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 bloggerâ€™s sensibilities, not imposed by an outside â€œauthorityâ€ handing out â€œapprovedâ€ badges linking to a set of rules based on one or a few peopleâ€™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 â€“ as Tim Oâ€™Reilly suggests – â€œdangerous territoryâ€? One personâ€™s insult is anotherâ€™s satire. What constitutes foul language is highly individual, as is what is nasty.
Censorship is a treacherous undertaking. Once imposed, it doesnâ€™t take much to go from banning individual words to opinion, books and soon, ideas. And then it has arrived at groupthink.
At MeanKids.org 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.Â And they each paid a price for their principles.Â 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.
On the other hand: I feel sorry for Kathy having been called a â€œcute kittyâ€ on international news TV. Although she wonâ€™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, itâ€™s not as bad as a death threat â€” but if weâ€™re going to open the topic of malignant effects on women, we should speak clearly and directly about androcentric condescension and â€œprotection.â€