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Pepe Lepew On November - 23 - 2009


Why do we blog?

Nothing very political in this post. I’ve given a lot of thought the last few weeks about why I blog, about why many of us blog, about what we are looking for, what we’re hoping to accomplish.

Here’s how I personally got started in it. I started blogging a few years ago. I lost my dad to lung cancer when I was a kid, and my mom suffers today from COPD. I grew up with asthma and chronic bronchitis — all the result of their heavy cigarette smoking. After my mom was hospitalized a few years ago for the umpteenth time with pneumonia, I was deeply depressed about it; about all the damage I had seen tobacco do to my family. So, I started up a blog … about how much I hate tobacco and how much I hate the industry. It was very cathartic.

Well, that blog is still around. I don’t update it as much as I used to, maybe a couple of times a month, but that modest blog turned into so many things I never expected it to. I personally raised more than $1,000 this year for the Lung Association. I get lots of newsletters about tobacco issues from other advocates around the country and have spoken to well-known authors who have exposed the industry’s lies. I became addicted to learning more information about the issue and consider myself now a “lay expert” in tobacco and smoking issues. There have been massive changes to smoking and tobacco laws and regulation over the past five years, and of course, I’m not egocentric enough to think that I effected those changes, but I like to think I was involved. I was definitely in the midst of it.

So, that drifted into Topix blogging, which is incredibly counterproductive and oughta be renamed “Toxic.” It’s really ugly.

So, during the 2006 election, I drifted into HuffPost. I really liked it a lot at first. I was heavily invested in the election of Jon Tester and that was a special night when he and Jim Webb won.

I drifted away from HuffPost, mostly because an old computer of mine couldn’t handle the new forum format, but I started coming back this spring after I got a new computer. Of course, one of the big changes I noted from the old days was the prevalence of the trolls in the forums. There had always been trolls (I seem to remember an old one called “Angry Vietnam Vet”), but never like this.

But, there were also a lot of smart, nice people, too. Not real friends, of course, but the comfort of typing with friendly people is real. I started realizing that many times I was learning much more from the posters than the actual articles. For instance, 9 or 10 months ago, I honestly wasn’t clear on the difference between “public option” and “single payer.” Reading the forums made it clear to me the distinct differences between the two. I see so many smart and talented people with so much knowledge to share and I feel honored to be accepted by them because sometimes I don’t think I’m that smart.

Well, since then, the “trollology” of HuffPost has gotten even worse. The bannings, the “timeouts” (I’m currently serving one), the never-ending nastiness gets to me sometimes.

But, I have a confession to make. I actually enjoy tangling with the trolls sometimes. I get caught up in “going monkeyshit on their asses” so to speak. And what scares me is that I’m actually pretty good at it. I’m good at pretending I’m crazy. This isn’t me. I’m not that angry driver on the highway honking his horn and flipping people off for going 5 miles an hour under the speed limit.

And I absolutely know why. There’s no mystery to it. Because I really, really hate bullies. I really see trolls as the online equivalent of schoolyard bullies and I want to “get them.” They literally make me a little crazy. The old 5-foot-8, 165-pound hockey player who had to act “a little crazy” to play against goons 80 pounds heavier than me takes over.

Of course, I realize it’s utterly silly. I’m not stupid. The blogosphere is not the real world. Of course there are real people at those keyboards with real feelings, but trolls aren’t real. They’re actors. They’re playing a role. Maybe they’re paid, maybe they work for HuffPost, maybe they just get off on making people mad, who knows? It’s not important. I’ve become increasingly convinced that HuffPost is infested with a handful of trolls, using multiple sock puppets to look and sound like more people, with countless other minor trolls buzzing around. I’ve seen the “patterns in the chaos,” so to speak. One troll leaves, another one enters. It’s consistent. It’s all a game. A part of me is fascinated by it all. By the psychology of what drives these people. I’ve actually read articles on the psychology of trolls. I’m weirdly fascinated by what their objectives are. Attention? To undercut others’ morale? A paycheck? It’s unhealthy, whatever it is.

Then again, I find crazy people you bump into in the street or at the bar fascinating. I’m drawn to divergent personalities.

Ultimately, what I have discovered, however, is that if you attack the trolls, it’s futile – as much sick fun as it might be. Even if you blow one up, two will simply take their place. They are a permanent fixture of HuffPost now. I see the abject futility in that. I honestly do. And not what I started out to do when I began blogging, that’s for sure. Like someone here said, it’s just Internet paint ball.

So maybe I go looking for other places in the Internet Wilderness to drift to … friendlier places and more thought-provoking places.

Categories: Featured, News & Politics

131 Responses so far.

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  1. FeloniousMonk says:

    OT: Has anyone seen anything about a provision in the Senate bill obliging Congressional members to use the Public Option in their home state? A friend sent me this piece, but no direct reference by section and number that I can see. http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2009/11/22/senate-health-care-vote/#ixzz0Xj882rUv

    • bitohistory says:

      My understanding is that congress already is using the same exchange as all Federal employees use. Really need a search word to input into the PDF of the bill to find out. What search word would one use?

  2. SeeknDestroy says:


    I’m sorry to hear about your family. God Bless you and yours, Pepe.
    You are far too hard hard on yourself.
    I, for one, have become a very big fan of your humor, your troll jousting abilities, and your style in general. You make me laugh on pretty regular basis.I love your wit..And you’re much smarter that you give yourself credit for. I should know,I have a bit of a complex myself when it comes to that. Personally, I think you’re quite brilliant.I’ve been a big fan for several months. BTW, what happened to your other sock over there? I hope you stick around on both sides for a long time to come..
    My favorite Canuck…..

  3. AlphaBitch says:

    Are you me???? My parents also were heavy smokers, I also have asthma (now I can never scuba dive!), I hate cigarettes, AND -- I HATE, ABHOR, DETEST, CAN’T STAND bullies. When I was a young, scrappier gal, I often got into real honest to goodness brawls. I lifted weights, could do 500 situps at a time. I ran a man’s Nautilus club and loved to take guys on the circuit, working alongside them, until they puked. I stand up to people bigger and badder than me (although never if they have a gun), and often forget I’m no longer as strong or fast as I was about 30 years ago. I guess it’s why I’m a good match for teenagers, and Afghans in particular. Although now I’m more a friend than foe. The fight remains, and I loved watching a good match at the other place. YOU were one of my faves! How about Thunderclap Newman and Major Kong? They also cracked me up. I never got into who was who over there, but wonder about them.

    Keep sprayin’ Pepe!!!

    • escribacat says:

      Alpha — You are so cool! I grew up with four older brothers and had to be tough!

    • PepeLepew says:

      I think a lot of people went through that during that generation.
      My parents literally smoked 6 packs a day between them. Awful!

      • escribacat says:

        Wow, that is a lot of smoking. I’m one of those idiots who started smoking, drinking and drugging at 13 — but gave it all up over 20 years ago now. What really bothers me is the tobacco companies aiming their product at the only people who are dumb enough to start smoking — kids. I hate seeing my beloved nephew smoking especially.

        • SeeknDestroy says:

          Are YOU me?
          I stopped the most of the abuse at 22, and hardly even drink now…
          No party drugs for 21+ years…
          It’s nice to have a semi-clear mind..~smile~

          • escribacat says:

            That’s funny! I was 32 when I said enough. Best thing I ever did!

            • AlphaBitch says:

              Hey pal!

              I have a dear friend, who made the most sense with her statement: “You know, I started drinking (drugging, smoking) because it made me feel good. I quit because it started making me feel bad.”

              I was such a goody two shoes; I never drank before I turned 21 (unless w/ my parents -- and only twice then); I hated smoking, after sitting in a car with the “packers” while we drove 2 hours to see my grandmother; and I’m lucky I never got into drugs -- I learned I am deathly allergic to opiates after a surgery when I was in my 40s. What a downer it would have been to be the kid who dropped dead at the rave after doing cocaine for the first time! I have watched good friends battle some of these demons; some win, some lose. I have no judgment. I was afraid I’d get “caught”, which kept me straight. I was always on the backstage list at music events, and around plenty of party people. I was a “designated driver” long before it was defined. I missed some fun times, but I do remember the times I had, so I guess it’s a trade off.

            • Khirad says:

              I was like the complete opposite of you! 😉

              But yes, I got “sick and tired of being sick and tired” (as they say) all the time too.

              I’m not all good, but I set limits for myself now and keep my “recreational activities” low occurrence.

            • FeloniousMonk says:

              I wasn’t much younger than that, but since I needed the ability to gain security clearances, it was a good thing I quit when I did. Not to mention it just wasn’t all that much fun any more.

            • Khirad says:

              That’s where I’ve been. It just wasn’t as fun anymore, except on occasion or special event. I do like not battling with so many hangovers and “recovery time” anymore. Plus even getting modestly older now, I can’t spring back the next day (and even do it all over) like I did in my early 20’s.

      • AlphaBitch says:

        Mine were the two pack a day apiece folks, for a total of 3 packs per day, with my dad smoking some at work. Now I have a bleb on a lung, and I had 3 spontaneous pneumothoraces in the 1980s (hence no diving for me). But I still have good lung function (I’m a little long-winded, you might say). I’m fine if people choose to smoke; I just don’t want to be around them. And I did “lecture lovingly” two good friends about what it was like to be the child of heavy smokers, and to watch your parents die gasping of breath. Both quit, I’m happy to say -- but not as happy as their kids!!

        • PepeLepew says:

          That why I climb mountains now … to make up for lost time.

          • AlphaBitch says:

            OK, I’m shamed. I hate even doing the three mile a day walk. I suspect my lung endurance comes from the sixty plus teens I’ve worked with -- screaming and yelling is also aerobic, no? (Kidding!)

      • FeloniousMonk says:

        I don’t remember my father’s hands not having tobacco stains on them. He started before he got out of bed in the morning and up until time to go to sleep at night.

        No one smokes in my home, or my vehicle, and I cannot handle being in a smoker’s car. Last time I did I thought I was going to die. And, the last time I went for a “cheap” motel room it was a smoker’s room and really made breathing difficult. And that was before I started carrying around a CPAP machine. Just what you don’t need is intensified delivered cigarette smoke at night.

  4. escribacat says:

    Great post, Pepe. A topic after my own heart. I find the personalities and sociological issues and dramas just as interesting as the politics. I’ve got a couple excuses for hanging around these websites — one is that I don’t have anybody to talk politics with except my rightwing brothers. My friends don’t have a clue about politics. They don’t care, they don’t read, they don’t follow the issues. It’s fantastic for me to find others who have the same interests, admire the same people, despise the same bad guys.

    The other reason is that it is just plain fun. I like the freedom to just write whatever I want to write and not have to worry about editors, critiquers, technical errors. I write a history column for the local paper, I write a technical wiki for a software company, and I’m working on a mystery novel, which gets torn to shreds by a critique group every two weeks (and was soundly rejected by my latest agent recently). It’s a huge joy for me just to write for fun without having to worry about all that stuff. I am determined that this “hobby” will never turn into “work” for me.

    A couple of you have mentioned how smart the people on these blogs are (well, many of them!) I too have learned a LOT from these comments. I’ve also noticed that since I started coming to PPOV, where we can actually write longer posts, I’m starting to get clearer about my own views, and what issues are the most important to me. I have to say I am also starting to get downright fond of the folks around here (even though it’s just a nickname with a tiny avatar). I’m one of those loner types who can’t stand parties, so this is about the closest I come to a “party.” One where I can leave whenever I want. I’d delightful. Probably a little too delightful, as my main problem now — being under-employed at the moment, is that I’m clacking away over here when I should be working on my novel!!

  5. Grabamop/Obama20082012 says:

    Hi Pepe, I was on HP that night you were ripping into dentalFloss and AC. I also know some French and I translated what you were writing. I had the feeling you were caught up in the moment, I get that way too. Must be a French thing, because I am part French. I too hate bullies, and you are right, it’s futile to fight some of the trolls. I am actually keeping a list of various socks that all sound alike. I know this might sound crazy, but I think Andrea Castillo is Hairyanna. She is going to school for economics and that is what AH went to school for at Cambridge. AC is way to polished to be in her early 20’s at college. I know I’m smart and when I was in college one of the last things I would think about doing is spending hours online posting. I don’t even believe her avatar is her own. Anyways…..enough about that…..you posted an excellent post here. And I hope I see you back when you are no longer ‘grounded’. When I feel my temper rising, I just walk away. No troll is worth raising my blood pressure, unless they are attacking someone, then I will pick on the troll. I am also glad you are fighting the good first against smoking. I quit 17.5 years ago.

    • escribacat says:

      I don’t know about that AC theory. I’d think AH would be a little bit busy to post as much as AC does. My niece is really sharp and quick like that — luckily she’s a lib. She just lacks the obnoxious factor and cold-bloodedness that AC possesses, thankfully.

    • PepeLepew says:

      You could actually understand some of that?
      I’m so embarrassed! Some of it was pretty foul.

      PS — it wasn’t that I was angry at AC that night, it’s that I was excited that I caught her red-handed using a new web sock. I was having waaayy too much fun.

      That AH-AC theory is really interesting. It would explain a lot.

      • Grabamop/Obama20082012 says:

        Pepe, I know about foul. I am married to a sailor, and I worked in the male dominated field of auto design for 21 years, as a woman I had to learn how to defend myself verbally. I know I have said worse. What was her other sock?

  6. Questinia says:

    I never really wrote before I started blogging. I started at HP. I used to be outdoorsy!!

    We should use the same tactic against the Republican Party (esp. the fringe) that you used against the tobacco industry.

    For instance, COPD could be the equivalent of Conservative Obsessiveness Personality Disorder.

    The health consequences could include an addiction to Brylcreem and hairspray, an oatmeal complexion, oatmeal between the ears, and florid Bachmannian psychosis.

  7. FeloniousMonk says:

    Pepe’: I understand from many levels where you’re at. My father put away 2 1/2 cartons of Camel Regulars a week towards the end of his life, when I was in High School. Really abhor smoking. I’m the guy who could see the most bodacious body in the world and if the woman lit up a cigarette, I’d walk away thinking she was “ugly”. I can’t say on guys because I don’t look at guys that way. But it’s just a nasty, exceptionally unhealthy activity for everyone, not just the smoker.

    And yes, doing battle can be “fun” but it brings out the worst in us, even for the “right” reasons. I’m witty, I’m clever, and I grew up hating bullies too. And if I can put one between their legs real hard metaphorically it does make me feel good. Didn’t say it’s right and the “excitement” can be distructive. But I will go over and kick some tail on occasion.

  8. nellie says:

    Interesting topic, Pepe — a good one for PPOV. And I bet your story abut blogging rings true for a lot of us.

    I blog because I would drive my family and friends crazy if I talked to them about politics the way I talk about politics online. They’d boot me out the door. Online blogs are the only place where I can get into the minutia of governance — which is what I’m fascinated by and passionate about — the way I’m inclined to do.

    It’s also a place where I don’t get into arguments unless I want to. My dad was a Republican, and we used to fight constantly about social issues — honest fights, where we both had legitimate points to make, but angry fights that hurt our relationship. Online, I don’t have to do that. I can just sidestep it.

    I go to a place like HP only to set the record straight. If I’m reading the posts and it seems that a lot of people are unaware of something, I”ll post it. Or if I see a particularly nasty comment that is completely fabricated, I’ll correct it. Other than that, HP has very little appeal to me. I don’t even post there as “nellie” any more.

    And like you, I learn an awful lot from other bloggers. I’m so much smarter about politics now than I was when I posted my first comment on Raw Story — I think that was my first online post. And I’m a lot more confident in speaking my mind. I’ve learned to make a point and defend it. That’s a valuable skill. And blogging gives me practice in doing that.

    • Khirad says:

      Oh my lord, dead on. I have to go online, because I would drive everyone crazy … “there he goes again with his ‘politics'” …

      Even more so with foreign policy minutia.

    • PepeLepew says:

      Oh, where you’ll see me worked up big time on HuffPost “setting the record” straight is when trolls start posting lies about Canada.

      • FeloniousMonk says:

        On that one you’re pushing rope up a hill, Pepe’. Unfortunately most Americans, including myself, know very little about much of the rest of the union, let alone the large neighbors we have to the north and south. As much as Canada, in general, shares much of the same European background and language we have, many right wing Americans act as though it’s populated by aliens from another planet. Go figure.

      • nellie says:

        I think I’ve seen some of those posts! And good for you. It’s so hard to let those lies sit there in print without answering them.

  9. KevenSeven says:


    Good stuff and much of it I could have said myself. Yeah, Tester and Webb, that felt real good!

    I blog for one more reason (if I skimmed thru too quickly, sorry): I like to argue and debate. I like to put my views out there and do the to and fro.

    I like to stand and deliver. I am mystified by people who seem to think that they can contradict or dismiss my comments but insist that I not come back to explain to them how they are wrong. Or if they make it a personal attack, why it is that they think I am not going to return more of the same.

    That said, I do have a responsibility to be a little extra civil here, which is fine. But really, I like the debate, and if someone wants to dismiss a comment of mine or contradict it, they need to be ready for me to come back and advance my argument.

    Oh, and damn I’m glad you are here!

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