The Audio Cynic

Are We Having Fun Yet?

A newbie wandering onto almost any audio website or forum might ask, after a brief perusal, “Jeez, why so serious? Why are they all so ANGRY??

“Is anybody having FUN??”

I know very well that we all have different concepts of “fun”. I spent most of a tweenage summer vacation in a million-volume library, and I had tons of fun. Most would find that unbelievably boring, but I had a big ol’ time. Vintage Whine this issue discusses the maybe-oxymoronic phrase, “serious hobbyist”; obviously, many folks devote a lot of passion and energy to their pastimes and projects. But how does that explain the often-vicious interchanges we see on special-interest discussion boards?

It’s not just on audio boards. I’ve seen nasty outbursts on boards devoted to cars, engines, cameras, even graphic design. I won’t even go near political discussion boards.

Why? Why does expressing an opinion open one up to vicious, personal attacks?

A favorite quote of cynics everywhere concerns academic politics. Often attributed to Henry Kissinger, but likely the utterance of political scientist Wallace Sayre, the line goes something like this: “Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”

Several family members have been faculty or staff at schools, from grade-schools through graduate programs. My impression is that knives are out, much of the time— for no real reason, with little to gain. My dentist dad—as straightforward a human as ever lived— went from private practice to teaching at the university level, and was constantly bewildered and angered by the backbiting and internecine feuding.

Is that the story with discussion boards? Do posters identify with their opinions, or their gear, so strongly that any question directed towards them is a threat? There’s nothing, litterally NOTHING at stake on the boards, unless one imbues one’s positions or possessions with importance far beyond that which any reasonable soul would.

I don’t pretend to understand, and I’ve been online for twenty years now. I’ve been attacked for being an expert, for not being an expert, for being American, for being UN-American, for being male, for being sympathetic to females…

You get the idea. Somewhere out there, there is likely someone who will take issue with not just your positions, but your person. Who will give you hell just for being YOU.

I think that’s called bullying. And it’s unnecessary and indefensible.

Rather than quote Henry Kissinger (or whomever), perhaps I should’ve misquoted the late Rodney King:

Can’t we all just get along?

For those unacquainted: this is Zippy the Pinhead, a comic strip character created by Bill Griffin. Zippy frequently speaks in existential non-sequiturs, and is created with having originated this phrase. For whatever THAT’S worth….