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Open Letter to OnSecs & Scribes: the Case for Self-Restraint

I’ve tried to make this point before, only to be accused of advocating censorship. Obviously, those who accuse me of advocating censorship have never read my songbook! I do believe, however, that hashers need to obey certain rules of civilized behavior. When it comes to publishing hash information, in print or on the Internet, I advocate the exercise of judgment and restraint . . . even if that sometimes means self-censorship. Do you see the difference? If not, let me explain.

The most important hash rule to me (right after Rule # 1, of course) is “Never Screw Your Friends.” This rule applies especially to hash scribes and webmasters, who wield the proverbial mighty pen. Your fellow hashers have no control over what you choose to publish. If you’re irresponsible or indiscreet, you can create serious problems for your friends. You can get them fired. You can trash their personal lives.

At least one web page editor knows first-hand where I’m coming from. The following was recently written by a harriette named Lil, her final entry on the now defunct SHAPE Hash House Harriers web page:

The . . . pages have now been withdrawn. Brian & Lil would like to thank those who have viewed our pages, particularly those in SHAPE and HQ NATO that chose to download, print and anonymously send to Commanding Officer UK Support Unit. Upshot is that Brian has been ‘sacked’ and we will shortly be Hashing in UK.

Like Lil at SHAPE, I know what I’m talking about.

Several years ago I wrote a satirical article and posted it to the hash e-mail list. I was making fun of an idiotic pamphlet published by the social actions office at the military base where I was then assigned. A year later, the chief of the social actions office sent a copy of that article to my boss. Someone on the hash list passed my article on to someone else, who put it on a web page. Somehow or other that dickless social actions bureaucrat found it and tried to use it to get back at me. I squeaked out of that one . . . fortunately for truth, freedom, the American way, and Flying Booger, my boss shared my contempt for uniformed non-combatants.

The second incident had a devastating personal impact on a good friend. I once got a long-distance call from a woman. She introduced herself as the scribe for a hash in Florida and said she was collecting hash trashes from other kennels. She seemed friendly and honest, and knew many of the same hashers I knew, so I mailed her a selection of old hash trashes. Two weeks later she called again to ask if I’d send her the hash trash from June of the previous year, because some hasher from her kennel visited mine that month and forgot to bring one home. I was uncomfortable sending her the June hash trash, which contained sexually-explicit photos, but hey, she was a hasher, right? You can guess the rest. Her story was a ruse. She was collecting evidence to use against her hasher ex-husband in order to cut off his child visitation rights. Why did she want a June hash trash? That’s the month the father had custody. “Just look what that bastard exposed my baby to last June!” Copies of that infamous June hash trash went everywhere: to attorneys, child protective agencies in several states, newspapers, bosses, old acquaintances . . . you name it. It’s a miracle her ex-husband and I are still friends, but that’s another story.

Hashers like to let their hair down, especially late at night after the whiskey fog rolls in. Trouble is, these days there are always one or two assholes hanging around with VCRs or digital cameras. It’s bad enough they take photos in the first place, but then they can’t resist sharing them. Eventually, an irresponsible hash trash or web page editor publishes the photos. As Lil and I have learned, once it’s out there anyone can find it. That harriette from the East Coast who likes to party nude when she goes to Europe? What happens to her when her boss . . . or her husband, or the drooler who lives two apartments down . . . sees the photo and recognizes her? Get my point?

I’ve heard from a number of hashers on this issue. Here are some of their comments:

“The only kind of censorship I believe in is self-censorship. If a picture of someone is to be posted on any of my pages, I get permission first.”

“What happens at the hash should stay at the hash . . . [the Internet] has changed me. There are things I will now not do at the hash because of digital cameras or because of any camera and the web. If videos with voice ever come to the web I would probably not sing the same hash songs that I sing today.”

“I agree with the ‘what happens on the bus stays on the bus’ philosophy. On the ________ site I have a policy of no real names and, after receiving some negative feedback from my very first web news letter, no photographs. . . . It is surprising how widely viewed some of the sites are.”

“There are some actions that we can take as Hash webmasters. I recently had all references to my work e-mail address removed from Hash pages. I did this because . . . I did not want the name of my employer displayed on Hash pages where it could be construed as endorsing the content. I also try not to display potentially offensive information on the first pages that the visitor to the site is likely to encounter.”

In spite of a rash of friendly newspaper and magazine articles in recent years, the hash is most definitely not a mainstream or accepted activity. It’s important that we publish information for our fellow hashers, but we can’t ignore the fact that anything we publish, in print or on the Internet, can find its way into unfriendly hands. So please don’t fuck over your fellow hashers . . . if you wouldn’t want to see it in your local newspaper, don’t publish it!

- Flying Booger

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