Many years ago, around the dawn of Technical Diving, divers started to use internet forums to exchange information. The potential was huge, especially for the new discipline of Tech diving. You had small groups of divers all around the world, each trying new things, exploring new ideas, and sharing what worked and what didn't work. What a small group of divers in the UK were doing, was immediately linked to interested divers in Australia, or New Jersey, or Italy. It was a very fun time to be in diving, and diving changed forever. But it was not long before a small minority of divers who understood the power of the internet, thought they could control the narrative to their advantage. They set about hijacking the forums, for themselves.
They developed several techniques to hijack and control what was being said, and to bring the narrative back to themselves for their own prestige and profit. They used Dog Pack techniques to attack their targets, with an Alpha Dog and one or more Yes Dogs. The ammunition was words, lots, and lots, and lots of words, often on multiple threads. The pack would verbally attack any offending message, and intentionally misstate or alter the intent of the original missive. Now, the author of any message they deemed contrary to their dogma, is no longer in a discussion about the content, but forced to defend numerous false messages now attributed to them. Finally, the Pack would make it personal with multiple personal attacks to discredit the messenger, and discourage them from further posting. They win, and it worked.
Instead of talking about ideas, the forums became battlefields where dedicated gangs of internet bullies relentlessly patrol their turf. It became impossible for any one individual to discuss new ideas, problems, or solutions in a civil manner. It retarded the growth of diving, and the growth of the dive industry itself. It is very hard to have a productive forum of free ideas, with groups looking to exploit the very weaknesses of that freedom. So, I have never posted very much in forums, just for that reason. Things have changed somewhat, and many Forum managers try to fight the good fight, but the Forum Bullies are still out there preaching intolerance.
I did not spend much time planning to be a blogger. Really, it was only like a few days. I wanted my first blog to be something honest, something that would be good for diving, and something I really believed in. I wanted to be responsible in writing it, and I did not want to embarrass anyone. I thought that a blog topic on Responsibility and Self Reliance in deeper diving was something very... me, reflective of my values and the kind of questions I am often asked. I thought responsibility in deeper diving was a concept worthy of discussion, regardless of a diver's depth or skill level. I did not think it was at all controversial?
Once I had the blog up, I posted it on Facebook, and a few other places, including a popular scuba forum. Almost immediately, I was attacked on this forum by a group of GUE divers, led by a fellow Floridian. For those who are not familiar with GUE, they are a small, not for profit, diver training membership organization. Up front I should say that I am not certified by GUE, a member of GUE, or really very knowledgeable in the GUE philosophy. Apparently, the topic of responsibility is something that threatens them greatly, and they let me know it.
They took what I had posted, and immediately misrepresented it. In multiple posts, they changed my message from Responsibility, to "Every man for himself", and me promoting the evils of Solo diving. They dissected what I said, removed the context, and argued against... what I had not even said? Then they started the personal attacks. My message was not only "dangerous", I was "dangerous", or more accurately, "very dangerous"!! I was compared to an infamous figure in cave diving (some guy I have never heard of??) but I was even more "dangerous" than the villain cave diver? I was described as, "despicable", and "not a good person". They pronounced me a "Pariah", an outcast, of the diving community? They attacked my military service to my country, first by assuming I had never served in the military and hypothetically stating that... IF, as a young man, I had served in the military, my fellow troops would have killed me, because of my "every man for himself" attitude? When they discovered that as a young man I served as a combat medic in Vietnam, they then switched the attack to accusing me of being a crazed solo, "Rambo"? As we all know, only half of this stuff is true!! 🙂
To their credit, the Forum managers removed many of the offensive posts, without my asking. Amazingly, all of this is because I proposed that divers venturing to 200 feet or deeper need to be self reliant, and responsible.
Why? Why are these characters so threatened by the idea of "responsibility"? Why are they so threatened by the concept of self-reliance? Why are they so intolerant? In my opinion, they are zealots, desperate to be in control. To me, they appear to prefer prophets, and mindless disciples, to discussion and progress. They seem to insist on blind loyalty to the party line, as opposed to free thought and a sharing of ideas. To me, this just does not sound like fun?
Whether these bullies like it or not, they represent GUE, and their DIR philosophy. I have no idea if any, or all, GUE divers agree with these tactics or not, because I am not part of the GUE community? These divers cannot have anything positive to offer the greater diving community if they need to rigidly control the narrative, make no allowance for others, and attack alternative ideas using intimidation, misdirection, and character assassination. They seem to believe that they are entitled to their philosophy, but I am not entitled to mine, which is pure crap.
To me, diving is about fun and freedom, not virtual assaults. I enjoy diving different ways, using different tools, and experimenting with new ideas and equipment. I do not dive today, as I did five years ago, and five years from now I expect it will be different still. Listening to new ideas, sharing philosophies, and watching diving evolve is part of what I love about diving. The dive forums should be almost as much fun as diving itself, but no one wants to ask a question, or offer an opinion, only to be virtually abused by a gang of forum thugs.
I don't believe for a minute that the mainstream internet dive community accepts or believes anything these bullies post, however they prevent us from using the dive forums to their full potential. In too many cases, the extreme minority, is controlling the conversation of the majority. What these forum bullies do, is bad for all of us, and it is bad for diving, IMHO.
In no way, do I intend to offend any dogs. 🙂