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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Thursday, January 12, 2006

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Are there limits to free speech? While reading this fascinating article by Tim Wise about a US Catholic university and how it should manage neo-Nazi student Andrei Chira, I reflected on how to deal with hateful comments on this site. It's a tough call. I believe in robust debate, though free speech is never absolute. Wise articulates his view - which is pretty close to mine - in this follow-up article:

"Ultimately, the biggest problem with the 'educate him, don't ostracize him' approach is that it prioritises Chira's needs and interests over those of others: others who have done nothing wrong, quite unlike Chira. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Jews, and queer students are also at the University for their personal and intellectual growth, every bit as much as Chira. They attend college so they can be nurtured, learn new things, and have old ways of thinking challenged on any number of subjects, as with Chira. To defer to Andrei Chira's need for growth and exposure to truth, and to prioritise that need, even at the expense of running off folks of colour, Jews and gay and lesbian folks from the campus, is to suggest that he is more entitled to a Bellarmine education than they are. Surely this is neither the message we hope to send, nor the choice we wish to make, when it comes time, as it so often does, to choose sides."

I believe the same rules can apply to a website. I've received a number of emails from people who are keen to be involved in debate, add comments and agree or disagree, but are reluctant because of abuse or racial vilification. I've thus far resisted doing anything about this, preferring to leave such comments for all to see. I'm still not 100% about my current decision.

Therefore, any comments that are racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, sexist or way off topic will be deleted. I still want healthy and challenging debate and ideas to be tested and provoked. Everybody has the right to comment but must feel comfortable and not intimidated when doing so.

Let the debate continue!

22 Comments:

Blogger boredinHK said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 8:14:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Thanks. And I agree, questions are just fine. Believe me, I want broad debate, and few limits. BUT, if many people are feeling uncomfortable with openly racist and neo-Nazi writings, it's time to take a stand, I reckon.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 8:17:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Good idea.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 9:42:00 pm  
Blogger CB said...

How about comments that make you squirm inside, those that gnaw at your psyche, that challenge some of your beliefs and ideas?

Willing to keep responding to those? Going to ban those who disagree because you classify it under one of your categories?

There are NO LIMITS to free speech, Dreamboat. That's the frickin' point.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 10:01:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

cb, I think it's pretty clear from the post that the following types of comments will be deleted:

"racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, sexist or way off topic"

Is that clear enough? Additionally, Loewenstein is uncertain if this is going too far in itself. Did you read the post? There has been no talk of banning. There's no sarcastic moderator here. As you know.

You are just bored and looking for a rise out of someone. Predictably. After all, what else would you do?

Thursday, January 12, 2006 10:10:00 pm  
Blogger Melanie said...

Does Islamophobic include a fear of Islamic extremism - if so you can ban me now.

Friday, January 13, 2006 12:21:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

"Islamophobic" should certainly be allowed so long as we can agree on a term to describe Israeli extremism without being branded anti-Semites.

Friday, January 13, 2006 1:19:00 am  
Blogger James Waterton said...

"There's no sarcastic moderator here. As you know."

True, but there's you, DBO. Always with your wagging finger out at the ready for any cheeky commenter who breaches your rules of decorum. Sanctimony threat advisory rating : severe!

Apologies. Am I being pretentious?

Friday, January 13, 2006 5:19:00 am  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Incidentally, I happen to 100% agree with the Social Responsibility Statement issued at the blog I now contribute to - including the part that covers racism:

"We think racism is moronic, especially when it calls itself 'race realism', but free association, and disassociation, is a right for everyone, even racist idiots..."

With free association, I also include free speech. This is inalienable and extends to public forums and on the individual in question's property. The private property of others is another matter. The level of free speech on that property is set by the owner - in this case, Mr Loewenstein.

I myself am pretty much completely permissive - when I was administering my own blog I let all comments stand - bar the spam. I enjoyed emasculating the thoroughly doltish ones, however.

Friday, January 13, 2006 5:36:00 am  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Sorry, Waterton, I'll try to be less "sanctimonious". That's it. I'm out of here. For good. I mean it.

Melanie, read it again. There is no banning.

Friday, January 13, 2006 5:51:00 am  
Blogger neoleftychick said...

The really scary development is that once "racism" and "homophobia" were very serious words for appalling phenomena.

However, as the liberal west has backlashed against the politically correct cultural relativism garbage that we were all fed from the mid 1970s until 1990s, the illiberal bourgeois left epitomised by our very own AL, has tried to change the meaning of "racism" to mean "facts and perspectives pointed out by others that undermine my own prejudices."

The word "homophobia" nowadays means "anybody who will not join a hunger strike until gays can adopt children."

Nowadays when I hear the shrill, purse-lipped, limp-wristed bourgeois screech of "racist" I reach for my revolver.

Friday, January 13, 2006 11:05:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

You're a hoot Neo. Completely insane but a hoot nonetheless.

Friday, January 13, 2006 11:25:00 am  
Blogger neoleftychick said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Friday, January 13, 2006 11:53:00 am  
Blogger CB said...

Well, the dirtbike option has left the building. Meh.

Am eagerly awating next Monday night's SBS viewing. Pursed lips and sanctimony at 50 yards. Should be a hoot. Almost worth a live blog. Almost.

Friday, January 13, 2006 1:27:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

cb, I was imitating Waterton. He declared not long ago that he was not reading or commenting again, yet here he is.

When's your telly appearance, mate? How about watching the interview before beginning your childish ridicule.

Friday, January 13, 2006 1:31:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Actually, it was a haitus of several months. Still, every now and again it's nice to visit old friends.

Oh, and try as you might to be less sanctimonious, I have a feeling sanctimony's an integral part of your blogging persona. But good luck regardless.

Friday, January 13, 2006 5:37:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Friday, January 13, 2006 7:13:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Waterton, I think the santimony comes through when you read my remarks out loud. Maybe you could show how my words qualify as sanctimony. So far only you seem to think so. Funny that.

Oh, and please don't emasculate me!

Friday, January 13, 2006 7:25:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

In regards to me emasculating you, you do a fine line in that yourself, DBO.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one here who finds your mother hen clucking about others' more boisterous posts sanctimonious.

Friday, January 13, 2006 7:51:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Sanctimonious twaddle, Waterton.

Saturday, January 14, 2006 3:02:00 pm  
Blogger neoleftychick said...

The decision to ban legitimate expressions about the truth of Palestinian and Muslim dissolution is a frightening development; but hardly surprising.

Sunday, January 15, 2006 7:43:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

"truth of Palestinian and Muslim dissolution"

If rtuth is what you claim to have a mortgage on Neo, then you wouldn't have to mebelish your posts with offensive diartibe. Facts stand on their own. they do not need to be spun to one's advantage.

Monday, January 16, 2006 5:01:00 am  

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