I am one of those weird people who write letters to editor, call C-Span, write articles for newsletters for translators and leave comments on blogs. I can’t really help it, the need to participate in a discussion is somehow hardwired in my system. And a couple of my letters did get published by my local paper and once I even got through C-Span to talk to America. It made my day.
I am also on several Internet discussion groups dedicated to translation issues. I participate actively in some and lurk on other groups, depending on whether I feel that I have something to contribute. I was an on-and-off again participating subscriber to the Yahoo discussion group of the Northern California Translators Association (NCTA) for several years, mostly because I used to live in California for 19 years and I know quite a few people who live there and are also members of this discussion group. I was banned (unsubscribed) from this group by the “moderator” who left me the following Kafkaesque message:
“You have been unsubscribed from the “NCTA-Members” mailing list. There are several possible reasons for this:
1) You asked to be unsubscribed at this address and/or resubscribed at another address.
2) Your NCTA membership has lapsed. To renew your membership, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
3) You have violated the terms of this mailing list.
If you feel you have been unsubscribed in error, please contact email@example.com.”
Since I did not ask to be unsubscribed and my NCTA membership is paid up, I must have somehow “violated the terms”. I am not sure how, but since the “moderator” sent me the message informing me about the excommunication from the group after a particular message, this must have been the offending message that caused my excommunication. I wrote this message in response to somebody who claimed that she has friends who learned, among other languages, “Slavonic”, and also that if you really put your mind to it, you can “learn a language in 4-6 weeks”.
I thought it was hilarious because the English word Slavonic, applied to a language, means an ancient Slavic language created by two Greek monks, Cyril and Methodius, who brought the Christian religion to Moravia in the 9th century in order to proselytize among pagan Slavs in an intelligible language. The language is preserved in several documents from the ninth century and it is studied by students and scholars of Slavic languages because it is very useful for understanding the consequent development of Slavic languages, but nobody speaks it any more of course.
Although my offending message did not make it past the vigilant “moderator” of the NCTA discussion group, to the best of my recollection, it went like this:
“To say that somebody speaks Slavonic is like saying “this guy speaks Proto-Indo-European”. There are people in several countries who study Slavonic, but nobody speaks it. But in a world where you can learn a language in 4-6 weeks, you can probably also speak Slavonic.
So when do we start watering our lawns with Gatorade “to take advantage of them electrolytes?”
I noticed that some of my previous messages did not get through the “moderator’s firewall” on several previous occasions. For some reason, s/he really does not like my kind of humor. I think that my reference to the movie “Idiocracy”, which describes a world populated by idiots who are so brainwashed by commercialized propaganda that they water their lawns with Gatorade “because it has electrolytes”, was the last straw. A reference to this movie was actually made by another subscriber to the NCTA discussion list and I was thus merely reacting to her flippant comment. I hope she was not excommunicated as well.
I think that I am probably not the only one who was banned from this discussion group.
I think that the “moderator”, who is in my opinion anything but moderate, is trying to avoid comments of subscribers who are making fun of other subscribers who might have posted something that is really dumb, and that is a valid point, of course. But I remember that when I was making fun in this manner of some distinguished linguist at some university in Europe, my comment did not make it through the “moderator’s firewall” either. So it’s not just concern for the sensibilities of the members of the translation group. This “moderator” simply does not like my kind of humor. So s/he got rid of me. And of other people probably too, for the same reason.
Here is my suggestion to the NCTA discussion group: get rid of this immoderate “moderator”.
Otherwise, the discussions among the members of your group will be increasingly more and more bland and boring if you keep excluding people who can breathe some life into your moribund discussions. If you can’t even point out that somebody said something really hilarious and dumb, what kind of “discussion” can you have?
A discussion among the members of a mutual admiration society who never mention anything even slightly controversial or critical of other members and go out of their way not to offend anybody’s sensibilities.
Or is that what you really want, just to be on the safe side? It seems to be the case because that is what you have now. The problem is, you cannot have a real discussion among people who readily accept extreme censorship as an unavoidable condition of participation in the discussion. That is why there was no real discussion of any issues of substance on the pages of the Pravda or Izvestiya newspapers in the former Soviet Union.
Another alternative would be to simply change the job title. Instead of “the moderator”, change the job title to “the terminator”. It will be easy to remember since most people know that the original “terminator” is now the “governator” of your state, and it will be very useful for keeping people in line.
One brave member of the NCTA Yahoo discussion group registered a formal complaint about my expulsion from the group by the mailing list moderator. He called it dictatorial and unethical. His complaint thus will be or already has been reviewed by the NCTA board at their meeting. Since I was able to receive a copy of the formal response by the moderator which was sent to the NCTA board and intercepted by yours truly, I was also able to finally establish the real reason for my expulsion.
It was not the last message that I sent and that was censored, as I was mistakenly assuming (since nobody told me anything about anything). It was a number of thought crimes that I had committed over a period of a number of years. For example, I said in a post in 2006 that prostitutes have more pride in their profession than translators, because most would not give a free BJ as a sample of their work. Translators, on the other hand, think nothing of working for free for a prospective customer who promises real, paid work if the free sample is deemed satisfactory. Translators on the NCTA discussion list should not be allowed to discuss matters in this manner in the opinion of the moderator who keeps track of what people on the group said years ago.
I did not know that, but apparently, there are two types of translators who are allowed to post on the NCTA Yahoo discussion group: loyal, uncontroversial members who are allowed to post without being censored, and members who are on the “monitored status” whose messages will or will not be posted depending on the decision of the moderator. Unbeknownst to me, I was on the “monitored status” along with other members whose loyalty and manners are in doubt. So now I know why so many of my posts appeared after a number of hours, or simply disappeared into thin air. The brave, lone member of the “discussion group” who dared to register a formal complaint is on the “monitored status” now according to the letter from the moderator to the NCTA board that I was able to intercept. (But of course, his messages are now monitored not because of what he was saying, but because he was “rude”).
One request that this brave, lone member of the NCTA Yahoo discussion group had was to have a link to my blog posted on the list group so that all members could hear my side of the story as well. As we were taught in high school, “audiatur et altera pars” (let the other party be heard as well).
But I am certain that this will not happen.
The NTCA board will or already has made a final decision with respect to my my expulsion. If they inform me about this final decision, I will update this post again.
As I predicted, the NCTA board did not allow posting of a link to my blog. Nevertheless, since it is on the Internet, many people already read this blog anyway and more will do so. Although quite a few of them must have been members of the NCTA Yahoo discussion group, none of them dared to leave a comment which would express their opinion about the whole sorry affair. They seem to have been trained well by the Terminator, I mean the Moderator. Words such as captive audience and Stockholm syndrome come to mind.
After 23 years (ever since I became freelance translator), I will no longer be renewing my membership in the Northern California Translators Association. I am still a member of the ATA (American Translators Association) and NCATA (National Capital Area Translators Association).