Monday, September 24, 2007

140. On Editing and Censorship

There's a small blog scuffle among a few Saipan bloggers about editing and censorship.

Personally, I don't have a problem with bloggers moderating comments before they're posted on the blog. Mainly I view a blog as a personal bulletin board or something like that, sponsored by the blogger. If comments are deleted, the commenter is free to find his or her own little corner of the blogosphere and post the comment unfettered in all its glory. (Subject to laws about pornography and libel and such.)

But there's an interesting side to this "editorial" policy, one that all bloggers should think about at some time in their blogging career. And that side relates to honesty. When does editorial policy change the landscape so much that it becomes dishonest?

If you only post the comments you like, do you give a false impression about the world in which you live? And is that really a helpful thing?

I anticipate someday having to delete someone's comment. I'd like to figure out ahead of time what standards I'll use to reach that decision, so I'm taking suggestions. I'd like my decision, when the time comes, to be principaled and not just personal or reactionary (well, I can hope). I'd like it to still leave an honest picture.

Even if others disagree with my opinions, and call me a liar and other catchy names, I'm still trying my best to be honest, to give truthful opinions about concerns I have, to rant and drone with integrity. So if I ever do anything like this, hunt me down and expose the lie.


lil_hammerhead said...

The only reason to delete a person's comments would be incredibly foul language. Period. If the comment is of the nature of an personal attack or an attack on your credibility, and there is really no basis for the attack, the commentor looks stupid.

If you truly wholeheartedly beleive in the opinion you are posting and in yourself, no commentor is going to ruffle you in such a way that you would feel the need to remove their comment.

Attack my opinion, attack any personal stuff I've put out, as long as it is the language is not overly offensive, I'd keep it.

lil_hammerhead said...


Samatakah said...

The writer of eggbeater finally deleted a comment that did personally attack, and start a whole slew of discussion in the blog comment area.

I have comment moderation on my blog because I wanted to prevent spam form getting in. And while it's unlikely I would be attacked on it, it is MY blog and I'm writing it for my reasons, and I would probably delete any "straw man" comments.

But then I'm not holding myself to a journalistic standard because I'm not writing as a journalist.

Pragmatic Plato said...

I believe I am the focus of one half of this recent debate regarding the removal of comments on one's blog.

It truly is the within the rights of the blog owner to delete whatever they want.

I believe as I have stated elsewhere that I was mistaken. Some blog owners were given a very unique gift. That gift is the ability to identify obnoxious and absurd comments. Not all born to man have this gift. With this gift comes a large sense of responsibility.

“‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ This is my gift, my curse.” ~ spiderman quote

In order to prevent the ungifted masses from stumbling onto their blog and reading their initial post and then perusing the comments section and unknowingly coming across these "obnoxious and absurd" comments and not being able to come to the same conclusion as the gifted ones, these gifted ones MUST delete these comments. Keep in mind that the gifted one’s know that those who are not gifted may see these comments as truthful and accurate. They may see them as honest opinions by other web surfers. God forbid that the comments contain attacks on the blog owner or his thoughts and ideas. How on earth could the ungifted ever be able to distinguish whether the comments are founded or false. You can not leave the ungifted to fend for themselves.

As Potter Stewart once said, “Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” Authoritarian… Gifted… its all the same by me.

The White House is also a gifted entity and they have also decided to mask from our attention the banner that was mentioned in the video clip. The banner was obnoxious and absurd.... wait a second. Hmmm. That's not the best example. Is it?

Course I am one of the ungifted.

Saipan Writer said...

Lil Hammerhead, I agree. Even if the commentor is viewed as "right" by other bloggers, I'm not offended or willing to delete the comment(s).

Samatakah, in the 9 months I've been blogging, I've gotten one spam comment. Perhaps location insulates me from the more active spammers, I don't know. What are "straw man" comments? (I've heard that term, have a vague sort of notion about what it is, but not really clear.)

And Plato--you are funny. I do not possess that gene or whatever provides for the unique gift to know which comments to delete.

I, too, do occasionally change my mind. What thinking human being wouldn't? Sometimes the wonderfulness of that process makes the debate and difficulty of an open blogger comment section worth it all.

1. incredibly foul language
2. spam (maybe)

These I could delete for sure.

3. Personal attack--probably not.

What about content that is so offensive that I can't even stomach it, wouldn't want, for one minute, to give it room to germinate on my blog? I'm thinking of the holocaust denials.

Samatakah said...

A "straw man" attack is like saying "You are an idiot" as opposed to "The facts indicate what you're saying is incorrect" or "I disagree because..." or something along those lines - attacking someone's character rather than his or her opinion.

Anonymous said...

Was Jane Mack ever convicted of child abuse?

Pragmatic Plato said...

I did a search across the internet and was not able to find anything of the sort. Perhaps this is an attempt by a visitor to see if Saipan Writer will censor that comment. It is a prety lame attempt at that.

I would like to be able to say' "valiant attempt"...but not on that one.

Anonymous said...

Did you check all the police records? Are all the police records even online? Did you reference variations like Jane Mack and child molestation and things like that? Do you have a background in criminal research or just philosophy?

Maybe someone just wants want to know if Jane Mack was ever convicted of any crimes involving a child such as child abuse or child molestation?

Is this blog the wrong place to ask these questions? Should I approach the CNMI Bar Association first? The attorney general's office?

I have an internet connection. I think I'm entitled to an answer.

Saipan Writer said...

Anon: Is that an example of a "straw man" attack? It is pretty pathetic, and offensive. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of people named Jane Mack around the globe. I can't answer for all of them, but as for me, the answer to your 9/25/07 4:14 PM question is no.

Why do you think you're entitled to answer to such a question? I can't think of any reason why you would be.

Perhaps I should refine my list of times to delete posts--to add inane questions. I'll think about that, too.

Boni said...

I deleted Noni's comments only after he started saying things about Garapan School. He said his identity shouldn't be part of our discussion, but started to insult my position and the school. I thought that was unfair and contradictory.

Anonymous said...

(noni) not once did i attack garapan elementary school. not once.

i stated an opinion ("chc's policy of charging up front for services keeps people from seeking needed medical attention, and chc should improve its collections rather than take measures like this"). that was it.

you (half) came on with a following post referring to my opinion as "half-assed". in the context you used that it was plain rude and crude. you went on to use other expletives.

because of your attacks and the way you handled or mishandled rather, yourself, i questioned your position as a principal. how can you attack a person or their simple opinion the way you did and at the same time teach values to kids? after your disparaging remarks and aggresive behavior, i had every right to question that.

i believe you reviewed all of the comments you wrote and realized how bad you sounded... and subsequently removed them. you then went on a campaign to twist the truth and claim i was "attacking the school"... you are not "the school". i challenged, following your bad behavior, your ability to pass on proper behavior and values. I did not disparage the school in any way.

Boni said...

Here we don't go again.

Anonymous said...

and for the record... all of my comments related to that particular post are still up at "middleroad"... for anyone to review. you'll find not one single mention of "garapan elementary school" there.

now half's have been removed, so you can't verify anything that she said. but if you follow the comments that are there, you can get the hint of what she had to say, and how she began going off on people.

at the very least... be honest half. you brought me up in these comments here, in your continued effort to twist what happened... is it your position that i can't respond? that you can continue to twist and besmirch? no...not going to happen. repost your comments (unedited) and let the readers decide.

Saipan Writer said...

I notice that different bloggers read comments and come away with very different impressions about what was said.

So of course, different bloggers will have different protocols for when to delete a comment from their own blog.

I notice also that some bloggers take things personally, whether the comment is phrased against a person or against what that person did or said.

And I guess those of us less sensitive (like me) have to be aware of the more sensitive people, and realize how powerful our words and comments really are.

As for deleting our own comments on others blogs--I haven't figured out when I'll do that, either. But I have learned that no one likes to have their mistakes published. And we would all like to have some of our mistakes forgotten permanently. So I think erring on the side of generosity here is the way to go.

BTW, noni, I agree with the first half of your comment: ("chc's policy of charging up front for services keeps people from seeking needed medical attention, and chc should improve its collections rather than take measures like this)--that's been my observation, too. And for sure CHC should improve its collections. (Don't remember what the "this" refers to, though.)

And definitely Garapan Elementary School is a great school (although I have to confess my heart is more with SVES, of course!

Boni said...

I stayed in the conversation until you started talking about my position. I was posting as a citizen, not a principal. I have never attacked you for your role, and I won't do that. I understand that as adults we can separate our personal feelings from our professional careers.

I did not delete my comments because I wanted to erase my mistakes. I did it because I didn't want parents who may be reading to think that I'm using my position as principal. I wasn't writing as a principal, but as a member of this community. You of course knew who I was so you could belittle me by asking if I teach kids to curse and belittle people, so and so....

Even though I know who you are, I am not resorting to attacking your role or questioning your effectiveness.

For your information, I teach my kids and my former students not to belittle, but to question and engage dialogue. I started the whole thing off by making a statement about your judgment. I pissed you off when I should have explained my own thinking better. We egged each other on for a while, then it erupted into crap.

Question my thinking as a person, not as the principal of GES. Let's leave the school out of it. You, on the other hand continued with your sarcastic jabs and refused to take responsibility for the insane statement you made about drinking and driving.

I didn't take things personally, I took offense to my position being mentioned. It was unnecessary. I didn't appreciate it and when it continued I decided I would rather have believe you had the better of me than to hurt the school.

Saipan Writer said...

You do a great job articulating your thinking behind the decisions you make. And it is the thinking behind decisions (before them actually) that makes our decisions meaningful.

If you hold a position for very long, people tend to see you and the position as one and the same thing, when you're not. I've experienced this. :-)

rev said...

i'd have to agree. this post is such a wonderful relief for us addressed to those that attack our blogging freedom. I'd have to respect and agree with boni, if she chose to delete her comments, because as we said, it's her choice. In our case we reply to comments and attempt to moderate online by telling people to be gentle...;-) some may not agree to this but as you people said, it's our blog and of course, we don't tolerate profanity, but personal attacks we can tolerate as long as we can delete them ahihihi....