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Controversy Goblins

I’m not going to talk about the Jonathan Ross/Hugo Awards debacle, or at least not come down on a side and try to analyse it. There’s been plenty of coverage both from the Geek and mainstream media, but long story short: Ross was announced as the host of the latest Hugo awards and then pulled out 8 hours later after twitter became filled with people objecting.

I ended up catching up on this particular rain of bird-poo1 after all the excitement was over, and one of the things I noticed wasn’t so much the insults, but the preening.

After a certain point, it would have been clear to anyone (especially the target of the attacks) that the LonCon’s choice of Master of Ceremonies was making people unhappy and yet people continued to join in to throw a stone or two; the barrage even continued after Ross stepped down. It had stopped being about the issue and had become about being seen to be involved.

What helped me understand why people kept throwing @ shaped stones after the fact was noticing how many made massively sweeping assumptions people were making so they could personally tie the events to themselves. In most cases this was done quickly with poor research and the most shaky of justifications, such was the rush to be seen as being involved.

Twitter is at least partially about ego; you make pithy statements in order to get people to ‘follow’ you and the more followers you get can equal a sort of approval rating.

It’s addictive, this sort of approval. Whereas web forums have their trolls, Twitter has the power to make even the meekest of person a sort of fast moving, rampantly self-involved creature desperate for the approval of others; a controversy goblin if you will.

Given the number of controversies the genre community has had recently, I’m rather worried that many of us have become addicted to goblinisation. That would be a shame; it’s a great community. Perhaps by looking out for such behaviour in the future, we can all avoid unleashing the little monster inside us and actually debate the issues like the forward thinking people we claim to be.

But then, I am an optimist.


1: There has to be a better phrase than ‘tweet-storm’ for these pointless fights.

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