Anne (netmouse) wrote,

nastiness on the blogosphere

I've seen a few links to the reported death threats received by Kathy Sierra of the blog Creating Passionate Users, and how they kept her from speaking at a conference because she is staying at home behind locked doors, in tremendous fear for her life and person.

While I am sympathetic to Kathy I have concerns about the way this has been posted about on her blog, in that she names several people repeatedly and implies that they, by hosting a site that involved over-the-top nasty comments (by unidentified commenters), are by implication responsible for the threats made to her. A discussion over on supergee's journal brought up the following cogent commentary by machineplay:

I think there's a precedent here and the comments by "Joey" defending his comments saying that they were about a 'persona' and not a 'person' (he claims to have made the direct comment "The only thing Kathy Sierra has to offer me is a noose in her size.") are making me even more inclined to believe that this was some "nasty fun" that coincided really unfortunately with a handful of worrying threats.

Is her life in danger from the named people? No. Did they post or allow to be posted ugly pictures and statements about her? Looks like it. Are they responsible for creating an environment in which some crackpot already threatening her life feels justified? Yep.

I definitely feel it's more socially complex, and that's why her post conflating the actual danger to her with the 'meankids' stuff is not helpful. I don't think she's being malicious. I think she's unable to separate them in her head right now. She's really talking about two equally unacceptable events: anonymous death threats, and threatening, cruel public commentary. The unfortunate thing is that the bully gang's self-perpetuating ugliness creates an atmosphere that allows genuinely dangerous people to feel that they have social support for their distorted thinking.

(emphasis mine)

Thoughts? Social psychology suggests that even with no evidence to support it, people believe the other people in their community tend to believe as they do (though lately it *does* seem like the tendency for people to cry "The silent masses support me in this!" is going down - is that true or am I just not in those forums any more?). Is there any way for dangerous people not to believe they are supported or justified in their thinking? That we can influence, I mean?

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