Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Never Be Afraid To Say What You Feel


Express Times Editor Joe Owens cautions that "This world of blogging, posting, chatting, etc., can ... be scary. Anonymity gives people encouragement to say anything, which is very easy if you don’t have to put your name behind it." The Morning Call's Bill White says much the same thing. "[Y]ou're getting one person's take on things, often posted anonymously. It can make for irresponsible, even destructive misstatements or invasion of privacy, with no accountability. There's no editor, no professional constraints."

So?

OK, these are valid criticisms. But when any form of media restrains comment, there's a very real danger we'll only be exposed to their truths. Some blogs, especially those on the dark side, frequently moderate comments. And guess what? My comments are never published. These bloggers manipulate public opinion. They're deciding what you see and what you don't.

Others play comment cop and delete anything that might insult someone, including mild humor. They fret that a lively and sometimes irreverent exchange will lessen the value of their site. I disagree. I may be wrong. But in my view, deleting these comments is just another, if less offensive, way to manipulate public opinion.

My approach has evolved (or perhaps devolved) to mirror the practice of most other bloggers. I let it all in. Anonymous, pseudonym and blogger comments are all welcome. I won't even use word verification, because it sometimes makes it hard to post a remark. I hand delete the spam.

Most comments are intelligent, well-written and entertaining. But there is the occasional personal attack or some scurrilous allegation, so what do I do about that?

Here's the way I look at it. We bloggers may be idiots, but most of our readers are not knuckleheads. They tend to be very well-read, and are looking for additional information and differing perspectives. Sometimes, they'll find that in one of the local blogs. And just like me or anyone else, they can spot horseshit. They already have enough information spoonfed to them.

I already know what I think. I'm interested in what YOU think, and enjoy the commentary on this blog more than my own posts. And some folks need to preserve their anonymity because of their employment. So here's my comment policy: I will delete spam or any comment that advocates physical harm against any individual, even a government official. Other than that, most of you have pretty good bullshit detectors. You spot it in me every time.

It's half the fun.

24 comments:

Billy Givens said...

Bernie,

My wife, "Mrs. Givens," and I are looking for a new search engine to replace Google.

Any suggestions?

Last night, the "Lou Dobbs Tonight" show on CNN (6:00 p.m. ET, 24/7, as they say)reported that Google is cooperating with the People's Republic of China government in censoring the Internet in that country.

The report quoted Google as saying that a "restricted" Internet is better than no Internet at all.

Next time you see my District 2 County Council representative and friend Mike Dowd, against whom I also plan to run as well as for Easton mayor, please remind him of my lecture to council on "Areopagitica," Francis Bacon's immortal treatise on the dangers of censorship.

Bacon's treatise was inspired by Athens Greece's Hill of Ares. where the ancient city's highest judicial and legislative council met, and where any citizen of the mighty Roman Empire could speak his or her mind, free from fear of reprisal, including speech critical of government at any level of the Empire - as did St. Paul when he addressed Athens' judicial and legislative leaders on God's Natural Law, from which all law as we know it today is derived.

Billy Givens said...

P.S.

Many of the world's scholars rank Bacon's "Areopagitica" with Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" and Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount as the world's three greatest examples of literature ever penned.

Thank God, the corrupt Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in Harriburg spared Gettysburg, the central setting of Stephen Crane's own classic "The Red Badge of Courage" spared Gettysburg the sacrilege of a slot machine gambling casino sited there.

May a Merciful God give us he courage here in the so-called "Lehigh Valley," in County Von Zinzendorf's Christmas City of Bethlehem, give us the courage and the strength to defeat the siting of Pennsylvania's Governor the Honorable Edwsrd G. Rendell's and the Commonwealth legislature's Las Vegas Sands Casino there.

A principal owner of this casino, Sheldon Adelson who with his wife Miriam donated $1 million to President George W. Bush's 2005 Coronation in the nation's capital, is also the builder and principal owner of the Las Vegas Venetian Casino in Macao, Red China, the most gambling-addicted country in the world.

We can defeat Adelson's, and that of Philipsburg native Michael Perrucci's Las Vegas Sands Casino on the site called BethWorks by repealing Act 71, "legalized gambling," as proposed by Bucks County state representative Paul Clymer.

May a Merciful God give us the stre

Anonymous said...

I question sometimes if there is any accountablity at the Morning call so we are even

Brian said...

Mr. Givens:

Try Alltheweb or Ask.com. I've been using Alltheweb for quite some time and it gets the job done. They use Yahoo's Overture for searches so some might call it Yahoo Lite. I've also started to use Ask.com and I am really beginning to like it and that may replace Alltheweb as my search engine of choice. Stay away from AOL Search (Google) and MSN, and anything Microsoft for that matter.

That being said, I don't know if Alltheweb (Yahoo does) and Ask comply with the Chinese. My take is that when any of the search engines go international, they bow to their new masters.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Brian, Thanks for the alternatives to google. I think it is the best search engine out there.

Billy Givens said...

Bernie,

I realize this comment is off-topic, and I apologize, but I just read The Excess-Times' noon news update and saw that once again a public body, Easton City Council, has scheduled a meeting for tonight on the subject of Easton planning issues, including an update of zoning ordinances and building codes.

This meeting conflicts with that of the critical meeting this evening in Martins Creek on the subject of farm and open-space preservation and enviromentally sensitive areas like flood plains.

Though this meeting concerns Lower Mount Bethel Township most immediately, its neighboring City of Easton residents are concerned because the Delaware River and its tributary Bushkill Creek impact both and other municipalities in Northampton County.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Billy, When has being off-topic ever stopped you?

LVDem said...

Getting back onto the topic that Billy managed to destroy... my opinion is that it is a matter of the market place of ideas. The ideas that are good or have merit will survive and thrive. The ideas that lack merit will be left by the wayside, not by censorship but simply b/c people don't buy into it.

If anybody feels a need to review comments before allowing them to be posted, it typically tells me that they aren't confident in their arguments. They need to control the content that flows as a response. The darkside is most often guilty of this, but I know of a couple of libs that track the comments that pop up.

Blogs that are full of shit will fall by the wayside, whether they are anonymous or not. I take pride in developing a reputation of solid reporting, timely rumor spreading and insider information/clarification. When people stop listening to my writing, that will be the point at which I have been held accountable.

Those are my thoughts: now, back to figuring out what the hell Billy is trying to say that is related to Bernie's questions.

Gort said...

The great thing is when you get it wrong you're called out in the comments. We had this conversation at my place a few weeks ago. I don't care what handle you use when posting.

Anonymous said...

Where as the newspapers simply spew whatever nonesense they want with impunity.

Billy Givens said...

Bernie,

My apologies again: It was John Milton, of course, author of "Paradise Lost" (and we are losing, if we haven't already, our paradise of Ben Franklin), and not Francis Bacon.

As Franklin emerged from Consstitution Hall, Carpenters' Hall, or Convention Hall (or whatever its proper name; I'm no scholar)where our Constitution was drawn and signed), the first sound reaching him from the anxiously waiting, but silent, crowd was that of a woman's voice.

"Mr. Franklin," she shouted, above the sudden, excited din, "Do we have a Constitution?"

"Yes, Madam," Franklin replied, "If you can keep it."

And so we do, indeed, have a Constitution, one giving our country a stability over more than two centuries because of a near-impossible ability to amend it - whether by the Left or by the Right of the political spectrum:

Liberal women, and men, failed after something like a nine-year effort to get an equal rights amendment.

Conservatives, likewise, have so far failed to get amendments banning flag-burning and Choice.

There is, of course, the rare exception. One of those I can be proud of a transplanted Southerner living above the Mason-Dixon Line is that the crucial vote finally honoring the right - not "privilege" - of America's women to vote came from a young member of the legislature in the Volunteer State of Tennessee, home of Andrew Jackson, "Old Hickory," who would challenge a man to a duel and kill him, which he did, if that man insulted his beloved wife.

Regrettably, the hero of New Orleans in the War of 1812 and the President whose political spoils system led to the assassination of President James Garfield and enactment by Congress of the Pendleton Act creating a merit system within the federal government bureaucracy also set millions of East Coast Native Americans on the "Trail of Tears" as they were uprooted and force-marched to Oklahoma that claimed the lives of thousands.

Like President Jackson, Pennsylvania's current Governor, Edward G. Rendell, mistreated the Delaware-Lenni Lenape Native Americans more than 100 years after they were uprooted from Pennsylvania and New Jersey and force-marched, like the Bataan Death March of World War II, to Oklahoma.

Fast Eddie in collusiton with Northampton County and the Binney & Smith Crayola Crayon Corporation and other defendants in a lawsuit initiated to recover 315 acres in Forks Township for a casino in the infamous Walking Purchase land-grab of 1737 denied their claim - while honoring the claim of Las Vegas Sands Casino owners in Nevada and New Jersey for a Las Vegas Sands annex called BethWorks in the South Side neighborhood of Bethlehem.

House of Crayons said...

Bernie, although what you say about moderation is correct; it is also not always so. Your stance is based on the assumption of free-speech. While your blog may promote that, the “free speech” model is not appropriate or desired in every forum.

On our blog we do moderate, and we occasionally delete comments. And we do this for several reasons. First off Easton UnDressed is less about how cute and creative we can be and more about developing ideas and action. We run the blog like a meeting of adults. Our tagboard also changes the playing field. Because of the real-time interaction, we find it necessary to moderate the topics (to maintain focus) and to delete untrue, hateful, or nuisance posts (to maintain credibility and decency). And true, this is unpopular to some.

Our main effort is to provide city documents, recordings, and other media. And we work so that every bit of editorial/satirical material on the blog can cite those documents, recordings, and media.

I just wrote Joe Owens a note about blogging and anonymity. I started that email by saying his comments were also conditionally true. It’s funny because Joe and I had the same conversation a year ago at the College Hill Tavern. He said it was cowardly to opine anonymously, and it also lacked credibility. We (Bad Apple and me) went on to explain to Joe our reasons for our pseudo-anonymity. One reason is mild entertainment, another is to promote participation from the shy and unpracticed, but the most important reason we use pseudonyms is to keep the emphasis on the work. EU is not about any person. We strive to be advocates to our 26,000 neighbors.

So, in a nut shell, it’s ultimately about the experience you wish to create. Different blogs for different folks.

Your neighbor,
House of Crayons

Chris Casey said...

I let everybody comment, but I take it off if it is truly out of line. But Billy, you truly baffle me sometimes. As a Student of the Classics, who actually took 2 years of Greek and 4 years of latin in a Catholic Seminary Prep, I have to point out you are mixing and matching your Greek and Roman Civilizations. The Eutruscans were the Greek descendants who influenced the civilization that emerged in Italy. The Hill of Ares is actually the site of the Parthenon., and yes ALL GREEK CITIZENS were allowed to address the empirical government.
The Roman Senate did likewise, but the site of said meetings moved several times. Much like Northampton County meeting in Executive session! Depending on what God they wished to seek favor with, the Senators would meet in the respective temples. There are several historical accounts of meetings even taking place in what we gentrified Lehigh Valley residents would call "SPAS" or "Saunas". LOL.
I could just see Ron Angle and Ann McHale in Togas with Wayne Grube! LOLOLOLOL!- Chris Casey

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVDem & Gort, We pretty much agree 100% on this subject. I do think the blogosphere is a form of meritocracy. And you have two of the best. In my view, that is partly because you both have a liberal comment policy and don't mind a little disagreement.

Bernie O'Hare said...

House of Crayons, I know the interactive little chat room on your blog can get a little crazy, but my post is directed at blog posts and the comments to them. You have the right to do as you wish on your blog. I think the podcasts and audios for city council are great, but I sure would like to see more posts. They've been few and far apart since the summer. You have several contributors and each of you is connected in Easton, and on the inside. I'm shocked as hell that you guys haven't been exposing Easton "undressed." You're great on technical innovation, but you're asleep at the switch when it comes to filling us in on what is really going on in Easton. So get off your butts and start writing. I learned more about what Mike Krill thinks in one news account than I have in several months on his blog. I'm only being harsh because I know you folks are a very good team and Easton needs you now more than ever. So spend a little less time at the College Hill Tavern drinking w/ Joe Owens. Don't ever drink w/ a reporter. It's a losing proposition. How do you think I became an alkie?

PA progressive said...

Good article Bernie. I still use the spam filter because some of it being posted was pornographic and I don't want the wingnuts accusing me of linking to porn. That's one of their favorite tactics to discredit us.
Sometimes the most interesting stuff is left by anonymous posters. I know there's much more I'd write if I allowed myslef to write or post anonymously but I have a personal policy to only post my stuff on the record. Some locals have accused me openly of emailing and writing under a pseudonym but they're full of shit and a bunch of

Bernie O'Hare said...

PaPro, OK. I admit it. I have a pseudonym. I'm Zorro. Casey told me he sometimes writes as Wonderwoman for some reason, and I don't thin it's any secret that LVDem was also Naked Lehigh County Blogger.

The spam's not too bad. If it gets intense, I'll have to use a filter. For a time, my blog was accused of not just linking to porn, but being porn. And I didn't even post one picture of Billy Givens.

LVDem said...

Chris, don't even engage Billy on the mix-matching. He'll ramble on about something else and you'll get more confused. Watch!

Bernie, I wish I would have taken up the Naked Lehigh County blogger, but somebody else got the idea before i did. As colorful as I can be, that was just outside of my realm.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100% as there are some of us who need to post as anon due to employment. I am one of them.

What I find just as ammusing is that you have two people who post on your site - Julian Stolz (Right from Lehigh Valley) and Rising Sun (Richard Wilkins and LV Common Cause)who give people crap about posting as anon but filter their sites to only include posts that they approve of. In fact, they have never once approved anything I have sent in. I guess they believe in free speach if you agree with their stilted points of view.Seems a bit hypocritical, don't 'ya think?

As a result of their censorship, I have stopped reading their sites. In a sense, they have become irrelevant to me, and I would guess many others.

Keep up the good work and thanks for allowing an open forum. Your blog remains relevant due to good reporting and an open forum.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:21, I thank you for your comment. I, too, have been barred from commenting on Wilkins' blog, even to respond to an attack directed right at me. I share your belief that some bloggers onl;y want us to hear their truths.

House of Crayons said...

Fair assement Bernie,

I get that criticism from BA more and more. All I can say is that we are working on it. We need to pick up the content pace without dropping the reference quality.

On another note, I need help and advice on how to file suit against a municiple body.

I'll call you.

HoC

Bernie O'Hare said...

House of Crayons, I sure would like to see more content out of EU, like it used to be. But everything else you do is great.

As far as filing suit against a municipality is concerned, I'm getting asked by you how to do it whie another is saying these lawsuits are just ego trips.

PA progressive said...

Some blogs are simply echo chambers for the owner's opinions while others actually try and stimulate diaglogue. It's really up to the owner. Moderating and editing comments makes a blog an echo chamber.
One of the truly wonderful things about blogs is their ability to be an exchange of thoughts and ideas. The fact we're immediately interactive is our advantage over other media. It's what makes the blogosphere unique.
If someone refuses to post opposing viewpoints it doesn't say much about their arguments. You must be prepared to defend whatever you write on your blog.
For example this week I posted an article about Sen. Specter and his position on Bush's signing statements. After speaking with his press secretary I now have a different viewpoint and even posted the Senator's comments on the matter which he made on the floor of the Senate. This is the value of following up and being open minded. If you don't your blog won't have any credibility.

Daddy Democrat said...

I moderate comments on my blog, but strictly to fight spam and other abuses of the resource.

I'd never delete or bury commments from somebody who had differing viewpoints from my own. In fact, when my various blogging efforts have attracted a bunch of rabid ultra-cons, it's done nothing but make me look smarter than I actually am.