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.