On the question of censorship

Well, I thought I’d just wade in here and lay out a dilemma that all bulletin boards face: the question of censorship. I’m writing in part to figure out what I think because my view on this topic is shifting of late. I used to be a free speech absolutist–and I still am when it comes to the GOVERNMENT telling people what they can and cannot say. But the assault on the Capitol changed me.

Words have real world consequences – lies, especially. I consider the assault on the Capitol to be a direct result of the lies about voter fraud (and the really nasty, ethic-cleansing sort of lies about Democrats) that Fox News and large sections of the Republican Party have been spreading for the last several years. So I am feeling less “let a thousand flowers bloom” than I once was when it comes to information, because it’s clear to me that some of those flowers are poisonous and some are noxious weeds that “out-compete” more valuable (if less voluble) plants.

As the former editor of Sonoma West newspaper, I kept a pretty tight rein on what appeared in the Letters columns and in the comments section. I published plenty of letters and OK’d plenty of comments I didn’t agree with, but I drew the line at letters that were personally nasty toward other people in the community or simply unhinged.
I took the comment section of the Press Democrat as a warning of what happens when you don’t keep a rein on vitriol–your comment section soon devolves into a snake pit that most people don’t even look at. There’s probably a German word for the type of online discussion that makes you want to take a bath after you’ve read it. That’s what I wanted to avoid as editor of Sonoma West and, frankly, that’s what I want to avoid here.

My thoughts on this are still evolving. Looking forward to hearing your input.

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Laura, you make some good points, most especially what you say, “Words have real world consequences – lies, especially”.

The question arises, what is constructive, meaningful dialogue, IE., that which we can all open the aperture (camera) of our minds and contribute to subjects that directly affect us most especially now, the times we are living in.

Personally, I am disappointed to read posts that “lower the bar” in this regard. One might say, well, it’s all subjective what one says and where one is at on any subject, thus it’s all okay. I differ here and in saying this, I believe so much comes down to how well a person knows him or herself (those who reflect and have a sense of responsibility through the delivery of their words - spoken or written).

A reactive, impulsive rant is the worst; a strongly opinionated extreme view (lots of attachment) is a close 2nd to the rant. On the other side of this equation, thoughtful and creative musings on subjects that can contribute to more deep understanding of complex problems or challenges like Covid-19 or the great divide in Washington, these posts I wholeheartedly welcome and benefit from, sensing others do as well.

So to finish, it seems to come down to awareness of oneself, a reflective quality of this which often comes with education and a desire to know oneself on the inside (spiritual aspirations, etc.).

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