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.