PERSONAL: The corrupting power of fame and my love for my commenters.

PERSONAL: The corrupting power of fame and my love for my commenters. March 30, 2015

My father and I were talking about some of the other bloggers in the atheist movement this weekend, people we used to follow.  We weren’t certain if we changed or if they changed, but change certainly happened somewhere.  Somewhere along the line anybody who disagreed with them on some points, even if they shared the same ultimate goals, was discarded.  Not only that, they were accused of all sorts of nasty things.  It wasn’t just a disagreement, but the person with the disagreement was now an enemy of the cause who could fuck right off.  Over and over we see this from atheist celebrities, which wouldn’t be much of a worry except their followers cheer them on when they do this and seek to emulate that behavior creating a reinforcing cycle of toxicity.

Being inundated with admiration is a trip, no doubt.  It’s nice.  But it can get to your head.  I’m sure it’s gotten to mine at times, and I know I’ve engaged in some of the above behavior.  My only defense is I was young when my name got into the spotlight.  Anymore if somebody pays me a compliment in my inbox or at a speaking gig, I’m sure some of you have noticed, I’m quick to nullify it.  I’m so paranoid of the person ego can turn me into, and I’ve seen it in many atheist celebrities.

Anyway, Jim Wright, one of my favorite bloggers, posted a bit to facebook this morning which, as usual, capture my feelings on the subject:

This began as a comment on the previous post, but looking at it, I think it just needs to be its own entry. So…

I booted somebody off my page this morning because they acted like a jerk to other commenters. It wasn’t just a single statement, but multiple nasty remarks to multiple people. As such, that person got put out the airlock.

In response, somebody said, “I don’t want it to sound like I’m a member of the Neener Neener We Get To Stay In The Clubhouse brigade.”

That’s probably the right mindset to have. For ME too.

And it also true on this side of the screen, because I remind myself at least once a day not to get too full of myself. And if I forget, my wife reminds me.

When you have thousands of people telling you how wonderful you are, that’s a real trap. You can fall into your own belly button without realizing it and I’ve seen that happen to other writers/bloggers/artists who became popular. Those people became big giant self-involved jackasses – and those of you who have known me for a long time can probably figure out what example I’m thinking about right now.

Part of the reason I run my own social media sites the way I do is specifically because of the way I was treated on those writers’ websites and by THEIR FANS. I don’t want to become those people. I don’t want my fans to behave like that either.

On the other hand, I have tried to make this as crystal clear as I can: I will not put up with people who can’t disagree without attacking others. I will not put up with it. Period.

I’ve also tried to make it as clear as is possible that I will NOT tolerate the kind of behavior common to other sites, I won’t put up with bullying, I won’t put up with trolling, I won’t put up with shaming, and I won’t put up with bigotry, ignorance, stupidity, or commenters who attack other commenters. I won’t tell you that you can’t be that kind of person, if you want to be an ignorant bigoted troll, that’s your business, but you’re not going to do it here.

Now, this morning somebody got booted because he was acting like a giant ass to other commenters. This is unacceptable.

I don’t care if he’s my biggest fan.

What I mean specifically is that I CAN’T care if he’s my biggest fan. If I let him get away with it, if I don’t hold him to account when he attacks and belittles others, and I don’t do it BECAUSE he agrees with me and because he reposts and shares my stuff and because he tells me how wonderful I am, well then I AM becoming EXACTLY the person I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be that guy. No, I really don’t want to be that guy and I don’t care how popular he is or how many books he’s sold or how many fans he has. I have to look myself in the face every morning, I don’t want to see him looking back.

I have unfriended people that were personal friends of mine in the real world, and gotten death threats as a result, because they began acting like idiots on my facebook page. Being a fan of what I write is great, I sincerely appreciate it, but it doesn’t give you a right to be a jerk to other fans, friends, or family.

It’s really just that simple.

And that’s how it must be here at WWJTD.  For the most part you all argue so wonderfully.  You argue to change minds, not to shame, not to bully, not to feel superior, but to work toward the truth in tandem with your interlocutor if only they’ll come along.

I could not be happier with my commentariat here.  You all make me happy every day.

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