Making sense of forum censorship : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Once again the issue of censorship and free speech has been kicked up in this forum. I thought I would lay out my thoughts on this issue, to inspire a bit of that "civil discourse" that both sides say they want.

First, the "right of free speech" that citizens of the USA enjoy has very little to do with this forum -- directly, at least. That right only prohibits the government from using its immense power to limit or to outlaw free expression.

Those who come to this forum and complain that the forum sysops are interfering with "their right to free speech" are just blowing hot air. Clearly, the maintainers of this forum do not have the power of the government at their disposal in order to stifle anyone's free speech. Those same people can (and have) set up their own competing forum and they set the rules there. That is the right to free speech in action. And that is all the further it goes.

Speaking of constitutionally guaranteed rights, the right that best applies to this forum is the right to freedom of the press. A newspaper is not required by law to print whatever anyone wants it to print. It can and does place all kinds of limits on what it prints and distributes. The forum sysops are far more analogous to editors of a newspaper than to policemen on the street. And, incidentally, their editorial policy is far more lenient than what is normally found in any newspaper you will ever read.

That should dispose of any spurious arguments about how the sysops have interfered with anyone's rights. They haven't. Period. If they had, the complainer should be complaining in court, looking for a hefty settlement. But that's not going to happen.

All that leaves us to discuss is the philosophy of free speech and censorship, and how to apply it to this forum.

The first thing to point out is that free speech is not harmless or innocent. Lies, innuendo, slander, and slurs are perfectly accurate descriptions of some types of speech. These are things that no one likes or wants used against them. Some people are not above using them against others. When this happens it is wrong. It is offensive. It is harmful. Literally no good can come of such speech. It is worthless. It makes perfectly good sense to argue for curbs on this type of speech.

Against that argument is the argument that the power to impose silence can be just as easily abused as the power to speak. The power to silence is the power to eliminate opposition, to channel thoughts, to avoid questions and evade responsibility.

On the one hand, allowing untrammeled expression is an invitation to do harm. On the other hand, the complete power to silence is equally likely to lead to abuse.

What to do? How to decide? I think I have a clue.

The power to silence is only truly effective when it is absolute. That is why it is so dangerous to let *government* hold that power, since it also holds the power to tax, to arrest, to execute. But as I pointed out, that is scarcely in the power of the sysops. There is no reason why the sysops cannot impose rules within this small domain. Speech that is banished here has the whole wide world to roam in.

There is some potential for abuse in that power, but like the power of the sysops theselves, it is very limited. In my considered opinion, the announced guidelines used by the sysops are fair. The application of those guidelines can be debated, but I accept the philosophy embodied in them. If ideally applied, the results would be wholly benign.

In my experience, the sysops have not been heavy-handed in the application of their power. Those who object often object on the philosophical basis that *any* limitation of speech is bad. I can't say that I agree. Some speech is itself bad. So long as the sysops are doing their best, the results will not go far wrong. It's a chance. But hardly a big danger to us or to society.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, November 19, 1999



Make very careful note. The personal attacks against me will not be deleted. But I did not curse, nor did I make any derogatory statements against anyone personally. And yet, those who insult me, curse at me , and call me names are allowed to stay and post freely.

Hypocrisy at it's best.

My work here is done.

-- (you@know.who), November 19, 1999.

"My work here is done."

Don't make promises you can't keep, jackass. And you weren't trying to excercise your "rights". You were just trying to disrupt and sabotage this board. You are a criminal, and should be arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to prison.

Not for what you SAID, but for what you DID.

-- Dennis (, November 19, 1999.


Posting numerous, identical threads in not against the rules. So I DID nothing "wrong".

You, however, have broken this rule:

 Refrain from using profane/obscene language--or post will be deleted

I guess you're the one who needs to go to jail, huh?

-- (you@know.who), November 19, 1999.

Maybe if I get deleted I should post 150 IDENTICAL MESSAGES SCREAMING ABOUT IT????

FYI, I have already had several posts deleted TODAY. Notice me SCREAMING about it? Hmmmm?

Take a hike, JACKASS!

-- Dennis (, November 19, 1999.


for putting it so succinnctly and clearly.

I think what Brian posted is "'Nuff said".

-- INVAR (, November 19, 1999.


Well, yes, I do see you screaming about it.

Brian, sorry I messed up your nice thread, I didn't intend on getting into a pissing contest with a macho egghead.

I'll stop now.

-- (you@know.who), November 19, 1999.

>> ... those who insult me, curse at me, and call me names are allowed to stay and post freely. <<

Over the many months I have read this forum I have noted many posts that consisted of little but name-calling and abuse. Much of it directed at so-called "pollies". In my view this has always detracted from the forum.

On the other hand, I have seen a pretty representative sample of the posts from so-called "pollies" that consisted of little but inanity, mockery and taunts. There's room enough for blame on both sides of that fence. I have learned to avoid certain forum participants and disregard others. A good example of a useless polly would be Y2KPro. A good example of a frequently abusive doomer would be Will Continue.

>> Hypocrisy at it's best. <<

And the penalty for hypocrisy is disdain not petulance. Learn to use it. Hint: disdain does not look like a temper tantrum.

>> My work here is done. <<

Whether or not it falls within the stated rules, I fail to see how spamming the server with 150 identical messages can be seen as anything but an ,and a profound abuse of your privelege to post here. This is not "work" in any sense in which I understand the word. But the fact that it is "done" can only be regarded as a blessing.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, November 19, 1999.

It's not an abuse of a right to post here.

It's a denial of service attack.

And *those* tend to get prosecuted with great vigor.

-- Ron Schwarz (, November 19, 1999.

From: Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr (pic), near Monterey, California

Freedom of Speech does not guarantee a right to force publishers to carry your message for you. If you question this, call up your local newspaper and ask if they would carry five hundred copies of your letter to the editor, because your message is so important that it simply MUST get out.

Freedom of the Press guarantees forum operators the right to tailor their forum for the readership to which they wish to cater. Ultimately, they may refuse to carry your message for no better reason than that they don't like they way that they imagine you part your hair. A successful forum chooses criteria that will appeal most to their target audience.

I believe that most of the forum regulars appreciate the spirited debate that has taken place, here, during recent months. We also appreciate that there may be influx of new readers who are not convinced that there is great potential for Y2K problems, and will try to help them to understand, to the best of our ability. What we don't really have time to read anymore are posts from regulars who are firmly convinced that there will be no problems. When these people demonstrate that they are determined to disrupt the forum, I would be happy with any forum operator who deleted their messages on sight, without even bothering to read them. I'm guessing there are plenty of other regulars, here, who feel the same way.

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), November 19, 1999.

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