Friday, May 22, 2009

Censoring phantoms

I've lately been charged with the mortal sin of committing censorship for deleting comments on this blog.

I'd feel much worse about this if I knew who I was censoring. In fact, if the phantoms who lurk on the web to spew cheap shots had the courage of their convictions to identify themselves, this wouldn't even be an issue. I would happily undelete their comments. But they won't. They'd rather hide behind the wall that encourages cowardice.

Of course, I'll be accused of hypocrisy and inhibiting public debate. The Herald will be accused of stifling the free flow of opinion.

In truth, The Herald has been much too lenient about the spew it allows to foul the comment section of its Web site. For the most part, we don't remove comments unless they contain excessively foul language or are dangerously racist. Every random coward can say any random thing in the comments section of the Web without fear that they'll be identified as the source of the spew. And so they do.

I've never understood why newspapers allowed this degeneration of public discourse, other than in their desperation to crank up their Web hits.

But if deleting anonymous twaddle is censorship, newspapers have been doing it for years. In the newspaper, we don't allow random cranks to share their opinions in letters to the editor and commentaries without attaching their names. We don't allow people to share obvious misinformation, to get away with venal below-the-belt cheap shots.

I will continue to allow random cranks to spew anonymously on this site -- and I will grant much leeway to those who identify themselves. But I won't allow gutless creeps the opportunity to drag my family into the deal.


  1. I agree there is way too much incivility in public discourse these days. I saw the comments before they were deleted, and they definitely meanspirited. Civilized people disagree without being nasty. Anybody remember the Golden Rule?

  2. Joe Livernois wrote:
    We don't allow people to share obvious misinformation, to get away with venal below-the-belt cheap shots.I saw the comments before they were deleted, and there was absolutely no "misinformation". There were court cases listed that are part of the public record, and they were being questioned. Mr. Livernois appears to have take offense to them.

    There was another question about a court case brought against the Herald by a former employee. It was a legitimate question.

    Mr. Toy says that the comments were "mean-spirited", and "nasty." That is not how I recall the comments.

    As far as anonymity, everyone here has to register, and email address and IP addresses I'm sure are recorded. I'm sure hard-core hackers could spoof these things, but most people aren't going to bother... in other words, I'm sure if you really want to find out who is posting here, it would not take that much effort.

    However, one of the wonderful things about blogs is that people can post semi-anonymously... it allows people to express their true feelings. Certainly if people are getting "mean-spirited" or "nasty", I can understand the removal of those passages.

    But, in my opinion Joe Livernois chose to selectively remove questions because they were critical of the Herald.

  3. Nothing makes a Man feel more powerful than sitting in the darkness of his own room with the curtains drawn, one hand on the keyboard, on the Herald's website blasting the newspaper for having the audacity to actually report on news!

  4. "BrumBam's" comments are the most off-topic, silly, mean-spirited comments to have appeared here, let the Herald allows them to be posted...

  5. I'm sorry Sheila if you took offense to the previous comment. I was not specifically referring to you.

    Mr Livernois seemed to make it pretty clear though that he'd allow most comments through as long as you keep his family out of it (seems like a pretty legitimate request to me).

    I wasn't able to see the comments in the previous blog before they were deleted but apparently someone actually researched and posted court records from someone in the Livernois family. WHO DOES THAT???

    I'm not sure whether to laugh at the person who did that or feel sad for them. I don't care if Mr. Livernoise has a sister with 7 DUI's. In what way is that related to the Biasotti case? And why in the world would someone go through the trouble to look it up?

    So is the Herald no longer in a position to report on DUI's? Because Joe Livernois has a couple speeding tickets should the Herald's Sports page not have reported it when basketball player Jason Richardson was given a speeding ticket for driver over 100mph?

    It seems to me that there are a lot of sad lonely people who are lingering around here waiting to vent on something, and the previous blog just gave people some ammo.

  6. Not sure what lonely people one hand typing have to do with posts and I am a fan of anonymous speech, without it half the people in the Country wouldn't dare speak out about anything and the newspapers sources would dry up. The post of Mr. Livernois' family information was ridiculous in that it lacked any context. It was a political tactic used by political consultants to intimidate their opposition from speaking and I am against anyone trying to stop people from speaking, writing, communicating. The best part is, when a moron speaks most people recognize that speech for what it is, so to those who have garbage like the oft repeated anchorbaby comments on other newspaper sites keep it up, I know to skip that post.
    Mr. Livernois' response is understandable because it is hard to have boundaries when it comes to ones on children, think not, come after my children.
    The court record post lacked context and as Mr. Livernois had a DUI he would make sure his paper ran a story because he is a quasi-public figure and it would have meaning within the community.
    The information age is a wonderful tool, the public is able to quickly access information that once only a select few could access, the public is slowly starting to realize their right to certain information and with that access brings some responsibility. Try to fit the information into context and see if it applies to something worth saying. If it is just some political consultant hack type junk you should stick to playing checkers and not chess.

    My name is Mister Weeniebun and I can be reached at 831-555-1212.

  7. From Sheila Whatshername:

    "As far as anonymity, everyone here has to register, and email address and IP addresses I'm sure are recorded. I'm sure hard-core hackers could spoof these things, but most people aren't going to bother... in other words, I'm sure if you really want to find out who is posting here, it would not take that much effort."

    Sheila seems to believe it's okay that I violate the civil liberties of posters by investigating IP addresses so that I might know who posts comments.

    What would she propose I do with my discoveries? Post them on the blog? Run them in the paper? Is it censorship if I don't?

    What she fails to mention in her summary of the events that resulted in my "hypocritical" censorship of comments is that I kept the original cheap shot up for a day. In the meantime, I challenged the venal dweeb who posted it to identify himself and include his phone number for verification (we require the same for The Herald's letters to the editor). In exchange, I would provide all the sordid details of the no-context posting he thought he gotcha'd me with.

    Because the deal is, I don't hide my family issues. I'm not especially proud of them, of course. But I never turn down invitations to talk about the horrible consequences of mental illness and drug addiction. I'm on the NAMI board. I speak publicly about this stuff.

    But I wasn't going to do it for a jerkface who thinks he can ambush me with his simple but out-of-context Web "research." Anyone can do what he did. All you need to do is search the case thing on the Monterey County Superior Court Web site.

    The Herald would never publish such simple listings. Yes, it's public record, but the postings are meaningless without context. If The Herald ever learned of an interesting or topical case from those simple listings, we would do the research, read the court files, talk to the lawyers involved.

    But my offer stands: If RoyalPain is willing to shed his anonymity, I'll bore those who lurk here to death with my family story. But he won't. He's a coward.