those days were very good at covering their tracks. One would watch a small swarm of them response to their target's post - and only their target's post, not each other's - with the result that huge threads could end up producing very brief reference chains. They'd come in, pile on their victim, and then a few months later, just looking at the record, one would have no idea of what a mob scene the thread had become, or of just how much hate had been posted - or of the identities of those who had been present. It was perfect, consequence free abuse made almost into an art form, with the target left, in the end, looking like he was railing at nonexistent adversaries - at least, to those naive enough to take the record at face value. To look at surviving posts in the record today, then, one might think that these crossposted flamewars were ignorable affairs, in which Cherry would hear some rude remarks from a few people, and that would be about it, but this was not the case. Where one now sees a handful of responses, there used to be hundreds, most far viler than anything you see now, and the flamewars would spawn spinoffs that would flood good sized groups - good sized by the standards of that era. It was a headache for the innocent bystander, and a source of understandable rage on the part of the one attacked.

With proverbial 20-20 hindsight, I now know that Cherry was not an innocent victim. This was a man who spread false rumors, accusing others of being neo-nazis and pedophiles, this back during an era in which taking accusations like that on faith was an integral part of political correctness, with the result that any crank's false accusation could make life undeservedly difficult for those accused. Had I known of that, or of his active promotion of something that really was anti-homosexual bigotry, I would have been much less sympathetic. But for the moment, I saw somebody who appeared to be getting abused for doing the right thing, and so I decided to do something truly radical.

I decided to reason with the man. I sought common ground with him, which could easily be found when he complained about pedophiles using plug pulling as a debate tactic against their critics, trying to make him feel a little less ganged up on before trying to persuade him to do something. This became the scandal that I would be pestered about for over a decade courtesy of Mr.Skirvin and a few of his friends. If the reports of the owner of my then ISP are to be believed - and I have no reason to doubt this - Tim (who was one of the ringleaders for the self-styled "Usenet Cabal" at the time) and some of his allies had called for my "orchestrated e-mail harassment" and come close to "overrunning the spool" for that ISP in a series of mass mailings, within hours of my first posting. You'll find a post to that effect reprinted on this site. But, even if we overlook that, and the clear implication that the then 18 year old Skirvin was looking for a pretext for further hostilities - what are we left with, just taking events to be what they appear to be?

In my own case, that I was successfully demonized in the Internet community for having responded to a put upon user, however deservedly put upon we may know him to be after the fact, reasonably, with courtesy and empathy instead of with screaming and personal abuse. This is one of the Internet's dirty little secrets, at least as the Internet was during the Political Correctness era - to avoid becoming the next target oneself, it wasn't enough to merely refrain from posting anything that anybody might disagree with - as if one should have to limit oneself so, just in order to help somebody else with his anger management issues. One was required to hate those one was told to hate, and do so rabidly enough, or be hated oneself, and cyberstalked without end. To the question sometimes asked, "why would somebody in a forum speak ill of somebody if what was being said of that person wasn't true", experiences like this one offer an excellent answer - because those who would remain a part of that community dared not to say anything else, or even remain silent.

This is adolescent behavior at its worst. What becomes interesting, in a case like this one, is not the fact that somebody barely out of adolescence would act like an adolescent, but that he would see so much validation as he did so that in the years that have passed, as he has gone from being 18 to entering his early 30s, he has been presented with no incentive to mature at all. When a moment's courtesy, offered to a troubled man over ten years ago, becomes the scandal that will not die, and childish acting up is praised as if were a sign of virtue, the world has, at least in small part, truly been turned upside down.









This was all years and years ago, but in the Internet, the past doesn't always stay in the past. Fred Cherry is said to have died in 2003, and yet, as late as April 28, 2007, he could be seen striking out from beyond the grave, one might say - old libelous flames of his being reposted by new trolls. Mr. Skirvin - until last year - remained topical in a more active way, by maintaining a troll site dedicated to libeling those who dared to say "no" to him. He's a lot like Cherry, in that way.

But last year, as I start writing rebuttals for his smears of a few other visitors to Usenet, Tim took down the Killfile Dungeon for "renovations" that, a year later, have yet to be seen. That part of his site is still offline, raising the question of how much longer this story will need to be told. I don't know the answer to that, but if Mr. Skirvin really wants this to be over, I won't be the one who tells him no, especially since I would be doing so at the expense of his other targets, who might want this to be done, themselves. That being the case, this page might be replaced with new articles in the not so distant future. Certainly, at the very least, it will be augmented with such material.

What you probably won't see are any new pieces about Net Drama. In the mid 90s, we were almost all in the same, really big forum - Usenet - but today, people are scattered all over the place. Audiences aren't as big, any more, and so the huge mobs of days past aren't as easy to assemble as they once were. There is still idiocy to be found, as no doubt there always will be, but it's no longer idiocy with the same global reach.

What am I going to write about, on this site? That depends on whether the Killfile Dungeon really is a dead issue, or if Timothy is, perhaps, playing cat and mouse with us. Will I, finally, truly be free to delete this stuff? If the answer is "no", then I'll probably turn this into a political site, if the answer is yes ... I'll have to think about that. For now, let's forget about that, and enter the story.

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