|That which cannot be seen - click to enlarge.|
Retirement, gentle reader, has its traps. After finally pulling the pin at age 70 in July last, I'm discovering some of them.
One is boredom (ennui - to those seeking a more precise definition).
Boredom and ennui are (to me at least) two vastly different experiences. You can avoid boredom by activity, but if that activity has an outcome that doesn't create change, or the potential for change, in others, it becomes ennui.
We are, after all, social beings.
With that in mind, along with vehicle restoration, book marketing, travel planning, home renovation, volunteering at the soup kitchen, my fitness program, first aiding at Men for All Seasons, and my PhD proposal, I've added blog trolling.
This last activity has the advantage of providing immediate (or almost immediate) feedback.
It also provides an insight into the presence of complete nutters inhabiting the blogosphere. These Harpics* seem almost exclusively, to sit on the far Right of the political spectrum, and specialise in abuse, ad hom attacks, and a propensity for the full range of conspiracy theories. I've recently discovered a site that attracts more than its fair share of these - but I'll get to that in a moment.
Over the years, I've had fun at Catallaxy until I challenged some regular posters on the issue of subsidies for the fossil fuel and mining industry and I was banned by the moderator. This is the same moderator who writes for the Minerals Council of Australia. Coincidence maybe?
I've also commented on Andrew Bolt's blog (although his stuff has become so boringly predictable that it's a waste of time). Bolt posts comments when I use my real name, but censors anything with my 1735099 tag attached.
Then there's a very a weird mob called XYZ who carked it for a while for reasons unknown. The nutters who hang out at XYZ are on the dangerous end of the psychopathic continuum, so it's entirely possible that they were locked away for a time but have since been let back on the streets.
There's also a Yank gun nut who blogs on a site called Stately McDaniel Manor, who gets quite upset if you point out that our Australian gun laws work a whole lot better than those in the USA, and that the solution to 30000 plus gun deaths annually is probably not buying more (and more powerful) guns. I must wander back there again soon. Many Yanks take themselves very seriously.
Most recently I've been having a great deal of fun on a site that goes under the title of Michael Smith News.
Smith is an ex-copper who was apparently a Reg in the ADF for a while until he saw the light and became a civilian. He has also cultivated a profile as a muck-raker, after being given the boot from his radio job for threatening to libel Julia Gillard quite a few years ago.
This episode seems to have created in Smith some kind of vengeful lower brain response dressed up as "investigative journalism". This style of blogging is nothing new, of course. It probably exists because there is a fraction of the listening/viewing/reading population who have an appetite for it. The market rules, after all.
It's a kind of 21st Century resurrection of the tabloid magazine genre that was around in the fifties and sixties, and requires the reading age of a typical nine year old to be understood. You may recall Australasian Post magazine - or am I showing my age?
This audience constitutes about 10% of the lower end of the Gaussian curve of normal distribution, and as such, provides a small but steady market for assorted shock jocks. The strategy is to identify a successful personality with a profile, dig up some dirt, and turn the exercise into a kind of serialised account of the forensic chase, always promising a denouement just around the corner.
If the target is female, that always seems to add a bit of spice - misogyny is alive and well, and coming to a blog near you.....
The process never actually goes anywhere, of course, but that's not the point. It's the journey that matters, rather than the destination, and if the punters are prepared to pay the fare (in clicks, donations, and subscriptions) then it can provide a meal ticket.
Smith has been stalking Gillard since 2011, and still his acolytes gather like hyenas waiting for charges. It reminds me a little bit of the Evangelicals waiting for the Second Coming. There's a pathology common to this behaviour.
Maybe Skinner was right. Operant conditioning works with my Blue Heeler. Once she's got the drift that there may possibly be a reward for obedience, she'll obey a command every time, whether she get a treat or not. It's the anticipation that does the trick.
But I digress.
You can generally get some idea of where the vulnerabilities lie in whatever case the blogger is laying out, and the first sign is that some of your comments are censored. This was certainly the case with Catallaxy, and to some extent with Bolt.
I reckon I've twigged to Smith's vulnerability, and it relates to his appeal for donations.
He has been railing non-stop about taxpayers' money being directed by DFAT into the Clinton Foundation, claiming a lack of transparency, and digging up a whole tranche of obscure documents proving nothing in particular, but looking mildly impressive. (Reminds me a bit of the bloke walking around the workshop carrying clue board with a biro behind his left ear - doing nothing much but looking important).
When I had the temerity to politely request an annual end-of-year financial accounting for the funds donated to his blog, I was promptly censored - check the screenshot above.
This reaction is totally predictable and revelatory, and throws a bit of sunlight on the shock jock phenomenon.
There is a neat biological metaphor for this activity. If you look at the relationship between a parasite and host, you can see the system at work.
It's a simple process - identify a host (usually a celebrity of some kind who has been successful) - dig up some dirt or create a smear, and survive on the outrage generated.
It never fails, gentle reader, whilst that 10% is out there....and they always are. They provide endless entertainment.
*Clean round the bend.