Arc of JMS

B5JMS Poster b5jms-owner at
Wed May 20 06:14:38 EDT 1998

From: Chip Mims <hhmjr at>
Date: 18 May 1998 23:47:41 -0600
Lines: 23

Speaking of arcs, it's interesting to see the arc played out on the net
from our executive producer.

If you read the early messages where he is spreading the word about the
show he will create, he is full of excitement, energy, and enthusiasm.
Over time, things fall into place, and the product is there for all to
see.  The attacks start even before the first episode, questioning plot,

characters, casting, special effects.  JMS begins to have to take a
defensive posture, which becomes more prevalent over time.

Questions about the show's survival occupy much of the time during the
middle years, and exasperation creeps into the exec producer's voice.

Finally, at the point where he should be basking in the congratulations
of doing more or less what he set out to do in the mid-80s, he takes in
more virulent attacks about not only the show, but his own character.
His tone has changed to angry much of the time, and the sense of fun is
harder and harder to hear.  What a change in just a few years.

Among other things, B5 has been about evolution and change.  I think you

can see that with its creator as well.

From: jmsatb5 at (Jms at B5)
Date: 19 May 1998 14:27:25 -0600
Lines: 167

Let's play a game for a moment.  Let's say there are 30 people out there who
don't like you.  For whatever reason.  They don't like your work, your face,
whatever.  30 people out of a much larger universe of people.

Now, those 30 people go online, where you hang out, and they leave dozens --
literally dozens -- of messages attacking you, every day.  They put out
absolute and downright lies, total fabrications...they cite contracts that
don't exist, they put out the word that you've had a heart attack just so the
switchboards at your office get flooded and people get upset, they send you
trojan horses and viruses, and impugn your ability, your credibility, your
honesty, your relationships with your co-workers.

And they do this day after day, week after week, month after month...for six
years.  Unflaggingly, untiringly, just one nonstop series of attacks.  Yeah,
it's 30 people out ofa much larger universe, but over time, even a whole human
being can be eaten by ants.  They have an impact substantially greater than
their numbers or real influence would warrant.

And you cannot hit them, you cannot strike back (it's okay for THEM to say
whatever they want about you, but if you do it back somehow that's wrong), so
your hands are tied unless you want to spend several hundred thousand dollars
suing them (which mind you, you're not entirely ruling out), all you can do is
take it, and take it, and take it.

And then one of these jokers will come up with "Well, if you can't stand the
heat..." and you vow you will make them eat their lower molars.  It's not heat,
it's pathology.  It's netstalking.  It's a genuine mental aberration, a
sickness, an obsession...these are the cyber equivilents of those who stab
Theresa Saldana, or shoot John Lennon...the person who threw a cup of warm
vomit in the face of an SF writer at a convention, the person who fills in fake
magazine subscriptions to another SF writer, or stakes out their house, or eggs
their house...only the weapon of choice varies.  Here it is the computer, the
lie, the net.

There's nothing wrong with criticism, I've said it a thousand times, I don't
care if someone's opinion is positive or negative.  That has nothing to do with
obsessive, destructive personalities...who use that smoke screen to divert
discussion away from the fact that they're just plain nuts...and because there
are little or no safeguards on the net, it drives away civility, it drives away
real discussion, it dries away those who are tired of being attacked for daring
to express a positive opinion about something...and in the end, it drives away
people like me.  I know too many producers, directors and actors who just won't
go on the nets because they don't need the grief that comes from the genuinely
disturbed  personalities who hang out waiting to jump on them.  Just because
someone can buy a computer and plug it into the wall doesn't mean that they
themselves are wired up right.

It's these types of individuals who are the main reason that I will be pulling
back from the nets after B5 is over.  Had I not promised to stay here for the
duration of B5, such that I do not make false promises, I would have been out
of here long, long ago.  

When people talk about taking better care on these newsgroups to keep out the
loonies, the Free Speech issue comes up.  But what about the free speech of
those who are, over time, intimidated and libeled and endlessly attacked by the
fanatical few, derided and abused until they finally decide that it just ain't
worth their time anymore to put up with the grief?  What about their free
speech?  If an area is rendered toxic by a small handful of users...who
benefits?  Where is the freedom to express oneself?

I've seen one person come into a group, and leave vicious attacks to just about
everyone in the group, and then to everyone who defended everyone in the group,
until it's all just one huge brawl, with the abuser at the center of it,
*glorying* in all the trouble he's caused, because now suddenly it's all about's all how he did this, and he said that, and how dare he this, and it
gives them a sense of importance.  They batten on it, they feed on it, and do
all they can to make it worse.

If you were standing in the street, and someone walked up to you discheveled,
with madness in his eyes, clearly deranged, and began shouting at you two
inches from your face, would you stand there and say, "No, it's okay, it's his
free speech."  No, you would walk away, or help someone who was being assaulted
verbally by this person.  (And before somebody says "it's just words," the
Supreme Court and every court in the land has found that words have power to
hurt, to defame, to abuse, and to incite.)

Thing is, on the net, you can't see these twists for who and what they are. 
Which is how they manage to get by.

So yes, to the point of your message...they have taken a toll on me over these
many years, to the point where I will be moving a bit off-net when B5 is done. 
And I don't much like it; but there really isn't much choice.  Sure, I could
keep on going toe-to-toe with them for the *next* five years, day in and day
out...but to what end?  For what purpose?  To explain myself to them?  They
have no interest in explanations.  If you counterattack, you just feed them; if
you ignore them, they take it as permission to continue doing so, and others
take it as implicit endorsement of what they said.  

This group was founded not to be a criticism free group, but mainly to be a nut
free group.  It has largely, though not consistently, succeeded at that.  Even
so, stuff slips in under the radar nets that would never be allowed to stand in
a paying system, which can provide some measure of security against the more
serious brain-damage cases.  Point being that until and unless the newsgroups
can find ways to deal NOT with critical posts, but with the genuinely, truly
disturbed people who are attracted by certain forms of entertainment, it's
always going to be a hostile place for people like me to enter.  So you're not
going to get many folks who're willing to put up with it.  Fewer people to
express opinions, or offer facts.  Which again seems rather contrary to the

Which, in some ways, is what the netstalkers want.  What matters to them most
is their own opinion, and their own importance.  Neil Gaiman, in conversation,
once rightly pointed out that these are the same folks who, at his signings,
will position themselves next to the autograph table, and begin expounding
their opinions as loudly as they can, to no one in particular, just to hear the
sound of their own voice, and to make sure everyone else hears them.

And there is one crime which they will never forgive: if you come at them with
a fact that contradicts their opinion.  If they believe that everyone in
Hollywood is a certain way, then they will do all they can to prove this of
you, whether it's true or not, because they can't tolerate any other
possibility.  Contradict them, and they will go after you forever and chase you
away, because they don't want anything interfering with their view of the

Free speech is a great concept.  I make my living at it.  But free speech is
only possible with *accountability.*  If someone publishes an article that is
defamatory, or abusive, you can go after them in court, and pursue legal
penalities.  The nature of the net makes that far more difficult.  So there is
no accountability: no peer pressure, no ostracism, no penalties...and thus, no
free speech.  There is nothing in the constitution that guarantees that you can
say anything you want about anyone you want, without ever fearing for the
consequences if you're wrong, or malicious, or abusive, or destructive.  

The net also allows people to fairly well conceal their identities, and with
anonymity you further lose can say anydamnthing you want,
and they can't track you down,or at least it becomes massively difficult, and
more difficult still to prove in court.  And so it goes on.

Which is why, in the end, it will have to go on with me in a vastly reduced
capacity.  The difference between me and them is that my name is on everything
I write; I stand behind everything I write.  If I *ever* put out a provable lie
-- and all lies are provable sooner or later -- it would come back to haunt me.
 So I have to be honest.  They do not.  And you can't exist in a situation
where it's not a level playing field, where both sides aren't playing by the
same rules.

And frankly, what would be the point?  Twenty years from now, who in hell is
going to care what five or six guys in a usenet group said to each other in
bagging on the show or myself?  The show is the show is the show; nothing they
say can ever change that.  So why put up with it?  Some will say, "Just ignore
them."  But you can't.  It doesn't work that way.  And that's the *problem*. 
Too much gets ignored, and they don't go away, they only get louder.

So all of this is what weighs on me every time I log on; and, I would suggest,
weighs on more than a few users as well, given the multitude of emails I get
that begin, "I hate to bother you in private mail, but I'm tired of being
attacked every time I say in public that I like B5, so..."

I guess you could say this is all about evolution and change, as you note.  I
suppose you could even point to my messages, and note the changes there,
wrought by five years of being dogged by the pathologically unstable.  It takes
a toll, I won't lie.

But at the end of the day, it ain't evolution and change.  It's just the usual
bad apples messing up the barrel for everybody else.

See, some things *never* change.

And some people never, ever evolve.


(jmsatb5 at
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