Unmasking the Clown- Cedar Sanderson

Unmasking the Clown – Cedar Sanderson

I’m not only a writer. I’m also a student working on a science degree, but for fifteen years now, I have been a performer; an entertainer whose job was to amuse others, make children smile, and generally forget their cares for a short time. Although this was a long, slow development for me, and originally not my intent to do, I was thinking about it the other day as I put the red nose on.

We all wear masks. Most of us would no sooner go out in public without that barrier between us and them than we would walk out of the house in our underwear. My mask for performing is simply more visible than the intangible most people use. When you see a clown, with the nose and the smile and the silly clothes, you expect to laugh, be amused, and enjoy the show. Before I ever tried clowning, I was on the puppet team for a year, and was really hidden. The thing is, you can do things while you are hiding behind the mask you would never consider doing without it.

I have a touch of agoraphobia, and for me to just walk into a party as me, and start talking to strangers is impossibly difficult (agora = the marketplace, or the mall, in Greek. So, literally fear of the mall). But as a performer (even without the red nose, which I rarely wear) I can make an entrance, dominate the room, and keep them laughing until I’m ready to go.

It’s exhilarating, and exhausting. I was thinking about it the other day because I was so unprepared to be a clown that day. It had been a stressful week, capped with arguing on the internet, and the last thing I wanted was to walk into a room full of strangers. But I’m a professional and I can slip the mask down and go onstage at the drop of a hat. I pay a cost for it, though. It takes a lot of energy to do this, even though I’m not a physical performer.

I once watched a professional entertainer I worked closely with go through what once would have been called a mental breakdown. The audience never guessed. He’d get up and have them all in stitches, and go home to sit in the dark and contemplate ending it all. It was only when, very near the end, he was finally unable to force himself to go to performances that his clientele had any idea something was wrong. He didn’t end his life, but he did leave performing. It’s a huge part of your life, when you do this job.

The arguments I’d been involved with online – one direct and personal, the other tangential and more amusing than stressful – reminded me of these masks we wear. It seems to me that when we are online we forget that the masks give us a buffer. We leave them off, and with them, the manners and courtesies we would observe if we were in that roomful of people. Not that we are all clowns. Nor that introverts can, with enough training and given little choice in the matter, become clowns (although I am living proof of that).

Rather than attempting to understand the other, to put ourselves in their shoes, people unmask on the internet and focus only on their concerns. Presented with a statement they see as wrong, they instantly go on the attack. Presented with the opportunity to attack, they lose all empathy and forget that there is another person on the other side of the screen, with feelings, thoughts, and differences. The dehumanizing effect of unmasking and then attacking leads them into behaviours they would never consider if they were looking into the other person’s eyes.

Consider this. If you assume that everyone you interact with knows the same things you do, has had the same education, shares the faith and beliefs you profess, then you are impossibly naïve. But I see this online. It may happen in a more personal setting, but there at least you can read the body language of your audience. That confused puppy cock of the head, wide eyes, and mental ‘baroo?” reaction to an angry statement. Online, you don’t get that. If you react with unthinking anger, they can’t, in turn, see the assumptions you have made to reach the conclusions you did.

We risk much, by stripping off our masks and letting our inner selves show. We risk more by the loss of empathy that communications without body language bring. Unmasking the clown can show the depth of pain and anger that most of us have learned to keep in check. But it boils out when the mask is off and we don’t care what others see.

I watched this happen the other day. A knee-jerk reaction to a badly phrased statement. One forgot, or never bothered to learn, that the other didn’t have the background he did. He went on the attack, to the deep bewilderment of the person being attacked. But worse than the public attacker was another who kept on a mask, but in private went about spreading lies. Humans are all too fallible. Unmasked, they can be downright repulsive.

And then there are the trolls. I’ve written more than once about the fuzzy edge of normalcy. The internet can facilitate the person who is borderline incapable of living a normal life to contribute to society. It can also enable a person who is full of venom to prey on anyone weaker than themselves. Some trolls are capable of rationale, others make you scratch your head and wonder if they really do live in a cave or under a rock, they are that far out of touch with reality.internetexchange

I screencapped this conversation segment because it was literally jawdroppingly wrong. There are times you simply have to wonder how much of a mask they can put on, to hide behind? What did trolls do before the internet?

This exchange left me amused rather than angry. It’s fairly clear in the course of the conversation that something was seriously wrong with the mental workings of the mind behind the screen. This, I find, doesn’t upset me.

What upsets and angers me is the sort of mind that feels the need to bully those who are unable to fend them off for whatever reason. The first argument I referred to, the one where a person went off privately, that was a bully in action. They took advantage of another who was at a vulnerable point, goading them into going on the attack rather than directly confronting themselves. I have no sympathy for cowards.

I find that I am also upset by people who I liked and respected suddenly going off the deep end. Being able to have a debate sometimes means that not everyone will agree with you. If you cannot bear to be disagreed with ever, then you need to withdraw from social media. If you can disagree, except on that one thing… then you may need to stop before hitting send and decide if this is worth the fight.

And above all, we must learn to remember that there is another person on the other side of the screen. One that is, or isn’t, self. I was explaining the immune system to my son the other day, and how the body reacts to invaders that aren’t self cells. The angry inflammation isn’t caused by the invader, it’s caused by the overreaction to the invasion by the body’s systems.

I’ve seen that, in groups of likeminded people. Feeling under attack by those who are outside the group, for whatever reason, they overreact when their personal pet beliefs are prodded. Yes, they are tender, but they can’t realistically expect everyone around them to walk on eggshells. Stripped of their masks and vulnerable, they overreact and as I can attest, an out-of-control immune system can kill a person. So can the overreaction and immaturity of group members.

Moderation is key, I was taught as a girl, to everything. We put the masks on to moderate our behavior to suit the environment we enter. We must remember to moderate our reactions, or risk shocking and killing the support group that keeps us all functioning as a body.

211 responses to “Unmasking the Clown- Cedar Sanderson

  1. “And above all, we must learn to remember that there is another person on the other side of the screen.”

    Them first. I’m tired of trying to be nice to the other side, only to watch them break every law and rule of decency in response and walk away giggling like hyenas.

    • I try to keep in mind that I’m interacting with another human. But if they start in on the hyena laugh, then I am forced to remember that some humans are broken, and treat them accordingly. So I always begin nice. Doesn’t mean I stay there.

      • I’ve actually been chastised by folks I consider my friends for my policy to remain civil and take the high road in this whole Sad Puppy situation.
        Thing is, it’s not so much that I am being nice as that with my approach when the nutjobs on the other side of the argument start to foam at the mouth and spew vitriol in response to reason and logic they accomplish my work for me far quicker than I could myself. You see, it’s never about getting them to admit they’re wrong or change their minds, it’s about making the case to the majority still on the fence, and when the other side does that for you, better still.
        I’ve always believed the old saying that when the enemy is digging themselves into a hole you don’t stop them. In fact I believe in handing them a shovel whenever I see the opportunity.

        • Yes! This is why I don’t use acronyms or nicknames. I don’t want to hand them ammunition, they don’t need it to look like what they are.

          • There are also several ways to be utterly scathing without ever being impolite.

            (A classic was Dorothy’s Aunty Em in Wizard of Oz “There’s one thing I’ve always wanted to say to you, but now… being a good Christian woman I just can’t say it.” Everyone in my house flinched at that line.)

            It tends to be more effective than frothing as well. At least in the long run. I think that’s another thing people forget in the mobs of Twitter and Facebook. Humans still cluster there in groups. The groups know the reputations of their members.

            • I’ve considered borrowing the nun’s description of young Bill O’Riley to describe two of my more . . . energetic and literal young students. (“A bold fresh piece of humanity.”)

            • Terry Sanders

              That was one of the major themes of the MISS MANNERS books. “Politeness can be SO much nastier…”

        • I (more often than I do now), “debate” even radicals, as much as I can. Mostly, in order to reach/educate those who can be. There are a few, on on my “friend” list that I won’t, because they refuse to actually read/see what is actually said. I even tied repeating _back_ what I read them saying, and they didn’t change. So, I refuse to “debate” that person.

      • She’s the nice one.

    • I’ve tried it for years. I’m not quite so willing to be polite any more.

    • We know we live in a heterogeneous world, they live in a liberal bubble where everybody shares* the same premises and prejudices and everybody marches in step with them.

      As we recognize that reality and opinions are complex and frequently differing, we have a higher duty of civility than those whose homogeneous bubble has trained them to believe the proper response to a non orthodox thought is to snarl, “Get back in line.”

      *or pretends to share, the better to escape detection as a thought criminal.

      • James Lileks’ web site used to have a copy of an article he wrote when he worked for one of the DC newspapers about twenty years ago. The article vanished during one of his rebuilds of his site, unfortunately…

        Anyway, he talked about how people thought the internet would expose people to different and interesting viewpoints, and let them learn things they might not otherwise have been exposed to. But instead the net let every fringe group create a safe space of their own; an echo chamber where everyone agreed with them and there were no alien viewpoints to make them uncomfortable.

        He was mostly right at the time, I think. But now we’ve seen the echo chambers turn into tribes, and groups sneaking off to raid other tribes to count coup.

        • I’m of the understanding that that is the reason that the freedom of speech comes first in the Bill of Rights. Not being free to voice your opinions does not mean that you don’t have them; it just means you can only voice them to people you already know already agree with you, completely.

          It leads to factions who have never truly tested their ideas, yet have been compelled to walk through fire to keep them, and so can never, ever change them, whether they are true or not.

          • William O. B'Livion

            There were two other amendments that proceeded the “first”. One was never ratified, and one failed to be ratified at the time, but came back as the 27th.

            So no, the 1st admendment wasn’t considered the most important, it’s place is either (depending on your source) an accident of history, or because the amendments were originally ordered by the part of the main constitution they amend or restrict.

  2. Pingback: Unmasking | Cedar Writes

  3. MadRocketSci

    Rather than attempting to understand the other, to put ourselves in their shoes, people unmask on the internet and focus only on their concerns. Presented with a statement they see as wrong, they instantly go on the attack. Presented with the opportunity to attack, they lose all empathy and forget that there is another person on the other side of the screen, with feelings, thoughts, and differences. The dehumanizing effect of unmasking and then attacking leads them into behaviours they would never consider if they were looking into the other person’s eyes.

    I’ve heard it psychologically described as being the other way around. Rather than “unmasking”, the anonymity afforded by online interaction means that no one can react to you personally, and that for this reason people react as they do sometimes when they are part of a mob, or in large groups with face-concealing masks. IRL, people behave with some degree of personal responsibility for what they do, unless the are dissolved in the anonymity of a mob, or acting (meaning1/meaning2) in some capacity where they can hide behind a face-mask/mirrored-sunglasses/uniform.

    • MadRocketSci

      Or were you thinking of mask/unmask more in the Japanese sense of a public/private personality. (Your public persona vs. what you really think/believe). (I’m somewhat glad our society was never crowded and locked down enough where that mental construct was needed. To my western mind, it sounds like a rich source of drama/dysfunction.)

      • Yes, I was thinking more of the inner self versus the persona we use to navigate society without killings happening 🙂 But it could go either way, with the internet providing the mask, and stripping it away. As a metaphor, it’s imperfect, but I was trying to find some way of describing what I see when people interact online, and as I was putting on the face, it struck me then. It takes an effort to put on the face and become something else, something that can interact with people and make them happy. If you don’t put on that mask, you don’t care about the audience (using anyone who posts in open social media as a performer, of sorts, committing a form of exhibitionism).

      • Mrs. NCT could write books about that 😉 I’d last for about 3 days in Japan.

  4. We all wear masks.

    That’s a presumption that others are not candid about themselves. It’s true about some persons, false about others, and true on specific occasions about still others.

    Consider extending the presumption of candor to persons who haven’t given you sufficient evidence of the contrary. It allows me to relax…at least until the knives come out.

    • I do presume candor on the part of others. Sometimes too much. I also know that we wear these masks by training – manners, ethics, morals. Masks aren’t always a bad thing, I think. Masking off the true nature of man takes some effort but leads to selflessness and empathy where the unredeemed could care less about their fellow humans.

    • Define “candid” as used there. One regulates between the impulse to throw a pie in someone’s face and the impulse to appear civilized in public. Which one is more “honest” and why?

    • We all wear masks. In Freudian terms, the mask is the super-ego, forcing the id to behave in a manner conducive to being allowed to remain at the party.

      Some people become incapable of removing their mask, wearing even other masks atop the basic one. Some people can only remove their masks with chemical assistance, most commonly using alcohol to dissolve the bonding cement.

      Some people are incapable of removing all masks out of fear there will be nothing underneath, or that what remains might prove horribly disfigured.

      I feel compelled to reference Jack Vance’s story, The Moon Moth here.

    • Candor and being masked aren’t completely dichotomous. We must, in every conversation, make choices between multiple candid responses (on-topic vs interesting digression, agreement vs. extension, etc.) The mask oft consists in which choices we make, based on which responses we wish to evoke.

    • The Paul Laurence Dunbar poem comes to mind:

      We wear the mask that grins and lies,
      It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
      This debt we pay to human guile;
      With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
      And mouth with myriad subtleties.

      Why should the world be over-wise,
      In counting all our tears and sighs?
      Nay, let them only see us, while
      We wear the mask.

      We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
      To thee from tortured souls arise.
      We sing, but oh the clay is vile
      Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
      But let the world dream otherwise.
      We wear the mask!

    • Try a different metaphor;
      what she calls a “mask” is the things you say without talking; some people will use words to convey accurate things, some will use it to convey inaccurate ones.

      Or maybe a computer programming example would be better– with the “masks” being different apps to work in a UI. Some will genuinely do what they say they will, some are aimed at getting you to do what they want you to, and some are viruses.

      It’s not a matter of being honest, it’s a matter of saying things in a way that will get across to them.

      • RealityObserver

        Hmm. About the only thing I ever want to “get across” to a definite virus (software or wetware) is “Die, Sucker!”

        Actually, stabbing them in the back without warning is even better…

      • Which brings us to the limitations of human language.
        “Words that half reveal, and half conceal” (Tennyson)

        “It is impossible to speak in such a way that one cannot be misunderstood” (Karl Popper)

  5. This is why we can’t have nice debates.

  6. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Years ago I read a story about an extremely ugly man who wore a mask to hide his ugliness.

    Well, he fell in love but the woman was disturbed by his mask and wanted to see under the mask.

    Faced with the fact that he would lose the woman if he didn’t unmasked, he risked removing the mask.

    Strangely, his face under the mask had become just like the mask so there was a happy ending.

    While just a story, I think there’s an element of truth in it.

    Of course, likely we know people where the mask is a device to fool people to trust somebody that shouldn’t be trusted.

    • We’re trained from birth to put on masks: don’t scream in public, don’t throw your food…. It’s the masks that keep society civil. The masks are what shape us, in some ways, so the story about changing to become what the mask is resonates in that sense. But like all other tools, the masks can be used to deceive, as well.

    • Hmm. I think that may be “The Happy Hypocrite,” where the man was ugly because of his dissipated life. He succeeded in reforming and winning the woman. Then a rival from his old life ripped away the mask in jealousy — and his face had conformed to it.

      Most plausible reformation of fictional villains tend to be of that ilk: fake it, discover how nice it is, and reform without realizing it.

    • Archie Leach worked so diligently at playing the character Cary Grant that he eventually became the part.

      I suspect part of the tragicality of a Marilyn Monroe is the difficulty in maintaining the role and the fact that people too often mistake the part played for the person underneath. As Rita Hayworth said, [on her husbands] They fell in love with Gilda and woke up with me.

      And, because one always finds extra quotes while searching out the accurate phrasing of the one they recall: “I was certainly a well-trained dancer. I’m a good actress: I have depth. I have feeling. But they don’t care. All they want is the image.”

    • In Christian terms, it is called the “imitation of Christ.” It’s not something you can achieve, but a method of living. Pretend (to yourself alone, not to others) to be better than you are, and act as that better person would.

      • An aspirational moral self.

        In my own faith: “And in a place where there are no anashim, strive to be one.” [anashim can be translated as “men” or “humans”, but in context really means “morally whole human beings”, what the Yiddish loanword “mensch” has come to mean.

        Although I’ve also heard the phrase used in the meaning of “where nobody has any cojones, you should grow a pair”]

  7. I’ve long said the same thing. Some people say the anonymity of the Internet lets people try on different mask (pretending to be men or women.) But I’ve always seen it as stripping off the mask and letting the real person show through. And sometimes humanity is capable of some real ugliness, and some monsters revel in their freedom.

    • Anglo-Saxon proverb: A man is as he does when he can do as he wills.

    • Sounds like stripping off one mask to put on another – made possible by an anonymous environment in which nobody knows your daily mask.

      • “Character is what you do when nobody is looking.”

        Nobody can see you on the Internet.

      • Some people wear a mask because they have no real self to present to others.

        A friend calls them “pod people.”

        • “When you are alone with him, Sphinx, does he take off his face and reveal his mask?” — Oscar Wilde (on Max Beerbohm)

    • Heck, I’m a Golden Lab with a custom keyboard, myself.

      Woof, baby.

      But you’re right. There’s been times I’ve allowed my baser instincts to take over – and I usually end up ashamed of the results.

    • Yep. My troll (the one that I accidentally led here the other month, though I think Stacy McCain’s tweet is really to blame) claims that he’s a sweet person in reality. I think troll is confusing ‘reality’ with ‘IRL’. Given how evil he is online I find that a little hard to believe that sweetness and light is the real him when all masks are stripped off, but those who’ve seen him in the courtroom say he can be civil and does put on the charm (at least with court personnel). And then starts to lose it when things don’t go his way.

  8. Isn’t this what Clinton just said? Except I’m not sure she understands the difference between sympathy and empathy and a quick decent into Stockholm syndrome.

    • I have no idea what she said. I really try not to look, it turns my stomach.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      If Hillary is wearing a mask, I don’t want to know what’s behind the mask. [Wink]

    • I don’t think Clinton realizes the difference between empathy and sympathy. Back in the early 2000s I read an excellent book by a woman who has a remarkable gift for empathy – meaning that she could get every fanatic short of Al Qaeda* to talk to her, and she could understand why they felt/acted/ spoke the way they did. But she had no sympathy for them, because what they did was so horrible. I don’t think Clinton realizes that you can understand without agreeing.

      * The author admitted that she did not try to speak with anyone from Al Q because she didn’t trust them not to kidnap/kill/yes her and her contacts.

  9. c4c

  10. Once I got out of the Navy I made the concious decision to post under my own name specifically because that accountability would restrain my tendancy toward…excessive enthusiasm. Of course, I happen to think that telling someone when they’re being an idiot is actually a kindness. Especially when they’re espousing one of the most evil doctrines mankind has ever come up with (and that’s saying a lot) in an attempt to appear “good.”

    The downside is that I have news that I would really like to share here but, while it is important to me, it isn’t my news and I cannot in good conscience put it in public.

    • When I got out of the Navy, I spent a year cleansing my vocabulary of profanity. On the sub, the “f-word” was in common use as every part of speech, and I’d fallen into a habit I didn’t wish to carry forward.

      I spent that year first learning to substitute such things as “gosh-a-rootie” and “gollywhillikers,” and then diminishing my use of the substitutes. Some profanity and coarseness has crept back in over the last few decades (more than I care for, actually), but I don’t think it’s actually excessive.

      • Also, while I don’t post under my full name, this is a nickname I’ve had since 1971, and I don’t make much effort to hide my identity.

      • Sometimes I wonder if by bleeping out the f-words of a sailor and throwing out all other audio I could create an EDM rhythm track 😉

      • Odd, my husband spent 22 years in the navy, almost all on subs or tenders, and his vocabulary is much, much cleaner than mine. Sadly my girls are learning from me rather than him. 😦

        • It could be that he’s like my father, who hardly ever used swear words around people, but who shocked the heck out of my wife when he was installing a shower stall in my house, and hadn’t realized she was there.

          • He claims that he can’t swear around women, which makes trying to work together on any home improvement type project difficult. But even when he doesn’t think I’m around, he doesn’t curse.

            It still means that if we need something done that he can’t do on his own, or that isn’t pretty quick and simple, I call one of the male friends in the area to come assist and go hide someplace else.

    • Contrariwise, I have purposefully and deliberately posted only under my initials on the basis that creation of a neutral identity allows my statements to stand as themselves, devoid of any attribution to identity-based credibility (or lack thereof.) Too many people online argue that an assertion is false not because it is disprovable but because the one asserting is (or is not) male, female, white, “of colour” or just not a member in good standing of the approved cohort. (On that last, I plea “guilty as charged.”)

      The fact that my initials are Latin for “Thing” just makes the mask more amusing.

      • I just link those types to a page describing the ad hominem fallacy and point out that all Progressive “thought” cosists of nothing more than logical fallacies, unwarranted assumptions, and inchoate emoting.

      • It does make the “turn the conversation into one about you” harder if you use a pseudonym.

        • Good point. Aside from the fact that some of us have families. I’d be a lot less circumspect if I were single.

          • I’m pretty sure I’d have never gotten into Catholic theology with the chance of a specific selection of relatives searching my name, finding it, and then using it as a hammer at every opportunity. My dad doesn’t deserve that on top of every other indignity that side has given him. Assuming I’d thought that far ahead in the first place, rather than just obeying my mom.

            The pseudonym makes it possible to politely avoid bores, and makes it harder for the casually violent to do wrong.

          • That second aspect is even in the Bible; in some of the apostles’ letters, they allude to people instead of saying their names— it’s because of things like, IIRC, Lazerus being wanted criminally for being a witness, and the guy who cut off the servant’s ear not being named in at least one instance. (I don’t have chapter and verse, was driving at the time.)

            Add in our own Founding Fathers using pseudonyms– even groups writing as one person– and it becomes a rather respectable tradition when done in the right spirit.

            • “groups writing as one person” has a tradition outside politics as well. Cf. the “N. Bourbaki” series of mathematics texts in France, or of course various “house names” in fiction (particularly mysteries)

    • William O. B'Livion

      I was MUCH more disagreeable and aggressive back when I posted under my own name.

      Mostly because my seabag full of Phuqs was empty, and thus I had none left to give.

      Nowadays I just don’t have the energy to sustain that level of vitriol.

  11. Well, we all have a face that we hide away forever
    And we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone.
    Some are satin, some are steel,
    Some are silk and some are leather.
    They’re the faces of a stranger,
    But we’d love to try them on.

    — Billy Joel, “The Stranger”

    • I thought about the same song by Cedar’s second paragraph… (The first paragraph, I was busy with my phobia of Clowns, they really are all evil and want us to suffer.)

  12. The exchange you quote has a truly… psychotic quality about it. (face palm)

    Perhaps there’s another mask category at work here: hyperbole. I’m reminded of the periodic screaming here by ultra-Orthodox politicos: “You are worse than the Nazis because you seek the spiritual destruction of the Jewish people rather just the physical one!” when the discussion is about a reduction in stipends for full-time seminary students. This type of rhetoric immediately reveals the user to be either a 5-year old or somebody who mistakes his audience for the same.

  13. The way I used to deal with Trolls who threatened my life, back in the days of usenet, was to address them by name (their real name) and tell them that if they approached me in RL, I would assume that they were going to attack me, and I would respond accordingly to defend my life.
    This tended to shut a lot of people up, because most people were surprised to find out that it wasn’t hard to discover who they really were.

    I think this is why the whole ‘doxxing’ thing started. Trolls and attackers do not want anyone knowing who they are, they do not like the ‘light of exposure’ so they had to make their unmasking sound like a threat.
    A simple FACT: You are NOT Anonymous on the internet, even if you think you are, unless you have taken serious steps to be so. Most have not, and if you have linked any aspect of what you do, or who you are, to your internet ID, then you might as well use your real name.

    I have also gone as far as to give some of the rudest and most violent trolls my RL address and asked them to come and ‘say those things to my face’. None have ever taken me up on it, some have left me alone ever since because they discovered I have no fear of them.

    Back in the day we used to call this ‘CB Syndrome’ for those CB Radio people who would run their mouths thinking no one would ever find them. Well a loop antenna and a map quickly would prove those people wrong, and suddenly reality set in and an angry group of people would show up at their door.

    Because I -know- that I am -not- anonymous, I try to talk to people like I would if we were face to face. I’m not always civil (but then I’m not always civil in person – though I am much mellower than I used to be), however I think I’m more polite online, than in RL. But for the violence trolls, pointing and laughing is really about the best you can do to them, along with letting them know that if they come around you, you’ll assume they mean to do you harm, and act accordingly. Bullies are bullies, and they fear reprisals, and pulling back the curtain and showing who they are, puts that fear into them, because they know that they have much to atone for.

    • Jeff Duntemann

      This. Like John and like Cedar, I use my real name online and always have. Beyond keeping my name out there, it’s a reminder to myself to be unfailingly courteous and long-suffering, but it has another benefit: It keeps me grounded. That’s a weird thing to try and define, but I recall reading something in a book years ago explaining why actors seem to have such random and often self-destructive lives. A lot of people can’t pretend to be someone other than themselves without losing their mooring to reality. I have no talent for acting, but I’m not especially eager to do the experiment.

      For reasons I’m still not sure I understand, most of my online friends are liberals, and for many years I’ve gone out of my way to avoid ruffling liberal feathers. My first novel was a libertarian adventure / idea piece, and I thought it would trigger online Armageddon within my circles. Alas, the hardcover cost $28 and so few people bought it that I ducked Armageddon. I now have the rights back, and am working up the courage to put the ebook up on Kindle. (Sarah gave me The Talk about that the other night, which helped a great deal.) I got a preview of Armageddon when I blogged my series about the Sad Puppies, which earned me some serious abuse and lost me a few friends who were tribalist jerks at heart. It also brought me into contact with people like Cedar and Sarah and Rory Modena and John C. Wright, so far from being a loss it was a spectacular win. Thank you Mike Glyer, you beneficent goof.

      I realized I wasn’t afraid of being bullied so much as simply afraid of being disliked. I can deal with bullies, and I do it the same way John Van Stry describes above. The truth is that no matter who you are and what you write, there will be bullies and trolls who will take exception to your public face. The alternative is to have a blank public face, and there’s no future in that. Be who you are and write what you must. That’s the only way forward.

      • Would you look at all these monies burning a hole in my pocket. They need a good home.

        lost me a few friends who were tribalist jerks at heart.

        Those weren’t your friends, they were just people using you to reinforce their echo chamber.

      • When I first got on Usenet, we were still at the point where “female name on Internet” equaled “besieged by IM requests from interested male users”. So I pretty much always used my initials or a handle, albeit I wasn’t too worried about hiding my name or sex from folks who knew me online. (I was continually posting filks that credited my real name, so it’s not exactly the peak of anonymity.) My self-created nickname is a filter for spam, basically.

        And I don’t think I’ve ever said anything online that I wouldn’t say to anyone’s face. Of course, I’m known for telling people exactly what I think of them, if you push me too far, so this isn’t exactly ruling things out! Overall, though, I think I’m more sociable and more polite online. 🙂

      • For the first twenty or so years I spent online I was primarily using BIX, Compuserve, various BBSs, mailing lists, and Usenet. I used my real name, or firstname.lastname@wherever.

        When broadband became available in the mid-2000s I started using web forums. Back then a lot of forums wouldn’t take a username with spaces or dots, and the vast majority of people seemed to be using handles, so I picked “TRX,” which was the name of my car, a V8-powered Mazda RX-7, Tyrannosaurus RX. (hey, all the cool handles were already taken…)

        The old systems and most of the lists are long defunct, and the usenet traffic is beyond the reach of Google’s Usenet archives or the Wayback Machine.

        Now few forums or blogs have problems with embedded spaces and I could post under my “real” name again… but almost the entirety of my public online traffic is under the handle TRX. There are a few others out there now, but if the discussion involves software, explosives, firearms, automotive engineering, or a few other topics, it’s probably me. If you want to find out what I think about some particular subject, Google can find it for you in milliseconds. If I started using my real name, it would effectively become a handle…

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I started using my own name without thinking. It’s probably too late to go back, but there have been a few times the past two years when I considered it.

      • I use a pen name only because I really need to place a firewall between work and my online activity. Wish this were unnecessary, but it ain’t.
        There is also a courtesy issue involved here: writing under my real name would almost automatically reflect on my employer, except by writing tedious disclaimers everywhere. (“Any opinions expressed are strictly the authors and not those of….”)
        But in general, my online persona differs from the real one primarily in that I am not at liberty to speak my real political views at least among US colleagues. (Israeli ones are more used to ‘heterodoxy’.)

        • Pretty much a ditto. I like my job. I don’t talk about anything except work and family life at work. Offending people by telling the truth is an offense leading to termination in most jobs. Definitely wouldn’t be hard to track me down, but most people are too lazy to do so. Or perhaps technically inept…

        • I second the ditto. And I’d just as soon not get one-star reviews from people who buy a novel thinking they are getting a monograph about water policy. And vice versa.

        • Big difference between my internet persona and my in-person one is that online, I can consider the pro and con of responding at all– and there’s time to decide “yes” before the moment has passed, and to double-check my facts if I’m not positive.

          The big difference I notice in how people react is that online, nobody can see that you are there and silent.
          So the exact same conversation in person, where “gee, she’s quiet”– is “you never show up unless you’re going to disagree” online. (Really funny is when this shows up after… agreeing.)

      • I used another name for ten years, but you know, I’m a writer. She developed her own life and personality. Rather than give myself schizophrenia, I took her out in the woods and shot her.

        • Martin L. Shoemaker

          Seems like Stephen King has told that story a few times. It never turns out well. They don’t stay dead.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            You have to be careful around Stephen King. Richard Bachman caught cancer of the pseudonym from him and died.

        • You mean online or as a genre-specific pen name? I understand there are (more generally speaking) two schools of thought about genre-specific pen names vs. unified ones.

          • I approve of genre-specific pen names!

            Some authors write in multiple genres. I can deal with getting a detective story when I thought I was buying an SF novel, but when it turns out to be romance, I’ve wasted my money. The covers aren’t always a good indicator of the contents, particularly when the author is far better known in only one of the genres…

            • Hmm, do I get a “romance vs. everything else” vibe here? 🙂 🙂

              Perhaps if geeks open a romance novel by accident and would find a bunch of sci-fi “Easter eggs” and one protagonist that a geek could identify with?

              BTW, I plan to recycle my protagonists for two non-romance works, one a murder mystery where they act as amateur sleuths, the other espionage related.

            • I have 4 genre specific pen names and 3 of them are Romance and things a bit steamier. It helps to keep from disappointing readers. Of course, it does start to get a little bit like having multiple personalities.

        • sssssssometimes they come baaaaaaaack….

        • I suggested years ago to my therapist that when I retired, I could set up multiple names for multiple personalities and go out on the internet and comment and act out the different lives. She didn’t think it was a good idea. We settled for flying kites instead.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        I’ve come to the conclusion it’s better to be honest than to hide out of fear. The closet is safe, but not much fun.

    • I think I’m more polite online, than in RL

      I am certain I am; in RL it is much harder to conceal the contempt certain claims can arouse in me.

      OTOH, “Online, nobody can see your eyes twinkle.”

    • William O. B'Livion

      A simple FACT: You are NOT Anonymous on the internet, even if you think

      …you are, unless you have taken serious steps to be so. Most have not, and if you have linked any aspect of what you do, or who you are, to your internet ID, then you might as well use your real name.

      While it is literally true that real anonymity is hard, the goal at least for some if us isn’t to keep the “nym->real name” mapping from happening, but rather the “real name->nym” mapping from being obvious.

      I’m not trying to hide from the Feds, I’m just hiding from HR.

      Simple measures raise the effort needed to a much higher cost than most individuals are willing to spend. I strongly suspect that the B’Livion alias will withstand most individual and some private investigator attacks simply because the cost is higher than it’s worth. And yes, there’s it bitty clues here and there–I think I might have mentioned where I currently work, and it’s clear what I do for a living, but to put all these pieces together you’d have to crawl through dozens of sites piecing together a comment here, a comment there, then sort through other databases to narrow stuff down. Or find the one post in a really dark corner of the internet where a friend accidentally outed me.

      There might be some tools written that would scrape the crud out of the internet looking for postings from the same IP address but different usernames/email addresses, but other than that, you’d have to be a SERIOUS stalker, or have a good idea of my meatspace identity to start off with (in that case there are some textual analysis tools that can give you a reasonably high probability).

      And of course I’ve met a few folks in real life who know the connection.

      Someone seriously obsessed could probably sort it out, but they’re willing to pay the cost.

      Most TLAs could do it in a few days, but they’re “seriously obsessed” when they want to be.

      This nom de guerre mostly exists to allow a persistent identity so that I can participate in discussions that make HR goons nervous (guns and being a conservative). There’s only 3 people in my industry with my name, and I wouldn’t want to reflect poorly on the other two.

      I have also gone as far as to give some of the rudest and most violent trolls my RL address and asked them to come and ‘say those things to my face’. None have ever taken me up on it, some have left me alone ever since because they discovered I have no fear of them.

      Yup, posted my phone number too. Told them to call first to make sure I was home, wouldn’t want them to show up to a fight and me not be there.

      UseNet, man I miss that.

      • The other step is to have an e-mail account that you use for posting at “touchy” sites, and nowhere else, that no one from HR, Feds, etc. ever sees. Have a second one that goes on resumes only.

  14. Some mask categories:

    * “False selves”: if they are really strong they may be a symptom of a personality disorder
    * “Hypocrisy”: advocating one behavior while practicing another. Generally maladaptive. Note: advocating an ideal while acknowledging living up to it is a struggle is NOT hypocrisy in my book.
    * “Camouflage”: many of us work in environments where our, e.g., political proclivities would lead to social ostracism or worse. So we learn to tactically dissemble.
    * “Protective shielding”: e.g., the behavior of somebody who is hurt or offended but pretends it is not getting to him/her. Pretty much everybody who’s in a position of authority needs to learn to do this.
    * “Social graces”, which I do not see as masks at all: there’s the truth as you see it, and then there are ways to speak that truth. There are ways that gratuitously offend, there are ways that guarantee people tuning out, and then there are candid but diplomatic ways.
    * and then there’s prioritization and context. When I’m discussing economics with somebody who, say, holds a different opinion on “gay marriage” or abortion than I do, bringing those views up may serve no other purpose than to derail a productive discussion. That does NOT mean I agree with the other person’s views, simply that “there is a time and a season”.

    • Clarification: by “dissembling” I do not mean speaking untruths per se. It can mean changing the subject, breaking it up with humor, giving vague or noncommittal answers,… Or giving coded ‘let he who has understanding gather’/”ha-meivin yavin” answers.
      And then there’s of course the good old Socratic method… 😉

    • While it is not exactly “protective shielding” a person in authority has, sometimes, to turn a deaf ear or blind eye to the grumblings of those under that authority.

      Then there is the parable of Nelson turning a blind eye at Trafalgar…

      • One of my mentors used to tell me that it is good for subordinates to have a regular time and place where they can all commiserate about what a constipated A-hole their boss is. Like a weekly after-hours bar session.

        • Depends on the workplace – some encourage this as a useful venting of steam and team building exercise, while others encourage it while trying to find out the specific location as an aid to planting listening devices.

        • The (in)famous grad student room at the [redacted] Bar near Flat State U. What was funny were the professors who assumed we were whining about them when we were kveching about skyrocketing tuition and book costs (or football ticket fees).

      • ‘Twasn’t Trafalgar, it was Copenhagen, and he was the one given the order.

        • They tol’ me it were Trafalgar!! Sure, an’ nobody tells a poor gunn’ry mate the troof. Blimey, they all looks the same out a gun port, don’ they?

          If it war Copenhagen, why di’nt we get no snuff, eh?

  15. Appalling how often, when you unmask a clown, he’s showing his arse.*

    *Use of the male pronoun here is strictly a linguistic convention and is in no way intended to suggest that such behaviour is uniformly nor specifically characteristic of males.

  16. When I was breaking away from home, I hated any type of mask– what you see is what you got. (Although I learned lately that some people in our past would curse to drive away evil spirits.) The reason I did it was because I saw the lies that can accumulate when certain people go to extremes–i.e. kinder to others than to their own families.

    Nowadays, I am older (no shit) and realized that there are somethings in the psyche that doesn’t need to be let off the leash except for emergencies. I still try to treat people the same… (respect if I can). But there are things that need to stay mask to keep it civil. I have a slight headache this morning so I don’t know if I am making sense.

    • Oh and I have an abundant examples of “False masks,” and “Hypocrisy.” I truly believe there was some severe mental illness in my family.

    • It’s also a matter of dosage. If I call every fool “as full of s**t as a cesspool”, then what insults do I have to escalate to when discussing an 0bama or Shillary speech?

      • Reasonable… I just don’t insult until I am pushed past a certain point. Lately I am pushed over that line too much *sigh I never got the hang of dosages…

      • This. A reason most of my descriptives are moderate – to leave room for extremes when they’re deserved.

        • The problem with starting every rating at 9 is that to get up to 11 you’re still only talking about a 20% uptick.

  17. Well said Dedar, and one of the big things that ‘allows’ this on the net is anonymity… One of the reasons I post under my real name the few times I’m on facebook. I believe there are at least four facets or faces. The one we present to the public we encounter daily, the professional one, the private one with family, and the hidden one that is our real selves. There have been flame wars on the net since it’s inception. They started on the BBS, and continue, so that is nothing new. What IS new, IMHO, is the viciousness of the personal attacks and literal death threats (see your snippet above). If they had been face to face, I’m doubtful that any of that would have happened… I have known of cases where people made threats, feeling they were untouchable, until pictures of them coming out of their house were posted, along with their addresses and reports made to the local police. Worth some of those ”bomb throwers” thinking about. We CAN track them down if necessary.

    • An interesting parallel: linguists recognize that a language is spoken/written in a number of ‘registers’:
      FROZEN: printed, unchanging language, also stock phrases with very precise “term of art” meanings. Used in legal documents (including laws), religious writings.
      FORMAL: one-way, uninterrupted communication (oral or written). Technical vocabulary, exact definitions are very important. Scholarly writing is almost universally in that register.
      CONSULTATIVE: Two-way (usually oral) communication, e.g., doctor/patient, professor/grad student,…
      CASUAL: in-group friends or acquaintances. Ellipses, slang,… common.
      INTIMATE: family and close friends. Private vocabulary. Intonation and gestures can be as important as the actual words. Can be opaque to outsider.

      • In those last two categories one finds many references by allusion, such as common jokes, experiences and the like. Often a simple phrase, such as “You stupid woman, can’t you see …” or “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” carries a barge load of references which help firm the bonds between members of the group (see: Unit Cohesion.)

        There is also that quality of comment which gave rise to the response: “When you call me that, smile.”

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          “When you call me that, smile.”

          And the response was “I always smile when somebody has a gun aimed at my belly”. (Or words to that effect). [Very Big Evil Grin]

    • I present the same face online, on the phone, or in person, to anyone I talk to.

  18. I don’t use a mask as much as use a filter. I simply don’t go to places where flamewars erupt, and when they DO pop in, on one of the view locations I visit. I know a moderator is about to intercede.

    • Some filters are attached to the front of masks 😉

      There are very few places where I feel safe and comfortable participating in the comments. Here, MGC, Passive Voice… I just don’t have the time and energy to scrub off the scum that sticks when you dip into the other places.

  19. I’d love to comment, but my mask is at the cleaners.

  20. Off on a tangent:

    Apparently this is how they want to change the voting.
    http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/016262.html

    • or you can describe it to us so we don’t give her traffic.

      • Every person nominating is give 1 (One) point per nomination category. Nominate one book, it gets 1 point, nominate 4, they each get 1/4 point.

        Then the points are tallied to determine who gets on the ballot for that category. On it’s surface, it’s pretty stupid, but deeper down, it’s really stupid. It’s actually EASIER to game this system than the current one, with a smaller group of people.

        Like say, oh the TOR employees.

        • Perhaps an amendment might be offered, barring voting by any employee of any major publisher?

          Anytime I have been polled, for example on what media I attend to, there has first been a screening to identify any employee (or relative of any employee) of any media entity.

          Because publisher employees have vested financial interests in the awards, financial interests which conflict with the literary merits of the nomination process, they should not be involved in this process.

          Let them argue in favor of conflicts of interest, in support of Big Publishing.

          • then you’d have to require photo ID with their worldcon registration and we all know how they are going to feel about voter ID.

            • Just run a Db cross-search for Worldcon membership and Publishing company employees?

              Surely they must acknowledge and support the desirability of dis-enabling big publishing’s efforts to commodify fan awards?

          • What about self-publishers?

            • Like others who engage in self-abuse, they are best ignored as innocuous and unsanitary. They are unlikely to experience serious conflict of interest in the awards determination.

        • Of course, they need to attempt to make sure their changes keep out the common rabble and make sure Tor can still vote themselves Hugos at the same time. That’s why they are having to come up with such convoluted systems.

        • “The more you tighten your grip, Nielsen-Hayden, the more Hugos will slip through your fingers.”
          TOR should consider the last 5-10 years their ‘golden age’. Now that the general readers have caught on to their tricks, there efforts to get back there will come to naught.

        • Probably a stupid question to people more educated than I in the theory… but why not just restrict people to making 3 nominations per category, while still having the top 5 on the ballot?

          • Where’s the opportunity for rigging the vote in that system?

            Sheesh — net thing you’ll be saying that instead of establishing Obamacare the Feds should have just authorized a tax credit to everybody who purchases their own qualified Health Insurance plan.

            or even crazier, suggesting states shouldn’t send so much money to D.C. to be sent back to the states with strings attached.

            Where would the madness end?

    • Wow, that’s even easier to game than the current system.

      • Well, there’s another part of the system where they count against something by the NUMBER of voters. So something that got 1/5 of a point from 100 people (20) gets more of a boost than something that got 1 full point from 20 people.

        Of course, it still throws out the tradition that you can’t vote for the same book multiple times on the same ballot simply because you have 5 slots, but hey, some votes are more equal than others.

        My alternative proposal isn’t getting a lot of hits any more.

        • As I understand the elimination phase, you will eventually wind up with a large slew of works that have 1 point, because they’re the only (remaining) work that someone voted for. At which point they all come off the list, potentially disenfranchising hundreds of members.

  21. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Grumble Grumble

    This thing about “masks” has gotten me thinking again about my “unwritten” fantasy characters.

    One type of my characters had (I removed this ability) “True Masks”.

    The “BigUnglies” were born looking like normal human male babies and until they were around 16-17 years old looked like normal human males.

    Then they went through a period of change until they took their adult form which strongly resembled Ogres.

    Well some of them could generate a “glamour/illusion” that made them look like the adult man they would be have been if the change hadn’t occurred.

    They called it a “True Mask” because they could only take this one appearance not any other appearance.

    Thus if you meet them when they were wearing their True Mask, you’d always see the same person every time they used their True Mask.

    Interestingly, most people could see a strong resemblance between their actual face and their True Mask.

    Note, I’m thinking that I have to write these stories and maybe return the “True Mask” ability to them. [Smile]

    • “Big Uglies” is what the Lizard Race called humans in Harry Turtledove’s “Worldwar” series 🙂

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        So they did.

        Of course, my “BigUglies” decided centuries ago that name was better than other names people were calling them.

        After all, would real monsters tell people that it’s ok to call them “Big Uglies”? [Smile]

  22. > What did trolls do before the internet?

    Hanging around the beer halls and forming political action groups, mostly.

  23. Our August book is [book:The Three-Body Problem|20518872].

    Vote for our September theme here:
    https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/122267-what-theme-should-we-read-for-our-september-book

    • But *gasp!* didn’t you hear? The EEEEVvvvvvviiil blogger/author/publisher V. D. likes that book. Or at least thought it worthy of a Hugo vote. *leans back on fainting couch, fanning*

      • It won.

        I won’t be reading it myself, having bounced off hard, but it won.

      • “reductio ad Voxum”? Sheesh.

        • With V. Day you can never be confident that his endorsement of a book like The Three-Body Problem is genuine or just a jerking of Proglodyte chains.

          Imagine the heads exploding next year if his Hugo slate includes Scalzi, M.Z.B., G.R.R.M. and their ilk.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            He should nominate Hurley, Luhrs, Nicoll, the Nielsen Haydens, the whole lot of them.

            • The one problem i see with such a scheme is that his nominations have to be credible so it doesn’t seem as if he’s just mocking them — the ‘splodey head power is generated by the conflicting imperatives, after all. They need to have that tension between “this work is worthy of a Hugo” and “But Day liked it” to generate maximum pressure and I just don’t see any of them meeting that first requirement, no matter how much Hugo standards have been diluted.

              • Christopher M. Chupik

                Considering his “let it burn” mentality, I’m not sure he’d bother justifying the picks as anything other than spite.

  24. Just got around to reading this, because I’ve been going crazy getting ready for vacation, but the subject of this post closely paralleled what I was telling one of my coworkers a few days ago.

    I had been watching a movie review on Youtube, and listening to the language being used, I told my coworker that the anonymity of the internet was really destroying polite language. The review pretty much boiled down to: “This movie was effing stupid, the people who wrote the script were effing stupid, the producers and directors were effing stupid, the actors were effing stupid, and if you go watch this movie after this review, then YOU’RE effing stupid.”

    And he might have used the F-word more often than I implied above.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      “And he might have used the F-word more often than I implied above”

      You’re effing kidding.

    • I’ve got an uncle who’s been like that since before Vietnam, and a couple of cousins who do the glorified version of it. (Largely because they know my mom will KILL them if they use the f-bomb around her, or anyone under about 20.)

      Difference is, due to your life choices and his, you’re unlikely to hear him on a similar rant.

  25. While we’re on the topic of masked vigilantes, has anyone else caught the kerfuffle over Ted Cruz including The Watchmen‘s Rorschach among his five favorite superheros (Spider-Man, Wolverine, Batman, Iron Man, Rorschach)? (Apparently Cruz is a SF & Comics fan — I desperately want to know his five favorite works of SF!)
    HT: Jim Geraghty at NRO blog The Corner [ http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/421691/ted-cruzs-defensible-enthusiasm-watchmens-rorschach-jim-geraghty ]

    I note that two of those (Spidey, Rorschach) are Ayn Rand influenced characters while two more, Batman and Wolverine, are severely psychologically damaged. I also not e that this is among the least important or even marginally useful things to be concerned about in a presidential candidate.

    But apparently the Twits are all a flutter!

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      But how can this be? Every goodthinker knows there are no such things as conservative geeks!

    • From that NYT interview:

      Do you think that being popular in high school and being popular in the Senate have very much in common?
      That may be a bit too mature for the Senate; it’s more like junior high.

      You named the small business you started as a teenager Cruz Enterprises, after Stark Enterprises from the Iron Man comics. In your marathon anti-Obamacare speech, you impersonated Darth Vader. Are you attracted to anti­heroes?
      Certainly not to Vader. I was always a Han Solo guy. And when it comes to comics, I was more of a Spider-Man guy.

      You are the chairman of the Senate subcommittee on space, and during a hearing, you asked NASA to focus on space exploration rather than climate change. Do you think there’s a big overlap between sci-fi nerds and people interested in policy?
      Well, I do think that readers of science fiction are interested and attracted to the future. And in many ways, politics is a battle for framing our future.

      You’re also a fan of ‘‘Star Trek.’’ Do you prefer Captain Kirk or Captain Picard?
      Absolutely James Tiberius Kirk.

      You seem to be good at anticipating what journalists are going to ask you. Do you think you would make a good journalist yourself?
      I don’t know. I certainly enjoy writing. Also, I spent many years as a Supreme Court litigator. There is a premium on brevity there because if you take even an extra sentence or two, the odds are high you’ll be cut off by a justice before you make your point.

      Interesting, the man who is famous for filibustering claims that what he’s really good at is keeping his answers short.
      I’m just letting the irony of that comment flow right over my head.

      If you were a journalist interviewing you, what would you ask?
      Who knows, I might well ask, ‘‘Kirk or Picard?’’ I’ve never been asked that before, and I actually have a strong opinion on it.

      Well, that goes with being a Kirk person.
      It does indeed. Let me do a little psychoanalysis. If you look at ‘‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’’ it basically split James T. Kirk into two people. Picard was Kirk’s rational side, and William Riker was his passionate side. I prefer a complete captain. To be effective, you need both heart and mind.

      I thought your critique might go in a different direction, because ‘‘Next Generation’’ is more touchy-feely in its politics than the original.
      No doubt. The original ‘‘Star Trek’’ was grittier. Kirk is working class; Picard is an aristocrat. Kirk is a passionate fighter for justice; Picard is a cerebral philosopher. The original ‘‘Star Trek’’ pressed for racial equality, which was one of its best characteristics, but it did so without sermonizing.

      Do you have a suspicion about whether Kirk would be a Democrat or a Republican?
      I think it is quite likely that Kirk is a Republican and Picard is a Democrat.

      I think you and Kirk might have some personality traits in common.
      Well, thank you. I can affirmatively say that I have made out with far fewer space aliens.

      N.B. — the interview, as published, does not include the 5 Fave Superheros but the MSNBC article claims it was at the bottom of the article?

      As for anticipating reporters’ questions, those are about as predictable as the direction of the sun’s rise tomorrow. And of course Kirk was (will be?) Republican. I could cite specific episodes in support of the argument, but that would be excessively geekish. Given the trendline of the Democrats I think Picard is more accurately assigned to the RINO camp.