Back in the Bad Old Days, there was a BBS phenomenon known as the War Board, a message area where aliases came aboard, gloves came off, and the sysop basically left everyone alone, except to peek in once in a while to see if anyone was left standing. Most of the time, everyone was; I attribute this to the fact that most people are simply not very good at delivering invective, and tend to fall back on dull clichés about genital dimensions and the departures from perfection of one's mother. Truly devastating retorts are conspicuous by their absence.

Leaving aside Usenet, which truly is the War Board writ large, for the moment, there is a belief among some people that there is no longer any demand for this sort of thing. As the modem community becomes less of a homogeneous geekdom and a broader spectrum of interests becomes represented, so they say, the tendency for some individuals to spout off the nastiest terms of contumely imaginable must inevitably decline. Compared to this lot, economists and theologians are hard-bitten cynics.

To me, it's painfully obvious that the cockeyed optimists of modemland are blind in the one eye and apparently can't see out of the other. I just left six years of presiding over a national discussion group full of amateur (and some professional) malcontents. And meanwhile, on the local boards back here in Dustbury, we're having an outcropping of the same old same old, complete with the standard uninteresting denunciations, accusations of easy virtue, and whatnot. Assuming this isn't just a warmup for the November elections, I've got to conclude that, diversity or no diversity, CDA or no CDA (let us devoutly hope for the latter), some people simply can't live without getting in the last unworthy word. I quake at the thought of what Voltaire might have said, had his gentle Candide ever gotten to visit, say, an AOL chat room or [fill in the name of your favorite IRC channel]. But I am confident Voltaire would have said something, and I'm pretty sure it would have been better than this.

The Vent

16 June 1996

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 Copyright © 1996 by Charles G. Hill