Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cyber-Censorship or Cyber-Sensible?

Some readers out there in the nebulous ether may have wondered at some point as to why the comments they submitted to this blog have not appeared. The answers are not difficult to understand, but after a long absence from the blogesphere I find that this issue has provided me with an opportunity – and the requisite inspiration – to return to the matter blogging after my prolonged absence. By way of offering an explanation to the missing comments I would like to offer an abridged history of my personal relationship with this grand experiment called the Internet, to provide some element of context for my feelings on this matter.

My first experiences with the Internet came long before the word “blog” entered our vocabulary; I spent many an hour reading the Usenet groups, posting to “threads” and, at times, getting “flamed” by the ubiquitous “trolls” that took great delight in preying on anyone they perceived to be susceptible to their venomous attacks. At the time it was the best that I could access through my FreeNet connection, but I wasn’t complaining … the operative word, after all, was that my Internet access was free. The drawbacks associated with this type of access, however, were quick to become evident to anyone who frequented the Usenet groups with any regularity: the “trolls” were not, as previously believed, completely toothless, nor were they the mindless evil creeps that many believed them to be … they were far more insidious than had been imagined, as well as being quite creative in their viciousness and irrational desire to destroy their online targets.

As in the real world, the Internet is populated with a wide variety of individuals, many of whom seem to not be guided by the same moral codes that the rest of us chose to live by; it is a world where bullies exist in reality, where their avatars seek to wreck havoc on susceptible targets in the unseen world of faceless anonymity. While the emerging architecture of the Internet was being celebrated as the ultimate expression of free speech at its best there were already signs that this “freedom” was going to be followed by several asterisks, signs delineating the necessary comments on the ways in which “free speech” has been used – and abused – by the finest American lawyers in order to protect the purveyors of hatred, racism, misogyny and other things that quickly found a home in the darkest depths of the Internet.

The borderless nature of this international community that can be called the “Net” implies a citizenry as diverse as the planet itself, and yet, real borders do exist. As much as we would like to imagine that the Internet is some wonderful egalitarian force working for the good of all, it is not; while it may have originated as an academic tool it has subsequently been usurped by the purveyors of the worst kinds of hatred, by exploitative materials, and by an endless stream of misinformation on virtually every imaginable topic. History is casually rewritten and posted with impunity as revisionists use any available opportunity to bolster their indefensible positions; the truth, as represented by the “Net”, should now be accompanied by disclaimers that what they are reading may not have anything to do with the truth. Of course, anyone who disagrees can simply post their own opinion, replete with their “version” of the truth someplace else. Thus the new definition for the Theory of Relativity that included the relativity of truth – anything could be seen as being “somewhat” true, so long as the person making the claims shouted loud enough (protested enough, or had enough similarly convinced cohorts who shared their misguided leader’s view). Whether or not something was actually true or not, however, was not as important as the slickness of the message being presented.

Perhaps it can be seen as a fulfilment of the idea proposed by Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan when he stated that “the medium is the message”, elevating the Internet itself to the level of messenger for a new age … the only caveat being that when trust is lost in that medium what are we left with? The truth of the matter is that the Internet is only a tool; it shall only continue to survive and thrive if we can be certain that we can have some level of confidence in the materials that we are accessing. There is no point using the Internet for research if everything found is of questionable value or comes from dubious sources. Trust is precious and is something that must be earned.

While some people might call this the ultimate “democracy” of the Internet there are some who believe there is a need to have Internet regulated. That isn’t what I’m interested in, at this point; I’m only concerned (in a small sense) with what is directly relating to my own contact with the “Net”, which happens to be this blog. Thanks to the advances in connectivity, computer speed, and the development of the “Net” itself (advances that have been made, by the way, largely due to the porn industry) connecting to the ether is far easier than it was in the days of the 56.6 modems.

Having a blog is, in a way, like having a diary that you leave open on a table for anyone to read (if they want to read it) … they can also write things in the margins if they so choose … that’s why I decided to have a comments section. That said, it hasn’t always been the most enjoyable thing … that isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed the writing – that was why I started, I enjoy writing. While I enjoy writing posts for this blog I don’t allow it to interfere with “life”; having the comments section is nice as it has allowed me to know when people read and enjoy what has been posted. Unfortunately there are not always bright sides to every story, and this one isn’t so bright … in fact, it is downright nasty.

When I began this blog the comments section was totally un-moderated, reflective of my faith in the ability of my reader’s to self-edit and, dare I say, self-censer. Alas, it didn’t take very long for the modern Internet “trolls” to rear their heads, posting everything from advertisements for drugs that promised to enhance the size of certain male body parts to some rather uncreative attacks that had absolutely nothing to do with what had been written.

Moderation began and the issue seemed to be solved … or so I thought. Lately there have been several submissions that are totally obscene, have absolutely nothing to do with the post to which they were attached, and are completely inappropriate for my blog. I have never posted anything along the lines of an “acceptable comments” post, and I am reluctant to do so for a number of reasons, but I will say the following to those individuals who may be of the opinion that my (potential) rejection of their comments is a violation of one of their constitutionally entrenched rights: get over it.

If you believe that you have the “right” to post absolutely anything to someone’s personal blog, you are deluded. First of all, I live in Canada, not the United States; Canada is not encumbered by the “First Amendment” that grants the “Freedom of Speech” (or “Freedom of Expression”) which is used to protect every American’s right to spout hatred from any soapbox they can find. In Canada you can be prosecuted for using language that incites hatred (see Ernst Zundel who was prosecuted under Section 181 of the Criminal Code of Canada for “knowingly publishing false news”).

Of course, in Canada we do have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which entrenches our "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication", however, the ruling of the Supreme Court was that section 181 violated the guarantee of freedom entrenched by the Charter. Zundel lost his legal battle in the end for the simple reason that the truth cannot be suppressed without its light shining through eventually. Not even the loudest revisionists can make their lies reach out to persuade those who are able to filter out the obfuscations and straw-man arguments that are passed off as their versions of the truth.

This may raise the question as to whether or not I really believe in free speech, or if I believe in censorship; I would argue that the first is as rarefied as the idea of true democracy and the second is as common as governmental corruption (particularly in the land where "free speech" is spoken of with such reverence). We are free to express ourselves as we desire, so long as we do not use that freedom to impinge upon the rights of others … oh, but that’s not the way this “freedom” is supposed to work, is it? Therein the true problem lies: one person’s freedom cannot become another’s shackles.

You will not see any comments published to this blog that violates the following code: sorry … there isn’t an “acceptable comments code”, and there isn’t going to be one – I am rejecting comments that are abusive, racist, misogynistic, hateful, and otherwise inappropriate. Does that sound too vague? Too bad; this isn’t a democracy either, it’s my blog. People are allowed to post anonymously, they just can’t post material that contains hateful comments.

As with many things that we experience throughout our lives there is a great amount to be said about the term “freedom” and what it means to each of us; however, true freedom can only come when we – as individuals – are liberated from the things that have bound us either physically, emotionally, or even intellectually.

Ironically the Dalai Lama was recently feted on an official visit to Ottawa where he had an audience with Prime Minister Harper. I find this ironic for the simple reason that the world loves to call for the “freedom” of Tibet, which is something that I would also agree with, and yet the Dalai Lama proposes a return of the Lama class … essentially the Tibetan version of the Indian caste system (the Dalai Lama being the top Brahman priest) ... or does he? History would tell us that this is the case, but the Internet reveals otherwise with a quick search that turns up a story pointing out the changing views of this world leader in exile.

Is freedom for Tibet the exchange of one oppressive system for another? That, as with many things is a matter for debate, but reasonable people will only be able to arrive at reasonable opinions once they have assessed the relevant materials. Knee-jerk reactions only serve to feed prejudices that feed hatreds that lead to wasted energies.

As always, comments are welcome, but whether they are posted shall be dependent not upon what you say but how it is stated.

Thank you for visiting.


Frank Partisan said...

Ask others to help next time you have a troll problem.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you back.... I will link to this excellent post.

Anonymous said...

Yeah - so is that why my previos comment wasnt posted? You're just on a power trip with your little bit of "censorship".

I bet you don't have the guts to post this.


Unknown said...

Thank you, Renegade - the only reason I didn't make an overt appeal for help - at the beginning - was for the simple reason that I was receiving comments that had been "ghosted" by someone ... a Troll was posting with the name of real bloggers, but the comments were totally out of character with those real-life people.

Thanks for your continued support.

Unknown said...

Thanks dad - DesertPeace - (just in case there are still some people who don't know the connection) ... and thank you, again, for helping me identify the "Troll" ... nasty little creatures, aren't they?

Of course, this "Zion" character may be the same guy ... just without the potty-mouth ... but I'd hate to make such a snap judgment over only nine comments (seven of which have been rejected for personal attacks and racial slurs that had nothing to do with the posts he was commenting on ... but I digress).

Unknown said...

Hello, "Anonymous" - you know, if you use the "anonymous" option and then sign your name ... well, it makes it easier to recognize your specific brand of mishigas when you start ranting and raving about something.

Your previous comments were not published to this blog for the simple reason that you demonstrated that you were incapable of entering into a discussion without personally attacking your opponent, nor could you present your point of view without the use of language that is not only derogatory on a fundamental level, it aims hateful intent at specific minorities, women and even children.

That is why you have been gagged, Zion.

However ... as your two published comments would demonstrate, I am more than willing to look at each comment and assess its appropriateness for posting rather than banning an individual altogether (or, for that matter, blocking all anonymous posts).

You may post your comments as long as they aren't filled with hate and things that have nothing to do with the post to which you are referring. If you want to post those things I have a simple recommendation: start your own blog.

Masher1 said...

This is OUR place. CIA/NSA are NOT welcome. We can see them ALL. We can an do deal with them every day. Just because they scream 'CENSORSHIP' does not make it true.
Just because there posts get deleted does not make it a bad thing

DP is your dad? Nice to meet another of your line (:

The Shills and Trolls are a force that need to be dealt a blow. A blow that the affected masses can a will deliver to them directly like a whole whack of bloggers are doing now. Peace is HARD work...work WORTH doing above all else. Work the Shill's and Troll's feeble cranium units can not process,accept or FATHOM.

(Ctrl-D) (: