Anatomy of a Message Board
Scared Monkeys (SM) has been around for awhile, but it was primarily an outlet for a couple of ultra-conservative political activist before it became a victim’s advocate with the headline making Terri Schiavo case. Across the top of their blog is written, “A Weblog by two guys who went to school together, and have been discussing politics and life for years. Now we are ready to share it with the world.” That quote aptly defines what the blog is all about and introduces the two founders.
My first acquaintance with the blog was through CTV, because more and more links were being provided during CTV discussions about Natalee Holloway. For some reason, Scared Monkeys and Dan Riehl’s Riehl World View were getting insider information out of Aruba and links to both sites had found their way to CTV. At the time, I do not believe either blog had a message board per se, but the comment sections were overflowing with discussions about Natalee Holloway. Both blogs were extremely fast paced during those first several months of the investigation and the tidbits of information pouring in were provocative to say the least.
During those first few months of the Natalee Holloway investigation, SM had 100’s if not 1,000’s of regular posters and an impressive number of viewers. As recently as April of last year the site had over 420,000 hits in one day after a mention on a Dutch television program. Those numbers pale in comparison to the daily hits the site was receiving through the summer of 2005. The comments section of the blog was bursting at the seams, so the logical next step was taken and the forum was created.
While still an active member at CTV, I would scan over the content of SM and several other blogs, only to take the material back to CTV for discussion. More and more I was becoming disgruntled with the antics at CTV, so I slowly began to post at SM before the big crash. It was exhilarating! Breaking away from the message board for an hour, would mean that fifty pages were going to fly by and it was going to take the better part of an afternoon to get caught up on what was said. In my opinion, it was the place to be to discuss the Natalee Holloway case. One of the founders of the blog had personal knowledge of Aruba and even the regular posters living in Aruba initially seemed to be helpful. At that time everyone thought that the Holloway case could and would be solved.
The cross-section of active members at that time portrayed an interesting microcosm of the Internet world and brought together individuals from all walks of life and political persuasions. It was an extremely interesting insight into the thinking of Arubans, the Dutch and a few American expatriates living in Aruba.
With diversity comes controversy and that was certainly true during those early days of the SM message board. Heated exchanges became routine and the true objective of the discussions became blurred. Eventually, the general consensus between much of the membership was that misinformation was being spread about by a few very vocal people in Aruba. The tension on the board became so tight it felt like an over-wound spring that was just before breaking and flying in all directions.
Then Scared Monkeys.net crashed! For several weeks it was not known if the message board would ever be brought back, but Front Page vigils persisted and eventually the forum re-opened. The climate of the board did change afterward and the moderation became stricter.
Presently, there is still a small group of loyal members that post regularly and many others that constantly check for news or updates about the Natalee Holloway case. The majority of the regulars are what might be considered “normal, everyday” sort of people. Their politics are as varied as their geographical locations, but they all have one thing in common. They do genuinely care about the victims of senseless crime and they reach out to those survivors left behind.
As message boards go, this was probably my favorite until the news dried up and the discussions started to drift. Actually, I even enjoyed the off-topic banter for the most part. The problem was that “off-topic” had different meanings to different people and a few decided what was to be considered off-topic based upon their own interests, or lack of interest.
Scared Monkeys is what it is and has never pretended to be anything else. People either like it, or they don’t. As with all of these blogs and message boards SM has a few short-comings, but I will not dwell on those. The general theme of Scared Monkeys is clear and it would not be appropriate to cast a shadow across the whole forum, because of a very small percentage of its membership.