Rangers

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Rangers was a Babylon 5 fan group.

The moderators were Ron Jarrell, Joe Cochran, Dave Sission, and Todd Perry. Jarrell was the fan who set up the mailing list that initially allowed JMS to get rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5. [1]

The group was created to filter messages/"administer the feed" from rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 (commonly called "rastb5") and pass them along to J. Michael Straczynski, auteur, series creator and executive producer of Babylon 5.

The messages that were filtered were ones that discussed fanworks, story ideas and anything else that the Rangers may have thought would be dangerous or problematic for J. Michael Straczynski to read.

The name of the group comes from Babylon 5 itself: "The code of the of Babylon 5's Rangers "We walk in the dark places that no one else will enter. We stand on the bridge, and no one may pass."

"The Rangers [in] Babylon 5 bear more than a passing resemblance the Rangers of the North in LotR. The code of the of Babylon 5's Rangers "We walk in the dark places that no one else will enter. We stand on the bridge, and no one may pass," directly calls upon the scene of Gandalf's second confrontation with the Balrog when he shouts, "You cannot pass!" and perhaps more indirectly to Aragorn's description of the Rangers in The Fellowship of the Ring: "Lonely men are we, Rangers of the North, hunters — but hunters ever of the servants of the Enemy." [2]

Why Were the Rangers Created?

An explanation from the Ranger's creator, Ron Jarrell in a 1998 post:

The posting of story ideas got to be a real concern, and JMS was also getting tired of the personal attacks of certain members of the group, and started talking about pulling out. (He was still reading via email, and replying the same way.) So there was a group of people that started talking about creating a mod group, which they hoped would keep him around, and another group, which I was part of, that really dislikes mod groups, particularly wit the way the technology works, and looked for other mechanisms. Thus was created what was called the Rangers (named after the show, not the other way around). We essentially "worked" for JMS (I say "worked" because we were a group of volunteers, the efforts of which he appreciated, not employees, but who's labors were directed towards him, and keeping him in the group). We read every single message, and approved then for being passed on to JMS's feed. If there was a story idea, the post got dropped from his feed. This worked for a few months, but the "kooks" were wearing him down. I actually offered, since we were filtering *anyway*, to add anyone he wanted to the list to be filtered out. He finally accepted (I pointed out that most everyone else on the net had access to kill files, he ought to be able to avail himself of the technology, and not feel he *had* to read everything!) but before we could implement it, he changed his mind and decided that the "feel" of the room was just to uncomfortable now, he was getting too many complaints from other members of the group about the personal attacks going on, and he felt responsible - they wouldn't be there if he wasn't. [3]

Some Drift of the Title, and Confusion Regarding the Function

"Ranger" and "moderator" were two terms that some fans struggled with.

From Rangers Unite! (was Re: Clearing the air.), late July 1995:

When a John T. Carr III, not a Ranger (someone who filtered posts on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 to JMS) but a moderator on the list itself, wrote:
Okay, that settles it -- Babylonians is the generic fan name, rastb5 Rangers is the name for us spods.
Another fan replied:
Unfortunately, John, I think the "rastb5 Rangers" are the specific group who are moderating JMS's feed of the newsgroup. *BUT*, I don't see why they should have exclusive use of the name, since the Rangers in the show are working for Sinclair, and he's one of my two favourites, I think I could be a Ranger, whether I'm doing stuff to moderate the newsgroup or not. (Or, I could always go with the other of my faves and join Security...) It's nice that the specific folks doing the moderation for JMS got to have a special group name, but I'd hate to see things get elitist 'round here, with no one else being allowed to use the names...
One of the "official" members, Joseph Cochran, of the Rangers weighed in:
That is correct. The specific group to which jms was referring was indeed those who moderate jms' feed. And the inconvenience to which he is referring is the fact that Rangers must read all messages in the group, spoiler or no, to ensure that he sees no story ideas. You are also correct in the assumption that the current Rangers have no exclusive rights to the name. When the group was formed, a name was needed, and it seemed thematically cool to use a name for a group who "were called together in the service of the One" to represent a group that was called together to perform a specific service for one very special person. It was not intended to be elitism. If a larger group of fans decides to use the name, the current Rangers will just have to choose another, though, since there still needs to be a way to refer to the group.
Dave Sisson, another member of the official rangers, wrote:
Except that it's not moderating, it's filtering. I guess we could call the group, "The B5 Filters", but that's pretty silly.
A fan named Todd Perry:
Feed moderators" might be closer. It's still not : good, because it's not a regular newsfeed, and we're not really moderators. Picking a short name like "Rangers" certainly made conversation easier, since it's easier to roll your tongue around than, say, "the mail-feed moderator-filter persons.
Daniel Pawtowski:

Moderators" has a very, VERY specific meaning in Usenet terminology, and the Rangers do *not* fit the definition. The above statement is similar to those who refer to Usenet as a "BBS" because "You talk to people on computers with them". Note: This is _not_ meant as a flame. I *know* the difference myself,

and I keep slipping and using the term "Moderators". One problem is that the Ranger's job here is rather unique in all of Usenet, so there isn't a pre-established term for what they do. Chances are, a good portion of this newsgroup would make the same mistake.
A fan named Cheryl L. Martin wrote:
Well, I think calling yourselves 'Rangers' is pretty silly and elitist.

Some Consequences of the Rangers

A chilling effect, elitism, and fan politics were some of the consequences of Rangers.

In early July 1995 at cause of death by spacing = ? fans discussed vacuums, decompression, and space in a very technical, detailed way.

Some comments by several fans in this post:

"That's a story idea."
"So? He's on a moderated feed..."
"Story ideas are still against the charter of the group. This means that they are still Bad Things (tm), regardless of the status of the feed to jms. From this point on, there's no need to point at people and say "this is a story idea," as the Rangers will be interacting with jms to make sure that we know exactly what he does and does not want to see. Let's just get back to discussing what this group was designed to discuss -- Babylon 5."
"Look, for JMS I'm willing to make an effort. For you? Puh-leeze. If I posted messages only after considering the possible consequences for every single possible reader, I'd never post anything at all! [loud shouts of "GOOD" momentarily drown out all other sounds]"
"Mr. Alberti's reply: "Look, for JMS I'm willing to make an effort. For you? Puh-leeze." Thank you, Mr. Alberti. You're *such* a comfort. You might ask Ron Jarrell and the Rangers who will have to work so hard to pull the story ideas out of Joe's feed to add a note to the greeter post: "Writer's aren't welcome on this group. Participate at your own risk.""

Other "Moderation" Pitfalls

In July 1995, JMS wrote about how one of his own posts at rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 that was edited by a moderator (not a Ranger) before it was posted to Usenet:

Good heavens, I was virtually unaware of the degree to which this had escalated. To add, quietly, my two-cents...when I found one of my posts had been edited by Jay for spoilers, I inquired of him privately and indicated that this might not be A Good Thing, since I'd been fairly careful in my phraseology. He accepted that, and apologized, and was quite gracious about it.

For my money, you can't keep spoilers out of here, protected or unprotected, except by virtue of shared kindness and understanding. The whole REASON for my getting a moderated newsfeed, as I now do, was to PREVENT the need to moderate the newsgroup for content. It thus seems to me slightly unproductive that it's now done for spoilers when we took this step of moderating my feed, and inconveniencing many of the rastB5 Rangers, to avoid moderation. jms [4]

Meta/Further Reading

References

  1. ^ Rangers Unite! (was Re: Clearing the air.), July 25, 1995
  2. ^ The 10 Most Unlikely Things That Were Influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien; archive link by Amanda Yesilbas and Charlie Jane Anders (12/07/12)
  3. ^ Ron Jarrell: How did JMS come to be here in the first place
  4. ^ Rangers Unite! (was Re: Clearing the air.), July 26, 1995