Tuesdays With Abhorrent Fiends vol 44.

Okay, so I'm not much good at real-life investigative reporting. But I have done more socializing on the internet than in real-life over the past few years. My instincts, by nature and/or nurture, are both suspicious and duplicitous.

So I noticed something today. Have a look at the linked blog's list of followers.

Imagining for the sake of argument that we have no other information, what can we learn from this list?

35 of the 76 followers have blogs. (Including me.) I don't know how to interpret this proportion. To do so I'd have to look at the blogs of other organizations to establish a baseline. If anybody already has knowledge of such matters, I am interested.

Some of the blogs, however, were created within the past three months by self-identified recent graduates of the program. There are multiple examples: see here, here, and here. The first two read, to me, like something the bloggers wrote according to someone else's instructions. The third one seems patently fake, the sort of thing that is created by a ringer in order to grab search engines. There seem to be four categories of people in the followers list:
1. the ones who don't have blogs
2. the ones with very few (less than 4) total posts, whose blogs seem forced, like the three linked above
3. the ones whose blogs are only a title with no posts
4. the ones who are clearly real people updating about their real lives and thoughts

Category #4 has a little over a dozen people. I ought to go back and do a count, but real bloggers are not my main concern.

Category #3 I don't know enough to interpret. Is it common for people to start blogs, but never get around to posting in them? Is it common for people to have blogs where they make all their posts non-viewable except to themselves? Either seems plausible. So I'm mentally tagging them all as real bloggers for the time being.

Category #1 could be ringers. They could be shy people who don't feel like having a blog. There could be some of each. Not enough information to make a meaningful judgment.

Category #2, on the other hand, is the least numerous and most disturbing. Why does it disturb me so? Let me tell you a little story. A true story, about a time when I learned some of the negative assumptions I am now struggling to replace.

Once, when I was a kid, I got into a terrible fight with a neighbor girl. We didn't speak for several days. Mom suggested I write a letter of apology. The first letter I wrote was very angry and sulky. (Think of Homer saying, "I'm sorry...sorry you're such jerks!") Mom said that one was too angry to send. So I wrote a second draft, toned-down and very smarmy. Mom said that one sounded really insincere.

So she offered to help me write one that was right down the middle. She pretty much dictated it to me, word for word. It used some of the language from my previous drafts, but some of it was totally new. Like one part, I remember distinctly, where Mom told me to write that I didn't blame my friend for her mean behavior because she hadn't been raised to have good manners.

Trusting my mom's superior knowledge, I went over and delivered the letter, blissfully believing my friend would accept my apology, she would see that it had all been a silly misunderstanding, and we could go back to the way things were before. To my surprise, instead my parents and her parents were suddenly having an even bigger fight. Forget not wanting to play with each other--we were suddenly not allowed to play with one another.

I was confused, and felt terribly guilty. Despite all Mom's reassurances to the contrary, I was dead certain (for years) that I was to blame for the whole mess. How the matter was eventually resolved has slipped from my memory. I know me and my neighbor later become playmates again, but not the circumstances that led to it.

Here's my point. I have some experience, both then and during later, darker times, with writing and saying things under at least partial duress. I know what it freaking sounds like. I am pretty sure that these Mercy graduates who make these forced-sounding blog posts either don't realize they're being manipulated, or believe it's being done for their own benefit. I can imagine how it might be phrased, even: "Keeping a blog with positive things in it is an important part of your journey towards health! Hey, why don't you start by talking about your positive experience at Mercy?" Heck, the people doing the manipulating probably have themselves talked into a nice-sounding rationale. "Well, there've been so many lies told by minions of Satan in the press and blogosphere, we have to counteract it with the true voices of real people and their positive perspectives."

Hear that, emotionally vulnerable young woman? Jesus is your buddy, we are the best thing that ever happened to you, and anyone who says differently is enslaved by demons of slander and lies.
(then, via telepathy:)
Ok, sweetie? OK! Wonderful, praise the Lord! Let's get started!

Eheheh. Hehe.
Okay, not funny.
Scary as hell.


kisekileia said...

It's possible that some of the people without blogs blog elsewhere, as I do. My blog is at kisekileia.livejournal.com.

Amber E said...

Hi there,
Perhaps my critical reading skills have gotten dusty but what was so bad about the Mercy blog? I read a few posts and they seemed benign and vaguely uplifting. I clicked on a few blog followers who seemed to be no more boring or interesting than the average internet denizen I've encountered. Perhaps I missed something but am glad you are working on problem solving, always a good mental exercise. What I don't understand is why no one gets crabby when we find out that children are being basically kidnapped and brainwashed to be suicide bombers:
It sounds like the kid's dad was a nice ordinary Muslim who just wanted his kid to get a good education. The problem was he accidentally enrolled him in a school where the teachers pretty much forced him into it. Talk about child abuse. On a lighter note we are all well here and hope you are too.

Amber E said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amber E said...

Arrgh the link is cutting off so I am going to break it into two lines, if you want to read the story you will have to remove the space. Thanks for your patience.


Fiat Lex said...

@kisekileia: Good point, and that's one of the reasons that's a piece of data I don't know enough to interpret. I like your LJ, by the way! The bunny pics are cute, and it's always nice to see another female who's into D&D. (That character generator test thingy kept giving me lawful good wizard. Grr! Lawful good ain't my style, and the alignment test gave me LN anyway. XD Maybe I changed a couple of my answers, eh?)

@Amber: No, hon, your critical reading skills are fine. The blog itself is indeed vaguely uplifting and not harmful. The thing that I've read about Mercy, though, both on John Weaver's blog and in an article or two that he's linked to, is that they bill themselves as a psychiatric facility but are instead strictly Biblical counseling on the Restoring the Foundations model. Psychiatric facilities have a tough job to do even when all the counselors are licensed psychologists who have studied the issues confronting the people they're trying to help. Prayer can be a very good thing--even exorcism can be a good thing in the right hands if a person goes into it willingly. But those things are no substitute for real treatment.

That was a very upsetting article, Amber--thanks for linking to it! It is a terrible shame that the Taliban would stoop to setting up a fake madrassa as a front so they could kidnap and brainwash young boys. The Taliban, by such actions, forces other people's children to kill themselves in order to support their group's desire to regain political power. One could hardly ask for a clearer example of evil!

Oh, and FYI. The html code for making a url into a link goes like this. Replace parentheses () with carats <> and it should work:
(a href="http://www.web address of thing")text you want linked(/a)

kisekileia said...

Thank you! Most of my LJ posts (the more personal ones) are friends-only, so you'd have to get an LJ account to read them, but I'm glad you like my public ones :). And I'm glad you appreciate my weird mix of interests (cute fluffy bunnies + gaming).

Martie said...

Wow, I have absolutely no recollection of the letter-writing at all. I can see myself suggesting a right down the middle letter but cannot see any version of myself insisting that a letter you did not agree with be delivered.

And one thing you can be sure of...the disagreements among the parents had NOTHING to do with the letter. So however I may have warped you with my poor efforts at parenting, of that you can be sure.

My poor efforts at parenting are compounded by my imperfect example as a Christ-follower. "Let God be true, and every man be false." Where my example fails, look to Him, and I pray that you can get me out of your vision to do so. He loves you SO much and wants so much to bless you if you will only let Him in.

Being gone from home 12 hours a day I do not have time now for a point by point analysis, etc...and I believe years ago you pegged me as a Neanderthal / non-intellect due to my faith and probably for other good reasons I'm not perceptive enough to grasp...so I won't try. I just wanted to say from my heart how much I love you and how proud I am of you for toughing it out through such a long stretch of difficult circs.

love you forever! - m

Fiat Lex said...


About the long-ago incident. At the time, I didn't disagree with the letter. I just had unquestioning, childish trust, combined with an equally childish inability to see the layers of meaning in the larger picture. So when I looked look back on it here, I am sure I've erred in the opposite direction. That is, recklessly imputing the few specific meanings that I have the data to be able to imagine.

As for the present--I think it's best if I give you a call tonight, after you get home from work, and talk about it live. I made a big mistake by trying to talk out my feelings about Amber on here instead of doing it person-to-person, and that is a mistake I intend not to repeat any more!

But even when I was filled with resentment for you, Mom, I never, ever, ever thought you were stupid. I thought you were set in your ways, and was convinced you would judge and denounce me for disagreeing. And I didn't want to start arguments I knew would only end with your feelings being terribly hurt and neither of us changing our minds.