Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Commenting, free speech and open debate

I don't much like to blog about blogging, but db0's recent Jr. High tantrum prompts me to speak. It's notable that db0 didn't complain about my "censorship" when I banned idiot creationists, uptight philosophy sophomores or torture apologists. He's hardly acting out of high-minded principle; he's just pissed that a) he personally was banned and b) that we used to be friends, kind of, and we aren't anymore. And his assertion that I'm not interested in the "facts" is ludicrous; I rejected his comments precisely because they didn't contain any actual facts. And even though db0 has known for a while that I advocate a role for the state in communism, it's only when he personally has been offended that he slanderously labels my position "Maoism".

(He might be drawing an inference from my reporting on and opinions about the controversy between Sunsara Taylor and the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago, but that no more makes me a Maoist than it does PZ Myers. I'm reporting on the controversy because I think Sunsara is right and the EHSC is wrong, and because Sunsara is my friend. I refuse to self-identify even as a Marxist, much less a Maoist, and I have never advocated substantial compliance with "Mao Zedong thought". That I might have some positions in common with Mao doesn't make me a Maoist any more than vegetarian, teatotalling nonsmokers are Hitlerists.)

But there's a larger point here.

I and no other blogger has any obligation whatsoever under the principles of free speech and open debate to publish any comment. I have no obligation to even respond to any comment other than one that corrects a provable error of fact.

The principles of freedom of speech and open debate are served by everyone being able to have the same sort of platform that I myself have, and blogs are indeed free from Google, Wordpress and others. Some people want to publish and respond to a wide variety of comments, good for them. Some, such as Andrew Sullivan, don't publish comments at all. Some, such as Paul Krugman, publish comments but the author rarely responds. Some, like PZ Myers, restrict only spam, but the social milieu tends to suppress certain points of view. All of these models are perfectly legitimate from the perspective of free speech and open debate.

Some venues say or imply they want open debate, but don't actually afford open debate. But their sin is hypocrisy and dishonesty, especially when they conclude that their hypocritical "support" of open debate proves by omission the substantive failure of opposing positions; they do not sin against free speech.

I'm very open and explicit that I don't want comments and that I moderate them arbitrarily. If you think I'm wrong about some point, you're perfectly free to criticize me on your own blog in whatever terms and in whatever manner you please. I won't send you a DMCA takedown, I won't lobby to have your blog banned, suppressed, put behind an adult content filter or removed from an aggregator. I won't even suggest to my readers not to read your blog. (I don't know about your readers, but if mine aren't adult enough to make their own decisions about what to read or not to read, I'm not much interested in keeping them.)

This blog exists, though to publish my arguments, my thoughts, my opinions, my speculation. It is, openly and by design, all about me. You have no more right to publish your thoughts here, even in the comments, than you do to sleep on my couch. And the fact that I reject comments that I find repetitious, stupid, trivial, without substance, rude or that just happen to irritate me on a bad day doesn't make me an enemy of free speech or open debate.

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See the Debate Flowchart for some basic rules.

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Comments may be moderated from time to time. When I do moderate comments, anonymous comments are far more likely to be rejected.

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