At last Saturday's Polymunch, practically the only topic of conversation was "Strikethrough '07," LiveJournal's controversial (and by their own admission "really screwed up") mass censorship event the last week in May. And several of the people there were all over me like a cheap coat of paint to have an opinion on the subject. They knew that censorship issues are my bread and butter, that I have relevant experience, that I was potentially one of the affected people even if I did escape notice this time, and that I'm famous for having an opinion of some kind on almost any subject.
What they got to see was something that I don't let people see very often: me, off script.
Look. I know for a fact that at least half of my friends think that I'm faking, shamming, or scamming when I claim to be mildly autistic. They know how autistic people talk, and I don't talk that way. Here's what they don't understand. Almost everything that I ever say in public is something that I scripted in advance. I plan out every plausible conversation the way that chess masters plan out games of chess. My conversation "book" (in the sense that chess players talk about their "book") includes all of the standard openings and complete strategy trees from there about nine levels down. I also have a sense of where the conversational "middle ground" is, and seek to steer conversations there the way that a chess player, when "off book," defaults to trying to control the center. And when I have nothing prepared to say, I simply shut up until the conversation drifts into an area where I have prepared script.
I have to do this. Any time that I'm not doing this, I revert most of the way back to the speech defects that got me labeled as aphasic and profoundly retarded when I was 7. There are long, ill-timed, random pauses. My posture goes hunched over and my eye contact non-existent and my facial expressions cold and mildly hostile as I am forced to divert all of the attention that goes into keeping those things from happening towards rapidly trying to improvise a script. If I have to talk under circumstances where I absolutely can not script them, I fight one heck of a stammer, and even if I beat the stammer I still have problems with losing track of where I am in the sentence, or where I was going with the sentence, three to five words in. So I end up stopping and starting, repeating sentence fragments that I already forgot that I've said, and rephrasing things ad infinitum without ever getting to the point. I know for a fact that even my closest friends find this deeply distressing to watch, possibly even more distressing than it is for me to be pushed to that place.
The late Man of Concrete was only the first person to observe that I write just the way I talk. What none of you seem to have figured out on your own is that the causality is reversed there. I talk the way I write. I talk the way I write specifically because by the time I talk about something, I've all but written it. That is to say that I've gone through the same process I go through when it comes time to write one of these columns.
And while on some level I do have an opinion about Strikethrough '07, I haven't wrestled this hard with a "script" in years. When I try to say or write my opinions on the subject, what comes out is incoherent, discursive, meandering babble. Give me at least another day to think about it.