Kaycee Nicole, Metafilter's first investigation
May 20, 2011 5:42 AM   Subscribe

The Kaycee Nicole post I made got deleted from the blue as not being anything new, but I've been encouraged to post it to the grey instead, so, with mod permission, here it is.

On May 20th, 2001, Kaycee Nicole's blog was updated with a confession by her "mother," Debbie Swenson: Kaycee had never existed. Debbie had made her up. Metafilter was part of the reason she was forced to make that confession.

Kaycee Nicole was supposed to be a 19-year old college student. She volunteered with then-popular website CollegeClub.com (now offline). She played basketball on her school's team.

And she was dying of leukemia.

Kaycee Nicole had a blog called Living Colours (now so offline that even the wayback machine can't help), on which she chronicled her struggles against cancer. Readers supported her every step of the way, calling her, sending her cards and gifts, and spreading the word about the beautiful young girl who was fighting the good fight.

And then it was over.

On May 16th, 2001, Kaycee's blog was updated with the following: "Thank you for the love, the joy, the laughter and the tears. We shall love you always and forever. Kaycee Nicole passed away May 14, 2001, at the age of 19." Kaycee was dead, during a trip to see the ocean before she died. The administrator of her blog (a Mefite; if he would like to identify himself in this thread he's welcome to, but I hesitate to do it for him), who had been planning a trip to Kansas to meet her, was left stunned and mourning - as were Kaycee's readers.

And then something happened. The day after Kaycee's death was announced, a satirical blog post went up on Saundra Mitchell's blog: "Your Guide to Faking a Life and Death Online". It didn't mention Kaycee by name, but many of the "tips" the post provided aligned with things in Kaycee's story. The day after, Mitchell made another post spelling it out: yes, she had been talking about Kaycee Nicole. In the second post, Mitchell listed things she had researched in an attempt to either verify or disprove Kaycee's story: she'd researched newspaper obituaries both local and non-local to where Kaycee was said to live. She called the local paper in Peabody, Kansas to double-check; the editor there said if any teenaged girl in his area had been dying of leukemia, the paper would have written about it well before it became obituary time. Mitchell suspected that the administrator of Kaycee's blog was in on the hoax due to timestamps and source code found on the blog.

That's where Metafilter came in. In perhaps our first "collective detective" moment, members of the site jumped off from Saundra Mitchell's blog posts and began digging. They turned out a house of cards. Posters discovered that "no one, not even those who spoke to Kaycee frequently by phone, had ever met her in person." Photos of Kaycee were badly photoshopped. All references to Kaycee receiving cards and gifts had been removed from her blog. There were false leads, but evidence continued to mount.

Soon, even her supporters were doubting. And then Debbie confessed. Because Kaycee's blog is offline and inaccessible by Wayback, all that remains are quoted segments of the confession in posts made by other people. "While debbie has admitted to writing the blogs as an amalgam of three people whom she loved who all suffered from various forms cancer, she told me that the stories told in the blogs are real. they happened to these people." "My intentions were good, but that does not begin to excuse me for what I have done. My only desire was to share their triumphs and tragedies in a way that showed their strength, the strength of their families. Those were not false. What they went through was real, I felt a great need to tell the stories of three courageous people who wanted nothing but to be well and live happily into their prime."

Anger was swift, and the news media took notice. The New York Times. The Guardian. An FAQ. A yahoo group so that Metafilter members could continue following the story. Debbie Swenson was investigated by the FBI, which declined to pursue the matter because it hadn't involved sufficient financial losses.

Ten years later, little is available in the news media about Debbie Swenson or the victims of the Kaycee Nicole hoax. What effect has the hoax had?

Well, there's a name for what Debbie did now: Münchausen by Internet. It's happened since; Kaycee Nicole is no longer a unique case. But she's still one of the first.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE to MetaFilter-Related at 5:42 AM (162 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

It's not the first case of pseuicide I'd ever encountered. I wasn't active on MeFi at the time of this drama, but I'd already watched someone kill off their online persona on a fanfiction mailing list I was on, complete with their alleged *doctor* sending messages to the mailing list letting us know how brave she was. Sadly, there's no way to jump in with "Wait - people are buying this?" without getting ostracized for being an unfeeling meanie.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:49 AM on May 20, 2011


This post should really be on Music Talk. Let's try again over there shall we?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:59 AM on May 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


.
posted by terrapin at 6:00 AM on May 20, 2011


The fascinating part of this story for me was always the astonishing scale of the hoax. Two years is a long time on the internet, and even when it began to unravel there wasn't an obvious smoking gun, just details that didn't quite check out, coincidences that were just too convenient. Compared to other internet hoaxes like msscribe it was surprisingly detailed and convincing.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 6:03 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Double.
posted by Eideteker at 6:07 AM on May 20, 2011


Eideteker, that's where badgermushroomSNAKE was encouraged to post this here.
posted by dfan at 6:12 AM on May 20, 2011


Yay! I'm glad this post got revived. I've been studying for a week straight and I can't think of a better reward for my toil than curling up tonight with a cup of something warm and digging through some arcane internet history.

(Not hamburger.)
posted by Phire at 6:13 AM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


That was the thread where Metafilter lost its innocence. Up to that moment it was just Camelot and Cat-Scans. We were pretending and wishing and hoping that it was true, and then headspace came and BAM! All the illusion drained from our eyes and was replaced by postmodern cynicism, and we knew that we could never go back; we would never be the same. It was headspace what done it!
posted by planetkyoto at 6:15 AM on May 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Mods: was the post flagged a bunch? I noticed it was favorited a lot. I strongly, strongly disagree with cortex's deletion reason and find it odd that a post that was put together so well and with so much thought was deleted. Sequel posts (not exactly doubles, but piggy-backing or building off of posts from years ago) are a dime a dozen around here and many, if not most of them, stay on the front page. I know you don't have to explain yourself and your deletion reason may stand as is, but where exactly is the line that differentiates a double post from a sequel post? For example, this post from February 2005, this post from February 2011, and this post from May 2011 all stayed, but they are much more "we've done this before" than the post that was recently deleted.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:22 AM on May 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


cortex strongly, stronly disagrees with your demand to know exactly where the line is that differentiates a double from a sequel.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:31 AM on May 20, 2011


Guys, there's a callout already.
posted by londonmark at 6:34 AM on May 20, 2011


cortex strongly, stronly disagrees with your demand to know exactly where the line is that differentiates a double from a sequel.

oh noes! I should have written something in my comment that shows I understand he has no obligation to answer me. If only!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:41 AM on May 20, 2011


This isn't a double callout this is a sequel to the callout about the double really being a sequel.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:49 AM on May 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


This isn't a double callout this is a sequel to the callout about the double really being a sequel.

Call-out 2: I Demand an Answer Boogaloo
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:52 AM on May 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


I wish some of the archives from the Kaycee Nicole blog were still around. I've always been incredibly curious to know what the blog contained, to get so many people so worked up. Was it merely the fact that they thought it was being written by a dying child that made it seem so beautiful, or was it actually extremely good?
posted by meese at 6:56 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just meant take the outrage back to the callout and leave this thread clean for the topic.
posted by londonmark at 6:57 AM on May 20, 2011


meese, there are some excerpts archived on kuro5hin - http://www.kuro5hin.org/?op=displaystory;sid=2001/5/22/105957/933
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 7:04 AM on May 20, 2011


(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates: If I understand correctly, the criteria depends on whether there's been new information since the last post. The examples you cited seem to have new content (complete documentary as opposed to just a trainer, information that's surfaced since his death, etc.)

The Kaycee Nicole thing hasn't really seen any new developments since the initial storm - the most 'updated' link in the post was from 2001 about the FBI declining to pursue the matter.
posted by Phire at 7:06 AM on May 20, 2011


. [sic]
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 7:07 AM on May 20, 2011


s/trainer/trailer.
posted by Phire at 7:11 AM on May 20, 2011


Glad this post survived in some form.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:16 AM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks, badgermushroomSNAKE!
posted by meese at 7:29 AM on May 20, 2011


badgermushroomSNAKE: Kaycee Nicole is no longer a unique case. But she's still one of the first.

I think one of the first high profile cases, maybe, but this kind of hoax/lie has been around a long time. I remember back in 1996 I had a group of online friends, two of whom fell in love without ever meeting. Tom was supposed to go out and meet Linda when we got the news Linda had died in a car accident. Tom got in his car and drove to Nowhere, Middle America hoping to get there before the funeral, where he promptly discovered Linda wasn't dead, wasn't named Linda and wasn't a woman.

I know; it's hard to believe this is how it sometimes worked back in the days before Flickr, Skype and Facebook. But it did. You took people at their word, really, because all of the deep background stuff you can pick through so easily now wasn't online then. There were no class records or Google Images or any of that stuff. What you had was the words people put in front of you. It was actually a nice way to relate to people and I'm glad that's what my entry into the online world looked like.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:32 AM on May 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


I think I've mentioned before, how I have sort of a double reaction to lots and lots of stuff posted to the internet - the first reaction is uncritical acceptance, and the second is skepticism and distrust.

In 2001 I was only 17 years old. I came of age just as we discovered the amazing social power of the internet. But there are urban legends, hurtful myths, and scam artists in every community, even digital ones.

Heck, go back even farther: We got our first residential modem when I was 12. By 13 I was chatting with kids from summer camp on ICQ. By 14 I had discovered Yahoo chat rooms and was lying about my age and family history. Thankfully I never got so involved that I was breaking someone's heart or had to fake my own death to keep from getting discovered, but maybe I just wasn't very imaginative.
posted by muddgirl at 7:40 AM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


TL;DR: It probably was a more innocent time, in the late 90s, but that's not necessarily a good thing.
posted by muddgirl at 7:41 AM on May 20, 2011


Sanford Lewin did basically this in 1982 - created a fake persona (a severely disabled woman called Joan Green) then killed it when the attention got too much. But that was 1982, and on Compuserve, so it didn't get outside one walled garden's walled chat room. That's the earliest I can think of...
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:42 AM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


DarlingBri is right - wasn't there a case on the WELL that back in the day was usually mentioned in media stories about Kaycee Nicole as being the harbinger of bigger deceptions - like KN - to come...? At my advanced age, I'm surprised I even remember KN, and I was here for that...

There's also the precedent of "Anthony Godby Johnson," pre-popular-Internet, who served as the inspiration for Armistead Maupin's novel and subsequent film, "The Night Listener."
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 7:42 AM on May 20, 2011


Yikes. After reviewing old comments, I bet there is at least one person still active here who would very much like to forget all about this damned story.
posted by pracowity at 7:49 AM on May 20, 2011


but they are much more "we've done this before" than the post that was recently deleted.

To me the distinction is the close connection to Metafilter history. Metafilter was a significant element in breaking and publicizing this story and had members very close in the inner circle of those duped by the fraud. The case and Metafilter's role in it comes up in many threads about assumed online identities and so-called internet "Münchausens". This case is enough of an important-in-its-own right landmark in internet history (and particularly the early culture of blog communities like LiveJournal) to be borderline, but I personally don't want to go down the road of eventually hearing about Givewell or the droll tale of "we have cameras" on the front page.
posted by nanojath at 7:55 AM on May 20, 2011


Mods: was the post flagged a bunch?

Yeah. There's a little backstory where we okayed a KN post generally speaking as okay for MeFi but the one that we wound up getting semed to us [and I'm guessing others in the community?] mostly a better fit for here since a lot of it was the MeFi-story aspect of it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:56 AM on May 20, 2011


Yikes. After reviewing old comments, I bet there is at least one person still active here who would very much like to forget all about this damned story.

The guy who keeps ending his comments with 'Hasta Luego'?

El Señor Todd Lokken
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:56 AM on May 20, 2011


Interesting; it looks like the Munchausen-by-internet thing was coined by a mefite.
posted by TedW at 8:01 AM on May 20, 2011


I've read the whole thing and all the links associated with it. Here we are, still looking at "Kacey" so many years later. Ah, nostalgia.
posted by h00py at 8:05 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mods: was the post flagged a bunch? I noticed it was favorited a lot. I strongly, strongly disagree with cortex's deletion reason and find it odd that a post that was put together so well and with so much thought was deleted.

It was indeed flagged a bunch, and not because it isn't an interesting bit of mefi history but because "interesting mefi history" is manifestly not something for the front page. It makes far, far more sense over here. There are all kinds of things that could be well and thoughtfully assembled that still would not be a good fit for the front page; this was one of them.

Since we have two separate threads for this now, it'd probably be best to keep the metacommentary about the post on the blue and deletion policy etc. over in that other one, yeah.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:10 AM on May 20, 2011


Also, reading back through the original Kaycee thread... I'm kind of struck at the similarities in the early defences of Kaycee and, more recently, Lance Armstrong - if they were being deceptive, how could the keep it up so long? In Debbie's case, with phone calls and blog posts, in Lance's case with hundreds and hundreds of blood tests.

Of course, I was somehow arguing for the possibility of Balloon Boy's authenticity until near the very end. Sometimes we gotta believe what we gotta believe.
posted by muddgirl at 8:20 AM on May 20, 2011


I dated Kaycee Nicole for a while during an "experimental" phase in college. But eventually I realized that I was just fooling myself, and she was never really going to be "my type." I always felt bad about it, though. It wasn't her fault that she was born without a body, and if I couldn't get over that, I think it was really my hang-up, not hers. But I guess the lizard brain wants what the lizard brain wants, huh?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:21 AM on May 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


So let's talk about credulity here.

Can something like this still happen on the internet? If anything it seems like the opposite is true: anonymity or secrets are impossible given a certain number of UVs. There will always be a % of the group who is intent on playing internet detective. Most importantly, regular non-detective folks seem much less likely to back up their strong feelings about the certainty of a situation with cash or other support, even if they're inclined to believe.

(I do buy that Flo dated Kaycee though. He's just that fictional.)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:23 AM on May 20, 2011


Can something like this still happen on the internet?

It happens all the time, or rather lesser versions happened all the time back when I was still active on Livejournal - blogger with a popular following gets very sick, needs money to buy a new laptop, etc. etc.

In my experience, hoaxes are discovered sooner, but their supporters are no less supportive just because it's happened thousands of times before.
posted by muddgirl at 8:29 AM on May 20, 2011


People are still pretty credulous, but enough of these stories have filtered up into the consciousness that it seems harder then before. If only cause you have more people looking at it. I wonder how things are in the smaller, more personal sites?
posted by The Whelk at 8:35 AM on May 20, 2011


Look at the Russian girls saga on mefi - there were a few skeptics, but plenty of people had met the mefites who were directly involved (fake and kathrineg), and plenty of other people had met those mefites, so there was a network of trust. I talked to a mefite I'd never met before on the phone the other day, and he offered some help with a personal situation of mine. It would be a risky situation if he were a stranger, but I felt like I was able to trust him mainly because so many mefites I knew personally, also knew him.

tl:dr: go to meetups.
posted by desjardins at 8:43 AM on May 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


This should have been on the blue.

Good first post, hope it doesn't scare you off making more!
posted by Artw at 8:45 AM on May 20, 2011


headspace is out of town on a well-deserved break; I'm not sure she's checking in much right now. I texted her to give her a heads up on this thread.
posted by pjern at 8:50 AM on May 20, 2011


headspace is out of town on a well-deserved break; I'm not sure she's checking in much right now. I texted her to give her a heads up on this thread.

My guess is that headspace is already on top of it.
posted by phunniemee at 9:00 AM on May 20, 2011


Apparently, MetaFilter's use of a period in obituary posts to designate a respectful moment of silence also originated in a Kaycee Nicole thread.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:00 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


After reviewing old comments, --- What strikes me is how few of those people from then are still around here now. Where did they all go?
posted by crunchland at 9:14 AM on May 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Of course, I was somehow arguing for the possibility of Balloon Boy's authenticity until near the very end. "
posted by muddgirl at 4:20 PM on May 20 [+] [!]

Balloon boy was amazing. It went from "small local interest" to "USA-wide" to World-wide in no time at all. Everyone was telling everyone, and people everywhere were watching and liveblogging. I remember being on Mefi and elsewhere all at the same time. (I remember seeing a picture that had the date and said something like "The day america stopped work."

I think this is why it would be more difficult to pull off a Kaycee Nicole now. Something can go around the internet to practically everyone in no time at all. Back in Kaycees time, a lot less people were actually online, and connection speeds were a lot slower.
posted by marienbad at 9:15 AM on May 20, 2011


I might as well mention here that I spent the last month researching this old story and I eventually located the players in it and me and a couple reporters reached out to them for comment. I really, really wanted to do a "where are they now and what do they think of what happened 10 years ago?" story on MeFi as a special one-off thing, but after a couple weeks of badgering them, none of them want to discuss it, so it most likely won't happen, which is a shame.

I was really dying to interview the real woman at the center of it, the girl in the photos.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:42 AM on May 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: So let's talk about credulity here. Can something like this still happen on the internet?

Sure. You'd just need advance planning to lay groundwork for an identity that's been around long enough to be credulous. I mean, if I wanted to pretend I was a 16 year old cancer patient, how much back history would you need me to have before my devastating announcement? A year? 18 months? 2 years?

I can create a Facebook page for my persona, pick up 50 "friends" who are strangers by playing Farmville, plant comments on the MySpace and FB pages of people ostensibly in my peer group, start blogging about my boring teenaged life, and begin springing mysterious symptoms on you a year later. The photo thing is going to be harder to deal with but if my mom really doesn't want me to put my photos online, I can show you stuff other than myself in my Flickr stream and with enough history, you'll think I'm plausible.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:46 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


phunniemee: "My guess is that headspace is already on top of it"

Oops, I didn't see the deleted thread; I was responding to planetkyoto a few comments up.
posted by pjern at 9:47 AM on May 20, 2011


All the illusion drained from our eyes and was replaced by postmodern cynicism, and we knew that we could never go back; we would never be the same.

Having been active on communities and message boards (as social networking was known in the mid nineteen nineties) and just come back from visiting a friend made all so many years ago living on a different continent, I was just thinking about this very aspect today.

"to flinch from hope" is a term I'd never come across in my life but today I know its meaning. After you're taught to flinch from hope you discover that wonder of wonders, a built in layer of post modern cynicism. And the lens through which you perceive "the world" is forever altered. Or at least I found it so, when I was musing upon this today, that a very fundamental aspect of my personality, noticed since childhood, has been cauterized. Hopes, dreams, wishes, aspirations, even a big bite out of daydreams and imagination. The magic is leaking out of our mundane world, isn't it?

/end maudlinesque comment

Thanks for this post and its links.
posted by infini at 9:56 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I forget the exact quote and google isn;t helping, but I think I read it on the blue: that the real damage con-men and frauds and scams do is to rob us of our trust, our willingness to help others, to make us suspicious of charity, and that's the real psychic damage done.
posted by The Whelk at 9:59 AM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Quite, The Whelk, when enough promises are made (falsely, or broken) its a betrayal of the innate trusting mechanism, which then, in turn gets broken. After which, anything is seen as "yeah well, we'll see if it happens" and the heart does not leap up wiht hope like a crowd of golden daffodils ever again. (to mash my poetry ;p)
posted by infini at 10:02 AM on May 20, 2011


Can something like this still happen on the internet?

Don't forget the The Life and Death of Jesse James!
posted by Melismata at 10:11 AM on May 20, 2011


Hey, guys, remember this?
posted by Floydd at 10:11 AM on May 20, 2011


Oh god, that Jesse James link was like the first thing I ever read in detail on metafilter, mouth hanging open and hitting refresh all night.
posted by The Whelk at 10:15 AM on May 20, 2011


It is a good thing to distrust strangers. It's a good thing to ask for official ID before letting a "repairman" into your home - because official repairmen will have ID. It's a good thing to buy someone a burger (or a beer) rather than handing them a $20 for "food" - because people in need will generally be grateful for assistance, rather than hostile.

I, a skeptic, have a great willingness to help others. I volunteer. I donate to charities. I have wonder and joy in my life. But my wonder and joy is not predicated on living in a fantasy world where everyone in white hats is Lawful Good and everyone in black hats is Lawful Evil.
posted by muddgirl at 10:16 AM on May 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


The KN thread (like the 9/11 thread and the Russian sex workers thread) were definitely best of MetaFilter... and best of what a web community can be.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:24 AM on May 20, 2011


That thread was where my wife and I originally met. Sort of. So something good came of it all.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:24 AM on May 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yeah, but the REAL question is whether or not her mom gave her botox injections so she could win beauty pageants.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:28 AM on May 20, 2011


I thought updates weren't OK in MetaTalk anymore--that they go on the Blue. No?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:54 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, I just found my very favorite comment ever to illustrate just how different the internet is now than it was in 2001:
Is this one of those things that bloggers obsesess over and no-one else? Google groups shows NO REFERENCES to "Kaycee Nicole" in Usenet.
posted by muddgirl at 10:55 AM on May 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


The St James hoax is back in the news again, since the Illinois appeals court reinstated Bonhomme's case against Janna St James. Turns out that this isn't St James' first hoax of this sort, either.

The only hint Bonhomme says St. James left of her motivations was an online description of herself cited in the lawsuit.

It said, in part, "Some who have never had any direct contact with me whatsoever and some who have and think they know me at all like to say I'm the world's best online scammer EVER. Every decade or so I get a taste to pose as a man (and up to 20 other people simultaneously) and reel me in some juicy middle-aged woman flesh for purposes they never quite explain. It sure ain't money or sex."

posted by jeanmari at 10:55 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was y6y6y6 talking about it on his blog that got me reading Mefi. It was more than a year before I could sign up. I was SO STOKED when I clicked the sign up link and it worked.
posted by deborah at 10:58 AM on May 20, 2011


jeanmari: The St James hoax is back in the news again, since the Illinois appeals court reinstated Bonhomme's case against Janna St James. Turns out that this isn't St James' first hoax of this sort, either.

The thing I repeatedly find most surprising about that case is that Janna St James is her real name, not a name she made up for one of her many hoax identities. It totally sounds like something birthed by a porn name generator.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:26 AM on May 20, 2011


I wish some of the archives from the Kaycee Nicole blog were still around. I've always been incredibly curious to know what the blog contained, to get so many people so worked up. Was it merely the fact that they thought it was being written by a dying child that made it seem so beautiful, or was it actually extremely good?

I don't recall the writing being very good, or particularly profound, she just seemed like a very nice, slightly precocious kid who was handling a serious illness bravely. I mostly recall mawkish poetry and a relentlessly sunny outlook.

I didn't read the site every day, though, just remember clicking through to it from time to time and thinking 'Good for you' and moving on, so that's not a criticism of folk who did admire her and her writing (a lot of which was via chat and mail rather than the weblog anyway).
posted by jack_mo at 11:42 AM on May 20, 2011


The St. James case also has the element of a significant amount of in-person interaction... She created an entire cast of characters, including herself as the "friend who brought them together," and visited the victim of the fraud to help her "get over her grief"...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 11:45 AM on May 20, 2011


And it's a real shame it wasn't preserved - obviously the folk involved in setting up and hosting the site wouldn't want to keep the thing around, but I'm surprised no one thought to grab as much as they could while the whole scandal was breaking.
posted by jack_mo at 11:47 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Kaycee Nicole post was the one that made me slap down my first $5 to metafilter for my first username. Damn, ten years. Ten YEARS. TEN. YEARS!
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:07 PM on May 20, 2011


TEN YEARS!
posted by pjern at 12:13 PM on May 20, 2011


What strikes me about the first 2001 thread is its civility. I feel like that thread today would be flooded with cheap snark and insults traded back and forth. I see hardly any of that in that thread. On the few occasions when somebody swerved a bit, the community self-policed and things got back on track.
posted by cribcage at 12:21 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re: the plausibility of pulling off this kind of hoax in the modern era: Wasn't there a MeFi thread recently about a US government contractor developing plausible online personas for psy-ops? Seems like it's still possible, and if gov't contractors can figure it out, it can't be that hard.
posted by Alterscape at 12:22 PM on May 20, 2011


Oh, man. I totally missed the whole Jesse Jubilee James saga the first time around, and, having now spent my entire lunch hour chasing it around the shadowy back alleys of the web, am compelled to say that the original 2007 Fandom Wank posting about it is IMO the best overall round-up. (FW does from time to time bring the goods.)
posted by Kat Allison at 12:42 PM on May 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


crunchland: "What strikes me is how few of those people from then are still around here now. Where did they all go"

Well, I lost my original password and email, so there's that... What I find most impressive is how consistently credulous some long-time members have shown themselves to be, whether with Kaycee/Dr Syn/etc. If one of these tragic stories presents, I can usually predict which of the usual suspects will allow their compassion to short-circuit their critical faculties. And after, when it's all gone pear-shaped, some people react so *strongly* after their perceived betrayal that it becomes almost uncomfortable to witness. And yet they come back for more...

Of course, when a fantastically sympathetic story turns out be true (ie, Russian Sex Slaves) this is beneficial. But my perception is that most of these stories have turned out to be much less deserving of supportive intervention than their initial presentation. All communities seem to contain and reinforce a continuum of actors with dispositions ranging from credulity to cynicism - this is probably an emergent property optimising for persistence of the group.
posted by meehawl at 12:47 PM on May 20, 2011


That New York Times article was how I heard about Metafilter. Has it really been that long?
posted by betweenthebars at 1:00 PM on May 20, 2011


What strikes me is how few of those people from then are still around here now. Where did they all go?

Some of them -- aaron and Steven Den Beste, for example, if I recall correctly -- were frequent sources of friction here, so I'm not surprised they are gone, voluntarily or not. If I'm not misremembering, some of the best arguments were between holgate (still here, luckily) and aaron, and between everyone and SDB.

And I think this place just gets old for some people. Same old rehashed debates, etc. For those people, though, there's hope: I hear they're bringing in a new moderator called Cousin Oliver.
posted by pracowity at 1:30 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What strikes me is how few of those people from then are still around here now. Where did they all go?

Some of them are still around, just under different usernames (like meehawl and myself). There were some names in there that definitely got me all nostalgic for the good old days - jpoulos! I miss you so! Sometimes I also miss the higher signal:noise ratio, but I think it's generally worth it for the wider range of contributions we get these days.
posted by dialetheia at 1:58 PM on May 20, 2011


10 years. Holy crap. I remember when Saundra, Becky and I obsessed over the details of this journal in late-night AIM sessions. My sole contribution to the discussion was that this Kaycee girl had the same pop-culture tastes that a middle-aged woman would have.

Saundra and Becky would be the Goran and Eames of this story, and I'd be the guy unpacking boxes from a UPS truck with two lines.
posted by xingcat at 2:02 PM on May 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


When the movie Catfish came out, (a) I saw "the twist" fucking immediately upon hearing about one or two lines of the movie description, and (b) I thought, "Hello, Kaycee Nicole? This shit's been done years ago."

I am STILL amazed that that movie came out in 2010 and anyone was still shocked, shocked! that a person could be faked on the Internet. Shouldn't everybody know that's possible by now?
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:13 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Some of those missing old-timers apparently are not gone, just rebranded.
posted by pracowity at 2:17 PM on May 20, 2011



I was really dying to interview the real woman at the center of it, the girl in the photos.




Interesting choice of words there...........
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:40 PM on May 20, 2011


And no one believed anything on the internet ever again.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 2:47 PM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


When the movie Catfish came out, (a) I saw "the twist" fucking immediately upon hearing about one or two lines of the movie description, and (b) I thought, "Hello, Kaycee Nicole? This shit's been done years ago."

I basically said this in the earlier thread, but I felt the same way when the Kaycee thing happened because I'd read The Night Listener and A Rock and a Hard Place and everything I could get my hands on about Anthony Godby Johnson. Not that I didn't feel for and understand those that got duped, but from an outsider who'd heard the story before (and was basically obsessed with it -- at least in part because I'd had so many Internet friends for so long that I was actually surprised something like this had never happened to me)

That's the thing about stories like this -- they are so unbelievable but then once you've heard them they seem so obvious once people started pulling threads what was going on. I'm still sorry for those that it happened to and was never particularly proud of my overwhelming cynicism that led me to those beliefs.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:52 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


10 years. Geez.

I was glued to that thread when it happened, and a fellow, but long-gone Mefite and I spent hours trying to figure out whether it was fake or not. Did the mediocre writing reflect reality or a time crunch? Would someone go to that far of an extent for attention? What would the perpetrator get out of it? We ultimately decided it was probably fake, but we hoped it wasn't. That KN was a fake would make it a con and a cruelty, and that was just depressing. We kept looking for excuses to show that it could be/was real, because the alternative sucked.

Regardless, neither of us saw a truly happy ending coming out of that thread: This would either be an additional burden for family and friends, or a lot of people who had an emotional investment would have pins pulled out from under them.
posted by julen at 3:20 PM on May 20, 2011


There was a similar event a few years back, some guy named T.R. or B.R. or something like that, was supposed to have lived in Texas or New Mexico, or somewhere in that area. Stories were told about him for years and shared publicly , then people were told he was shot. Turns out both he AND the person that shot him never existed..

Strange, eh?
posted by tomswift at 3:36 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, ten years. I remember sitting on the floor of my shitty studio apartment, hitting reload, thinking at least someone's life is more fucked up than mine right now once everything exploded.

I had the depression.

That was a third of my life ago and now I can't even relate to the person I was then. This post is giving me melancholy.
posted by sugarfish at 3:47 PM on May 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Kaycee Nicole is the reason I found and joined Metafilter, too. Sunday is my tenth Metafilter birthday. Goodness. Doesn't time fly.

I'm surprised it still hasn't been made into a movie.

(Kaycee Nicole, not my less-than-glittering MeFi career.)
posted by Grangousier at 4:20 PM on May 20, 2011


I'm surprised it still hasn't been made into a movie.

You know most of that movie would have people looking at a screen and saying "hmmm", right?
posted by hal_c_on at 4:37 PM on May 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


It was metrocake who first linked to this. She was really nice. Me, pips and her and her husband, along with evanizer and my friend Rob the EMT spent a fun evening roaming the city together. Haven't seen her in a few years, hope she's well.
posted by jonmc at 4:53 PM on May 20, 2011


I was on vacation.

I can never forget this

''So the NYT doesn't really mean too much."
posted by mathowie at 3:07 PM on May 20, 2001 [+] [!]

sorry 1# but it's a good qoute to ponder today. It was this thread that made me a BE-liever....
Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer/ Not a trace of doubt in my mind


posted by clavdivs at 5:30 PM on May 20, 2011


That was the thread where Metafilter lost its innocence. Up to that moment it was just Camelot and Cat-Scans.

Catalot!

(I believed Floyd Landis right up until the day he confessed.)
posted by jamjam at 6:26 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm glad this got posted here. Somehow, I missed the Kaycee Nicole thing the first time around, and got to know the name only through the endless oblique references. I never really understood what went on in the original incident, and when I explored I found the wiki wasn't that helpful, and the only other recourse was to try to track/read the original threads, for which I just couldn't sustain the interest for something unfolding so slowly. This was really the first time I've seen a succinct wrap-up of all that happened, and am thankful for this straightfoward retrospective.
posted by Miko at 6:56 PM on May 20, 2011


This was still in the point where I lurked, (not sure if it was in the no-signup period or if I just was fine lurking back then,) but it is probably the event that made me start proselytizing MeFi to everyone I knew. I still tell the story in my MeFi elevator speech. Wow. Ten years.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:17 PM on May 20, 2011


Interesting choice of words there...........

sgt serenity, what are you going on about? I called her the girl in the photos because she prefers not to have her real name associated with the hoax. There's nothing sinister going on if you're implying something.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:18 PM on May 20, 2011


I think it was just a bad joke about "dying". Cause, see, Kaycee was said to have died... or something. Bad joke but I don't think the Sgt. was implying anything.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:21 PM on May 20, 2011


Oh, ha, I guess.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:29 PM on May 20, 2011


As a side note, interesting to note how quickly the key thread would be closed today as a GYOFB.

Not an objection, as our far larger size and reach necessitates a more ruthless culling of such material, but a definite change in culture over the years.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:40 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


interesting to note how quickly the key thread would be closed today as a GYOFB.

Well, not so much today, I don't think. The GYOFB deletion reason was more in force between 2004 and 2009, or something like that.
posted by Chuckles at 9:19 PM on May 20, 2011


It strikes me every time I get sucked into reading the original thread (which happens every couple of years or so) how all the broken links make everything seem so extra long ago. Which I guess it was, in internet time. Still, it's frustrating to want to see what people are referencing, and sort of melancholic to think that so much of the beginning of people learning to live with the internet is gone for good.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:20 PM on May 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know that hot nineteen year old bi-girl into leather and spanking you chatted with last night on IM? Yeah, her name's Kaycee.
posted by joannemullen at 11:15 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although my first exposure to MeFi was the Cats in Scanners thing (via Gothic Scouts message board on gothic.net), the crashing wave of the Kaycee Nicole story is what hooked me. Just the way everyone behaved during it - believers and cynics alike - was so much different from everywhere else I spent my time.

I remember the original Kaycee posts, as they were a common forward by a certain type of emotionally-invested 'netizen interested in showing the inspirational side of the web. I didn't follow them beyond quick, dutiful readings, though. For those who haven't read them, they were mostly just extremely upbeat musings on the imagined doings of a teenager with imperfectly-described cancer (rather than the reported leukemia) symptoms. People were mostly blown away by this young person enduring such a horrible disease with such equanimity of spirit, so much verve. Vigour, even.

That has to be one of the reasons so many were so taken aback by the revelation. The core of the intrigue, the soul of their sympathy was in the human rejection of pain and a potentially shortened life. They wanted to believe this was possible, I think (and it is! there are real people - even very young people - with leukemia and other terrible diseases who embrace every ounce of their vitality and any iota of goodness in their lives; they remain as sterling inspiration for those of us who want to honour that with concrete examples).

Seeing how quickly it looped together many of the more intelligent puddles of people online was one of the most fascinating aspects of an otherwise dirty deed.

The friends I talked to about it were all from other places on the web, and many were able to bring up instances of similar hoaxes on smaller and larger scales. Many were dismissive of the outpouring of reaction ("how did they think that was true? they're just being drama queens!"), which I think was more informed by the virtue of looking at the issue backwards and not having ever been invested in the situation. Some were sympathetic and offended. A small few were certain that the woman who perpetuated the fraud was worthy of pity, because she was clearly in some spiritual agony and had needed an unnatural release. I dunno about that and said so at the time - I don't even believe she was inspired by the suffering of others she wanted to preserve as hopeful examples. I think she wanted attention, became alarmed when some people started poking around, and then chose the most sentimental and heart-wrenching get-away she could imagine, hoping desperately that it would all go away with none the wiser in the midst of grief.
posted by batmonkey at 11:16 PM on May 20, 2011


You know that hot nineteen year old bi-girl into leather and spanking you chatted with last night on IM? Yeah, her name's Kaycee.

And that sensitive young African stud you've been emailing with who doesn't mind at all that you're in your mid-forties and overweight -- he thinks you're really hot and would like to make a future with you?

That's Kaycee's brother.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:32 PM on May 20, 2011


The whole Kaycee Nicole thing kind of got us all warmed up for u.n. owen.
posted by adamvasco at 4:15 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The whole Kaycee Nicole thing kind of got us all warmed up for u.n. owen.

Not to mention dhyot, jenleigh, highsignal & hall of robots.
posted by jack_mo at 4:34 AM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where the hell is Miguel Cardoso?
posted by Summer at 7:25 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've gone through the u.n. owen threads, but I'm a little confused. Was un owen fake? From what I read, it sounds like un owen was a little like sixcolors--someone with a fantastic story and an extreme ability to start trainwrecks without seeming to do so intentionally. Was there more to it than just that?
posted by meese at 7:51 AM on May 21, 2011


I was here through that and I have to say I was never entirely clear on that either.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:01 AM on May 21, 2011


u.n. owen was a real person and a bit of a scam artist possibly. There was that "u.n. owen needs help" MeTa thread which was probably the beginning of the end for any "MeFite needs help" thread. My take was that she was seriously into drama, enjoyed watching stuff play out online, was known and disliked on other internet forums and came and went here maybe not as quickly as she shold have [i.e. she left but then there was some coming back and leaving again sock puppet drama].
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:05 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was also that thing where after she left she bought that island and invited ten random mefites to it as her guests, who then began to be murdered one by one. There was a MeTa post about it I think and I remember cortex was pretty annoyed.

By the murders.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:15 AM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


((Hm. That's odd. Not sure why the reply to my last comment was deleted, as it simply clarified the book I was referencing, from which U.N. Owen took her name...))
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 11:25 AM on May 21, 2011


Did it refer to the book by its original naughtyword title?
posted by Gator at 11:28 AM on May 21, 2011


I don't think so... hm. Ok, looks like it was in the URL. That still seems weird to me for a deletion reason. I mean, it was part of the actual name of an extremely highly regarded novel, and wasn't even written here other than if you hover over the url. Yeah, that's an odd, odd call, imo, but whatever.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 11:54 AM on May 21, 2011


The link is to the old title, yeah. It seemed needless given there's a perfectly good link to the non-inflammatory title handy.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:03 PM on May 21, 2011


Wait, so we are deleting stuff from MeTa now? Is this a recent policy change?

As long as I can remember, the policy was that things were not deleted from MeTa unless it was a big, big, big deal. Like a death threat kind of big deal. Something as inconsequential as the historical name of an Agatha Christie novel....... *boggles* As long as we're already in MetaTalk, I strongly disagree with this kind of deletion (and I feel it would be overly aggressive even in AskMe).
posted by dialetheia at 12:13 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


How many titles is that now? Just the three?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:13 PM on May 21, 2011


My whatever was based on the assumption that couldn't possibly be it. Now that it's confirmed, let me preface this by saying that I'm someone who started out when I joined as highly critical of Mefi's moderation, and somewhat vocally so. Since then I've come to realize that the moderation here is a big part of why Mefi has succeeded in keeping relevant while so many other sites have collapsed under user nonsense, and have more than once argued that our benevolent dictators are far more benevolent than they are dictators.

Apparently this is changing. This one seems way way outside of metafilter norm to me. You're deleting comments... in THE GRAY... because the URL of an outside site has a bad word in it.. that you can only see when you hover over the link.... which was being used properly as the original name of the insanely well-respected best selling mystery story ever by the best-selling author of all time.

This is WAY WAY WAY out of line, WAY out of precedent, and absolutely inappropriate. I hope someone who hasn't used up their meta posts for the day posts this as a full post, because this is something that deserves serious oversight by the mods and the userbase.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 12:20 PM on May 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Stuff gets deleted very rarely in MetaTalk, but it does happen. The thing with using that particular word (and a couple of others, but that's probably the most obvious) is that if you're not doing it very deliberately to make a clear statement it has the potential to be really ridiculously inflammatory. There was definitely no clear reason why clavdivs used the title that hasn't been used since 1940 and there were way, way too many possible interpretations of his comment, using that link, that would have led to nasty accusations. If it was more than an oblique one-liner it probably wouldn't have been so much an issue, but as it was it seemed like bait for an argument that didn't need to happen.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:26 PM on May 21, 2011


I'm one of the folks who often wishes we'd see more deletions of crappy comments, even in the Hallowed Grey Halls of MeTa, but no, this was a ridiculous overreaction, especially if the comment was from clavdivs, of all people. I know you're new at this (on MeFi), and I want to support you in what is definitely an often-thankless job, but I hope you'll rein it in a little until you've got a better handle on things here.
posted by Gator at 12:38 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually it was Jessamyn's deletion. But we did chat about it beforehand and I agree with her.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:40 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


why clavdivs used the title that hasn't been used since 1940

Not actually true. Even at a quick glance, Wiki mentions 70's and 90s english language editions with the name.

and there were way, way too many possible interpretations of his comment

Just the one, really. For those who missed it to judge for themselves, after my post, he said "I see what you did there" which, I believe, linked to an amazon page selling a 1977 edition (hmmm) of the book under that name. [I didn't save the link, so correct that part if I am wrong, but it looks like the page I remember from his link.]

As to why he linked to it under that name not having a 'clear reason', I think that That Is Its Name is a pretty good one. I tend to refer to Laurel and Hardy's "Babes in Toyland" as "March of the Wooden Soldiers," which it also went by. When I do so I don't generally explain why.

as it was it seemed like bait for an argument that didn't need to happen.

This is MeFi. We're generally better than that and are more than capable of reasoned discussion.

Actually it was Jessamyn's deletion

Even stranger considering her comments in the MeTa thread I just linked. This was a terrible call.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 12:45 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


TEN LITTLE RYAN GIGGS IS BANGING IMOGEN THOMAS
posted by Artw at 12:47 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why not just point out that the old title might be offensive? I mean, we are often admonished to "use our words" when we disagree with something, and that seems like it would have been a perfectly fine response to hypothetical offense at a historical book title (and one that has been reused [reclaimed?] by a Native American author, at that).

If we're going to start deleting more comments in MeTa, I would dearly love to see some of the snarky noise get the axe - but this comment seemed totally innocuous, and this deletion seems way over the top, no matter whose deletion it was.
posted by dialetheia at 12:49 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, fair enough, I didn't read past the first paragraph of the wiki page which mentions the 1940 change.

(To be clear, the original title was not "10 Little Indians", although that's been used, but "10 Little Niggers.")
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:50 PM on May 21, 2011


The Book was published as Ten Little Niggers in Britain in 1939 - and is on sale by Amazon with that title.
What is going is on here that this is changed or removed?
I know the mods deserve quiet weekends but this is not the way to get them.
I believe you have made a mistake here and that you should admit it and reinsert the link as it was.
posted by adamvasco at 12:51 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well it's on sale for $2000, used. I don't believe it's currently in print under that title.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:52 PM on May 21, 2011


and is on sale by Amazon with that title.

Well, Amazon Market.
posted by Artw at 12:52 PM on May 21, 2011


*superinjuncts* artw
posted by adamvasco at 12:55 PM on May 21, 2011


Who cares whether it's in print? It's CLAVDIVS, he's always posting stuff that makes you go, "What just happened?" before you move on, shaking your head in mild bemusement. If something like that is worthy of deletion (to stave off a fight that hasn't even started), I can suggest a whoooooooole lot of other comments here and on the Blue that I'd be happy to see axed for the same dubious reason.
posted by Gator at 12:59 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, anyway, one time cortex was a merchant seaman sailing from Bombay to London and caught turbuculosis, and the other sailors helped out when he got stuck in his cabin but the captain was a total dick.
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on May 21, 2011


(To be clear, the original title was not "10 Little Indians", although that's been used, but "10 Little Niggers.")

I was assuming that, as Kenneth John Fisher said, clavdivs linked to "Ten Little Indians." If I am incorrect and he linked to the earlier title, well, the deletion makes a lot more sense. I still think we could have easily handled that as a community - "hey, clav, in case you didn't know, here's the interesting history of that book title, it's not very cool to use that particular version, etc etc" - but I could definitely understand why it would be considered for deletion.
posted by dialetheia at 1:02 PM on May 21, 2011


It wasn't indians. It's still the title of a highly respected book, and we're grownups.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 1:06 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gah! John Kenneth Fisher, not Kenneth John. Apologies for garbling your name!
posted by dialetheia at 1:08 PM on May 21, 2011


The funny thing about "And Then There Were None," is that it wasn't even some giant commentary on race, so while I think there's a legitimate argument on whether or not "Nigger Jim" should be kept in Mark Twain, if there was ever a case to go, "Whoa whoops, yeah let's chose a new title" the Agatha Christie book is it.

Was un owen fake?

There was once a site that ate tapes that debunked this and some early Metafilter drama. I think it was discouraged to link to here, as you see there was some IRC drama at the time, but it cleared up a bunch of stuff and even if it was a bit on the mean side, I'm a little sad I didn't save it before it went down.

If you really want to take a trip down memory lane, I remember vaguely no longer participating in the site shortly after the u.n. owen stuff as it was during one of the pre-multiple mods Matt burnout phase, and then I seem to remember coming back and there were flags and AskMe and it was a whole new world.
posted by geoff. at 1:11 PM on May 21, 2011


Also it would sort of be cool to go back and collect all the references to "firsts" on Metafilter, like the first mention of Facebook, gmail, etc. I don't know if this is already a wiki page or not.
posted by geoff. at 1:14 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who cares whether it's in print? It's CLAVDIVS, he's always posting stuff that makes you go, "What just happened?" before you move on, shaking your head in mild bemusement.

"Oh, you know how clavdivs is" isn't really a great reason to not deal with something. Affection for odd posting habits notwithstanding, there's not some kind of automatic get out of jail free card. Making a kind of opaque and gratuitous link to the most problematic title a story reference upthread has been published under is kind of eh, weird stuff.

I know the mods deserve quiet weekends but this is not the way to get them.

Frankly, "how dare you delete the word 'nigger'" is at the level of cake-taking as far as reasons to presume we should have shitty weekends. I mean, duly noted that people think it was treating metatalk as insufficiently no-holds-barred, but please put this in some kind of context.

We don't delete much from Metatalk, but we also don't delete nothing and it's not restricted to nuclear grade stuff only. Again, I can hear if people are like "whoa, that was less crazy wacko than other stuff that gets deleted", but I have a very hard time getting behind any doomsaying outrage about this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:16 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Respectfully, it doesn't seem that the word "nigger" was actually deleted, but a link to an offsite page that had the word "nigger" on it, as far as context is concerned. In the unlikely event that ol' clav had posted "NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER" as his link text, THAT would be deleteworthy, fondness for his weirdness notwithstanding. This was an overreaction, and hey, look, now the word "nigger" appears in the thread after all. Hi, Googlebot!

(Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I have no desire to assert some weird creepo "right" to say this offensive word. I'm more concerned about the precedent of deleting stuff because it links to something that might possibly start a fight, when tons of other stuff like personal attacks and petty bickering gets to stay.)
posted by Gator at 1:28 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


As you have quoted me I presume you are also addressing the 'how dare you delete the word nigger' remark in my direction.
Way to invent shit. If you guys want a quiet weekend I respectfully suggest that you ease up on the nanny state a bit.
To quote John Kenneth Fisher
It wasn't indians. It's still the title of a highly respected book, and we're grownups.
As you can see from some of the above remarks several people were unsure whether it was Ten Little Indians or Ten Little Niggers which had been zapped into the ether.
I think the concern here is that when you make mistakes with itchy trigger fingers you don't reflect that they may actually be mistakes. This is not doomsday outrage it's just "What the fuck are you at" . I respect you as mods and in return I would like a little bit of respect from yourself in return. Your "how dare you delete the word 'nigger'" remark is bullshit.
posted by adamvasco at 1:34 PM on May 21, 2011


I don't see a major distinction between the visible text of a link and the primary content of a link in this case - the issue is always context. And this context was that in choosing which Amazon page to link to, clavdivs chose the most problematic of several. (And not, I'd argue, the most clear - I was totally unaware that that was the original title, and it appears I'm not alone.) Possibly he'll pop in and explain why; possibly we'll even understand it. As it is, I have to wonder if he was making a statement about the race or racism of U.N. Owen or John Kenneth Fisher or mefites in general, just being deliberately obscure, or something completely other.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:39 PM on May 21, 2011


I am not sure how else to characterize a bunch of overt THIS IS INAPPROPRIATE stuff from several people over removing a crappy choice of links in a throwaway comment than as basically "how dare you" level stuff.

"Huh, that's a little weird, I don't think it needed deleting" is a lot more proportional to what actually happened, and would be a totally unobjectionable reaction. Pretty much anything beyond that is, yeah, kind of overt in a way that I think is weird.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:39 PM on May 21, 2011


People seem to be upset b/c they initially thought that restless_nomad deleted the link. Once people get het up it is hard to un-het. My two cents.
posted by futz at 1:49 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand that. Who cares which mod actually did it?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:03 PM on May 21, 2011


lesson to be learned, this being, keep semantic pet peeves away from the grey.
ancillary correlation and bad judgement on this end.
posted by clavdivs at 2:04 PM on May 21, 2011


Sometimes we get tired of having to explain weird contextless stuff to people as "Oh that's not intended to be a weird sideways insult to someone/something... I'm pretty sure" My week has been ungreat so I checked in with r_n and we were both like "That's sort of weird and capable of really fucking up the entire thread or making us have to answer a half dozen emails/flags by people who didn't get the reference." We know clav and were pretty sure he wouldn't care terribly. Sorry if it was an error in judgment, the responsibility is mine.

If you guys want a quiet weekend I respectfully suggest that you ease up on the nanny state a bit.

There is literally nothing we can do that will guarantee a quiet weekend, though advice is always appreciated.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:14 PM on May 21, 2011


Sorry if it was an error in judgment, the responsibility is mine.

Well, I don't think there is anything more for me to say on this one. I stand by my view: I think you all do a fantastic job, and make this site what it is... but I think this was a HUGE error of judgment and I truly do not like what, to me, seems a precedent of removing legitimate comments because of a pre-crime-like fear of hypothetical other people misinterpreting them.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:32 PM on May 21, 2011


a pre-crime-like fear of hypothetical other people misinterpreting them.

You've made your feeling clear. Please keep in mind that we're not doing concern trolling "think of the children" stuff; we receive emails/IMs/flag feedback from users nearly constantly and context-free "could be totally racist but I can't tell" cryptic comments are often misinterpreted and problematic. Feel free to check back in next month or so and let us know if you feel that this has become a slipperly slope situation, I really do not feel that's what's going on here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:39 PM on May 21, 2011


"this was a HUGE error of judgment" = deleting nigger comment.

Good luck with that.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:02 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the plus side, if that deletion hadn't happened, a bunch of people wouldn't have had the chance to carpet N-bomb this thread, and feel they were doing so in a righteous cause. Three times in a row and in all caps, yet.

So... that's... good, I guess? A victory against political correctness?
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:03 PM on May 21, 2011


"this was a HUGE error of judgment" = deleting nigger comment.

Look, even if you think this was a totally correct deletion, and in no way anything at all to disagree with, could you NOT make it seem like someone used that word in a comment?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 3:24 PM on May 21, 2011


If you guys want a quiet weekend I respectfully suggest that you ease up on the nanny state a bit.

Or the rapture thing, which is pretty neat.
posted by Houstonian at 3:49 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


John Kenneth Fisher: "Look, even if you think this was a totally correct deletion, and in no way anything at all to disagree with, could you NOT make it seem like someone used that word in a comment"

I think it would pretty much be common sense that, if there's a book, and one of its titles uses a highly offensive racial epithet, and the other title doesn't, and I decide to go with the former - for whatever reason, I'm sure you've got a good one - and it gets deleted, taking great umbrage and capslocking about what a HUGE MISTAKE it was to delete the mention would be a little out of proportion. That's the point I'm taking away from this anyway.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:03 PM on May 21, 2011


I guess I'm alone here. I just.. he didn't even use the word, you know? He didn't even allude to it or hint at it or anything. He just linked to the amazon page where it was listed under the name the publisher and author named it, and under which it has been published as recently as ten years ago. I guess I'm the only one bothered by this. Okay, I give up. I'm greatly outnumbered and standing alone on this, so I give up. Maybe I'm just nuts.. but.. he didn't say anything...

I give up. Carry on.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:17 PM on May 21, 2011


There is literally nothing we can do that will guarantee a quiet weekend, though advice is always appreciated.

If you really wanted to, you could either close down MeTa or kill a bunch of people deemed most likely to make ruckuses (Ruckusii?). But apparently that is asking too much.

Lazy, lazy, mods.

Look, even if you think this was a totally correct deletion, and in no way anything at all to disagree with, could you NOT make it seem like someone used that word in a comment?

Or did they?!?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:50 PM on May 21, 2011


I had to scroll up and read a bunch to figure out what the hell happened here, but fwiw, yeah, I agree that this is definitely a case of unnecessarily preemptive moderation. It's a horrible word and no one should use it ever except that people in the past have used it and it is the name of a thing that someone here was referencing. There's also a book called Faggot by Larry Kramer - if I were to link to it, which I guess I shouldn't, will that be deleted?
posted by desjardins at 7:05 PM on May 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Probably not, but if there was a book called Faggot that was later changed to Lavender Fairy and was currently in print as Rainbows in Paradise and you decided to link to a copy of the first title, you'd have to be prepared for people to assume you were making a deliberate statement, and depending on context it might be a really problematic statement.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:09 PM on May 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Larry Kramer is a gay man and LGBT rights activist, and called his book Faggots (not Faggot) as a deliberately confrontational act - confrontational both towards the straight mainstream and to elements in gay society he disapproved of. Agatha Christie wrote a mass-market paperback murder mystery the title of which was changed with months of first publication because it might have hurt sales in the US, and the content of which is also changed fairly regularly (the name of the Island, the text of the poem) to track changes in social language. It's not a logical comparison.

Also, I kind of doubt that Larry Kramer would want to be exhibit A in the case for freedom to drop N-bombs on the Internet, but I may be wrong.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:26 PM on May 21, 2011


What I posted was not intended to provoke JKF or anyone. I have real problem with that whole scenario, but that was 1939. Replacement of one pejorative with another?- was going to be my point. Anymore explanation would be disingenuous. Cortex is right, no one gets a free pass. This why we have moderators.
posted by clavdivs at 7:28 PM on May 21, 2011


Replacement of one pejorative with another?- was going to be my point.

I think that the US publishers wouldn't publish it under the original title, because it was not a word people in the US expected to see on covers in the book racks in general stores or libraries (whereas the name of the island inside the book wasn't changed until the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing - possibly an oversight, possibly of less concern because that would only come to light after the book had been purchased).

As geoff. said, "And Then There Were None's" title changes are sort of the British equivalent of that edited version of Huckleberry Finn that came out recently - although Christie's status in the British literary canon is far less exalted than Twain's in the US, so it's a less attractive hill to make a stand on.

Incidentally, Adamvasco, when you say the book is on sale by Amazon with that title. - that's the UK first edition, on sale for $2,000, and is on sale through Amazon. It's not a version in print. If you can find an English edition in print with that title, I'd be very surprised. I'm pretty sure John Kenneth Fisher is mistaken about a 2001 English edition under that name, also. I imagine that when it moves out of copyright somebody will publish an edition under the original name to make a point, but that won't be for a long time yet.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:29 PM on May 21, 2011


I don't think I said 2001 anywhere. Latest I saw was the late 70's, with a 1994 Dutch version also using that title, the title being in English, not translated. (which confused me at first)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:35 PM on May 21, 2011


You said it was published under that name as recently as ten years ago... I took that to mean a 2001 printing. Not a huge deal, though - I was just confused.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:45 PM on May 21, 2011


Huh. I did say that.... I honestly have no idea why I said that, I'm sorry. No, you were right, I must have just gotten confused when I wrote it or made an editing mistake or something.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:50 PM on May 21, 2011


f you really wanted to, you could either close down MeTa or kill a bunch of people deemed most likely to make ruckuses (Ruckusii?). But apparently that is asking too much.


1. Close down MeTa: Bottled-up angst overflows onto the Blue, Green, and other subsites.
2. KIll people most likely to make ruckeses: Previously calm, sane, and well-grounded people lose their marbles. Wallflower Ruckusii emerge, seeing their opportunity to finally stage their big implosion.
posted by Miko at 8:17 PM on May 22, 2011


Wallflower Ruckusii: my new band name
Wallflower Ruckusii Emerge: a horror film
posted by desjardins at 6:42 AM on May 23, 2011


oh look, a rukus sack
posted by clavdivs at 9:17 AM on May 23, 2011


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