Created: 31-10-2004
Last update: 31-10-2004


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Toxic fans

(Old introduction from the History page:

Speaking of Sims: the World Wide Web is a virtual universe, a repository of knowledge, a forum open to people of all backgrounds and nationalities, and a great place to get p***** off. Iffy fans and commercial institutions have found long ago that catching attention on the Web is as easy as catching deer at a watering hole, and put up pages o' crap that don't fall under "freedom of speech" any more than going door to door with copies of the Watchtower falls under "freedom of religion". The commercial institutions I can avoid, fandom gets a bit harder. I don't know why a particular Simsite page I saw last week should have raised my blood temperature above steam level, when I've both seen and heard of worse samples of fan behaviour; it must be the cumulative effect. Since my aim is expressing myself rather than snaring surfers, I've kept my opinion of such pages off the main page and put it here for anyone who enjoys vicious rants or is becoming as chronically enraged as I am.)

Unasked-for editorial: it's October and The Sims 2 is out. This is good news. Not because TS2 allows facial expressions and separate body/clothes meshes and finally introduces an intermediate "teen" body; I haven't the hardware that will run the game, anyway. No, the good news is that the big Sims "fan" sites - "download factories" would be a more appropriate name - are all switching to TS2, as are their hordes of drooling, gushing followers, so I can again Google for info on the Sims without running into downright crap.

Employing common sense rather than Freud's theories and whatever social norms were blindly followed in their time and locality, two psychiatrists wrote a book about counter-productive parental tactics and the consequences thereof, called "Toxic Parents". The time is more than ripe for a similar book about interest groups and their communities, called "Toxic Fans". It would not be just about Sim fandom - which after bad experiences with previous fandoms I wisely avoid, anyway - but about the inevitable outcome of any fan initiative when it attracts enough people to trigger the herd instinct. This includes bimbettes overrunning mailing lists, running all posts through the filter "is the poster being Nice to me or not?" and drowning any intelligent discussion with their self-interested noise, profiteers who use a common interest to push some private ideology ("Wow, if I use file format such&such, I can reach a really wide audience!") or downright make a buck ("Let's grab a bunch of downloads and sell them on CD!") and desperate attention-getters like the fansub group who is so concerned to be the "first" to distribute any title that they're happy to put out crappy subs and will actually flame companies who have bought the rights to a title for an official release. If they have webspace, such fans may put up little beacons of toxicity which pretend to be about the Sims, about KiSS, about anime shows or UFOs or stamps or rare rock formations or whatever can interest a person enough to do a websurf on it. They may even put much effort into their fan pages to hide, possibly even from themselves, what their real aim is: personal satisfaction at others' expense.

Unlike plainly obnoxious fans who send all-caps posts to newsgroups, flame anyone who doesn't like their show/character/hobby, and mail hobby artists to "send me your files NOW" with a nasty mail following if their "request" isn't granted on the double, toxic fans start out being deceptively nice - until they feel they have enough support from some community to show their true colours. This has the side effect of making all friendly fans and helpful communities suspect. Their tactics can overshoot their purpose, though; when I see some newbie effusively praising and congratulating and sucking up to what it probably considers the "important" people, I know it's time to leave. The ML, newsgroup or whatever is bound to decline from that point onwards anyway, as toxic fans are fans of, simply, themselves, and the actual subject of the fandom is only a vehicle for their ego, however much they hide behind "friends" and claim they're doing it all for the community. They're certainly affecting, or should I say infecting, communities with their popularity campaigns - from a toxic fan, "I won't link to your page" amounts to a death threat - to the point where I steer clear of communities. This tactic keeps out 90% of the shit.

What slips through is usually a Google search result. When I view such a page, I generally puke and move on, although the bad taste stays in my mouth for the rest of the day. After all, the Internet is a place where we can all freely express our opinions and any criticism of crap will be interpreted as "you're just being nasty to me because you like to be nasty, so now I'm going to be nasty to you" and, indeed, the kind of people to criticize website owners for being indecent or un-Christian or unpatriotic or whatever are simply out to be nasty, so in practice the Internet is a place where nasty people are free to opinionate and anyone not interested in nastiness just tiredly logs off. But in this case, I'll make an exception and react.

I won't name names, Ms/Mr Mall-of-the-Sims, but what I read of your tirade, disguised as satire, before deciding that this page in the Google results really didn't match my query, proved exactly the point you were ranting against. Even if I hadn't seen your site long ago and found it confusing, irritating and self-promoting - after all, sites can change - your jeering at Dr. FrankenSim for daring to criticize your efforts for the Sims community (criticism that, judging from the very quotes you include, makes perfect sense) highlights you as exactly the attention-seeking, self-plugging toxic fan you are claiming not to be. And you are right, that site is better off for not being linked to by you. Don't get me wrong, this isn't aimed at you personally: I have no interest in your site, both you and this FrankenSim person are total strangers to me, and as toxic fans go, you are one of very, very, very many; there isn't enough pesticide in the world to deal with the lot of you. Where insinuations, question-begging and false arguments are concerned, you are in the good company of Microsoft and whatever prominent politicians publish "dossiers" on the web, people and organizations who, like you, assume that the casual websurfer - which group includes me - is either extremely stupid, or as unscrupulous as they are. Freedom of speech being such an enshrined concept, I'm sure that in the case of heavy criticism, they likewise would hastily pass off these intelligence-insulting HTML-ized attacks, even those that are supposedly backed up by research, as "personal opinion", which no one has the right to deny them. In fact, compared to the extreme level of crap turned out by Micro$oft and its subsidiary, the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute, your attempt to stifle criticism of your site-supporting methods by dismissing it as sooooo unreasonable is almost amateurish. But I'm sure the rhetoric skills of you and many others will pick up as the line between Sim fandom and big business fades into nothing, and all Sim fans will fuse into one big Maxis II. This is really nothing new in Sim fandom or fandom in general, and I hate you as deeply and impersonally as I hate the anonymous spammers who send me mails with subject lines like "Htoestt Movie Stars naked potohs" (sic). You are simply the umpteenth drop of water to land in the permanently overflowing bucket. And don't tell me it was my own choice to visit your page; it is my own choice, and ardent desire, to stay away from pages like yours, and I surf cautiously to avoid them. I am expressing my anger at the fact that, once again, this has proved impossible.

Anyway, hopefully all such fans will switch to TS2 and I can stick with the old Sims until TS3 comes out. That is why the release of TS2 is a good thing.

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