[Foundation-l] Free speech

Michael Peel email at mikepeel.net
Sun Oct 10 19:49:20 UTC 2010

Hi Peter,

On 9 Oct 2010, at 11:15, Peter Damian wrote:

> My apologies for the Godwinism.  I am a writer, the idea of preventing 
> someone expressing a viewpoint is reprehensible.  Disruption to the project 
> of building a comprehensive and reliable reference source is one thing. 
> That is a matter of a 'preventative block'.  Punitive blocks intended to 
> prevent expression of ideas is another.  As you must all know, Larry Sanger 
> was indefinitely blocked simply for expressing the wrong opinions:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Log&type=block&page=User%3ALarry+Sanger

Note that Larry was unblocked within ~30 mins of being [unjustly?] blocked on wiki.

> By our own Phil Nash, in fact. The practice of a 'community ban' is simply a 
> matter of a few admins getting together and imposing one.
> On the comparison with China, that was naughty, I concede.  But imprisoning 
> someone is the only way of preventing the expression of opinions in the real 
> world.  In the virtual world, blocking is far simpler.  That is the only 
> difference.  As a writer, I find the suppression of free speech far more 
> painful and immoral and intolerable than mere incarceration.  If I were in 
> prison and still permitted to write, that would not be an imposition.  Being 
> prevented from writing is the worst crime of all. 

The mailing list is not a wiki; subscribers receive all emails sent to it regardless of whether they are productive input or not (compared to a wiki, where people can watch the pages they want and hence filter the comments based on their interest). As such, you should make sure that any comment you make is important enough to justify distracting several hundred people with it. There was nothing in the moderation process to the mailing list that prevented you from writing; it did prevent your comments from being heard for a short while (whilst a moderator checked that they were reasonable to send around, or even blocking them if they were troll-like), but that doesn't express you from presenting them in a blog post / email to individual people / academic paper / etc. Fundamentally: this was not the appropriate place for you to send that email. I fully support the moderation that ensued.

Please, stop seeing absolutions* where there aren't any. In relation to your earlier comments about philosophy articles: if an irrational argument is preventing you from sharing logical arguments, then present a rational argument against it at the same location, remembering that there is a community present rather than a dictator (and hence there are always people to talk to on-wiki that aren't against you; if they're not around that specific talk page then their attention can always be attracted).

Mike Peel
(who is hoping that this is of use/interest to the bulk of subscribers to this mailing list; apologies to those it needlessly distracted...)

* This doesn't seem to be the right word; does anyone know the appropriate word for seeing 'absolute' interpretations that doesn't infer release from guilt/obligation/etc.? (offlist, please)

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