#alt.suicide.bus.stop: What We Are (and What We Aren't)This page seeks to explain what #alt.suicide.bus.stop is, what it has been, and what it is not. This information is intended to prevent confusion on the part of new channel members, and to forestall further misrepresentation in the media. Content on this page has been written by Min Hrafnsdottir with the input and guidance of current channel operators. Note that content elsewhere on ashbusstop.org represents an aggregate of work from ASBS channel members over the years.
For those who do not have the time, inclination, or energy to read this page in depth, here is a summary:
- ASBS is an IRC channel.
- It was founded by participants in the ASH newsgroup, but it is not a newsgroup.
- Its constituency no longer overlaps significantly with that of the ASH newsgroup, but it shares the values spelled out in the original ASH FAQ.
- ASBS is moderated and its operators enforce rules of conduct spelled out elsewhere on this site.
- ASBS is not intended as a support group or a help hotline, even though it does often provide support to its members as an indirect effect of socializing in an unthreatening medium with like-minded people.
- ASBS does not welcome the presence of observers such as journalists or the merely curious.
#alt.suicide.bus.stop (ASBS) is a channel in Internet Relay Chat (IRC). Despite the format of its name, ASBS is not a newsgroup. Nor is ASBS a website -- though the current channel owner does maintain the website ashbusstop.org, where the page you are reading is hosted along with other material relevant to the channel.
The channel #alt.suicide.bus.stop is currently hosted on a private server, irc.ashbusstop.org. ASBS was founded on the DALnet network in 2000 by people who were, at the time, frequent posters in the newsgroup alt.suicide.holiday (ASH) on Usenet. Previously, ASH posters (ASHers) were known to use IRC channels #a.s.h, #alt.suicide.holiday, and #darkviolet. On Nov. 15, 2000, ASHer stbdchick posted to the ASH newsgroup inviting ASH posters to chat in the newly formed #alt.suicide.bus.stop. She later explained that she had founded the channel because #darkviolet had become vacant and "problems with #alt.suicide.holiday made it unusable". In April 2001, she chose to leave IRC and the ownership of the channel was passed to its current maintainer, SR-71A.
As the ASH newsgroup is and was unmoderated, hence having no owner or controller, it cannot be said that ASBS was owned by ASH or that the two were synonymous entities. It is safe to say that at the time of its founding and for some time thereafter, the ASBS channel was intended for use by ASHers and was affiliated with ASH. A FAQ and other materials for the ASH newsgroup were maintained at ash.xanthia.com, and ASBS had materials located at asbs.xanthia.com. This was not the only extension of ASHer communication outside the newsgroup: due to the unmoderated status of the newsgroup and its consequent susceptibility to abusive intruders ("trolls"), other spaces were founded under varying degrees of privacy and moderation. Such spaces included mailing lists and discussion boards. They shared ASH core values, and were collectively known as “ashspace”.
Since then, both the ASH newsgroup and the ASH-related group(s) on IRC have undergone much change. For a snapshot of this evolution, see for example a chart on the ASH website dated October 2002 which attempts to explain the structure of ashspace and spell out various entities responsible for each subgroup. The formerly lapsed DALnet channel #alt.suicide.holiday was re-founded by ASH poster jenwolf due to personal disagreement with then-operators. Many ASHers felt pressure to take sides between the two, and some efforts were made to form alternative neutral spaces. However, as of this writing none of the resulting IRC channels cited on the ASH website are in existence any longer, save ASBS itself, which has moved across several servers to its present home.
Why doesn’t the ASH website accurately represent the existing ashspace(s)? Because it is no longer maintained. The original site, ash.xanthia.com, was first frozen in 2002, then taken offline in 2003, in both instances by the decision of its owner and maintainer, who felt that the site “represent[ed] a social space which no longer exists".
Dutch journalist Karin Spaink, known for her defense of free speech on the Internet, offered to mirror and archive the ASH website materials on her own site, spaink.net. The material on ash.spaink.net is identical to the former ash.xanthia.com. In other words, it remains as a historical document of what ASH and its related ashspace(s) once were. In its current form, the ASH newsgroup has been considered to have such a low signal to noise ratio as to be unusable. As of this writing, serious posters continue to discuss suicide insofar as they can, but many find it hard to sustain conversation, and pleas for counterattacks against nonserious discussion are common. This makes moderated spaces like ASBS particularly desirable.
ASBS continues to share the values it was founded to discuss and express: the values expressed in the original ASH FAQ. First and foremost, we believe that the individual should have the right and the freedom to end his/her own life. As we stipulate on our home page, in ASBS "we find friends, peers to share our sorrows and thoughts in peace and without judgement. In contrast to other suicide support forums, we believe that every person has the right to choose to take his/her own life, if and when (s)he chooses. We do not encourage suicide, but we also do not condemn it". In conjunction with this ethic of tolerance, we do not condone the use of sexist, racist, or homophobic language. Unlike the ASH newsgroup, which is an unmoderated free-for-all, ASBS is moderated by channel operators who will enforce respect for its values.
Users of the channel should be familiar with the channel rules. Be aware that ASBS is not run by mental health professionals. It is not a support group or crisis hotline. Its collective aesthetic runs toward gallows humor and pessimism. "Shiny-happies" and evangelists will be shown the door. Conversely, do not be dismayed if channel conversation tends not to dwell on suicide.
Certainly IRC is easy to access, but ASBS is not for everyone. We would like potential ASBS users to be aware that the discussions in ASBS are often of a sensitive and personal nature. We are highly vigilant against possible incursions by predators who consider the suicidally depressed to be fair game, and we do not welcome the presence of journalists or other observers. It is no more appropriate to observe ASBS conversation as a non-participant than it would be to eavesdrop on a group therapy session or in a church confessional. ASBS members often feel violated when they learn they have been thus observed.
If you are a journalist seeking information about ASBS or a statement from an ASBSer, please contact the ashbusstop.org webmistress. She or another ASBS operator will respond to your request. Please do not seek to harass other ASBS members for an answer, even though communication with the webmistress may not be as rapid a process as you would like. Please remember we are merely private individuals living private lives, and in addition to the stresses of our daily lives, many of us labor under the energy-sapping burden of chronic depression. Be patient with us.