Sunday, March 20, 2016

In the Most Perishable of Mediums

     As in real life, we tend to be shocked when people we know online pass away. I don't know if it's just me but I at least, and perhaps some of you, tend to think our online presence confers some immortality upon us. And up to a point, that's true. Many who have died still have active Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Youtube accounts as well as blogs.
     But in many cases, that simply isn't true. Take the tragic case of Diane Hugo, aka Dusty Taylor.
     Diane was apparently murdered by her own son roughly a year ago with a gunshot wound to the head. Her body was then stuffed in a freezer, along with that of her dog, and it wasn't found until last November by a squatter who'd been occupying her home. By this time, her son had committed suicide in San Luis Obispo two days after being served eviction papers for nonpayment of rent.
     I can't speak but for myself for how familiar any of you reading this are with the history of liberal blogs and those who write about politics. As bloggers are of course mortal creatures, we've had to say farewell to quite a few of our own: Jon Swift, Joe Bageant, Steve Gilliard, Bob Rixon and Andrew Olmstead, just to name a few. But aside from the obvious, there are many things in particular that are disturbing about this death.
     Diane and I followed each other on Twitter, as we both knew of each others' existence. As far as I know, we never directly communicated on that domain nor did we comment on each others' blogs. But we were both at least on the edge of our respective radar screens and that has to count for something.
     And now it seems, despite her having no other family of which I'm aware, much of Diane's online presence has been erased. One of her blogs, thankfully not the infamous Left Wing Nut Job, and her Twitter account have been deleted. Her abrupt and violent abduction from our lives especially bothers me because I'd unfollowed her Dusty Taylor Twitter account (with the avatar of a cat wearing a tin foil hat) some time last year for the simple reason she wasn't posting any more (I do that with inactive accounts every other month or so).
     Her death bothers me because I've been so out of the loop lately I did not even know about Diane's murder until minutes ago when I read an old post by my friend Lisa Golden she'd written last January. Yeah, Diane's been dead for a year, during which much of the time her son lived with her corpse in the house like something out of Psycho and I, someone who used to pride himself about being informed and a good researcher, didn't even know one of my online friends and colleagues was dead.
     Unlike virtually all my other posts, I don't have a point in mind. Yet moreso than usual of late, I feel compelled to write about Diane. I need to do this because she was one of us. She was an unabashed, shameless liberal political blogger who also didn't much like Obama (just before she left Blogger and went to her now-defunct Wordpress blog four and a half years ago, she'd called him "the worst negotiator in the history of US Presidents", which he absolutely is. The ACA proved that.).
     And it's almost as if she never existed. Life in Oildale, where she'd lived and died, has moved on and her murder and the bizarre circumstances arising from that hardly even make anyone shake their head anymore. Her online presence had mysteriously been almost completely erased. And there's something very unfair and intolerable about that.
     Maybe that's it. Maybe my entire motive for writing about Diane Hugo and her murder was so we do not forget her, what she'd written, what she'd stood for and the profane, often obscene but indelible way in which she'd framed her jeremiads. We work in a very topical medium about a subject (politics) in which a week can be an eternity. What's relevant today can easily be irrelevant and old news by tomorrow.
     And especially since Google stopped caching online material, we work in the most perishable of mediums. I've been saying this for years, that we're just one server crash, hack or delete button away from being silenced almost as if, like the Pottersville George Bailey, we'd never been born. But it doesn't make it right when one of our own is taken from us, especially so senselessly and violently. Her life and death could still stand for so many things:
     She was a 62 year-old woman when she died, a foul-mouthed old hippie who nonetheless usually found herself on the right side of issues. She did not succumb to outrage fatigue and was my soulmate in irascibly railing on about the new administration, the new Blogger, the new Firefox update and everything else that made her howl with indignation.
     She could stand as a symbol for the need for sensible gun control and the importance of adequate funding for mental health counseling.
     Or you could remember her just because she was our friend. As Lisa put it last January,
I know that some of you were friends with Dusty. I wanted you to know so that you might honor her memory, say a little prayer or just think of her, her intelligence, her passion for liberal causes and her unforgettable foul mouth.
     I do not know if anyone will memorialize me on my own passing or even if anyone will break the news. Diane had no one, no partner or confederate to tell the world what had happened. And sometimes we bloggers wonder about that. Who will break the news, especially those of us with one man blogs. Will our thoughts survive our bodies?
     I refuse to forget Diane Hugo, although I hardly knew her at any level. But she was often on the peripheries of my consciousness, with her familiar avatar of the tinfoil hatted cat showing up on my Twitter feed before it suddenly disappeared for good. She was a human being and an intelligent, discriminating one, a passionate woman and one of us.
     And she deserves to be remembered even in this most perishable of mediums.


At March 28, 2016 at 6:44 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for mentioning Steve Gilliard. I'm very glad to know that I'm not the only person who misses him.

Another one who is gone but not forgotten (at least by me) is Bartcop. Both of these gentlemen fought the good fight. So long, bros, and RIP. I'll miss ya till I'm with ya.

At March 28, 2016 at 8:26 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Hard to believe Steve G's been dead nearly a decade now.


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