Ernie vs. The Fake Name

Here in the DC Metro area we’re having a blizzard. A real one, not just the inch of snow and moderately slick roads that is all it usually takes to shut the city down.  A real honest to god 2 feet in under 24 hours blizzard that qualifies as a storm even in Pittsburgh or Buffalo or Michigan. Well last night I lost power at about 7, while I was watching Chuck on OnDemand and having some dinner. So annoying. Rather than fish around for candles and the last book I was reading I decided to go to bed. I woke up about 10 when everything came back on and did the usual trip around the house resetting breakers (household tip, always turn certain large appliances off at the breaker so not everything comes on at once when power is restored) and checking the heat pump, all the fun stuff. When I’d finished I’d had a three hour nap and enough activity that I wasn’t immediately interested in getting back to bed, so I sat down at my computer and relived a bit of my past. This isn’t about Chuck so much as something that happened on this board recently and some of my thoughts, after the jump.

As I was catching up with this board and looking at twitter last night I saw that Adam Baldwin was going to be on a radio/internet radio program last night and I decided to give it a shot.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with twitter or Adam Baldwin’s politics, he is a rather outspoken conservative/libertarian, and a pretty bright guy.  He’s well read, expresses himself pretty well, and is pretty civil about the whole matter, but he has strong opinions and is not shy about expressing them.  I will just add at this point I am not interested in discussing politics on this board in any way whatsoever.  No, never, not gonna happen, period end of story, finito.  Don’t even try.  It isn’t why I’m here writing on this board, or why I’m writing this article.  This is about what can happen online when people who have strong opinions start to lose a sense of community and the civility that comes with it.

While listening to Adam Baldwin there was a scroll of comments on the webpage that I was watching.  Most of you have seen these things, public message boards that degenerate into flamethrowers where trolls seem to be seeking to outdo each other as to who can be the most tasteless, crass, obscene or cruel.  We’ve all been there.  Anyone who has spent time posting to discussions has probably allowed themselves to get involved in a flame war or made a few ill advised comments after a glass of wine or two.  It’s only human.  But these, there was no excuse.  To an extent we’ve all learned to live with this, and that’s a shame, but for me it hits a little closer to home, literally.

I used to be a lot like Adam Baldwin, in that I loved to mix it up on the political boards.  The rapid back and forth, the writing and ideas flying, it can be very addicting, especially when it is about something you really care about.  But sadly those very things can also make for a dangerous brew.  Some years ago, on a favorite political board, I got into a heated discussion with a few over a political matter we all took seriously.  After a while the back and forth settled into me and two other posters on the opposite side from me, and a few trolls that we did our best to ignore.  There was a lot of good exchange, but one of the posters would veer into the personal, trying to argue from authority; I’m smarter than you so my opinion carries more weight.  It is a classic logical fallacy.  Unfortunately for said poster he’d veered a little to close to an area where I had some expertise and was well versed.  I pounced.  It was grizzly.  I tried not to go personal, but it’s tough when you are pointing out that the said poster is either lying or woefully uninformed where he claimed to be an authority.  I had the facts on my side and authoritative links to back it up.  I’ve been told I can be a persuasive guy, and I take that as a compliment, but I also want to make sure that the persuasion doesn’t veer into bullying or dismissive posts.  I fear mine did in this case.  The board came alive, the pwned word was thrown around, and suddenly things degenerated.  The problem was that I’m in a rarefied field and have published, and I backed my argument up with my credentials.  This made me pretty easy to google.  Some of the trolls, and one in particular took it beyond personal.  They started posting personal information about me and making threats about harming me and my career through any means available, all for the sin of pointing out they were mistaken.

Ernie Davis isn’t my real name, for any that aren’t aware.  Joe, Dave, Amy and a few others know it, and I have no problem with that, we’re all adults here thank goodness.  But since that incident I’ve tried to keep at least a touch of anonymity when I post online.  It was ugly and I never want to go through it again.  But the real tragedy is that the bullies succeeded.  They drove me away by taking away all the fun and making it not worth it.  They shut me up, which is what they wanted, and now I don’t post or write about something I used to enjoy, and where I think I had a lot to say.  If you’ll allow a minor boast, I’m the last guy they should have wanted to stop posting.  The one who kept it civil, had his facts, argued ideas not personalities, and was always willing to seriously consider where he may be in error and address others arguments in good faith was the one driven off the board.  The trolls are probably still there.  But then they weren’t really interested in discussing or listening, they were there to shut me up.  I’ve always been ashamed that I let them.

A few of us, me included, have been walking on eggshells lately.  In my case I think my efforts to re-assure people I’m listening and willing to consider their arguments, and please, just call me out if you think I’m bullying, have been taken as me scolding them to keep it civil.  Trust me, that isn’t the case.  Everyone here has been great.  I don’t think there is any danger of us descending into a flamethrower state.  I’m just a little sensitive that sometimes people see me as too belligerent or as dismissive in my style, ’cause it’s been a failing of mine in the past.  This is why I keep saying lets keep it fun and civil.  It’s not you, it’s me.

This isn’t to say that fun can’t include a little occasional ribbing at each other’s foibles, as long as we all understand we are a community and it’s done out of fellowship, not malice.  Part of the fun of a tight community like this is we can get a sense of who we are and can have some fun laughing with each other at our own silliness on occasion.  But in the wider Chuck-verse, without going into specifics other than to say outside this board, there are some who look suspiciously like those trolls.  They seem to derive their chief pleasure not from the show, but from calling others with different opinions names and dismissing them as stupid or uninformed.  I have no patience whatsoever for that, and I have no desire to engage with them in any way.

So once again I couldn’t keep it under 1,000 words (touche Lou), but I wanted to say my piece … at length … again.  I’ve had a great time on this board.  It’s given me the chance to do something I love, write about something I’m passionate about.  I want to thank you all for how welcoming you’ve been and all the wonderful compliments I’ve received, and frankly I couldn’t do it without all the opinions of so many of the friendly, wonderfully literate and mature people  who have all found this perfect little corner of the web to come play.

Now I have to go shovel the damned driveway.


About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
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25 Responses to Ernie vs. The Fake Name

  1. amyabn says:

    I must say that I had a bad experience on another board as well. Well, two now that I come to think about it.
    My first bad experience was with the CBS CSI board. Several posters got very very inflammatory and things descended to a junior high-esque tone. I was out of there. Some who chose to stay ended up engaging in all outs like Ernie describes. It’s not for me and I bailed.
    My other bad experience was on the NBC Chuck boards. I met a great group of people and enjoyed great discussions, only to be quashed by an ego-maniac moderator (I’m keeping it clean). I think most of us here lived through that dark period and it is, in fact, what brought life to this forum (a silver lining of sorts!).
    I know we had a bit of a dust up recently and it wasn’t fun. I just wanted to reply and echo the sentiments of encouragement and honest sharing of ideas while maintaining a sense of humor and decorum. We have such a great group!

    • Gord says:

      Couldn’t agree more – lets keep it fun.
      By the way Amy, I haven’t seen our favourite moderator’s work on the Chuck boards for quite some time.
      It is mostly vBarkley doing the moderating now, and what a difference it has made. The posting has been prolific.

      • amyabn says:

        I’ve basically decided that I can’t afford the time to split between both, so I am sticking with you guys here! In a personal note, I officially completed my Masters, so that won’t be consuming my life any more! Just work and some attempts at a personal life! Yahoo!

      • Gord says:

        Amy congrats on your masters.

      • joe says:

        Amy, that’s great! All praises for finishing that master’s.

      • atcdave says:

        Congrats Amy! Of course now we’ll be expecting much more from your posts…..

    • amyabn says:

      thanks for all the congrats. I do find it frees my mind up to be consumed by Chuck! I really enjoy all of your comments and am glad we’ve become friends!

  2. Faith says:

    since we’re revealing I’ll admit my real name isn’t Faith either, it’s Jem haha. But you guys kind of knew that.

    Boards are fun, they’re addictive but they have a tendency to stray into the un-fun and un-addictive side usually with the appearance of trolls. I have had the same experience as Amy but in the LA Times board. In a way this is why you have to have something like Joe’s blog where you can be free to express, be mature and not have to wade through the immaturity and personal attacks that are so prevalent in cyberspace. It’s why I’m so appreciative of this place and the people here…welcome change. Cheers to Joe.

  3. joe says:

    Thank you all, folks. I was feeling pretty low for a bit – I consider everyone involved to be a friend. These past few days have greatly lifted my spirits. I’d like to say that there’s no need to walk on egg-shells, but I know that just as soon as everyone feels comfortable, that’s exactly when someone has their feelings hurt. You’ve all made it easier for me to keep an open mind (especially Amy, Dave & Ernie).

    Gord, I too have been trying to keep up with the NBC boards, if only for inspiration for here. But I’m sooooooo far behind now. How do you process all those bytes??? 🙂

  4. Mike B says:

    My name isn’t Mike it’s Bond, James

    I too found this blog to be a sanctuary from the NBC boards. I was moderatored and had my hand slapped one too many times.

    Thank you guys for all your time and effort. Keep up the good work.

  5. Lucian says:

    It’s a joy to have four articulate schnooks leading the conversation. I will seriously try and refrain myself from excessively sarcastic comments when they do something that I don’t find compelling tv.

    I think the title for season 3 should be
    From Schnook to Schmuck and Back Again….

  6. herder says:

    I really enjoy this blog and the discussions that we all are able to have about the show. I was troubled about the post that was removed then returned, as it seemed to be a personal shot at what might be posted rather than being a critical comment about what had been posted. Personally I had no problem about it being removed. I think that this type of post, one that explains why the tone of commentary should have certain boundies is very useful to making such decisions unnecessary.

    I too had problems with the moderation at the NBC boards, I still post there a bit but I find this blog much more comfortable a place to discuss my opinions about the show.

    Although I have never got involved in a flame war on-line, my occupation as a trial lawyer in divorce matters does make me capable of such things, but why stoop to such things in my personal times. Obviously my name is not herder, but to be outed as a romantic could be a difficulty in my job, or simply regarded as yet one more eccentricity of many.

    Ultimately I guess that I am saying thank you to Joe, Ernie, Dave and Amy for putting together such comfortable and informed place for fans of the show to exchange views of a show we all are obviously too attatched to.

  7. Lawrynce says:

    Amen! Thanks to all of you who have made this a sanctuary, which is why I visit at least two times a day. I don’t post often because juggling two jobs and a family create a daily challenge, but I am working on something that I may put up soon, or as soon as I can get the thoughts into a somewhat readable form. And grats on the Masters, Amy!

  8. atcdave says:

    Until recently, I had thought I would try the NBC forums again once a certain someone moved on. But now, this place has become so active, its a full time commitment just keeping up here.

    I really do enjoy the level of debate and discussion here. I’m not sure why we’re so fortunate with the quality comments, but this really has been a pleasure.

    • Waverly says:

      I thought you had to have a Master’s degree before you could post here.

      Although I did read through the incredibly long Angst thread on the NBC forum when I was first looking around the web for more discussion of Chuck, I haven’t really bothered to go back.

      I think one of the few good things about the fragmentation of audiences via 500 TV channels and the web is that self-selection of interest groups allows for great diversity and depth.

    • herder says:

      Dave, when I got the go ahead from the NBC boards to post again unmoderated, my first reaction was so what, I’ve found somewhere better to post. I think a lot of posters have had the same reaction, certain of them I really miss, such as Bill at Work and Menschlord as they always had something interesting to say. It’s unfortunate that one person could have killed the fun of such a lively place. Even in the month since I found this site it has grown by leaps and bounds and it has much of the fun that I felt last spring on the old board. Without meaning to say anything too mawkish I think much of the cream of the commentary has migrated to this blog. Again all credit to you and the others for creating it.

      • atcdave says:

        Thanks Herder. I’d kind of like to get un-moderated; but it does seem the community it once was, is now mostly here. I know Bill at Work is still writing a lot of fiction, but I haven’t seen him on the boards in ages.

  9. kg says:

    No doubt. Trolls are nasty, little, cowardly thugs.

    Anyway, Ernie, perhaps Baldwin, like Casey, is a real-life fan of former President Reagan.

    • atcdave says:

      I have heard that is true!

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I always had this character sketch in my mind for Casey. A rustbelt kid, choirboy, varsity football, wrestling, golden gloves. His dad was a cop, all his uncles were cops or other blue collar union guys and vietnam vets, and the first president he ever voted for was Reagan. The proudest day of his life. Then a few years later as a Marine came the new proudest day of his life when President Reagan himself pinned a medal on Sergeant Casey’s chest. He’d be a Reagan guy for life.

  10. Big Kev says:

    As you know, I was one who misunderstood the intent of your reply to my post. I thought I’d said something to upset you! – but I appreciate and completely understand your clarifications.
    If you will, I’d like to share a slightly different perspective of this board.
    I don’t watch a huge amount of TV. I have my shows that I like, of course, but I’m usually happy to buy DVD’s of shows that I like, and watch them through. I think you get a better idea of the flow and continuity of a show by doing that. But Chuck, as we know, is a special show – and for me, it’s the first show since West Wing to really get under my skin and make me care about the people in it and where they end up. As I realised that I was a Chuck addict, being in Australia, the show doesn’t get a lot of press – so I thought I would get onto some of the blogs and forums, and I’ve found this whole community of fans that previously I would have known nothing about. And I have to say, I’ve been amazed at the standard of writing, of argument, of knowledge and passion that people on this blog have. This is the first TV blog I’ve posted on, and I feel like I can post here and get a respectful hearing from people who love this show as much as I do – and who in turn, challenge my perceptions and make me rewatch the show with new eyes. As a relative Chuck newbie, this blog contributes so much to my enjoyment of the show, and to the (interminable) time between episodes. It’s been a treasure to find – and long may it remain so.

    • amyabn says:

      Big Kev, welcome to the boards! I’ve had the priveledge of traveling to Australia (Sydney) and think you have a great country. You also have some great perspectives on Chuck! Aussie Aussie Aussie Oye oye oye! Probably didn’t spell that right, but I’m hollering it with feeling! Cheers!

  11. Pingback: Why Do Fools Fall In Love. « Chuck This

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