I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Friday, May 18, 2007

BVD-clad bloggers want privileges without responsibilities

Many BVD-clad (or PJ-clad) bloggers want privileges such as the reporter's privilege but at the same time want to be free of responsibilities such as a rule against arbitrary censorship of visitors' comments. This arbitrary censorship is a particular concern because: (1) the more popular blogs are major de facto public forums that have a lot of influence on public opinion and (2) blogs are being authoritatively cited by court opinions, scholarly journal articles, official news services, and other authorities. Also, blogs' unlimited space for comments eliminates the need to pick and choose comments for posting. IMO blogs that practice arbitrary censorship of comments should be required by law to post in a prominent place a message like, "This blog has a policy of censoring comments solely because (1) the blogger disagrees with them, (2) dislikes the person who submitted them, or (3) dislikes the person who the blogger suspects submitted them." How can it be argued that the law can give bloggers special privileges but cannot impose on them special responsibilities?

I previously reported a law journal article that argues in favor of extending the reporter's privilege to pajama-clad bloggers. Now there is a book that is making the same argument: "We're All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age," by Scott Gant. A book review in Publishers Weekly says,
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Using specific landmark constitutional law cases, as well as contemporary examples, including the Valerie Plame case and the San Francisco Chronicle reporters who uncovered the BALCO scandal, Gant makes the case that the health of our democracy requires a press clause that entitles journalists to constitutional protection from revealing their sources . . . . . His scope is radical, simultaneously calling for the enactment of federal shield laws for the press and a greatly expanded definition of who is a journalist (roughly, everyone). Gant's forward-thinking logic is presented convincingly, though he dismisses the most immediate problems with suspicious facility.

Some of the "immediate problems" of granting the reporter's privilege to BVD-clad cyberjournalists are discussed on pages 72-78 of the law journal article I mentioned.

The book's table of contents is here. The book's first chapter, which gives an overview of BVD-clad cyberjournalism, makes no mention at all of the problem of arbitrary censorship of blog visitors' comments. For example, the first chapter says,

. . . many bloggers specialize in topics to the extent few professionals employed by media companies can, and the Web arguably provides better error-correction mechanisms than traditional media with large numbers of "fact-checkers" weighing in at warp speed.

But with arbitrary censorship of comments, there is no "error correction mechanism" from "fact-checkers." And arbitrary censorship of comments not only prevents correction of factual errors but also prevents the presentation of dissenting opinions.

I prefer "BVD-clad" to "PJ-clad" because Hugh Hefner considers PJ's to be formal wear.
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