Trisha’s Take: How to apologize on the Internet

(c) Someecards

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written in this blog, and quite a lot has happened since the last time I was able to work on it. A few more responsibilities were added to my day job and while having the increased responsibility is awesome because it means my new employers trust me, it also means that I don’t have a lot of time to geek out over anything.

Saturdays are one of my days to relax, recuperate, and psych myself up for the work week to come. After wiping my FemShep original Mass Effect character in order to start a DudeShep run for the Commander Shepherd challenge, I got to Feros after surveying all the surveyable planets (and leveling up again) and decided that I’d take a break and perhaps pick it up tomorrow.

I also wanted to check and see if my friend Harris “Dr. Nerdlove” O’Malley had posted the article to which I contributed a bit of writing, and knowing how way leads on to way on the Internet, a review of his very popular article on why Twilight is a horrible example to draw upon for pictures of healthy relationships lead me down the rabbit hole onto a commenter’s blog entries about how she lost her faith in God…

…and reminded me of the Victoria Bitter/Jordan Wood fiasco.

To recap, the year was 2001 and the first of the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy movies came out. Many Tolkein fans were pleased and elated with how good the movies were, and several new fans started becoming interested in the mythos thanks to the movies. These new fans were different from other Ringers fans who came before them in that they had access to the Internet and LiveJournals which which to connect to other fans and share their love of the work, and PayPal to send money to those fans in different parts of the world who professed that they were down on hard times.

Through a series of convoluted events, it came out that a person who called herself Victoria Bitter started to believe some very strange things about herself and felt that she was actually a man—not just any man, but actor Elijah Wood’s cousin. Billing herself now as the male Jordan Wood, he hooked up with another LotR fan in Oregon and in the guise of doing good, ended up defrauding a lot of people out of money and incurring the wrath of three actors from New Zealand and the state of Oregon.

You can read more about the entire saga here; if you do a Google search, it’s one of the most interesting rabbit holes you’ll find yourself falling into. The most tragic part is that Amy Player/Victoria Bitter/Jordan Wood/new identity Andrew Blake’s manipulative ways allegedly resulted in a May 2011 double-murder/suicide in which Blake escaped with only a shot to the foot. But that’s what I learned later while doing the research for this post.

When I first clicked through to Abbey Stone’s blog where she writes as KumquatWriter from a comment she left in Dr. Nerdlove’s blog, I found this very interesting series of posts about how she became an atheist. And it was while reading Part Four that I started to think, “Now, why does this sound familiar to me?” By Part Five, the whole thing comes out and it’s the comments to that blog post that I want to highlight.

Jeanine Renne, the author of When a Fan Hits the Shit and the most prominent of the muckrakers who uncovered the details behind the Bit of Earth charity scam, is the sixth person to comment on Stone’s entry and it’s evident that even a decade later, she was still angry about what happened:

I agree completely that Amy is a master manipulator. Little Sam also described the cultish atmosphere “Jordan” created just like you did. But nowhere in this blog, Abbey, do I see any acknowledgement of the things YOU did, to contribute to this situation. Do you accept any responsibility for the lies you told? Do you even admit to them? Because you delivered some whoppers, Abbey.

You attacked your former friends, sometimes at their place of work, calling them vicious names and telling them in no uncertain terms to go to hell. Maybe you were only doing it because “Jordan” brainwashed you… but YOU did it. Have you accepted any responsibility for hurting those people? Do you even admit to it? Because I’ve talked to at least 3 of them, and they were all shocked and deeply hurt.

About a half an hour later, Stone responded directly to Renne:

Yes. I lied. A whole lot. And of COURSE I’m willing to take responsibility for it; that’s what recovery fucking means. I own my stupid choices. I’ve apologized to people I am genuinely sorry for hurting,and many of them have forgiven me, and we’ve moved forward with our friendships.

I’m not replying to your entire comment tonight, because I am busy celebrating my son’s birthday, and I’ll be damned if I’m going back to the worst time in my life just because today is the day you happened to read my blog. Especially when you fucking called him my “spawn” on your own journal. I’ll give your “hot seat” a post of its very own in the next couple of days, when I have the time

I’m giving this much of a reply so you know I read it and am not hiding. Not anymore, not from you. You aren’t my dirty little secret, given that I talk VERY openly about what I did and went through, INCLUDING my guilt.

Oh, and just FYI. I’m the one who tipped you off to Andrew Blake. I knew you’d be the best revenge, and you were.

Renne loved that last line in Stone’s reply because to her it was a wonderful ironic twist. I love it because it shows that Stone truly repentant about what she did. Rather than turn a blind eye when she noticed that other people were possibly going to fall victim to Blake’s manipulations, Stone took steps towards making sure that other people knew about it and could either stop it or help get Blake’s potential victims.

A day later, both Stone and Renne reached a sort of detente, but Stone goes one step further after writing a partially apologetic post to detail exactly what happened the day she stopped believing in Jordan Wood’s lies; after that, Renne was able to finally let her anger at Stone go.

And that’s how you resolve a fight on the Internet: You apologize sincerely, prove that you’re repentant, and move on.

Is it really that hard to do?