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Monday, 4 November 2013

Forums: Good For Nothing?

It saddens me, that in the 21st Century, too many online film/movie forums are run by people who seem to be of a very narrow-mind. That is, they run them like fiefdoms, without rules to which members can abide by or rules that are so open to interpretation, that they may as well have no rules at all. They also seem to be run by people who have only one view: that you can be a member of their forum, as long as you agree with everything they say and do.

That's not a forum, in my books. That's a cult!

Today, I find myself having my I.P. address banned from a particular online Forum, that is supposedly very well run, but for which I have no idea as to what I did or said, that required such drastic action. I won't name the Forum concerned, but it's a US-based one, as well as being one I've never talked of before, and seems to be very much run with a lack of freedom-of-expression in mind. If you agree with what everyone else says and does, then you'll fit right in. If, like me, you don't, then it seems you aren't welcome there.

If a forum is not for debate and open discussion, then what is its intended purpose, other than a hangout?

I've never been someone to just blindly accept rules and regulations. I always question those who create them, because I personally feel that if you don't, then you will merely be a puppet, to whom anyone can do whatever they like, and you will tacitly agree to every rule or regulation they create - which, as history has demonstrated - could lead to awful circumstances, such as Naziism and Communism.

Now, I am in no way saying that the Forum I have had my I.P. address banned, is being run by Nazi's or Communists. What I am saying, is that they aren't being run, in the way public forums should be.

Firstly, a good, well-run forum should have a set of clearly defined rules to which Members sign-up to abide by. These usually include obvious things like not posting pornographic links; to not abusing other members; to not swearing or using explicitly foul language (or bypassing any swear-filters the forum may choose to operate), and/or refraining from talking on issues such as politics and religion.

Those rules are all fair and right and just. I have no problem with any of them, and even though I do use strong language in some of my blog posts, my blog is aimed at those over 18, and has an age-barrier warning on it, that you agree too, before you can access and read it.

However, some Forums have no clear rules at all.

The one I've recently had my IP address blocked from, had no clear rules. They said that swearing wasn't allowed, but it frequently was. They said that personal insults and attacking other members wasn't allowed, but such actions frequently took place, and no one did anything about it. "Unfair" criticisms and complaints of companies weren't allowed, but what and how do you define something as "unfair". This particular Forum didn't define what "unfair" meant, so members frequently ended-up posting comments that breached this unwritten, ill-defined rule, or posted comments, only to find that their comments and many others alongside, were deleted in huge swathes, with no reason being given.

If you were given a temporary ban, no explanation was given. As soon as you logged-in, a screen came-up that merely stated that you had been banned until X date, but sans reason! There were no Admin to ask questions of. Their Forum Feedback Thread was filled with questions from members, new and old, going unanswered. Questions on their Facebook page also went without any response. And there was no way of actually contacting the Moderators or people who ran the Forum.

So, you have to wonder, what are forums for, if there are being run in such an awful way, and by people who don't want to let you get in touch with them?

I accept that I've never run a forum, so I don't know how time-consuming it can be. But I can make an educated guess. And I'm sure it's not all happiness and joy either. I'm sure, that running a forum, or any website, is a massive undertaking, and a forum may well be quite a thankless task. But if that is the case, then why run it?

My blog is never going to have the latest and most up-to-date information about horror films and extreme cinema. That was never my intention. That was not the kind of blog I wanted to operate. So anyone who complained that my blog would be better if I had interviews with famous people in horrordom, or reviewed the latest films, was always going to be sorely disappointed. But as I say, I never made any promises, to my readers, that my blog would be run in that manner. Firstly, I don't have the time and energy to devote to running it in that manner. Secondly, there are better, more intelligent sites than mine, that can do exactly that, and do it very well, without me trying to muscle-in on their niche section of the Web. Thirdly, that was never what my blog was meant to be in the first place. My blog, was, (and remains as being), somewhere where I post long articles about issues to do with horror and extreme cinema. Occasionally, I'll post a review, but that's not what my blog is about. It's first and foremost an article-based site!

But that is why people like you, dear reader, come back here. Clearly, you come here to read something different, and of variety. If you wanted the kind of thing that everyone else was doing, then you wouldn't be wasting your precious time, reading my articles. There'd be little point.

However, my niche, is that I am different, and that's why my blog is carving its own little niche on the World Wide Web, in the manner that it is. That is why my most popular article, is the one that no one else has attempted - a review of the controversial German shocker THE ANGEL'S MELANCHOLY - which you can read all about at  here  should you wish too. I have no intention with ever trying to compete with sites like the Internet Movie Database, or the BBC, or any of the major and long-established film-going websites. There'd be no point. I'd fail, and fail badly. But I can do something different to them, and what I can do, I like to think I do pretty well.

So, likewise, if I were to run a forum, I'd make sure from the outset what the forum is about, what the rules are, and what the forum's aim was. And if people broke the rules, then you have to explain to them why what they've done is wrong, and punish them accordingly. What you don't do, is jump down their throats within a week of joining, ranting-and-raving, that you've broken their rules, and when said member asks where they can find those rules, gets given a week-long ban, and fails to answer said member's reasonable question.

Despite what some people think, I am not a deliberately antagonistic individual. I am not someone who's aim is to piss others off, and get a rise out of them. And, I am absolutely not, someone who is full of anger and self-loathing. (And I've been called all of those things, from critics of my blog.) I am, however, someone who doesn't take things lying down. I am someone who doesn't just blindly accept everything at face-value, simply because society or life says I'm supposed to do so.

Blindly accepting everything in life, means that people will try and take advantage of you, at some point in time. It's better to be critical and question things, than to just take things simply because someone has said you must do so. It matters not if it's a parent, another adult in your life such as a teacher or professor, or more established organisations like the police and the government. As a human being, you should question why those who make the rules, make them in the manner that they do so, if their rules seem unfair, biased, or ill-defined. Don't just let these people tell you that you must accept what they tell you to do, if you don't agree with it. Ask, question, interrogate! It is your right to do so, irrespective of your age! I'm not advocating anarchy, nor am I remotely suggesting that people start ignoring all rules and regulation, as that would be a horrifically awful concept. I am simply saying, don't just accept the status quo, just because you've been told too.

Putting that aside, if a forum is not for debate, discussion and dissecting news and views, then there seems to be no point to it in my view. A forum, by its very nature, is a space where all different kinds of people can cogitate and wrangle over the bonding of a particular subject or issue - in this case a love of films. And that debate should be encouraged, even if such a debate becomes raucous or even a little vindictive at times. Stifling such talk, stifles debate, and that's not the way to get people to experience different views and opinions, because you simply end-up with one viewpoint that everyone always agrees on. And, in my view, there's no point in being somewhere where everyone agrees with you on most things. It's anodyne and intellectually stunting!

In fact, I left a long-running British entertainment forum, for that reason: if you agreed with the moral majority, then that was fine. Dare to have a different opinion, and you'd be set upon by vultures, determined to change your opinion, because your opinion was wrong, and had to be changed. I was there for over 10 years. I had a lot of time for that site. I made some good friends there. But over the years, it became more and more cold towards dissenting views. The atmosphere became charged, into an "You're either with us, or against us" mentality. What convinced me to leave, was when the whole Jimmy Savile/paedophilia scandal erupted in the latter part of 2012. Almost everyone in the discussion was of the "Well, I always felt he was a bit weird" or "My friends and I never considered Savile to be anything other than a kiddy-fiddler"! When the ITV documentary EXPOSURE: THE OTHER SIDE OF JIMMY SAVILE was broadcast in October 2012, most of the Forum members were happy to blindly accept the views from the victims featured in it, at face-value. When I dared to question them, and suggest that the victims views were not facts, but merely opinions that needed to be tested in a court of law, or under police investigation for evidence, I got set-upon and was browbeaten into changing my view, to that of everyone else: namely, that if the victims said they'd been raped, then it must have been so.

Despite repeatedly trying to elucidate my view, by saying that no viewpoint or opinion, in and of itself, makes it a hard fact, I was told I was talking out of my backside; to "wind my neck in"; and to shut my trap, because I knew nothing.

It seemed, that people I had once thought of as intelligent, sensible, rational adults, had descended into the pack-of-Wolves mentality, and you were either with the pack, or against them.

After a few weeks, and several other similar issues, I decided to voluntarily leave the Forum, and go elsewhere. Alas, what was once a very well-run, very entertaining place for me to spend my time, had now become a cold, destructive and cynical place where you could only espouse one view - the same view that everyone else held. Dissenting views were treason, and unwarranted.

So I just upped and left! Anyone who knows me, knows I go to great strengths to explain my views. I don't do "short" explanations on anything. I've got verbal diarrhoea, as they say! (Which is both funny, and probably true!)

More than ten years of my life, now came to a huge and very abrupt end.

Arguing over a subject can often bring-up views you'd never considered before. But if the only view you are allowed to hold, is the same one everyone else holds, and no one is even willing to accept that your view may be acceptable, even if it may not be true, then that's not a good place to be. It's called tolerance. You don't have to accept something, to tolerate it, and you don't need to tolerate something to accept it.

Forums now seem to be less about worthwhile, valuable and entertaining discussions, but more about cliques, and gangs, and society's, of like-minded people all thinking alike, all sounding alike, and all being of one mind. What a shame, that a tool as powerful and wonderful as the Internet, has become a way to stifle people's way-of-thinking, rather than a way to expand their mind, in as intellectually-wide way as possible.

I leave you with some choice quotes. They're both very funny, and extremely accurate too.

The Internet is so big, so powerful and so pointless, that - for some people - it is a complete substitute for life.  Andrew Brown

The Internet is the first thing that Humanity has built, that Humanity doesn't understand. The largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had. Eric Schmidt

The Internet is a shallow and unreliable electronic repository of dirty pictures, inaccurate rumours, bad spelling, and worse grammar, inhabited largely by people with no demonstrable social skills. Anonymous
Thank You for stopping by my little neck of the Internet woods! See you shortly!

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