The Legless Death of Memory

if we don't acknowledge anything ever happens, our mistakes are forgivable

The Legless Death of Memory

if we don't acknowledge anything ever happens, our mistakes are forgivable

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
– Ecclesiastes 1:9️

Reading the news today, my eyes were drawn to this headline:

They were drawn, mainly, because this is an insane assertion. People have been online in large numbers for roughly 40 years now, and in that time there has been quite a lot of abuse, sexual and otherwise, because people are awful and the anonymity and separation of the online persona enables them to be exponentially more awful.

Julian Dibbell, a lawyer and journalist who became famous chiefly for being on MUDs in the 1980s and then selling gold in Ultima Online in the 1990s, wrote a rather famous article (and later book) about exactly this, called "A Rape in Cyberspace".

What, some wondered, was the real-life legal status of the offense? Could Bungle's university administrators punish him for sexual harassment? Could he be prosecuted under California state laws against obscene phone calls? Little enthusiasm was shown for pursuing either of these lines of action, which testifies both to the uniqueness of the crime and to the nimbleness with which the discussants were negotiating its idiosyncracies. Many were the casual references to Bungle's deed as simply "rape," but these in no way implied that the players had lost sight of all distinctions between the virtual and physical versions, or that they believed Bungle should be dealt with in the same way a real-life criminal would. He had committed a MOO crime, and his punishment, if any, would be meted out via the MOO. 

The affair ended with the offender's account being terminated and the offender swiftly making a brand new account, surprising absolutely no one who has worked on an online game service. Since then we have progressed from that LambdaMOO drama, which involved around 30 people, to the first wave of MMOs such as Ultima Online and Everquest, which involved hundreds of thousands of people, to the second wave of MMOs such as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, which involved millions of people, to "the Metaverse", which involves around 30 people. In all of them, men have sexually abused women (and much more rarely the reverse, or other configurations of that interaction) because, as noted earlier and distressingly regularly, people are really not that great as a general concept.

But, you see, this is


So now that there are apparently 30 people in THE METAVERSE, someone was an abuser. This has never happened before, as the article clearly states... oh wait.

A girl was allegedly raped in the metaverse. Is this the beginning of a dark new future? | Nancy Jo Sales
British police are investigating the case of a minor who was allegedly subjected to a virtual gang rape. Expect more cases
The question of whether virtual rape is “really rape” goes back to at least 1993, when the Village Voice published an article by Julian Dibbell about “a rape in cyberspace”. Dibbell’s piece reported on how the people behind avatars that were sexually assaulted in a virtual community felt emotions similar to those of victims of physical rape.

So, the dark new future is 30 years old, making it the dark new past which is well past old enough to drink legally and about into that awkward period when it's eyeing sports cars aimed at dark new futures making dark new futures seem hip and young again. Got it.

It's a pretty safe bet that when a news article directly contradicts its headline, it's because the editor has a point they already wanted to make and someone got paid $50 or whatever to go off and write words no one will read to justify slapping the headline up somewhere. You can always tell the intent from the URL of the article in question, written by said editor in an attempt to snag passing Google searches. So what can we learn in this case?


Clickbait designed to bash Meta (aka Facebook) and the metaverse craze in general. Cool. I'm all about mocking both of those things (for proof, uh, this thing you're reading right now) but it's still mired in that tech La Brea Tar Pit of historical myopia.

Writing an article about how Horizon Worlds, which at 20,000 monthly users would have saved money by not actually creating anything and then paying each user one million dollars to say "yeah, I was on that metaverse thing, it was really great", still managed to attract awful men who somehow managed to sexually abuse a woman even though Horizon Worlds is quite possibly the least sexual online space that can exist where no one involved has any legs, that would be an interesting story.

But context is for losers that don't build fast and break things.