April 10, 2007

And Heaven Sent Hell Away ...

OVER THE PAST FEW DAYS, I've read with half-hearted interest the stories about a proposed "Blogging Code of Conduct," in which bloggers would tone down their most abrasive statements and prohibit readers from leaving comments deemed offensive, in bad taste, and so on. The voluntary code, according to its first draft, would also require adherents to not write online what they would not say in person, and resolve differences in private before doing so in public.

As a blogger, I find this idea completely and utterly lame.

I also find it tired and old -- and reeking of that nauseating, wretched stench of soggy institutional goo, the slop that so often passes for honest discourse these days. Naturally, The New York Times thought it was an amazing idea and devoted plenty of space to it. Why, I can't fathom. After all, a "voluntary" code is meaningless -- and arguably a solution in search of a problem.

Now, in saying that, I don't mean to downplay the fact that people on the Internet do, to use the technical term, plenty of crazy shit. Nor do I mean to make light of the very unpleasant conduct in which many people apparently feel free to engage -- up to and including posting personal information on-line, making threats, and otherwise going over the line. This is especially problematic for female bloggers, who God knows have to deal with various creepy situations every other day. However, I do think these things can be dealt with through existing means, whether banning IP addresses or removing unmoderated comments or calling the police if one receives creepy threats.

That said, there are a few more things amaze me about this entire debate. The first is this idea that bloggers need toning down, and the second is the idea differences ought be resolved privately if possible.

One of the reasons people like blogs is because they're opinionated and witty and they don't pull punches. Well, that's arguably three reasons, but never mind. The point is that being overly polite can also make one overly boring, and that's no fun for anyone. Basically, those who write on line have to take it as well as they give it, a skill which admittedly takes a while to master. Plus, if bloggers act juvenile on their blogs and write juvenile things, that's exactly how they'll appear to their audience.

As for the second item, I don't see why people ought remain private about disagreements if the matter in question is a public one. If Blogger A misrepresents Blogger B in one of his posts, Blogger B is not only within his rights to publicly call Blogger A out on this, he should publicly rebuke Blogger A for it. After all, why should Blogger B have to take the high road?

Lastly, I find it amazing that supposedly educated people would confuse the long-time tradition of editorial judgment with out-and-out censorship. This bone of contention is not aimed at the "blogging code" people but others out there, and it's a point The Times mentions in its story:

"A subtext of both sets of rules is that bloggers are responsible for everything that appears on their own pages, including comments left by visitors. They say that bloggers should also have the right to delete such comments if they find them profane or abusive. That may sound obvious, but many Internet veterans believe that blogs are part of a larger public sphere, and that deleting a visitor’s comment amounts to an assault on their right to free speech."

Well, that's a new one. Last time I checked, The Rant was produced solely through my generosity and goodwill, as well as my large and secret stash of Eurodollars in a certain friendly part of central Europe. As such, I get to run the show. While the comments don't work now -- and haven't for a while -- I definitely would delete someone's comment if it was truly awful. Heck, I deleted spam comments, so what's the difference? Since this state of affairs is pretty much constant throughout the blogosphere, I don't really see how anyone could suggest anything but it. If people don't like a particular blog, they can always start their own. These days, the only barrier to entry is typing proficiency.

Anyway, that's it for now. Must run -- tonight, I'm listening to Soundgarden before bed. No, really. Black hole sun, won't you come, and wash the pain away ---?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at April 10, 2007 09:31 PM | TrackBack
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