When I guest-blogged on Boing Boing a couple of weeks ago a lot of frustrated would-be posters wrongly assumed that it was me that was preventing them from being heard. It wasn’t. Boing Boing reserves the right to delete or “disemvowel” comments at will and without explanation–it employs moderators to make sure that racist, sexist, homophobic, and gratuitously ad hominem language is suppressed, that posters aren’t flamed, and that a reasonably civil tone is maintained. Links to relatively innocuous You Tube videos, for example, were taken down if they were hosted on sites that also sell The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. The first amendment doesn’t compel third parties to provide a free forum for protected speech–it only prevents the government from banning it. Telling someone to peddle their filth elsewhere or quietly suppressing their remarks isn’t remotely the same thing as censorship. Organizing a boycott of Rush Limbaugh’s or Glenn Beck’s sponsors isn’t an assault on free speech either; it’s free enterprise.
That said, when I started this blog, I decided that I would have an open door policy for posts, so long as they didn’t specifically libel or defame any private citizens. I don’t have a brand to protect, I don’t carry advertisements, I’m not afraid of controversy, and the only agenda I have is the promotion of critical thinking. If I post something about, say, the irrationality of 9/11 denial and a 9/11 Denialist responds by posting something irrational, then the poster has helped me prove my point. If on the other hand the Denialist catches me repeating someone’s falsehood or saying something that’s otherwise in error, it’s still a win for both of us, because the truth is served. The other day I wrote something snarky about the Anti-Defamation League, prompting two anti-Semites to post some really scurrilous commentary. Their words were vile and hurtful, but–and I’m sure this wasn’t their intention–they also provided eloquent testimony as to the continuing importance and relevance of the ADL’s mission. A third post appeared this morning, which pissed me off royally and made me realize that even my tolerance has its limits.
Since I started writing this, I noticed that Green Left Weekly just announced that it’s dis-allowing posts about 9/11 Truth conspiracies on its message board, citing me as one of their reasons (“Boingboing had as their guest blogger a week or two ago Arthur Goldwag who has written a great deal on what’s wrong with conspiracy theorists in general and why its impossible to seriously discuss them”). It’s ironic, but not at all unreasonable, considering Green Left Weekly’s explicitly activist agenda. I’m going to keep my own door open for now. But if enough haters abuse my hospitality, I’ll have to make some changes as well.