Monday, November 14, 2005

This is My Blog. Censorship, community, and public dialogue.


the changing or the suppression or prohibition of speech or writing that is condemned as subversive of the common good. It occurs in all manifestations of authority to some degree, but in modern times it has been of special importance in its relation to government and the rule of law. (From the Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

My criteria for posting on my blogs. A rant-like essay:

It’s very simple. My blogs are mine. Like my house, I am in charge of determining who and how people post.
I am not a government. I can not determine who posts on any other blogs, internet groups, discussion boards, or letters to the editor. I cannot change, supress, or prohibit speech beyond my personal space.

This is about ME, not you.

I have many identities. I am a DRE, grandmother, godmother, working farmer class, Unitarian Universalist, ex-fundamentalist, independent scholar of the religious right, life-partner/now wife, white, lesbian, privileged overly educated underly paid 40-something. Unlike many bloggers, i have chosen to be public, to be exactly who I am-- name, job, beliefs, family, the whole nine yards.

Lots of time my friends and colleagues have things in common with me. But commonality with these identities alone doesn’t determine who I converse with. What makes that determination is if someone can engage me in a mutually respectful relationship, giving and taking in turns as appropriate. Sometimes this includes people who disagree with me on some core issues, but who choose to be in relationship with me anyway.

It often surprises people who know my Really Big Opinionated Self that I count among my friendly acquaintances people who call themselves ex-gay. There is a celibate woman in another state, who calls herself a not-a-lesbian, because of her faith beliefs, who I would call upon for help or conversation before many lesbians I’ve met, because we are able to be in a mutually respectful, boundaried, helpful relationship.

Conversely, I count among my not so friendly acquaintances people who call themselves gay, or UU, or scholarly, or white, or graduates of Union Theological Seminary. (And if any of you call it Columbia, I’ll hurl.)

The point here is that I get to decide, in my own world and personal space, that is, in my community, who I engage with, and about what.

Rather than provide recent blog/internet examples, and invite specific retorts or suggest that I am in any way identifying this criteria as a call to democratic decision making about my own Blogs, I’ll provide examples from my real-life.
In my life/house/phone, I have dis-invited:
  • a woman who drank all the cooking wine before I even arrived home from work to greet her,
  • man from a sober party when he lit up a joint,
  • a woman who insisted on sharing with me the personal details of her unhappy marriage without ever asking me about my life,
  • a man who felt it necessary to keep harping on a particular topic as if I could be worn down to eventually turn on my belief system and agree with him
  • a minister (not UU) who chose to continue talking to her personal ghost/angel rather than to a professional counselor (she thought the dead chick's advice was better)
  • I’ve dis-invited a temporarily homeless someone who came to my house and stayed for 6 weeks, while working in a barn, and never cleaned the bath tub. Even after I left the mop, bucket, and ajax in it.
    (and yes, I was less direct and still working on that mutually respectful bit as a young adult)

There are individuals who exhibit bad behavior, who have interpersonal challenges like an inability to utilize listening skills, who could probably learn sharing skills from my pre-schoolers. There are others who believe that their perceptions, being forged out of the crucible of their own enlightened and transcendental lives, (or conversely, from their individual bodily suffering in this world) are elevated to Authority in a way we UUs generally don’t elevate anything. There are individuals who confuse freedom of thought with freedom to be mentally ill and to act out. It’s not ok to stand up in the middle of the sermon and decide, for instance, to sit at the piano and play a song for your elderly friend Frida from Seattle. It’s not ok to stop by my house in the middle of the night and throw up on my couch. (Just for instance, it was a long time ago, but you know who you are.)

Ok, one online example. 15 years ago I engaged with a troll on an unmoderated gay christian usenet-type group, and 5 years later the same troll joined a moderated public dialogue group I was part of moderating at that time. (a cyberspace initiative providing models and resources for building respectful relationships among those who disagree about moral issues surrounding homosexuality, bisexuality and gender variance.)

On the first list he and I had it out about what he said, over and over. On the second, we had it out about what he said, how he said it, and whether he could moderate his own behavior and speech and listen and respond to what was said by others rather than according to his own repetitive agenda. In both cases, I spent hundreds of hours on it. That's not what this blog is for, and I won't engage trolls.

It's not ok to continually publish your own issues and agenda as fake commentary on someone else’s blog.

I have turned on comment moderation. I will publish all comments, positive and negative, that relate to the content of the post it is attached to. I will engage in mutually respectful dialogue and discussion on my blog about any subject I have brought up, as long as that conversation remains generally within the confines of the subject itself. And i will make that determination.

I will not publish anything that I consider Spam or Trolling (which, as far as I’m concerned, is just Spam from someone you know or are familiar with).

Although I cannot be responsible for error, I will not knowingly publish links to websites that I believe contain fraudulent, slanderous, or libelous material. Obviously, on the internet, that’s not a standard defined by perfection, but by imperfection… likely I’ll publish something at some point in error, and have to correct it after the fact. But correct it I will.

Having Comment Moderation on also means that no one will be able to post a comment and have it live unnoticed by me for weeks on an old blog post. I will be forced to keep up with commentary on my entire blog, and not just the most recent posts.

Finally, a comment about Censorship.

Censorship is the complete silencing of a voice, usually by a government. In this case, my choosing which comments to post and which to delete does not constitute the silencing of a voice (far from it).

Anyone who has the technological capability to post comments to my Blog can start their own Blog and have their say.

There are places for unmoderated public dialogue, open forums all over the internet where an individual might then advertise her/his Blog. If you don’t know where, start with, or

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