Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Freedom of Speech

I believe in freedom of speech, the free exchange of ideas, the right to question what someone else has said or written. I do not block anyone from my blog. If someone wants to make a comment on anything I have written, that is fine.

I do not believe in freedom of abusive speech, of hateful speech, of speech that is intended to encourage violence.

When I say I believe in freedom of speech, that does not include the person or persons who recently set up a poll on Facebook asking whether the president should be killed. My guess is that he, she or they can expect a visit from the Secret Service at any time. Deservedly so.

And I agree with what Thomas Friedman writes in the New York Times. Yes, politics is a "tough business," as Friedman writes. It always has been. But, what Friedman calls a "cocktail of political and technological trends" has created a witches' brew that has spawned "a different kind of American political scene."

I have been thinking about freedom of speech today because I have been blocked from a website merely for asking a question.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will identify the site here. It is The Hinterland Gazette, formerly known as Black Political Thought. I referred to it on this blog yesterday. The item I questioned is referred to in my post.

I have been visiting the site off and on for quite awhile now — long enough to have an idea of how things are done there. And the treatment I have been given smacks of a double standard.

In the past, I have seen some really outrageous comments posted there by visitors. And I have seen the primary author of the site respond with a warning that the visitor(s) would be blocked in the future if similar comments were posted.

I have left comments on the site in the past. The author never took exception to any comments I left before.

Was yesterday's comment outrageous? I didn't think so. The post on the site suggested that the daughters of the Spanish prime minister were "secret Goths" because of the clothes they were wearing in a photograph of them with their parents and the Obamas. I left a comment and checked back later to see if there was any response. There wasn't one before I went to bed last night.

When I checked this morning, my comment had been deleted so I cannot quote it for you verbatim. But it was something like this: "Is this a fashion critique site? If it is not, why is this story important?"

I was never told that this was considered objectionable by the author or anyone affiliated with the site. I was never warned that I might be blocked from the site in the future. It was done arbitrarily. And now, whenever I try to write a comment, I get a message saying I am blocked from making comments.

Oddly enough, as of this morning, the site still includes my Freedom Writing blog on its favorite blogs list. I don't recall when this blog was added to that list, but it seems to me it has been on that list for close to a year.

So, apparently, the site encourages its readers to visit my blog. But it doesn't want me to comment on its posts.

Well, until such time as the site actually makes it impossible for me to look at its content, I will continue to do so. If I see something to which I take exception, I will say so here.

If those who run the site decide to physically block me from looking at its content, I will encourage my readers to boycott the site.

I'm being up front about my intentions here. No surprises. That is a courtesy that was never extended to me.

And I believe courtesy should go hand in hand with freedom of speech.

4 comments:

David said...

UPDATE: After an e-mail exchange with the author of the website, I have been told that I have been unblocked. I haven't put it to a test yet.

My personal belief is that I was mistaken for someone else. Since the author of the site did not offer any specifics, I can't say that I know anything for sure.

Anonymous said...

You're always right. That facebook quiz or poll was, well, stupid. Uncalled for. Disgusting. Who could even dream of thinking up something like that? But once again, as Carter said, this does seem to be rooted in racism. I know presidents before Obama, all white of course, have been assassinated or attempted ones. But to go this far; when have polls of that nature been released during Bush's presidency? i would be appalled if it was any president, black or white. But still, this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. I've always looked at freedom of speech the same way as you. People sometimes use it as an excuse to drain each other and the world of more love.

And courtesy ought to go hand in with freedom of speech! Wouldn't it be wonderful if they added that to the list of great American ideals?

Baseball, apple pie, and courtesy :)

David said...

Thanks for your comments, Graciebird.

On the surface, it would appear that racism played a role. But I think blaming racism is too simplistic.

I have often pointed out when I have disagreed with Obama -- and I have been flooded with e-mails from his supporters calling me a racist. (It makes me wonder, if Hillary had been the nominee instead of Obama and had gone on to win last year's election, would I have been accused of sexism if I didn't agree with her on something and said so?)

Freedom of speech includes the right to disagree with political leaders. And political issues affect lives. The Facebook poll did not mention race. It mentioned health care reform. There are people who have honest disagreements with Obama on that issue, and they are entitled to express their disagreement without fear of being branded racists. But a poll that asks whether he should be killed goes beyond honest disagreement.

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