There Are No Brief Apologies For Being An Asshat

Meta

Having lots of commenters on your blog is a wonderful thing.

Oh, the ones who consistently leave thoughtful and well-writen comments and engage in meaningful discussion of ideas? Yeah, sure. They're ok, I guess.

I was actually referring to the few who make utter fools of themselves. They don't show up too often. But when they do, the result can be beautiful.

Today's case in point: Ophelia Benson, who one suspects is not a strong booster of Sarah Palin, declined to publish a comment calling Ms. Palin a cunt. The commenter, one Nigel, professed disbelief that anyone would not welcome his trenchant commentary. Hilarity, as they say, ensues. Watch as Nigel works himself into a fury in reaching the conclusion that when people won't publish "Sarah Palin is a cunt" on their blog, THAT'S FASCISM. Also, protip: if it requires 10 paragraphs to justify why you are not being a dick, you are probably being a dick.

One last thing: if you don't want your name associated with such wankery, don't sign your name to abusive emails containing such wankery.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

76 Comments

76 Comments

  1. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @2:50 pm

    Does it matter that she is?

  2. Linus  •  Mar 20, 2012 @3:09 pm

    Shouldn't you be trolling over at Ophelia's site? You'll never achieve critical mass if you dilute your efforts like this.

  3. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @3:16 pm

    Eh, a little too turned off by the response of "We already got together at Women's Studies Symposium and decided what was sexist. Case closed. Elections have consequences!"

    See, I mistakenly read the title as "Free Thoughts Blog," where thoughts were allowed to roam free. Nope, it's "Free Thought Blogs" with thought in the singular. One point of view only please!

  4. Ken  •  Mar 20, 2012 @3:19 pm

    I don't know how free discourse can survive if we can't go to a woman's blog and argue about whether "cunt" is offensive or not without being ridiculed. That's FASCISM.

  5. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @3:26 pm

    I don't think it's fascist at all. I think she's perfectly free to allow or disallow whatever comments she wants. If you want to have a happysphere, have a happysphere.

    But, in a post about where the issue of the offensiveness of "cunt" is pretty central, it's an odd thing to say isn't up for discussion.

  6. Wilhelm Arcturus  •  Mar 20, 2012 @3:35 pm

    @BL1Y – I am not sure where you got the idea it was up for discussion over there. The whole thing seemed to be pretty much "asked and answered" by the end of her post.

    Her house, her rules.

    I don't let people smoke in my house and I do not entertain discussions about it either.

  7. Dan  •  Mar 20, 2012 @3:43 pm

    I just can't wait to use "wankery" in a sentence.

  8. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @3:43 pm

    Wilhelm, Is your reasoning for not entertaining discussion about smoking because (1) you've made up your mind and don't have to entertain discussion if you don't want to, or (2) there has already been thorough and thoughtful discussion on the matter and you are certain there is nothing further to be considered?

  9. LabRat  •  Mar 20, 2012 @4:01 pm

    There's always 3) It's his house, he makes the rules, and he doesn't care to have smoke in it.

    Also, protip: if it requires 10 paragraphs to justify why you are not being a dick, you are probably being a dick.

    This is why in our rarely-read commenting rules there's a clause that if you are rules-lawyering why you're not being a dick when called on violation of the don't be a dick rule, you are a dick, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

  10. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @4:17 pm

    LabRat, I don't see what distinguishes your option from (1).

  11. David Leech  •  Mar 20, 2012 @4:17 pm

    Quite a problem as in UK cunt is used to what you yanks would call an asshole and is directed at men only. Frankly the ‘church of no free thought blogs’ is an embarrassment to the atheist community. No dissent is allowed and you must follow the soviet dictate to be allowed to comment. Blog owners are quite rightly allowed to set the conditions for the comments on their blogs to be sure. Though if you go under the banner of ‘free thought blogs’ then you should allow, you know, free thought. It behaves like the creationists sites it all to frequently critiques. E.g. the ban hammer is used all too frequently.

    To be fair if I was a American female during the republican primaries then I would be buying a sniper rifle and looking for a grassy knoll. Though for everybody’s freedom, free speech has to be protected at all times.

  12. Ken  •  Mar 20, 2012 @4:27 pm

    Quite a problem as in UK cunt is used to what you yanks would call an asshole and is directed at men only.

    Are you suggesting that Sarah Palin is a Scottish man?

    Frankly the ‘church of no free thought blogs’ is an embarrassment to the atheist community. No dissent is allowed and you must follow the soviet dictate to be allowed to comment.

    Hmm. Ophelia runs a private blog, and like her own living room, she decide who comes in and who doesn't. You want her to run it according to some communitarian value that she doesn't share. You sound more Soviet than Ophelia.

    Blog owners are quite rightly allowed to set the conditions for the comments on their blogs to be sure.

    Then why is it "soviet?" Can I bring my friends to your house and sit in your living room and tell you that you suck? If not, why are you so Soviet?

    Though if you go under the banner of ‘free thought blogs’ then you should allow, you know, free thought. It behaves like the creationists sites it all to frequently critiques. E.g. the ban hammer is used all too frequently.

    You're welcome to your opinion. Just as I think the quality of my living room will not be diminished by me politely but firmly requesting that you not masturbate during my book club meetings, I find it difficult to imagine how the quality of community at a blog will be reduced by suggesting that people who are deeply and personally invested in arguing that "cunt" is non-offensive go elsewhere to do so.

    Though for everybody’s freedom, free speech has to be protected at all times.

    Anyone who thinks that "free speech" protects the right to say "cunt" on someone's private blog is a moron who will likely never contribute anything of value to any discussion whatsoever.

  13. Ophelia Benson  •  Mar 20, 2012 @4:35 pm

    Ken you unsuck!

    Go ahead, throw me out. I've already eaten all your Cheezits.

  14. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @4:38 pm

    Ken,

    If you were to have a rule at your home that was "Cold Play only!" would it be wrong to say to you "You really ought to consider playing The Stones some" ?

    We're all acknowledging your right to choose what is played on your stereo, but I don't think there's anything at all oppressive or Soviet about saying that you should choose to allow better music to be played, or at least a diversity of music. It might go against your taste in music, but the rest of us are very concerned about you having such terrible taste. We're worried that it's going to seep out and affect the rest of the society at large, and soon high school pep bands will only be allowed to play Cold Play, and there will be bans on anti-Cold Play speech at universities.

  15. LabRat  •  Mar 20, 2012 @4:42 pm

    BL1Y: The fact that you don't see a distinction between the two is rather self-evident in your last comment.

  16. Ken  •  Mar 20, 2012 @4:47 pm

    1. It wouldn't be wrong to suggest that I play some Stones in my own house. But it also wouldn't be wrong for me to say "fuck off, it's my house." Also, if you kept coming to my house and saying "aw, man, you should play some Stones" week after week, it wouldn't be wrong for everyone to groan and throw beer cans at you and tell you to fuck off.

    2. Also, we're talking about indulging in ultimately dull and pointless discussions of whether "cunt" is offensive. You might as well say "I can't really make my point unless I emphasize it by posting images of my ballsack for punctuation, and you won't let me do that, so why do you hate the Rolling Stones?" That's silly.

    3. You seem to be making the argument "you ought to let people talk about whatever they want, using whatever words they want, in your private space, or else the value of not doing to will spread out into the public and then we'll have censorship." That's silly, and suggests that I have a duty to make my private space public. I don't. In fact, ridiculing and banning people I think are assholes is part of my private expression in my private space. Again, if I want to come read Vogon poetry in your living room when you want to watch TV, and you say no, does that threaten to bring about a society in which I cannot stand in the public square and read Vogon poetry?

  17. Ford Prefect  •  Mar 20, 2012 @4:59 pm

    Please do not stand in the public square and read Vogon poetry! Please! I beg you.

  18. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @5:05 pm

    "That's silly, and suggests that I have a duty to make my private space public."

    I'm not saying that you have a duty to do anything. I'm not saying that your choice would be wrongful, just that it would be bad.

    If enough people adopt the Cold Play only rule, there will be external consequences. Radios will stop playing other music, other bands won't be able to sell records, music producers will stop signing them, and the world will eventually only have crappy music to listen to.

    But, I wouldn't say anyone has wronged me in a legal or even moral sense. No one has violated a duty because no duty to listen to good music ever existed. My argument is that despite no wrongful action and no breech of duty the world will be a worse place and this would be bad.

  19. Ken  •  Mar 20, 2012 @5:19 pm

    That still suggests I have some sort of moral or ethical or make-the-world-a-better-place obligation to make my private space a public space.

    I think the world is a worse place if I don't have my own private space.

    I don't think the world is a worse place if people who like to argue about the use of the word "cunt" are made to feel socially shunned.

    Also, I just don't agree with the premise that private decisions will naturally create public decisions. Can you give examples of how this has happened in the real world — where because people, in their private space, choose not to tolerate behavior they think is obnoxious, that behavior has been banned from public spaces?

  20. Christopher  •  Mar 20, 2012 @5:35 pm

    I kind of think they're both wrong, linguistically speaking; I don't believe that "cunt" is used in a way equivalent to "nigger", (Although I could be convinced on this point) and I'm certain that there is no relevance to the fact that "Language evolves and grows and changes to the degree that words are unrecognisable from what they first meant, implied or described." In fact, the word "cunt" has had the exact same meaning for at least the last seven or eight centuries. It comes from Middle English, where it meant the exact same thing it does now. It's one of the most stable words we have.

    I actually think the question of how swear words are used is really fascinating, but obviously has nothing to do with Sarah Palin.

    I'm an old fashioned type of guy who believes it's perfectly reasonable to ban vulgar, insulting language simply because it's vulgar and insulting.

  21. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @5:37 pm

    It doesn't suggest that you have a duty at all. Making the world a better place is supererogatory.

    As for real world examples, how about banned books? Nationwide book bans in the US have been few and far between, but there's plenty of times where they've been removed from public libraries.

    Campus speech codes and shutting down affirmative action bake sales?

  22. Narad  •  Mar 20, 2012 @5:51 pm

    As for real world examples, how about banned books?

    As for real-world examples, my old lady needs to rinse out her homemade tampons, but she's got this thing about making the world better with water conservation. When will you be in the bath?

  23. David Leech  •  Mar 20, 2012 @6:34 pm

    Are you suggesting that Sarah Palin is a Scottish man?

    No she is too stupid.

    Hmm. Ophelia runs a private blog, and like her own living room, she decide who comes in and who doesn't. You want her to run it according to some communitarian value that she doesn't share. You sound more Soviet than Ophelia.

    Fine but isn’t going under the banner of ‘freethoughtblogs’ false advertising.

    Then why is it "soviet?" Can I bring my friends to your house and sit in your living room and tell you that you suck? If not, why are you so Soviet?

    I would be very upset if anybody I invited back to my place thought they had to censor their speech because I was very sensitive.

    You're welcome to your opinion. Just as I think the quality of my living room will not be diminished by me politely but firmly requesting that you not masturbate during my book club meetings, I find it difficult to imagine how the quality of community at a blog will be reduced by suggesting that people who are deeply and personally invested in arguing that "cunt" is non-offensive go elsewhere to do so.

    Yes, lets go to extremes to booster an argument. I have no need to use profanities in my posts. My complaint is more to do with the censoring of free speech. I personally feel this is a no no in the scientific and atheistic communities. Anyone who indulges in it has lost the argument as far as I’m concerned.

    Anyone who thinks that "free speech" protects the right to say "cunt" on someone's private blog is a moron who will likely never contribute anything of value to any discussion whatsoever.

    Ad hominem. I don’t care about any ‘bad words’ ban the people who uses them all you want. It is the inserting an ideology in the atheist community that I will not tolerate.

  24. David Leech  •  Mar 20, 2012 @6:43 pm

    OK one more time.

    No she is too stupid.

    Fine but isn’t going under the banner of ‘freethoughtblogs’ false advertising.

    I would be very upset if anybody I invited back to my place thought they had to censor their speech because I was very sensitive.

    Yes, lets go to extremes to booster an argument. I have no need to use profanities in my posts. My complaint is more to do with the censoring of free speech. I personally feel this is a no no in the scientific and atheistic communities. Anyone who indulges in it has lost the argument as far as I’m concerned.

    Ad hominem. I don’t care about any ‘bad words’ ban the people who uses them all you want. It is the inserting an ideology in the atheist community that I will not tolerate.

  25. David Leech  •  Mar 20, 2012 @6:45 pm

    Fuck wordpress:-(

  26. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @7:56 pm

    Ken, do you think that values people express in their private lives have an effect on the public space?

    TSA regulations, militarized police, the war on drugs, campus speech codes, hate crime legislation, these things don't develop in a vacuum.

  27. Narad  •  Mar 20, 2012 @8:21 pm

    Of course. Once people stop allowing "affirmative-action bake sales" in the home, the radicals will overrun the commons and babble interminaby about how they're not really anti-Semites.

    This is expeditionary meta-tone trolling.

  28. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @8:58 pm

    Once people start valuing being nice, not hurting feelings, political correctness, and just getting through life without rocking the boat, then affirmative action bake sales get banned from campus.

  29. Giovanni da Procida  •  Mar 20, 2012 @9:07 pm

    Ken, do you think that values people express in their private lives have an effect on the public space?

    TSA regulations, militarized police, the war on drugs, campus speech codes, hate crime legislation, these things don't develop in a vacuum.

    You've certainly convinced me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to break into people's homes to call other (unrelated and absent) people "cunts" in order to prevent the war on drugs, the militarization of local police forces, and the TSA's generally reprehensible behavior.

    I only hope I'm not too late…

  30. Narad  •  Mar 20, 2012 @9:10 pm

    All the more ironic that it's still tone trolling.

  31. Ken  •  Mar 20, 2012 @9:14 pm

    @David Leech:

    1. For someone who comes out swinging with "soviet" and "embarrassment," you sure are a big girl's blouse when it comes to "ad hominem."

    2.

    I would be very upset if anybody I invited back to my place thought they had to censor their speech because I was very sensitive.

    Here you're just being prissy because you disagree with the tastes of others. If you enjoy the society of people who are deeply invested in calling people "cunt" and engaging in multi-paragraph wanks about how it ought not be construed as offensive, then go seek out the society of such people. But here's the thing about the real world: we're not obligated to invite assholes into our house. We might have to tolerate assholes at work, we might have to tolerate assholes at school, but in our private space, freedom means not having to invite them in. Ophelia things Nigel is an asshole. Plenty agree with her. You don't have a protected right to be liked if you're a creep.

    3.

    My complaint is more to do with the censoring of free speech. I personally feel this is a no no in the scientific and atheistic communities. Anyone who indulges in it has lost the argument as far as I’m concerned.

    Again: you should go seek out the society of other people who have a similarly stupid view of what "free speech" means. It doesn't mean "I have a protected right to be a clownhole in your living room."

    Your personal tastes might run to people saying "cunt" or "nigger" or "retard" in your living room. Good for you. Invite people like that.

    Also, if you think that deleting the phrase "Sarah Palin is a cunt" detracts from vigorous private discussion of atheism or science, I find it very difficult to take you seriously.

    4.

    It is the inserting an ideology in the atheist community that I will not tolerate.

    So, you are a champion for free speech, who will not tolerate private actors running their private spaces the way they want, and who views a distaste for calling women "cunts" in one's own private space as an "ideology" that threatens atheism. What kind of costume does one wear for that, anyway?

  32. Tom  •  Mar 20, 2012 @9:29 pm

    This is crossing-the-Alps-with-elephants level trolling, but it's so meta I can't tell who's the bigger troll. On one hand we have the "cunt" defenders and on the other we have Ken, who, intentionally or not, trollishly set up a troll trap with BL1Y bait in it then trollishly toyed with his prey once he caught it.

    Shit, to get even more meta, and to continue the sexist rhetoric theme, I'll use witches as my metaphor. It's like BL1Y is the Douchetastic* Witch of the West and Ken is the Beclowning Witch of where-ever-he-lives. I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of Levi-Straussian dichotomies because my Yin/Yang boat keeps disappearing into itself. And I like it.

    *I know, "douche," but as Ms. Benson noted on B&W, it's not nearly as offensive and super fun to say/think.

  33. Ken  •  Mar 20, 2012 @9:31 pm

    @BL1Y:

    I asked you this:

    Also, I just don't agree with the premise that private decisions will naturally create public decisions. Can you give examples of how this has happened in the real world — where because people, in their private space, choose not to tolerate behavior they think is obnoxious, that behavior has been banned from public spaces?

    You responded with this:

    As for real world examples, how about banned books? Nationwide book bans in the US have been few and far between, but there's plenty of times where they've been removed from public libraries.

    Campus speech codes and shutting down affirmative action bake sales?

    . . . . which, of course, completely begged the question, pointing to instances of censorship and assuming that they were somehow caused by private action. So — did Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" get banned because people made private choices not to read it in their own home, and not to present it at book club? Really?

    You then make a half-assed stab:

    Ken, do you think that values people express in their private lives have an effect on the public space?

    TSA regulations, militarized police, the war on drugs, campus speech codes, hate crime legislation, these things don't develop in a vacuum.

    Once again, you are both begging the question and confusing public and private spaces. The fact that I don't allow anyone and everyone to enter my home doesn't mean that I support TSA agents groping people who want to enter airports, because the private sphere is different than the public sphere. The fact that I wouldn't let someone snort cocaine off my dining-room table doesn't mean that I support the ridiculous War on Drugs, because my control over my private home is different than the government's asserted control over everyone.

    Your attempt to conflate the two is incoherent and self-contradictory. It smacks of the argument that individual freedom is tyrannical, that the only way to achieve true freedom is for everyone to do the same thing. Bullshit. What I do in my house — and who I invite — is part of my freedom of speech and freedom of association. The proposition that I must allow some unlikeable dickbag to sit on my couch and say "cunt" a lot or else we all slide inexorably into government censorship is drivel.

    Also, I've read your posts here, and your posts at Ophelia's place, and I've come to the conclusion that I am feeding a troll. What's worse, I'm feeding a rather boring one. This impression is particularly reinforced when I compare your views in this thread to the ones you expressed in the Kirk Cameron thread, which when combined seem to suggest that one ought not be rude to Kirk Cameron for saying gays are unnatural because discourse ought to be civilized, but on the other hand it's just awful for private blogs to ask commenters not to call women cunts. If that's not trolling, I'm not sure how you arrive at such an incoherent worldview without a head injury or heavy medication.

    I think you would be happier elsewhere. I am currently considering the theme I will use when I begin to edit all your comments to make it seem as if you are advocating something unpleasant. More unpleasant, I mean. My current front-runner idea is MSLA, the Man-Squirrel Love Association.

    I recognize that this means, in your worldview, that despite everything I have ever written about free speech here, and despite doing pro bono free speech work, this means I am taking our freedom by the lapels and shoving it towards the dark precipice of government censorship. Blah, blah, blah.

  34. AlphaCentauri  •  Mar 20, 2012 @9:32 pm

    Apparently, when trolls are told they can't use the word "cunt," they feel it is a serious limitation of their ability to express themselves.

  35. Tom  •  Mar 20, 2012 @9:45 pm

    Obviously I meant the Douchetastic *Troll* of the West and the Beclowning *Troll* of [Ken's Domain]. I'm open to suggestions for replacements for Douchetastic and Beclowning. They do the job, but they don't really 'pop.' as it were.

    Fucktudinous? Scroatiliscious (spelled as phonetically as English gets but inspired by 'scrotum')? Asshatular, maybe, since it's Ken's blog? Wankdiferous?

    Smackdownical? ConPWNitory? Randazzitive?

    Somebody call Don King. He'd have this nailed in no time.

  36. Tom  •  Mar 20, 2012 @9:57 pm

    Taintacular

  37. Peter Orlowicz  •  Mar 20, 2012 @10:01 pm

    I'm not sure I agree about a blog being analogous to one's living room. Not that I'm defending this particular commenter, obviously, but usually when one writes a blog, one intends other people to read it. The act of publication to a wider audience cuts against it being a purely private space like one's living room, I think. If one goes out onto one's lawn and gets on a soapbox to lecture the neighborhood, one is not protected from being heckled during one's speech. As a counterexample, most newspapers have a section for letters to the editor (and sometimes online comment policies), but there's also an editorial policy in place that advises readers what sort of editorial control the paper will exercise over third-party submissions. If a newspaper said "We will decline to publish any letters or comments which are at odds with our point of view or that we personally disagree with," I would find that extraordinarily distasteful. (Again, I'm not defending the particular commenter at issue here, but editing for tone or civility is different than editing for content in my view.) Likewise, if I invite you into my home for a cigar-sampling party, it would be churlish of me to throw you out if you light up a regular cigarette, wouldn't it? (Let's assume for the sake of the argument that the smell of your cigarette smoke isn't going to ruin the taste of my cigar and defeat the purpose of the gathering.)

  38. Ken  •  Mar 20, 2012 @10:07 pm

    As a counterexample, most newspapers have a section for letters to the editor (and sometimes online comment policies), but there's also an editorial policy in place that advises readers what sort of editorial control the paper will exercise over third-party submissions. If a newspaper said "We will decline to publish any letters or comments which are at odds with our point of view or that we personally disagree with," I would find that extraordinarily distasteful. (Again, I'm not defending the particular commenter at issue here, but editing for tone or civility is different than editing for content in my view.)

    Would you find it distasteful if a newspaper declined to print a letter to the editor that read "Sarah Palin is a cunt?"

    For that matter, if a letter criticized Sarah Palin's policies, but also repeatedly called her a cunt, and the newspaper printed the letter but edited it to remove the epithets, would you find that distasteful?

    Isn't that what we are talking about here? Nigel's letter to Ophelia was noteworthy because he worked himself into such a righteous frothing rage over the idea that it's wrong for her to decline comments calling people cunts.

  39. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @10:25 pm

    "but on the other hand it's just awful for private blogs to ask commenters not to call women cunts."

    I think if you look again, you'll see that's not at all what I was saying. I was saying it's bad in that context to say "the offensiveness of "cunt" is settled and not up for discussion."

    Now, if I started posting on the Marc Randazza thread that he's a cunt, and you said that language was off limits and the rules weren't up for discussion, I really wouldn't think twice about it.

    But, if you had a post about proper decorum in the Popehat comments, and then said that discussion of the rules was off limits, while that would be well within your rights, I would think that you'd be doing a disservice to your blog and that a free and open debate over what makes for a good comment policy is far more valuable.

    I really don't care much about what words can or cannot be used on certain blogs. I think rules of decorum are just fine. What I do care about is when we start saying the rules of decorum cannot be questioned.

    I think bloggers should be completely free to say "those are the rules, end of discussion." I'm just saying I think the world would be a better place if they said "those are the rules, but I'm open to hearing alternative ideas."

    As for Kirk Cameron, the point I was trying to make in the comments there was that it's perfectly fine to criticize him, even in an extremely rude manner, but that it's bad to pull the hate speech fire alarm as a means of cutting off the discussion.

  40. BL1Y  •  Mar 20, 2012 @10:33 pm

    Ken, would you find it distasteful if the paper refused to publish a letter saying that they disagree about how offensive that word is?

  41. Shkspr  •  Mar 20, 2012 @11:09 pm

    If nothing else, the next Road to Popehat should be specuntacular.

  42. Smock Puppet, Etymology Expert to the Stars  •  Mar 20, 2012 @11:13 pm

    >>> I, on the other hand, am a democrat, and would not entertain for a second the idea of shutting anyone up, let alone you.

    I'd need to see proof of this, being as it's not even vaguely typical behavior of self-described "Democrats" in my experience. Usually, trying to shut you up is move #1 after they figure out you're a lot more rational than they are and can fisk their comments within an inch of their lives.

    The claim that "cunt" is not pejorative in the extreme shows how little actual interaction with women this bozo has had. I won't say I've never used it, but it's certainly a word that is a last resort and assumed to be exceptionally rude in general. It's likely to lose you ANY argument you apply it in, and generally going to set people who might otherwise be predisposed to agree with you against you from that point on. If you're talking to a woman, and you apply it to her, your chances of getting your face slapped go up phenomenally — hence my own observation above that this pinhead yutz hasn't had much actual interaction with women.

  43. Peter Orlowicz  •  Mar 20, 2012 @11:21 pm

    Would you find it distasteful if a newspaper declined to print a letter to the editor that read "Sarah Palin is a cunt?"

    For that matter, if a letter criticized Sarah Palin's policies, but also repeatedly called her a cunt, and the newspaper printed the letter but edited it to remove the epithets, would you find that distasteful?

    No, I wouldn't find either of those particularly objectionable, which is why I'm not defending Nigel (and made pains to point that out in my initial post.) I was responding more to the tone in the comments here that "my blog, my rules" was an absolute rule because a blog on the Internet is a private space, and I disagree with that rule as an absolute. To use your examples, if "my blog, my rules" was an absolute rule, then it should be okay to publish one comment that says "Hillary Clinton is a cunt" and delete another that says "Sarah Palin is a cunt." I would absolutely find that sort of selective content-publishing distasteful and objectionable. To reiterate, editing for tone or civility is distinguishable from editing for viewpoint in my mind, and it's much more acceptable to me to engage in the first than in the second, which is a limitation on the "my blog, my rules" principle.

  44. C. S. P. Schofield  •  Mar 21, 2012 @12:56 am

    Preventing some jerk from opining "(insert name of hated female politician here) is a cunt" anywhere on the internet is censorship.

    Deleting any comment about anything, no matter how it is expressed, because it annoys you personally, on your own blog is housecleaning.

  45. G Thompson  •  Mar 21, 2012 @1:05 am

    I always though cunts were useful, thereby removing Sarah Palin from the association, but hey thats just me.

  46. Damon  •  Mar 21, 2012 @4:04 am

    You see, this is why I dislike most folks. It’s their complete inability to not have a civilized conversation when it comes to politics and so much more. I can handle this when it comes to sports teams but really, when we're dealing with the use of lethal force by a gov't to impose (allegedly) a social mandate upon the populace? Pff. Any convo goes quick to claims of fascism, racism, any ism, hate speech, etc. in an attempt to shut the other down and silence them. Why, because they can't frickin argue the POINT!

    I tune out when I hear this because I follow the adage that when the speaker/writer goes ad hominem, he’s already lost the argument. Now as to the blop and emails associated. It’s her blog, her rules. Don’t like it, shuddaup and make your own. This ain’t the public square.

  47. BL1Y  •  Mar 21, 2012 @5:41 am

    Does anyone who takes the "It’s her blog, her rules. Don’t like it, shuddaup and make your own" line of reasoning ever complain about how awful reality television is? Or wish that MTV would go back to showing music? Or have any thoughts on the designated hitter or the new kickoff rules for college football? Or about whether McDonald's should bring back the McRib? Or think that Fox News and MSNBC should be a little less politicized?

  48. Grandy  •  Mar 21, 2012 @6:36 am

    I doubt it.

  49. John  •  Mar 21, 2012 @6:52 am

    @BL1Y: Yes, actually. I bitch and moan — in various marketplaces of ideas — about all those things (well, not the designated hitter thing, 'cuz I actually like that). But blog rules are blog rules. Don't like the rules, then don't frequent the blog.

    I certainly have rules on my blog and one of the primary ones is 'no name calling'. Don't like that? Tough. Don't come to my blog and make name-calling comments and we're all happy.

  50. Laura K  •  Mar 21, 2012 @7:18 am

    I think Tom's elephants-crossing-the-alps in the troll material here are about to have babies. I would also (humbly, and as a very new blogger) say that BL1y, I see very little logic in some of your comparisons. I am with CSP Schofield; there's a world of distinction between censorship and housecleaning.

  51. BL1Y  •  Mar 21, 2012 @7:41 am

    John, MTV is MTV, it's their station, their rules. Don't like it, go find music videos somewhere else.

    MTV has every right to show whatever shit reality TV program they've picked up this season, but having the right to do that is not the same as being free from criticism about your lousy choices.

    In the same way yes, blog rules are blog rules. You can delete whatever comments you like, but that doesn't mean you're going to be free from criticism about what you choose to delete.

    On a somewhat different note, what happens when all the spaces (or any of the spaces worth gathering in) are private spaces? Say for instance New York City decided to sell off all of its parks to private companies, and each of those companies enacted "no loitering, no protesting, and no groups greater than 3" rules?

  52. Grandy  •  Mar 21, 2012 @7:48 am

    Stop crying and get over it already.

  53. Wilhelm Arcturus  •  Mar 21, 2012 @7:54 am

    @BL1Y – Yes, you can criticize MTV all you want. But if you want to call them cunts and insist on them posting that critique on their own web site, then you are sadly deluded. You get to take you criticism elsewhere. That is why all us cranks have our own blogs, so we can say what we want. I don't insist on somebody else hosting my ideas in their private space.

    And what is this dystopian future you are worried about? This is why we have elected officials, so they are accountable to the electorate. Let some NY politician suggest selling the parks to private companies and see how their future in politics looks.

    Making up visions of a horrible future because somebody won't let you use the word "cunt" in the comments on their blog seems like a stretch well beyond asinine.

    By the way, I am going to run this past you just as a suggestion. I have found in my years of blogging and commenting that once you get past three comments on a post and people still don't agree with your point of view, it is probably time to just move on. Either you can't express views clearly enough or you just aren't convincing anybody, and either way you are just wasting everybody's time stomping your feet and coming up with absurd analogies.

  54. Ken  •  Mar 21, 2012 @8:03 am

    @BL1Y:

    "but on the other hand it's just awful for private blogs to ask commenters not to call women cunts."

    I think if you look again, you'll see that's not at all what I was saying. I was saying it's bad in that context to say "the offensiveness of "cunt" is settled and not up for discussion."

    Really? Because I've read your comments here and over at Ophelia's blog, and I think, at least, you're being coy about that. I think you're trolling.

    I really don't care much about what words can or cannot be used on certain blogs. I think rules of decorum are just fine. What I do care about is when we start saying the rules of decorum cannot be questioned.

    And you're welcome to think so. Why don't you go start a blog to complain about it? Here's the thing: just as I've heard the "I ought to be able to say 'nigger' because Chris Rock does" argument over and over and over, I've heard the "there's nothing wrong with saying 'cunt' and you're just a feminazi if you think there is" argument over and over and over. I suspect Ophelia has too. I find it tedious. I find it most often characterized by (1) people who get a charge out of saying the words, (2) people who act as if they are the FIRST PERSON EVER TO MAKE THIS BRILLIANT LINGUISTIC ARGUMENT, and (3) trolls.

    And I'm not terribly concerned about "the rules of decorum can't be questioned" in private spaces. There are plenty of other blogs. Go find one.

    On a somewhat different note, what happens when all the spaces (or any of the spaces worth gathering in) are private spaces? Say for instance New York City decided to sell off all of its parks to private companies, and each of those companies enacted "no loitering, no protesting, and no groups greater than 3" rules?

    Land ownership in New York City has an extremely high barrier to entry, and there is a strictly limited amount of land available. Blogging has an extremely low barrier to entry, and there is, for our purposes, an endless supply of new blogs available. Go create one.

    You're trolling, you're boring me, and my patience is wearing thin.

  55. Ken  •  Mar 21, 2012 @8:07 am

    Peter:

    I was responding more to the tone in the comments here that "my blog, my rules" was an absolute rule because a blog on the Internet is a private space, and I disagree with that rule as an absolute. To use your examples, if "my blog, my rules" was an absolute rule, then it should be okay to publish one comment that says "Hillary Clinton is a cunt" and delete another that says "Sarah Palin is a cunt." I would absolutely find that sort of selective content-publishing distasteful and objectionable. To reiterate, editing for tone or civility is distinguishable from editing for viewpoint in my mind, and it's much more acceptable to me to engage in the first than in the second, which is a limitation on the "my blog, my rules" principle.

    1. If a blog had the rule "you can call politician X a cunt, but not politician Y a cunt," I would think that was a silly blog and would choose not to visit it. Similarly, if I had an acquaintance who liked calling group X cunts but flew into a rage if you used the word against group Y, I would avoid visiting that person's living room.

  56. BL1Y  •  Mar 21, 2012 @8:07 am

    Wilhelm: If the electorate values political correctness over free speech it's not hard to imagine free speech rights being quickly eroded.

  57. Damon  •  Mar 21, 2012 @8:40 am

    Thanks guys for posting what would have been my comments had I been tracking BL1Y….see I'm at work :) and of course my comments were directed at comments on the blog in question. Why is this so difficult to comprehend?

    That being said, BL1Y, you're right about "If the electorate values political correctness over free speech it's not hard to imagine free speech rights being quickly eroded." OFC that's in the public sphere, not a private blog. And yes, we've already gotten there and lost a major portion of our free speach.

  58. BL1Y  •  Mar 21, 2012 @8:55 am

    What's OFC?

  59. Linus  •  Mar 21, 2012 @9:31 am

    BL1Y, you are the most boring, faux-pedantic troll I've ever seen. "If my own personal sensibilities are not shared, THE FUTURE OF THE REPUBLIC IS AT STAKE ELEVENTY!!!!!"

    Although, to be fair, to not fall asleep reading your posts, I've imagined them being read in a Tina-Fey-as-Princess-Leia-Juror voice, and that's helped them be somewhat entertaining.

  60. Goober  •  Mar 21, 2012 @9:59 am

    BLiY – Your MTV example is absolutely a non-sequitor. Bitching about MTV not playing music videos is perfectly okay, just like bitching that Ophelia wouldn't let you say the word "cunt" on her blog is also totally okay. However, for this to be a direct comparison, you'd have to say that MTV not allowing you to post a commercial on their station bitching about how they don't play music videos is totally wrong and would lead to government censorship and the end of society. THAT is what you're saying. No one is telling you that you can't bitch about Ophelia's decision. If you don't like it, it is totally within your rights to bitch all you want – ON YOUR OWN BLOG. YOu can't force Ophelia to post your drivel if she doesn't want to, and if she chooses not to, it isn't a threat to you or your first amendment rights.

    So saying that I can't support Ophelia here and still be against MTV not playing music videos doesn't pan out. I am both. The big difference between you and me is that I don't expect MTV to allow me to post my criticisms to their blog or put up a 30 second commercial telling them why they are wrong to not play music videos, and I certainly don't accuse them of TEH FASCISMS!!1eleventy!! if they won't.

  61. BL1Y  •  Mar 21, 2012 @10:25 am

    I haven't complained about being unable to post something on Ophelia's blog, nor have I made any claims of fascism or violation of First Amendment rights.

    My point is that values we hold on the private sphere often have an impact on policies enforced in the public sphere. The problem I had with Ophelia is not that the word "cunt" is not allowed, but that it's offensiveness and sexism was not questionable. It's the attitude of "this isn't even up for discussion" that I find problematic. She's within her rights to say it's not up for discussion on her blog, I just wish that she wouldn't.

    These points of view do seep in to the public space. Look at campus speech codes. If someone is accused to hate speech, there's not a process of "let's have an open discussion about this." Nope. It's labelled offensive and that label is beyond debate, and if you even want to have that debate you must be a bigot. If the freedom to discuss these issues were valued more widely, you wouldn't be seeing such heavy handed PC policing at colleges.

  62. Ken  •  Mar 21, 2012 @10:32 am

    These points of view do seep in to the public space. Look at campus speech codes. If someone is accused to hate speech, there's not a process of "let's have an open discussion about this." Nope. It's labelled offensive and that label is beyond debate, and if you even want to have that debate you must be a bigot. If the freedom to discuss these issues were valued more widely, you wouldn't be seeing such heavy handed PC policing at colleges.

    Your assertion of seepage remains an assertion without anything resembling proof. You're seeping it out of your ass.

    I can pull something equally convincing out of my ass. Watch: whining and mewling about not being able to say whatever you want in other people's living rooms promotes censorship in public spaces. The whining conflates public and private spaces. This leads people to think "if we don't punish people for saying 'cunt' in public, then we'll have to put up with them saying 'cunt' to my mother in my living room." You're encouraging people to censor publicly by making them think it's connected to censoring privately, and by making them confuse spheres in which they are entitled to censor.

    I have just as much empirical evidence of that theory as you have of yours.

  63. Ken  •  Mar 21, 2012 @10:38 am

    The other issue, of course, is the high level of self-regard that it takes to wander into a private space and say "I don't care how many times you've discussed topic X, I'm here now and I have brilliance to contribute and I want to discuss it now."

    Ophelia has, in fact, encouraged discussion of epithets many times before. Saying "not letting the mighty ME re-argue a point that's been argued here many times diminishes the social support for free speech" is the sort of thing I expect from people who want to turn every political thread into a discussion of Obama's birth certificate.

  64. kmckee7  •  Mar 21, 2012 @10:44 am

    "This is crossing-the-Alps-with-elephants level trolling." Yes. In addition to being boringly and obsessively repetitive, and having an unwarranted belief that he is acting as the defender of free speech, BL1Y apparently has unlimited time for his unoriginal pedantry. More remarkably, he's not yet flamed out in a complete name-calling, flouncing meltdown that demonstrates Godwin's Law. He's like the Optimus Prime of trolls.

    "In fact, ridiculing and banning people I think are assholes is part of my private expression in my private space." It's not only private expression, it's good clean fun.

  65. perlhaqr  •  Mar 21, 2012 @12:44 pm

    Are you suggesting that Sarah Palin is a Scottish man?

    … I hadn't ever before but will from now on. Mostly because I occasionally enjoy being really ridiculously off-the-wall.

    SARAH PALIN IS A SCOTTISH MAN!

    It will be even funnier as a bald assertion, without even any attempt to give justification for why I believe this to be so.

    Thanks! You just helped make my day.

  66. C. S. P. Schofield  •  Mar 21, 2012 @12:48 pm

    "the sort of thing I expect from people who want to turn every political thread into a discussion of Obama's birth certificate."

    or the kind of idiots who still maintain that George Bush ordered the demolition of the WTC. My God! I have to wonder if these people will ever realize that they are as pathetic as the sour old geezers who are (at least they were 10 years ago, they may be dead by now) STILL trying to prove the FDR planned Pearl Harbor.

    As for BL1Y; Freedom of speech and freedom of the press do not mean you have a right to a particular pulpit, or to free printing. On someone else's blog you have exactly the same right that a heckler has in a hired hall; the right to be called out of order and subsequently hurled forth by the Sargent At Arms.

  67. Mongrel  •  Mar 21, 2012 @2:13 pm

    I haven't complained about being unable to post something on Ophelia's blog, nor have I made any claims of fascism or violation of First Amendment rights.

    But there were some mighty steep slippery slopes left lying around

  68. Laura K  •  Mar 21, 2012 @4:44 pm

    Ken, somebody cue the Jeff Foxworth voice: "ANAL SEEPAGE!!"

    Sorry. I had to. I really, truly had to.

    Bl1Y, perhaps you should just put on your big girl panties and deal?

  69. Michael Hawkins  •  Mar 21, 2012 @5:59 pm

    Ophelia Benson is certainly entitled to publish whatever comments she wants without it being fascism. I'm personally not a fan of censoring what people say on my blog (unless it's spammy or troll-y) because it does not (rationally) reflect upon me what others say in my presence, but it isn't the end of the world when someone feels otherwise. My solution? Stop posting in places which restrict my language in a way I don't like.

  70. Shylock Holmes  •  Mar 21, 2012 @7:46 pm

    @Ken

    Out of sick curiosity, I counted 1859 words of substantive remarks by you in this comment thread alone. That's an impressive commitment to the cause! When I think of the hourly rate that I imagine you charge out at, it makes this thread the gold-plated Rolls Royce of troll-bashing.

  71. JSF  •  Mar 21, 2012 @8:55 pm

    "What's OFC?"

    Its slang for OPP. Yeah you know me.

    Some folks need to stem their PMS'ing in here by buying some of those things with wings. The tv tells me they're super absorbant for blood, sweat, and tears over blog posts.

    Language is fun. I hear that folks in some places call cigarettes, "fags". "I'm gonna go puff on a fag" might illicit some snickers (no not candy, you ignorant sluts) or odd looks on one side of the pond and yet be rather innocent on another.

    In some places, a cunt is in reference to female reproductive anatomy and the local women don't like the word. Its deemed very nasty, smelly and fishmongery. This makes me smile, thus I save it for a woman who might really deserve to be called one. If one is to travel across the great sea to Blighty and say, "yes, I've got my map and mobile here in my fanny pack if we get lost", you (male or female, lad or lass) might get some odd looks and snickers. As well if a male were to fall on his ass or arse he might say, "ouch I've fallen on my fanny and I can't get up". This would spark many amused looks and guffaws. For in Blighty, it is said that a fanny is not one's bum but the front bits on a lady. The less said about beavers, the better. Just remember to shave them.

    In conclusion, pull the stick out yer (insert slang for hole here) you knock kneed Scottish pillock welcome to the world where words can mean different things in different locales.

    PS Thanks mtv and british comedies, I'm scarred for life and wasted too long posting this silly bunt of a post.

  72. Smock Puppet, Cranio-Rectal Insertion Syndrome Expert to the Stars  •  Mar 22, 2012 @12:52 am

    I'm not sure how you arrive at such an incoherent worldview without a head injury or heavy medication.

    I'll take a stab at that one: self-trepanning.

    Yeah, it involves the head, but it's not an "injury" any more than a pierced ear is an injury to the ear.

    Clearly, our troll is a victim of self-trepanning.

  73. kmckee7  •  Mar 22, 2012 @2:27 am

    Oh, good lord. Bring back BL1Y. At least he was attempting, in however tendentious a fashion, to make an actual point, as opposed to out-and-out trolling with both stereotypes about menstruation and pointless butt humor.

  74. andrews  •  Mar 23, 2012 @9:06 pm

    not the designated hitter thing, 'cuz I actually like that

    Well, everyone else is feeding trolls, so I might as well join the fun.

    The DH is essentially a way for the superannuated and clumsy to eke out a few more years before they are reduced to coaching the softball team.

  75. Steve in Clearwater  •  Mar 24, 2012 @9:24 am

    Thanks for reefering us (me) to Ophelia's blog. A cursory skim tells me its worth a bookmark and some more detailed review when I want some thoughtful reading…..Cheers from Clearwater – Steve

  76. Firehawke  •  Mar 24, 2012 @1:49 pm

    I'd like to thank you for letting him go on as long as you did, and for answering rationally; not because you were trolling the troll (though you did do an impressive piece of work there too!) but because you've demonstrated grounded reasoning for your way of looking at this without resorting to absurdisms or worse.