NEWS/OPINION — SCP staff have concluded their first round of town halls. These address issues and concerns that site users have for anti-harassment, disciplinary, staff, on-site, and off-site topics (there’s also a FAQ.)
Peering at the community through the small keyhole that I have, it appears as though the general displeasure with staff — the consciousness that they are regularly making poor decisions that make the site even poorer, and that they’ve been doing this for a long time — has proliferated. So too has the need for users to call them out.
Has it really though? Was this sort of critique there all along, and until now relegated to community side-channels or confidential conversation? Does resentment of the staff only appear to be growing as a measure correlated to the staff’s willingness to hear criticism?
Surely. That is a solid stance to take. The staff certainly have been reluctant to hear criticisms of themselves for quite a while.
However, it misses something, and that is that town halls were never felt to be a necessity or even a good idea prior to now. Their existence itself is a manifestation of growing umbrage and discontent with the job staff is doing, as well as the distance they are putting between themselves and the average user.
So, the general displeasure is objectively growing along with that separation, even if we assume that solid stance.
Now, I don’t think that my 2019 assessment of the staff was in any way an inspiration for this growing sentiment — to assume as much would be a fantasy and would sell short staff’s ability to bellow their flatulence in people’s faces fluently — but damn if I can’t help but be reminded of it. I do think that the criticisms voiced by community members rhyme with it. The postures that some of them are now taking publicly towards the staff echo the sentiment that I was essentially laughed out of the town for years ago.
But now the hilarity is all mine! Suddenly there I am, Jack-Nicholson-nodding in the corner of a dark window, having been summoned inadvertently in spirit and somehow almost let in.
As always, I’m happy to see similar concentrations of capsaicin, especially in the mouths of individuals that the community sees as more trustworthy and influential. I understand that the manner in which I carried out my rendition invalidated any legitimate concerns or points therein for them, souring any discussion that was potentially there. That could have set back any real talk of this nature by a while, their immune system taking a while to down-regulate to the point of honesty.
But there was no other opportunity for such a thing at the time. It was like a circle-jerk in an echo chamber. The town hall is a new technology. Did the closed structure of the site at that time aggravate any insanity inherent in my critique? Did the lid pressurize the frustration to such a dramatic boil?
The prior lack of such a forum on-site is the reason I embraced KiwiFarms; it was ugly maybe, but it was the only collation of free speech out there regarding the site and its major flaws. You get one with the other. It remains the only place where you can truly hash it out and express controversial views or opinions. (I won’t say “without fear”. God help you if you are a member of SCP and they find out you were looking at the KiwiFarms thread. They have banned people for participating in it.) Several post-SCP individuals have made their way there for similar reasons.
Before, you had the option of naively trotting into Site-19 (or 17 if you were even more of an idiot) to be met with utter indifference, censored and silenced very quickly at best, and banned at worst. Discord and etc off-site channels seem to be a possibility until you realize that those are silently policed by informants and staff themselves, and explicitly for the reason to sniff and snuff out any brewing potential drama. The plants have tentacles there. The tentacles have eyes. The eyes don’t blink.
A team, dubbed “Internet Outreach”, was given a steroid injection after the June 2018 Fiasco for explicit narrativic control across all SCP-related communities. Internet outreach was headed by former Admin Roget, who has since gone rogue, and has admitted that this was the intent of the team. (Town halls were the idea of two staffers, Taylor_itkin and ARD, one the current captain of internet outreach, the other his predecessor.)(Correction: These two users led and lead Community Outreach, not Internet Outreach. Community Outreach does something similar, but within the site community itself.)
Here’s a quote from a chat with PixelatedHarmony (“pH”), the author formerly known as Roget, a long-tenure SCP Admin, and one of the most influential members in site history:
Me: Would you say that Internet Outreach was in part an attempt by staff to more tightly monitor and control information in the satellite communities?
pH: Absolutely, absorbing the satellite pages is something that I was personally responsible for on Facebook, deviant art and the Twitter page. I brought them all under staff control… I don’t remember all the social media pages I brought under staff control but it’s gonn be whatever the first crop you see in the site sidebar.
Me: By your design or was it a sort of order from above?
pH: It was a general agreement that having control over our image was an inherently good thing
So there was absolutely a need to give the community, near and far, a space to voice their thoughts. I recognize that as a step in the right direction and that there are good intentions in doing so. Some on staff mean well.
But the move will ultimately be fruitless.
Why? Two reasons.
First, because the discipline, and so the ethical standards, on SCP are hopelessly weighted by popularity. While clout and status should be meritocratic in nature, justice shouldn’t be. If you have something of Lindy effect, and have contributed to the site significantly, then you at some point become above the law. You become exempt from the weight of bureaucratic pedantry and panoptic surveillance that will see the smallest fraction of the same behavior punished to the full extent of their policies.
Second, the realization by staff that they desperately need to be more in touch with the average user is a PR stunt of last resort. They have been virtually backed into a corner and it is satisfyingly easy to argue their motivation for self-preservation, not for the site or for the users but for themselves; a motive perhaps above any other.
So, truly one reason, just unpacked into two:
SCP staff are not leaders, they are cowards.
Cowards in charge can only model poor decisions. Especially in times where leadership is demanded. The poor choices and responses become precedent and are adopted, repeated, and propagated further in the greater community.
This becomes evident in a string of paranoia, sweet-talk, and reflex-quick defense seen in staff running like a felon through the town halls. We will be discussing this at length in the upcoming posts.
© Lack of Lepers, 2021