Censorship or Stewardship?

Joe P, a blogger out in East Knoxville and one very sharp guy, said something in a comment today that I swear I just spent two hours hashing out with a good friend.  He said this:

I was amazed the management simply did not close the comments section down on Brit’s last post, that none of the new crew bothered to say “we reluctantly accept her resigination.” Or if not close the comments for that post, then how about editing it to remove the I Hate Southerners comments and the She’s A Bitch noise.

All that seems to point to either a deeply inexperienced management or one that hopes to kill of NiT altogether.

The key word there?  Editing.  Not censoring, but editing.  The reason this resonated so much with me is that I have been saying that removing comments that distract the reader from the issue at hand seems like good stewardship to me.  Call it disinfecting, like heating a needle before using it to remove a splinter. If you remove a viewpoint simply because it is not your own, sure, thats myopic and I guess censorship if you care to cling to one of these definitions of the word…but I think most people don’t want to plow through this “noise” of arguments not germaine to the original topic, and might ultimately come to embrace the practice of deleting personal insults or off topic rants.  I might even say that this method of staying on topic might help save the blog community from self-destructing.  I’m actually kind of proud to be a part of this message form, I might even call us cutting edge.  But the carnage that took place last week over at TCP and NiT was a bit of an embarassment.  Smart people missed some fundamental points.  For instance, there were commenters who were clearly well-spoken, but still didn’t get that Brittney didn’t write the offending post.  That tells me that they were screaming so loud they couldn’t hear the person talking into their ear.  I argued all day today that the introduction of “sexism” to this issue distracted everyone from the point , which was whether or not Brittney should have linked to it at all, or if she should have been clear that she did not “endorse” it.  Maybe a discussion about whether or not a WKRN sponsored blog has a different set of rules that apply to their blog than an individual blog owner does.  I clearly do not have the answers to those questions, I have an opinion, but I know that it would have gotten lost amidst the righteous indignation and real or manufactured outrage.

So, I was glad to see that Joe P wasn’t afraid to offer that up as a solution to threads that get out of hand.  I’ll admit that a “slippery slope” argument could be made, since there exists a huge possibility for abuse.  However, I think if I visited a blog long enough to see that the owner was reckless in this practice, I would simply move on.  I suppose the “moderation” of comments might work, but that slows down the discussion, and I’d be concerned that people would move on too soon out of frustration with the lag time.

I don’t have any hard and fast rules here, at least not that I post as some sort of disclaimer or guideline, but I’m not sure I won’t adopt some in the future.  I realize that I am but a speck in the blog-world, but who knows, if enough people did the same, would it become the de facto standard?  If you have read something about this, and have a minute, drop in a link for me to read.

Advertisements

25 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

25 responses to “Censorship or Stewardship?

  1. Though you are handsome beyond all compare and your brain intimidating in the quickness with which the synapses fire, not to mention how kind, gentle, and overwhelmingly manly you are, you are wrong.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

    But I bet your friend is a raving beauty over whom all men, married and single, gay and straight, fight over.

    No, I kid.

    Here’s my point. I think it’s fine for individual bloggers to set a policy that says he or she will delete abusive comments or comments he or she believes to be off-topic.

    I think it’s fine for a news organization to set a policy that they’ll delete offensive comments, but I think it would be weird to just delete offensive comments on one post. And who would do it at WKRN? Is there someone above the NiT blogger who would act as editor? And if that person began pruning comments, wouldn’t he or she also be responsible for edited content? And then, in the context of that post, would he or she then be responsible specifically to edit that content?

    But let’s switch topics and talk about both sexism and the off-topic topic. (And to be clear, I’m not talking about the NiT thing, but this problem in general).

    Let’s say blogger A. has a blog and a penis and a policy of deleting posts that are, to his mind, off-topic.

    Let’s say the topic of his post one day is whether there are enough women in Sports Illustrated. And, let’s say, that many of his male readers take that opportunity to complain that there sure aren’t enough women in SI, why can’t we have more swim suit issues, more beach volleyball coverage, etc.?

    Now, say a female commenter says that this discussion is sexist on its face, because one must also look at what kinds of representations of women are being shown in SI.

    Is that comment off-topic? Why or why not?

  2. Let me first say that though you are clearly holding up something nice and shiny for us to marvel at because your analogy is weak, you should still be revered by every male on the planet, and further, men should fight to the death for the privilege of rubbing your ankles while spoon feeding you ice cream. That said, this is where you derail the argument:

    Let’s say the topic of his post one day is whether there are enough women in Sports Illustrated. And, let’s say, that many of his male readers take that opportunity to complain that there sure aren’t enough women in SI, why can’t we have more swim suit issues, more beach volleyball coverage, etc.?

    You said it yourself. The TOPIC was about whether or not enough women were being featured in SI. Now, If I come along and assert that since you didn’t say that there are not enough Latina women being featured in SI, then clearly you are being racist.

    If the original point of the post is about sexism, let it be so. The objection to Brittney’s post, or her headline, should be the thing that is debated, not whether or not whomever’s objection is rooted in sexism.

  3. But, see, here’s my question. How do you tell whether someone is operating in good faith?

    Again, not talking specifically about NiT, but if someone raises an objection to something there, don’t I have a right to question the context in which she’s offering the objection? Because, certainly, if I determine the objection is being raised in bad faith, I have no obligation to respond to it, do I?

    I eagerly await your response. In the meantime, I’ll be thinking of your large feet and shapely wrists, which are, like your personality, exceptionally pleasant.

  4. Char

    So do you want to homogenize the comments ? Should all posters have to register, so you could ban the offensive commenters? That sounds like Bill O’Reily. Yuck!

  5. i’m with you that editing eases tooooooo close to censorship. far more curious to me was the management’s decision to let the comments roll on and on, even though the person who posted it was no longer employed by them. it just seemed odd that no one at the station was minding the blog in any way, at least for a day. and truly, most commenters at NiT fired back with much accuracy at the haters, outnumbering them by legions.

    on me own blog i have indeed deleted comments that went far beyond making comments, to mindlessly raving, cursing and insulting others who made comments. i can count the times i’ve done that on three fingers.

    perhaps it simply was that Brit’s exit left them all at an utter loss for what to do. shit happens.

    and dang, Aunt B – couldn’t you have said both men AND women swoon at my feet? cause they do. 🙂

  6. Well, B, I guess I’m saying that it would fall to brittney to edit comments, since she was the moderator, so to speak.

    Char, no, I’m not suggesting registering or deleting something because it isn’t something you agree with. And, I’m not completely sold that it is a good thing. I am saying that if a blog author decides to wipe a thread clean of objectionable comments, (granted, what is objectionable is open to debate) he or she is not “censoring” free speech.

    Joe, my main bitch with WKRN is that they really did not handle the situation at all. No thanks, no acknowledgement that they were caught by surprise, just nothing for a few hours, then, ok, heres Kat. Clearly, no one was paying attention. That says something, I think. BTW, if you have both men and women swooning at your feet, try some socks that wick away moisture, that might help. 😉

  7. Malia

    Though you are handsome beyond all compare and your brain intimidating in the quickness with which the synapses fire, not to mention how kind, gentle, and overwhelmingly manly you are

    you should still be revered by every male on the planet, and further, men should fight to the death for the privilege of rubbing your ankles while spoon feeding you ice cream

    I’ll be thinking of your large feet and shapely wrists, which are, like your personality, exceptionally pleasant.

    Y’all are cracking me up and making me want to barf at the same time.

    😉

    (And since this is an off topic comment, will you edit/delete it?)

  8. Nah, Malia, it isn’t disruptive enough. Plus, you repeated all the nice things B said about me…

  9. nm

    I think that comment about socks is waaay off-topic. Plus it’s clearly meant as an insult to Joe. This is sooooo typical of southerners. You are all inbred, snaggle-toothed, inherent bigots with bad tempers. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. If you were decent people you would live in a blue state, except that Mack really ought to go back to where his ancestors came from. Not the rest of us, though. 🙂

    Thank you, I feel much better now.

  10. Char

    While we have the right to free speech, Bloggers are not obligated to host the forum, so when things get vile, a blogger should be able to edit their commenters. But if a blogger is all Nazi about it, why blog?

  11. There is a line that I think we are all forgetting in the distinction between blogs and mainstream media. NiT was creating a new forum and the lines, in my opinion, got really blurred. But when you are creating something news, policy and “rules” tend to come from change, transition and unfortunately, painful experience.
    Joe P. and I know the world of editing. I don’t run every letter I get at the newspaper, but many times it has to do with available newsprint real estate as much as anything else.
    Blogging is more, and this is my opinion again, about creating small communities. News is news. NiT was both and that creates a new media forum.
    With all of this said, the fabulous John H. told me something back in December that resonated with me and and I will paraphrase but it was along the lines of “Trace, it’s your blog. This isn’t the newspaper. You make up what’s comfortable to you.”
    And Paul Chenowith wrote a great post Friday about blogging being transitionary as media moves into a new forum.
    I ponder all of this.
    As for censoring in comparison to editing, I guess it just depends as sometimes commenting and creating a dialogue is what tends to be at the crux of a blogging family. If people don’t want part of that, they can design (as Instapundit has which, quite frankly, I don’t like) a soap box but how will one know, other than a site meter, who is visiting and if our words are resonating with our audience.
    Huck, my long-missed, beloved blogger, met with us for lunch a couple of months ago and he had a friend who said he finds that having personal aligned with political shapes his view of our credibility as writers.
    All a lot of food for thought, and I hijacked your comments.
    Sorry 🙂

  12. Comment deleted by Blog Master.

  13. Nah, just kidding.

  14. For instance, there were commenters who were clearly well-spoken, but still didn’t get that Brittney didn’t write the offending post.

    “Common sense is not so common.” – Voltaire

    If WKRN owns and runs the site, then they should be able to do what ever the hell they want with it.

    I don’t really use WKRN (or read/watch it), so I don’t really know the “Brittney” lady.

    But…I think that censorship is the enemy of the human soul.

  15. Mack, even though mothers ought to send their boy-children to you to learn at your feet and even though I have spent all afternoon writing odes to the delightful curve of your skull just above your forehead, you are still wrong.

    Often, the true subject of a post isn’t what the subject is on the surface. In the NiT case, you might say that the subtext is “How are we to live in the world?”

    In which case, I didn’t see that many comments that were off topic.

    I don’t want to drive my point into the ground, because I know you don’t agree with me, but I do want you to really consider this:

    Thinking that you are the default in any given situation, in this case, that you are the default reader and that everyone on the internet has to take into account how you would feel about something they wrote or you will punish them, is an extraordinarily privileged position.

    Most folks get used to the idea and internalize the idea that the world is not made to suit them.

    If you see that someone is operating from a privileged position (such as assuming the whole internet works with them in mind), it’s not unreasonable to wonder where the source of this privilege comes from. And it wasn’t wrong of me to make an educated guess.

  16. Before I go join Malia in barfing, I would like to just say that after observing so much toxic, self-important, self-righteous, argumentative garbage of the past couple of months — and to the utmost extreme, the last week — where I stand right now concurs 100% with the following:

    “I have to be honest and tell you that my entire perception of the internet and online communications has to be reevaluated after all this.” –Brittney Gilbert

    Life’s too short, ya know?

  17. What happened to brittney was actually quite mild. I have seen far worse flaming done for less of a reason. But I agree that it is indeed toxic.

  18. Jon

    As a general rule I’m very wary of comment deletion, but I could see making the case for this one post which was such an out of the ordinary circumstance. Frankly if it were me I would have deleted *everything* on that post directly related to the debacle itself, all of which belonged on the previous two related threads, or at least moved those comments where they belonged. That final post should have been left for goodbyes and well wishes and little more — and the extremely poor taste shown by the agitators who who showed up on that thread to repeat their nonsense probably pissed me off more than the nonsense itself.

  19. “Joe P, a blogger out in East Knoxville…” – You mean Morristown? That’s my hometown, yo. 🙂
    [pending deletion for reckless use of comment feature]

  20. supermousey

    Sorry, Debbie, but i thought East Knoxville would lend him a little cache’…

    I mean, we are talking Morristown here.

  21. supermousey

    OOOPS! I’m going to go and remind Supermousy to log off my computer when she is done.

  22. i know my blog profile says Mo’town, but really i live in a wee though historically sanctified community called Talbott – or as the locals call it, Talbert – a topographically adjacent neo-suburb of M’town. i would not live in Mo’town even for cash money..

    oh god now i’m so far off topic i’m going to be deleted. dang.

  23. lol…I always thought you were a little squirrelly mousy… hee!

    xoxoxox
    🙂

  24. Delete me.
    Dang, It gives me some ooomph and, dare I say, Power 😉

  25. Joe – Talbott! It’s slogan should be, “Still not ‘East Knoxville.'” 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s