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Jan 10 2012

Freethought, and freedom to express yourself on someone else’s private property

Freethought Blogs was founded by our Glorious Leader Ed Brayton on the principle that many great voices in the community (meaning, at the time, himself and PZ Myers) were being actively squelched in some fields of interest and needed a place where they could blog about atheism, skepticism, humanism, politics, et cetera, without being curtailed on one or any of these topics by their blog overlords. It has since expanded to include more, and better, writers than I, but I am privileged to also call this blog my home, and the compatriots and friends I have made here mean the world to me. Not to mention the total autonomy I have in what I get to talk about and how I get to do it — there is, basically, no hive mind, no dogmatic demand of adherence to any principles in specific. We disagree with one another quite frequently, in fact, but we are comrades where and when it counts. All in all, Freethought Blogs is generally a damn good place to be.

And then some assholes come along and demand the right to piss on your rug. All in the name of “freethought”.

There is evidently a misapprehension of the term freethought in common parlance. It is often conflated by trolls in our community with “freedom of speech” rather than “freedom from dogmas”, a strawman with which they smear anyone who dares disagree with them or call their behaviour out of line. Freethought, according to the definition helpfully provided by Wikipedia, is the philosophical framework that all truth claims should be examined and weighed on their relative merits and on the evidence provided. It is, in effect, skepticism as a starting point. It is the abstention from dogmatically held beliefs and beliefs in absence of evidence.

Freethought does not require any other set of beliefs, though adherents to freethought seem to cluster around a number of focal points and frequently find common ground in atheism (or at least agnosticism), support of science, support of humanist causes, egalitarianism, the political left, and skepticism of various bits of pseudoscience and urban myth. And yes, we also tend to cluster around feminism in this specific community.

The funny thing about this is, we also have a lot of disagreement in almost every one of those areas. We have libertarians and woo-peddlers and antifeminists who still call themselves atheists and humanists, and actively confront what they find to be contentious on our blogs. And we have a vested interest in driving discussion about each and every one of these beliefs that each individual blogger happens to have, but in many cases, a point is argued to death by abusive people who derail conversations into unrelated matters, who spam with the same nonsense over and over again, who frequently contribute nothing to the discussion but acrimony, and whose voices must be curtailed lest the signal-to-noise ratio completely bottoms out.

And yet, we at FtB tend to strongly support freedom of speech as a political right, that no government should impose laws impinging on freedom of speech or criminalizing any form of speech, even hate speech. We will defend to the death your right to believe and say utter nonsense, but there is absolutely no measure of hypocrisy in denying you the right to have that nonsense published here, in our personal community. An aspect of freethought is that we need to be free to think about whatever we want, to explore intellectually any truth claim about the universe including those about society in specific. But while this overlaps greatly with the freedom to express those thoughts, it does not mean that you are free to express those thoughts without repercussions or taking responsibility for those repercussions. You are free to THINK those thoughts without repercussions except those that happen inwardly, but while you won’t be judged for what you think, you will be judged for what you say, and rightly so.

If you’ll allow me an extended analogy, I’ll try to explain.

A blog is a lot like a pub, with robust discussion around the fire, where anyone can join in at any time but the pub owner sets the topics for discussion. She can have many discussions ongoing at a time, and people will wander from one discussion to the next weighing in. The bar for entering your opinion is really low — all you have to do is show up and you can get a turn at the mic. This pub owner has a vested interest in keeping discussion moving, not only to ensure repeat visitors who enjoy the intellectual stimulation, but to advocate for her personal beliefs as well. She makes a tiny profit on the side, but she’s selling drinks at so close to cost that she basically pays the bills for the pub and takes home so little money in actual profit that, sometimes, she thinks it’s almost not worth the effort to try to keep the riffraff out and try to keep the discussions going. And sometimes it isn’t even enough to live on, and she has to run the pub full-time while working elsewhere.

The riffraff are the people intent on transforming certain discussions entirely, because they don’t personally like where the discussion is going because it is not going their way; and they don’t want the outcome to be formed as a consensus without them. They try to get everyone in that particular discussion talking about something tangential, something that matters to the person trying to change the topic but less so to everyone else. In order to win the trust of the discussion participants, the pub owner will either demand that people get back on topic and stop talking about these side-concerns, or declare “no, let’s hash this out and get it over with” at their discretion. If the riffraff have broken any of the rules written on the back wall, or sometimes just that this person has outraged enough of the other patrons and driven enough of them from the conversation, then the blog owner will sometimes throw that person out of the conversation. Sometimes they will “moderate” that person, where anything that person says has to be cleared through the blog owner first. Some blogs have very strict rules about what’s allowed and what isn’t (e.g. some will throw you out for swearing), while others will only throw people out if they violate the “no solicitations” rule (e.g. spammers). Most of them will get upset and kick you out if all you wanted to do was walk into the discussion, drop trou, and pinch off a loaf in front of the fire. Said foulness will be removed from the vicinity generally without warning — and the poop will probably be removed too.

In any case, when a person is thrown out of this pub, that person’s right to freedom of speech is not violated in any way, because there are other pubs throughout the town, and the person is in fact free to set up their own pub. Or they can just find someplace actually public to make their claims, rather than at the pub they were just thrown out of. There are pubs throughout town to handle just about any topic of discussion, and because the government of this town (owing largely to all the pub owners’ strong commitment to freedom of speech as a political principle) is good enough that nobody’s going to get thrown in jail for talking about things, you could find any manner of pub to cater to any topic, even many very-taboo topics like drugs, pedophilia, racism, et cetera. And some pubs will even let you get into huge roiling barroom brawls, because they value freedom of speech so much that they’d prefer people leave of their own accord if they keep getting cuffed across the face or are tired of people defecating in public, and would rather have a real discussion instead.

If you’re banned from someone’s blog, it is not because you are not free to think the things you think. I’m certain that most of the participants in the conversations at my blog disagree with me on some point of my philosophy — otherwise, I’d have nothing but “yes, excellent post!” comments and absolutely no dissent. I am welcoming toward dissent. I will not tolerate “mic-hogging” or other types of proselytization, and I will not tolerate hate speech directed at any of the groups I personally identify with — these are trolling behaviours. People who violate my pub’s rules will be put into moderation, where they have free access to send me messages that I may or may not approve to get posted. I have not banned anyone outright, so anyone who is in moderation still has my ear, even if they don’t have the right to grab the mic whenever they want any more.

And through all of this, you have every right to think whatever you want. You have every right to express whatever you want, at any blog that will have that sort of sentiment and allow it free reign. And if you start your own blog, your voice can be heard, even if you’re not allowed to voice those particular opinions anywhere, without consequences.

Trust me, we visit other dissenting blogs often enough that we are not lacking your particular point of view, no matter how unique and nuanced you think your point of view might be. We are absolutely not deprived of your dissent — we bathe in it daily, in fact — and by now are totally inured to your cries of censorship or that this is in any way an insular community.

Here, at this blog, and others like it at Freethought Blogs, there are consequences. You’re free to say whatever you want, as long as you accept that your “mere words” do in fact have repercussions, often beyond your person. If those repercussions include hurting another participant, at the discretion of the blog owner, you might earn some extra repercussions. If those repercussions include being tossed out of the discussion, tough. You’ve been warned. Learn to play by the rules, and you might get somewhere in advocating for your particular cause.

Or, go voice your opinion at another blog. The bar’s so low to starting your own blog that surely even the simplest of simpletons can do it these days. I mean, I managed. Surely you can.

37 comments

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  1. 1
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Quite right, Jason. But doesn’t it chafe you to have painstakingly point out such an obvious reality? This whole “what about freethotz!@!@@” complaint is so wearying!

  2. 2
    BrianX

    Over on RationalWiki, woo-peddlers (both political and scientifical) bust out the “but I thought this was RATIONALwiki” so frequently on talk pages that it’s become a drinking game for some of us.

  3. 3
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Josh:
    -I agree. Everything Jason wrote about seems so obvious one would think anyone could grasp it.

    Jason:
    -Initially I liked the idea of “blog=home”, but I think your pub analogy works better, as it is truly open to the public in the way a home isn’t.

  4. 4
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Yeah, we get that over at the League of Reason forums as well… this sort of confusion about the difference between supporting the freedom to speak without government interference, and the non-right to be giving a platform to say anything you want whenever you want. So I can write whatever book I want, but I can’t demand that a publisher print it or a bookstore sell it. I can create a blog to say anything I want, but I can’t demand that other people giver over space on their blog for my views.

  5. 5
    Makoto

    BrianX – aren’t you worried about ending up in the hospital if that’s your drinking game? Please tell us you’re sticking to light beer or something for such an effort.

  6. 6
    SallyStrange

    Yeah. That rug really held the room together, too.

  7. 7
    James Croft

    I entirely agree with your analysis here: bloggers should have the right to moderate comments to their blog, and to ban individuals who consistently flout moderation policies. On the other hand,I think people who claim to be freethinkers have a responsibility not to attempt to silence legitimate disagreement and debate, and to moderate comments to ensure discussion is focused on the relevant issue and does not devolve into personal attacks, name-calling and a deluge of profanity. In my view, not all the blogs on FTB meet this standard. On some it is hardly possible to express disagreement without being personally attacked in a most extreme and distasteful way. This serves to drive some people away from discussion, and can reinforce blog-specific orthodoxies which do nothing to advance fruitful discussion.

  8. 8
    rob

    great post! it can be annoying when people derail a post by discussing tangential topics.

    which reminds me:

    “The idea of the method is as follows: one starts with an initial guess which is reasonably close to the true root, then the function is approximated by its tangent line (which can be computed using the tools of calculus), and one computes the x-intercept of this tangent line (which is easily done with elementary algebra). This x-intercept will typically be a better approximation to the function’s root than the original guess, and the method can be iterated.”

    (from Wikipedia on Newton’s Method)

  9. 9
    John Greg

    NB: Jason, a question for you. Do you think it is fair and/or realistic for blog commenters, supportive or otherwise, to expect blog owners to post and adhere rigorously to a clear, specific, and unambiguous set of posting guidelines?

    After a lot of thought over the last few days, I have had something of a change of heart about this issue.

    I have shifted my perspective a bit, and now think that in the end, each individual blog owner (even when “owning” blogs hosted an a site erroneously named Freethoughtblogs), does indeed have the right to delete and ban as they see fit.

    It is my opinion that ideally, and in general fair play and intellectual honesty, such blog owners should be obligated to post and rigorously adhere to a clear, specific, and unambiguous set of posting guidelines, so that all commenters, pro and con, know what the boundaries are, but ultimately that too is the blog owner’s choice.

    Nonetheless, it remains my opinion that blatant censorship of unpopular views is childish and ultimately destructive to meaningful dialogue and debate.

    I still feel that any actual editing of posts, either disemvowelling or actual change in content designed to change the poster’s intent, is truly foul and the sign of abject intellectual dishonesty and the signature of the true authoritarian dictatorial dick — or should that be cuntatorial cunt? Hmm.

    However, how such blog owners, that is, those who do delete and ban, and especially those who censor and edit, expect anyone of intelligence, anyone who practices legitimate critical thinking and legitimate skepticism to take them seriously when they exhibit the integrity of warm jello or a beached jellyfish … well, that’s the mystery isn’t it?

    At least, in my opinion

  10. 10
    Tom Foss

    Do you think it is fair and/or realistic for blog commenters, supportive or otherwise, to expect blog owners to post and adhere rigorously to a clear, specific, and unambiguous set of posting guidelines?

    1. Fairness doesn’t really enter into it.

    2. You’re not necessarily the best judge of whether or not the blog owner is adhering rigorously to posting guidelines.

    Consider this: two people post a brief comment that consists of a link to another site. One person is a long-time commenter who has been present on the blog in the past, and has contributed to a variety of discussions. The other is a first-time commenter who has done nothing to distinguish themselves from a spammer. If Person #2 is banned, while Person #1 is allowed to continue posting, Person #2 might see that as an unfair act, an inconsistent application of the rules, while the blog owner recognizes the larger context that justifies one act over the other.

    Of course, Person #2 has room for appeal in that circumstance, but there can be other instances of similarly questionable posting, where different responses to different people for similar posts/content/offenses may be warranted. In those regards, the people facing the consequences are not always in a position to judge the fairness/consistency of the behavior.

    I’ve often been in classroom situations where students will object to my telling them to stop some behavior. “But X was doing Y, and you didn’t yell at X,” they’ll say. And in the majority of these situations, the reason for the different responses is a difference in content or context. Any reasonable application of any such rules takes those contexts into consideration, even if some of the people who face consequences see it as unfair or inconsistent.

    Otherwise, it’s little different from the old-school word-replacement scripts that would censor “dick” whether you were talking about penises or Cheney.

  11. 11
    Jason Thibeault

    I largely agree with Tom.

    John: I appreciate you wrote that comment first for ERV’s audience, thus the sneer at “freethought” despite the many words I spent to explain why “freethought” doesn’t mean “freedom of being given a platform to speak your mind anywhere you go”. I really wish you would have read that part, though. “Blatant censorship” doesn’t enter into it if you have the ability to publish your views anyplace else. Censorship is about removing your voice from the public sphere, not kicking you out of one particular pub.

    And what’s more, these pub owners have every right to take into account your behaviour at other pubs when deciding whether to give you access to the mic if they recognize you at the door.

  12. 12
    Jason Thibeault

    Additionally, if I were to take the gender slurs out of your post out of respect for those who don’t want to hear them in “reasonable discussion” as you put it, would you consider that censorship? I’m sure you would, because to you censorship is evidently any time you’re asked to either adhere to local rules or be shown the door.

  13. 13
    Pteryxx

    Disemvowelling’s actually a way to preserve the content of a problematic post while mitigating its emotional impact. Readers can choose whether to read it or not. If the post is intended to contribute substance to the discussion, instead of primarily to harass or threaten, then encoding should make little difference.

    Over on Pharyngula’s Endless Thread, the regulars developed a standard of discussing particularly triggering or hurtful slurs by encoding them in rot13, which can be quickly and accurately decoded by hand or with several simple tools: http://rot13.com/index.php for instance. (It’s also good for spoilers.)

  14. 14
    John Greg

    “1. Fairness doesn’t really enter into it.”

    Why not?

    “2. You’re not necessarily the best judge of whether or not the blog owner is adhering rigorously to posting guidelines.”

    Utterly and completely irrelevant response to my question.

    Tom, the rest of your comment is a non-sequitor that does not answer my question, nor respond relevantly to my comment.

    Pteryxx said:

    “Disemvowelling’s actually a way to preserve the content of a problematic post while mitigating its emotional impact.”

    Unfuckingbelievable.

    “He had committed–would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper–the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.”

    “People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.”

    “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

    Disemvowelling is clarity. Censorship is truth. Deleting is preservation.

  15. 15
    Jason Thibeault

    Cn y ndrstnd ths, Jhn?

  16. 16
    John Greg

    Of course I can. But we both know that most disemvowelled posts are far longer than five simple words, four of which are mono-syllabic.

    I wanted to provide you with an example of my disemvowelled post from Pharyngula, because even I, who had written it, had trouble deciphering it, but PeeZus has not only removed that post, but he has also removed all rebuttals to it. (“People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized [inDungeonated or blacklisted] was the usual word.”)

    Anyway, can you understand this (it as approximately 200 words shorter, and somewhat simpler, than my disemvowelled post at Pharyngula):

    Dr Drchstr Hs Cncl Mmbrs

    hv rcvd r nt cncrnng th PC rkn Srvcs nvcs tht r rqstng p.

    s m tnnt ws cncrnd fr th hlth nd wlfr f th bldng, h hd nttd th nqrs fr th nspctn f hs st, lthgh thr wr nl tw sghtngs f bgs. H tk n bg t Cr Pst & Wldlf Cntrl Ltd. t vrf whthr r nt t ws bd bg, nd Cr cnfrmd tht n thr pnn t ws bd bg.

    t ths tm cntctd scr Cnt t rrng fr st nspctn.

    M tnnt hs prvdd m wth tmln f th cmmnctns btwn hmslf, m, scr Cnt, nd rkn. prsnt tht hr

  17. 17
    Darren

    @15: Thgh t m, f crs, b pssbl t ndrstnd dsmvwlld n-ln pst, m t pns t pnt t tht n pst f mr thn fw wrds cn b qt dffclt t dchpr nc dsmvwlld. Tk, fr xmpl, pst cntnng mn shrt vwll-rch wrds. Cn y s t? M pnt, mn. rll thnk t s qt dsngns f y t ssrt thwrws.

  18. 18
    Matt E

    Dear Dorchester House Council Members
    I have received your note concerning the *PC rkn Services* invoices that are requesting pay.

    As my tenant was concerned for the health and welfare of the building, he had noted the inquiries for the inspection of his suite, although there were only two sightings of bugs. He took one bug to *Cr* Pest and Wildlife Control Ltd. to verify whether or not it was a bed bug, and Cr confirmed that in their opinion it was a bed bug.

    At this time I contacted *scr Cnt* to arrange for suite inspection.

    My tenant has provided me with a timeline of the communications between himself, me, *scr Cnt, and rkn.*

    I present that here.

    – I got the gist of it, anyway. PS, I like your site Jason!

  19. 19
    Jason Thibeault

    Yes, I agree, both examples are significantly harder to read, especially where there are proper names that don’t correspond with English words and are therefore harder to guess. It also leaves some words ambiguous.

    I can actually read Darren’s significantly easier than I can John’s example. As a tool for leaving the speech intact but eliminating the offenses, I see disemvoweling as like doing a poor job of scrubbing graffiti off the wall. It’s not eliminating the message outright, just making it much harder to read. But if you really want to have your opinions on the internet, it’s so easy to start your own blog these days. Given that you HAVE in fact a blog of your own, John, it looks like you’re not being black-bagged and removed outright from the internet so your “zomg 1984″ analogy does not hold. You are, like in my analogy up top, being kicked out of one pub.

    And you’re not even being kicked out of this pub. You’re working really hard to prove that I’m some sort of evil entity, which annoys me, and may eventually piss me off that I say “enough, I don’t have to take this kind of abuse in my own home any longer, I’ll come seek you out the next time I want to know what you think of me”, then kick you out. And I won’t even lose any sleep over it. I know enough people literally avoiding comment threads where you show up (and citing your presence while explaining why it’s happening) that I, frankly, would probably be encouraging more discussion rather than less by eliminating a microphone hog.

    And trust me when I say, I’m well aware that kicking you off of my blog is such a grievous injury to your freedom of speech that you would have to run over to your own blog, or someone else’s like ERV’s, to complain about me. Since I have no way of silencing you on other blogs, nor would I care to, your freedom of speech is in no way abridged by my stating that you can’t speak your mind at my blog any longer. You’d be perfectly free to make me aware of how much disapproval you have for me over where you can call me names freely and the crowd (and blog owner) will cheer you on. And I’ll even know that you did it, because we bathe in your disapproval every single day.

  20. 20
    Jason Thibeault

    TL;DR: there’s only one rule in any blog that I’ve ever been to. That is, “don’t piss off the blog owner”. There are no loopholes to this, and every blog owner’s tolerance is different. Complain about certain blog owners at other people’s blogs all you want.

  21. 21
    Matt E

    @17

    “Though it may of course be possible to understand a disemvowelled one-line post, m t pns to point out that in a post of more than a few words can be quite difficult to decipher once disemvowelled. Take, for example, a post containing many short vowel-rich words. Can you see it? My point, man. I really think it is disingenous for you to assert otherwise.”

    – But you can certainly get the gist of it, even when you purposely use a lot of short vowel rich words.

  22. 22
    Jason Thibeault

    Thank you for that, Matt E. Yes, there are ambiguous words still, and where Matt stumbled, as did I — mostly because in the first case they were proper names, and in the second, the only words that appear to be totally ambiguous or difficult to decypher are auxiliary words that contain no actual content.

  23. 23
    John Greg

    Matt E. I am impressed. Seriously. I do really, really poorly at such puzzles, and so, adopting a somewhat normal self-confirmation bias, I assumed that everyone else would do as poorly as I do. Tsk, tsk, on me.

    Jason, I am really not trying to prove you are some kind of evil entity, seriously, I am not.

    We just disagree about a lot of things, and we think each other has flawed or faulty reasoning. Is that not a fundamental part of working toward change and information exchange: disagreement, dialogue, debate, argument, resolution (or no resolution)?

    Jason said:

    “I know enough people literally avoiding comment threads where you show up (and citing your presence while explaining why it’s happening) that I, frankly, would probably be encouraging more discussion rather than less by eliminating a microphone hog.”

    Well, seriously, even if true, I think that says more about those individual’s thin-skinnedness, so to speak, or their fear of disagreement and dissent than it does about me.

    Another question, and while you did not answer the last question I posed, perhaps you will answer this one:

    What is wrong with disagreement, dialogue, debate, and argument if it remains civil?

    And if you honestly feel I have not been civil, please do me a favour and point me to it with links so that I can peruse such incivility and offer either apologies, or explanations, where appropriate.

    As far as I am aware (and of course we are all somewhat flawed in the self-awareness sweepstakes), if I become uncivil, it is almost always only in response to someone else’s incivility. And while that does not excuse my incivility, it does at least explain it.

    Lastly, and at the risk of hogging the microphone, as you call it (hogging the micriphone: How does that work?), so that I can ensure that I do not cross the line, what, specifically, are your blog posting rules? All I could find so far was:

    “I don’t like to ban people, but I will, if they repeatedly flout direct requests or attempt to proselytize one-sidedly. I’ll probably only do it if I consider your contact to be hateful or ridiculous.”

  24. 24
    Darren

    Jason @19 wrote:

    I can actually read Darren’s significantly easier than I can John’s example. As a tool for leaving the speech intact but eliminating the offenses, I see disemvoweling as like doing a poor job of scrubbing graffiti off the wall. It’s not eliminating the message outright, just making it much harder to read. But if you really want to have your opinions on the internet, it’s so easy to start your own blog these days. Given that you HAVE in fact a blog of your own, John, it looks like you’re not being black-bagged and removed outright from the internet so your “zomg 1984″ analogy does not hold. You are, like in my analogy up top, being kicked out of one pub.

    Whilst I generally agree with the “your blog, your rules” sentiment, the issue for me is more the moral one of equivalent speaking platforms.

    If you have a popular blog – 10,000 readers, for arguments sake – and there is a discussion occurring which I would like to be part of, I’d like to think I could do so on your blog without fear of being banned just because you don’t like me or what I say. As long as I follow the same reasonable rules everyone else has to follow, of course.

    Now, sure, I could post on my own blog (if I had one), but now I’m reaching a (probably) much smaller audience. So I could post at ERV? But then, I would likely be talking to people who generally agree with me anyway. Ultimately, it leads to the “us” versus “them” culture we have now, complete with tribes!

    The sad thing is, I keep hearing people say how great the atheist/skeptic community is because we can have these heated disagreements but still walk away amicably (PZ even claimed this once), but – to be honest – I don’t see much of that unless the argument is over something trivial no-one really cares too much about.

  25. 25
    Stephanie Zvan

    Well, seriously, even if true, I think that says more about those individual’s thin-skinnedness, so to speak, or their fear of disagreement and dissent than it does about me.

    Or perhaps about the (perceived?) value of their time relative to yours.

  26. 26
    Stephanie Zvan

    Oh, alternate hypothesis: John gets much more value out of interacting with people in those threads than they get from interacting with him.

  27. 27
    'Tis Himself

    John Greg #23

    “I know enough people literally avoiding comment threads where you show up (and citing your presence while explaining why it’s happening) that I, frankly, would probably be encouraging more discussion rather than less by eliminating a microphone hog.”

    Well, seriously, even if true, I think that says more about those individual’s thin-skinnedness, so to speak, or their fear of disagreement and dissent than it does about me.

    If a large number of people say they avoid thread where you’re posting, maybe the problem isn’t with them. I realize this concept is difficult for you to wrap your head around, but maybe, just maybe, it isn’t the other people who are jerks.

    As far as I am aware (and of course we are all somewhat flawed in the self-awareness sweepstakes), if I become uncivil, it is almost always only in response to someone else’s incivility.

    I’ve noticed that when other people become uncivil to you it’s often because they were provoked by your passive aggressiveness. But that’s just my opinion. Other people might have other opinions.

  28. 28
    John Greg

    Stephanie Zvan said:

    “Oh, alternate hypothesis: John gets much more value out of interacting with people in those threads than they get from interacting with him.”

    Sure. That’s plausible.

  29. 29
    Jason Thibeault

    And that’s the closest thing to a hard and fast rule you’re going to get, John. There are no rules-lawyering. Like I said, like with every other place on the entire damned internet, you have a platform until you piss the blog owner off. The blog owner reserves the right to be pissed off for whatever reason.

  30. 30
    John Greg

    Jason, what is wrong with disagreement, dialogue, debate, and argument if it remains civil?

  31. 31
    Jason Thibeault

    Absolutely nothing, John. Who said there was?

  32. 32
    Tom Foss

    Why not?

    Because it doesn’t matter. The rules are up to the blog owner, whether or not they are actually fair, and whether or not they are perceived to be fair to the people the rules apply to.

    “2. You’re not necessarily the best judge of whether or not the blog owner is adhering rigorously to posting guidelines.”

    Utterly and completely irrelevant response to my question.

    Tom, the rest of your comment is a non-sequitor that does not answer my question, nor respond relevantly to my comment.

    The fact that you think that kind of proves the point, I think. You can cry “unfair, unfair” all you like, but that doesn’t make the rules or their application unfair or inconsistent. You are (at least potentially) making the call from a limited set of information, and assuming that there isn’t mitigating context (or ignoring mitigating context to play up persecution).

  33. 33
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Jason, what is wrong with disagreement, dialogue, debate, and argument if it remains civil?

    Problem is, different opinions on what is “civil”.
    Lots of people draw the line at certain words, others draw it at certain behaviour.
    People can be extremely uncivil without ever using a bad word (See the recent discussions about DJ Grothe who made big, serious accusations without ever using one word my gran wouldn’t use if she spoke English).
    Constant derailing is uncivil.
    Demanding that everybody discusses what one considers to be important (a bazillion threads about FGM come to mind where the Menz show up, want to “civilly” discuss the similarities to male circumcision and then cry out loud when people refuse to do so and call them out on it) isn’t no matter what the words are.
    Skeptically questioning a rape-victim if xe isn’t just making shit up can be done with very civil words, but never is.

  34. 34
    Randy

    When I started reading a few atheist blogs, they seemed to be about skeptical, atheist, freethinking ideas. I was attracted to the lousy canuck blog, because it offered one Canadian’s perspective on these ideas.

    I’m dismayed to say this, but I think I’m going to leave many atheist blogs behind for a while, including some former favourites. I’d rather be reading more about philosophy, science, charity, and federal and provincial politics than about specific people, their fights, netiquette, etc. Maybe I’ll check back in 2013, after this has had more time to sort itself out.

    I do hope you’ll have decided to tolerate people metaphorically pissing on your rug. That’s inherent in free speech, regardless of the availability of other venues. This venue is the only one guaranteed to have your readers.

  35. 35
    Jason Thibeault

    Thank you Randy, your concern is noted.

    If I’m talking a lot about stuff that you’d rather not read, it’s because that stuff finds its way to me, over and over again. If it’s impressed on my mind a need that it should be talked about, it’s, again, my blog and I’ll talk about it. I’m not going to stop talking about other stuff because I’m talking about this stuff.

    And there is absolutely no moral obligation by virtue of the popularity of my pub to give everyone access to the microphone. If you’re kicked out of Pharyngula or Lousy Canuck for bad behaviour, it is exactly the abrogation of free speech that if you’re kicked out of an actual, physical real-world pub for harassing the patrons.

    I’ve tolerated people doing quite a bit of pissing on the rug. I tolerate less well people telling me I MUST.

  36. 36
    Greg Laden

    This is a post I’ve been wanting to write myself for a long time, but now I don’t have to, thanks for doing it! (I may someday come up with my own version).

    Maybe we should start a special blog here at FTB, or a bulletin board, that is less or almost un-moderated. The most beautiful cities have sewer treatment plants somewhere.

    I would like to point out that at the time Ed and PZ started up FTB.com there was no active squelching going on of what they were writing at Scienceblogs. I’m not sure what the limits of what I can say are, but in my conversations with NGS and as per our paperwork and policies, PZ and ED were not really doing things or saying things that were against the rules.

    However, the contents of the comment threads of at least PZ’s blog were probably a concern. I don’t know this for sure; This is an inference I’m making based on the “code of conduct” we have as Sb. I’m guessing that PZ and Ed moved to FTB.com mostly because they wanted to protect their commenters much more than themselves from any kind of management scrutiny. Since I still blog actively at Sb, I personally have moved the topics (all but one, anyway) which tend to produce the nasty comment threads to FTB (as well as other topics) for that reason.

    This does, of course, bring up a big huge irony upon which I shall not bother to elaborate.

  37. 37
    John Greg

    Jason said:

    “Absolutely nothing, John. Who said there was?”

    Just curious, Jason.

  1. 38
    Comment Moderation: Whys and How Tos | Almost Diamonds

    [...] Freethought, and freedom to express yourself on someone else’s private property Jason Thibeault on the idea that moderation stifles dissent. The funny thing about this is, we also have a lot of disagreement in almost every one of those areas. We have libertarians and woo-peddlers and antifeminists who still call themselves atheists and humanists, and actively confront what they find to be contentious on our blogs. And we have a vested interest in driving discussion about each and every one of these beliefs that each individual blogger happens to have, but in many cases, a point is argued to death by abusive people who derail conversations into unrelated matters, who spam with the same nonsense over and over again, who frequently contribute nothing to the discussion but acrimony, and whose voices must be curtailed lest the signal-to-noise ratio completely bottoms out. [...]

  2. 39
    The Problem with Pseudonymity | Lousy Canuck

    [...] I have to clear them before they go live. I don’t have a lot of rules at this blog, short of not pissing me off. Hurting my friends, hurting me, hurting discourse, derailing topics, all of these irritate me. [...]

  3. 40
    Holding clay feet to witch-burning fires | Lousy Canuck

    [...] This is not a “both sides” argument, however. The idea of what “attack” means is very significantly different for the opposing factions. One side is clearly a thousandfold more committed to abuse, hatred, sockpuppetry, vitriol, elisions, mischaracterizations and outright slurs. It is, after all, how that side moderates their discussions, given their “freedom of speech” fetishism and deification of offense as its own greatest good, as though free speech has anything to do with moderating one’s spaces. [...]

  4. 41
    The 2012 Lousy Year In Review » Lousy Canuck

    [...] use never (or do I?). I helped (in my minor way) with the launch of the More ^Than Men project, and explained that my blog is a privately-owned pub, and not my home or a public space. I did some graphing to show that controversy does not drive blog hits, but rather happy-making [...]

  5. 42
    Rage Blogging and Drama: The Elan Gale Story » Lousy Canuck

    […] that — I’ve seen a lot of annoyingly selfish people on the internet, who for instance feel entitled to your platform and who cry foul when you don’t let them have it, for instance. I further completely […]

  6. 43
    Thoughts on a DOS attack » Lousy Canuck

    […] to one of a number of free blogging services where they can vent their spleens freely — my kicking them out of my pub does not prevent them from visiting other pubs or even starting one of their own. I might even link […]

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