One of the unexpected benefits of blogging is the people my family and I have met that we otherwise might never have known if I hadn’t started this blog (at my wife’s urging) nearly two years ago. I’m not just talking about electronic contact, but actually getting to meet and socialize with new friends. One of the first people I met was Leo Pusateri.
Actually, our first meeting was less than memorable. Leo and I both started our blogs within a week of each other, and shortly thereafter we each made our first pilgrimmage to Keegan’s. Each of us was introduced to the other bloggers there for the weekly trivia game and in the course of this to each other, but with all the new names, faces and aliases I couldn’t quite place Leo the day after. Nevertheless he became the first-ever commenter to one of my posts and we became regular commenters on each other’s blogs and frequent e-mailers. We didn’t get to see each other all that much since he lives in St. Cloud, but we hooked up a few times and even got a round of golf in this summer.
Anyway, Leo announced this week that he’s pulling the plug on Psycmeistr’s Ice Palace, and the reason is flip-side of that blogging relationship coin. You see, blogging itself exists in the ether commonly referred to as “the blogosphere”. As such there’s a certain unreality to it as the things you read and the things you write – while a good measure of a man or a woman – aren’t typically connected to a face and sometimes we lose that sense that there are “real people” behind each post and comment. That’s why actually meeting the people behind your favorite sites is so satisfying. At the same time that relative anonymity encourages a certain amount of abuse and loss of perspective.
What I’ve always liked and admired about the Ice Palace is Leo’s passion and direct, no-sugar-coating way of expressing his thoughts and ideals; his bluntness was the perfect bucket of water dumped on the airy confections that pass for the cornerstones of liberal idealogy. Leo has been fearless in expressing his views and guileless in disclosing who he is, where he lives and what he does for a living. In addition to the Ice Palace he was a regular contributor to the Murtha Must Go blog. When we golfed this summer he told me about some of the comment trolls that had mobilized as a result of MMG and who were extending themselves beyond the rough and tumble of the blogosphere to engage in tangible intimidation and physical harassment against him. (This is an all-too-real drawback of blogging; I know one lady blogger who has had to contend with petty vandalism and a stalker, and Michael Brodkorb of Minnesota Democrats Exposed had his house egged last weekend. Last year an innocent person who was merely thought to be MDE had his house vandalized.)
One such troll, though I don’t know if he’s directly related to the MMG site, has become such a threat that police intervention is a possibility and, for the sake of his family and his sanity, Leo has decided to pull back from the circus invisible, at least for a time. While that may seem like letting the terrorist win, you also have to realize that there’s no cost-benefit analysis in the world that makes playing this out look like a good idea. Blogging, for all but a very few, is a hobby and an outlet; a way to do good and/or to do battle. But whether your on-screen persona is Don Corleone or Don Quixote, there’s just no percentage in “stepping outside.”
Trolls are one of the hazards of blogging and to be expected if you make a habit of stating your opinions and sticking to them. While some people want to debate (sometimes profanely), other trolls use the anonymity of the Web to get their jollies for (I imagine) the same reasons flashers hang out at the bus stop. (Hammerswing had a couple of these types plaguing his Comments section this summer, one of whom followed a Mall Diva comment back here to leave his filth. I had no qualms about nuking his butt – banning his ISP – at once.) It’s one thing to attack someone’s ideas and character on-line, and you can typically expect a robust defense in response; that’s the blogosphere. It’s something else to attack someone’s job, property or loved ones; that’s illegal.
All in all, the “good” folks you meet in blogging far, far outweigh the bad, even if one bad one skews the equation considerably. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, however, from life and from blogging it is that you can’t keep a good man down. We’ll see you somewhere down the road, Leo!