After seeing the AMA responses from TNC today, long-time reader Nicole Pezold Hancock writes:
I’m really late in seeing all these notes from Horde members, but years ago, I was the commenter known as Pontchartrain Girl. I joined the Horde in 2009, around the time of the murder of Dr. George Tiller. As a news junkie, I frequented The Atlantic magazine and had even read TNC’s Michelle Obama article [link] but had never noticed the blog.
And then Dr. Tiller was gunned down as he attended church. I spent a few hours in the days after scouring the Internet—not for news, but for comments. I don’t know why reading the violent ravings of people I disagreed with was attractive to me right then. Perhaps I wanted to feel more pain? Or gloat at their misspellings or apparent lunacy? Or maybe I was just spoiling to read a fight.
At any rate, I ended up in TNC’s salon and witnessed a remarkably civil discussion of abortion rights [link]. That’s the only place online or off that I’ve heard all these disparate voices respectfully sharing their thoughts on such an emotional, divisive subject. And that was just my first day lurking there.
Shortly after, TNC hosted a lengthy, ridiculously entertaining debate on mayonnaise versus Miracle Whip and their cultural significance [link]. I was in love. The Horde was smart. The Horde was funny. The Horde was thirsting for truth, whether about how we remember the Civil War or what milk substitutes are healthiest. And their leader was rigorous about facts and the rules of engagement. He demanded as much integrity as the best of professors and I learned better how to say mea culpa—even to a faceless online community (I can’t listen to “I Stand Corrected” by Vampire Weekend without thinking of him).
TNC and the Horde refined and challenged my thinking on so many subjects.
And then things started to fall apart. Others have explained this far better than I can or remember. But I went from being Pontchartrain Girl to being a Pontchartrain mom around the same time that TNC’s stature was growing. I found it dizzying and dissatisfying trying to keep up any conversation or even to follow those of the Horde because it got so crowded. It wasn’t only trolls. There were just too many of us jockeying to speak and be heard all at once. TNC would post an item or the OTAN and almost immediately it’d be mobbed by 300 comments, then 500 comments. And so I quit.
I’m thankful to have lived that online moment. Anytime there’s news that I want to discuss or help parse out, I check to see if TNC posted … just in case. And reading Between the World and Me brought me back—to familiar stories and ground that we covered on his blog. I yearn for those nuanced, across-the-divide conversations now more than ever. I also miss the music, muffin, and book recs, you know.
Update from Paul, who also misses the Horde:
I read through some of this thread today and it took me back to what I still think of as a kind of post-graduate seminar in U.S. history that I was inexplicably allowed to attend. It completely changed my understanding and awareness of U.S. history, specifically the role of African Americans, leading to how I now see U.S. history and African-American history as inextricably linked. One of the highlights of my life was making a contribution to a thread that TNC praised—not just the praise or acknowledgment but the understanding behind it and how a lot of things became more clear. It reminded me I was capable of original thought or at least a deeper understanding of others’ original thoughts (in this case, Twain). I needed to hear/feel that.
TNC built a real modern salon and a lot of the more productive and aware commenters kept it going, both by contributing their expertise and by dealing with disruptors, trolls and other lackwits/revisionists. It didn’t last, as good things never do. I suppose bad things don’t either, but we want the good times to continue, even when we know they can’t.