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Editors as id enablers: Conversations with the editor (13 July 2009)

Patrick,

We can't gamble the Tyee's existence on creating a forum for 'near libelous' statements. Nor do we wish to create a forum for racist and sexist comments, or personal insults directed at our writers or other commenters. We wish to create a forum where many feel comfortable and welcome to comment. And we acknowledge that personal vitriole, and racist and sexist comments do cause harm. (David Beers, “On Monday, a New Tyee,” July 8 2009)

Of course get rid of the libelous, rascist, sexist. Let's pretend that's not so much what constitutes the Wild West (which I know is what it is, of course), and say that's Cess Pool stuff, that no one ought to redeem (I won't). (By libelous, I really didn't mean libelous--I was thinking lurid, but "libelous" now embodies more the sense/feel of the lurid, of the sinful, than even "lurid" now does, so I went with libelous.)

And, yeah, I didn't make any effort to redeem good reasons for your (i.e., the editorial staff at the Tyee's) care and scrutiny. It is indeed a very good thing to play a part in making sure people don't walk away from their encounter with the Tyee, feeling like they don't matter, feeling like a victim, feelin' like they've just eaten shit.

Still, overall I do think that despite some talk now of redeeming free-range play, that the overall societal trend (I know that sounds very ranging and grand, but still) is toward keeping things in control--something that ensures we get far fewer ranging, all-over-the-place, risk-taking Christopher Laschs, or William Irwin Thompsons (a leftie who would, for example, call the theory of evolution into question--something you'd never see someone on the left--even if they shared his concerns--dare give voice to right now). Makes things more boring, if more tanquil, settled, and predictable, than I'd like it to be.

I haven't experienced a Salon discussion with anonymous comments, that's before my turn there, but I was told that once you could post anonymously (that is, under the actual name "anonymous," which means no one can readily differentiate you from all the others who post under the "anonymous" moniker, which means you really could just yell stuff anonymously from 'mongst the crowd), and so I checked way earlier Stephanie Z. stuff, and saw them there. About a month and a half ago, Joan wrote about the changes--You could now flag comments; the best comment featured was being discontinued; couple other things. In that post's comment section is where I found some of the talk redeeming (let's call it) fully anonymous posting, along with warnings about the climate created where every post very visibly is at risk of being flagged by others on the site.

It's a worthy discussion, you know. I think we're used now to thinking of editors too much as superego, when they might now prove most useful as id enablers. Editors could weigh in, maybe, and address posters who are playing it too safe. I've seen John McLaughlin do this; same too, Chris Matthews. That is, really hammer away at those who won't say what's really on their mind, for fear it'll offend someone, for fear it would get them in hot water, operating under the assumption that the whole point of living in a free society is that people should much more feel the impetus to let it out, than to keep it all so very guardedly, hemmed in. Feisty fish.

Link: On Monday, a New Tyee (Tyee)

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