ethics code for alt.revenge

By The Last Viking, (02/1995) and Damaged Justice, (05/1995).

[Disclaimer: I (Damaged Justice) hardly ever read alt.revenge, as alt.shenanigans is more to my taste. I happened across the original version of this "Ethics Code" on the Web, and was inspired to revise it as follows.]

One cannot say that revenge is mean or cruel, just as one cannot say that one who engages in it is a bad person. Revenge is merely one person's idea of "justice", and therefore it is always "justifiable", if only to the person performing it, who is retaliating for a wrong they believe has been done to them. Absent evidence to the contrary, or inappropriate use of force by them, there are few people who have a moral leg to stand on; if you've never felt the urge to avenge a wrong done to you or someone you care for, you've led a rather shallow life.

So how do we determine what level of force is appropriate? One may look at an act of vengeance and say that the magnitude of the revenge is unjustified, but this will always be determined by your particular idea of what would be appropriate. Traditionally, from ancient Iceland to feudal times and even today, the avenger takes matters personally in hand and fights back at the one that has done him wrong. It's a justice system where the avenger functions as judge, jury and executioner. There are no "disinterested third parties"; merely one who has done wrong, and one who retaliates. (I've included the possibility of avenging a wrong done to someone you care for, which can motivate you to strike back even more than if you were the victim.) In any event, the avenger should the one that "really knows what has been going on", and is therefore justified in his actions.

Looking at the justice system in most countries of today reveals many holes, which occasionally happen to protect the one who has done wrong as well as the one who would seek vengeance. Attempting to strike back through these established government monopoly channels is generally of little use and just as dangerous to you as to your target, especially in certain cases. Perhaps the matter is considered too small or unimportant for the court to take notice of (e.g., a salesperson is incredibly, offensively rude to you); or the legal system is explicitly set up so as to protect the target (e.g., when the target enjoys special immunity from liability, as in the case of the American nuclear power industry); or there is insufficient proof (your word against theirs); or the matter is intensely personal (such as a trusted friend betraying you in a way which is more detrimental to your state of mind than your immediate physical health or safety).

Thinking up a plan or scheme is only half of revenge; actually doing it is another thing. In some cases, fantasizing, joking with friends or producing fictional accounts of one's plans may be catharsis enough. But if you truly intend on following through, you need to justify your yourself! What consequences will befall the target? More importantly, what will happen to you? (Even if you pull it off beautifully, it won't be very satisfying if you end up in jail or dead.) Will the scheme improve the overall situation? Will the target's wrongdoings change or cease? Or do you just want to make them suffer? Or do you want to make an example out of them?

You can think of revenge as being of four different severity levels:

  • 1: Mild. Usually better described as a prank or shenanigan, but having a purpose other than simple annoyance. This sort of action is more often legal than not; if illegal, it is harder to prove and more likely to be simply dismissed for lack of evidence, or in extreme cases, laughed out of the courtroom.

  • 2: Memorable. More serious revenge, occasionally involving destruction of property (an automobile, a prize vegetable garden). Actions such as these are illegal in most jurisdictions, but they are still hard to prove unless you are very careless or very unlucky.

  • 3: Up Close and Personal. These schemes are aimed directly at the person, including but not limited to bodily injuries, foreboding threats and the like. These are more difficult to perform without being discovered. Revenge becomes more personal. This is illegal, but with luck and planning it is still possible to escape detection.

  • 4: Serious and/or Permanent. The target's life is never quite the same after an incident of this magnitude. Where level 3 might be a blow to the target's face, we are now talking about changing the face, leaving scars physical and/or psychological for life, and perhaps ending their life. This is almost always highly illegal, and authorities generally exert a great deal of resources and effort into apprehending the responsible parties.

  • Levels 1 and 2 are the most commonly used. If you are considering level 3 or 4, you should think long and hard about why you are doing it, what you hope to gain from it, and if the price you might pay will be worth it.

    There is usually always some discussion on alt.revenge about revenge on animals, trees or other such non-human entities. If you look in The Avenger's Handbook, you will find few or no such schemes, because as humans, we cannot hold inanimate objects, or even animals, for their actions. A dog's natural instinct is to bark, and the instinct may be suppressed if the owner knows how to train and treat the dog, but if the owner is clueless the dog will continue to bark. In this case, the owner is your target, because he is the one responsible for not properly taking care of the animal. Before you consider a scheme of this nature, look at animals as you would look on small children. You don't give poison to a child if it cries.

    Possibly the most important aspect to consider is what might happen to you. Many revenge schemes are conceived in the heat of the moment, or executed blindly in a fit of rage. When the pain of your wounds is fresh, you are more likely to misjudge the appropriateness of your retaliation. You are in no shape to think at a time like this. Despite the momentary pain it may cause, try to let the storm pass. Realize that someone who has wronged you this deeply is not worth your throwing your life in the garbage. If you can relax, you will be more capable of accurately assessing your situation. You may come up with a less extreme scheme, but equally as good. You can wait weeks, months and even years, getting your life back into shape and taking the time to plan it right. Then, you can strike when the target least expects it.

    Some mention must be made of the never-ending battle scenario, where someone strikes back at you because he discovers that you struck back at him, usually with greater force. Whether the magnitude of the vengeance increases or stays the same, the result is usually the same: You're in a blood feud, Hatfield and McCoy style. In the time of the Vikings, if one person killed a member of another family, that family went to the first family and killed one of them. The first family would then go back to the second and kill another one, to avenge their loss. Sometimes the matter would be settled. Sometimes, everyone on both sides ended up dead.

    You may recognize this as the same sort of shit happening in the Middle East these days. This is a very unfortunate situation. The best way to handle this sort of thing is not to start it in the first place. Maybe this is the best argument for level 1 and 2. You'll have to decide for yourself.

    Some people merely want to make an example of the target. Maybe they want to humiliate them in front of lots of people; maybe they just want to demontrate power, pure and simple. This can be much more effective if the target is a blackmailer or other similar "mind criminal", or if you want to leave an indelible impression and make sure they know not to fuck with you twice. After a level 3 or 4 vengeance, if the target doesn't discover your identity and retaliate in kind, they will generally cease to be a problem for you, if they are able to recover.

    The four main tenets of the ideal revenge:

    • 1. Do unto others as they do unto you. (Let the punishment fit the crime.)
    • 2. Don't involve innocents. (Don't hurt someone unless they hurt you.)
    • 3. Be prepared to be caught. (Always imagine a worst case scenario.)
    • 4. Think before you drink. (Think before you do, period.)
    Not everyone cares about rules or ethics. In fact, a lot of people don't believe there is, or should be, any such thing as "real ethics". As one person said, "If somebody pisses in my mouth, I am not going to call it rain, I'm going to call it piss." Revenge is almost always done in cases of extreme emotional outburst. It's a natural reaction when pushed to the wall: People are going to try to get the other person back so hard it hurts, mentally, emotionally, maybe physically.

    One may not personally agree with all forms of revenge. If someone advocates a form of revenge that you feel is a little (or way) beyond the bonds of rationality, and you disagree with them, don't be afraid to speak up. Try to understand their motivations, but if you know someone is wrong, tell them so.

    Ethical debate as practiced on alt.revenge, and on the entire Net, is just that: debate. Nobody can hit you over the Net, or hang you from a tree until you're dead, or burn your house down. That's one of the best things about it.

    To sum up: Think. And do the right thing... or at least try to.

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