Censorship? No.

This is censorship, when the US government blocks websites relating to Cuba.

This is censorship, when the Chinese government blocks all kinds of websites.

This is censorship, when the Australian government bans a video game.

This? Me deleting a comment that defended bigotry? This not censorship. It’s adhering to the comment policy that was already laid out at the time of original posting. It’s keeping my sandbox clean of shit I’d rather not host, and that might sicken the people playing here.

The comment policy read, in part, thusly:

Within this comment policy, there is room for disagreement and debate, and abundant room for discussion and developing our feminist discourse; there is only a dearth of room for discrimination or the defense thereof.

As Amber Strocel says, “Even the newspaper doesn’t print every letter to the editor. Your sandbox, your rules, your call!”

And, basically, that’s what it comes down to. I am not a government, nor a government agency. I do not have a captive audience here. I am not in a position of power or in possession of a monopoly of a method of communication. My decision to uphold my comment policy is so far from an act of censorship that the very suggestion should be laughable.

But somehow, it isn’t. I’m not laughing. Something is fundamentally wrong with a society that thinks that free speech entitles one to say anything one likes, even when it directly contributes to the oppression of others — or defends the same. You know the line about your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins? Same deal with words: when what you say contributes to a social environment in which my nose might be smashed in (or my friends murdered), I have a problem with that. When your words defend another’s right to spout that hate, I have a problem with that.

Do I believe in government censorship? I think it is extremely problematical. I am entirely in favor of libraries’ defense of the right to read anything. But I’m entirely opposed to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded building (unless, of course, there’s actually a fire). Somewhere in there, there is a line. Can I say where I think government should draw the line? No; fortunately for all, I don’t have to.

My only line to draw is much simpler, because the only penalty for breaking it is the inability to post here: no lives are, hah, on the line. This is my comment policy, updated for clarity; this is where I draw my line. I like to think it’s all pretty self-evident, but obviously, given recent comments, ’tain’t so. Now, I know that the folk most likely to break my standards of behavior are those least likely to read a comment policy, but they can’t say it wasn’t there.

I don’t much care if anyone calls me a dictator, or accuses me of censorship, or says I’m on a power trip, or spouts whatever other falsehoods they like. It’s a sort-of free net. Blogs are free. Go wild.

Just don’t do it here. And for the last time, no, that’s not censorship.

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16 Responses to Censorship? No.

  1. It is definitely not censorship; I must agree with you. A statement defending bigotry or discimination hardly contributes to any discussion in a constructive manner.

  2. Well said. Good for you for sticking to your principles with this issue. The only people who would call it censorship are those who would attempt to oppress others. In my experience, the bullies always cry loudest when their ability to attack is threatened.

  3. Your sandbox; you keep the vibe.

  4. I see the whine about censorship most occurring at blogs run by women. It is usually the same jerk that believes hir privilege grants them the right to put down anyone, at any time, in any space. I say good for you for defending your space. For the sake of your mental health and respecting others some BS should just not be tolerated.

    • I actually had a link of something fabulous someone wrote of why it was vital for their mental health that they protect the tone of their comment threads. Alas, I have lost it. But it is a key point, and thank you for mentioning it.

      And this: “that believes hir privilege grants them the right to put down anyone, at any time, in any space.” was exactly what the deleted comment was defending. In a very Devil’s Advocate-y type of way. So it failed on several levels.

      • You aren’t, by any chance, thinking of “A Further Note On Offensive Content” in the FWD/Forward Comment Policy, are you? Because Lauredhel wrote that, and it is awesome.

        • That wasn’t what I was thinking of, but oh wow that is great.

          You might characterise this as “Hey! They deleted my comment just because it hurt their feelings!” And you know what? That’s exactly it. This is a privately owned blog. You don’t have an overriding right to insist on using our servers to hurt us, no matter what your intentions were.

          Yes. That.

  5. Very well said. You are under no obligation to publish comments at all, let alone hateful ones. People who view comment policies and comment moderation as “censorship” are usually people who are upset that their vitriol is not going to make it through moderation, and they clearly have an imperfect understanding of what, precisely, censorship is. A blogger declining to publish hateful content is not at all equivalent to a national government denying freedom of information to its citizens.

  6. Since I encouraged you to delete the comment, I agree with you 100%. I notice Americans seem to think that “free speech” applies to everything, everywhere. Which is completely ludicrous.

  7. Isn’t it strange when those accustaions of censorship happen to coincide with a person demanding to say vile things or insult your ideas? [I know a bloke who wouldn't delete one of my comments that accidentally published twice despite my asking on grounds that it "would be censorship". I suspect just to make me look stupid. I was left thinking "I don't think that word means what you think".]

    The fact is your blog is like your home, you may invite people in but you sure as hell have the right to ask them to be polite or leave.

    • “Isn’t it strange when those accusations of censorship happen to coincide with a person demanding to say vile things or insult your ideas?”

      I know, right? It’s like the last accusation in a flounce. “You just censor anyone who disagrees with you!” No, I decline to publish offensive vitriol. I’ve published plenty I disagree with. I just won’t publish things that are actually offensive. It’s not my fault if you can’t tell the difference.

  8. I love it when people quote me. :)

    You made the right call. And any of us who know you and understand what you’re doing here believe that. You’re responsible for setting the tone and moderating what happens here. Using that responsibility is, well, just plain responsible.

  9. This idea won’t work for the hardcore trolls and people bent on being hateful but it might work for people who have just never thought about it before.

    This blog is the internet equivalent of you home. There are rules regarding who can enter your home and interact with you. If someone came into your house and started being offensive (or peeing on your carpet) they’d be asked to leave or removed. That’s all you did here. The great thing about a blog is that you don’t need to call in any more back-up than your delete finger!

  10. I completely agree that you have every right to delete posts which you do not desire to share on your blog. But often in these cases, leaving the offending comment in place just allows others to see how clearly judgmental/hypocritical/idiotic/whatever the author of the comment is. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. ;-) However, I can also understand the desire to avoid certain unpleasant conversations on your own blog, and firmly stand beside your decision.

    • I waver back and forth on the “display the douchebaggery” v “keep this space safe” issue. In general, I think I prefer to come down on keeping the place clean, unless a particular comment is so outrageous it’s amusing, and then I’ll post it special, and we can all have a good laugh. ;)

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