Bob and the Internet

This is the story of Bob: Bob is active in her chosen field, which exposes her to some wider audience. As Bob does things that people value, she has a podium on which to speak and she uses it to some effect.

Alas, Bob has a problem. For some reason, some folks don’t like her. Where she posts, there are often arguments, accusations of some kind, to the point where people publicly get into (verbal) fights about the perceived innocence or guilt of Bob and others.

Bob of course defends herself, and friends of hers join in, calling those out who deal in reprehensible behaviour. She makes a convincing case that she is the victim here, and gets increasingly vocal about it over time.

Eventually, friends become enemies, communities splinter and sometimes even the police needs to get involved when some people cross lines into doxxing, actual death threats or worse.

Poor Bob, you probably think.

But maybe we should take a dispassionate look at Bob. We may find that sometimes, she is either completely on the defence. Mostly though, Bob is doing full-on attacks on those who have slighted her.

For her, people are apparently either useful, background noise or, well, enemies. And once you are her enemy, or are not immediately distancing yourself from those enemies, Bob will remember you forever.

Occasionally, Bob will admit to err on factual things, but she certainly is always right in her assessment of interpersonal relations. And yes, she is the undoubtedly the victim here, because, have you seen what Steve did?

If a situation escalates, it is never Bobs fault. If people cry foul, they are harassers. If they want to have no part of the drama, they are enablers. If someone on her side oversteps some line, it is their fault, certainly not Bobs for inciting them.

Still poor Bob?

Look up the vocabulary that describes an Abuser. You will find terms like Gaslighting. Victim Playing, DARVO, Stalking, Belittling, Controlling who is allowed to talk with whom.. If you’re online, you will also find all the rhetoric tricks too: Hiding behind technicalities, ad hominem attacks, Whataboutism and so on.

Bob portrays all the quality of a narcissistic, highly abusive person.

There are many Bobs online, and I am often not sure if they are simply broken persons or just plain evil.

Before I get to know a Bob, I usually assume that she simply has problems parsing emotions through text, that I didn’t make my point or argument clear enough. Because I have that problem myself: Often enough, I don’t know how the other person wanted me to perceive them, what they really wanted to say.

Online interactions are often fleeting or brief. That means that I miss a half-sentence or misread things. English isn’t my first language, and often enough, I converse with people who are also non native english speakers. So I allow for a wide range of misinterpretations, attribute to human error what could also be malice.

Sadly enough, that plays right into Bobs hand, reinforcing the notion that she is blameless, and everyone else is wrong. Bob sits secure in her perfect perch, and laps up the attention she receives, slowly ruining the online life of others.

Don’t give in to the Bobs. Resist that. Stop interacting with them, even when they bait you to it. It is hard. It can be very painful. And you do not have to stay in an online place where a Bob resides. We don’t owe a Bob anything at all.

But we do owe the community we want to live in. Identify the Bobs in there and then make it clear that they need to demonstrate a willingness and effort to be civil, to be polite and to be mindful of how others perceive their voice – or they will be shunned and shut out.

Do not ask Alice to “make up with Bob, for the sake of the community”. This will allow Bob to further mess with Alice. In the end, Alice will have only the option of more suffering from Bob, or to leave the community that continues to allow Bobs presence.

And above all: Don’t give any attention to the Bobs. It’s what they want, what feeds their ego. It should of course be positive attention, but they don’t actually care if it is negative, so long as it keeps their ego fed.

So don’t.

Identify the Bobs. Explain them the rules. And shun them (and only them) when it becomes apparent that they won’t change.

Warum verschwindet der Link von meinem Kommentar?

In der letzten Zeit, und auf verschiedenen Blogs und Foren in denen ich involviert bin, trudeln Kommentare ein, die auf den ersten Blick hilfreich und on-topic ausschauen. Ihnen gemeinsam ist aber:

  • sie tauchen in recht alten Beiträgen auf
  • sie enthalten einen Link auf eine Seite, die im Endeffekt ein Sammelsurium von Amazon-Partnerlinks zu einer Produktkategorie ist.

Das Geschäftsmodell ist klar: Man erstellt eine Seite die mittels SEO überdurchschnittlich gefunden wird, wenn jemand nach einer bestimmten Sorte Spiele o.ä. sucht. Wer die Seite dann hat, und das Spiel will, klickt dann auf Amazon, kauft, und der Seitenbetreiber bekommt eine Provision.

Soweit so fair, aber meine Seiten haben nun einmal keine Werbung, und die zwei (in Zahlen: 2)  Male, wo ich ein Produkt zur Rezension zugeschickt bekommen habe, habe ich das kenntlich gemacht. Wer aber einfach meine Seiten als SEO-Optimierung verwenden will.. nö. Egal wieviel Mühe Ihr Euch bei der Formulierung der Kommentare gebt.

Terrifying German Culture Hour – Country AND Western

To understand the following, you have to keep in mind that basically all germans for several generations have grown up with the stories of the brave and noble apache chief Winnetou, and his friend Old Shatterhand. The german author Karl May penned those, claiming they were the novelized diaries of his travels of the wild west – while never having left german soil.

Then 1945 the GIs came in and were eventually seen as saviours, so everything America was simply the best.

So we got us french hearthrob actor Pierre Brice to perform the very same role of the noble indian. (And from the point of view of my ten year old self, this is of course not racist or wrong in any way. Yeah, ten-year-old me was kinda stupid.)

Thankfully, at some point even us germans realized how wrong this was and instead decided to parody the whole thing:

So, aside from the movies, country & western music actually has quite a fan following in Germany.Of course, we initially needed it to be translated, and, well, germanized:

But soon enough, real german country bands showed up and we made things our own, especially once we figured out that country music can be coupled with trucks:

Yes, this is a song about someone driving 120 pigs to Beirut. Why? No one knows…

Truck Stop is, for better or worse, the german country band. They have songs about doing the Osnabrück-Hamburg run in one day, how to survive a night-run without Dave Dudley on the radio, why fishing is so damn relaxing, and, oh, how to be a cop in the big city:

If, while watching this, you’re in the vicinity of a german who’s a Fischkopp (a fishhead, as those who are from the northern parts of the country are happily calling themselves), you will notice at least a slight humming along, if not outright singing.

This is because this song, „Big City Beat“, is the title song for a TV series portraying the day-to-day encounters of two police officers who patrol the more earthier parts of Hamburg. The tone is down-to-earth, the pacing relaxed, and the protagonists at the same time cosmopolitan and grounded salt-of-the-earth locals.

If you don’t understood the dialogue, here’s the summary: He’s telling her why he’s on this beat now. Because he didn’t play along to racial profiling and abuse of a different fellow officer. And the actor, Jan Fedder is someone you really want to like. Here’s him in a talk show, singing a traditional Hamburg folk song. Yes, this talk show is habitually being taped in an actual bar, and yes, everyone is chugging alcohol.

He’s a bit older these days, and the perfect yokel.

And yes, folkys yokels are the same everywhere. So people make fun of them:

The singer is Stefan Raab,a former butcher you started out as a VJ, who occasionally regularly made fun of things. And yes, this is the same band as in a few videos back.

Still, Stefan is a special kind of musical genius, who can genre-hop like no other.

(the genre he’s lampooning here is „Volksmusik“. The closest equivalent would be Country, but it most certainly is not that. But that will be another installment of this blog series.)

He habitually reworked Germanys Funniest Home Videos into the summer smash hit of uh.. who cares. But this here highlights very aptly the difficulties everyday germans have when trying to adapt to foreign music.

But the true road to greatness was paved by Stefan Raabs contributions to the Eurovision Song Contest. You might have heard about that, by John Oliver:

Germany used to be represented by things like this:

Things got a teensy bit more tedious in the 90ies:

(The Eurocats still perform regularly on cruise ships)

And the other european nationalities used to send similar candidates. For decades! In the end, fewer and fewer people watched the contest. Stefan Raab thought that someone should do something, so he produced THIS:

Yes, we ran with that, while everyone else was still doing this, this or that. Yes, Eurotrash is a word. Eventually Stefan decided to run himself, so we progressed to…

The finns accepted the challenge and eventually things escalated a bit, and now the Eurovision Song Contest is the camp fest that John Oliver so loved to be confused about:

Thanks Stefan!

PS: At some point, we understood how to do Country. Really:

and yes, we brought Country to the European Song Contest:

(thanks to Jan for reminding me of this!)

Terrifying German Culture Hour: Think of the Children!

If you ever looked at one of these Buzzfeed lists like „10 dark original endings of Disney princesses“ or similar things, you certainly know that european, and especially german fairy tales are dark. Gloomy, doomy, dark.

You might know of old-school things like the Struwwelpeter: An educational book that was supposed to scare kids straight, so they won’t suck on thumbs anymore:

Right, stop sucking on that thumb, or some tailor will come and SNIP THEM OFF!

And yes, a lot of the fairy tales end with people being seriously dismembered, tortured or just dead. To be fair though, a bunch of them aren’t actually german.

But also more recent kids books contain, let’s say, disturbing elements. Take Krabat. A story about a boy getting apprenticed at a spooky mill, where the boys learn true black magic, from a miller that serves the devil or at least Death himself!

(unsurprisingly, this book by Ottfried Preussler is purported to be one of Neil Gaimans favourite scary stories for children.)

But Ottfried Preussler also wrote slightly more cheerful things. One beloved work is „The Robber Hotzenplotz“. To understand this though, you need to understand who Kasperl is.

Before we got the Muppet show on TV in germany, we had Kasperletheater, the hopelessly german variant of the Punch & Judy show. Instead of Punch, we have Kasperle and he isn’t a violent anti-hero but more of a friendly trickster archetype. As a whole, Kasperletheater is set up to instill kids with a sense of morality and to respect societies norms.

Schoolvisits of the „Polizeikasper“ aren’t uncommon: A friendly police officer comes along with the well-known handpuppets to introduce the kids on the correct ways to brave traffic with their bike.

The Robber Hotzenplotz is such a theatre, put into literary form. The infamous robber with the name „Hotzenplotz“ sets out to steal grannies coffee mill (by accident he kidnaps granny as well) and has to be stopped by Kasperle, by any means necessary!

Such an epic plot needs to be put into a movie. And simple hand puppets won’t do this justice, so.. we need… string puppets!

String puppets shows, all produced by the Augsburger Puppet Box have been a fixture of children’s TV in germany for a few generations now. If a german comedian starts walking funny, as if held upright by strings, this is what they’re referring to.

The Puppenkiste has produced many a beloved story, be it about a freshly hatched dinosaur..

a wish-fulfilling creature that only appears if you stick to a specific plan for 7 days straight..

a cat with a hat (!)…

and.. a small black boy who is best friends with a steam train driver on a tiny island: „Jim Knopf & Lukas der Lokomotivführer“. Here’s the intro, pay attention, there will be a quiz:

As with all the other examples above, the basic appearance is quaint, provincial with a tiny bit of disturbing added in. Nearly all the stories happen in small towns, and everything is of small scale. What makes this noteable, is that the story has been penned by Michael Ende, probably known to you for the Neverending Story, so, yes, this heartbreaker:

But back to more cheerfully Jim Knopf. Knopf means „button“, and he’s named that way because he was constantly ripping his pants, so his foster mother put a button on it, so it was easier to close up the ripped part. Yes, I know, that makes no sense.

This is a vastly more cheerful and optimistic story, even though it begins with the fact that Jim Knopf is an orphan and ends with the discovery of a massive slavery operation. (Run by an ancient dragon, no less. And on the way, we’ll meet the Wild 13, a bunch of pirates, who are actually only a dozen.)

Anyway, you still have that catchy tune from the intro in your head? In case you it didn’t stuck, let me introduce you to „Dolls United“, who sampled it into Eurotrash:

And if that isn’t making you pray for the sweet release of death, here’s the MDR Fernsehballett doing a live performance (the concept of a tv station having their own permanent on-staff ballet troupe is completely normal for germans. Just saying):

(yes, this is blackfacing. In 2012. There is a way to explain that, but it won’t make anyone look actually better, so I won’t even try.)

Instead, I’ll show you a clip from The Show with the Mouse, where they explain why there’s a dent in every sausage: