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Should Blogcritics Censor Posts?

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As some of you may know Eric took a lot of heat over at LGF (see comments) for not censoring Mike Larkin. Craig Lyndall and I have already posted our support for Eric’s decision but I thought it might be a good idea to start a post here as well. So the question is – do you support Eric’s decision? Here is a copy of my post to start the ball rolling.

“I am a relatively new Blogcritic and if you were to label me I would probably be considered a moderate. I have worked in law, the computer industry and journalism for more than 20 years. Needless to say I was taken aback when I read Mr. Larkin’s post and was hard pressed to find the words to speak. I am finding it difficult to understand Mr. Larkin’s motive for writing it. At first he seemed to be genuinely hurt by the harsh comments he had received which led me to believe that he really intended it to be humorous satire. It is unfortunate the topic he chose was in poor taste. Now that he has made comments like the one above I am at a loss as to what kind of person he is. Nevertheless it is not my right or the reason for writing this post to pass judgment on him. Rather, I wish to extend my support for Mr. Olsen’s decision to not censor this post (or any other post for that matter) regardless of the fact this one in particular was in poor taste. For if he did that the question would beg to be asked – whose post would be the next to be censored. I certainly don’t want to go back to the days of book burning and inquisitions and I hope that all of you agree. I would much rather have the extremists in my face than hiding in the shadows and wondering what they are up to. As in society, I believe that freedom of speech is important to a thriving democracy and the extremists will eventually be weeded out by the rest of the readers and blogcritics.”

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  • Given some of the commentary he allows at LGF, Charles Johnson has no call whatsoever criticising another webmaster for not censoring something at their site.

    I am fully behind Eric on this one.

  • I support Eric’s decision !00%.

  • Pacifists are easy to kill, if they are true pacifists, they will not defend themselves.

  • jadester

    my post from the similar article:
    i was under the impression (in fact i still am) that blogcritics.org is one of the few places where you can find a truly diverse collection of different views and stories that are almost completely uncensored, and where for the most part people with differing views can at least remain civil with each other even when being drawn into large arguments (sorry, “debates”)
    I would say blogcritics.org is one of the few places on the ‘net where you can find truly uncensored reporting and discussion
    I think it also is a good reflection on every one of us who posts here that there has only been one post that was deemed necessary to be censored. We do have *some* self-control…

    I would argue that the piece in question is satirical, and not particularly offensive. certainly not worthy of censorship, although mike must be very pelased with all the attention he has got from it (and credit to him for that =+)

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks very much BB, James, Mac, and Jadester – I appreciate your words of support and confidence. It never really occurred to me to “censor” mike’s post, which I guess would mean removing it. It was clearly a work of satirical fiction.

    Since Phillip and Al himself have already mentioned it, the one post I ever did “censor” was in response to several direct complaints from Blogcritics themselves – not outside parties – specifically about one member directly addressing another by name in a rather dramatically disparaging manner. And even on that I fear I may have overreacted, but at the time it seemed prudent to head off a potential wave of direct attacks.

    The now 370 members seem to have a fine sense of where the line is in terms of maintaining some sense of civility on the site and that is my only real concern in terms of censorship.

    When outside parties – including friends of mine – have complained about their treatment on Blogcritics and have asked me “don’t you have any control over the site?,” I respond, “not really.” I figure the group will let me know if and when the line is crossed again. In the meantime I believe direct refutation and confrontation of ideas I don’t agree with is a much better approach than censorship.

  • Perhaps my answer that was trackbacked (see above) is taking your question too literally or too generally.

    Personally, I think this site would be better without the political/views of the world stuff and just the music, books, technology, and video reviews/opinions/commentary, but I understand why the last category is there. That’s the hot button category and will leave this site a target for great scrutiny until the day the plug is pulled. Without that content though, maybe this site would be only a slightly more intellectual version of epinions.

    It would be cool if Blogcritics had a fiction category. I don’t know if that’s been suggested or considered (I’m sure it has though), but it could certainly be a place for those to put satirical and creative pieces and perhaps relax some of the heat as the mere categorization would not leave the door so open to speculation 😉 Just a thought.

  • Eric Olsen

    TD, you are not the only one who doesn’t much like the politics, but it is a pretty key feature of the site at this point. There was much debate when we added it in the first place. The main problem with new categories is the space limitation on the front page.

    Fiction is very much welcome though and we could make it a subcategory under each heading: fiction about music, about books, about film or TV, or about whatever else (including politics) under Et Cetera.

  • I think that would work good, Eric – fiction subcategories, I like that idea 😉

    There have been times (like in this piece) where there really wasn’t a good specific category). Would be nice if an “other” was available and allowed the blogcritic to write in a suggested category for inclusion.

    Now I better shut up because almost every time I talk about administrative stuff for this site it seems like I’m adding work for somebody [ducks]. Sorry!

  • Eric Olsen

    Subcategories are no problem to add and we add them regularly. We are always open to suggestions.

    I have added subcategories under each main heading called “Original Fiction” to distinguish from a review of a book of fiction

  • The big sticking point over on LGF is that there are some questions as to how the site runs. I was also confused when I first started coming to the site exactly how it worked. What people don’t seem to grasp right away is that there are a whole bunch of us who have exactly the same amount of power.

    Eric truly does act like its most active member, but that is about it. Sure he steps up to make decisions but he has shown an understanding for how an online community should work and doesn’t step out as the owner any more often than he has to. In order for this online community to work it must be malleable enough so that it eventually can run regardless of “ownership.”

    Eric can have pride for bringing all this together, but the community is only complete with a bunch of people and he knows that. If he was overbearing and controlling it wouldn’t work.

    If they are going to be critical of anyone not censoring on this site, then they should be critical of the other BlogCritics who didn’t flood the front page with articles refuting the very dark satire that has proven to be quite offensive to some.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Craig, very kind and well-put

  • You did good, Eric.

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Nat, Craig is absolutely right about the community aspect, of which you are a key foundation. It’s never the same when you are away.

  • Heh. My initial reaction to the Blogcritics proposal was to write a blog entry about how I wasn’t going to participate. Eric read it and responded by coming up with ways to deal with my concerns. While I’m not a very regular poster, I’m here because Eric was more interested in building this site as a broad-based community rather than telling off some twerp who didn’t like his idea.

    I don’t like some of the things I see on BlogCritics. That’s not a bad thing. People who only hear opinions that agree with their preconceived notions tend to be poorly informed. Sane conversation from differing viewpoints is good. Personally, I think the site should focus on criticism, where I think we provide an outstanding service to the audience.

    However, art can’t be separated from life and life can’t be separated from politics. It may be that it’s useful to have the category to keep all the mundanity in one place. And I am more likely to comment here than on a post about an album I haven’t heard but might want to buy. If we’re going to have politics, then we’re doing better with it than most political sites.

    One of the pitfalls of political sites is that they can decrease their influence while increasing their readership and reader-involvement by becoming overly partisan. I’d much rather that BlogCritics have half as many readers and a wide variety of opinions than twice as many and a single position.

    I think that this community is aware of and wants to avoid a “tragedy of the commons” problem and has, to date, made an effort to create an atmosphere where ideas can be posted and challenged without any political litmus test. We may not always succeed, but we don’t always fail, either.

    And there I go, including ‘me’ in ‘we’. Again, I think Eric gets a lot of credit for leadership. I don’t agree with him on all aspects of politics (or musical taste, for that matter), but I respect how he runs this place and how he doesn’t run it.

  • jadester

    that fiction idea sounds cool. Just a word of warning for anyone getting ready to post their masterpieces – this being blogcritics, any critics will not be “lighter” than in the world of print, i.e. you should be prepared for people not liking what you write just as much as in the world of print.

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Michael, I have always been proud and pleased that you chose to join, and am happier still that you are still with us. Many of the early enthusiasts have, as I suppose is inevitable, drifted away. Thanks for your very touching words, which I know are not lightly considered.

  • Undisclosed

    Charles Johnson should know something about censorship. He is a snit and a prig that censors anything at LGF he does not agree with, and also complains whenever somebody says something he does not agree with too; to get their webmail clients or websites TOS’ed. Charles Johnson is a Net-Nazi, a political mental midget, and a rabid fanatic on a Likudnik Jihad. I wish he would move to Israel and become “suicide-bomber bait.”