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.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"Pajama-clad" arbitrarily censoring bloggers and the "reporter's privilege"

The abstract of a law journal article titled, "Citizen Journalism and the Reporter’s Privilege" Minnesota Law Review 91 (2007):515-591, by Mary-Rose Papandrea, Boston College Law School, begins,

The reporter’s privilege is under attack, and “pajama-clad bloggers” are largely to blame. Courts and commentators have argued that because the rise of bloggers and other “citizen journalists” renders it difficult to define who counts as a reporter entitled to invoke the privilege, its continued existence is in grave doubt.

The "reporter's privilege" is the right of journalists to keep their confidential sources secret. As for the term "pajama-clad," pajamas are a symbol of leisure, casualness, informality, and privacy. Famous pajamas wearer Hugh Hefner said, "I have about 100 pairs of pajamas. I like to see people dressed comfortably."

Despite what many people think, public blogs are not private by any stretch of the imagination. A public blog is not like a private letter, email, or telephone call -- a public blog can be accessed by anyone in the world who has open Internet access. A claim that a public blog is private becomes even more tenuous when that blog is authoritatively cited or referenced by a court opinion, scholarly journal article, a scientific database (e.g., the listing of arbitrarily censoring blog Panda's Thumb in Thomson Scientific's ISI Web of Knowledge index), or other authority.

Well, at last I have a name for bloggers who arbitrarily censor comments while hiding behind a claim of "privacy": "Pajama-clad." Pajama-clad blogger Fatheaded Ed Brayton, pajama-clad blogger Sleazy PZ Myers, etc.. Sounds good.

Anyway, back to the quote from the abstract of the law journal article. IMO arguing that a protection should be abolished because some people with a weak claim to it might invoke it is stupid. It is like saying that we should abolish freedom of speech because people who shout "fire" in crowded theaters might invoke it.

The abstract continues,

The accompanying Article argues that this hysteria is misplaced. The development of the internet as a new medium of communication in many ways poses the same kinds of challenges to the reporter’s privilege that courts and state legislatures have faced for decades as television reporters, radio commentators, book authors, documentary filmmakers, and scholars seek to invoke its protections. After exploring the history and purpose of the reporter’s privilege, and the increasingly significant contributions of citizen journalists to the public debate, this Article makes a radical proposal: everyone who disseminates information to the public should be presumptively entitled to invoke the reporter’s privilege, whether based on the First Amendment, federal common law, or a state shield law. Rather than attempting to limit the category of individuals who are entitled to the privilege by focusing on the medium of publication, the “newsworthy” nature of the desired information, or a “functional” approach that unconstitutionally requires judicial scrutiny of the editorial process, the focus should instead be on limiting the scope of the privilege itself. This Article offers several exceptions to a presumptive privilege that appropriately balance the public’s fundamental interest in a vigorous and informed debate against its equally important interests in fairness and justice.

So here is a "let them eat cake and have it too" (to borrow from Marie Antoinette) proposal for giving bloggers special rights without requiring special concomitant responsibilities. The above abstract says that bloggers should be presumptively entitled to invoke the reporter's privilege when they "[disseminate] information to the public." But what if, say, that dissemination of "information" to the public is an attack on a particular individual? Should that individual not have the right to post a response on the blog that attacked him/her? IMO, the "fairness doctrine" -- which requires allowing presentation of all views -- should be applied to blogs. The reasons for exempting other kinds of forums from the fairness doctrine do not apply to blogs because comment space on blogs is virtually unlimited and free of charge to the bloggers. Also, people can normally buy space or time in a newspaper, magazine, and radio and TV stations, but I never heard of anyone buying comment space on a blog.

OK, I admit that my "let them eat cake and have it too" analogy was unfair because the journal article never addressed the issue of arbitrary censorship of blog visitors' comments. However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- which falsely claims to champion the rights of all Internet users -- is also in favor of generally allowing bloggers to invoke the reporter's privilege, but nowhere on the EFF website did I see anything supporting the freedom-of-speech rights of blog commenters. I plan on posting more about the EFF later.

A full copy of the journal article is here. It has a good comprehensive general discussion of the reporter's privilege.

As I said, laws are nice but are not the complete answer because many wronged people do not have the time and/or the money to sue. However, laws serve as guiding principles and also serve as deterrents even when they are rarely invoked. And as I said, there is a need to change the current Internet culture that condones and even approves such things as arbitrary censorship and cyberbullying.
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8 Comments:

Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> Despite what many people think, public blogs are not private by any stretch of the imagination. <

Despite what Larry says, private blogs, such as the excellent blogs of Ed Brayton and P. Z. Myers are private. They can't be called public by any stretch of the imagination.

> a public blog can be accessed by anyone in the world who has open Internet access. <

Nobody is required to read a private blog. Besides, some bloggers, such as the infamous Larry(?) Fafarman, often comment on things they have never read.

> A claim that a public blog is private becomes even more tenuous when ... <

The bloggers are not responsible for the actions of others. The decision to cite them is the action of those doing such. So far it looks like most, such as courts, scholarly journals, scientific databases, etc. are doing such wisely and selectively.

> Well, at last I have a name for... <

You seem always to resort to name calling when you lack the ability to defend yourself logically. (Nearly always the case.)

> bloggers who arbitrarily censor comments while hiding behind a claim of "privacy" <

Such as claiming that comments, however accurate, are "gossip".

> "let them eat cake and have it too" <

A combination of two statements, neither of whom Larry understands.

> Should that individual not have the right to post a response on the blog that attacked him/her? <

Not necessarily. You can answer on your own blog.

> IMO, the "fairness doctrine" -- which requires allowing presentation of all views <

The Fairness Doctrine only requires presentation of some, not all, opposing views on TV stations that are using the limited available frequencies. Private blogs are not using resources that are then unavailable to others as you yourself admit.

> OK, I admit that my "let them eat cake and have it too" analogy was unfair <

Not unfair as much as stupid.

> nowhere on the EFF website did I see anything supporting the freedom-of-speech rights of blog commenters. <

You have freedom-of-speech. You are exercising it on your blog. You do not have freedom-of-speech on private blogs.

Freedom-of-speech does not, for example allow you to come uninvited into my living room and bleat your lunatic ideas. If I have opened the house to the public you may come in and stay until you offend me at which time I am allowed to ask you to leave, as Ed Brayton did, and to throw you out if you do not comply.

> many wronged people do not have the time and/or the money to sue. <

If you had been wronged (which you have not), and you had the legal knowledge to file pro persona (which you do not), you could waste your time in a lawsuit. Of course there is a good chance that you would end up paying your opponenet's legal expenses.

Now do you plan to give up the arbitrary censorship?

Friday, May 11, 2007 3:39:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

The hypocrite ViW takes advantage of my no-censorship policy while he ridicules my opposition to arbitrary censorship of blog comments. He posts under a false name because he would be too embarrassed to post his crap under his real name.

Friday, May 11, 2007 4:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

The hypocrite Larry bleats about his no-censorship policy while he practices arbitrary censorship of blog comments.

He probably thinks that nobody would notice that he is unable to answer any of my questions.

It also appears that he may be posting under a false name. We have established that Real Dave has a brother named Larry Fafarman and this one claims not to be Real Dave's brother. There can't be that many Larry Fafarmans so it appears that the owner of this blog is using a false name.

Perhaps this is because he would be too embarrassed to post his crap under his real name.

Saturday, May 12, 2007 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Pajama-Clad Blogger said...

What are you wearing BTW? A tux, in a 30th-story corner office?

Not that I'd be greatly impressed. "Pajama-Clad Blogger" has become a term of respect (in case you hadn't noticed), particularly since they rather heroically exposed Dan Rather.

Monday, May 14, 2007 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>> "Pajama-Clad Blogger" has become a term of respect (in case you hadn't noticed), particularly since they rather heroically exposed Dan Rather. <<<<<<

You are taking just one instance of pajama-clad blogging and using it to stereotype all pajama-clad blogging. To me, the term can either be neutral or a term of contempt. Its neutral meaning is "amateur, nonprofessional." As a term of contempt -- the sense in which I often use it -- it means "unprofessional."

Just randomly call someone a "pajama-clad blogger" and see if they think that they are being complimented.

BTW, they didn't "heroically" expose Dan Rather -- they cowardly persecuted him even after he apologized.

Monday, May 14, 2007 1:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Pajama-Clad Blogger said...

The origin of the term "pajama-clad" was a statement by a CBS executive, trying to sneer at the bloggers. It backfired.

The bloggers proudly adopted the label to remind themselves and others as to who was telling the truth.

Evidently the expression has morphed into a new one, "pajamahadeen", which I hadn't seen before, but it's funny.

(Sorry to be referencing the "discredited" Wikipedia.) :-)

BTW, you didn't answer the question about your own attire.

Monday, May 14, 2007 7:23:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>>> The origin of the term "pajama-clad" was a statement by a CBS executive, trying to sneer at the bloggers. It backfired. <<<<<<

I think that we can all agree that since professionals usually don't wear pajamas when working in their offices (except Hugh Hefner, and he is not really a professional, though his partners belong to the world's oldest profession), pajamas are a symbol of informality, casualness, leisure, privacy, amateurism, and nonprofessionalism. I merely extended the meaning of "pajama-clad'" to include unprofessionalism when I applied the term to professionals. And the use of the term in the above abstract is not complimentary -- the abstract says that the pajama-clad bloggers are messing things up for professional reporters:

The reporter’s privilege is under attack, and “pajama-clad bloggers” are largely to blame. Courts and commentators have argued that because the rise of bloggers and other “citizen journalists” renders it difficult to define who counts as a reporter entitled to invoke the privilege, its continued existence is in grave doubt.

>>>>> (Sorry to be referencing the "discredited" Wikipedia.) :-) <<<<<<

Wikipedia is good on non-controversial subjects. The problem is that it is sometimes hard to determine what's non-controversial.

>>>>> BTW, you didn't answer the question about your own attire. <<<<<<

That's confidential. I wouldn't want anyone to accuse me of being a pot calling the kettle black.

Monday, May 14, 2007 9:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Voice in the Wilderness said...

> BTW, they didn't "heroically" expose Dan Rather -- they cowardly persecuted him even after he apologized. <

He lied repeatedly before his half hearted apology, you pathetic scumbag.

Monday, May 14, 2007 10:57:00 PM  

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