Blogging and Lying: A Guilty Response
by Christian Y. Cardall
[UPDATE, 1 November 2005: Eric Russell has written a thoughtful review of the actual content of the Banner, as opposed to its real-world morality play aspects.]
Until now I haven’t engaged the thread Blogging and Lying at Times and Seasons, regarding the Banner of Heaven episode. Now that fearless leaders Steve and Brian (and fearless fellow-soldiers Naomi and David) have, I too shall venture forth—well, sort of, from the safe distance of my own blog. (With some trepidation: When I read Shannon’s comment about Brian and Steve's undergraduate romantic escapades, I laughed and shook my head, thinking, “These are the guys I followed willy-nilly into this fiasco?! I should have known!” Surely the first lesson to be learned here is, ‘Think twice, listen to the hair raising up on the back of your neck, when a couple of Benson scholars come to you with a proposition.’ Nevertheless once again I follow them into the breach.)
I am guilty of being involved in something that, in its deceptive execution, turned out to be mean and hurtful to many participants. I regret this. I am also sorry that Times and Seasons and the Archipelago page were used even tangentially, and regret causing the dismay of the unsuspecting proprietors of these sites at their consequent unintentional and faultless association with the affair. (The knowledgeable proprietors have presumably already been flogged by their own.) I don’t know that I’ll ever create any more online fiction, but if I do I will clearly label it as such. I ask for forgiveness from those hurt and offended.
In human terms it’s surely too soon for me, as a guilty participant, to try to draw—much less prescribe—larger lessons from this; but the Bloggernacle moves faster than natural human processing speeds, so I will anyway. I am going to name some names to give examples of where I would like to express appreciation for what they have done over the last few days; having a faulty human memory I will surely leave some out, for which I apologize in advance. I would be happy to update this post with other examples once I am reminded of them.
I am grateful to those such as Rosalynde Welch, Jonathan Green (also here), and John Welch—and even, in his brilliant geekiness, Nate Oman, the instigator of that sprawling brawl of a thread—who deployed their intellectual gifts in an effort to create some meaning out of it all. This impulse—an effort “to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness”—is the noble core of the best artistic/prophetic endeavors.
Since the motifs of participatory self-revelation and transgression/contrition/redemption have become fashionable in these analyses, I’ll throw my two cents in. Think back on Rosalynde’s guest post Smile at the Camera at the Banner just before the unraveling, which in hindsight was a prescient warning shot across the bow: beware, artists, what your compositions say about you; beware, viewers, what your (soon to be manifested) reactions say about you; be aware, one and all, of the deceptions of self and others you are engaging in your every action and reaction. (My comment to her post, under my real name, that “the creator(s) may not even know the meaning of what they’ve wrought,” is surely a candidate for Understatement of the Year.)
What have we learned about ourselves? I have discovered something unflattering about my appalling willingness to be thoughtless, inconsiderate, even mean in the service of fun and pride. Through their public comments in various places, I have learned something about the aggrieved direct participants—people like Kurt, Sue, annegb, Laura (and here), a random John, Eric, Jordan, Jeffrey (also here and here), and others—namely, after varying degrees of shock and hurt, great nobility of soul, manifested in a healing capacity for forgiveness, a steadying sense of proportion, and even the simple happiness of appreciative, bemused retrospective humor. Thank you for your goodness in the face of my lack of it.
And now, while Adam has a point, I shall now nevertheless fail to heed it. (Adam, feel free at this point to add a double meaning to “A Guilty Response” in the title of this post.) I am less sanguine about something else in human nature that has been manifest. Bryce commented that with regard to the transgression/contrition/redemption story, “some would say we’re particularly bad at it.” I think the examples above show that on an individual level, many directly affected are in fact quite good at an important part of this story—forgiveness. And those not so directly affected? Concern, on the part of non-participants, for the impact on direct participants is understandable—and, to a point, laudable. However, it also seems that, for some reason I don’t understand (surely there’s a profound evolutionary explanation in our small-group-hunter/gatherer roots ;-> ), our taste for the pound of flesh seems redoubled when the debt is not even owed us personally. Whatever the primal source of this tendency of the natural man, I wonder if the civilizing and restraining influence of our legal system has something to teach us here, with regard to the concept of having the ‘legal standing’ to demand and administer justice.
And that brings me to my fantasy finale to the Times and Seasons edition of the playing-out of this episode. A thread opened by Nate with insight derived from arcane points of law deserves to be transcended by, what else, another post by Nate with insight derived from arcane points of law. It would be a post I am not equipped to write, but I can suggest a title: Standing and Stone-throwing.