I really enjoyed the Banner of Heaven retrospective that Scott B at BCC put together (most of it appears here), and I have been thinking about it and gathering my thoughts ever since it ended.
Mostly, I think the retrospective was an interesting historical look back at a time and an event that was an important watershed in the bloggernacle. It’s something that will always engender some controversy and both good and bad feelings on the part of those who were participants in the drama, and also those who got involved after the fact. I thought Scott did a good job of presenting all sides, but there was something missing in the end. I would like to hear from people about the answers to a few questions that were raised by the final podcast with Steve Evans and which I posed over in the thread following the podcast at Bloggernacle Times. No one really bothered to try to answer them there, so I’d like to try it over here to see if we can get a more relevant discussion going ( I swear I will delete any references to the Song of Solomon). Here are the questions (feel free to add to this list if you want) and my answers:
1. How seriously should we take the nacle?
This is a pretty nebulous question, but maybe it can be made more easy to answer by putting it on a 10-point scale. I think the nacle has serious elements and also some ridiculous, funny, goofy or comic elements. Where 10 is as serious as say, the temple, and zero is SNL, I’d give the nacle a solid 7. What does that mean? Well, it means we need to take people seriously here, because they sometimes come here with serious things to say or ask. Education happens here. Even missionary work happens here. People are able to talk about their beliefs and about the Church and the gospel here in ways that they can’t maybe anywhere else. Those are serious and important things. But we also can’t take it so seriously that it’s impossible to have fun, because fun is an important part of why many people are here too.
2. Is it possible (or maybe “appropriate” is a better word) to be justly proud of anything about BoH?
I think so. There was a lot of good writing and planning and work that went into BoH, not just in the posts but in the comments from the permas and and between the commenters. I think all who participated can be proud of what they did there. If you read BoH, it’s entertaining, even more so now that you know the backstory. nothing that entertaining can be all bad. I understand that some have bad feelings and some deplore the whole episode as a wretched attempt at defrauding people, but I think those feelings have been mostly proved wrong. At the very least, you have to respect all the work that went into it. No one does that much work just as a prank. there was more going on than that.
3. Following repentance, is there a statute of limitations on continuing to deplore the sinful behavior?
In general, I think the answer to this question is no, you can always deplore the behavior, but obviously our religion dictates that you should forgive the perpetrator. With regard to BoH, I think we have to make allowances for those that still harbor hurt feelings, whether we agree with those feelings or not, and we have to allow people to forgive on their own timetable (or not at all if that is their choice, I guess) but enough time has passed that hopefully most of us can move on to discussing this subject objectively.
4. What’s the proper post-mortem verdict on BoH? Was it simply “ethically and morally wrong” as Scott suggests, or is there some level on which it can be justified?
It was an experiment that probably needed to take place on some level. It’s inevitable that someone (or some group) explores the boundaries of what’s appropriate here in the nacle, and that exploration is probably not over. BoH showed us what can be done in terms of fictional blogging and it showed us the effects of such an undertaking on the relationships we make here. There were certainly some who felt wronged, and some who felt that the whole effort was tainted ethically and/or morally, but I think it’s going too far to say that the entire blog was flat wrong, because there are certainly ways in which a fictional blog could be executed that would not be wrong. Certainly there are still some fictional comments being made in the nacle and some fictional or not-totally-real personalities being utilized (mostly for purposes of comedy) so I don’t think you can really say that the whole thing was completely out of line from beginning to end. We need to test our boundaries and push the envelope at times. That instinct should be applauded, even when the results are not ideal, which will often be the case.
5. What are the permanent effects of BoH on the nacle? Are there any? If so, are any of them positive (other than the obvious “bonds of war” formed between the co-conspiritors)?
It explains a lot about certain relationships between certain of the bloggers here. When you are getting to know people here, if you do nothing else, reading BoH and the threads analyzing it will explain to you most of the important relationships between most of the bloggers at most of the big blogs in the nacle. It’s kind of like a primer on the nacle and its inhabitants. Required reading for anyone who wants to really know what’s going on.
Aside from that, there are lingering effects, like the echoes of the big bang that can still be detected in space. People are more careful about fictional identities, and most blogs are pretty intolerant of those who attempt to post under assumed names. It isn’t really allowed at BCC, even in jest, and I think that’s a direct result of BoH. People are also more careful about where they comment now. It’s not as much of a free-for-all, and there seem to be more rules, even if they are not all written. I doubt you will ever see a new group blog embraced as wholeheartedly again, especially one where the bloggers are not already known. There is also probably an increased level of cynicism here, of not taking things at face value, that is a result of BoH.
I’m not sure that’s totally a bad thing, or that any of these effects would not have happened anyway, but I think it’s fair to say that the nacle lost a bit of its innocence with BoH, for better or worse. It grew up a little. And as growing up always does, it changed things. I think all in all, what we learned from BoH was worth the pain it caused. Just like I’m glad about most of the relationships I had in junior high and high school, even though some of them were difficult and painful, I’m glad we had BoH. With apologies to Voltaire: if we didn’t have BoH, it would be necessary to invent it.
Those are just some of my thoughts. Please let me know what yours are.