Free Speech or Throwing Stones

Blogs are today’s bulletin boards. Treat readers respectfully.

Think about what comments you post.

Today, I shut down free speech.

Most of the people who come here don’t comment. The ones who do are invariably polite. They may disagree but they disagree with no derisive names and they haven’t made unsubstantiated claims against a person–until today.

I received this comment on an earlier post.

[Name removed] just makes me want to puke. Greedy money laundering hypocrite that he is. Probably the most notorious diesel cowboy of them all.

The comment maker was anonymous so I had no way of verifying whether his/her sources were accurate. More importantly, I didn’t care whether they were correct or not. I realized while staring at that comment that I would prefer people didn’t grow diesel dope BUT, more importantly, I believe in respectful discourse. I don’t want finger pointing and name calling to be part of this blog.

The commenter has a right to her/his opinion. The internet is wide open to start their own blog if they feel the need to say it. However, this space here is about building community ties, not shutting doors built of fear. Everyone is welcome to speak their piece here but please don’t target people unless you have proof. And, even if you do have proof, I reserve the right to ask you to put the information somewhere else.

I’m not here to throw stones and I won’t give someone space to throw them either. Here, let us recognize that other people may do things we don’t like and here, we can talk about those things. But let us also be aware that we are not saints and we should criticize others only in respectful, thoughtful words.

Today, I shut down free speech. I shut it down not so much because I believe it to be untrue but because I believe it is unhelpful. People can not speak openly when they are afraid of being attacked and vilified.

In an earlier post, I discussed why I thought that the names of the perpetrators of the Indian Island Massacre should be made public (if they could be discovered after all these years.) Today, I choose silence and secrecy. First, because I do not know the accusation to be true. Second, and more importantly, because I do not find the simple act of growing marijuana with a diesel generator to be so horrible that I am willing to contribute to placing the accused in danger of going to jail even if I knew it to be true.

Today, I shut down free speech. I think it existed before but, today, consciously I created a safe space with a few small rules in hopes of enabling everyone to participate comfortably in finding creative ways of solving our communities’ problems.

Today I may have shut down one small part of free speech but, in doing so, I hope I removed the fear of being attacked so everyone can join in the conversation.



  • My initial reaction to things like that is to become insanely contrary and play devil’s advocate for the other side, even if I don’t really agree with it. That usually gets me labelled “argumentative”, “stand-offish” and, sometimes, “Republican.” (When did that last one become an insult? Wasn’t Lincoln a Republican?)

    Anyway, your manner of dealing with the situation is for more mature and I applaud you.

  • I had to do the same thing after I got a comment that was extremely hurtful to both me and my family. I have a feeling I knew who did it but it was enough to prevent any further auto comments. My blog is also hit with a ton of porn bots so I’m able to take care of them as well. Good luck, I’m sorry this happened.

  • Today, I shut down free speech. I shut it down not so much because I believe it to be untrue but because I believe it is unhelpful. People can not speak openly when they are afraid of being attacked and vilified.

    That’s too bad that you had to shut it down. I’ve always enjoyed a good roll through the hay with a nice flame war.

  • Dan and Sandi, Mostly, I get great comments. I’ve had over 2,000 on my this blog so far–only one of them has been like this. I’m glad I have a policy that requires an overview of a new poster’s comments before I allow the comment to be posted.

    Oddly, I had noticed your propensity for liking the heat, Anon.R. Mous. 8) I enjoy many of your extremely well informed comments on your own and other people’s blogs but sometimes I find it hard to sort out the wise words from the inflammatory. Don’t you think that your knowledge would benefit more people if they didn’t dismiss you as cranky because of other statements you make? For me it works to be more reasoned and a little less passionate (though passion makes a fun read sometimes.)

    I hope the person who made the comment thinks about what they really want to say and offers it up in a different manner. And if they are a talker like me, maybe they will want to start their own blog.

  • Anonymous posts are the equivalent of random shouts in a crowded movie theater (or any other crowded venue). Shouting “fire” in such a place is not definitely not OK, or at least it wasn’t in ‘the good old days.’

    I have suggested to other blog owners that they require people to log in, but most resist it in the name of free speech. Free Speech does not include Hate Speech.

    Thanks for the beautiful photos and the newsy items. And, thank you for the time you put into this blog. It’s one of the best!

  • Thank you.

    I don’t mind anonymous comments. But I agree that Free Speech includes respectful speech. One can disagree without hostility. And, most people apparently agree. This is the only comment that I’ve ever censored (minus spam, of course).

  • First, I want to say that I agree with you.
    Second, I want to say I completely understand.
    Third, you probably knew that I would be by to gloat.

    When you said that you thought the murderers that did the massacre on Indian Island should be exposed. I thought that you were probably being selfless, knowing that your ancestors were involved in similar activities and you outed yourself. Your pain was palpable. But unfortunately I have seen that same pain before in similar circumstance, and I don’t think that some things are worth the pain to have someone else know the truth.

    I would bet that if you knew who the murderers were, and you also knew, and loved the descendants of the people that did the murders, you would think twice about making truth known. It changes things when you get to be responsible for hurting people.

  • Well I think you are misinterpreting free speech and freedom of the press. While people have [alleged, cough cough have you seen the Constitution lately I think it is vacationing in Siberia or something] certain rights to expression, that does not equal a right to publication by a secondary party. This is a blog. You essentially are the publisher of this blog. You are not enjoined by someone else’s right to expression to be the publisher of that expression or to host it.

  • Well said, Kym.
    Well said, Max (and others). I, personally hadn’t thought about the difference between …speech and … press. Thanks for putting more thought in my head today. (There really wasn’t much there today, after an overnight layover in a tropical airport. Did you know that the same security announcement plays every half hour all thru the night?)

  • Old cliche (and often hijacked by the right wing to justify war), but true…freedom is never free. The flipside of the freedom coin is responsibility. We make our payments to the karmic soapbox using that currency.

  • Hear, hear, Kym. I, too, hope the commenter who named and then described in his/her own unfavorable terms will post again, but put his/her thoughts down more nicely. There are a few people I know who make me want to puke, and I may have occasionally voiced that, but have not written it out for the whole world to see. Definitely uncool.

  • I think Max is right, you don’t have to post every comment you get. Comments are like letters, they don’t have to be opened.

  • Kym, I think Max is right on. I was amazed to see a Times Standard blog, following an article on a developer, accusing the guy of being a major grower. Even though local gossip is on the side of the accuser, I was surprised that the TS would leave the posting up. You set high standards in your blog and it is always a pleasure to visit.

  • Ernie, Gloat? never crossed my mind.
    Well, actually, I thought about it the whole time I was writing the post. I tried to be clear in my mind why one should be kept quiet and one exposed.

    You are right. The amount of pain felt by people involved is a factor for me. But the reality of my life has made me aware that one’s relatives–whether living or dead–do not define who you are. If knowing my ancestor’s deeds helps ease the pain of his victim’s descendants, then the small guilt and embarrassment I feel is the least I can offer. I would hope others would feel the same.

    However, accusations like the above can lead to much worse consequences than a little embarrassment so in my mind that is one of the main differences.

    Max, you hit my hyperbole right on the head (could you be less clear sighted? I felt quite dramatic there for a moment–kind of a Patrick Henry–“Give me courtesy or give me death.”)

    Heather, The same people who give us airport security are those who came up with Guantanamo–need I say more.

    Chris, I love your image (now could you please write more on your blog. I’m starved for one of those great posts.)

    Rose, great discussion, isn’t it. BTW, I love your avatar. Did you take the photo?

    Aunt Jackie, Well said. Sometimes when people are angry about a situation (at least I do this) they spout an insult without taking the time to articulate what they are really angry about. I wonder if this person is angry about the environment, or the money inequities or….Or none of the above. Many I should leave the psychology to the professionals 8)

    Anonymoose, (I love the pseudonym BTW) I cracked up when I read your post. There is a mound of this month’s bills staring me down and telling me to stop blogging and start opening them. Unfortunately, Comments and letters can be tossed out, the consequences if I do that with bills is somewhat more drastic.

    Ben, I haven’t seen that at the TS but I’m a bit disappointed that they would do that. And, Thanks for the compliment. I’m very fond of them and one from you is especially delightful!

  • While people have [alleged, cough cough have you seen the Constitution lately I think it is vacationing in Siberia or something] certain rights to expression, that does not equal a right to publication by a secondary party.

    I’d almost agree with this but that passive-aggressive statement in the middle just seems more like sour grapes than anything else. I’m proud to say that I have only “banned” one person from my blog in all the years that I have run a blog, and other things before it, and even then, it wasn’t a hard ban, I just told the clown that if he posted anything, I’d just remove it. I do find it funny that someone complaining about the lack of Constitution seems to be all for editing content. Remember, the speech you should fight the hardest to protect, is the speech you hate the most.

    Think about that for awhile.

  • I think that Max is saying that people can say anything but she, on her blog, doesn’t have to publish it.

    I think that this comes down to different kinds of blogs, too. Some blogs are almost personal journals. Surely, those kinds of blogs would want to exert quite an amount of control over who is posting.

    Other blogs are basically newspapers or magazines online. Those might want to never limit their comments. (Although, in my opinion, when a commenter makes unsubstantiated accusations then it is time to remove the post.)

    Finally, in my case, I have some goals for this blog–personal enjoyment, give pleasure, practice writing daily, and a lofty albeit probably unattainable one of providing a place where disparate voices can talk civilly to each other, trying to find common ground and solutions to problems.

    Thus, I reserve the right to delete comments that I find unhelpful to the discourse. That doesn’t mean I only want comments from people who think the same as I do. In fact, I’ve learned so much from other people’s points of view, I’m hoping for lots of different opinions. I just find conversation most helpful when it is reasoned.

    For instance, To me, everything you had to say above was valid except the dig about “passive-aggressive.” Why was it necessary to poke? Why not just state your differing opinion. Your argument, in my opinion, would have been much more powerful without it.

    As always, your reasoning makes me think, which is why I almost always enjoy your comments. Why dull the sharp edge of your clear reasoning with unnecessary language?

  • Having somewhat accidentally (but fortuitously) arrived at this post via a “free speech” Google alert, I can say that your 1/2000+ crud-to-not-crud comment ratio ain’t bad. In fact, it’s amazing.

    Nice blog, by the way. Nice writing, nice photography, nice nice nice.

    That is all.

  • Well, I am saying you did not just strip someone of his or her civil liberties. [smile]

  • C’mon, I like the big drama of “I shut down free speech.”

  • For instance, To me, everything you had to say above was valid except the dig about “passive-aggressive.” Why was it necessary to poke? Why not just state your differing opinion. Your argument, in my opinion, would have been much more powerful without it.

    Because it’s a valid point? I mean look at that statement she wrote. She had the freedom to write that, post it on the internet for everybody to see. So far, freedom of speech seems alive and well. Sometimes people need to be reminded about that.

  • I agree that your statements about freedom of speech bring up valid points.Those reasons are why I hate to censor a statement. In effect, I know I’m saying that their decision to post the comment is bad and I’m the big mommy erasing it. I don’t like that position. It makes me feel like I’m being holier than thou. But, I also like courtesy and reason.

    Since this is my blog, I choose to not let some things in it. This isn’t like the old days where big media has all the power and can shut down access. Today, the commenter can write his or her own blog and put out his own message. His speech is still free and my blog is still not casting stones.

  • Stay your course, Kym. I think you’ve got the right approach. The fact that you’re questioning yourself is also good.

    It’s nice to see that an abstract concept like freedom of speech can generate so much expression and introspection. Makes me hopeful, actually…

  • and, oh yeah…I’ll be posting soon. I’m working on a different approach to posting, so while I’ll continue with the posts/reviews as I’ve been doing them, I’m adding a slightly new format and content…you’ll see it come forth shortly.

  • Yes! The more Chris, the better.

  • re: your comment on publishing the names of those involved in the Indian massacres. I agree they should be published. I had a grandfather who was one of the founders of the KKK in Indiana. Maybe that is why my brother was a Freedom Rider in ’61 in Mississippi and spent 3 months in the penetentry for sitting at a lunch counter with a person of color or I was arrested in ’64 in Berkeley and we both continue in activism. In truth lies liberty.

  • Doug, I’m sorry I didn’t respond earlier. I was out of town. I think truth does help free us as individuals and as society. Your story is pretty powerful testimonial to that.

  • I hope you will post a link to Naomi Klein’s closing remarks at the National Convention for Media Reform in Minn. This last weekend. Brilliant, acute, positive and the only person who has said where we should go with Obama’s nomination that rings true to me. The convention was a life changing experience.

    Naomi’s speech is on youtube.

    I am going to lobby to get the convention to be held on the west coast next year and encourage any and all to attend.

  • Doug,
    I haven’t heard the speech and because of my satellite connection have trouble watching YouTube until free download time at 11 and I’m trying to get to bed before then but I went looking any way and couldn’t find it.
    Do you have the link?

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