Copyright © 1990-2010 by Prof. Timo Salmi
Last modified Fri 9-Apr-2010 22:32:15
|Counting since 1.11.2005|
Crackpot messages on the Usenet news and email are very often religious or sexual in nature, but sometimes take other peculiar forms. These are in a way very sad cases, since they are likely to reflect bad personal problems or even mental disturbances. These cases need professional help, and Usenet is not the place to try it, nor is it a suitable media for serious treatment. Flames certainly won't help matters. We can only wish that the poster realizes his/her own state, and seeks proper help.
What should an ordinary user do about such postings on the news? The best course of action is to plain ignore them even if you would itch to respond. Put the subject (or the offender's address) in your news killfile . Following up the crackpot posting with condemning comments is self-defeating, because many ill perverts get a significant part of their kicks out of the attention they are able to stir up by their crackpot behavior. In a sick person's disturbed mind even strongly negative attention is often better than none. Don't oblige on the net, since it will only make matters worse.
In the case of religion, drawing the line is sometimes difficult. Some otherwise normal, well-meaning, sometimes even highly professional persons may feel a compulsion to profess their religious faith publicly, and even try to convert others. These persons should, however, remember that flaunting one's faith may offend others, who have different concepts of life.
Furthermore, there are some subjects, where rational, scientific discussion is both impossible and utterly futile with the believers. Steer clear of counter-scientific humbug areas such as numerology, astrology, prophesies, and other forms of fringe science entertainment that in the final analysis prey on man's dark-age superstitions and ignorance. New age religions such as creationism/ID are even worse. They are both sad and dangerous in propagating a modern flight from reason. Worst of all, even entire states can officially be sucked in as has happened in Kansas in the United States. Thus, if you intend to get involved e.g. in arguing about evolution, be forewarned that all scientific arguments will be twisted beyond recognition. "Discussion is futile, you will be distorted."
Yet another problem is made up by the suggestions of setting up crackpot newsgroups of the type of recent.alien.visitors or sci.paranormal, and others that have no connection with physical reality. If you want to respond to such suggestions in the news, at least take the discussion away from the ordinary newsgroups to news.groups where it is better placed. The news postings headers have a field called "Followup-To:". Use that and write news.groups in there.
Unfortunately, Usenet news is a vulnerable system. A newsgroup or a set of newsgroup can be utterly destroyed by a single, disturbed enough poster who has a personal agenda and/or vendetta to pursue. Usenet is virtually defenseless against an individual who ignores, sidesteps, misrepresents or quotes out of context all the relevant facts which do not suit his deception crusade. Such an event has occurred for example in the alt.comp.shareware.* newsgroups starting 1998.
Finally, bear in mind that the seeming crackpot messages might just be outright trolling. Some users derive their entertainment on the Usenet news by suckering hapless newbies into reacting to their deliberate come-ons.