Monday, April 09, 2007

Protecting Your First Amendment Right to "Managed Civil Dialogue"

Some half-wit named Tim O'Reilly (is there something about that last name that causes brain damage?) is proposing a set of "guidelines" for civility on the internet. I've chosen to be uncivil to him because I'd rather have him and his ilk leave the web in a hissy fit than earnestly starting us off on the slippery slope toward "managed civil dialogue."

No, that "managed civil dialogue" phrase is not my sarcastic adoption of Orwellian phraseology - it comes straight from Mr. O'Reilly. I kid you not - here's what he said - "That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make — believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech.

Please read that quotation until you vomit. Free speech is freer when its managed.
This kind of "nice guidelines" crap demands aversion therapy. Aversion therapy may be strong enough to prevent idiots like Tim O'Reilly from using your best instincts against yourself.

I've got nothing against niceness, but I have a HUGE problem with proposals to legislate, however informally, good manners. I generally try to be nice and civil, but I enjoy my occasional outbursts, and look forward with anticipation to the day I unleash the profane coinage my wife forbids me to type. Sites like The Rude Pundit bring joy to my life.

The last thing the internets need is some egghead scumbag trying to make money from blogging to show up in the New York Times of all places to tell us how we ought to behave. Generally, we're behaving pretty well, and, when we're not, cry me a river. If language frightens you, you might want to avoid blogs, and stick with the rigidly edited New York Times.



Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

I saw that too.

I think these folks all want to be "Professional Bloggers."

They are looking for ways to establish a "Medium" where they can all Make Money and Influence People.

Fuck that.

I just want a place where I can say what I want to say, blow off some steam and be a little bit witty without attracting too much attention.

I don't take myself that seriously. No one else should either.

Hell, I don't even identify myself.

[You think my parents really named me Save Your Own Asses?]

Why would I expect my commentors to be more open and honest than me?

Establishing a "managed civil dialogue" is the first step on the slippry slope to a Mission Statement.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I'll keep my blog free, uncensored and open to all sorts of idiocy and goonbabble.

4/09/2007 11:13 PM  
Blogger Captain Spaulding said...

This 15-minutes-of-famer should try ilk like Rushed Limberger for his civility trial-run.

My amendment to this whole matter however is the dismay that Xavier Onassis had to actually explain what his nick means.

Maybe at 116 I'm finally losing it...


4/10/2007 3:47 AM  
Blogger Todd said...

Dan, I think you are way off on this one. Yes, you can not "legislate" civility (or morality).

Yet no one is talking about legislating anything. It would be part of civil society, not government that would create these standards and norms.

Many today have lost the distinction between what is ethical and what is legal. Every day people perform legal activities that are unethical (and vice versa).

It seems that this is a call for a voluntary ethical framework, not a legislative framework.

I think that distinction is huge!

4/10/2007 5:10 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


First, welcome back - where've you been lately? Your blog is inactive . . .

Yes, I know they are starting with "voluntary standards" and the elimination of anonymity. But their stated goal is a "managed civil diaglogue". I harbor no illusions about the path that this goes through. First, most of us sign up and promise to play nice, since playing nice is nice, and, besides, most of us already do it. Then. there will be some kind of "reward" for doing so - already, blogher makes tools available to those who follow their code. Most likely, this "reward" will be something free, like being able to include an official blue ribbon of niceness on your site, or, more likely, access to a linking system of "nice" blogs. Then they go after the hosting companies - what kind of hosting company would host a blog that isn't nice? That would kill the majority of blogs. Next, though, to make certain their well-meaning totalitarianism is complete, they'll use some "Gulf of Tonkin" incident where some blogger writes something awful, and they'll get the FCC or somebody to insist on it. Game, set, match. The blogosphere is a "managed civil dialogue".

I think the HUGE distinction is in the nature of the movement. I already have a commenting policy I've never felt the need to use (though I've come close). The key is SELF-policing. I don't want some whiney O'Reilly telling me when I'm being polite enough.

I see this as a dangerous step toward "managed civil dialogue", dressed up in the clothing of a voluntary assembly of articulated societal norms. We don't need O'Reilly and his ilk to tell us what to do, or to draft a "Code of Blogger Ethics". Of such a code gains currency by getting say 20% of bloggers to adopt it, I predict that we'll have legislation banning
XO, Tony's KC and my polite little blog within the following two years.

I'm old enough to recognize mob mentality, even when "nice" people are organizing the meetings.

4/10/2007 6:08 AM  
Blogger red101 said...

I'd be willing to follow it, just as soon as those fatheads in Washington start voluntarily following the code of ethics I've proposed for them. Til then, I think they might have to kiss my ass.

4/10/2007 9:29 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

There's so much worse on the internet that I'm not concerned with any blogger's managed civil dialogue or none, whatever the case may be. If I get offended by any particular blogger, I can simply choose to not visit the site again. I think this is just someone trying to make a name for him/herself by creating controversy.

4/10/2007 9:29 AM  
Blogger les said...

When they evidence some concern with the unrelenting hate, misogynism(?), sexism, racism and violence spewing from Limbaugh, Coulter, Savage, O'Reilly, et al. ad infinitum, I might listen to their plea that I not say fuck on the intertoobs. When they care as much about honesty, accuracy and balance as about sucking up and pandering, I'll worry about civility. It is way down the fuckin' list, thank you very much.

4/10/2007 10:50 AM  
Blogger joeinkc said...

The last thing the internets need is some egghead scumbag trying to make money from blogging.

I would hardly say that Tim O'Reilly is scumbag trying to make money on blogging. He founded O'Reilly books, which is one of the best technical book publishers around. He is also a big supporter of free software, the open source movent and a backer of the Creative Commons. As far as I know he makes no money from blogging.

I don't see how a person giving forth an idea like he did makes him a scumbag.

4/10/2007 11:50 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Joe in KC - I don't know the first thing about him or his company. Again, I'm being purposefully uncivil to him so that his feelings will be hurt and he will go away. By all appearances, his site seems to be focused on making money, but I haven't seen his tax returns or anything.

4/10/2007 12:09 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Somewhere some economist is devising a way to turn opinions into a commodity market. Or am I being too cynical?

4/10/2007 12:19 PM  
Blogger Stacey K said...

Today's it's "voluntary", tomorrow it's "suggested", day after that they just give up and make it required. When that doesn't work they develop a new police for the net to enforce the good manners law.

People who have to have things "managed" in order to feel safe shouldn't be online in the first place.

4/10/2007 2:13 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I'm all for managed speech -- as long as each of us permitted to manage our own and no on else's.

4/10/2007 5:45 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

I think it's important to point out the context in which these "guidelines" originated, and the NYT article mentions it. Basically a female blogger got death threats after deleting comments posted on her blog, and bloggers in that circle came up with this.

I'm not supporting this proposal. But I also don't think it's cool to make personal threats against someone or gloss over that issue in defense of free speech. Where would you all like to draw that line?

For more background, check out these two posts:

4/10/2007 9:18 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Heidi -

I'd delete death threats without hesitation, and, if I thought they were serious, I'd bring in the police. We have adequate laws, and we don't need codes of ethics to tell us death threats are not cool.

I think the breakdown is between those who face a problem and want to form a committee and start issuing rules, and those who find their own way around the problem. I won't deny that I will be upset if someone issues a death threat against me - it bothers me when people call me names, too - but my response won't be to get everyone at the blogger meet-up to agree to blog the way I want them to blog.

4/11/2007 6:19 AM  

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