Q: The latest controversy concerning anti-Muslim comments by Markus Abernathy has become a polarizing affair. Can you tell our readers more about your involvement in the controversy and why the Universal Triumvirate has taken to boycotting the MicroWiki community in response?
A: Well, I suppose that Markus has always sort of been very open with his remarks, as people tell me it goes back way before now. When I first arrived in March of this year, I always kept him on the peripheral, but he wasn’t as active during that time of year. Recently in June, I started to gear back up into activity as the Universal Triumvirate neared its summer elections. As we all know, a very tragic event happened just a few short days ago with the Orlando shootings, leading to a plethora of opinions being voiced against Muslims or against homosexuality.
In a thread titled “I am a Muslim so that makes me?”, Markus really came all out with his prejudiced comments by saying that they were a race “tainted by their religion”. Of course, this all tumbled downhill and people began giving him negative reputation for such comments. The last straw for me really was when he said in a round-about way that they were an inferior race. Now, I’ve known Muslims before, and I had a friend who tried to kill herself because people always thought of her as a terrorist, or they would spew racial slurs at her. I began to publicly voice my opinion, calling for a ban on Markus. Eventually, we started boycotting the wiki because I didn’t want to be around Markus and his hate speech.
The last straw really came when I woke up one morning and saw that Jonathon of Austenasia had said to simply ignore Markus. At that point, I realized that I just couldn’t be involved with a website that refused to take action on hate speech or even tell Markus to lower the rhetoric. I respect Jonathon’s opinion, he pays for the website and all, but I felt that he just really dropped the ball with that decision.
Q: The “ignore” option suggested, all the same, might accomplish more by alienating Abernathy’s participation. After all, if he is a troll, one would expect him to move on to whichever website would next provide him a stage and an audience if he is not gaining the attention he seeks at MicroWiki. Is it fair, then, to suggest that MicroWiki’s administration team are condoning hate speech by inaction?
A: Well that’s the thing, he’s found a group of people that indulge him and he knows he can come back at any point to provoke a response. He’s been around for years at this point. I don’t think the whole “ignore” solution is the right avenue because I don’t see him leaving anytime soon.
I don’t know if it’s fair to say they condone hate speech. I’m sure they’re all nice enough and level-headed people; however, when you fail to reprimand someone for hate speech in a place like an Internet forum where you have the distinct ability to ban them, it really shows a big failure to do what is right. I think somewhere near 60% of people polled said they favoured some sort of punishment for Markus, and that’s a clear majority of the community.
Q: Since the announcement of the Universal Triumvirate’s boycott, while several individuals and micronations have followed suit, there has been a backlash from others who feel that the boycott goes too far. What’s your response to those people?
A: To those people, I would like to say this: there is a difference between our movement and the movement of the New Starland government. The New Starland government claimed that the “old guard” were the problem and that she was a “lion” leading the new guard.
I do not believe that. I believed that a sensible approach had to be taken, and one which all of the community could agree on. An example needed to be made that you could not promote hate speech against a certain race and get away with it unscathed.
I closed my embassy to the website in order to avoid Markus – because it’s the internet, I’m not going to stay on a website that hosts someone who advocates that racism – and as it turned out, a few people decided to follow me for various reasons of their own. This is a boycott by a group who collectively believes there should be more action by the part of the site moderators, and until then, we’re going to stick together.
Q: What specifically needs to happen for the Universal Triumvirate to lift the boycott in the immediate term?
A: Simple – an immediate ban of Markus for any period greater than two weeks. I feel like this action would make me come back immediately and praise the action of the forum moderators, and apologize for boycotting MicroWiki. It’s just a simple matter of doing what is right instead of doing what is popular.
Q: You suggest a minimum ban for two weeks, but it seems as though the administration team aren’t open to this option at present. Is there any room for the Universal Triumvirate to be flexible in this demand, are you willing to accept an alternative approach if proposed?
A: Sure, I’m not an unreasonable person and I could accept some form of punishment. The problem seems to be at this point that they are ignoring him and trying to close their eyes to make the problem go away. Any punishment for Markus would give me a strong reason to open back up relations, but continued inactivity and indecisiveness on the moderators’ part seems like their choice of action at this moment.
Q: How can the community, its administrators and participants, work together to prevent a future recurrence of this episode?
A: I don’t think there’s one thing that would immediately solve the problem. The forum has a bad habit of people derailing threads, being loose with curse words and other offensive language, and the occasional troll.
Ironically, the solution that I can think of which would solve the problem has roots in the business we are in: government. I think the moderator team needs to sit down at least once every two weeks in a chat and talk about all of the things they can do to better the website, as well as who should be banned and what new rules need to be made. This team should be unbiased and should really try to work for the betterment of the community in general. I think that the forum can be saved, but we really need a group of people who will devote themselves to keeping the forum clean.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I hope that this interview sheds some light on our movement, and hopefully the members of the MicroWiki forum will stop berating us for doing what we think is right. Thank you, Mr. Sinclair.