Sunday, September 30, 2007

Who Are The Fan Police?

How did this all go so wrong? How could anyone ever believe any of this could happen when the online fans do nothing but talk to each other 24/7?

Who are the real fan police?

They are the ones that decide what the fans are allowed to talk about and what they are not. Since 2003 when I first started posting on message boards, I was pretty innocent about how these things work. Like many others, I sometimes made a statement or gave an opinion that was met with a stern warning that we don't talk about the boards on the boards and we don't discuss what fans say or do outside of their postings on this or that particular message board. I was an open and trusting Clay fan and I enjoyed reading updates and discussing all things Clay.

One day I accidentally found a link to Openly Clay during a google search for news about Clay. I was shocked to discover that there was a message board populated by people that were completely concerned with promoting every silly gay stereotype imaginable. There were rainbows, glitter and sexual emoticons everywhere. I was surprised to find this place, not only because I never for a second thought he was anything but what he said he was but because the posts and the images were so disrespectful. The disrespect would have offended me no matter who the subject was. It was mockery and ridicule that no human being, straight or gay, should have to endure, and as I learned fairly quickly, these same people using the same names were members of several other Clay fansites that I was also a part of. I was sure that this must be some secret thing I had tripped over and I approached the admin at one of my boards. I asked her if she knew about this other place and that some of our members were a part of it. She said she knew and that it was not up to them to say or do anything about it. Again I asked whether this line of innuendo and the beginnings of more aggressive rumor mongering shouldn't be stopped. Again I was told that we don't talk about what people do or say elsewhere.

If someone objected to these kinds of posts, they were told that any and all opinions are equally valid and were edited and/or reprimanded for protesting. This was the beginning of the fracturing of the fanbase, IMO. It left people with the option of enduring this disrespect or moving along to find another home board. Many new boards have sprung up but sadly, many of them are run with the same attitude so the choice becomes whether you prefer deleted threads, locked topics, blue or green ink or trout.

Let's just ask ourselves, who are the real fan police? Are they the ones that censor the boards and decide what may or may not be discussed or are they the ones that discover and will not be shushed about the underbelly of the fandom? Instead of being able to openly talk about a concern, members are told to PM an admin if they have any information or are upset about something. This is another way to keep any unpleasantness away from the members as well as setting up a situation where only a few have the knowledge and the power to do anything about it, or not. Once again this does not benefit the fans. A few people are then in a position to "know" and the rest are left in the dark, wondering what is going on. There is a lot of truth in these old sayings. The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know.

Are the ones that maintain the tight control and engage in censorship The fan police? Are the ones that prefer to ignore the dirty deeds and enable the perpetrators the good guys? If they allow these things and tolerate rude and harsh treatment of Clay Aiken on their boards, what are they about? Fans are ardent devotees that support an artist. Well I just have to wonder then, why are people who are not fans the protected ones and the devotees are suppressed and suspended for wanting their fan boards to be a place where they can enjoy being fans.

Again, I ask, who are the fan police? It isn't people like me who learned that some fans are taking advantage of the kindness of other fans and tried to stop it by talking openly about it. It isn't people like me that will go against the status quo and say that we need to find a place that is free of trolls and those who are no longer fans but stick around to toy with the fans for their own amusement.

This whole thing got a foothold and flourished for 4 years because of the imposed silence and the censorship that prevented open discussion of concerns. If some concerned fans could have spoken up long ago, many young people would not have been taken for a ride and had their innocent enjoyment of their fan experience taken away. Grown women would not have been duped out of money and tricked into thinking that they were special because Clay Aiken was communicating with and singling them out.

I've taken a lot of heat for exposing this problem. I took great care in telling it and not revealing the victims, but only the perpetrators or the enablers. I am sad that the mudslinger has taken the opportunity to hurt some fans but he has done the same for 2 years and this is just another day in the life of a defamer and a liar.

All of the fans need to take a good look around and if they see something that seems wrong or is sneaky and does not fit what Clay Aiken is or what a fan is, then stand up and talk about it. Warn others if there is a con artist in your midst. If you are unhappy with the way things are at your home board, find one that you do enjoy and take back the fun of being a fan by making our communities a safe place that is free of trolls and haters that lurk on our boards under the cloak of "all opinions are welcome" because some of them are not what they appear.

The real fan police are the ones with their head in the sand, protesting against people who would stand up and expose the dirt and who prefer that everyone else just ignore the problems. We, the fans, need to feel safe and free to enjoy this experience and as long as the scams, cons and secrets have the protection of silence, they are free to take advantage of us and hurt us.