Monday, October 26

Free Speech on the Internet? Well...

I've been avoiding writing up this story. It's complicated.

A person commenting on a blog has been arrested in southern Illinois for something he said on that blog.

Ordinarily, that would lead to big outrage here at Casa BG. Indeed, my ex brought the story to my attention with cries of "outrage" and "free speech" yadda yadda.

And there is that component to this. But there is more, and as someone familiar with the blog commenting history and tradition, I'm probably obligated to put some of this into context.

The context, first and foremost, is that the blog and comments in question involve (1)

you will notice I put those words in an embedded image, rather than in type, because I do not want anyone who might search for those words on a search engine to wind up at this post. Traffic is nice, but many of you have been to a blog where every single comment is from some douchebag typing incessantly (2):

over and over again under different usernames and logins. A great many blogs, including the big blog I occasionally write for, has been forced to ban all commenting on the subject because certain people see fit to use discussion of said issue to completely hijack (yes I use the term consciously and without irony) blog space that would otherwise be used for mature discussion.

The other issue that is tangentally involved in this 'arrest' issue is (3)

I can tell you that IP is another issue a great many blogs will not touch because the emotions involved lead to a lot of hijacking, screaming, and yes, personal threats being bandied about. I have posted in the past about certain of these issues, and have even issued a

(4) against commenters who might think they can bully me on these issues.

We all want free speech in theory, but the sad fact is, speech in so many ways in America, and especially electronic speech, isn't free. Someone pays for the bandwidth, and big blogs who pay for their own bandwidth have huge costs when someone leaves forty five automatically generated (2) comments which have no value because the screaming has by now outweighed the debate on that issue.

There's also the issue of internet access for all races and incomes, and the issue of whether we're going as a society to let corporations determine how internet is divvied out to various sites (net neutrality is such a bad term for it; I wish we could call it 'corporate welfare wants to take away your computer freedom and no ice cream sprinkles for hard working Americans over 50' or something).

And there's the issue that when speech IS free and in an open forum where all are welcome, certain News Corporations (listed there by name) use that as an opportunity to again, hijack debate and push false agendas through the manipulation of an ignorant and frightened public.

Speech isn't free. And while the people shown are "free" to engage in this kind of protest, many of them are collecting single payer healthcare and are willfully ignorant of the issues they are marching about. And they are encouraged in their ignorance daily by Glenn Beck, who makes a lot of money to organize them.

There is no "public square" any more. You at your laptop are sitting in it. Net neutrality is essential. But so is an understanding that a few bullies can do just as much damage to free speech as big corporations.

Okay, but back to the blog story: it appears that a commenter at a certain blog regarding the, you know, (1) issue, took offense at an op-ed written by someone regarding some (3) issues. It appears the op-ed regarded blaming P's for being killed in g.a.z.a, which was like, totally all the P's fault for getting bombed and starved and stuff. Yeah.

So guy at the (1) blog got bent out of shape about that article and made two mistakes. One, he let it be known that he knew where the author of the article lives, at least to the extent that he knew he lived in the same town as said author.

Whatever you do as a commenter at a blog, never, NEVER, cross the line into real world. Don't talk about where an opponent lives, what their phone number is, or even divulge personal emails if they are not given out by the person themselves. Don't say, 'this is personal because we share the same air', etc. That gets you in trouble, and is patently offensive in the blog world. For those who don't know, there's a very popular blogger named Malkin who pulls that kind of thing on her detractors all the time. Publishes phone numbers and therefore locations of people who disagree or even attack her at her blog. Some of those attacks on her are also deeply offensive and unfair, but Malkin has negated any sympathy I might have for her by sending her "flying monkeys" as the internet calls Malkin's minions, to harrass, threaten, and in some cases allegedly endanger people who dare to start it up with her. This is an abuse of the privilege of having a blog audience, and I think Malkin should be fined big time every time she does it. We're still in the wild west of blogging, though, and hopefully the law will catch up with her eventually.

The second mistake this commenter made was to write poorly. To me, it looks like he was taking a true story from work, where a rat got trapped in a trash can and was released by the said commenter, and turning it into an analogy about his feelings for the writer of the op-ed, who commenter had already pointed out lived in the same town as commenter did. He did all of this in a way that left a barn door open into which could blow some FBI wind. Not a good idea, particularly since, in my opinion, bullies specializing in being on the wrong right-wing z.i.o,n,i,.s.,.t side of the (3) debate have no qualms about using the FBI or any available cop, large bouncer, or thug, to do their bullying for them.

It's pretty obvious to me that this is a case of too much testosterone; as a friend always says, "one boy, one brain; two boys, half a brain." Everybody needs to get over it, and op-ed guy seriously needs to drop the effin' charges, point made, for crying out loud. If he doesn't, the local ACLU should get involved. It's made the front page of the weekly indie rag, I hope that means the issue will be resolved without further unnecessary posturing.


  1. Geek_guy11:39 AM

    About the only hot-topic thing they didn't cover was abortions.

    A threat against someone is a threat and should be treated as such.

    Blue, I know you live in Limbaugh Branch, MO(actual place on Mapquest). I'm going to visit you and cut up your knitting.

  2. Hmm... I thought IP stood for Internet Protocol. ;o)

  3. My wife and I love the "one boy, one brain" quote. We'd only add: Four boys, no brain, especially if watching sports.

  4. I have to be accountable for your words.

  5. I resent classifying Mr. Humphery as a "blogger". Clearly that was not his function. He made comments on someone else's blog.

    Considering that anyone can start a blog, a fact proven each and every day by, yet Mr. Humphrey did not. He was a hijacker? He was a troll?

    At least, in this case, they went after the commenter, not the blog owner. (or was that part omitted?)

    I'm a little confused about the target selection though. If Mr. Humphrey didn't live in a double-wide would he have been deserving of such scrutiny?

    Now I need to visit the American Everyman site to see the actual format. Should I wear a hazmat suit?

  6. BG-I think this is a scary precedent! To think you can get visited by the FBI if you comment on someones blog and the person being responded to takes issue with those comments or they are taken out of context. If there are direct, credible threats against someone-fine-law enforcement should get involved, but this is a case of misunderstanding and perhaps the op-ed guy using laws to benefit him by trying to intimidate those who speak with opposing views.

  7. If someone posted a comment on my blog that sounded like "I know where you live and I know how to deal with dirty rats", I'd jolly well want the authorities involved.


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