NEWS/OPINION — SCP Author’s Self-Deletion of Privileged Article Puts Site’s Hollow Culture on Display
A controversial article, which staff extended an exclusive and scarce privilege to, has been deleted by the author, who said he is “tired of dealing with it.”
Over the weekend, popular SCP author djkaktus deleted the article formerly known as SCP-4911 and made a public statement about it on the site’s announcement thread that’s reserved for deletions. Here, he is tired of dealing with the inflammatory response to the article and the flack he has gotten from it non-stop since posting it on September 11, 2018.
The deletion is more than just a capitulation of the author’s convictions to the controversy that the subject matter incited. It is also a story that shows how capitulation-worthy the convictions are of multiple notable parties of the SCP Wiki. These parties are: djkaktus, Scantron/CWW, and former Admin of SCP wiki staff Decibelles.
SCP-4911 was an article titled “September 11th, 2001”. SCP-4911 was a retcon of the horrible events of that day and places it in a Foundationverse setting. It inserted two anomalous figures into the rescue efforts by police, firefighters, and other first responders; these were reportedly seen defying physics and displaying other anomalous abilities to help save people caught in the catastrophe. Here’s an excerpt from the initial description in the article of one of the anomalous figures:
“ When I look up, I see this blonde girl- this woman, crouched in front of me outside the desk. She’s wearing goggles and she’s got her hair pulled up, but she had gear on and gloves, the whole thing. She says, ‘you’re not safe here, come on’, and she reached her hand out to me.”
Obviously and on the face of it, this article had extraordinary potential to be controversial. Not only is retconning generally thought to be tacky, as is using catastrophes as article fodder, this case of it is about a very sensitive topic. It is almost guaranteed to upset a wide spread of the readers.
Individuals who identify with American patriotism might be upset by this and take it to be incredibly poor taste… not quite as bad as, but almost like that time TroyL retconned the Holocaust. The minimization of the very human efforts of heroism in favor of what are essentially invincible and immortal Marvel characters can be very offensive to the memory and honor of those who sacrificed themselves to help.
On the other hand, the attempted patriotic tone of the article, one that commiserates and romanticizes the righteous pain of America, will upset the antipodal readers. There are plenty on SCP who are triggered by what they regard as sympathizing with Nazi-esque right-wing nationalism and populism… right after the political pruritus that had just been inflamed after the events of that June, no less.
It would seem that this article was done with the idea of controversy in mind; that it wears any other justification on the surface like a clip-on tie — decoration, not really self-woven, not really self-reinforcing, not really as genuine as it may appear. One might think as I did that perhaps the author had a very personal experience with the tragedy, and so doesn’t care about upsetting people. Maybe he wants to push through the caution and resistance in order to do what authors do best, which is struggle in order to express their souls, no matter the cost. Luckily, the author takes the opportunity to add an author note in the discussion page that we can rely on:
“This is a project that has a certain importance to me. On 9/11/2001 I was a 5th grade student at Van Buren Elementary in Plainfield, Indiana, and my dad was on a plane headed east for work. They sent us home early, and the next several hours were some of the most quiet hours I remember from my youth. While my dad ended up coming home a few days later, 2997 others didn’t.
The thing that struck me most was this enormous outpouring of assistance and aid from every corner of the country, focused on a single point like a laser. People helping people, all across the United States. Those — to me — were some of the most American days I’ve ever lived in.”
Our first piece of information that suggests the emotional attempt of the article is disingenuous is that the substance under these pretty words is lacking. Firstly, there isn’t an American citizen alive today for whom that day wasn’t very powerful, for whom the gravity and terror hasn’t been branded into our memory like a bad dream. Secondly, this comes down to a 10-year-old boy being unsure of what is going on, awful as that is; distressing and disturbing as it must have been. How this exactly is of “a certain importance”, a phrase which suggests more importance than the general sentiment, and that it uniquely can’t be truncated into the average response of anyone old enough to remember that day? There is no shame in one’s experience of the same thing being as average as the next, not when it is as powerful and momentous as something like 9/11. For example, take the reaction and account of another user of the same age as the author:
[2018–09–11 07:58:28] <ChaoSera> I was 10 when it happened, so I didn’t really realize the scale of what happened or what it meant
Of course there are discrepancies in sensitivity and clairvoyance among those of the same age. But to justify the personal gravity set up here, and so the creative authority to approach such a sensational topic as this, one might expect to see that a family member died in a rescue attempt, or someone in the building who the author knew who maybe did or didn’t get out… awful as that would be. Because there is nothing of more emotional import beyond a 10-year old boy’s confusion… again, as distressing as that subjectively surely was… the article already skews to the side of it being a manufactured spectacle; not the genuine expression expected of a spiritual author, but of a calculating politician.
Maybe this is insensitive of me. But we have the benefit of nearly 3 years’ time to put this claim to the test. Were it the case that this was more genuine, we would then expect that the conviction behind the words would be very strong. The fortitude inherent and inseparable from an emotional experience of the required magnitude would withstand headwinds indefatigably. To deny this would mean to say that push-back from faceless critics is stronger than the deep emotional appeal and conviction for the importance of that day and what it meant to him now and as a little boy and forever. To fold in the face of 3 years of a less-than-optimal reception is the equivalent of the author spiritually dismissing his former childhood self to instead catch the eye of strangers with quanta of meaningless internet value metrics.
Thus, and again with the hindsight of this past weekend, it is abundantly clear that the attempt at emotional justification is frail and was never truly genuine. In retrospect, as it was for many of us in real-time, the article most appropriately contextualized is an incredibly tasteless attempt to lasso a national tragedy for an upvote harvest.
Fast-forwarding out the months wherein the author’s self-assurance of this as a sufficiently good idea collapses, we get this compressed paraphrase: “This is a project that has a certain importance to me… the most quiet hours of my youth… some of the most American days I’ve ever lived in… [but I’m] just tired of dealing with it.”
9/11 is something to be memorialized. Regardless of your political opinions of it and its aftermath — for example, the horrendous affronts to the fourth amendment that were perpetuated and excused in its name — it was a day of unfathomable suffering and loss. However, it should get the dignity of being memorialized by someone who is capable of backing it with the required and appropriate amount of subjective capital.
The lack of such capital here was not lost on the initial crowd:
“I think it conveys a rather unhealthy stance on the event that is also common in popular media, namely trying to represent it as some sort of transformative moment of noble, heroic American glory… I’m sceptical that it’s possible to write a story about 9/11 without conveying something about the wider political context, even unintentionally — or, perhaps that the idea that depoliticising 9/11 is possible is itself a political position…” — ModernMajorGeneral
The author’s reply:
“I wanted to avoid writing an article about 9/11. Aside from the superficial elements (the date this was posted, the number, the name) I desired for this to be about people, not the event itself.” — djkaktus
“The anomaly is simple, yet manages to undercut the story it’s trying to tell. By making the firefighter [blonde girl described above] intangible and indefatigable it begs the question what is she sacrificing for other people? … the article does try to show her being run ragged by the sheer amount of people that need helping, but that seems to be the same problem one runs into with characters like Superman (impossible to defeat so the only problem is they can’t be everywhere to help everyone) and then that comparison just makes me wonder about the whole concept.” — Marcuse
The author’s rebuttal:
“What drives a person to forsake their own safety, even at the expense of their life, and climb those stairs? It was powerful imagery that I just couldn’t shake… These two [Marvel superheroes], then, shouldn’t be seen as some anomaly that draws people to safety and helps people who are in danger. Instead, they are manifested from that same sense of selfless devotion to one’s fellow man… this is maybe the most real thing I’ve ever written here, because while I don’t know if there were spirits in those towers, I do know that there was a spirit in the people rushing into them. That was real, and we all saw it.” — djkaktus
“… you seem to be using the anomaly as a representation of the spirit you’re trying to convey with the piece, and it doesn’t seem to work because they’re not really suffering or sacrificing for the effort.” — Marcuse
Again, factoring out the variable of time from the scope of the equation, we get:
“… this is maybe the most real thing I’ve ever written here… [but I’m] tired of dealing with it.”
Subsequent criticisms on the discussion page become much less friendly, but these comments convey the gist. The number of confusions that we must overlook and excuse to conclude that this truly comes from a genuine, spiritually-appropriate place in the author compile here: the article is garishly aware of itself as being about 9/11 and even goes so far as to requests SCP staff to reserve and obtain the 4911 spot ahead of time (more detail upcoming), and gets posted on September 11th too and is titled just the same, and yet the reader must reconcile all this with the singular statement from the author that the article “isn’t trying to be about the superficial aspects of 9/11 like the numbers and date it was posted and name”; the author advises the reader that the anomalies shouldn’t be seen as something that draws people to safety and that help people who are in danger, but a reading reveals that is precisely what and all these anomalies do; the superhero-like figures are incapable of offering in sacrifice anything more than the same irked sigh we might give when too much work piles up in one day, but they are the personification of a person who “forsakes their own safety, even at the expense of their life”…
The result at the end of the calculation for the astute reader is disingenuous. There is simply too much that needs to be compensated for; not meeting the author halfway in these arguments, but most of the way. The reader might surmise that the author was transfixed and distracted throughout a hasty writing process; not thinking clearly about the emotional sensitivity required when working with the most heart-wrenching attack on American soil. Perhaps the author simply felt the emotions genuinely and missed on the delivery and on the rationales given. However, this interpretation, while more generous and less blaming, does not do the author any more favors when it comes to a perceived lack of tact and taste.
A final, and more exogenous piece of data that confounds a generous interpretation of this article and the author’s intent — again one that we have the benefit of 3 years’ hindsight for — is that a more recent article from him adopts a BLM/All Cops Are Bastards ethos. There is a marked contradiction in the political and ethical approach to first responders in these two articles. The 4911 article attempts to paint them as heroes who summon a pure spirit of humanitarianism and boundless siblinghood. The second casts all first responders, at least of the law enforcement variety, under the abstract rubric of being hostile towards those they protect, even rescue.
The point of this analysis is not to make the author feel bad, although perhaps it should do that too. After all, maybe the author deleted the work because he finally recognized the inappropriateness of the attempt at tokenizing the 9/11 tragedy… although again, we’d have to supply most of the benefit of the doubt for the author there as well. Taken on the available information, and taking the author at face value for why they deleted SCP-4911, one would arrive at the conclusion that it was poor execution of a deeper mantra:
Scantron (they/them) is certainly an important figure in the Wiki. They are a very successful author who contributed much to the site, and has been around the containment fiction scene since 2010 or so. Scantron is in my opinion, one of the masters of the genre; you aren’t going to find someone who can do it better. Just as good, yes. But not better. They are in opposition to djkaktus in my mind, the success and popularity being justified by the writing talent here.
Scantron used to be on staff, and was generally well liked in their earlier years. According to accounts by their long-time peers, Scantron’s behavior and reputation began to change at and after enrollment into college. As is not unusual for youth at that stage in their intellectual expansion and in a highly liberalized setting, Scantron soon adopted the philosophy of Marxism. (Hey we’ve all been there; I might recommend The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaneigem, which despite disagreeing with me in nearly every political aspect these days, is still my favorite book and the one I’d want to read over and over if I had to pick one.) They reflected this new direction in their site username; their iconic “Scantron” to the more terse “CommunismWillWin”. The antagonism inherent in this new name was certainly carried into a newly adopted posture to the site and to their peers. The promotion of communism wasn’t really the issue that Scantron’s fellow staff ended up having with them. It was everything else of their personality that came with it, prime among them a lack of kindness and cordiality.
Having read entirely too many chat logs from SCP staff’s private chat, I can tell you that Scantron is the most ill-spoken of person who ever was on the SCP Wiki (staff typically still refer to them as Scantron even until the present, probably as a sort of homage to better times). Click here to read excerpts from #site67 staff chat about Scantron that are from 2017–2019 (click on the collapsible that has their name in it). ARD seems to be particularly fond of talking poorly of Scantron, even pulling the opportunity from far in the periphery to center stage. This is understandable for a number of reasons, and also probably because ARD is well-entrenched in the djkaktus camp of things… from what I gather, djkaktus and Scantron don’t like each other much. There didn’t seem to be enough room for these two in the same space. (Notice if you read the chat logs that Scantron seems to be staff’s metric stick for other problematic and insufferable users… they’re always the benchmark by which other nuances are gauged.)
The ill-talk of Scantron continues to this day, even though they are hopelessly banned from staff and the site, and likely never to return. How did they get banned? What left such a sour taste in staff’s mouth? This is where Scantron enters our bigger story. Maybe you can start piecing together where this is going…
Scantron has a very long history of disciplinary citations, both in chat and on-site. Trying to timeline all of their bans, why and when, is like trying to untangle a knot that can’t be created with the human brain. There are even parts of their disciplinary record that are kept private, it would seem, to ordinary users. Most of these disciplinary citations are the result of Scantron engaging their progressive-aggressive social opinions on others and using their visibility on the site to incite political feuds. In 2014, after they said something inflammatory and probably uncalled for while a moderator (see: punching a Nazi), they were removed from staff entirely.
One has to respect Scantron’s integrity in this if not his political philosophy, because throughout the disciplinary hearing on his actions, he stood by his decision and actions:
“OPs have three options here: Stop people from being white supremacists in 19 and extensions thereof, stop me from being in 19 and extensions thereof, or allow me to talk that way to the aforementioned white supremacists. I find all of these options acceptable. I do not regret my behavior or consider it immoral.” — Scantron
It is refreshing to see someone on staff principled enough to shed their power and influence on the site for something that they believe in. We see a moral robustness in that Scantron isn’t going to grovel or plead to be on staff and retain their clout if it means they can’t express their speech in the way they see fit. Back in 2014, they are proud to not be associated with the staff if it came to it.
Consistent with this is the observation that the demotion didn’t seem to have made any change in behavior. Scantron would often belittle other users that they got into political flamewars with. The next years saw numerous bans from chat and the site. This came to a culmination on September 11th, 2018.
In retrospect, djkaktus might be a tactical genius, if only an accidental one. Copious amounts of collected data suggest that djkaktus in some way, whether big or small, associates self-esteem with article upvote totals and by how highly he ranks on the all-time upvote list. Scantron could be seen as competition in terms of upvote totals and social clout, and almost certainly was by djkaktus. In my opinion, this was an error on djkaktus’ interpretation; Scantron might as well be in a class of his own here and djkaktus can in no way be said to compete with them. However, Scantron may have brought this upon themselves by displaying the obsessive compulsion towards quantified self-esteem points and narcissism, characteristic of most SCP authors, essentially entering into the ring that djkaktus occupies most:
[2018–07–01 22:05:42] <Scantron> http://www.scp-wiki.net/4000contestcwwktkb if this hits +70 in a day it’ll be on track to match my 3k contest entry
But anyway, knowing what he knew of Scantron, djkaktus posting SCP-4911 could be seen as an almost guaranteed way to incite Scantron’s rhetorical violence & their irate political activism, and potentially knock competition out of the race. More immediately, such a move might also have had something to do with Scantron’s comment, made shortly before SCP-4911 was posted, on the hub for dado, who is one of djkaktus’ popular and likeable characters (who, again, has unfortunately gone political, and destroyed the nature and charm of his character in the process):
“there he is. there’s the funny pill man. isn’t he so epic? i think it’s epic when he’s bad at english, or when you trust him. what funny antics will he get up to next time?” — Scantron
Needless to say, Scantron got in trouble for this one too. It has to be observed that while uncalled for, this isn’t technically incorrect. They certainly are valid and insightful criticisms, if prickly. This is likely not lost on djkaktus, who collected data also shows is particularly sensitive to criticism. Here, the insult centers around the formulaic and lowest-common-denominator-approach of dado (really what makes it a successful character too), a style of showmanship that djkaktus admits to using. Given that this could have turned the ire of djkaktus onto Scantron in a very personal way (other examples being likely), how better to punch back than a 9/11 commemoration on-site?
To understand the high-probability success of such a tactic, we need to look no further than Scantron’s un-nuanced 4K contest entry. Derived from the theme of “history”, this article imagined the United States of America as the avatar of the zombified corpse of Joshua Abraham Norton living under Arlington National Cemetery, who manipulated world events to benefit the country at the expense of everyone else. An explosive reaction from Scantron to SCP-4911 was almost a chemistry.
So it’s maybe no shock that we get this from them in the comments shortly after SCP-4911 is posted:
“We don’t need a no-strings-attached 9/11sploitation article when the country’s whole government and media apparatus has spent 17 years shoving it down our throats to justify the genocidal cash grab known as “the war on terror” and the institution of a domestic spying regime. Turn on the news if you’re in the mood to have your heartstrings tugged.
Maybe our next circlejerk can be around a bunch of flag-covered coffins, and whoever’s load is biggest gets dibs on writing the article about how Jesus draped a banner labeled “le freedom of le speech” over the Eiffel Tower after the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Maybe it’ll be as chintzy and shallow as this one.
Give me a fucking break.” — Scantron
Insightful as they may have been again here, Scantron was permabanned from the site for this, which meant they couldn’t post new articles or comment or vote, or really participate in the site at all. Staff allowed Scantron to still participate in the IRC chats, which they may have quickly been forced to realize as an error, in that they have been getting banned periodically ever since.
[2018–09–13 18:55:49] <Scantron> will i get a chance to appeal my ban eventually
[2018–09–13 19:04:20] <bluesoul> Scantron: they asked for someone in disc to come in here
[2018–09–13 19:04:28] <Scantron> okay
[2018–09–13 19:04:28] <bluesoul> not ignoring you, just not my bag
[2018–09–13 19:08:43] — theduckman puts on Disc hat.
[2018–09–13 19:09:42] <theduckman> Well Scan… I think you know the drill. We may call it perma, but… There’s always the potential. But as it has been recorded as Perma, I’d say give it at least a year before asking again.
[2018–09–13 19:12:30] <Scantron> okay
Scantron would hang around the community in places like Discord, still being needlessly abrasive. He would also pop into #site17 and leave quickly from time to time to help snuff out political antagonists and their antics:
[2018–11–24 14:51:08] → Scantron2 joined (uid271740@synIRC-18596296.charlton.irccloud.com)
[2018–11–24 14:51:48] <Scantron2> http://www.scp-wiki.net/forum/t-77584/scp-113#post-4066974 transphobic post, in the dungeon. thought you should know.
[2018–11–24 14:52:11] ← Scantron2 left (uid271740@synIRC-18596296.charlton.irccloud.com):
Although the behavior would suggest it, I can’t imagine that Scantron would vocalize that they regret their comment. That doesn’t fit character at all. And yet, the manner in which they lingered around the site in the areas they were given permission to, brings to mind an interested and hopeful outsider; as if a leper, loitering at the city gates, tapping on the city walls.
[2018–10–05 23:10:46] <CrocutaCrocuta> Scantron: unless you have a question for staff, you cannot lurk in here for the term of your ban.
[2018–10–05 23:11:09] <Scantron> since when is that the rule for site bans
[2018–10–05 23:11:28] <Scantron> but fine
[2018–10–05 23:11:31] ← Scantron left (email@example.com):
But wouldn’t apologizing, even being silently regretful, mean a capitulation of his strong stance against SCP-4911? How does asking to come back into the site after being banned for an abrasive instance of free but impassioned speech differ from asking to be let back onto staff for the same, but in 2014?
It’s been said that Scantron doesn’t show up in #site17 or #site19 much anymore, reportedly because they are uninterested these days. I speculate that it has probably hit home that they’ll never be let back into SCP. This would make sense, given that they eventually created their own SCP Wiki derivative — titled appropriately, if unimaginatively for them — The SCP Commune.
Current events vindicate Scantron in a way, and the slow-motion exposure of their comments as caustic, yes, but correct enough for the author to capitulate to as well. At the same time, I believe that Scantron did not adequately weigh the ramifications of their comment on SCP-4911 enough prior to posting it; that they simply couldn’t help themselves, that they posted the comment near-reflexively, and by definition then not very carefully or intelligently. Maybe they wouldn’t have done it if they knew they’d be permabanned from the site.
What’s unfortunate is that the lingering and asking to be let back in certainly looks like a capitulation to staff’s tagging of his comment as shameful. This is surely how how staff interpreted things. I am left asking where the ferocity from 2014 went. Maybe Scantron took their popularity and exposure at that time for granted, and now that they are essentially a pariah to the site, they are starved sufficiently to where they are not above begging at the expense of what once were very moral and uncompromising convictions. I speculate that were this to be the case, Scantron’s behaviors would be the only place it would be expressed in.
So we see that the story of SCP-4911 not only represents a collapse of djkaktus’ posited moral convictions, but perhaps Scantron’s opposing ones as well. Is there a common thread? What seems to be prioritized in both caputlations?
If it might be surprising to some that djkaktus and Scantron would betray their staunchly expressed political emotions eventually, it should not be surprising to anyone that staff did the same immediately, and beat both of them to the punch.
The story of SCP-4911 is not complete without understanding how poorly staff heralded it. To start with, we have to understand that except for K contests, empty slots in the database — unused SCP numbers essentially (e.g SCP-9029, 8020, 6042, etc) — are officially first come, first serve.
However, staff are not entirely close-minded to possible exceptions. If the article merits a particular number and there is a robust justification for it, they will very rarely and with a high threshold formally reserve the slot for an anticipated work. The first and classic example was at that time (2015) given its own O5 discussion and was called a “special case”.
“To put it succinctly, if an author can demonstrate to a moderator or admin an exceptional case to merit a reservation on the main list, we put up a boilerplate template saying the number was reserved on such and such date by such and such author…. There’s a clear difference between reserving a number because you like the number, reserving a number because there’s a cheeky reference to it in the article, and reserving a number because it’s crucial for a work that goes above and beyond the norm to function correctly.” — pxdnbluesoul
“I think reservation for something like this can and should be something users are able to request from staff, provided they have strong arguments for reservation, like Anax does.” — azzleflux
“I distinctly do NOT want to create any sort of procedures or precendent for reserving slots and, as I said above, the only reason I’m allowing this one is because it’s crucial to the SCP itself.” — drewbear
The justification must be very robust indeed, because otherwise, it will look incredibly subjective and be a sticking point for arguments of nepotism and bias. Staff initially pursuing this were well aware of this and anticipated it, so they wanted very solid logic behind any allowance.
The idea in question behind the first instance had “puzzle elements with significant numerological components, to the degree that changing the slot number would require massive rewrites”, and the author was on good terms with the staff, so they allowed it. Unfortunately, the idea was never finished — something that tends to happen to overly-ambitious things like this. So all the fuss and controversy around reserving the slot for what ended up being several months was somewhat of a waste of time and energy, also political expenditure.
But lessons were learned. Staff realized that a sudden and mysterious reservation of a slot with no clear contest about or explanation for would come across as unfair manipulation to the every-user, just as much as no real standardized criteria would. So they figured they should be more communicative to the users about any reservation like this in the future, to not ruffle feathers.
These rules and this precedent was and is preserved for years, although a couple of instances came long that weakened the stringency for strong logic (i.e. Dexanote’s, Cyan’s) that we don’t have to get into. I’ll let SCP staff demonstrate though that the attitude of a high conservative allowance was still alive:
[2018–10–10 01:08:41] <AKFrost> Question: Is SCP-2908 reserved?
[2018–10–10 01:09:05] <ChaoSera> SCP-2908
[2018–10–10 01:09:06] <jarvis> chaosera: Page not found.
[2018–10–10 01:09:09] <ChaoSera> No
[2018–10–10 01:09:22] <AKFrost> ok thanks
[2018–10–10 01:09:27] <ChaoSera> We only reserve spots in special circumstances
[2018–10–28 19:29:07] <Shadowninja526> I was wondering if my application gets allowed, am I able to claim a page, or do I have to ask Admin first?
[2018–10–28 19:29:07] <ARD> And then, once you have done that, if you have any further questions, come back here
[2018–10–28 19:29:08] <Zachary> thanks
[2018–10–28 19:29:25] <ARD> Shadowninja526: SCP listings are first come first serve
[2018–10–28 19:29:33] <Shadowninja526> Oh ok
[2018–10–28 19:29:36] <ARD> you claim a page slot once you have an SCP ready to post in it.
[2018–10–28 19:30:05] <ARD> There are rare occasions where you can reserve a slot with staff permission but those are VERY extenuating circumstances involving complex programs that rely on having the specific URL associated with that page
[2018–10–28 19:30:13] <Zachary> thanks for the help. bye
[2018–10–28 19:30:18] <ARD> Take it easy
[2018–10–28 19:30:21] ⇐ Zachary quit (Mibbit@synIRC-
For this next excerpt, please note that Dave is a long-time and well-respected site contributor:
[2018–07–10 21:49:45] <Dave> Two part question, I guess, depending on the answer to the first one. Would it be…gauche, I guess, if I asked people to /not/ pick one Series V SCP slot in particular?
[2018–07–10 21:49:54] <Dave> Like, I don’t want it /formally/ reserved or anything
[2018–07–10 21:50:13] <Dave> but I don’t want to write a 4K entry, since I don’t have an idea that I actually want to /win/
[2018–07–10 21:50:19] <Dave> but I do want one particular slot
[2018–07–10 21:50:22] <ARD> ProcyonLotor: my lord is this legal?
[2018–07–10 21:50:24] <Dave> for an unrelated SCP
[2018–07–10 21:50:50] <ProcyonLotor> Well, you can //ask// whatever you like of other users. They are free to ignore you or obey you as they so choose.
[2018–07–10 21:50:59] <ARD> He will make it legal
[2018–07–10 21:51:01] <ProcyonLotor> If you’re asking how it would be received…
[2018–07–10 21:51:12] <Dave> Yeah, mostly that.
[2018–07–10 21:51:27] <Dave> Like, do you anticipate that someone would just say “fuck you dummy, that’s mine now”?
[2018–07–10 21:51:41] <ProcyonLotor> I can see it on one hand as a reasonable request, I can see it on the other as a fairly presumptive act. I can’t really decide how people react as a staff member. User mind control is scheduled for q2 2019.
[2018–07–10 21:51:51] <ProcyonLotor> I personally doubt that anyone will do that, but can grant you no assurances.
So it might have come as a shock to some in the community and on staff when djkaktus’ request for an article reservation based on the overlap of “911” was approved, and quickly:
[2018–09–01 14:03:38] <djkaktus> ProcyonLotor: you about
[2018–09–01 14:04:17] <djkaktus> Alternatively Tuomey.
[2018–09–01 14:05:13] <Tuomey> wow okay
[2018–09–01 14:05:16] <Tuomey> (yes)
[2018–09–01 14:05:23] <Tuomey> but not for super long
[2018–09–01 14:08:01] <djkaktus> That’s ok
[2018–09–01 14:08:03] <djkaktus> So
[2018–09–01 14:08:16] <djkaktus> I’ve been working on something really important
[2018–09–01 14:09:09] <djkaktus> And although I think it’ll probably be fine either way, I’d like to hedge my bets if I can. I want to reserve a slot, if it would be allowed.
[2018–09–01 14:09:26] <Tuomey> that’s really not a quick thing and it’s really not up to me
[2018–09–01 14:09:56] <djkaktus> Well
[2018–09–01 14:10:06] <djkaktus> I just wanted to put the feelers out there
[2018–09–01 14:10:10] <Tuomey> I’m not even sure who it’s up to
[2018–09–01 14:10:11] <djkaktus> Is all
[2018–09–01 14:11:22] <Tuomey> yeah we don’t really have a standard process for that afaik
[2018–09–01 14:11:35] <Tuomey> I’ll pass it along to staffchat but beyond that it’s ?????????????????????????//
[2018–09–01 14:12:38] <djkaktus> That’s fine
[2018–09–01 14:12:41] <djkaktus> Thanks mate
[2018–09–01 18:26:05] <taylor_iOStkin> whats the deal with 4911?
[2018–09–01 18:27:46] <not_a_seagull> !scp-4911
[2018–09–01 18:27:47] <jarvis> not_a_seagull: SCP-4911 (written an hour ago by Decibelles; rating: +0) — http://www.scp-wiki.net/scp-4911
[2018–09–01 18:28:09] <not_a_seagull> taylor_iOStkin: I think Kaktus reserved a spot for something he’s cooking up
[2018–09–01 18:28:29] <taylor_iOStkin> uh ok
[2018–09–01 18:31:26] <Decibelle> as it says on the page, it it reserved
[2018–09–01 18:31:51] <taylor_iOStkin> I know I just mean like
[2018–09–01 18:32:01] <taylor_iOStkin> What kind of circumstance arises that you can reserve a slot
[2018–09–01 18:32:36] <Decibelle> you need to ask an admin and it has to be compelling enough, but for the time being im shutting down that option for people because im drafting up a policy thread for 05 on the topic of reserving a slot
[2018–09–01 18:32:54] <taylor_iOStkin> alright
The sort of auto-stamp of this caught other staff off-guard. The approving admin, Decibelle s— exercising fiat power — had to reach into the future to pad the justification with an unrealized policy, promised for O5 Command. This is notably odd in that it is opposite to the near-ceremonial and usual order of SCP’s enormous bureaucracy. The proper order of things of this sort are posit the change first, and then allow something like this only if it is approved. Violations of this have resulted in staff censors and gotten others in a lot of trouble (e.g. Cimmerian and Roget). This may have portended that this wasn’t going to go very well, but surprisingly, no one — staff or otherwise — seemed to notice or mind.
No one has really ever called out Decibelles for her abuse of power in this instance, but if someone wanted to do a root-cause analysis on why SCP-4911 was granted to a notoriously controversial and politicking author for next to zero logic after such a firm precedent… someone would certainly have to. It is likely that the suggestion wouldn’t have passed O5 scrutiny, and probably for good reason. That might even be why the promised policy change never materialized. The failure of the policy to be enacted meant that Decibelles had overdrafted her confidence in an incautious and extrajudicial manner, certainly improper for an administrator. A double-standard of punishment and application might easily be read into this, even if not intended.
So staff’s surprised reaction is reasonable because in the past this sort of change required a large session of SCP Congress. It would appear to the averagely-informed site user, especially those who knew a thing or two, that the overlap of the numbers “9”, “1”, and “1” were sufficient justification to overcome this high threshold for this rare indulgence. (What is that “4” doing out there in front and to the side exactly, hanging out like as if a floppy tumor in a convertible? I’ve heard more convincing connections from QAnon.)
But for whatever face is saved due to Decibelles’ fiat nullification of the precedent (and concern for optics), the actual case ends up being a worse reflection on her character. Instead of it being granted on really frail logic, now it’s granted on zero logic. Would any other user that happened to ask Decibelles on September 1st 2018 get to reserve a slot if they were writing an article? Could it be any article, or only one that has an apparent but tenuous logic between the number and the material? What if another “911” slot, if it were about anomalous police? Perhaps a “411” number if it had to do with an anomalous telephone information line? Even after these sudden lax standards per Decibelles, the answer is clearly no.
So what is left to pin the decision to? Whether how it was or just how it appeared? As the older staff wisely discerned, it would inevitably have to be interpreted as bias and favoritism; without the high threshold of logic, there is no other justification for extension of this privilege.
As stated, Decibelles’ leveraging of non-existent policy that she guaranteed herself in a sort of a policy credit system, didn’t make it past her false statement. It didn’t get an O5 thread and so other staff were unaware that the policy had been struck down. This in turn meant that the users were unaware of it as well, as the staff were a mix of contradictory and kaleidoscopic answers. Here’s another case after Decibelles’ approval of 4911 wherein staff communicates that it’s reputation and prolificness are valued when it comes to making the decision:
[2018–10–24 16:30:39] <Okeirany> Anyway, I was needing to reserve an SCP number.
[2018–10–24 16:30:59] <FlameShirt> There is no reserving of numbers.
[2018–10–24 16:31:10] <FlameShirt> You just gotta pick one that’s available when you post.
[2018–10–24 16:31:57] <Okeirany> I was told it was possible, because I was going to make a few audio files for the article.
[2018–10–24 16:32:47] <FlameShirt> Ah okay, do you know who you spoke to?
[2018–10–24 16:33:02] <Okeirany> ‘dankaar’.
[2018–10–24 16:33:24] <unclenicolini> flameshirt ive seen staff reserve a number in the past
[2018–10–24 16:33:32] <unclenicolini> I guess you’d need to talk to site staff
[2018–10–24 16:33:37] <Lily> we very rarely allow reservations. How integral is the audio recordings?
[2018–10–24 16:34:00] <Okeirany> It’s rather important.
[2018–10–24 16:34:17] <Lily> And I assume the recordings require you to say the scp number?
[2018–10–24 16:34:33] <trickortrets> Define “rather important”, cause that’s a bit vague, tbh.
[2018–10–24 16:34:52] <Okeirany> Because of the SCPs capabilities, there are lines that don’t appear in the transcript which helps to add some depth to the story.
[2018–10–24 16:35:30] <Okeirany> Some of it is a spectrogram secret, and some is some hidden dialogue that will have been reversed and pitched.
[2018–10–24 16:35:56] <Okeirany> It would be rather difficult to hide said secrets in a text file.
[2018–10–24 16:37:38] <trickortrets> Do you have an estimate for how long it would take you to create these files?
[2018–10–24 16:39:26] <Okeirany> About five to six days. I only have a few voice actors, and they tend to mess up sometimes, resulting in numerous bloopers. And, to Lily, yes, the number is said in the recordings.
[2018–10–24 16:39:52] <trickortrets> Give us a bit to discuss.
[2018–10–24 16:40:09] <Okeirany> Gladly.
[2018–10–24 16:40:16] <Okeirany> Teke your time.
[2018–10–24 16:43:03] <trickortrets> Okeirany: Do you have any proof of your skills or ability as an audio editor?
[2018–10–24 16:46:24] <Okeirany> I have made a few audio files in the past, which are going to be used in a future project which have not been released yet. However, I have a good amount of experience with programs like Audacity and GarageBand, and have discovered a few tricks with those programs. Lastly, a family member of mine does most of his work with audio, and has agreed to help.
[2018–10–24 16:51:43] <trickortrets> After some discussion, we do not feel comfortable allowing you to reserve the slot. As we are not familiar with your work and you don’t have anything on the wiki to indicate that you’d be able to carry through with your project.
[2018–10–24 16:52:10] <trickortrets> You’re free to still create it, obviously, but we can’t guarantee you’ll have the number.
[2018–10–24 16:52:19] <Okeirany> Ok. Sorry.
[2018–10–24 16:58:50] ⇐ Okeirany quit
This brings to mind a line in the initial O5 discussion of slot reservations:
“If they can show us the draft/WIP of whatever it is, I think the merits of the work will have more to do with the decision than the age of the account.” — pxndblusoul
So the contradictions were more than just chronologically synchronous, but conflicted with established guidelines that would have been the users’ only means of education on the subject. How far it seems staff had come when it comes to their standards. How quickly they will seemingly collapse them for a perceived kick-back.
Maybe we could say that a really well-known user would have had the same result as djkaktus, if only they asked. Lucky for us, we have just such a case study that confounds this theory. A user with arguably as much success and name-recognition, unarguably with more diplomacy and agreeableness than djkaktus, asked to do the same 11 days after the approval for SCP-4911. Yet here is staff’s reply to their ask:
[2018–09–12 22:51:32] <PeppersGhost> Yo
[2018–09–12 22:51:48] <PeppersGhost> Could I reserve the 4030 slot? I’ve got something in the works that’s a spiritual successor to 2030
[2018–09–12 22:53:43] → BoogeyMan23 joined (~Mibbit@2C189F8C.C8F7B976.BA7BF047.IP)
[2018–09–12 22:53:51] <PeppersGhost> it’s a YWTGTHFT/Class of ’76 mashup about a recording of a senior prank
[2018–09–12 22:55:10] <PeppersGhost> It’s got a strong thematic connection to 2030. The lore is also connected through association
[2018–09–12 22:58:16] <Lazar> PeppersGhost: Traditionally, slots have only been reserved when there is a technical need or the number is integrated in such a way it is intrinsically required to how some of the weirdness in the SCP is developed (esp code/animations)
[2018–09–12 22:58:38] <Lazar> I’m not the one who makes those calls, but I suspect the answer will be no.
[2018–09–12 22:58:49] <PeppersGhost> worth a shot at least
(bold text mine)
So it is clear enough that approval had no criteria at the time 4911 was granted a very controversial and coveted privilege. The logic reduces to a particular admin’s fiat and their failure to corroborate this with the rest of staff. This admin decided for one highly-popular and brand-embedded writer and didn’t tell anyone in any meaningful capacity. In a moment of anomalous rarity, staff didn’t pitch a fit when one of their policies was ignored and changed without going through the lumbering bureaucratic motions. But then again, it can be argued, they had no idea it was happening.
Staff’s communication and discriminatory enforcement of slot reservation was inconsistent here, but interestingly the request being thought of as potentially hazardous, even disastrous, was still ubiquitous.
[2018–04–18 22:06:44] <ObserverSeptember> You could’ve asked for a slot reservation lol
[2018–04–18 22:07:34] <CaptainKirby> ObserverSeptember: I mentioned it to zyn and magnus I think very early on, but the response I got was like “last time we did that it didn’t turn out well, so I don’t think we’d want to do it again” although I probably should’ve pushed harder for it
[2018–04–18 22:07:51] <ObserverSeptember> They allowed it again recently
[2018–04–18 22:07:56] <ObserverSeptember> for !SCP-3247
[2018–04–18 22:07:57] <jarvis> observerseptember: SCP-3247: A Magic Mime and his Mighty Morphin’ Method Acting Spider Kids (written 10 days ago by Shaggydredlocks; rating: +49) — http://www.scp-wiki.net/scp-3247
[2018–04–18 22:08:15] <CaptainKirby> ObserverSeptember: I mean, I saw that thread, but also it looks like it didn’t go through
[2018–04–18 22:09:08] <Modern_Erasmus> CaptainKirby: shaggy is holding the spot for dex
[2018–04–18 22:09:16] <CaptainKirby> Modern_Erasmus: Ooooooooo
[2018–04–18 22:09:36] <CaptainKirby> Wait wait wait
[2018–04–18 22:09:41] <ObserverSeptember> So wait is shaggy gonna move to another slot?
[2018–04–18 22:10:23] <CaptainKirby> Modern_Erasmus: see I think that’s why people were iffy about me asking to reserve a spot
It should have been clear to staff, if not to Decibelles first, that extending the privilege to djkaktus was an incorrect and illegitimate move. It didn’t help that djkaktus had just suffered the largest blow to his reputation in his history on the site by being a moderator on the r/scp subreddit during the June 2018 Logo Fiasco, and was uniquely responsible for much of the fallout that created RPC and got SCP such scathing PR coverage. Not only that, but Decibelles has gotten in trouble for extending “illegal” allowances to djkaktus in the past, to come into admin-only chat, i.e. to advocate for the banning of Metaphysician.
Sure enough, even without understanding it with this level of consideration, users still expressed their displeasure with the optics. Those who weren’t on the site at the time, might not realize that the general userbase didn’t take very kindly to the perceived favoritism. The slot got lower than a -20 rating before September 11th came. Some of this, like the first comment, was done in jest. Much of it wasn’t.
Decibelles deciding to buy djkaktus’ pitch can be analogized as being a deal struck between a penny stock broker and a new retail investor. Now, the company invested in has declared bankruptcy and staff’s reputation is left holding the bags. Their gamble hasn’t panned out and Decibelles’ Thanos-style snapping away of the criterion of solid rationale for justifying the investment in the first place has come back to silently bite her in the ass years later. No one noticed or cares.
Djkaktus’ swing and miss with SCP-4911, Scantron’s wayward attempt to rejoin the site in spite of his political morals, and Decibelles’ unwary decision — along with so many misguided, clumsy, and irresponsible ones by the site staff — are seemingly typified by the one motive with lasting explanatory power throughout and connecting all these influential participants at SCP:
(This article was sent via WikiDot DMs to djkaktus, Decibelles, and Scantron/CWW. Their reactions, if any come, will be posted here as an update.)
© Lack of Lepers, 2021