Sunday, April 17, 2011

Western Bars & the 21st Century

For anyone that’s sat through an old western movie or TV show, you know exactly the imagery I’m conjuring up here—you have the old men gathered around a table playing cards; the quiet, strong-charactered bartender; the floozy who thinks she can sing; and finally (what we all were waiting for), some action from the gunslinger(s) who come barging into the joint, and shooting a round just to get everyone’s attention (he suffered from poor self-esteem and was compensating with a wild entrance).

Well, not much has changed in the world. The bar has given way to online discussion groups. Pretty much everyone is playing on level ground and fair deal. They just want to deal their card for whatever its worth, knowing that it will probably be challenged. Someone always has a hidden agenda to steal the game & enrich him/herself with adulation from others. The bartender (moderator) always has his gun of censorship right where he can grab it at a moment’s notice.

Then there’s the floozy. These characters have no interest in the beverages being served, the games others are playing or anything else. They merely want to entice someone, anyone, to listen to their overtures. They usually post right in the middle of any interesting discussion offering such absurd services that wonder why the heck they are there in the first place. "There’s a brothel down the street with plenty of activity, honey, go play there."

Finally, the gun slinger enters. This character also has no interest in the communal activity. He just wants to come in blazing. He gets some sick enjoyment out of destroying peace. Problem is, his distraction techniques can be very effective—and hence everyone breaks into a bar fight. You feel like saying, “Look, if all you have to offer is your hate, there are plenty people like you, why not go join around your own campfire and enjoy your bravado there?” But you don’t say that, because you will be their next victim.

Now, you’ll notice I’m missing one key character—the sheriff. Sure enough, policing of the internet is still in its infancy and none of us really want to see Big Brother involved in running all the internet. So, for the most, we try to be peaceable and amicable, that is, until the hidden ACE falls out of someone’s sleeve.

Yup, more than a hundred years and nothing changed. The setting may have changed, but the characters are all the same.

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