Enforcing social rules through the scapegoat
This forum community obviously shares an interest in game discourse, so the OP's initial question about the Resident Evil game could be considered a good contribution. It is likely that the conversation would have maintained its tenor if mens_rea had not interjected with his anti-text-speak rant. If we attempt to interpret this exchange using Burke's pentad (1945) in order to determine a motive, then we must identify the Act, or action; the Scene or background of the action; the Agent, or those participating in the action; the Agency, or means of action; and the Purpose, or why the agents acted. Doing so allows us to identify the precise event that disrupted the community and who is considered at fault.
The event that disrupted the community may be called the act, which according to Kenneth Burke can be interpreted by featuring other elements of the pentadic frame, such as the agent or scene (Tonn, Endress & Diamond, 2010). mens_rea risks being viewed as responsible for changing the direction of the conversation and agitating the community (his profanity being a sudden disruption), and he recognizes the necessity to reassign this agency to someone else. In his aggressive attack on the OP, mens_rea absolves himself of fault in the disruption, and identifies the act as traversman's post. His anger then constructs an attitude towards the event that shapes public opinion (Ott & Aoki, 2010). The disruption is characterized by traversman's error-laden post rather than mens_rea's interjection complaining about it, suggesting that the community considers writing errors more disruptive than hurtful criticism about writing. The act becomes the discourteous use of text-speak in the forum (not one member's sudden, angry rant against another). At fault for this is the agent, traversman, a scapegoat, an outsider to the social order (after all, it was his first post), who is guilty of a disruption that victimizes other members by hurting their eyes, making their brains work harder (mens_rea), and being counter-productive to discussion (_SpUtNiK_).
The scapegoat, defined by Burke (1973), is "the symbolic vessel of certain burdens, which are ritualistically delegated to it" (p. 27). To be worthy of sacrifice, he must have committed some legal or moral injustice. Our scapegoat, traversman, is being sacrificed for his offense against a moral code, one that will become "law" once he is purged. To do this, the group must designate the "evil" and redraw boundaries that exclude it (Ott & Aoki, 2010). Once the scapegoat is purged, so too are the feelings of guilt associated with the named event. In this instance, members may feel guilty about their draconian response to traversman's error--a guilt Drusus exploits when he calls them 'professors.' Ott and Aoki described the scapegoat's disappearance from the community as one that brings closure by "purging them of their guilt through victimage" (p. 279).
mens_rea succeeds in rousing the community's anger against the scapegoat. Of the 16 people who respond to the thread, three individuals felt the grammar issue was trivial and that members have the right to compose their posts however they prefer. Three other members chose not to mention the issue in their posts. However, 10 members agree with mens_rea that proper grammar and spelling are not only courteous to others but elevate the level of discussion. For Burke, the urge to unite against a foe is a tribal instinct--something typical of humans in groups. Psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva (1982) called it primal repression, or a tendency toward rejection where "the speaking being, always already haunted by the Other, [will] divide, reject, repeat" (p. 12). For humans, "otherness" is a source of fear, so casting out one who represents the Other temporarily purges that fear. If this is true, what is the community afraid of?
The scapegoat, which Julia Kristeva called the abjection, is akin to animalism (it is a scapegoat, after all). The abjection confronts us with "those fragile states where man strays on the territories of animal" (p. 12, emphasis in original). It may seem unwarranted to label someone animalistic merely for using text-speak in a forum, but the members responding to traversman's post are doing just that. They call him "illiterate", "yoof", "a ten-year-old idiot", "lazy impatient halfwit", "ignorant", "lazy little git," among insinuations about his native language. For this community, using text-speak means being of lesser intelligence or foreign-different. To Kristeva, the mere use of slang is considered "writing hatred" (p. 191). Slang is strange, violent, and hard to understand; further, it is empty of meaning. It is a tool for separating one's self from others. As such, traversman, perhaps unbeknownst to him, may have targeted himself as the abjection by outwardly displaying what is perceived as hatred toward other members. It is no surprise, then, that members react by suggesting that text-speak lacks courtesy and respect for the community.
Walking on the boundaries of agent designation, mens_rea chooses his words more carefully following his initial outburst. Tonn, Endress, and Diamond (2010) described how positive moral action is transferred from victim to assailant in the 1988 Rogerson v Woods shooting case. In this case, Rogerson expressed forgiveness toward the woman he shot and killed for her fault in the event. Similarly, mens_reamakes a move toward associating himself with a positive moral action in order to recover from the stains of his initial profanity-laced outburst. When StoneColdSanchez, who has 17 posts, is accused by another of dissatisfactory grammar, mens_rea's response is much more diplomatic: "With respect, your post, and thus opinion on the matter at hand, would carry more weight with those who read it if you put a little more effort into typing it." He goes on to admit that he is often guilty of the occasional misspelling, and provides a blushing emoticon to punctuate his point. Like Rogerson, who forgave the woman he shot, mens_rea is offering a kind of forgiveness only to long-time members who commit errors and even places himself in that category alongside them. In doing so, he not only shows that he is an understanding, imperfect person, but that these other members will not be ostracized like traversman because their crimes were not nearly as grave. mens_rea is the shepherd willing to forgive the flock and shun the strays.
Shortly before the issue is resolved and the conversation (and community) returns to normal, StoneColdSanchez writes, "In an ideal world everyone will use their punctuation, and be able to spell obvious words. But this isn't an ideal world." He effectively summarizes the hidden agenda of the community as they have attempted to construct this ideal world. There is no need for his lament, since ejecting traversman from the community restored the social order. The persistence of the thread as it is maintained on the forum ensures that future outsiders will be exposed to this important rule before entering the "ideal world" and made aware of how not to disrupt it.