Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘freedom of speech

Yet another firing based on opinion

with one comment

Browsing the pages of SVT teletext, I encountered a very disturbing entry*, dealing with events at Kalmar HC, a lower-level Swedish ice-hockey team:

*The source does not provide permanent content; however, I have saved a copy locally, should anyone require the full Swedish text.

Its trainer, one Duane Smith, has been fired for expressing private opinions on Twitter, with no immediate relation to the team or his work.

It is claimed that he made at least ten relevant statements*. Two** quotes are given, “Nigeria är världens aidshuvudstad” (“Nigeria is the aids capital of the world”) and “Fuck Islam” (no translation needed).

*“inlägg”: This is vague term that could mean different things in different contexts. I chose “statements” as a similarly vague English term. In context, “tweets” is probably what is meant.

**Note that if some of the other quotes were, in some sense, worse, it is reasonable to assume that they would have been used instead. Most likely, these two statements were those considered the most convincing. (While, cf. below, not being convincing at all…)

In the body of the text, it is claimed that he has expressed xenophobe opinions (“uttryckt främlingsfientliga åsikter”); the heading speaks of racist statements (“rasistiska inlägg”).

Looking at the two given statements, it is clear that neither can be considered racist or xenophobe in it self. Further, that even ascribing a racist or xenophobe motivation is pure speculation*. (The same applies to the alleged violation of KHC’s values. Cf. below.)

*With reservation for information not present in the entry. However, if such information was present, it would be inexcusable to not present it correspondingly, instead giving two quotes that do not support the claims. It is possible that Duane Smith is racist, but it is up to the “prosecution” to prove it.

The first claim comes close to being factually true*, does not (alone) contain any type of value statement, and could, depending on context, be seen as a factual observation or even something supportive of e.g. Nigeria**. Would there have been much outrage if he had said “The U.S. is the crime capital of the world”? Highly unlikely, even though this claim is further from the truth.

*According to Wikipedia “Nigeria has the second-largest number of people living with HIV.”, making the claim off-by-one if we count absolute numbers. Going by relative numbers, there are those who do much worse, including South-Africa, which is also the number one in absolute numbers; however, the rate is still disastrous by e.g. Swedish standards. (I give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that “capital” is used just to follow the template phrase. However, even if he actually believed that Nigeria is a city, rather than a country, that only makes him weak at African geography—not racist.)

**Say, “Nigeria is the AIDS capital of the world. Please donate to help give the sick modern medicine.” or something implying that “AIDS capital” means “AIDS research capital”. (Which is not to say that this is what Duane Smith actually intended. The point is rather that condemning someone for this statement, without additional support, and without being explicit about context, is incompetent, intellectually dishonest, or both.)

The second expresses a negative opinion about a religion—and a religion which has members of a great number of nationalities and ethnicities, including white-as-snow Swedes. Note carefully that the claim is not even “Fuck Muslims”—it is “Fuck Islam”. To boot, this opinion is one that is shared by very many otherwise considered sensible (although most would be less blunt), be it because they dislike Islam specifically or religion in general. Here too, the context could be quite relevant.* Would there have been much outrage had he said “Fuck Christianity”? Highly unlikely (at least in Sweden).

*Compare e.g. “I just heard about the latest ISIS attack. Fuck Islam.” with “I just saw another woman with a burka. Fuck Islam.”, and note how very different these two words come over. (Notwithstanding that even the first could be seen as unfair or ignorant, seeing that ISIS is just one part of Islam, just like Nazi-Germany was just one part of Europe.)

To boot, we have to consider that Twitter, by its nature, is not a medium for eloquence and deep thought—but for soundbites and spur-of-the-moment statements. What is said on Twitter should be viewed less seriously than what is written in e.g. an article, for the simple reason that it need not reflect deeper opinions. (And for reasons like the lack of context, cf. above; or the greater relative impact of typos, “auto correction”, an accidental misformulation, …) A recent “Family Guy” episode, “The D in Apartment 23”, contains a brilliant illustration with disturbing parallels to what happened here. Some claims, e.g. “Kill all Jews.” would be out of the question even on Twitter; others, e.g. “Fuck Islam.” is within the realms of what a perfectly reasonable (but careless) person could “tweet” in the wrong circumstances—or a perfectly none-careless person when he assumes that the reader knows the context. (Cf. the above footnote.)

Further, even if Duane Smith, for the sake of argument, is a racist (xenophobe, whatnot), that is in and by itself not a legitimate reason to fire him: Actions are what counts—not opinions. A world in which opinions alone lead to such consequences is a tyranny and a dystopia, where diversity of opinion will be severely diminished, where faulty decisions will be made because they happen to be more orthodox, where even science will be hindered, where personal freedoms are unfairly reduced, … Unfortunately, this is the world towards we are increasingly heading, and even now all this, including restrictions on science, is happening—the question is merely one of degree and whether we will be able to turn this disastrous trend in time. Such firings are the more unfortunate, even offensive, considering the very large number of incompetent, negligent, and/or lazy people who are allowed to keep their jobs despite legitimate reasons to get rid of them.

His firing might have been legitimate, had it been shown that these opinions hindered him in his work. No such argument was raised, however, with the claimed reason “These opinions conflict with KHC’s values on the equal worth of all humans” (“Dessa uppfattningar står i strid med KHC:s värderingar om alla människors lika värde”). As can be seen, this was purely a matter of Duane Smith’s allegedly* having the wrong opinions. A firing might also have been legitimate, had he claimed to speak for KHC; however, no indication is made that this was the case.

*As can be seen from the above discussion, even this has not been demonstrated.

Did Duane Smith do something wrong? Yes! He appears to have apologized and not taken a fight, thereby giving the forces of intolerance and political correctness yet another easy victory, making repetitions of such scenarios even more likely, moving us even closer to dystopia.

Please, if you are ever in such a situation, in particular should you be a politician, executive, celebrity, …, have the guts to do the right thing! Take a stand for freedom of speech! Stand by your opinions! Do not just cave and apologize! (And if a PR specialist advises you to the contrary, fire him…) If sufficiently many stand up against scenarios like these, they will cease.

Clarifying note:
In the analysis of the text, it is often unclear who is to blame for what. For instance, is the grossly incorrect use of “racism” stemming from KHC or from the incompetent and PC obsessed “journalists” from SVT? Were there actual damning information that SVT left out through poor judgment? Etc. In the big picture, this does not really matter, because the overall, societal problem remains the same and of roughly the same scope. For this reason, I have chosen not to dwell deeper into the details of the issue to clarify blame, to check whether other sources might have more damming information, whatnot. However, I do advice the reader to be aware that it is not a given where, in this case, the societal problem has manifested how and who is to be criticized in detail for what.

Excursion on the PC crowd vs. Muslims:
The treatment of Islam and Muslims in PC circles is quite inconsistent: In situations like the above, anyone who says anything negative is a racist and should be fired. In other circumstances, Muslims are evil sexist bastards and … should be fired. I note specifically several cases of Muslim men refusing to shake hands with women for religious or decency reasons—despite Muslim women often having the same attitude of not wanting to shake hands with men. Indeed, this is the type of cultural difference that should be tolerated—but in PC circles imaginary misogynism appears to trump real cultural intolerance. (And misandrism is mysteriously considered non-existent…) This attitude to handshakes is not comparable to the attitude against pork, but appears to be more comparable to a Christian man not feeling up women during introductions—a matter of respect, not contempt.

Excursion on organizations and values:
It is questionable whether organizations should be allowed to profess or require values in the first place (unless, like a political party, values are a central aspect). Take KHC: It has players, it has volunteers, it has paying members, …* What if the board or whatnot suddenly decides that it has a certain set of values? What if a player/volunteer/whatnot has different values? What if, as is often the case, someone has spent decades actively supporting the club with his time and money, this someone is member of party X, and the new values are incompatible with those of X? Etc. What if the board today has different personal preferences than the board five years ago, and in another five years the new board has yet another view? Worse: Chances are that there is not even a decision on values, a list of values, or anyway to verify compliance in advance. More likely than not, these “values” were made up ad hoc to sound good in front of the press or to conform with societal expectations, like the stereotypical answer of “World peace!” from a beauty-pageant contestant.

*Assuming that it follows typical patterns in sport. I have not verified this.

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Written by michaeleriksson

June 1, 2018 at 4:06 am

Comment censorship and comment policies VII: An interesting discussion on another blog

with 4 comments

A very interesting discussion on this topic has arisen on another bloge.

A few issues of note:

  1. A number of commenters feel that it is in order to delete comments that are too rude, lacking in constructiveness, or fall in e.g. the category of racism.

    To a part they are correct; however, great caution must be taken to avoid over-interpretation and highly subjective deletes. Deleting based on opinion (e.g. alleged racism) is something that I emphatically advice against (see previous entries); in particular, as this is a highly subjective area and an area where many systematically abuse accusations of e.g. racism or sexism to distort the debate.

    As one commenter succinctly expressed it:

    (enleuk)

    Nobody knows the truth. Therefore it’s wrong to disallow any opinions at all. You should debate to reach constructive insights instead of making subjective assumptions about what is right and wrong.

  2. An illustrating quote that shows the common sentiment of “my blog; my rules”:

    (thomaschalfant)

    I delete absolutely any comment that I feel like deleting, and I allow absolutely any comment I feel like allowing, and I don’t feel even slightly, remotely, even a tiny little bit inclined to justify or defend it anytime in any way.

    Conversely, I don’t feel that anyone is in any way obligated to post any of my comments to their blogs (including this one). In the same way that you can walk up to me in a bar and start talking to me but I don’t have to listen, and vice versa.

    What this overlooks: A comment on a blog is not (generally) a statement made to another person, but to the public. It is, in particular, not something that must be directed at the blog author—often the target is the readers of the blog. By restricting the opportunity others have to express their opinions on the matter, the public suffers. A better analogy would be a speech in a public place: The speaker has his say (the blog entry), invites the world to voice its opinions (the comments)—and when someone has an opinion that is unsuitable, poorly expressed, or similar, a “The world, but not you!” comes from the mouth of the speaker. (Other reasons why this attitude is problematic is discussed through-out this article series.)

    As a general rule of life: That one has the formal right to do something does not automatically mean that one has an ethical right to do so—let alone should do so. A blogger should feel free to consider himself an aboslute ruler; however, he should make sure to be a benevolent dictatorw—not an arbitrary tyrant.

  3. The topic of spam comments comes up repeatedly. The need to delete spam, however, is a different issue from deleting “real” comments—sufficiently different that they are likely best off being discussed separately. Consider, in the above analogy, that the speech is ended and someone stands up to say “Beautiful speech! Now that you all are here, I would like to invite you to my store where you can buy glass figurines for only $199.99!”—just a different beast.

I made a few comments myself, including two points that I likely have failed to emphasize enough in this series:

  1. I have spent much time reading various discussions on various topics, including the talk pages on Wikipedia. I have found that it is often the back-and-forth, the contrast between different ideas and opinions, arguments and counter-arguments that best help me build a better understanding of the topic.

    This does require a receptive reader and it does require reasoning and knowledgeable debaters; however, when it works, it works extremely well—far better than a one-man pulpit.

  2. We should, as bloggers, have the humility to recognize that we have something to learn from our commenters. Disabling comments increases the risk (emails notwithstanding) that we miss what they have to teach.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Comment censorship and comment policies IVd: Wrap up

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The blog entry by Antje Schruppe that forms the basis for installment IV of this article series has proved a great source of material, both to illustrate my own thoughts and to discuss new areas—largely through exactly the kind of clashes in opinions that feminist blogs so often try to suppress. However, some two weeks after the initial encounter, it is high time to wrap things up. I will try to condense the remaining loose ends into one post, even at the cost of wandering between topics and not working everything out in deserved detail.

Originally planned, as a first follow-up to my original discussion, was a post with the preliminary title “To comment or not to comment—that is the question”. Let us start with the half-completed draft of this post, with some minor comments in square brackets:

Developments have left me with an unpleasant dilemma—and a good illustration of why the statements made by Antje are misguided.

To give a brief re-cap of comments (as far as relevant for the current post):

  1. There have been a number commenters expressing similar sentiments to mine.

  2. The overall tone has been reasonably pleasant and one recurring visitor has offered that Antje’s blog is an exception to the feminist standard. This has the dual complication that the commenters above (including me) may be unfair regarding specifically Antje (but not feminism in general), while she, in turn, may be unfair towards the commenters her original post was directed at. [With hindsight, my interpretation may have been too generous towards Antje, cf. the following topic.]

  3. One specific commenter seems to follow a more traditional feminist agenda and/or have a poor understanding of the underlying issues.

Specifically, this last commenter was of the kind that more-or-less necessitates answers: They (as a group—judging any individual in this regard may be too far-going) simply give a distorted image of what their opponents say, what scientists say, and generally appear to be more opinionated than informed. They are particularly common among feminists (but do occur in all camps). Naturally, a debater who has an interest in correctness will give answers pointing to e.g. distortions or misunderstanding of opinions, factual errors, and mistakes in reasoning—and will try to expound on his own position for clarity, use larger examples, try to point to issues in a bigger picture, whatnot. (In addition, the question of fairness and intellectual honesty can also arise. The recurring reader will know that I have, at least occasionally, defended even those whom I do not agree with in this regard.)

Making such corrections do not only affect the transgressors (in fact, they will typically not be affected at all, through their resistive mentality), but are valuable in that an uninformed or easily lead reader is given a less one-sided perspective. Additionally, they can be highly beneficial both for the author, himself, and for any critical readers looking for a more solid understanding.

I strongly suspect, however, that exactly this type of clarification is what many of the feminists confuse with e.g. “wanting to have the last word”, “mansplaining”, or similar—to the detriment of themselves and their readers, and to the annoyance of those who are unfairly given the label. (Notably, there is a large difference between a constant repeating of the same arguments in louder and louder tones and an actual elaboration, clarification, and extension.)

Feminists to a large part provoke the behaviour they legitimately complain about, e.g. through their censoring of and attacks on the behaviour they illegitimately complain about.

Similarly, I once had a boss whose standard reply to feedback during meetings was “Let us save that discussion for a smaller circle.”—a reasonable suggestion, except that these smaller circles usually never happened, and, when they did, almost always consisted of a standard group of “yes men” (rather than those who could and were willing to contribute, including the original issue raiser). In his case, I strongly suspect that this was deliberately ploy to sweep things under the carpet without being too obvious.

Notably, many feminist blogs work on a guilty-until-proved-innocent principle. [Cf. my previous entry or the case of “blue milk” for extreme examples. Beware, however, that the same overall tendency is quite common, even if less obvious, on less misandristic feminist blogs.]

The dilemma mentioned was this: A previous comment by Antje read

@Michael – das war jetzt übrigens die „zweite Runde“, von der oben in meinem Blogpost die Rede war :) –

(@Michael—that [my preceding comment] was the “second round” that I discussed in my blog post :) –

Her original discussion of “second round” could be summarized as

dass ein Kommentator immer das letzte Wort behalten will und dadurch die Diskussion in eine bestimmte Richtung drängt und auf ungute Weise dominiert.

(that a commenter always wants to have the last word, and thereby forces the discussion in a particular direction or dominates it in an ungood manner. [The German word “ungut”, unlike “ungood”, did not originate as Newspeakw, but seeing that it only survives in the expression “nichts für ungut”/“no offence” the literal translation is the most fitting—and the reference is a striking, if likely entirely unintended, match in the context it appeared in.])

I now saw myself caught between two alternatives: Either I would let statements that should be confronted stand unconfronted—or I would provide “proof” that Antje was right by enabling her to talk about a “third round”. (This type of “damned if you do; damned if you don’t” situations have been relatively common in my own experiences with feminists. Whether they use it as a deliberate trick to preclude objections, is unclear to me.)

At that time, I decided not to comment, but instead to discuss the general problem in the originally intended follow-up. Some discussion of why the blog owner is, in fact, wrong is present in the quoted draft. (Further, arguments can found in previous entries or e.g. in the Wikipedia article on selective exposure theoryw.)

As time went by, other topics surfaced, and I chose to comment on one of these—after all, to claim a third round based on a different topic would be absurd. Shortly after submitting this comment, I received a notification email that another commenter had made a similar reply (meaning that Antje was at that moment moderating); however, my comment was for some reason not let through. I now grew suspicious, bearing in mind a previous statement implying that comments were possibly being held back:

Für mich selber seh’ ich nun leider auch nicht, wieso z.B. der letzte Kommentar, den ich hier ( zum Thema „Moderieren“ ) geschrieben habe, nichts mit dem Thema zu tun hätte, oder sonst etwas, so dass er gelöscht werden musste.

(For my part, I do not see why, for instance, the last comment that I wrote here (on the topic “Moderation”) was considered off-topic, [or otherwise was unsuitable], and had to be deleted.)

(http://antjeschrupp.com/2010/07/25/warum-es-hier-keine-netiquette-gibt/#comment-2485e)

Before choosing my next action (or, possibly, non-action), I decided to investigate the “second round” issue—possibly, my interpretation, with several days between the mention in the post and the mention in a comment, had been too optimistic.

Indeed, a few sentences later in the post, Antje says:

Ich handhabe das inzwischen so, dass ich nach der zweiten „Runde“ weitere Kommentare des Betreffenden dann nicht mehr freischalte.

(By now, I have a policy of not approving more comments from [the person in question] after the second “round”.)

This lead me to re-publish the comment on my own blog (further information is present on that post).

Written by michaeleriksson

August 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Comment censorship and comment policies IV: A German feminist’s take on comments

with 7 comments

Today, I stumbled upon an entry where a German feminist expressed her opinions on comment moderatione. Her statements included:

Auch an dieser Stelle waren die besserwisserischen Männerkommentare in feministischen Blogs ja schon häufiger Thema, ebenso wie das Phänomen der Trolle.

(Here too, the besser-wissery man-comments on feminist blogs has been a topic, just like the phenomenon of trolls.)

Apart from the overall connection and formulation being less-than-polite, my own experiences indicate that this is an opinion that feminist bloggers tend to have about any and all comments by men that are not positively “sucking up”. In particular, the whole besser-wisser issue is basically their explanation for the presumption of pointing to actual errors in reasoning, statistics that do not agree with The Official Feminist Truth, and similar. Cf. also the earlier discussion of “mansplaining”.

Dass es sich für feministische Blogs empfiehlt, eine relativ strikte Kommentarmoderation zu haben, hat sich inzwischen herauskristallisiert.

[…]

Sondern es ist wichtig, um den Raum der Diskussion frei zu halten für die wirklich interessanten Debatten und attraktiv für diejenigen, die gerne konstruktiv mitdiskutieren wollen, aber keine Lust auf langweilige oder sich im Ton vergreifende Diskussionsstile haben.

(It has turned out [original idiom untranslatable] that it is recommendable for feminist blogs to be relatively strict about comment moderation.

[…]

Instead, it is important to keep the room of discussion free for the really interesting debates, and attractive to those who want to participate in the discussion, but have no wish for boredom or discussion styles that are off in tone [ambiguous phrasing].)

This is a similar distortion of the “only those who agree are constructive” kind. See also the comment I submitted to the actual post (below).

Eine weitere Unsitte, wie ich finde, ist es, das eigene Anliegen bei jedem neuen Thema erneut vorzubringen. Also zum Beispiel die Meinung, dass es heutzutage gar nicht die Frauen, sondern die Männer sind, die benachteiligt werden, oder dass feministische Analysen nur dann Relevanz und Bedeutung haben, wenn es gelingt, Männer von ihrer Richtigkeit zu überzeugen.

(Another deplorable behaviour, in my finding [opinion], is to bring out an own agenda [pet issue?] again with every new topic. For instance, the opinion that, in today’s world, it is not the women, but the men, who are disadvantaged, or that feminist analyses only have relevance and meaning [or importance], when it is possible to convince men about their correctness.)

And again, dissenters have no right to speak. Superficially, it may seem that it is wrong to bring up such issues again and again, but the point is that these issues are of fundamental importance to the discussion—and the turn-around in male and female fortunes will also undermine very many feminist arguments and discussions. Ignoring these arguments (and if they were not ignored, there would be no need to restate them) is tantamount to discussing biology in a Creationist framework.

Und allen, die dann „Zensur“ rufen, sage ich: Das Internet ist ja zum Glück groß. Ihr könnt also jederzeit ein eigenes Blog aufmachen. Hier aber entscheide ich.

(And to all, who call “censorship, I say: The Internet is, fortunately, large. You can start your own blog anytime. Here, however, I make the calls.)

This dictatorial take has already been discussed in previous entries.

The comment I left there, in full:

Ich kann jetzt nicht spezifisch für Deinen Blog sprechen (noch werde ich verleugnen, dass es auch unter den anti-feministen schlechte Kommentatoren gibt).

Gegen den Grundsatz muss ich mich allerdings mit Nachdruck wenden:

Was ich immer und immer wieder sehe, ist dass feministische Blogs eine selektive Moderation, Personenangriffe, o.ä. benutzen um Andersdenke zum Schweigen zu bringen. Ich habe gar Aussagen gesehen, die in der Richtung „Deine Ansichten stimmen nicht mit der Majorität der Leser überrein, so verzieh Dich.“ gegangen sind.

Eine „interessante Diskussion“ ist dann öfters auf ein gegenseitiges Zustimmen beschränkt, während eine kritische Auseinandersetzung mit Sachargumenten, eine gegenseitige Erleuchtung über den tatsächlichen Inhalt unterschiedlicher Standpunkte, usw, nicht stattfindet.

(Im Übrigen habe ich selbst erhebliche Zweifel an die ethische Seite von dieser Art von gezielter Moderation/Zenzur.)

S. auch (auf Englisch) https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/unfair-argumentation-methods-iii-intermezzo-on-rape-debates/ für ein Beispiel von den Methoden, die einige Blogs benutzen.

(I cannot speak specifically for your blog (nor will I deny that there are bad commenters among the anti-feminists too).

I must turn [dissent/object] against the principle [of the post], however:

What I see, time and time again, is that feminist blogs use selective moderation, personal attacks, and similar, to silence dissenters. I have even seen statements in the direction of “Your opinions do not correspond with the majority of the readers, so take a hike.”.

An “interesting discussion” is then often reduced to mutual affirmation, while a critical examination with arguments ad rem, a mutual enlightenment about the actual contents of different views, etc., does not take place.

(In addition, I have strong concerns [lit. “doubts”] about the ethical side of this type of targeted moderation/censorship.)

S. also (in English) https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/unfair-argumentation-methods-iii-intermezzo-on-rape-debates/ for an example of the methods some blogs use.)

I will also distill a spot on comment by another commentere:

  1. The interesting thing with blogs is the exchange of information and the possibility to find weakness in ones own opinion.

  2. Feminist blogs tend to strike exactly those comments that disagree with the underlying opinions of the authors.

  3. Those arguments that tend to convince non-feminists (listed are fellow party-members, co-workers, and family) are those that are deleted.

  4. By this feminism becomes a question of faith.

Finally, a quote by yet another commenter:

Biologische Argumentationen, sachlich vorgetragen und durchaus von einer Mehrheit der jeweiligen biologischen Fachrichtung vertreten, führen auf feministischen Blogs sehr schnell dazu, dass Kommentare nicht mehr freigeschaltet oder gelöscht werden.

(Biological arguments, [even when] brought in a factual manner and supported by a majority of the respective [sub-field of Biology], have the speedy consequence that comments are not approved or are deleted.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 27, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Comment censorship and comment policies III: Nordic Dervish’s comment policy

with 6 comments

Another recent encounter is Nordic Dervish’se comment policy, which contains some other common entries that trouble me. (Most of the policy, however, is reasonable.)

A particular issue is the implicit assumption that the reader has read the comment policy (reflected in several entries below), which is only valid to a part. While this may seem a reasonable assumption (possibly even eliciting a “Duh!” from the reader), it is rarely true, and any unusual rules and consequences should put to the commenters explicit attention in connection with the comment field. By analogy, a country can make whatever laws it wants, but if those laws are unexpected (say, jay-walking being punishable with a minimum of six months imprisonment), it really should explicitly inform tourists at the border—not rely on the tourists to grab a book of law and reading up.

Examples (retrieved 2010-07-27):

Kommentera inlägget. Allt som är off-topic raderas – oavsett hur intressant.

(Comment the post. Everything that is off-topic will be deleted—no matter how interesting.)

Apart from often being a disservice to other visitors (and quite possibly a time waster for the commenter), this is another highly arbitrary regulation. Notably, the border between on- and off-topic can be hard to define, sometimes it is necessary to go off topic to correctly answer concerns raised by another commenter, etc.

In contrast, “Try to stay on topic. Comments that stray too far from the topic at hand may be wholly or partially deleted.” would have been perfectly OK, if combined with sound judgement.

Håll kommentaren så kort som det är möjligt. ”Noveller” kommer att raderas.

(Keep your comment as short as possible. “Novels” [lit., in an odd twist, “short-stories”] will be deleted.

The principle is sound, but the same objections, m.m., as above can be raised.

Rasistiska eller främlingsfientliga kommentarer/formuleringar raderas.

(Racist or xenophobic comments/formulations are deleted.)

The same old problem again that I have raised in several previous entries. (Admittedly, this instance was followed by a disclaimer that some amount of dissent may be allowed.) However, this is nothing compared to:

Är Khomeini/Ahmadinejad dina idoler? Om du skriver publiceras ditt inlägg MED emailadress och IP-nr samt en uppmaning till dig att utföra passionerat fellatio på ett avgasrör.

(Are Khomeini/Ahmadinejad your idols? If you write [presumably “comment”], your input will be published WITH email address and IP-nr, together with a suggestion for you to perform passioned fellatio on an exhaust pipe.)

Publishing email and IP of a commenter without his consent is inexcusable (barring some special cases, say DOS attacks, but certainly not the described one). This applies even if the commenter happen to be an Iranian Islamist, a German Nazi, or a Satanist (in all three cases, assuming that his one crime in context is expressing a dissenting opinion). Further, WordPress assures posters, with regard to the technical implementation, that this information will only be made available to the blog owner(s), which makes a manual publication the more unethical.

The latter part of the quote could be construed as a suggestion to commit suicide…

Written by michaeleriksson

July 27, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Comment censorship and comment policies II: Jotamar’s comment policy

with 3 comments

I recently encountered a comment policye that I found highly dangerous (I have, I stress, not made observations of how it is actually applied. The general attitude, which is representative for many blogs, is my target. It may be beneficial too consider this a discussion based on the policy, rather than a discussion of the policy.)

A few quotes (retrieved 2010-07-27) with my analysis:

If you come to my blog and post a comment that does not engage with my post, or with the comment thread in general, I will consider you a troll.

This is a misrepresentation of what a troll is (in short someone who is deliberately out to provoke a fight or otherwise disturb the discussion)—as the recurring reader will know, use of a word with strong negative connotations (arising from a very specific meaning) in a much wider meaning is one of my pet peeves—be the misuse out of ignorance, carelessness, or deliberation.

Further, the applied standards are extremely arbitrary and vulnerable to misunderstandings, with the implication that even constructive and “good faith” comments can fall victim.

Notably, while I have not myself been censored on this blog during my one (?) involvement, both my intentions and what I said was misunderstoode in a highly annoying and mutually time-consuming manner.

After [what amounts to a first warning], I may delete your comments or disemvowel them, depending on my mood.

Deleting comments is one thing, disemvowelling (.g. smthng lk ths) is another matter entirely: Other peoples words should not be distorted unless it is manifestly clear that a distortion has taken place (e.g. by a marker like “[Admin: …]”. Notably, there are a few people out there (usually considered idiots by others), who deliberately disemvowel their own texts, and the commenter might be taken for one of them.

If you write a condescending comment – especially if you start with a condescending phrase – or if you mansplain (or equivalent) at me, I will probably treat you as a troll.

Condescension too is highly subjective, and many are over-sensitive to it or imagine it where it is not present. This tends to apply in particular to people who use the word “mansplain”: There are two main situations in which I have seen this word used:

  1. A man tries to explain more-or-less anything to a woman who is also a men-are-out-to-get-us feminist; in particular, when she actually is wrong in the underlying issue.

  2. A man tries to explain something to a woman who is also stupid or highly uninformed, and his dumbing-down is interpreted as “You talk to me like that because I am woman!”, instead of the correct “You talk to me like that because I am stupid/uninformed!”. Notably, the amount of dumbing down need not even be so large that an independent observer would consider it condescending, but rather an attempt to be helpful. (When push comes to shove, Einstein would have discussed physics with a layman in a very different manner than with another Nobel-Prize winning physicist—this is in the best interest of all parties, and not in anyway disrespectful or condescending.)

    Corollary: If you constantly find that other people are condescending towards you, the reason might actually rest with you, not them.

As an additional complication, some incorrectly interpret a factual way of writing as condescending, which can be a major obstacle to a fair discussion when combined with a “no condescension” rule. Similarly, even statements that correctly point out that a particular belief is wrong or naive are often taken as condescending. (Depending on the details, this need not be incorrect; however, there is a world of difference between e.g. “That it is common beginner’s error, which does not consider that X.”, even when condescending, and “Do not trouble your pretty little head with that. We do not want it to over-heat, do we?”—there is condescension and there is condescension.)

Finally, it is important to bear in mind that we are all imperfect: Should someone, when faced with an unusual amount of stupidity, eventually become condescending, then that is something very different from someone who is constantly condescending to everyone he meets.

Language which is offensive because it is ableist [presumably, referring to having or not having certain abilities, e.g. sight], sexist, misogynistic, racist, homophobic or anything else of that calibre is not acceptable.

Again, a much too subjective criterion—and one that is very, very often abused to exclude those who dissent in opinion, or that is over-extended in an inappropriate manner. (Cf. e.g. Hypocritical media or Abuse of “racism” (and issues relating to racism).)

If you think this policy is unfair, you are more than welcome to go and comment on some other blog.

While this may seem reasonable at a first glance, this attitude can also be dangerous—in particular, when the censorship starts during a discussion, when one debater’s opinions are left misstated, misrepresented, or when others attacks or arguments are left unanswered. An additional danger is that a good faith post which has cost the author a non-trivial amount of time, e.g. to dig up a few references, is not published.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 27, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Comment censorship and comment policies I: Preliminaries

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I have previously written on the danger of censorship, including pointing to the possibility that freedom of speech may need to be radically extended. (More posts can be found by a search.)

Recently, I have seen a number of relevant posts. To deal with some cases and observations, I am writing a new article series. Currently, having had busy day, I have four articles (including this one) that I will publish in short time-span, after some minor polishing; in addition, a fifth article is planned, but may yet be canceled, depending on developments.

While I will leave most of the discussion to the individual case discussions, a few remarks:

  1. Just like unfair moderation can lead to problems, so can e.g. alterations of comments. This, in particular, considering how easy it is to discredit someone even with an out-of-context quote he has made. Even an accidental distortion can have disastrous effect. Deliberate forgeries and distortions, OTOH, are bound to be rare—but the potential for abuse is large. (Notably, this is a particular concern for those who occasionally post on the blogs run by the-end-justifies-the-means fanatics.)

  2. If you, as a blog-owner, decides to block a particular comment or commenter, it is usually a good idea to explicitly contact him with an explanation. There are blogs that have a too large inflow of comments, and there are commenters who simply are obvious idiots (or have built their status as idiots for quite some time); however, in most cases, a notification is appropriate and courteous. In particular, beware of the risk of a misinterpretation influencing your decision to block.

  3. Everyone must have the right to defend and clarify his position, meet attacks directed against him, etc. If you do cut someone off, do so in a manner that does not make him a defenseless victim of an opponent.

  4. Be especially careful with the people you disagree with: The greater the disagreement, the greater the risk that you are being biased and unfair—and the greater the benefit of the doubt you should extend.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 27, 2010 at 9:37 pm