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Location: Portland, Oregon

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Best Internet Meltdown Ever

"LIL TONY HAS A VAGINA" -sign on telephone pole, Columbia Blvd. (Also my vote for best random-shit-nailed-to-a-telephone-pole of '09.)

Internet arguments got it goin' on. I have 'em all the time. I'm having one right now. The best thing about them is how they're so public; they are happening on the legal equivalent of a street corner with a camera trained on it that is continuously uploading to the entire world.
And this means that when you go crazy there, people do not ignore you, the way they probably would if they were passing you on the street.

The origins of the longest comment thread ever on the Mercury really take us back to October 19th of last year, if you ask me. The original story was how a bunch of teabaggers went down to the offices of The Oregonian, stood there in front of the doors and sort of half-assedly protested that they weren't receiving enough media coverage.

A Mercury staffer was there, interviewed folks and brought us this picture. I said something about how I liked "the look on the face of that weasel-lady" down right. But; "I'm sure she's very nice, though. Realistic, too."
This, of course, brought out every person with half a point to make saying some variety of, wull, I guess you libruls aren't so tolerant as you say you are, huh?

They would later go bother the folks at KGW Pioneer Square, and have their asses handed to them. Turns out that they've received plenty of coverage, and in fact received plenty that day. The fact that they ended up looking stupid on television was The Media's fault. So they remained a group with something to be pointlessly angry about.

Better yet, the next day, the weasel-faced lady herself had something to say about it. Her email read:

Hi, Matt. I attended the rally Friday (Operation: Can You Hear Us Now?), and appear in the top photo of the online article. Would it be possible for you to change the photo to one that does not include me? At least so prominently? Thank you.

To which Matt Davis added:
Is it just me who's noticing the irony, here?

So someone who had been part of a public protest -not just someone who was walking down the street- that had sought more coverage for their movement found that sometimes being identified with something opens one up for unkind things being said.
We all yelled at each other for a while, coming up to a collected one hundred-seven comments between the two posts. I'm pretty sure that's where the record stood until...

On December Eighth, someone named Mary Volm announced that she was running for city council. She had been spokeswoman for the (city) Transportation Dept., and had been part of the (failed) effort to recall Mayor Sam Adams.
Thing was, at first the announcement only came in the form of a Facebook page organized by her fans, and this was the photo they chose to best represent their candidate:

Mmhm. Yup, that's the one. So, again we have kind of an unflattering picture here, and call it ad hominem if you want, but again most of the comments ended up being about the picture.
I would like to know the original context of the photo. I get the feeling it wasn't necessarily meant for public distribution.

But all that to one side, when the comments weren't about the picture, it was about who Mary Volm is or is not.
Her personal Facebook page is loaded down with friends in the Democratic party, both state-wide and federal. Also, lots of media figures. The Facebook page her supporters put together, on the other hand, had lots and lots of people that sort of pass for what you got in the way of any sort of conservative movement in Oregon, one of whom listed the webpage "Being Conservative" as something they were a 'fan' of.

So already there were a few cranks in the pile. After a bit of chatter about who this actually was, someone calling themselves 'Aqua Blue Studio' came in and said, "Mary Volm is an amazing artist and profound intellect with city issues."

To which I responded, "Although ya' gotta admit, o Studio: if she wishes to be taken seriously, that is one rotten photo."

Aaand we're off! Immediately after this, someone named Janelle came in and said, "Mary's photo is perfect. She's the "Cat woman" that's going to save Gotham City (AKA Portland, OR)." This was a double-post.
It was pointed out to Janelle right after this that Catwoman was actually a villain in the Batman mythos.

This was the problem from the beginning: Not only was Mary Volm good as a candidate, she was good in every possible way a person could be good, according to her supporters. This being a person I'd never heard of, I found it odd.
Or, as I put it, "I'm still unclear on whether or not this person I've never heard of is actually running for something. And her supporters are incoherent, to put it politely as possible."

So here, somewhere around comment # 25, Janelle starts to go down the road she never should have gone down. Her age, her astrological sign, her ending GPA (and the college where she earned it) were proffered by her at this point in the discussion, for no clear reason. This was shortly after she referred to herself as a "dumb blonde" (in quotes!) again.

Graham, who I believe is a Mercury staffer, chimed in with, "@ABS & Janelle: If the two of you represent the level of support and intellectual rigor that can be expected from Ms. Volm's supporters... well... I feel sorry for whomever her campaign manager turns out to be. It's tough when the most vocal people on your side come off sounding like insecure defensive wack-jobs."

True enough. But...
@ Graham (blogger profile showing him drinking at the bar) AKA “Graham cracker” and @ two squatting women (AKA oppressive profile name), I’m not sure how you both manage to type on this blog. You both obviously type just to make yourselves feel good and may not be all the way coherent.

(This is not the first time I have inadvertently taught someone a new word I shouldn't have taught them.)

Now, at the same time, other people were battling out leftover issues from the Sam Adams recall. This was still a very fresh issue at the time, with the failed recall then being taken up anew by a passel of rich Republicans with nothing better to do. Somehow, this weird press release that wasn't really a press release with the soft-core porn photo (that was taken down almost immediately after this debate began) had coalesced pretty much everybody who wanted to argue politics and personality in one place.

If you wanted to donate to Mary's campaign, by the way, you needed to go to a biker bar out in Southeast hell called the Queen of Hearts, whose logo appears here:

So I'd say they just had image-control problems, that campaign.

This too: Janelle (by her own words) was no kind of official spokesperson for Mary Volm. But like it or not, she was now the public face of the campaign.

And her tone was familiar. The tendency to over-share, the latching-on to some issue or person then idealizing them, and quickly heading to feelings of persecution. All of this reminds me of the many, many people with mental issues I've been around in my life.
People who've done a few too many hallucinogens, people with PTSD, people with organic brain dysfunction and just folks who got bonked on the head one too many times, I've talked to them all, and she sure as hell sounded like One Of Those.

In response to another poster, she said, "Matthew, I never made any comments to you and you are extremely disrespectful as is all the morons voting for any white, middle-class male idiot. I will not vote for whoever is a white, male, middle-class person who does the same stupid politics over and over again. As long as there are options, I prefer anyone but a white male; I will vote for someone who cares about the marginalized."

And I thought that to be a marvelous piece of random word generation. I reminded her of 1994, the supposed "Year of the Woman," in politics. That year, more women were elected to congress than at any previous time. They were almost all conservative Republicans, too. So just electing women isn't really the point, and...

This was described by Janelle as "a white-middle class male shenanigan. All you white-middle class males can not hide your oppressiveness, women-hating ideology."
I, for my part, was having the worst sort of deja vu. It's like it was the 90's, and I was back in Olympia again.

"@rich bachelor: You know, I'm sorry you can't read very well. Try Hooked on Phonics.
Here's taking some of my energy to tell you who I am: I come from a single-parent family raised by a mother and two other siblings. I have two-African American half-sisters (we have the same white mother, different father's)and my uncle is a homosexual in a longterm relationship. I'm a Libertarian and I'm not voting for whoever you vote for. Voting for members in the city of Portland is nonpartisan, anyways.

So again with the over-share. This would seem odd in light of later statements. To say nothing of irrelevant.

She was losing it at people left and right, most of her comments being nine paragraphs long (and again, they were long paragraphs) or so. Despite how this looks, she wasn't only talking to me.
But the reason I'm talking about this at all is because this thread finally reached eight hundred and one comments (I believe we passed six hundred on the evening of my birthday), which blows away all previous records on the Merc.

At some point this had been made to be more about Janelle than it was about Mary. Not least of all by Janelle. So someone did a simple Google search and found lots of stuff, actually, including this picture.
Who knows if it's her? Doesn't matter, really. This was the picture on her Facebook page (which has since ceased to be), in any case.

She just went merrily on, calling anyone who disagreed with her a misogynist (which was better than what she called them later, to be sure). Not a one of us had raised the issue of gender (except Janelle, of course).

So I threw out there, "So let's lay it out: I don't have a problem with either gender as a whole, actually; only a zealot does. I do have a problem with assholes, though. And I'm not as patient with the clinically insane as I once was, but that's my problem, really," in the context of a much longer comment.

Even before we reached 500 comments, she had gone from calling everybody a woman-hater-bourgeoisie to crying loudly about how her character was being assassinated. She also said that she felt that maybe her safety had been compromised by so much being said about her on the Internet.
But she just kept on going, and people kept on commenting on it. Somewhere in here, she starts throwing the word 'libel' around, and usually pairing it with 'slander', as if they were the same thing. She also has trouble with the difference between 'libel' and 'liable', often in the same sentence.

Sometime in the low 300's, she begins talk of filing a 'deformation suit', and several people come right back with "do it!" There is a fair amount of chat about what actually constitutes libel or defamation.
At this point, people also begin suggesting that maybe it would be in her best interest to stop.

Eventually, the litany of complaints that Janelle throws out include that people are using her entire name -Janelle C. Jeffries- and that anyone who is not there to talk about Mary Volm is "off topic," and should have their comments deleted. It is pointed out to her that the greatest offender in this regard is Janelle herself.
Janelle responds with several more posts of vague legal threats, reposts of other people's comments, etc. etc.

People are joking right back. They keep saying, "why do you hate freedom?", and "why are you bigoted against men?" This eventually leads to the ante being raised.
" There's freedom of speech, not freedom to defame. You obviously don't care about protecting women's privacy. You obviously don't care about women and their safety. I never provided my full name at this place--it was dug out, forced out and is a rape of my privacy. I provide my full name where I freely choose. Have you ever been a victim of Identity Theft? I have. Does it feel good to rape my privacy?"

There we have the first appearance of that deal-breaking word. Plenty of people -including me, including Bee, everyone, eventually- pointing out that when you start throwing the word 'rape' around too casually, you begin treading on seriously sensitive ground.
Of course, it wouldn't be long before she amends this to actual rape. And typing in all caps.

So then it becomes, "I am a survivor of rape," and therefore all who disagree with/dislike her (or just find her schtick hilarious) are not just raping someone's privacy, but also making a rape victim feel bad. Ante: raised!

She says, "It is apparent that you hate me, a woman," and I respond with, "No, we don't hate you, a woman. We dislike and distrust you, an asshole. We also note with a mixture of pity and disgust that you've now gone and undermined the value of the word 'rape'." At this point, I'm really not amused anymore.
Beyond here, she doesn't post another thing without the inclusion of the word 'rape'.

Everything after this is "...blah blah blah libel...gonna sue alla you..." plus lots and lots of unasked-for and immaterial shit from the internet about privacy on said internet for several hundred more comments. For a long while, she descends into ALL CAPS, all the time. Eventually it settles into the same very long post posted over and over.
And as time goes by, every cycle sees the addition of yet further crimes perpetrated against her.

And I said, "See, this is why I haven't talked yet about that bar we all drink at. Because soon she'll be making death threats, and will actually wander into the realm of legally actionable behavior. We may very well have driven a borderline personality right the fuck over said line. I'm not sure how to feel about this."
Why I felt the need to continue this is anybody's guess. I think we were in the middle of my birthday weekend at this point, which is to say that the thread had been going for SEVEN DAYS.

At some point or another, all of us asked Mary Volm what her thoughts on all this was. She never responded.
Janelle's posts eventually include as many as twenty-four paragraphs. Someone points out to her that cutting and pasting an entire article without the author's permission might actually be illegal, so perhaps she should stop doing it:

"Congratulations, zzzzzzz a.k.a. Janelle C. Jeffries, you have just lifted a copyrighted article and reposted it here. Unlike any of the other people here, who under the terms of the very article you just pilfered are NOT liable for anything, YOU may very well have just violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, unless you can show how reposting an entire article, rather than merely excerpting and linking, constitutes 'fair use' in this instance."

(That was by Bob R., by the way, who then went into a very long piece of slash fiction about Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, for some reason.)

"This is my protest for the raping of my privacy my last name and web link posted which included an obituary of my Grand Aunt listing all my family members: Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism.
Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Portland Mercury is Yellow Journalism. Pass it on.

She posts this, then reposts it again two minutes later. Then two minutes after that. And so on again, twenty more times until -I imagine- she fell asleep at the keyboard.
Around 1:30 the next afternoon, she starts up again, with a muuuch longer version of this spam, which she reposts two times, shortly before the 500 comment mark.

I had just pointed out that the whole affair reminded me of the teabag controversy of a couple months before:

"...And after some not-especially-nice discussion of her facial features (which I'm gonna take responsibility for), she quickly decided that she didn't want her face a) in the papers and/or b) linked to the teabaggers.
This led to a very similar discussion ala the one we're sort of having here: i.e. being in public means a de facto agreement to not use any Right To Privacy arguments if things don't go the way you wanted them to.

For instance, the lady in the photo could very easily have hopped on the blog here and said, 'Actually I was just walking down the street. I'm honestly not a teabagger, and I really hope that the photo doesn't give that impression.' Or: 'Hey fuck you Rich Bachelor for calling me 'pig faced' on the internet. Here's hoping you get cancerfireaids, y'shitmonger.'
But she didn't. She acted like it's everybody else's job to do exactly what she wants when things get a little too...Honest? Not sure what the right word there is. Plenty of us noted the paradoxical nature of a protest staged by people who wanted more media exposure who then got it, and found themselves looking like idiots, which they then blamed on the biased nature of the media."

(I had forgotten that I'd called her "weasel faced".)

Janelle threw out a blistering sixteen posts of the updated spam message, each clocking in at eleven (very long) paragraphs -and one broken hyperlink- on December Twelfth alone, saying the last one would be her last.

It wasn't. At 3:50 the next afternoon, she was back with an even longer one. As we rolled toward the 600 mark, I had devolved into a Jerry Lewis impression.
Around Eleven A.M. on the Fourteenth, she also made it clear that she'd never vote for anyone who was for abortion. This became the new first paragraph on the spam screed.

Later, as the 15th rolled on, she spent most of her posts uploading music videos, and saying repeatedly that she'd see us all in court. Somewhere in here, she said that specifically she'd be asking for December 28 as a court date.
And then she contacted an Officer Dunick of the PPB to make an incident report about this "Internet Bullying". (Incident# PP0912150865)

She kept on posting the same thing over and over, suggesting that every two-to-five minutes something just kept hitting 'enter', but often there were just enough minor differences to make it seem that she was consciously doing this.
Eventually, someone came to her defense, it seemed. Several people had, but not for long, and never doing that good of a job. This one was named Concerned Readers Allow Zero Yellow Journalism (or, "Crazy J").

At 800 comments, Steven Humphrey shut it down, finally. He said in passing that they were closing up shop "in hopes you all will have a peaceful holiday season."
Of the 801 comments, 169 were Janelle's. The whole thing took nine days.

And like that, it was over (although there was also a Questionland thread about it, which you may read here). It was almost sad: we'd all had this place to go for that period of time, and just as abruptly, it was gone.

(That took forever, and I know it. Truth be told, I needed to get this one off my chest, and it still wasn't as long as actually reading the entire comment thread, which you could still do if you felt like it.)



Blogger GeeBee said...

This is Graham. Just wanted to point out that I am not a Mercury employee. Just friends/associates with many of them. I've never received a paycheck or payment from them.

12:35 PM  
Blogger GeeBee said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:35 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Okay. That answers that question. Me neither, although I was briefly going to be restaurant critic. Long story.

Uh, what'd you think of the post? It's pretty much a play-by-play and not much else. I just kind of wanted the whole thing to be noted somewhere.

12:54 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Er, "their" restaurant critic.

12:57 PM  
Blogger A CAT said...

This post was too long to read, but I just wanted to show up belatedly and thank everyone that partook in the original greatness.

huggles, A CAT

2:24 PM  
Blogger blackedout said...

This was the greatest and most epic thread of 2009. Maybe the decade. Thanks for laying it out.

3:22 PM  

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