• Confic Magazine

A Case of Ze Said, She Said

Updated: Jan 26

News & Opinion, Culture & Community

by pixelatedHarmony


 

January 2022 — Backrooms - Etoile(ze/hir, also known as “Etoisle”), leader and administrator of the Backrooms/Tech Support(BR/TS), has resigned from hir position and been replaced by a BR/TS staff member. The resignation of Etoile came from credible allegations of abusive behavior which had been dogging hir since early 2020. The abuse in question concerns Etoile engaging in grooming behavior with a 17 year old when ze was at the time an 18 year old. Etoile has posted on Twitter admitting the allegations were true, ze had done terrible awful no good things without fully understanding the consequences of hir actions. Etoile has also said resigning would be better than trying to fight the allegations and embroiling the BR/TS community in even greater turmoil.




All of this hopefully changed over time with the arrival of new members and the departure of old ones. The biggest change was the demotion of Etoile from [hir] position of staff when [staff] learned about the stuff ze did in the past. With CutTheBirch replacing hir, I felt a breeze of fresh, new air. We went from someone that used to answer "Who care[s]", to... a head admin that cared about this community and how we could improve it. - [REDACTED]

Etoile is a distinguished containment fiction writer who has achieved notable success across multiple genres. With a career spanning many years across multiple confic spaces, ze proved to be one of the few confic authors capable of making a lasting mark across multiple major communities. Etoile has made groundbreaking work contributing both to the SCP Foundation and the The Backrooms Wiki. Pursuing an aesthetic that can best be described as ‘neo-geocities’, Etoile carved out a niche of hir own within the high-level SCP writing community, where it is oftentimes difficult to establish an identity or persona capable of standing out in a crowd. Etoile stood out in that crowd, ze were different and coming at their writing from a fresh perspective. Themes of technology, nature, and their interaction with humankind are a constant presence in hir works.


[BR/TS] is like if the SCP Wiki dropped all pretense of pretentiousness, but also drastically lowered quality standards. So on the one hand I can make mildly competent works without this looming expectation that I write the next Homeric epic but also I have to submit it to a site that lets any 15 year old post their creepypasta fanfic. - [REDACTED]

Following a mid-2020 permanent ban from the SCP Foundation’s official critiquing channel because they disapproved of hir tone, as well as an Anti-Harassment citation later in that year, Etoile committed all of hir confic efforts towards the BR/TS writing scene, which gave hir a venue for further development as a writer and organizer. It seems to have been a natural development from there to becoming the leader of such a burgeoning community. SCP was continuing to monopolize the time and attention of the most talented writers; to have someone peeling off from that orbit finding their own way meant that Backrooms had a talent worth organizing themselves around. Ze weren’t the only person in this orbit, weren’t the end unto hirself, but nonetheless it would be fair to call hir a bright star in the BR/TS writing environment consolidating at the time.


The era-defining event of hir tenure is undoubtably the schism between the Backrooms and the Liminal Archives. The bitter feuding that ensued amid this break-up is the most traumatic event yet to have occurred within the fledgling BR/TS space. It was traumatizing not only to those immediately involved, but to those who came after, suffering in the cycle of revenge inflicted by a campaign of trolling, harassment, and deliberate disruption. Although a brief period of fear ensued, the BR/TS community has shown a stiff-upper-lip attitude when dealing with diversity, along with a propensity for carrying on. Winston Churchill, eat your heart out.


Trouble came by way of a Discord server: Hole3. An extra-community space created for "free" conversations about BR/TS without oversight from the wider community. For them, part of this freedom was to harass BR/TS community members deemed to be acceptable targets. Their first target was a now-banned but then-prominent user going by 1000dumplings, or 1kd, whom they found annoying. Later, they would also use 1kd being transgender as fodder for insulting remarks (when there were other, perfectly valid reasons to dislike 1kd). Using humor, they amused each other by exaggerating and imagining anecdotes, belittling shared subjects of contempt. Hole3’s collective hate concerning 1kd in particular was only the tip of their discontent’s iceberg.


Hole3 was small, afaik, less than 20 members. And it was really directed at 1KD when they where talking about TS and not the whole place in general. - [REDACTED]

A traumatic ban wave ensued once the community at-large was made aware of what sort of mischief Hole3’s members had been up to, and for their generally behaving with duplicitous intent through the BR/TS community. This purge would serve as a canary in the coal mine for the larger divide occurring under the feet of the BR/TS community. All now knew a major schism was underway. Many longtime members were dissatisfied with the direction the community was going in, how old time members were being treated. One of those who became disillusioned at this time was former head admin Knaff. Himself not a part of this hateful miasma of Hole3, he nonetheless disagreed with the direction of BR/TS.




— Stretchster


An example of more offensive tenor found in Hole3.

The purge of those with ulterior motives known to speak with a more toxic rhetoric — where and when it was allowed, behind the closed confines of Hole3 and beyond — led to a large cadre of dissatisfied ex-members coming into existence all at once, all with an axe to grind. More than anything that can be said for the RPC/SCP split, there was a deliberate purging of members with history of using crude, vulgar, and vile conversing in other communities. A mass exodus both voluntary and involuntary ensued, leading eventually to the creation of the Liminal Archives. This was not an instant process though, as not everyone left at once (although it was a roughly condensed timeframe, this is a matter of days, weeks, and months, not years.) nor ended up joining the Laminates once they established their direction, which wasn’t immediate. They didn’t immediately use the moniker of the Liminal Archives, but will be referred to as such throughout for ease of reference.


I was not around when the whole Hole3 thing went down but from what I've gathered, it was a place made to be able to talk out of TS, in a more "free" environment. The issue being that it was created with another purpose in mind: harassing 1KD. Someone leaked what was happening in Hole3 and a bunch of people got banned over that, that lead to the creation of LA. —[REDACTED]

April 2021 was the height of tension between BR/TS and the newborn Liminal Archives. This was when Sinjin, a prominent early contributor to The Backrooms Wiki, was banned for encouraging raiding.


Those who were cast out by this purging still complain bitterly that their removal was done due to things which didn’t take place in the actual Backrooms community. Whether it was right or not to judge someone for their character based on their actions elsewhere, instead of for what they actually did in the Backrooms, is a matter better left for debate at another time. The place where the disaffected ex-members of BR/TS congregated was the same Discord server where they had previously been hiding their true feelings, Hole3. Before moving on to create what would become the Liminal Archives, the members of this community decided a wonderful bonding exercise would be harassing and trolling members of the BR/TS community as a form of revenge for their perceived unfair treatment. They were out taking an eye for an eye, engendering an awful lot of bad blood in the process.






By this point the situation was rapidly escalating with bitter reprisals being launched to avenge prior instigation. It was a vicious cycle of mutual recrimination caused by the instigating efforts of the raiding parties engaging in constant nefarious activities. There was a brief spooking of the BR/TS community thinking that the Liminal Archives might somehow disrupt the Backrooms community enough to permanently handicap them, or eclipse it in popularity. This notion was swiftly dispelled by the continued growth of Backrooms. The Liminal Archives continues maintaining a status quo with a small central cadre of users.


It could be said that the members of the Liminal Archives, individually and in groups, have an unhealthy fixation with hating on Etoile. Their members continual harassment of hir during and after the schism wasn’t an action coordinated and planned by their community at large, but was fostered by the culture of hating on Backrooms as a whole, and Etoile in particular. Hir name became the stand-in for all of their gripes and the personification of their fears when it came to BR/TS’ relationship with the Archives. While the Liminal Archives has consistently disciplined those they known to have been engaging in this harassment, it is still undeniable that their community is where that hate was fomented and directed, before condemning it was necessary.


There is a direct correlation with those who used transphobic rhetoric where such vile language was tolerated, to vehemently disliking and disparaging Etoile; although not all who disapprove of Etolie do so for this reason. Even before coalescing into the Liminal Archives, the rise of Etoile meant that there was rapidly developing within the Backrooms community two separate community spheres with differing values and priorities. Not only due to their distaste for hir personal identity, but the reforms Etoile is responsible for implementing represent policies in diametric opposition to the ones now pursued in the Liminal Archives. It is not easy to say whether this is entirely due to backlash against hir policies, or if this is more due to the general temperament of the Liminal Archive’s membership not wanting direct authority imposed upon them. It is likely both.


Backrooms means more structure and Liminal Archives means less structure. There is a public staff chat channel and a place for the users to suggest things, but the day-to-day managing of the community’s affairs come down in a lot of ways to the personalities of those in staff who are by happenstance contemporaneously active at any given moment. Of course, such a characterization could be made of nearly any large human organization when you reduce it down to the basic elements, but there really isn’t much more to the structural hierarchy of the Liminal Archives than that. They take some pride in themselves for not having the more complicated processes and procedures of the Backrooms, however as a self-selecting inner circle it can only be as effective as its compromises.


[On BR/TS:] Definitely not the SCP wiki. Definitely similar. There's more categories on [BR/TS]. Stuff like anomalous locations and anomalous items lists were kinda petty one-off works all lumped into a list. On the backrooms wiki, all the lists are expansive and detailed. Theres an objects list, a levels list, GOI and POI's list, entities list, all actively being added to. These are lists of links, not just additions to some page. Brand new pages. — [REDACTED]

This also means there is far less accountability to the community. It would seem at initial glance that this setup would be far less hierarchical than one would find in other confic communities, but in reality it just means the power to make decisions is concentrated in fewer hands. Community votes are merely suggestions for ideas staff might do, with anything they’re not actually fans of easily cast aside by waiting for the momentum behind the idea to run out; a sort of happenstance denial by running out the clock.


The schism led to the LA staff taking on a level of transparency that should make larger and older confic communities turn green wit. The use of secret side chats for staff members to talk about users without their seeing has been eliminated, due to the fact that having such a space allowing for the fostering of bad feelings. This led to escalating tensions and eventually everything previously described, which nobody had a taste for experiencing again. A lesson learned for building trust within a community; open communication from leadership not holding themselves apart, but holding themselves accountable. This is also a part of Etoile’s legacy.


Sure, Etoile didn’t do everything but a lot of what Etoile did was weeding the community and a lot of staff + non-staff big players are around because of what ze did. Most of staff were handpicked by hir. —[REDACTED]

Despite this transparency, there will still be drawbacks to bureaucratizing, making disparate classes within the community, which have the potential for drifting apart in terms of their interests. The fact that it was transparent did not automatically allow for new ideas and reforms to naturally spring forth, as there was still an elite cadre of staff members who made the final say on whether or not a ruling could be change, or the critique process reformed. On the other hand, there is a constant refining of the creative workshopping process happening on the Backrooms/Tech Support Wiki. This is a young community still building up their process, and the volume of content they’re already responsible for producing is impressive even if not all of it stands up to the bar set by older, more established communities.


All of these aspects of the BR/TS collective are part and parcel with Etoile’s career legacy. Evaluating it now is an exercise in proving one’s lack of future foresight. Unless one is lucky, any prognosticating or predicting is a complete waste of time. All that is worth measuring now is what people have to say about how they are feeling now. A snapshot in time is going to provide infinitely more information and context than trying to figure it out on one’s own.


Etoile's resignation seems to be in ways a major setback for the BR/TS community, as their previous leadership stability gave the community room for building a tolerant and accepting writing environment. Without hir making the final calls, these policies may not be enforced to the same degree they were before. But with an established tradition of tolerance, it is unlikely they would ever end up backsliding into the free-for-all speaking environments seen in contemporary confic communities.


Etoile hirself appears to have taken a fatalistic but accepting role of their exiting the Backrooms community. Framing their departure as being for the good of the community, Etoile is passively allowing events to unfold without fighting them. After all ze have been through, it is easy to understand how after all the exhausting trials and labors, fighting this or trying to stand through it would be too much. Succeeding Etoile as the leader of the Backrooms/Tech Support community is Birch, also known as CutTheBirch. Although Etoile has promised to make a final statement regarding hir departure from the Backrooms, there is no such post at the time of publication.


The whole situation was addressed publicly the 30/11, some staff where afraid that it would provoke a wave of panick but in the end... Few conversations talking about it went on in the public chats. Simply because people are not here for [the staff]. They are here for the Backrooms. That change wasn't that important for them, they still trust the rest of staff to handle all of this. —[REDACTED]


 

SPECIAL THANKS TO


Stretchster, of the Backrooms


Pierson, of the Society for Containment Fiction


All of the [REDACTED] Backrooms contributors who provided information despite fearing potential social retaliation. Your privacy is important to us, thank you for contributing.





© HB

© Confic Magazine


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