As most of you know, I opened a message board on this site about two months ago. I established it for the sake of amusement, that of myself and anyone else who happened to come across it. I wanted it to be both an intelligent place for discussion, while at the same time being the most out of control, funny, chaotic, and wild forum on any DBZ site. Toward that end, I pledged that I would excercise no administrative control whatsoever on the proceedings. There would be no rules, no restrictions, no bannings, no deletion of posts (except for spam, and even then only if I felt like it), and the absolute freedom to post whatever one wanted. In short, it was to be a place where people could completely let loose to do and say things that in many cases they never would in real life. Maybe some DBZ discussion could find its way in, but the board wasn't really meant to be about DBZ, and I never particularly wanted it to be. Why establish yet another board just like all the others, to discuss topics that were already being dealt with at those places, many of which have been run into the ground countless times? I was purposefully ambiguous on the entrance page, though, and I was curious to see what the posters would turn the forum into. And so, (with some subtle invitations to a group of people who I knew would make it more interesting), I sat back to watch.
Within a day, the board had received more posts than just about every other DBZ forum had in their entire existence. Obviously, there was a demand for a place like this. Over the next two months, the DBZ Uncensored Forum did fulfill my goals, with the possible exception of "intelligence." But that didn't really matter to me, because the sheer stupidity of so much that went on was exactly what made it so incredibly amusing. And I loved the fact that nobody seemed to be taking themselves or each other very seriously while there, and I honestly believe that to laugh at oneself as much as possible puts life into perspective in a way that nothing else can. It is one of the most important, therapeutic, and humbling things that a (naturally egocentric) human being can do. The board was a place where you could do that without consequences. I can honestly say that some of what was said and done there were among the funniest things I have ever seen in my life, and I received many e-mails from people who wanted to thank me and say the same.
I had very mixed feelings about the board in general though, and there was a lot that I didn't like about it. At times, I hated the thing and wanted to get rid of it entirely. I found a lot of the images being posted truly disgusting, a good deal of genuine racism and hatemongering, some really stupid (but UNFUNNILY stupid, at least for me) trends, and sometimes people got their feelings hurt. The biggest problem was that people were associating the board's negative aspects with me and the site, some going as far as to say that it was "destroying my reputation." Not that this concerned me to any great extent, but even so I never once referred to it as "my" forum (and still haven't to this day). Not on this site, not in personal communication, and not in any post on that board or any other. It was always "the" forum, and I was very careful about disassociating myself with it in order to make it clear that neither I nor the site were responsible for what people said or did there.
Overall, people tended to have extreme views toward the board. You either loved it, loved to hate it, or just hated it. But despite all of the rampant debauchery, complaints were few and far between, and I was never threatened in any way. In its nearly two-month existence, I never had a single problem with the forum. That is, until earlier this week.
Last Monday, a small group of forum regulars decided to attack Daizenshuu EX's message board "Tenkai," as well as the Temple o' Trunks forum. I wasn't around to see this happen, but according to Mike LaBrie (VegettoEX) the flood involved posting "profane messages, and pornographic images." One of the images in question (the only one that I know of) was that of a penis caught in a mouse trap. This image, by the way, is readily available (without a disclaimer) at www.rotten.com. Otherwise, the flood was of the standard spam/flame variety. Within a couple of hours, both forums were cleaned up and everything was back to normal.
The next day, Mike commented on the situation on the site, basically tossing out a few insults at everyone involved in the attack and Rich Hill (Vegetto707, the moderator of Tenkai), echoed his sentiments. More of the same at the Temple o' Trunks forum. Understandably, members of both boards came to the Uncensored forum to hurl insults at the regulars there, which were returned with more insults. I received an e-mail from Rich that day asking me to "do something" because some members of the board were "harrassing his wife and daughter."
More of the same occurred on Wednesday, but by this time most of the Uncensored regulars that had been involved in the attack expressed that the whole event was simply instigated "for fun," and that it had gone far enough. The Uncensored board was spammed that day by posters claiming to be from the Temple o' Trunks forum, but this was never confirmed to be the case.
The next day, I really don't know what happened on Uncensored. I came home at about 9 PM, and went to see what was happening on the forum, only to find that it had been "locked down" by EZ Board. I then checked my mail, and found a message from Mike LaBrie, stating that he had sent a letter to EZ Board asking for their help in pursuing legal action against the people who had caused the initial disturbance. He went on to say that the life of Rich's daughter had been threatened, and his wife called "a fat haor." Mike ended the message by informing me that "if you don't do something about it, the rest of us will; then again, even if you don't do anything, the rest of us will" and that "you've gotta be ready to be responsible for your actions, be they direct or not."
So, that was the situation as I saw it. Overall, it was the standard flame war of the type that happens every day on the Internet. At this point I'm going to comment about what happened, and I'm going to start that by quoting a few things that I wrote on the entrance page to the forum. Apparently, some of you missed these.
First: "If you want to start a feud with some other board, that's your call, as long as you don't bring me into it personally. And please, for the love of God, do NOT ask me to assist you in a flame war." Second: "don't come crying to me if you get flamed." Third: "it almost sounds like I'm encouraging negativity, but I'm not." Fourth, and most importantly "I totally wash my hands of any responsibility as to what's posted here."
Funny, it seems that all of this has been ignored. When I opened the forum, I didn't have a crystal ball through which I could see this day coming, I just know how people are. I hoped it wouldn't happen, but it did. And while I'm totally unsurprised about the event itself, I am utterly shocked at the reaction.
Normally, I would have been completely unpreturbed by the incident, maybe a little annoyed that my requests to be left alone had been ignored, and moved on. Unfortunately, this situation has grown much more... complex. First of all, I no longer have a forum. Second of all, there is apparently some sort of legal action being pursued, and it will presumably involve individuals on Tenkai, the Uncensored board, and possibly myself.
I have a rather large problem with this, and that's what this essay is really all about.
Personally, I don't involve myself in flame wars except to watch them, and this case was no exception. I maintained neutrality throughout, supporting neither side. I believed, and still do, that either camp could have ended the conflict at any time by simply ignoring the other. Do I defend or condone the actions of the forum members who instigated this in the first place? Not in any way, shape or form, but I am not going to condemn these actions either. Again, as far as I'm concerned, this is simply something they did, and in my view it was so completely insignificant that I'm not even going to bother placing a value judgment on it. I will say that none of this would have ever happened if they hadn't fired the initial volley, but that means very little in the context of what has ultimately occurred.
The true problem lies in how the situation was dealt with by those who were attacked. Most specifically, what Mike and Rich have done. From my point of view, a chain of events leading from a simple, harmless prank has been blown out of proportion into one of the most ridiculous overreactions that I have ever witnessed. This overreaction has already led to the shutdown of the Uncensored forum, a forum that I, and many other people who had nothing whatsoever to do with this situation, really enjoyed. But there's more. Due to the "legal action" being pursued, this whole thing may end up having a serious impact on people's lives, including my own.
The situation has been handled terribly from the outset. Let's start with the reaction from Mike, Rich and the members of the Tenkai and ToT boards. Flaming, threats and posturing only beget more flaming, threats and posturing. This is a very simple concept, but one that you all seem to be forgetting. The victims of the attack claim that they don't want the situation to continue, but everything they have done suggests the opposite. From the moment that this all began, many of the victims have behaved no differently than the attackers, including those in the most prominent positions. The counterattack has involved just as much anger, just as much flaming, and just as much antagonism. And now that the Uncensored forum has been shut down, many are gloating and celebrating that they have "won." In other words, they are doing exactly what the instigators want them to do: adding fuel to the conflict and directly challenging them to retaliate once again. Is it any surprise that the attackers have already regrouped at a new board and are plotting their revenge? This could go on forever.
I would now like to address something specific, that being the e-mails Rich (and later Mike) sent to me regarding the insults and threats being directed at his wife and daughter, and their demands that I "do something about it." Rich, what do you expect? If you flame people by constantly calling them "lackwits" "mental deficients" and "losers with nothing better to do," then you have to accept that they are going to flame you back. And if people find out that you have a wife and daughter (even a picture on the site), that is an irresistible target and OF COURSE they're going to use it against you.
As for threatening your daughter's life, I can't comment specifically on this because I never saw it. But I want you to stop and think about this "threat," and use some semblance of rationality to consider which is more likely: The first option is that some kid was angry at you, wanted to get to you, and simply blurted out the most threatening thing he could think of. The second option is that this person actually hates you enough to find out who you are and where you live, possibly travel across a great distance, and be willing and capabile of killing a baby girl, knowing that they'd risk spending the rest of their lives in prison. Threats mean absolutely nothing until you place them in the context in which they were made. I was flamed, threatened and harrassed on a daily basis on the Uncensored forum (and often in e-mail) and it means very little to me. Most of the time, I laughed at it, particularly in the more creative instances, because I know none of it is serious. So why do you actually believe that a person would be angered to the point of murder because of something that happened on a message board about a cartoon? How could a sensible person take this threat seriously?
I don't even know what to say about that. I am speechless.
So, I didn't do anything about this not because I agreed with what these people were doing, but because both of you guys were acting ridiculous and internalizing it to a bewildering extent. None of these people even know your wife or daughter, Rich, what do you care what they say about them? The whole thing should have just been ignored, laughed off, or (if you felt it absolutely necessary) countered with a better flame. In any case, it is certainly not my job to fight your battles for you, especially if it is a battle that I find completely inane. What would you have suggested I do? Ban these posters from the Uncensored board? Report them to their ISP's? Flame them myself? Just about any course of action I could have taken wouldn't have solved anything. It would have just shown me to be petty and hypersensitive, and given the person another target for antagonizm, namely me.
This theme of going to a "higher power" to resolve an issue rather than dealing with it yourself figures even more prominently in this situation. I am of course talking about the fact that Mike and Rich are now seeking serious legal action against the people who flooded their forum. Mike sent me a copy of the letter that he sent to EZ Board, attached to the message in which he threatened me that if I didn't do something about the forum situation, he would. His complaint to them was based solely around the fact that a pornographic picture had been posted, and he believed that this constituted "corruption of minors," who frequented Tenkai.
Interesting that this came from a person who has on many occasions spoken out against censorship, and who has frequently taken the position that people in American society overreact to objectionable material. Mike, I don't believe for a second that the posting of (what you consider) pornography is what motivated you to make this complaint. The truth is that you are seeking legal action because you are angry at the person who attacked your board and want to see him punished. You are simply using the fact that he posted pornography as a basis for your complaint. We all know damn well that you don't truly believe that seeing a penis in a mousetrap is going to corrupt a minor, nor would you be all that concerned even if you believed that it would.
If you really were worried about such things, you would have never posted your "Loft" mp3, which is full of illegal drug and (most likely underage) alcohol use, and was (and still is) readily available to any minor who chooses to download it. Unlike pornography, drugs and alcohol ARE actually capable of corrupting minors and ruining lives, and it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that the mp3 promotes both. And while we're on the subject, by the way, do you believe that your friends should go to jail and pay fines for engaging in such activities? Obviously not, and that leads me to my next point.
Have you truly given any thought to what your ultimate goal is? You actually want people whom you know nothing about, whom you have never met, whom you have had almost no communication with, to suffer greatly, perhaps even have their lives ruined. And for what? For pulling a prank that disrupted the message board on your web site for a few hours. Both of you emphasize how "minor" this incident was, yet you are willing to push it to unimaginable extremes. My God, have you people lost your minds? Does your site really mean that much to you? Are you that self-absorbed, self-righteous, and disconnected from reality to be unable to recognize how serious you have made this utterly benign incident? If this is what you will do to people who cause you a minor inconvenience, I shudder to think about what you would do to those who caused you a major problem.
Neither of you ever even attempted to work through this issue yourselves. You never once addressed the attackers calmly and rationally, without resorting to insults or threats. There was no indication or warning that you would take this as seriously as you have. You never told them that you would seek legal action if this ever happened again. As a matter of fact, you never even gave it a chance to happen again. Your pursuit of legal action was the initial counterattack. The letter to EZ Board was sent within 24 hours of the event, before any real discussion had taken place between the two parties.
What truly disgusts me about the whole thing is how "responsible" and "mature" you are claiming yourselves to be merely because you are handling this by getting the law involved. The truth is that it doesn't make you either of these things. As a matter of fact, it shows the exact opposite. Children go crying to their parents when they can't resolve something by themselves, and this is essentially what you have done. In my opinion, bringing in authorities to solve your problems for you is exactly the sort of behavior that's wrong with America today. The law can be called upon very easily. And charges can indeed be pressed for just about anything you can think of. The average citizen has a horrifying amount of power to get anyone or anything they want into serious trouble, and the two of you are grossly abusing that power. Responsible, honorable people deal with things on their own, and they turn to the law only when they are desperate, as an absolute last resort. What it comes down to is that your handling of the situation displayed nothing but cowardice, pettiness, callousness, an inability (or unwillingness) to even attempt to negotiate, and a rather warped sense of reality. What you've done is like shooting someone in the face for putting a whoopie cushion under a seat.
At this point, i'd like to examine a direct piece of evidence that Rich posted on Tenkai:
The batch of you that decided to be total mental depriciates, I have something I want you to see. I'm not dealing with it. You enjoy yourselves now.
It is this person who seems to be your main "inspiration" for taking legal action of your own. I find this alone a total shock, but the fact that the two of you are actually taking his side is unfathomable to me. This is the exact same type of mentality that would complain about Goku's genitals being shown in Viz' Dragon Ball comics. A mentality that both of you have railed against many times over. He seems to me nothing more than a hyperactive parent who wants to shelter his children in an environment (the Internet) that by it's very nature isn't suitable for them, at least by his standards. He could have just as easily complained about the Loft mp3, or the frequent use of obscenities on the site itself. And I have a feeling that if he was taking action against either of those things, he'd be Daizenshuu EX's greatest enemy. But since this "offensive material" appeared from an outside source, and he's on "your side" about the attack, you find him a lot easier to sympathize with.
As for what he said, it's ridiculous, and I can't believe you are unable to see that. "Getting what they deserve in life?" They deserve a possible jail sentence and fines for posting a picture of male genitalia? "They're sick?" Jesus Christ, this guy knows NOTHING about the people who posted these pictures, and is jumping to wild conclusions based on their behavior on the Internet. Does a single act of immaturity by a group of (mostly) minors automatically mean that they are mentally unstable and dangerous?
I was always amused, and a little saddened, by those who would come to the Uncensored forum, see what was going on there, and conclude based on what they saw that the posters were genuinely sick people. Give me a break. For the most part it was just a bunch of kids having fun and doing and saying things that they would never get away with in real life. Exploring the "sick" side of themselves perhaps, but that's all. I personally have always felt that this is one of the things that message boards and chatrooms are for, a healthy way to release pent-up frustrations and become a completely different person in a consequence-free environment.
That brings me to something else about this letter that doesn't sit right with me, and it's important that I bring it up. Did you ever stop to think that PERHAPS this guy isn't who he says he is? I sense something fishy here, and there is a definite air of inauthenticity to the letter. This could quite easily be someone playing an elaborate prank on you. I remember the first incident that he indirectly refers to in the letter, and it almost seems as if he was waiting for it to happen again. Rich, I know that there are a lot of crafty and intelligent people out there who dislike you and your board intensely, and they know your history of being incredibly protective of it (which, by the way, is exactly where the dislike and urge to attack it comes from). One of these people might be masterminding an elaborate hoax because he'd be amused at the chaos it would cause.
But my problems with this post aren't limited to what he says, something YOU say absolutely floored me.
Since the opening of the Uncensored forum almost two months ago, images of the type that you (and these "parents") had a problem with have been posted daily. In that time, I have received ONE parental complaint. And that was merely a suggestion that I have someone moderate the board, without even a threatening tone.
So when you claim to have received "400 e-mails" about this in less than a day, I get a little suspicious. That statement sounded absolutely ludicrous to me before I had even thought about it, and it got even more so when I ran the numbers. On Friday evening, I watched your counter over an eight-hour period and made very loose estimates based on what I observed. I would say that the Daizenshuu EX main page presently gets about 3000 hits every 24 hours. We'll say that equals about 125 people every hour. It can be assumed that the vast majority of these hits are from visitors checking the main page, since it is updated throughout the day. Only a tiny percentage of those visitors will go on to the message board, almost certainly less than 25 or so, perhaps even less than 10.
Now, I wasn't around to see the flooding of your forum, but according to all accounts, the offending pictures were removed within hours of being posted. If we are to believe that you received 400 individual complaints about this, then not only must Daizenshuu EX have received a sudden and unprecedented spike in hits (on the order of several hundred percent), but that the small percentage of those visitors who would go on to your message board, click on topics that contained the offending pictures, find out who the moderator was, and THEN go to the trouble of sending you complaints about these pictures would amount to 400. The actual number of people who would fit into this final category is miniscule, percentagewise. And as I've said, the total number of visitors on the main site alone is less than 200 an hour. In other words, your claim isn't just unlikely, it is impossible.
So by applying even the slightest modicum of critical intelligence to your claim, it falls apart. And that's only the beginning of the arguments I could make. It's incredible that you would expect people to believe something like that, and I am awestruck that no one has even called you on it. I don't believe that you got 400 e-mails. I don't believe you got one tenth of that amount. In fact, I don't believe you even got a hundredth of that amount. Most likely, the letter from your "concerned parent" was all that you actually received. Then again, if you are capable of lying about the "400 e-mails," then who's to say you didn't write the letter yourself? I wouldn't put it past you to want to make this situation appear far bigger than it actually is, which seems to be a common theme among you and Mike for the past week.
So what should you have done about this whole event? It's very simple. Quietly and quickly delete all the offending posts, ban the users, and let it end right then and there. If you felt it necessary to mention the incident, then you should have done so matter-of-factly and for informational purposes. Not by hurling insults and claiming victory. The next step, rather than password protecting the whole thing, should have been to place a clearly visible warning at the top of the board stating that spamming, flooding and harrassment would be pursued to the fullest extent of the law. I can almost guarantee that no one would touch you from then on.
If you choose to be as serious as you seem to be about a message board, it you are willing to press charges against people over things like this, then you are morally obligated to make this clear BEFORE they act. Because to be perfectly honest, no sane person could ever expect you to react so severely to something like this. It's almost maniacal.
Ask the guy who was the primary instigator of the attack. He can't believe how far you have taken this, nor can most of the other forum regulars. Do you want to know what their reasoning was behind the whole thing? To be recognized on the front page of a popular DBZ site. Nothing more. And what if you had handled this in a TRULY mature fashion? Perhaps a quote from the aforementioned individual would best illustrate this: "If you just banned us and ignored us, we would have NO problems and we would've left defeated and unsatsified." So there it is. The time-tested rule that no one ever seems to follow: ignore a troublemaker, and they will go away. Unfortunately, ego and the need to declare oneself superior in moral and intellectual maturity always gets in the way, and the two of you, as well as a number of people on the Tenkai/ToT boards, seem hellbent on doing just that.
Now we are only faced with the consequences, and it may or may not be too late for Mike, Rich, and anyone else who is pursuing legal action to drop it. But even if they don't, I seriously doubt that this will go anywhere since most of those involved with the attack were minors (including the one I quoted above), and I would like to think that the courts have more important things to deal with than the happenings on Internet message boards. I am not a minor, however, and I'm not sure whether or not I can be held responsible for what was posted on the Uncensored forum before it got shut down. Even though I have done absolutely nothing, had a clear disclaimer at the entrance of the forum, and was only involved with it in the most peripheral sense possible, crazy and completely unjust things can happen. The following was submitted to the Uncensored regulars' new board by a third party who swore to conceal the identity of the person who wrote it:
"The counts are staggering, and we're trying to convince them to cut back on a few, in case Chris gets in trouble. One such Charge is 'Exposure of Pornographic Materials to Minors; the threat of; potential', which they're hiring a federal Lawyer to persue."
This was of course written by Rich (sorry to blow your cover, but your writing has some unique and unmistakable quirks), and I'm not sure how much of it to believe or be concerned about. All I do know is that neither I, nor anyone involved in the attacks, has been contacted by EZ Board or anyone else as of yet. Hopefully, it will all blow over.
As for the Uncensored forum, I'm not going to blame its demise on any one person. As I understand it, several people on the Tenkai/ToT forums (perhaps even Uncensored itself) were reporting it to EZ Board around the same time as Mike and Rich sent their e-mails, so I don't really know or care about finding a guilty party. Just the same, I'm a little saddened because I, and many other people, had a lot of fun there. So, while I'm not angry because it is gone, I AM angry because of WHY it is gone. A certain minority of people were personally offended and inconvenienced (by something that didn't even take place there), and decided to ruin it for everyone. It was a selfish and self-righteous act, and quite a few innocent bystanders lost something they enjoyed because of it.
I think all of you will understand, in light of what has occurred, that I don't want to open another board. A moderated forum is boring and useless to me, and an unmoderated forum is a risk I'm not willing to take.
I would stress that none of you look at this event in terms of black and white, of bad guys and good guys, of victory or loss, or that anybody was entirely wrong or entirely right in their actions. Try to think of it, if just for a few moments, from a neutral stance and without bias. And please, don't concern yourselves with who "won," because nobody did. Hopefully everybody learned something from the experience, but let that be the full extent of it.
As for you Mike and Rich, I'm sorry this had to be made public rather than private between the three of us. But considering how many people this involves, who have and will be directly affected by it, they deserve to be made aware. The situation is in your hands now. This essay is the most important thing I have ever written for this site, in fact, it matters many thousands of times more than everything else combined. I sincerely hope that you two will realize that this is not a game and that the future of real, living, breathing people (including myself) may be at stake depending on what you choose to do. Ask yourselves if you think anyone or anything was hurt, inconvenienced or threatened enough to justify the grief legal action might lead to. Ask yourself if your message board is really that important. Know that in the eyes of the people involved in the attack it was nothing more than a prank, and that some of them are now sorry for what they've done. Also know that they never would have gone ahead with it in the first place if you had let them know what the consequences would be.
If someone, anyone, actually gets into serious trouble over this situation, I will shut my site down immediately. I won't allow the continued existence of something that led to what I would consider a tragedy. If nothing happens, it'll be business as usual. But whether or not anyone actually gets punished for the incident, I am hereby severing any relationship I had with either of you should you decide to go ahead with pursuing legal action. Even if no one ends up facing consequences (and they most likely won't), your belief that they should is what I have a problem with. Your ethics are your own, but I will not associate myself with people who live by such standards.