It has been a particularly combative few days at Political Science Rumors. Folks are not pleased that some ISA goers engaged in a bit of fun as they cosplay-ed a panel on Game of Thrones and IR. They think it hurts the profession, and got especially upset when I defended (perhaps not articulately) those who engaged in the supposedly shameful behavior. This devolved into accusations that I hurt the profession by lending legitimacy to PSR because I mod and post there under my own name (nearly everyone else is anonymous).
I have gotten that from time to time--that I am just an attention seeking hound and that my participation at PSR is bring shame upon me and the profession. The former is true, the latter is not. Of course, I don't participate at PSR for the attention or for the strange and disturbing cult of Sadie that pops up. I get plenty of attention via blogging and twitter, thanks.
I started because people were being incredibly wrong about the job search where I was employed. Denying the rumors didn't work so well from a position of anonymity. After that, people asked me questions, and I felt like being a voice of reason was not a bad thing, even though it was occurring online at a place where there was much unpleasantness. I eventually started moderating at the old site (PSJR) and then the new (PSR) so that I could delete attacks on my students as well as students elsewhere (I leave nearly all of the attacks against me alone--I post there so I accept the consequences).
This led to some attacks upon me on the site, and when I asked the community whether I should stay or go, I got much support to stay. So, I have stuck around. I now get emails from people who ask for particular items to be deleted, and I do so. So, perhaps some folks in the profession view me negatively because I am active at PSR, but others are thankful that I am there, the only moderator that is not anonymous, that can be reached.
Someone today raised the possibility that I make the place worse, that trolls are there because I moderate and post there. My response? Well, the place had much negativity before I started, so unless the place has a Benjamin Button kind of dynamic, the person has a bad grasp of social science. Plus PSR is hardly alone on the internet in producing some toxicity from the brew of anonymity and a lousy job market/anxious graduate students.
I try to be myself there--a combination of earnest desire to help (which probably annoys the hell out of some folks), a weakness to trolls (I have a hard time not responding when folks poke at me or at things I care about), and a tendency to snark. Indeed, I have been tempted to post this in response to all of the concern that cosplay at the ISA might be damaging to the profession:
I actually don't think that PSR does much damage to the profession either, although it certainly is more problematic than a handful of people dressing up at the ISA. Any accusation that I am hurting the political science profession is giving me far more influence than I actually have. I would argue that the Putin apologists in the NYT are doing far more damage to our kind.