As you guys know, by nature I am a free speech absolutist. By long learning however, I have settled on what I call Open Discussion, namely a lack of viewpoint discrimination paired with a duty to keep conversation productive.
The latter means no spam, no pointless antagonism, minimal obscenities and slurs, and avoiding other forms of vandalism that inhibit others from interacting, but also includes a positive duty to make conversation useful to those learning from it.
After all, on any forum, one percent or fewer are regular contributors to threads, nine percent throw in occasional comments, and ninety percent do not participate. This has been consistent since the BBS days in the 1980s, which was where my free speech activism began.
In those heady days, there was no CDA or DMCA. This was even pre-Prodigy. Any violation, including obscenities, was viewed as a felony and if reported, brought FBI and Secret Service people into the equation. It was no small thing to be a free speech activist then.
To preserve Open Discussion here, I would like to ask all participants in our threads to keep their commentary productive. I distrust rules and procedures, and have faith in ends-over-means calculus like this, so let us leave it at that.
To combat the moronic earn money in your pyjamas spammers, I have tightened up the Disqus rules regarding speed of posting and use of links in posting, so there may be some delays. My goal is to avoid discriminating against any viewpoint but to keep conversation congenial and productive.
In the big picture, I adhere to something I call “The Cognac Standard,” which means that I try to (and sometimes fail) make my participation akin to an after-dinner chat among social equals in a pleasant wood-lined library with cognac, cigars, and those tasty little cakes they have at tea.
We have much to learn from each other, and I request that you help us in this quest by keeping the conversation productive. You can disagree as vehemently as you want, but put it in the right form, and you can have any viewpoint you want, if in the right form.
As a former troll, I understand how trolling works. When the victims respond by lashing out and losing control, the troll wins. Trolling is a subtle form of bullying that works by revealing the instability of the victims.
If the victims do not respond, the trolls go elsewhere. If the trolling is ignored but any serious points the troll makes are treated as discussion, the climate changes and the troll becomes a productive member of the forum.
The last thing I want in this place is some kind of censorship regime that would suppress any discourse. Even Leftists are welcome here (!) because we really should hear from everyone. But I ask of you only for the productive, congenial discourse for which we are known.
Tags: censorship, moderation, trolling, trolls