Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)
So, help me figure this out (don't get excited; that's a rhetorical request for assistance, there; I do not expect a bunch of opinions). I consider myself to be possessed of reasonable intelligence, and am actually proud of my ability to read, speak, and understand the English language. I also take pride in my various life experiences, and believe that I am relatively well acquainted with my computer, the internet, and even web forums. Maybe my problem is that I first experienced the internet back in the early 90's when both computers and the internet itself were necessarily slow. This, of course meant that there was no such thing as 'surfing' the web, because all that was out there was text-only. It did not take long at all before there was a veritable proliferation of active bulletin boards (BB's) dealing with every subject under the sun. Because of the – by today's standards – severe limitations on space and time, there were some very stringent rules of etiquette that were generally adhered to, as in, required if one wished to participate in a given BB's activities.
One of the first things that one found upon first arriving at a particular BB was the rules, prominent among which was a serious admonition that one must first familiarize oneself with all of the rules of that particular BB, and must actually read a number of descriptive entries providing background information, including what we still refer to as FAQ's. A newbie was not usually allowed to actually post any inquiries, or respond to someone else's inquiries until he or she had demonstrated that he or she had a basic grasp of the subject matter, and the basic rules of etiquette. This usually meant that the newbie was under total review by a moderator until that moderator was satisfied that the newbie could comply with the rules. Failure to comply with the rules usually meant expulsion.
So, you were left with a group of folks who pretty much thought alike, had pretty much the same level of comprehension of whatever the subject matter might have been, and who got along. Moderation was usually pretty light, since everyone had already proven themselves. Those who really screwed up were summarily dumped, or else got the message, and left voluntarily. Granted, some BB's were actually killed off by their own members, when a particularly obnoxious flamer intruded, and virtually drove everyone else off the board.
Now, this did not in any way prevent some very good BB's from starting up (and from growing) just to provide information to folks who did not know enough about a given subject matter. As a matter of fact, newbies for this kind of BB often learned whatever it was that they felt they needed to know, just from reading the FAQ's, and looking at some of the background information provided. Based on their review of the FAQ's and general information provided, they were actually able to ask better questions, and get their own needs met much more quickly and simply than if they jumped right in.
Nowadays, however, we no longer have BB's for any purpose. Instead, we now have Forums (so, is the plural of forum, fora? If not, why not?), and this is where we encounter a phenomenon I guess I'll call the sweetness and light brigade (for lack of a better name), who represent an invasion of PC (no, I am NOT referring to Personal Computers, but rather to converts to the somewhat misguided idea of Political Correctness) fanatics, and who cannot tolerate any sort of thinking that might be termed as out of the box. Most of them are very thin-skinned, and resent just about everything written that does not conform to their platform. They need to be spoon fed every little tidbit of information, they can't be bothered to have performed any basic research, and they are totally ignorant of proper netiquette. They don't mind seeing the same old information hashed and rehashed, with the same old questions that have been asked and answered ad infinitum (or, ad nauseum), that should be well covered in the Forum's FAQ's.
Should you show yourself to be less than totally tolerant of newbies who come traipsing in to ask yet again what the forum is all about, for instance, and should you dare to let your true feelings creep into your response to these newbies, you are immediately labeled as some kind of horrible, incorrigible, mean, rude, nasty, grouchy, intolerant, anti-social curmudgeonly beast. They remind me of the person - most often, for some reason this was almost always a girl - who had to ask just one more question (leading to more, of course) of the professor before he could dismiss the class – Hell, this goes back to Junior High, and those last minute questions from 'no-clue-Lou' that delayed our dismissal, most often, last class of the day just before a holiday! Once these people have labeled you as one of those beasts referred to, above, they will not take the time to read anything further that you post because they have convinced themselves you have nothing to say, since you're such a mean, spiteful person, and of course that explains why they always had that one last question ('cause they didn't listen the first three times the prof told us). It was because and it is because they won't accept information from any source other than one that meets their criteria of being so wishy-washy as to be utterly devoid of any characteristics that might suggest that human beings are at work. In other words, as Archie Bunker might say, "Don't confuse me with facts."
It makes no difference to them what your life experience may have taught you, or whether you might simply represent the one true voice of experience, since you're not PC, you're nothin', and they're happy to sit there with their hands over their ears, going "nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah……….." as long as they think you might be talking…….
The funny (funny peculiar) thing is you may well go out of your way to make sure you have not called anyone any names (you know, avoiding any use of phrases like "you stupid shit," or "hey, dummy," or "listen up, numbnuts." But, they quickly resort to name calling, not realizing that you have long since learned to pretty much ignore such tactics. And, of course, since they turn themselves off to whatever your message might be, you just end up spinning your wheels. The worst part of this is that it is not necessarily the newbie who might react this way. No, it's the long time forum member, who has nothing to say in response to whatever inquiry a newbie has posted to set you off (in other words, they have no clue as to how to answer the newbie themselves, since they haven't learned the basics themselves). It is the established forum member who has to jump in and essentially highjack the newbie's thread into an attack on you because you dared to answer the inquiry (most likely by trying to steer the ignorant newbie to a place where they could have found the answer, and a lot more, if they'd just taken the time).
Now, there's something of a corollary to the above thoughts, and let me see if I can express this properly. Have you ever noticed (this is a rhetorical question again; ya gotta watch those things) how it seems that certain right wing fanatics, possessed of very strong views (not necessarily backed by any application of logic, or thought, or research, or - God forbid - knowledge) will not only take exception to any dissension or disagreement, but do so violently, and quickly resort to name calling, if not outright threats of violence? Of course, the worst of these are the W apologists who now want to blame the current U. S. President for all of the world's ills, without once acknowledging that the vast majority of those ills were not only created, but seriously worsened by W! And, Obama just had the bad fortune, if you will, of running for the office at what may well be the worst possible time in history. No matter what he does, he will not satisfy anyone, but that's another issue.