Fora and Fauna
The following thoughts are merely my opinions and understanding. I’m no attorney nor do I even watch them on TV. If I get something wrong, I sincerely apologize. Please let me know.
Recently the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the principle of free speech even when it damaged another person. In this case, damage that took the form of emotional distress at the hands of an organization that calls itself the Westboro Baptist Church. A jury had awarded millions of dollars in damages to the parents of a Marine who was killed in Iraq but the Supreme Court ruling negated that award.
A jury had awarded millions of dollars for intentional infliction of emotional stress to the parents of a Marine who was killed in Iraq. The high court said the nature of the speech, along with the church’s peaceful cooperation with local authorities and 1,000-foot separation from the funeral, took the protest into protected legal space. (Source.)
Free speech can be one of the ugliest and most vile aspects of a democracy like ours, but a vital aspect just the same.
Would you enjoy a parade by the Nazi party in full uniform down a street in your community? But that’s the sort of thing that “free speech” makes possible in our society.
This concept of “free speech” isn’t universal. For example, members of the Westboro Baptist Church have been banned from entering Canada due to “hate speech.” (Source.)
France also has a hate speech law:
The court’s decision is in marked contrast with the case of fashion designer John Galliano, the flamboyant creative director of Christian Dior, whose anti-Semitic rant at a Paris bar was captured on film. In France, where the law reflects a deep shame over the Vichy government’s complicity with the Holocaust, hate speech isn’t just unprotected; it’s illegal. Galliano was charged with the crime of making racist comments in public, which carries a $31,000 fine and up to six months in prison. (Source.)
But what is free speech? Does it apply everywhere and in all situations. Hardly. Yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater and you just might find yourself face to face with one example of such a limitation. (Strangely enough, however, it is still legal to yell “movie” in a crowded firehouse.)
What if I come over to your house? If I’m on private property, my right to free speech is left on the sidewalk. If the property owner doesn’t feel just hunky dory at any time and for any reason, he can legally compel you to leave the property. That’s the principle of property ownership at work. We’re the kings of our little castles.
Thus we see an important distinction. Free speech applies to public property and spaces. But it doesn’t extend everywhere. And it does have limits.
Consider the example of an internet forum. In most cases those are privately owned and operated by individuals, companies and corporations. Thus, there is absolutely no guarantee or right to the concept of “free speech” in that setting. The only exception would be if the forum was owned and operated by the government. But if not, guess what? The right to comment exists at the pleasure of the forum owner.
You’ll routinely hear vile and disgusting rabble whine about “free speech” on internet forums when they’ve forced the site owners to “moderate” their comments. Those actions can’t be deemed “censorship” (except, perhaps, from a public relations standpoint) since there is no right to “free speech” on a privately owned site.
Recently Twitter was accused of censoring hashtags pertaining to WikiLeaks. I believe, however, that Twitter can’t “censor” anything since they have the legal right to moderate their own content. And there are also some who say that Amazon.com was guilty of censorship when they prevented LGBT material from their search results.
Sure, these can be public relations nightmares, and justifiably so in some cases, but again the concept of private vs. public ownership must prevail.
Internet forums, including sites like Craigslist, take things a step further by providing a platform for hate speech from the safety of a remote location on the internet – all while remaining completely anonymous. This is akin to a boxing match where one of the contestants is blindfolded and has his hands tied behind his back. And that’s not exactly a fair fight.
Craigslist has basically three types of users. Scammers, spammers and trolls.
The scammers are the Nigerian scheme folks of the net. The people who respond to your ads only because they want to scout your house and then rip you off. Or worse. Like kill you over an item of jewelry.
The spammers, well, we’ve all been around the internet enough by now to know exactly what they do.
And last but certainly not least are the trolls. These are the people that you’d almost wouldn’t think even exist any more except for the fact that we have the internet. They don’t operate in the light of day. The require the freedom of anonymity.
Was are some examples of things that trolls do?
- Post vile and vulgar racist crap
- Attack homosexuals
- Posts by women that “I’m sleeping with your husband”
- Posts by men that “I’m sleeping with your wife”
- Posts by women that “my husband is sleeping with your wife”
- Posts by men that “my wife is sleeping with your husband”
- All other possible combinations of who is sleeping with whom
- Anonymously attacking restaurants
- Accusing people by name of criminal acts
- Post the home addresses of people they hate
- Claiming responsibility for things like killing your cat
- All [blanks] are [blanks] – ex: All Democrats are fags.
- Trying to trick each other into showing up somewhere for a fist fight
Is this even remotely what “free speech” was intended to allow? I think not. If you’re going to act and say things like that, I personally don’t believe you should be able to do so from the relative safety and comfort of anonymity.
Perhaps it is time for some sort of hate speech law here in the United States. It shouldn’t be legal to hurt each other, at least not while remaining completely anonymous. And if you couldn’t do it anonymously I’m willing to wager we just might see a lot less of this sort of thing.
You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.
Warning: This most may contain offensive themes and content. But nothing that Craigslist wouldn’t allow, I assure you of that.
I never paid much attention to craigslist. Oh sure, I heard about it in the news, usually something about the latest scam, or a family being shot dead during a craigslist transaction, or, more often than not, something having to do with a profession even older than craigslist itself. Thank God for craigslist or there would be a lot less prostitution!
Recently I was given reason to get off my duff and go learn more about the mysterious place known as craigslist. Sadly the reason is that the web site is being used to attack my very existence.
First I became aware of a section of craigslist that is called “rants and raves.” Just to enter and look around you have to agree that you’ll be subjected to “offensive content” and that you are at least 18 years of age.
In this section you will find the basest of the base. The very best of the worst that humanity has to offer. Craigslist has some legitimate functions (which are, of course, highly exploited by bad people), but rants and raves is reserved for the creme de la creme of evil. It represents a lowest common denominator of humanity and, trust me on this, there is basically no limit to how low that low can go.
Tonight I did an experiment. I picked a region at random. (Atlanta because it was listed first.) I then went into Atlanta’s “rants and raves” section. The very first thing I saw listed was this: “Coon chokes his 3 yr old.” The content, which I debated reproducing here but simply can’t in good conscience, even in the name of science, was one of the most offensive and disturbing things I’ve ever read. The use of the n-word in the post was just one of the many offenses including a reference to the child’s nose as a “snout,” talking about “KFC (extra crispy)” and much, much more.
And this was literally the very first thing I found on a random dip into craigslist. As such, what can we assume? That this is about average or that I somehow picked the worst of the worst? Something tells me that on craigslist this is nothing that unusual.
One can only wonder. Where does craigslist draw the line?
Like I said, the only reason I’m aware of how this web site works at all is because I came under attack myself. It’s a long story but basically I administer a web site forum and I’ve had to kick people off, from time to time, for repeated violations of the web site rules, one of which is: “Don’t be gigantic douchebag assholes.” That’s pretty much the Prime Directive of our rules.
My experience on this internet forum has taught me one thing quite clearly: Adults do not take kindly to being moderated in any way, shape or form. Just like everyone else they feel the rules to do not apply to them. Ever. If you dare enforce a rule, no matter how well deserved, you just made yourself a rabid enemy for life.
This is where craigslist comes in. Deprived of their voice on a forum, craigslist is their dream come true. Here they can safely remain truly anonymous as they attack real people by name. They have told lies about me, posted my picture, published my home address, called me Adolf Hitler (always a party favorite) and now have even taken up the practice of insulting my wife.
Freedom of speech in our country is a sacred right. But what about freedom of anonymous speech? I figured that must be different, especially when it is being used as a method of attack. I was wrong.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment.
EFF says that this right was even used by our founding fathers, people like Alexander Hamilton and James Madison who wrote under the pseudonym “Publius.”
I tried to file a report with the local police today regarding this campaign against us that has gone on for months now. Their response, paraphrased: “Too bad, so sad.” They said it is nothing illegal and is protected free speech under the First Amendment. They didn’t want to look at my documentation, either, saying it wouldn’t matter.
Thanks to sites like craigslist we can view and experience the true nature of humanity and the universe, and, for an added bonus, take a quick swim in a pool of bile. Now I call that a true win-win!
Shout vicariously from the Abyss
I’ve taken a vow of anonymity. Not all of you have. Some of you are out in the public eye. Way out in the public eye.
I hear tell that sometimes you wish you could speak more freely. Being able to not give a damn can be highly therapeutic.
So I’m offering a new service for my blogging friends. If there is something you want to pontificate about but you don’t want to do it under your real name and/or public blog then please feel free to drop me a line. I’ll be happy to publish your ravings in a new “Guest Shouts” category. You can even make up a new alias to write under. (Stephen King, this offer doesn’t apply to you. You write enough already.)
Maybe you wish you could safely criticize Aunt Martha’s “famous” cookies. Or say something political that goes against the grain of your particular clan. Whatever it is, feel free to bring it on.
Come on. Don’t be shy. At long last you can let it all hang out! 🙂
The joy of anonymous blogging
I’m a blogger who made the decision going in that I wanted to remain anonymous. This was no frivolous decision. Indeed, it was something I gave a lot thought. Like any decision there are “pros” and “cons” to be considered, but in the end I realized that the ability to shoot off my mouth took precedence.
More than a few times now I’ve received comments and emails that have touched on this point. Someone will say, “I’m already posting under my real name so I could never say what you just did.” Or, “I sometimes wish I had stayed anonymous so I could talk about that issue, too.”
I’m a long time veteran of the internet. I was posting my thoughts back before Google and before the internet even had pictures. (It was called Usenet back then and it was text only.) Somehow Google got their hands on some of that Usenet stuff and it can still be found online today. Wow. That gives me a glimpse of the potential staying power of anything I write here. And, to be honest, once it is in the hands of Google it really it outside of my direct control.
Obviously if you are going to start a blog where you bitch about your job and tell the world the truth about your boss, it is probably wise that your boss won’t find out what you said, at least if you want to keep that job. (I don’t, but I’d rather control the timing of my leaving.) So, anonymity is key. Otherwise I never would have said most of the shit I’ve already written.