The Internet is like the biggest scummiest bar in the world. Pretty much anyone can get in — they don’t check IDs at the door and once inside behavior can range from the politely conversational, showing off the travel photos in the corner or talking about their cat to the downright boorish or even reprehensible. Arguments lead to fights lead to death threats — though few people are actually killed.
Pretty much nothing can get you kicked off the Internet — other than major violations of criminal law or treasonous acts. Even then, you can probably slip back in through the back door.
You might be able to get a quiet room off to the side where only your invited friends can join you but even that is no certainty that life will always be pleasant. Sometimes some of our friends are assholes. If they get bad enough we can ask them to leave — but you will never know what they are saying about you while your back is turned. And there are still those back doors.
When I lived in Yellowknife, there was a bar called The Rec Hall. It was big and it was scummy. They often let people in who technically had been banned or were under legal obligation because of age or criminal charges not to be there. There were frequent arguments and fights and even the occasional stabbing. Still it was remarkably free. I once danced with a guy there — slow danced, cheek to cheek — just to prove it could be done. We got some funny looks but no comments. And no fight started. Maybe it was a mellow night or maybe it helped that Tim was over six feet with a reputation for his fighting prowess. Whatever.
At closing time, all the fluorescent lights were turned on. The wait staff linked hands to form a line on one side of the bar. The bartenders were behind the line holding baseball bats. The line would walk across the bar, with everyone shouting in unison. “Get out! Get the fuck out now!” People would slowly be washed out the doors onto the street — where they would often meet those leaving the Gold Range. Different clientele, different cultures, same angry drunkenness. Street fights would sometimes ensue but that wasn’t the bar’s problem; that was the police’s problem.
Maybe that’s what we need for the Internet. Relative freedom to do pretty much what you want with really good secure private function rooms where you can go to discuss whatever you like — such as the general scumminess of this or that group.
And when things get out of hand, a line of ‘servers’ screaming: Get out, get the fuck out now. Yeah, works for me.
But that’s ten minutes.