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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Paranoid Mindset of the Rightwing Blogosphere

Blogger will be in read-only mode while we resolve some maintenance issues. Sorry for the inconvenience.

If you'd checked Google's Blogger Status on Thursday, you'd have found that message. When I found that I wasn't able to access my blogs to publish a post, the first thing I did was check Status. Google was down and it was confirmed. I would have to wait. Patiently or impatiently, I was going to have to wait.

One thing that I've learned about the internet over the years -- and have come to accept -- is that it doesn't really work. Not very well, anyway. Services are unreliable. Connections can be spotty. Machines break down and code, being written and configured by humans, can be faulty. In the early years, Blogger wasn't super reliable. But over time it's developed into a pretty solid and stable platform. This latest outage was the exception to the rule.

Others haven't learned that the internet doesn't really work. And those people went nuts. I cringed reading some comments on the Blogger Help forum. Another thing to remember when dealing with Blogger is that it's free. Pretty much the only thing Google does to make money off it is to make it easy to add Adsense ads. You get unlimited bandwidth and an infinite amount of blog posts for nothing. Let me emphasize that fact -- nothing. Yet people were "demanding" that their blogs be restored to their previous functional state, as if engineers were just sitting around waiting for someone to tell them to get on the ball. It was embarrassing. I'd imagine that many a middle finger was raised at many a monitor at Google's Blogger division this weekend.

↓ CONTINUED AFTER THE JUMP ↓


One user who probably got that raised finger was University of Wisconsin law professor and wingnut blogger Ann Althouse. I'm not even going to try to reconstruct the series of events that she thinks happened, but rather just go ahead and tell you what actually happened: Blogspot went down. Althouse is a Blogspot blogger. The end.

When Althouse tried to post to her blog Thursday, she saw what everyone else saw -- an error message like "bX-somethingorother." But instead of checking blogger status, she went ahead and assumed there was some sort of censorship going on. Eventually, she found her way to the Blogger Help forum, where -- surrounded by thread upon thread about the service being down and complaining of bX errors (I guess she needs to work on her peripheral vision) -- she proceeded to complain that her blog had been pulled after people complained about the content.

Something like that, anyway. I may have some specifics wrong, but that's the general gist of things; blogger was down and Althouse assumed her problems were due -- not to the outage happening all around her -- but because liberals were screwing with her.

And those suspicions were "confirmed" when somebody started screwing with her on the help forum.

You ever go on an online forum? Are you familiar with the term "trolling?" Good, then we're up to speed and way ahead of a whole bunch of wingnuts, including Althouse. Apparently, someone got sick of her version of reality and began poking her with a stick. This was the worst thing ever and was evidence enough to assume that said troll was really a Google employee (did I mention that Althouse is a law professor? You'd think she'd know how this evidence stuff works in the context of logic). Google had not only used the cover of a service outage to remove her blog, they were now taunting her on the help forum. Outrageous!

The flame war was on. Conservatives are people of action and, if that action makes no damned sense or is completely unconstructive, who cares? Did we let a little thing like common sense keep us out of Iraq? No! Conservatives act when action is uncalled for, because that's the American Way. Hulk can't post to Hulk's blog! This make Hulk mad! Hulk smash!

So Althouse's readers and other wingnut bloggers flocked to the blogger help forum to -- there's no polite way to put it and be accurate -- bitch. Apparently, they truly believed this would accomplish something. If Ann's blog was being snuffed out by liberal Google, then it was time to fight to get it back. How this was supposed to work is unclear, but a lack of strategy has never stopped them before. Again, I offer Iraq as an example.

For the most part, Google itself seemed to ignore most of this. The flamewar seemed to be between the forces of Althouse and the forces of shut-the-hell-up-you-crazy-people. But Google is the home to many robots and robots do not ignore things. When a bunch of people who don't use Blogger begin fighting in a Blogger Help forum, something seems amiss.

So the flamewarriors began to get confirmation messages before they could log into their email accounts. Patterico of Patterico's Pontifications reports that he was asked to -- *gasp* -- confirm that his email account hadn't been hijacked, because a Google bot had noticed "unusual activity" from the account. Patterico is a Wordpress blogger, so posting to the Blogger Help forum would certainly qualify as "unusual."

Gah! Now Google was "locking them out" of their Gmail accounts!

It's at this point that all the stupid gets too much for me to bear. This whole thing is a glimpse into the right wing mind: paranoid, reactive, 95% emotional and 5% rational. No wonder they're so constantly freaked out about anything -- they have absolutely no crisis skills.

And I include among those crisis skills the ability to recognize what is or isn't an actual crisis.

-Wisco

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