The first question that popped into my mind, revealing how utterly jaded and suspect I am of the so-called MSM (mainstream media), was why on earth was this a front-page story for The New York Times? Do they think, as I do, that this idea will lead the blogosphere to implode, and that makes them all giddy and anxious? Seriously...why on earth, with wars and tsunamis and political corruption as far as the eye can see, does the NYT devote front-page space to a far-from-widely-accepted desire to police the blogosphere?
Here's what I'm talking about:
The conversational free-for-all on the Internet known as the blogosphere can be a prickly and unpleasant place. Now, a few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.
Last week, Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.
I nearly threw up on my paper.
The last thing the blogosphere (the entity I credit as single-handedly having kept me this side of an institution during the past 6 years of political insanity) needs is to have some ill-conceived ethical hierarchy forced upon it. Nannicize anything else you like, but PLEASE, leave the fucking blogosphere alone.
The rationale behind this call for virtual white gloves and petticoats and nosegays stems, from what I can tell, from a group of one blogger's friends coming to her rescue to protect her from some cyber-bullying (and if I'm wrong, it hardly matters). From O'Reilly's site:
I was quoted in a BBC article a few days ago and a San Francisco Chronicle article on Thursday calling for a "Blogger's Code of Conduct" in response to the firestorm that has arisen as a result of Kathy Sierra's revelation that she's been targeted by a series of increasingly violent and disturbing anonymous comments on her blog and on a series of weblogs that appeared to have been created for the purpose of celebrating cyber-bullying.
Now I've blogged in all kinds of virtual environments, from those with "posting rules" to those where I actually got so angry one time I challenged the little punk to meet me in Manhattan and "say that to my face." But I've never, for even a moment, thought free speech was so potentially painful that it required a standardized code of ethics, essentially homogenizing the blogosphere. Screw that. Let each blogger decide what tone they want in their space and use the tools they have to deal with those who step outside their comfort zone, sure...I'm all for that, but the idea that one would be deemed a renegade of sorts for not agreeing to self-police to some utterly retarded set of lame-ass wimpified rules drives me over the edge.
Look at just one of the suggested guidelines:
* Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.
That is moronic. Forget that in person I'm a much more volatile hothead than I tend to be online, where I can edit my comments, unlike in person, where things that get me into trouble sneak out of my mouth all the time. The entire concept of pseudonymous comments facilitates saying things online one wouldn't feel free to say in person. That, in and of itself, is why I think the blogosphere is so valuable, why I believe (and I don't think this is hyperbole) that it has saved our very way of life. In the darkest hours of Patriot Act America, the blogosphere allowed people across the country and across the globe to find other voices as horrified as they were by the abuses of the current administration...to fight back, in real-time, as they systematically worked to strip away any platform for dissent and solidify their permanence in power. I absolutely refuse to water that down.
What's particularly disappointing about this call for a code is that it is a self-inflicted nannification than even the Supreme Court, that bastion of bleeding-edge liberalism, feels is not good for the country:
June 26th of this year will mark the 10th anniversary of the ACLU vs. Reno decision in the supreme court, which struck down the communication decency act and extended first amendment protection to the Internet:
The record demonstrates that the growth of the Internet has been and continues to be phenomenal. As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that governmental regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship.
When bloggers start heading to the right of SCOTUS on such issues, they really need to step away from the keyboard and get outside for a while.
Now none of this is to say I welcome abusive comments against other commenters here or wish to see four-letter words littered throughout every thread, nor do I encourage pseudonymous swipes at me or others. I have my own standards, and I work to enforce them. But they are MY choices, and I don't want to be associated with other blogs through some coordinated ranking system because of them. The blogosphere is positively fabulous the way it is. Leave it alone!
Labels: Blogs, code of conduct