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Worth a read. An Aussie columnist describes what happened on a mailing list he frequents, in the wake of the WTC attack.

Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 21:09:20 +1000
From: Peter Darben (spam-protected)
Subject: High emotion and internet mailing lists

Peter Wear is a regular columnist in the Curious Snail, normally devoting his scribbling to some rather clever (if occasionally heavy handed) political satire. This turned up in today’s paper and I think it provides some food for thought, given Bob’s excellent observation of the list as group therapy, and some recent postings.

For what it’s worth, when I first heard that “something” had happened in New York, my first movement was to the computer, not to the teev. I wanted to see what happened from your points of view, as I’ve found in the past that reading through the sequence of claim and counterclaim, news and rumour that turns up in this list always gives me a much more personal of international events as they unfold. As I read through the postings to the list, I noticed that my last posting for the night (sent at about the same time as the first jet hit the WTC) was a message or two before the first appearance of the news on the list.

—– (from The Courier Mail (Brisbane) 17.9.01)


The catastrophic events in New York and Washington are yet to change our world, but the first tremors of the coming upheaval are already detectable

  • on the Internet.

Millions are trading e-mails, but the real eye-opener for me has been an Internet backwater, a small photography newsgroup I occasionally visit. That’s right, camera nerds from all over the world who tap keyboards, chatting about Mikons and lenses and tripods – a couple of hundred virtual friends from various countries. We know each other pretty well – the experts and the poseurs, the earnest and the flip. It’s all, well . . . folksy.

Not any more. Last week, like so much else, it began to fall apart. At first the messages conveyed shock and condolence. Then Luke, in New York, stood on the trip wire. “This sort of explosion and death,” he wrote, “has been going on for years in the Balkans and the Middle East. Now we know what it is like. Killing begets more killing. When does it end ?”

With all-out nuclear retaliation, it seems. “The same way it did in Japan,” wrote Jim, “turn every grain of sand to glass in these countries.” And quickly, added Fred. “No time to play around. It’s time to kill and break things. We can’t let cowards intimidate us.”

Leica Lust called for ” a response so terrible no one will ever again risk this kind of attack. Never again. Never. Never.”

“A couple of days vacation might be a good idea,” scoffed Mxsmanic, a longtime provocative contributor. Relations quickly deteriorated. Our little camera group was starting to fall apart.

“You are a puerile asshole,” frothed Leica Lust. “My only hope is that you are of draft age and will have the opportunity to water the tree of liberty you hide under with your own blood.”

These are people who have chatted amiably about lenses and flashguns.

It didn’t improve when someone called for prayers. “I’d rather be doing something constructive than bleating with the rest of the flock at church,” was the first reply. This attracted droves of hardline Christians, folk who’d previously only expressed views on auto-focus. God, it was made clear, was on America’s side. The cynics retaliated. “God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. And this was a real puzzler.”

That seemed to inspire the first international response. “When I heard the “selected” President of the US end his speech by ‘God Bless America’, I felt an urgent need to vomit!” wrote Geert from Belgium. “Has anybody asked himself the question WHY these disgusting acts took place ? . . . Wasn’t it the CIA who supported Muslim fanatics against the Russian army trying to keep the Taliban out of the country?”

Tony from England agreed. “Islamic countries, and some other countries too, see the US as and evil, unprincipled despotic power which tramples on smaller nations . . .”

Ralf reminded us from Germany that : “Each day as many people as were most regrettably killed in the US starve in what we outrageously call the Thirld World . . . each bloody single day. Where are the presidents and prime ministers condemning this attack on all civilised mankind?”

The lectures from Europe incensed some Americans and chastened others. “This is largely our fault,” Bill wrote. “We are the cause of this,” Darren agreed. “Choosing money over morals. When you have more, some will have less.”

And Charo thought : “The innocent people of Afghanistan, who have already suffered temendously at the hands of this (Taliban) regime . . . should not be made to suffer doubly in our attempt to make ourselves feel better.”

Bill was having none of it. “The ‘innocent’ people of Afghanistan have had three days to fire up the camel or whatever it is they do while waiting for another hand-out from the US. I don’t care how deented the remainder are, they have to know this party will never last the weekend. Exterminate the bastards.”

The last message I read came from someone suggesting a huge defiant party on the roof of the Empire State Building, “as a way of showing everyone that we won’t be cowed, and we won’t be scared away from what makes us unique. This is New York, for chrissakes, we’re the toughest, busiest, most sleep-deprived, most trash-talking mother——- on the planet”.

The demise of our little group of multinational camera geeks is unimportant, but the manner of its crumbling left me with a sense of foreboding.


Personally, I’ve been surprised at the care with which people have treated this. I can remember some of our biggest flame wars have started from something which seems so trivial when compared to the enormity of all of this. Perhaps something has happened which we all feel so strongly about that we have, for the time being at least, abandoned our regional biases and extended the hand of understanding. Fel noticed folks out in the real world being so much more polite all of a sudden, and, for the most part carried that into our little corner of the internet.

Bob hit the nail on the head when he spoke of the importance of this group for our emotional well-being. We’ve all shared personal tragedies and triumphs here. We came to an agreement long ago that the subject of this group would sometimes be allowed to extend out past the boundaries of forteana (not that forteana should have any boundaries ;) Let’s not try to justify our discussion of this as conspiracy fodder or rumour watch (although these are worthy goals) – sometimes we just need to talk things over, as all friends do.

That’s enough typing for me – I head off to the lounge room with some trepidation about watching the first satirical news program since last Tuesday. I’m sure Backberner will handle it with aplomb

‘night all


“John Ryland pulled Christine Blackshaw to him. An embrace that said all,

shut out everything. Two people in love in a world of their own. A higher 
plane where huge crabs did not exist, oblivious to everything else. 
Euphoria."                         Guy N. Smith - Origin of the Crabs
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