Virtual Waterboarding

Jeneane says,

If I have any regret around what has unfolded here, it is that I have not been able to write about these issues. I was silenced early on by repeated threats of legal and police action for something I did not do. I’ve barely felt well enough to get my real work done, let alone work up sufficient outrage over being asked to apologize for my choice in friends, which, for the record, I do not.

She’s obviously not recanted and it is the court’s judgment that she be returned to the stocks, and from thence to the dunking stool.

In comments on an unrelated post, Shelley offers a flipTheBird widget. I would very much like a “Flip the Bird” widget. I could use it to fill the space others might dedicate to a “Bloggers Code of Conduct” badge. I don’t think I’m making too little of this. Rather, I stand with Ronni Bennett on this as she says,

The key, however, is that those codes and rules are personal to each blogger’s sensibilities, not imposed by an outside “authority” handing out “approved” badges linking to a set of rules based on one or a few people’s judgment of what is acceptable speech.

And if that badge idea takes hold, then are those who, like me, stand as First Amendment absolutists against imposed standards of speech to have their blogs labeled – as Tim O’Reilly suggests – “dangerous territory”? One person’s insult is another’s satire. What constitutes foul language is highly individual, as is what is nasty.

Censorship is a treacherous undertaking. Once imposed, it doesn’t take much to go from banning individual words to opinion, books and soon, ideas. And then it has arrived at groupthink.

At the need for publishing/editorial control was demonstrated to me quite clearly. The intention was satire and criticism, but in some cases the product was no more than insult. There are ways to handle this without censorship. A splash page with disclaimer comes to mind. A central clearing point for a group publication makes sense, an editor with powers to select and edit content from posts and from comments. These are just ideas, and others may have better ideas or a willingness to risk crossing legal boundaries in pursuit of free speech. Frank Zappa, Lenny Bruce, Paul Krassner, and George Carlin are a few of the people who have been willing to say “fuck yourself” to external censors.  And they each paid a price for their principles.  Satire and free speech are not cheap.

From January through March of this year a complex set of circumstances unfolded. During this period some real emotional damage was done, people were hurt. The power of words and graphic images was underscored and the power of the mob was set loose in reaction. I intend to do my best to work with the lessons I learned from these events and to share my perspective on what really happened. By the time I get that posted, I’m sure the blogosphere will have moved on to a fascination with the latest YouTube video of a two legged dog on a skateboard. CNN has covered it now, and we know that America’s finest news gatherers are able to do more in less than four minutes on early morning TV than the assembled blogosphere can do from all the laptops in the land.

Here is some of what AKMA said about that journalistic triumph we witnessed yesterday:

On the other hand: I feel sorry for Kathy having been called a “cute kitty” on international news TV. Although she won’t get thousands of messages decrying this form of misogyny, the media digesters did not blaze any new bold paths in egalitarian journalism when they compared an endangered woman to a small, fuzzy, defenseless feline. No, it’s not as bad as a death threat — but if we’re going to open the topic of malignant effects on women, we should speak clearly and directly about androcentric condescension and “protection.”

Posted in Web Publishing
13 comments on “Virtual Waterboarding
  1. Can you point to the link of the 2 legged dog on the skateboard? Thanks! I really like your blog!

  2. Here is Tyson before the operation (still on four legs). Can’t find two-legged video. Will continue search.

  3. McD says:

    some hotshot writer {!} intense analysis.
    good taste [but] really nasty stuff
    poor fucking… Don Rickles … Tipper Gore
    A-List blogger{!} Angelina Jolie
    Be … Frank OK{?}

  4. Tree Shapiro says:

    hey McD, you fucking bore me. get a blog. i hear scoble’s comments are open and smokin’. go kiss his ass some more.

  5. Tree, I’m doing my best to please all my users, and your comment prompted me to edit McD’s comment a little. (You can read it in all it’s prolixity by clicking on the pingback link above).

    McD, Tree has a point regarding the length of your comment. If you can’t say it in less than 140 characters, how valuable is it anyway?

  6. Gary Turner says:

    Correction: That would be a two-legged dog on a skateboard chewing gum while farting a vaguely accurate rendition of “I Got You Babe”. Two-legged dogs on a skateboard are SO half an hour ago.

  7. If the code of conduct badge idea takes hold, the consequences will be much worse and more far reaching than anything from the original controversy. Oh, wait – it’s being promulagated because of the original controversy.

    Where are Zappa, Lenny and Krassner when we need them…

  8. Tree Shapiro says:


    that’s not what you said when you were kissing that food blogger scoble’s pressed ham. all hail the emperor and his viable seed!

    do you know that there are large clusters of child autism in halfmoonbay, silicon valley and redmond higher than anywhere else in the world? there was an article in wired around 2000 if’n you think i’m fucking around here. look it up, assclown, i’m late for my roulette seminar.

  9. kurt says:

    Maybe I’m being naive here, but I don’t really understand the negative reaction to the idea of a ‘blogger code of conduct’.

    Frank said, “There are ways to handle this without censorship. A splash page with disclaimer comes to mind.”

    From Tim O’Reilly’s post, “At our brainstorming session at Etech, Kaylea Hascall suggested something like the Creative Commons badges that sites employ to label the re-use rights provided for their content. This would let people know which sites to avoid, if they aren’t willing to put up with foul language and insulting comments, and as in the blogher guidelines, let people know in advance what level of discourse is expected.”

    I don’t see those two statements as being all that different.

  10. I’ve said it before, Blogher’s sensibilities don’t necessarily mesh with those of the techysphere. Techish blogs are a macho (!) universe where you’re supposed to put up with all manner of criticism. All. Manner.

    Sierra and Scoble would prefer not to endure uncivil jabs and want line item veto rights when it comes to that unwrit rule. Death threats on kittens go a long way toward moving the line.

  11. Kurt (I’m dying to say “Kurt, you ignorant slut,” but I’m not going to say that because I’ve seen where old Saturday Night Live references can lead one),

    I think a “blogger code of conduct” is a knee jerk reaction to a nasty situation. But you’re entitled to your opinion. Not every web publishing effort using blogging software is a blog. If it looks like a blog and quacks like a blog, it still might be parody, satire, or just authentically voiced angry wailing at the general condition of things. Maybe we need BLOGGER certification! To call oneself a BLOGGER could be the gating factor we are looking for! If you are not a certified BLOGGER then — by golly — people are taking their delicate sensibilities into their own hands. But if you are a certified BLOGGER, then — by jiminy — people could count on there being no textual or graphic matter on your site that is offensive to anyone.

    Frank (I Am Not A Blogger, or IANAB for short)

  12. Joey says:

    I’m tossed.

    Blogs might be a Blogger’s work product, in which case the Blogger should be free to set any guidelines they want and possibly even edit comments.

    [POSSIBLY? WATCH THIS… fp, the editor]

    With linkbacks and pingbacks and all the other types of backs to be invented, those censored will have a way to be heard, eventually. Right?


    Why not also make comment posting easier by allowing commenters the ability to edit their own comments? Or offer more than a small box to enter your comment. A formal editor might go farther than anyone can imagine to helping people compose better comments.



    I think the answer does rest in letting those who leave comments know what’s expected [AND THE FUN IN THAT WOULD BE WHAT?] and provide the tools they need to be able to live up to it (notices, editing). [FREE BEER, TOOLS FOR LIVING IT UP?] This approach allows the Market Gods to remain happy.

    Just raw thinking from a low life ruffian…

  13. Paul Ritchie says:

    Free beer? Delete! Everyone knows that’s just a ruse to trick up the search engine results. Oooh you’re a one, Frank.


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