Those who seek power deserve it, right?

A thousand years ago, I was paid to be an oper (at the time, the common term for an IRCop) on EFnet. I quickly grew to hate it.

The unwritten code of ethics amounted to the following: you were entitled to do whatever it is you wanted with your power, so long as you did not step on the toes of your peers or anyone above you in the pecking order. In practical terms this usually meant that you could /kill anyone you wanted as long as he was connected to your IRC server, but to /kill someone on another IRC server was a grave political action.

Most of the opers were territorial and petty. My theory on this, extrapolating from several I met in person, is that they were often the targets of abuse in the real world, either for their alternative lifestyle choices, their poor hygiene, or other reasons, and that EFnet was a place that they could feel extremely powerful without burdening themselves with any more responsibility than was sufficient to justify claims that they were maintaining order.

People on power trips can very easily claim that they are selflessly acting in the public interest, and without their critical participation, the world would fall into chaos. What is far more likely is that if they bowed out or were removed, they would be replaced by the next set of power-hungry bullies quick enough on the draw.

I think that, if they were good people, the EFnet opers of this era would have behaved differently. My painter friend Donald says that I am judgmental and a bad person for expecting them to live up to my moro-ethical standards. I guess he has a point.

Posted on 2008-04-21
Tags: parabola