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The Wrath of Fark

Yesterday’s post about Geoffrey Pullum’s condemnation of Strunk and White, in which I commented in passing on his discovery of the level of commentary at fark.com, brought down the Wrath of Fark, and I decided to withhold approval of further comments.

One commenter, Christopher Chase, questioned that decision, accusing me of “inferior discourse management,” and I decided to allow his and any further comments that were not outright abusive.

But if you feel deprived of Farkist discourse in its purest form, here is a link to the forum at fark.com on which my blog post was discussed.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 6:09 PM | | Comments (27)
        

Comments

Oh yeah, this:
http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/2009/04/how_we_talk_here.html

Your whole point in three minutes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4Cqc6H14Ko

Fighting on the internet is like winning the Special Olympics.

In all seriousness (the video was serious) we realize that you have found yourself a nice little stream of hits for your blog of which the unwashed and uneducated masses have most likely never seen except perhaps by accidentally landing upon it using Google's Random Link button or a misspelling in a URL, but understand that when the corner of the internet known as Fark gets tired of the enjoyment this brings us your hit count will suffer again.

If you would actually take the time to visit Fark, create a login, and take part in the discussion that occurs there on a daily basis you will find that the majority of the users there come from all walks of life and educations. Most of the posters are highly educated and post their opinions in well thought out, logical posts. With any site where sarcasm is a major portion of the discourse there are going to be those hit and run commentators who will post a stream of consciousness thought.

Perhaps a brushing up on the various definitions of Fark and Fark terms at Urban Dictionary will help in your adventure with Fark. May I suggest Farkasm as your first stop?

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=farkasm

The disallowing of comments on your blog posts from before was not the brightest move you have ever done concerning this. Putting your opinion out there as the be all and end all gospel of the topic at hand is an automatic flag for commentators on the internet. It comes off as someone hoisting their nose in the air at the perceived "second class citizens," that the original poster cannot be bothered to listen to their "drivel" because the original poster is somehow above and beyond the commentators' opinion or status in life.

Open discourse is the only way to solve any issue, no matter what it be. I invite you to come to Fark, create a login, and join in our conversations there. I would stay a Liter for a while, as I don't think you are ready for TotalFark™.

Nice job. As a Farker, I do have to say that you really shouldn't just dismiss us as just another bunch of /b/-tards like they have over at 4chan. No, Farkers tend to be a bit more well-adjusted to social situations than your average Internet snark purveyor.

And as a person proudly born in Baltimore (though I live in PA), I'm a little depressed to see that such commentary would grace the pages of my home town paper. The next time you write a piece like that, at least put forth the effort to get to know the folks you're talking about...

I applaud your action but deplore your passive-aggressive tone.

I am at a loss to understand how one can expect a humor/satire based internet discussion forum to have the same quality of language as an academic paper.

Follow Drew Curtis's example then if you can't stomach varied opinions that don't fit a standard mold.

Though I should mention that he has stated periodically that except for his own blog, he prefers to meet people out and about. hence why he very rarely posts in and even more rarely reads, forum conversations.

On the other hand, the only "standard" mold is what exists in an individual's head. Good luck finding a true standard mold.

So you decided to call out the users of a massively popular website for being "ill-informed and subliterate" and you are surprised by the tone of response you received?

What made you believe this was a good idea in the first place? Is this sweeps week at the Baltimore Sun or something?

There is a misapprehension that I sought to stir up fark.com to get more hits on this blog. I am not interested in a mere hit count; I am interested in readers.

If some of the commenters had troubled to look into this blog -- the thing they are suggesting I should have done about fark.com before commenting -- they would have discovered that.

And yes, I decline to approve certain classes of comments, but I have withheld fewer than two dozen in three and a half years. I remain unpersuaded that approving additional comments calling me a douchebag would add to the luster of of this blog, or of Fark.

"And yes, I decline to approve certain classes of comments, but I have withheld fewer than two dozen in three and a half years. I remain unpersuaded that approving additional comments calling me a douchebag would add to the luster of of this blog, or of Fark."

The majority of statements of the opinion where you closed commentary on the posts were not meant in that way. Fark even moderates posts if they go too far, and you do have a right to moderate posts on your own blog. I moderate posts on many blogs and forums around the net, although it would seem the guidelines I enforce are a bit less strict.

I do not think anyone was stating that you should have an open free-for-all comment section as that is asking for spam and yes, worthless commentary.

All most users of the internet ask for is that when called out on some behavior we have a chance to discuss the issues, "face-to-face" as it were, with the person who is calling us out.

You referred to my comment on the previous post ( http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/2009/04/it_aint_the_pentateuch.html#comment-3977257 ) as "childish name-calling and ad hominem abuse." Thereby hangs the difference between Fark and the Baltimore Sun (aside, of course, from the fact that one is an irreverent humor site and one is a serious news site). A discussion on Fark is a many-to-many conversation, in which all participants participate on equal terms, and status is gained by persuading other participants that one is right, or at least amusing. Here, as you have so strongly pointed out, this one-to-many venue is your playroom and people have to play by your rules. You can insult an entire online community, but that's okay; you have all the rights here. I state that the community in question deserves a deeper look, and is more worthwhile than it might appear on the surface, and you term that "childish name-calling". Your blog, your rules ... but is it really right?

Not everything that is legal is right. That is as true in blogging as it is anywhere else. Yes, you have a perfect right to insult Fark, to insult Farkers, and to directly and personally insult me; it's your blog. However, it weakens your argument to the point of death to intentionally troll another community and then deny the members of that community the ability to respond in the same fashion that they were attacked, or in some cases the ability to respond at all. You talk about us being nekulturny, then commit far worse (to us) offenses.

Farkers see your actions as less civil than anything we do in our own community (which is, I should remind you, the online equivalent of a drunken party). Farkers are the embodiment of the famous Voltaire misquote. If you want to get our commies and fascists and raving loonies to agree on something, just say that any one of them shouldn't be allowed to voice his opinions and demonstrate how wrong he is. There is nothing a person can say (within extremely broad limits) which we find more wrong than someone trying to limit or filter the discussion. You've pushed that button, and Farkers reacted. If you'd looked a bit more into who we are, this would not have come as a surprise.

Something you should consider very carefully: Farkers feed trolls because they're funny. If you really want to get rid of us ... bore us. That will require stopping trolling, ceasing insulting random strangers, and dropping the confrontational attitude, which might hurt your traffic. I guarantee you, though, if you bore us, we'll go away. Given the fact that you have chosen to continue, however, I begin to believe that we are exactly the custom you are seeking.

I agree with your commenter, Mr. Chase. Without posting opposing or dissenting opinions, a commentary page becomes little more than an echo chamber.

This would hardly qualify as "discourse."

Regular readers of this blog, please be patient.

It may take a little longer for it to sink in that I have approved 11 comments here and at "It ain't the Pentateuch" today castigating me for suppressing criticism.

I find it odd that people assume farkers didn't exist before Drew decided to start a website up for some friends back in college.

There are even historical figures, long dead, that can fit the definition of a farker:

which includes, depending on the farker you talk to:

sarcastic, narcissistic, quiet, troll, funny, angry, sad, perverted, drunk, fat, skinny, short, tall, socialistic, political, republican twit, democratic twit, independent twit, murdering military jerk (random discussions had that used as a name on occasion), bible thumper, bible basher, gender confused, gay, straight, geek, studious, right wing and left wing (a little different surprisingly from republican twit, and democrat twit), boring, exciting,

any more you can think of?

Ugh. I used to post on Fark before most people even knew it existed. Then I grew up.

There were some high points... it actually did feel like a community on 9/11. But mostly (and, more and more as time went on), it is a place where people say the things they can't say in public without being shunned. People who are dying for attention. A place where everyone believes it's their God (or, Flying Spaghetti Monster) given right to have a venue where everyone must listen to them. Free speech without consequences. Ignoring these people is the worst thing you can do to them. Their argument, of course, is, "How can you claim to support knowledge, science, and discourse if you don't listen to my constant idiotic rants ad nauseum". Until the end of time. Or your head explodes, whichever comes first.

I will say that, compared to most of the Internet, Farkers have decent grammar.

"There is a misapprehension that I sought to stir up fark.com to get more hits on this blog. I am not interested in a mere hit count; I am interested in readers."

You might be better served by such an admission, even if specious. Because that interpretation, though cynical, seems much less damning than the alternative - that it was just a churlish, offhanded insult stereotyping an entire web community as ill-informed and subliterate, based on a small non-random sample of comments from that community. Yes. Well done.

"And yes, I decline to approve certain classes of comments, but I have withheld fewer than two dozen in three and a half years. I remain unpersuaded that approving additional comments calling me a douchebag would add to the luster of of this blog, or of Fark"

It's nice that your traffic is low enough that you can actually afford the time required to personally remove those. I rather suspect that if your comment moderation policy were as lenient as Fark, your site might well have a dcurrent ratio of dross to gold worse even than Fark itself. Now that's ironing.

Anonymity is the core of internet discourse. I am glad that only about 500 people actually know that my real name is flyi... oops, nevermind.

In all seriousness, people who take what they read in internet blog commentary seriously need to get a life. I post to them mainly for tension release and because despite many in the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy (or Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, doesn't really matter), I can appreciate the humor in life without needing to read too much into it. Doesn't make me "ignorant" or "ill-informed". I am still waiting for the day when people realize that general apathy is not a vice, but a gift.

As a Farker, you are correct John McIntyre. The low brow responses you are getting from farkers is no different than your would receive from the denizens of Digg, StumbleUpon, and 4chan. They hate each other and all others who dismiss their views. Why? Spoiled youths or older ones with stunted education - all wanting to be 'in the know' and 'right on' with their opinions.

The only benefit from visiting these sites is to come across interesting websites - not their comment sections - unless you are wanting in human interaction or simply in the mood to attack someone without fear of reprisal.

Love your articles.

Fark users are generally obnoxious idiots. They often think their snarky sarcasm is funny- usually, it's just annoying. If I have to see "teh" in place of "the", or "vodak" in place of "vodka" one more time, I'm going to lose it.

I enjoy fark and find that it is not all that mindless at times but I agree with the above. Fark contains a fair amount of originality and wit, please don't follow the rest of the internet sheep with comments such as mentioned above and newb and meh. Lame

And you, Jeffrey Hopkins, differ how? Seems like you, too, believe and want yourself to be right. Come to think of it, that's true of approximately the entire human race.

You speak for yourself when you say Farkers hate each other, or the denizens of any other online community. I myself reserve my hate for very, very few people, and those are people who have committed acts of great physical cruelty, not just disagreed with me in a discussion somewhere, or hung out at a website I don't happen to enjoy. And what are you trying to start by bringing 4chan into this? Are you trying to get Mr. McIntyre to troll them next so you can watch the rather messy, but potentially amusing, results?

Fark is a community of several hundred thousand people. If you were to examine a town of that size, you'd expect to find some fine, upstanding citizens, some real wacko headcases, some very vocal people, some very quiet ones, some smart ones, some stupid ones, and a whole lot who are in between on any or all of those measurements. If you asked them what kind of place their town was, you'd get as many different answers as there were people you asked. That's no less true of a virtual community than it is of a physical one. Some, like Jeffrey Hopkins, read it for the articles, really they do; others, like me, enjoy discussions, debates, or flamewars, and can generate a fine example of the latter in attempting to define what each of those actually is. Still others fall somewhere in between, or have some totally different interest, like the some of the artists in the Photoshop contests. There is no one standard Farker, any more than there is any one standard New Yorker.

One very important thing about Fark, though, is that you can say what you think, however idiotic it might be, and everyone else has a similar right to contradict you. Instead of depending on Big Blogowner to tell us whose opinion is worthwhile and whose is full of hot air, we have the right and the responsibility to make that determination for ourselves. There are people on Fark who will cause me to question my own positions very strongly -- some if they disagree with me, others if they agree with me. There are people on Fark who fall solidly in the "noise" part of the signal to noise ratio. It's my decision which of them is which, not some autocratic authority's decision, and that is what I like about the place.

Ironically enough, Mr. McIntyre, I may very well be exactly the sort of reader you are interested in attracting. I am (among many other things) a writer, I've been an editor, and I'm endlessly fascinated with the mechanics of the English language. I'd be the first to apply for a letter of marque, if only so I could seize greengrocers' apostrophes and hang them from the yardarm. But, by insulting a community of which I am a member, and following up by directly insulting me, you have ensured that once this little tempest in a very small espresso cup has blown over, I will go on my merry way.

"One commenter, Christopher Chase, questioned that decision, accusing me of 'inferior discourse management,' and I decided to allow his and any further comments that were not outright abusive."

Okay, now I'm convinced you're just trolling Fark for pageviews.

Mang, not 2% of we FarkerZ have followed this link, let alone posted here.
PRO TIP: Insult Drew. You'll be a much more effective troll!
Talkin to YOU Johnny McIntyre.

Being neither young nor undereducated, I am a dedicated Farker.

Is this the overriding point: All online sites must be alike?
Following the same rules, or lack of them?
Ruled by the tyranny of the majority?

Having being a fark lurker for more years than I care to really remember, I can say that the Fark comments section were never exactly a stream of powerhouse intellectual commentary. It was, however, a pretty sensible above average comment section.

The last few years, not so much. I have recently had to stop reading the comments on the posts due to the utter pointlessness of 99% of it, the lack of wit, reliance on pointless forced meme's, recycling of the same old arguments over and over.

Its pathetic to see the strength of anger here. Get over it Farkers, you really are a sorry bunch.

Mr. McIntyre I have never posted a comment on fark, so the article does not really concern me, but I can't help but point out that I have no reason to be visiting your site except that I like to occasionally see the odd news of the world on that site. I have since read all three of your articles and all posts concerning fark and am intrigued by whether you will take (I believe) Spider's offer to post on fark. Fark has a very loyal reader base that, whether intelligent or not, read and post on sites across the web. For a writer and blogger such as yourself this is an opportunity to grow your reader base while at the same time see what the other side of the blog feels like. Be one with the masses so to speak. It has the potential to give you access to bloggers outside your geographic area and perhaps see new ways to go about running and encouraging interaction within your own blog. I know that the current inundation of emails, whether well worded or not, may seem an annoyance now, but the potential for reader growth is extreme. And say you have a debate that you feel was left unfinished on fark, that is a goldmine of material for a writer such as yourself. I was never particularly good with grammar, and since my beginning use of computers and the internet I can only say it has gotten worse. If you really wish to deal with the current evolution of the english language the more exposure to websites such as fark the better. I really don't care about whether you view the posts on fark as intelligent or not; nor whether farkers like your articles. Personally I think it asinine to defend a blog site, just as it is asinine to attack a blog site, I don't take credit for the jackasses that live down the street and I see everyday, why would I defend or attack the faceless opinions on a site. I happen to enjoy reading opinions that differ from mine, as many ways as I turn an issue to gain understanding there are always numerous views that escape me. Many times I have considered a view point, dismissed it as preposterous, and then discovered ardent supporters of the same position. These are my fellow voters, my peers, business associates, and most importantly customers, so even if I disagree I should at least attempt to understand what their thought processes were in justifying a point I consider silly.
In the end I see this as an opportunity for a major grassroots marketing campaign for your paper and your writings. Honestly, you wrote a review of a book that reviewed an old grammar book and have had this level of response just by mentioning fark. Considering the current state of news publications nation wide, the ability to market your publication to a national audience is not something to be lightly dismissed. There are legendary posters on fark that have been doing it for years, should you find yourself a respected member of their community their backing could mean a great deal to the continued development of your reader base and your own writings. But this is just my opinion, take it or leave it. I apologize for the lengthy post, but was amazed by the responses I was encountering and just wanted you to hear my opinion as well. Good luck with your future writings, and have a happy day.

Anyone who frequents Drew Curtis's website "Fark" deserves to be punished in the afterlife by reading his brain-dead drivel for eternity. If anyone has made mediocrity and gratuitous cruelty a commodity, Drew Curtis has. He is the ultimate fast-talking huckster and evil-doer, a perpetrator of anonymous hate and venom. His mother must have been a serpent and his father a satyr.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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