Fundamentally Wrong

« April 2008 »


You know, I'm not necessarily happy at being a member of a species that regularly and deliberately hurts each other for profit. Not just monetary profit, although that's a big part of it. I don't like it, but at least I've come to accept it. People will hurt other people if doing so will gain them something. Money, power, advantage, a better parking space, whatever.

But I'm also a member of a species that hurts each other for no fucking reason whatsoever. Most of the time, we call these people psychopaths or sociopaths and declare them to be mentally aberrant. Not of the norm. Not wired the way the species is supposed to be wired. Which leads to an interesting, if horrifying, question. Where the hell in the taxonomy do we put a bunch of hackers who, for shits and giggles, snuck a bunch of blinking, flashing animated graphics onto a message board run by the Epilepsy Foundation?

Nobody knows which hackers actually did it, of course. They're all blaming each other as if it fucking matters. I'm not concerned with which particular group of funny-named pixel-wankers came up with the stunt. I'm concerned with any mentality that would think it's a good idea.

I've grown up with, and old with, computers, so I've seen hackers come and go. Ninety-nine percent of the time, hackers are motivated by three base emotions: greed, anger, and vanity. They want stuff, so they figure out a clever way to steal it. They're pissed off at someone, so they figure out a clever way to hurt them. Or they want to show how awesome they are, so they try to do something clever people will notice and they can brag about.

And for the most part, all of these things either benefit society, or provide a general, non-specific harm. At its worst, we get viruses written for sport, and at the best, we get to play Super Mario Bros. on our iPods. I can live with this. We can all live with this. Compared to the shit pulled by our government on a daily basis, it's barely even worth a second look.

So where does giving a bunch of epileptics migraines and seizures fit into that scheme of things? It doesn't. Nobody gets any free stuff out of it, that's for damn sure. There's no possible way the Epilepsy Foundation could have offended some segment of the hacker community - there's no possible scenario where the two could overlap like that. And most importantly, as the mutual blaming society demonstrates, it's an act of such fucking bastardry that nobody can brag about having pulled it off.

All that's left, apart from the kind of mental illness that leads to chopped-up body parts in a suburban freezer, is a sick joke. The whole "flashing lights cause seizures" thing has entered the collective consciousness on a level that, in some ways, disconnects it from an actual trigger to an actual illness. From the Japanese Pokemon cartoon seizures to the warnings in video game manuals, I can see, just barely, how someone might convince themselves that they're not going to hurt anyone, it'll just be a funny gag.

The alternative to moronic, unthinking desensitization, of course, is that they knew they were going to cause some seizures to people who'd done nothing at all to them, and did it anyway. And really, either way, they've introduced me to yet another class of human I'm embarrassed to share a planet and a genome with. Thanks, assholes.