what's wrong with being infamous?

Based on my reply to a posting on rec.org.sca, Sun, 16 Dec 2001

The SCA is a giant rumour mill, and you may find yourself with a reputation or even a degree of notoriety for the strangest things: Things you didn't do or say, things you did, but not that way, things you did that way but in a very different context... you get the idea.

Having gathered something of a (at best) checkered reputation myself over the years (in case you're asking: mostly for making good arguments for unpopular subjects and for having the wrong kind of friends), I feel that I might add my 2 cents on the debate of How To Become Notorious and What To Do Afterwards.

First, being 'infamous' (or notorious, or just having any kind of bad reputation) is, in a way, a bother, because people react to your reputation, not to you. You might become inefficient in the things you do best, you'll have a hard time getting people to trust you, getting help or drinking companions becomes troublesome, and if your bad reputation is false, only people who you'd rather not deal with will want your company. In other words, a major bother and discomfort.

OTOH, beauty and its opposite lie in the eye of the beholder, and there are some kinds of bad reputations you can be thankful for, because they spare you the company of people you do not care for. If e.g. associating with you is bad for peoples' careers, you will be spared the company of toadies and courtiers.

Your reputation rubs off on your friends, too. Say you have the above reputation, but your group's honest and hard-working seneshal happens to be your friend. Now the seneshal needs her superior officer to approve of some action or sign some paperwork. Very likely it will be a cold day in hell before she gets what she needs. (Yes, groups can 'die' over something like that.)

Sure, that's not fair. But consider the other side of the coin: How do people know anything about anyone in the SCA? Quite often it's tales. Rumours. Reputation. In addition to that, getting and holding an office requires both diplomacy and caution. So, e.g., everyone, probably up to Their Majesties says that a certain person is up to No Good and so is their clique. Furthering their agenda, even by signing some seemingly innocent paperwork might get the unfortunate person doing so tarred with the same brush at best, or shake the foundation of the Kingdom or the Society at worst. What is the regional seneshal in the example to do? Best play it safe, ask the higher-ups... Only, they are even more dependent on hearsay since they're even more unlikely to know the persons in question. You can guess the outcome, and, in all honesty, there's not much that can be done about it.

So, the responsibility of dealing with a reputation once aquired, be it by means fair or foul, falls upon the holder of that reputation, if only because s/he's the only one who really can deal with it. ('Dealing' might involve reverse psychology, machiavellian maneuvering, convincing by deed, showing that your reputation is unearned, retreating from official functions, convincing people that you did the right thing, or simply laughing about it... depending on what your reputation and your goal is.)

Of course, the responsibility to at least try not to believe in hearsay and not let our own prejudices cloud our perception lies with each of us.

All in all: There's nothing morally wrong with being infamous. There might be something wrong with the actions that made you become so, then again, there might not. But being infamous makes you highly visible and influences what you will and can get out of the SCA. Think about the effects beforehand (if possible), and be careful.

-- inge

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