Mute Testimony


I do seem to drag controversy around behind me, like a little wooden duck on a string, now don’t I?

For those of you who are blissfully unaware of the strange little pocket of drama that formed in the recent Grand Tour in support of RFL, let me paraphrase our story thus far as neutrally as I can. At an event, I did what I have done on a number of occasions…I muted someone who was using a role play dialect (similar to a poorly parsed comic operetta German accent so broad as to be almost unintelligible) in open chat that I find unspeakably distracting and annoying (as do many others from the messages I have been getting). As is also my custom, I openly stated that I was muting anyone using that dialect, and that I hoped they understood…I then assumed the matter was closed, and departed the event about half an hour later to do other things.

Unbeknownst to me until a day or so later, it seems this most trivial of incidents loomed flatteringly large in a later event in Edison where I was not present as well as several group chat sessions in Steelhead and elsewhere. In fact, it loomed large enough to require a “Five Minute Hate” against yours truly, which started with a certain supposedly noble comic strip character saying “For how long has BardHaven been RACIST” and then descended from there. Descended quite a bit, actually, with many voices joining in as they enjoyed the emotional release of the mob. Of all the terms that were reportedly used, the one I truly take exception to is racist, but that is neither here nor there and more on that later.

The issue I feel the need to examine is not the slanderous way that near strangers (and some supposed friends) behaved towards me. As most of you may already know, I could care less what the majority of these people talking nonsense think of me. I don’t much care about THEIR actions since I long ago accepted the fact that there is no way to discipline someone else’s children and various other individuals…but rather my own. What is the best way to deal with a situation where someone is forcing you to listen to, and therefore passively participate in their personal role play in group chat or an open event?

How exactly does one deal with a situation in which someone brings some personal role play quirk into a public situation and you really don’t want to hear it or be forced to cope with it. After all, spam is spam and there are very clear rules in most public SL locations against chat spam. In addition, it can often be difficult to ignore, especially when it is something that you find especially objectionable or are in a social situation where you don’t wish to have to parse through the garble to find the words of people you are speaking with. Most “mainstream” areas in SL are at least somewhat tolerant towards unobtrusive role play, and accept certain things such as a person in a pink werewolf avatar as just the price of doing business. Of course, this is assuming that the gender challenged werewolf sits on a few poseballs, tips the dancers and makes light conversation…you know, acts like just a regular Joe on a full moon. However, If they commence to snarl and growl and mutter about eating the dancer’s guts, therefore no longer RPing unobtrusively but forcing the entire room to play along at least passively, then they are likely to be asked to leave, then orbited if they snarl that it would require a silver bullet to make them leave. After all…there are Sims set aside for that kind of thing, where it is assumed that if you are there, you want to play.

These kind of considerations are especially important in Sims that encourage light RP, or “theme play” as I like to call it. There may be all manner of people RPing all manner of things around you. It is RUDE to interject your play on them in open chat in a public setting unless you are in keeping with the general theme. Therefore, it can be assumed that someone RPing as a Victorian adventurer would fit in anywhere they go in Caledon, whether the people around them are in on the RP or not. Playing a lost Jedi Knight or a strange were-creature babbling in a form of gibberish that makes it impossible to hold a normal conversation in open chat? Not so much.

As far as I can tell (and I have gotten input from many people on this topic over the last couple days) there are four good ways to deal with this kind of arrogant, intrusive role play in a public area when for whatever reason, you cannot simply ignore them and go about your business. You can either 1) Ask them to stop, 2) Leave the situation, 3) Mute the person secretly or 4) Mute them openly. Lets look at those individually, shall we?

Ask them to Stop

This is very much the ideal of the solutions, but also the least likely to work. After all, if they are so into the role play that it even dictates that they must speak in a certain way at all times, it is not terribly plausible they will stop. More likely they will attempt to argue about the issue (in character of course, therefore again forcing you to RP with them) or just ignore you. One can see their point to a certain degree…after all, for them, in SL they ARE this character, they have no fall back position. It is the full silly voice/goofy hat monty, or nothing. So really you are asking them not to stop RPing, but more pointedly to just shut up (which attempts to use this option usually descend to, with many threats of Linden involvement and Hyperflux Rayguns produced and laughed at).

Leave the Situation

While this option is most likely to preserve the public peace, it is also the least fair. Why should you be forced to leave a public space because someone else opts to behave in a fashion that bothers you? Of course, if the majority of the people in the area are involved in this role play, or you have inadvertently come into an event or area designed for this sort of RP, then by all means, politely remove yourself. Why interfere with their play and aggravate yourself needlessly? However, if the public area is neutral, then you should not be required to leave due to the actions of one or two others infringing on your enjoyment of SL. If you opt to do this because you don’t much want to stay anyway or so as to avoid conflict or an argument, that is your right, but it should not be required of you in the fashion of the classic school bully taunt “If you don’t like it, then leave…but give me your lunch money first.” unless you are in a designated RP sim, and those are usually very clearly identified for just this reason.

Mute the Person Secretly

This option seems to me the rudest of the four and in fact quite sly and underhanded. It is the equivalent of a bunch of 8th graders coming to a secret decision to exclude another child simply because they don’t like the fact they are still carrying an Alf lunchbox. Why should you mute that person so that they don’t know that you can’t hear them, or even see them in the newest clients. Just because the way they are speaking or role playing annoys you does not make them insignificant where you can just X them out without even a “pardon me”. I feel they deserve at least some kind of notice as to what you are doing and why. Not to do so is an arrogant insult, whether they are aware of it or not.

Mute them Openly

In most situations, I feel that this option makes the most sense. I have been told that it is rude and insulting, but for the life of me I am not sure I see why. This way, you are saved yourself the headache of being bothered by their role playing, yet they are still free to continue it if they so choose and they now know where you stand. No hiding, nothing behind anyone’s back, no questions asked and apparently ignored. The muting should be announced politely, making it clear this isn’t personal but simply due to the fact that reading someone talking like Zsa Zsa Gabor on nitrous makes your teeth itch and that you are sure they are perfectly wonderful human beings, excellent tennis players and sterling care givers to widows and orphans…you just can’t cope with their RP style. This can’t be racist, unless you are saying hard core role players are a separate race…which I would have agreed with some mornings after all night D & D sessions but no longer accept (If you then argue that I am being racist against imaginary comic strip characters, then you bring Garfield and Dagwood around and we’ll settle this outside). It is simply taking an open, above board step to ensure that both you and the role player in question can continue to live your Second Lives as you will, without butting up against one another…since no one wants that.

In fact, I would urge the several dozen people I have heard from over the last few months on this topic, and indeed everyone who feels that such role playing is chat spam in open areas, to use the fourth option if they do not feel right leaving the situation and just can’t ignore the role play. Just give them a cheerful “Hey, Guten Morgan, enjoy your role play, but I am muting you. No offense meant.” I have a feeling this sort of thing will dramatically lower everyone’s blood pressure, and perhaps help people to remember that public areas and chat is meant to be just that…public. Therefore you should behave in a way that is at least tolerated by all, and if not, understand that some people will mute you. God knows I have been muted by scads of people, and wish to thank each and every one of you who opted to mute me when you were displeased with something I said, rather then call me racist or nearsighted or whatever else when I wasn’t there to defend myself.




  1. Baron BardHaven,

    I would have been happy to provide my opinion to you directly, but unfortunately I was crashing quite often during the Grand Tour, and I did not see you at any of the other events.

    I have been told in no uncertain terms that my definition of ‘racist’ as I hold it is inaccurate. Understood.

    Then I will say I found your attitude unacceptable. You have expressed, in the past, a sense of humour and particular behaviours which I did not particularly agree with, but if I was sufficiently bothered, I could quietly close the chat for a while until the conversation shifted. The more personal aspects involved the consent of another, and were (and are) none of my business. You often have interesting and valuable things to say, or have done in the past when I saw more of you in the areas I frequent.

    This, however, was an insult to one of my staff, perhaps the final straw in a series of offences I have had to swallow to keep the peace and to be the ‘better man’. Perhaps it was a matter of unfortunate timing that you happened to hit this repeatedly-damaged sore spot; I will concede as much to some over-reaction. Part of it was due to disappointment and dismayed surprise.

    However, I do not like to see anyone treated unfairly; you may accuse me of having failed in this in the past, but that is a matter for private mail. I have seen, however, a whole subsection of those for whom I am responsible be rejected simply for the way they speak. Not for reasons of ethics, morality, politics or even their collective history, but for an accent. What sort of ‘supposed noble’ would I be if I did not defend my own? And who else is it acceptable to automatically mute? Who are the disposable people on the grid now?

    You did not throw your rejection into the face of an ‘imaginary comic book character’, Herr Baron. You insulted a person. You may be dismissive of ‘roleplay’ as much as you like to trivialise those whom you exclude, but the value judgement was still given.


    Klaus Wulfenbach

  2. Baron Wulfenbach,

    I could certainly argue or discuss several of the interesting points you made in your comment, but I feel that doing such a thing would not be a wise or valuable use of the time of either of us, however enjoyable it would have been.

    Therefore, I will come right to the crux of the matter.

    First of all, I welcome your admission, even under duress, that you did not properly understand the terms “race” or “racist” and therefore used them inappropriately. I am quite certain that was not easy for you to concede, so I will take your statement as the apology I am sure it was meant to be, and accept it gladly. To be clear, I would not have protested overly much if you had called me “Rude” or “Pig-headed” or “Criminally well-dressed”, I just took exception to your use of the term “Racist”, which you now admit I am not. I don’t mind being disliked, I simply insist on being disliked accurately.

    As for your refreshing concession that you over-reacted to the entire matter, I will also take THIS as the apology I am sure you meant to make, and accept it as well in the same spirit.

    Finally, as to the fact that a member of your “staff” was offended that I said I was muting them, I do offer my most humble and sincere regrets and apology for that fact and hope you will convey those sentiments to them. It truly was never my intention to insult them in any way, I simply felt I was being honest and forthright.

    I do so hate offending anyone accidently, it’s like having the flu on a snow day.

    I am quite sure in future we will never have occasion to encounter one another again except by the most unfortunate of accidents, but if we do, I promise you on my honour that I will never inform any of your “staff” before muting them again.

    Enjoy your role play.

    Yours most contritely,

  3. Aside from the fact that our chat has been down for two weeks I can assure you that sort of ‘hate talk’ is not allowed in Steelhead Public Channels.

  4. Interestingly, I find the generation of drama like the aforementioned incredibly painful conversation in Edison to be much more offensive than an accent. Many of us there were unwilling witnesses to a very disturbing display that did nothing to promote the whole reason the Grand Tour was created. Yes, I understand Drama is Caledon’s chief import/export. I also understand very well that both group chat and local chat are places where (not unlike other public places) we are likely to be unwilling witnesses to things which offend or annoy us. That said, I find nothing “sneaky” about quietly muting someone who annoys me, and perhaps if appropriate IMing privately first to request they cease and desist. Of course this is a very undramatic way to handle it, and unlikely to inspire waves of blog posts :)

  5. I agree with your point, Ms. Gray. If an individual recognizes that ANOTHER individual irritates him, and *quietly* mutes the irritating individual, then hasn’t that first person done a service to society as a whole? Think on it. Less bickering in public places. Less confrontation. Less dramatic posturing on blogs. You simply don’t exist for each other any more. What could be more preferable in an orderly, mannerly society? I say, “Mute away, and make the world a better place” (and that applies to me, too, I will not mind). Baron Bardhaven takes things to a level I don’t– I think informing people they are muted just causes problems. They’ll figure it out eventually, why rub noses in it? In the meantime, no need to make things public, why court trouble?

    Mutin’ ain’t Hatin’


  6. Sir;
    I share your irritation at RP (specifically story-based RP) in a non-RP public event or chat. I, too, find constant dialectical conversation annoying, just as I feel sure others find my inability to touch-type accurately and the resulting typonese equally difficult to translate. I have so far been able to ignore rather than mute.

    However, your suggestion is handy, and I shall apply it here, in light of two coinciding irritations that I find as egregious as the dialect: Very small gray or and white text on black background, and the use of grandiose noble titles outside of the confines of one’s specific roleplay.

    Just so you know, I think you must be a terrific human being, but I’m “muting” this blog un-bookmarked, despite the fact that I’m sure I would enjoy reading it often if I could.

  7. *looks around at the new design*

    Okay, I’m mystified. Where’s the small grey-or-white text on the black background? Near as I can tell, it’s charcoal on white…

    But hey, you might as well go ahead and me, too–after all, I use very-small-to-small lemon text on dark brown. :p

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