Running parallel to Joe''s moral panic about the “gay agenda” was the panic of many of the other subscribers to alt.tv.melrose-place about Joe's homophobia. Considering the proliferation of Joe's postings, the number of detractors was large, involving about 40 participants. Although not all chose to reply to him in the same way, a number of response patterns began to emerge. These patterns can be classified into several resolution strategies. While it would over-simplify matters to state that these strategies occurred in a linear pattern over time, it was the apparent that the final two strategies occurred towards the end of the period of the moral panic, while the earlier ones tended to be utilized by individuals, before moving on to more aggressive strategies8.
Strategy I: Avocate “sympathy/understanding”
One of the least aggressive resolution strategies was to advocate understanding and sympathy, albeit with a patronizing and superior tone. This “sympathy” could be directed either towards Joe, or those close to him. In Examples 20 and 21 below, the posters did not appeal directly to Joe, but to the other members of the group. By not addressing the protagonist directly, the posters were not directly inviting a response. Joe tended not to acknowledge these postings in the group.
For some reason Joe is obsessed with homosexuality - we have all laughed at his opinions, and in many ways his beliefs have united the people that he despises so much. In spite of how irritating Joe's postings are - spare some pity for him - it must be horrible for him to go around with that much hatred in his head.
They're very insecure about their own sexuality and are going out of their way to cover up their fears about themselves being homosexual. I feel sorry for the guy's girlfriend, if indeed he has one.
Strategy II: Laissez faire
The second resolution strategy offered by e-mail posters was to “ignore him and he'll go away”. Again, posters tended not to appeal directly to Joe, but to other posters who had entered into correspondence with him. Like Example 20, Example 23 (below) uses the first person plural “we” in order to claim an association between the writer and everyone else in the group except Joe. By asking others to disregard another poster, this strategy functioned as a potential provocation.
It's patently obvious he's flame baiting - as the gay thread dies down, he restirs the fire by attacking women. Let him have his fun and eventually he'll drift away.
Thought I'd seen the last of Joe <anonymized> when I added him to my killfile9 for the Pittsburgh Steelers and SF 49ers newsgroups. Here's what we need to do: IGNORE HIM. He'll go away as soon as people stop responding to him.
Honestly, guys. Attacking Joe will not do a single thing to help gay people. It'll just screw up this newsgroup even more. Please don't feel like you need to defend the honor of gay people. You don't. Just ignore Joe; he'll go away again. The only power he has is the power you give him.
Strategy III: Flame
By far the most common resolution strategy (occurring in about 90% of e-mail responses to the group) was to respond in kind. One tactic was to claim that Joe was a repressed homosexual:
>You know Joe, you are just a *little* too obsessed with this >whole gay thing. And you know what they say: Sometimes the squeekiest >wheel….
I've read this “Joe's a Fag” lie a few times now. Like, when someone points out they don't like to see degenerates on t.v. doing disgusting things with each other, like kissing and worse stuff, one of the first things that happens is they get accused of being a closet fag and stupid. Well, I'm not a fag, and I'm not closet stupid!
>I think this “Macho Joe” needs to get on Freud's couch in a hurry before he >puts on an Indian costume and starts singing “YMCA.”
You fags only wish! When I “hang out with all the boys” I keep my eyes above waist level… I don't leer like you gayboys do. Why are you all so interested in seeing Macho Joe in a Commanche headdress anyway? Is that the latest gay thing?
However, as the flame-war progressed, the focus on Joe began to move away from suggesting that he had repressed homosexual feelings, towards a perceived lack of intelligence, inadequate education and “low” social class on his part.
I bet your one of those dumb homophobic guys that assumes that all gay men want you just cause your male.
> 3/You said “circumscribed” and “misperceptions” - “puh-leez, > Mary!”
My apologies - I should have known that there wouldn't be any dictionaries handy in your trailer park. From now on I'll try to stick to one-syllable words so you can understand.
Next time, just grab a dictionary. It's that book you're currently using as a coaster for your beer.
And in case you didn't notice dumb ass, everyone is attacking you for your LACK of intelligence, education and so on. Give it up already.
Your intelligence and education are being attacked because it is generally someone whose educuation has not advanced very far who holds these attitudes. People who have been exposed to higher forms of education tend to learn that most of the world consists of people/cultures very different from us and our own. We also learn to appreciate these differences rather than condemn them.
It appeared that Joe's opponents were actively contributing towards the construction of Joe's identity, which at times ran contrary to the identity that he was attempting to construct for himself. In response to Joe's presentation of himself as the epitome of Western masculine heterosexuality, his detractors responded in two ways. Some took Joe's claims about himself one stage further, by validating his masculinity, but suggesting that this gender performance (Butler, 1990, p. 33) was undesirable because it was uncultured and displayed ignorance, while others constructed Joe as homosexual, but too stupid to face/understand the truth. In this second scenario Joe was seen to need psychiatric help (Freud's couch) in order to resolve his own “true” sexual identity, something which, because of a lack of intelligence/education, he was unable to do single-handedly.
Since the only medium available for conflict resolution was language-based, it was unsurprising that the form as well as the content of Joe's language came under scrutiny. While spelling errors and typos in friendly Internet communication can elicit humorous teasing (Marvin, 1995), such errors can be much more critically evaluated in flame wars. Joe''s detractors implied that if someone is unable to express himself in a manner that indicates an adequate education, then what has been written is not worth reading. It was this philosophy that prompted a dissection of Joe's spelling and/or grammar.
If you're going to insult people you should at least know how to spell “dyke” correctly.
You have shown no evidence to back that claim. By the way, “I got a brain” is not correct english. You may in fact *have* a brain, but you don't seem to know how to use it.
>Well, I'm not a fag, and I'm not closet stupid!
no. you're quite open about being stupid.
One of the differences between Joe and his detractors was their use of language, something which both sides seized upon in order to emphasize the other's supposed inferiority. In Joe's case it was a dislike of “fancy,” pretentious language. In the example below he attacks a poster simply because he has used the word “horrid:”
>> it. After a stressful day of work on a Monday (the most horrid day of the >> week IMHO) I totally enjoy losing myself to the unreality of the bizarre >> and weird situations that are written for the characters of our common >> interest … Melrose Place. >> >Well written piece, Tennessee Williams… you're obviously another of >those FAG types pushing your gay agenda down our throats… NO >STRAIGHT guy would use the word “horrid” in a sentence, Daffodil… > > Let's clean up Melrose Place and bounce the fags! > Macho Joe F.
So what you're saying Joe sugars, and actually sound proud of, is that straight men don't have the extensive vocabulary that gay people; how fortunate that you feel capable to acknowledge such a short-coming.
Joe attempted to create a distinction between the type of language that he used, and the type of language employed by gay people (which he referred to as “Faglish”). Although Joe claimed not to use such language, he in no way admitted that this marked him as inferior. In fact he portrayed it as a positive characteristic, a matter of choice rather than linguistic skill. However, his assertions were interpreted in a different light by other posters. Joe's supposed lack of an extensive vocabulary is viewed as a “shortcoming” (Example 35). So although Joe does not claim ignorance of the word “horrid,” he claims that heterosexual men would never use it, a point which is subtly altered by the person who replied to him, to imply that “Joe lacks of an extensive vocabulary”.
Strategy IV: The threat of physical violence
A less common, but more aggressive means of challenging Joe was the (probably facetious) threat of physical violence, either directly (Example 36) or indirectly (Example 37) in order to refute Joe's claims that gay men are effeminate.
I'll tell ya what?. if yer so macho, … you.me… in the ring….
THEN we'll see who's macho.
>The fact is, if you ever set foot in a gay dance club, you would probably be >surprised to find out that most of the guys are buff and shirtless and could >pound your face into the pavement if they wanted to. Is this what you are >soo damn insecure about Joe? Not enough of a man, eh?
Yeah, right. I'm likely to drop by a gay dance club… I'll see if I can get the dry cleaners to sew sequins on my jock strap…
You know, you're the one that seems to be promoting physical violence, on top of the “idiot”, “uneducated” and “trailer trash” talk. Pound my face into the pavement? That's the way Nazis used to talk… wasn't it?
Neither of these threats led to any confrontation beyond that of e-mail.
Strategy V: Censorship
Towards the end of the four-month exchange of e-mails, another solution was proposed, that of complaining to the postmaster in charge of Joe's e-mail account with the express intention of denying him e-mail access, in effect to censor him.10
Does anybody know how I can contact the net-administrator of the address: <anonymised> ? I think it's about time that this person had his e-mail rights taken away from him.
Joe responded angrily, arguing for freedom of speech:
Here we allow people to say what they choose, because we've discovered that it's a whole lot less dangerous than muzzling them; and if you muzzle me because you don't like what *I* say, who's next on your list? Catholics? Freemasons? Veterinarians?
Although nobody (openly) supported Joe's homophobia, one poster agreed with him that censorship was not an appropriate solution, citing the argument that permitting the free expression of the homophobic perspective exposes people with more moderate views to its dangers:
My personal opinion is not to have your account yanked, because I do believe in free speech, and also because I believe in letting people with lame opinions like yours completely reveal themselves as the hate-obsessed creatures they are rather than the moralists they pretend to be. I imagine that there is more than one person on this group who was either fence-sitting or simply didn't think much about homophobia who has now come around to a realization of the sort of unwarranted abuse gay people face all the time–and who now finds such abuse vile.
In any case, the threat to have Joe's account closed never came to fruition: Joe continued to post to alt.tv.melrose-place.
Strategy VI: Exposure
After threatening to leave the newsgroup several times and returning several times, the following e-mail was posted to the newsgroup:
I thought you guys might be interested in his Usenet profile, given the amount of queer-baiting he's apparently done here:
71 articles posted between <anonymized> and <anonymized>. 84% followups.
Number of articles posted to individual newsgroups: 50 alt.tv.melrose-place 8 rec.arts.tv.soaps.abc 4 bit.listserv.gaynet 3 rec.music.country.western 3 alt.showbiz.gossip 1 rec.arts.sf.tv.quantum-leap 1 ncf.sigs.lifestyle.gay 1 alt.society.underwear
Joe's also a big “All My Children” fan, having watched it for about 15 years (according to a post of his). Yeah, real “macho” activity there, Joe.
… my favorite quote, from the bit.listserv.gaynet group…
“Sorry I missed the “Best of Cowboy Buttman, Vol. III” - I really haven't visited this group very much before - nor any other gay group too much. When I get the feeling that I HAVE too, (if you get my drift), I look into alt.sex.homosexual for a hot story, which I promptly trash guiltily after, er, reviewing…”
No, I'm not making any of this up. Apparently Joe is baiting queers even though he is one himself.
A “usenet profile” can be obtained from DejaNews (http://www.dejanews.com) which maintains records of e-mails sent to newsgroups. By accessing DejaNews it is possible to obtain a list of all of the postings to a Usenet group, about any subject, or by any poster. In this manner, Joe was exposed as making postings to gay-related newsgroups, where he had espoused a homosexual identity. Joe's “outing” caused a flurry of messages to be posted to alt.tv.melrose-place, including several by an outraged Macho Joe, who excused this alternative identity as an example of “role-playing”:
Macho Joe ain't no… no…“chicken lollipop”. Macho may just like assuming roles in a MUD kind of way. You know, “Dungeons and Dragons”. Playing roles doesn't mean that a guy is a chicken-lollipop. I mean, Tom Hanks can play a faggot without being one…
The decision to “out” Joe became the subject of discussion in the newsgroup. Although the majority of people who actively followed the group agreed that Joe's homophobia was intolerable, this particular resolution strategy was deemed by some to have been too severe. The two postings below reveal opposing points of view on the matter:
I know we all have the ability now to check up on other people and, thanks to “Usenet profiles,” we can tell that someone posted on alt.fetish.underwear, but it's really not a very good idea. As obnoxious as “Macho Joe” was while he was here, he still has a right to his personal life, whatever it may be, and I don't think it was a very nice thing to do to post his Usenet profile and postings he's made in other places. You would want other people to respect your privacy too. “Joe” is gone now. Just let it go.
Joe has come back more times than Shirley MacLaine! No one resurrected that moron, he would have surfaced again regardless of what was posted. It's been going on for months now. Getting caught in any cycle is no fault but your own. Ever heard of skipping a thread if you don't like it? I agree that Joe should have been exposed for his ugly and hateful participation here.
With Joe's identity beyond the newsgroup exposed, his ability to harass the group had been diminished. With the credibility of his “macho” identity put into question, Joe refrained from posting. The moral panic surrounding Joe's homphobia was over.
In a personal e-mail a few weeks after his final posting to alt.tv.melrose-place, Joe told me that the creation of the “Macho Joe” identity was the result of being bored by the newsgroup. The onslaught of “political self-righteousness” that his original posting provoked was so funny to him that he continued to play out the homophobic identity, certain that intelligent readers would understand that Joe was either insane or a fake.
So although Joe's “targets” had been gay men, the people whom he had really intended to upset were the “politically correct,” merely because he found their angry responses amusing. The sexuality of Joe's real targets was, therefore, irrelevant to him.