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[P]
Some Questions on Obscene and Indecent Speech

By ip4noman in Op-Ed
Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:11:07 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

The goal of this essay is to cause the curious reader to ponder the following questions:

  1. Does there exist a right not to be offended?
  2. Does there exist anywhere an example of someone who was injured by exposure to "obscene" or "indecent" words, images, or ideas?
  3. Does there exist a definition of "obscene" or "indecent" which is universally applicable and therefore, useful? That is, can we construct a list of all obscene, indecent or profane words, and can we say that all uses of these words are offensive by definition? Can there be no legitimate use of these words? And what about words not on the list, are they always safe? Is it possible to describe all objectionable images? Does not a specific law against obscenity itself become obscene?
  4. Are all cases of exposure to obscene or indecent material actionable?
  5. Do contracts placed upon community media producers and journalists which attempt to coerce producers into self-censorship, denote Prior Restraint, and are therefore unconstitutional under the First Amendment?


Introduction
I am presently petitioning my local government to bring a Public Access Television Facility to my city. Recently, I had the priviledge of being asked to appear before the Mayor's special task force on the Cable Television Franchise Renewal.

As we discussed the details of my complaint against the cable provider, we hit upon one very sensitive issue.

The exclusive cable franchisee (Time Warner Cable) requires persons requesting use of Public Access television facilities to sign a contract, agreeing in part that "no obscene or indecent material will be cablecast", and other restrictions on speech, including certain political speech. (Refer: [-1-], [-2-], [-3-]) I argued that these clauses are improper and illegal under the First Amendment. Moreover, they give the Cable Provider improper editorial control and the power to censor, that is, use prior restraint to prevent someone's idea of what might constitute a future injury.

History of Indecent Speech Regulation

In 1972, George Carlin recorded "Class Clown"; on it was a bit called "Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television". An underlying premise of Carlin's (which is often overtly stated) is that words are simply symbols, and inherently not harmful. There are no naughty words, Carlin asserts, only naughty ideas.

On October 30, 1973,  Paul Gorman, a DJ at Pacifica Radio Station WBAI, aired Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" during a daytime slot of his show, issuing a disclaimer that those who might be offended by strong language should tune away.

John H. Douglas, a planning board member of Morality in Media, was driving with his young son at the time, heard the disclaimer, but decided to listen anyway.

In a letter of complaint to the FCC enforcement bureau dated November 28, 1973, Douglas expressed concern that his 12-year-old son heard parts of the Carlin routine. While Douglas acknowledged that Carlin's monologue had some social value and that he understood selling the record for private use, the complaint alleged the WBAI broadcast was inappropriate for children to hear during the middle of the day.

The great irony, that the Carlin's routine is itself about censorship, was apparently lost on the Supreme Court, who decided this case on July 3, 1978. Pacifica lost.

[sidebar] George Carlin's Magic Time Machine In 1974, George Carlin wanted to do a comedy routine about censorship. Like a good writer, he researched the matter.  He tried to obtain a list of all the words he *couldn't* say, he found that no such list existed. This is because of a simple paradox:

For the law to have force, it must define its scope and effect in very specific terms. If the sovereign wants to make a law against writting the obscene word "fuck" in a book, the lawmakers would have to write this in a book, becoming obscene in the process. All obscenity law will suffer from this paradoxically necessary omission.

A democratic or republician form of government can never define obscenity because of this contradiction. Only a fascist/despotic form of government can define obscenity, but must deal with this axiomatically, that is, that the King can utter "fuck" with such loyalty and grace as to not be sinful, or having been endowed by God such powers to carry out executive enforcement, the King is thus immune to all infractions. In a totaltarian fascist government, the soverign (lawmaker) must declare themselves to be of a special class. This is directly opposed to the Essential American Principle of Democratic Self-Rule, where the people are sovereign.

A similar paradox was realized with the Congressional Record in 1984, when Congress held hearings, on behalf of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), on pornographic lyrics in popular music.  They read samples of these lyrics into the record, thus makeing it pornographic. Frank Zappa alludes of this irony in his opus "Porn Wars" from his Mothers of Prevention album.

So, in 1974, Carlin tried to find his Holy Grail. He wanted to find the list of words he couln't say. They didn't exist in 1974, but they did exist in 1978. So, Carlin essentially *visited the future*, and obtained the 1978 Supreme Court decision for this list of words. Now here is the amazing thing, the Hofstadterian Strange Loop of it all: The 1978 Supreme Court decision references the 1974 Carlin routine! This kind of temporal plot twist is straight out of a science fiction story!

Where did this list come from? Was it a gift from God?  The key to acheiving our next evolutionary step?  I think yes, perhaps.  This is just genius, and Carlin should be award the Noble Prize in Journalism or Ethics for it, and for lifetime acheivement.


This decision is the precident which set the foundation of all Censorship regulation in the United States for the next 30 years.

But with all due respect to the Supreme Court, in this case of Pacifica v. FCC, they became belabored by an obscure point of law, i.e., whether the FCC had the authority to regulate indecent speech broadcast over radio. However, might they have overlooked an obvious defect in the complaint? That is, was there sufficient cause of action?

Psychological Warfare & Torture, "Clear and Present Danger" Excluded
First, let us state that we are speaking about so-called obscene or indecent speech, and not torture or calls to violent action.

The United Nations defines torture as: "...any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person...." We all can think of such cases, and others, which, while not exactly being torture, present a clear and present danger to someone. Here are some examples of such speech which perhaps should not be protected under the First Amendment:
  • A parent who tells their child every day, multiple times per day, "You're stupid! You will never amount to anything. You should kill yourself."
  • A man who shouts "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater. 
  • Playing loud amplified music all night long, or recordings of the sounds of animals being killed. [These psychological warfare tactics amount to torture, and are routinely used by the military and police agencies, and were used by the U.S. Army during the invasion of Panama (1989), against the Branch Davidians in Waco TX (1993), and against Shirley Allen in Roby IL (1997). There are certainly others. ].
  • A man who publishes a list of doctors who performs abortions, including their home addresses,  and  text which suggests they should be murdered.
  • A man who publically states, "All niggers are deserving to die". This could just as easily be "Jews", "Anarchists", "Drug Users", "Communists", "Homosexuals", "Pagans", "Pacifists", "Animal Rights Advocates", "Arabs", etc. etc.

Now, what distinguishes this sort of speech from George Carlin's Dirty Words are that all these examples include at least one of the following elements:
  • Intent to cause pain, suffering or death, optionally coupled with
    • a captive audience,  and/or 
    • repeated exposure

  • "A clear and present danger"  (This language comes from Schenk v United States
Obscene and Indecent speech often are defined in terms of sexual or excretory images or profane language, and not in the terms above. We argue that this is fundamentally different than the examples cited above, because everyone is offended by different things, and these things do not present a "clear and present danger" of violence.

Cause of Action, defined
Let's say that you are driving home at 3pm, and you and your young son hear something on the radio that offends you, and you feel your son suffered pain and suffering, and irreperable harm because of what he heard.

Before you can take someone to court in a civil matter, you must have a valid claim, called a "cause of action". There are three components which need to be shown to exist to denote a proper cause of action:
  1. A right
  2. An injury (a violation of the right)
  3. A petition for an award of damages or restitution
Certainly there was a petition, so let us now look for the right, and the injury.

"I was injured by words! I was harmed by images!": Is there a right not to be exposed to offensive material?
As a child we all learned that "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me." Yet, as adults, we form government policies which assert this no longer applies.

Does there exist one example anywhere now, or at any time in history an demonstratable example of someone who was injured by exposure to naughty words, or images of naked people?  Sure you may be offended by such a thing, but is being simply offended the same as suffuring an injury?

I would argue no. It is certain that no physical injury can occur from exposure to words or images. While psychological injury might occur, it is unprovable, since we don't have Joe Smith A (exposed to naughty words) and Joe Smith B (not exposed to naughty words) which to compare. There is only one Joe Smith. And I would argue that any proof of psychological injury to hearing a naughty word would be based upon a science of dubious methods.
But the Vulgarian and the Nudist are not offended!
We have seen that most of these obscenity suits involve graphic depections of nakedness or sexual activity or offensive language, but not everyone is offended by these things.

Some people (including the courts) think that persons (especially children) are susceptable to injury from exposure to naughty words or images. Others think these things are natural and normal and feel no shame or guilt over these same materials. For example, a nudist would probably feel no shame over seeing nakedness, and a vulgar man obviously has no objections to the language he himself uses.

So you see, we all have different standards. This cannot be stressed enough. This seems to be quite hard for many people to imagine, unless you allow your mind to slip a little bit, outside the comfortable constraints of the false-homoginized social norms which the commercial media reinforces. Many people seem to have a belief they live in a uniform land, where perhaps there are only two types of people, only two political parties which matter, only two sides to the issue.
This belief is false, and is not based in reality. In fact, each human soul is unique, a multi-timbral rainbow in 12 dimensions.

Every one of us has different values. Every one of us has a different idea about what is indecent or obscene. It is therefore impossible, moreover, misguided to try to define obscenity or indecency in terms that we all can agree upon. Such definitions will certainly fall short of the mark, and even minimum standards are likely to be used as a tool for the censorship of much more than just naughty words or images.

Do the Vegetarian and the Pacifist have legal standing?
i.e., Are all cases of "injury due to exposure to obscene material" actionable? 

Yes? Then if we allow the child who hears Carlin's Dirty Words to bring an action, then we must allow the vegetarian and the pacifist as well. For it is the same principle in both cases, although the vegetarian and the pacifist may be offended by different things than you.
If there exists a right to live free of offensive words or images, then all such violations should be actionable, right? For example, it is likely that a vegetarian feels that McDonald's advertisements depicting slaughtered cow flesh to be obscene, and advertisments targeted especially towards children as indecent. Similarly, a pacifist might find CNN and the other news networks cheerleading the latest United States campaign of bombing civilian populations to be obscene.

If we allow that a father can bring a lawsuit because his child was alegedly injured from hearing a word on the radio (which the kid probably heard on the playground moments before), then we open the door to an endless number of these "I was injured by words!" lawsuits. And the number will be endless, because, and this is the key point to understand, we all have different standards.

For any given image or utterance, surely someone can be found who takes objection to it.  This is why this alleged right "not to be offended" must be false, and therefore the tort of "being exposed to offensive material" should be seen as ridiculous as that famous accusation from Monty Python: "I was turned into a newt! (But I got better)". Sorry. The Grand Jury says go home and stop wasting the Courts time.

Does there exist a definition of "obscene" or "indecent" which is universally applicable and therefore, useful?

Certainly not. We have already heard of the nudist and the vulgarian (who are not offended by nakedness, etc), and the vegetarian and the pacifist (who are offended by what many may feel are some quite ordinary things). Since we all have different standards, who gets to decide? 

Also, since everyone has different standards, the law would either have to be so broad to forbid any speech which might be offensive to someone, I dare say that global silence would ensue. (We will leave discussion of the merits of this for another time. ) Now otherwise, the law would have to be narrowly defined so as to deny certain plaintiffs standing.

There are many unsolvable paradoxes regarding the definition of obscene speech, such as this: if writting an obscene word a crime, how can making a law against using this word not itself be obscene?

Do contracts such as Time Warner's which attempt to coerce producers into self-censorship denote Prior Restraint, and would therefore be Unconstitutional under the First Amendment?

Prior Restraint defined is "coercive action to prevent a future injury". In First Amendment cases such as Zenger, Skokie, and the Pentagon Papers case, where free speech, free press, or free assembly are at issue, the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the government could not, through "prior restraint," block publication of any material unless it  could prove that the material would "surely" result in "direct, immediate, and irreparable" harm to the nation, or that publication would provide a "clear and present danger".

Now Time Warner is not the government, but as a Cable Provider, they are acting as a common carrier, and cannot deny carraige to any class of patron.  Additionally, they have responsibilites under the First Amendment to provide diverse points of view.

Another reason Time Warner's contract is improper is that according to the FCC,
The statutory prohibition against indecency does not apply to programming aired on cable-only channels. See e.g., United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc., 529 U.S. 803 (2000).
So, the law is clear. Whether the source of the censorship comes from the FCC, the franchising authority, the New York State Public Service Commission, or the cable franchisee (Time Warner in this case), in all cases the authority of the censor must be challanged and the constitutionality examined.
Conclusion

It is hard to believe that a nation calls itself a republic, a representitive government based upon democracy principles, yet has draconion laws prohibiting any speech. And this issue goes beyond obscenity, indecency, and profanity. These regulations go so far as to including the political speech of community broadcasters and of the clergy.

Something has gone terribly wrong. These laws are not the product of a democracy. These laws resemble the laws of the Fascists.

The "Free Press" is supposed to be like a mirror, reflecting us, showing us how we are, our true nature. The essence of a Free Press is a natural image of reality, not a manufactured one. It should be as free of bias and control as possible. Sometimes the image will be unplesant. Sometimes the world is profane, and community reporters need to be free to report this as it is. Sometimes it will be ugly or offensive. But this is the nature of truth. This is what free speech sounds like.

But the fact that our government recognizes a certain class of people presently are seen to have legal standing (those offended by nakedness, graphic depections of sexual or excretory functions, or naughty words), and another class (people offended by arguments supporting human population growth, bigotry, environmental destruction, war, and institutionalized exploitation and savagry, especially in the abscence of any arguments to the contrary) are denied standing, allows and even requires the media to present a biased image of ourselves. The magnitude of this disservice is immense.

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Some Questions on Obscene and Indecent Speech | 221 comments (203 topical, 18 editorial, 0 hidden)
To answer your questions (3.50 / 6) (#3)
by K5 Demon on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 03:15:39 PM EST

Does there exist a right not to be offended?

No, but there exists a right not to listen.

Does there exist anywhere an example of someone who was injured by exposure to "obscene" or "indecent" words, images, or ideas?

No, nobody has every been physically injured by words; only by physical action has injury come upon someone.

Does there exist a definition of "obscene" or "indecent" which is universally applicable and therefore, useful? That is, can we construct a list of all obscene, indecent or profane words, and can we say that all uses of these words are offensive by definition? Can there be no legitimate use of these words? And what about words not on the list, are they always safe? Is it possible to describe all objectionable images? Does not a specific law against obscenity itself become obscene?

No, words evolve over time and what is "obscene" today may be acceptable tomorrow.

Are all cases of exposure to obscene or indecent material actionable?

No, not when the offended could have taken steps to avoid the offending situation or just ignored it.

Do contracts placed upon community media producers and journalists which attempt to coerce producers into self-censorship, denote Prior Restraint, and are therefore unconstitutional under the First Amendment?

No, if a journalist gives up his or her right to free speech to an employer or other person, he or she can simply find another job where that won't happen or start his own paper.

Right not to be offended? (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by Platy on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:22:13 PM EST

I know that
  • probably most people here are thinking about the USA.
  • i am not a lawyer
Still I want to say that as far as I am able to judge it there (i.e. here - Austria) exists a right not to be offended. While it might more be a prohibition to offend anyone and while it might not work against this schoolboy who just called you a fill it whatever you want, it is here to stop people offending you.
As far as I know free speech is much more protected in the USA than it most countries of Europe. (Think about the Yahoo vs. France case!)

Just thought it might be interesting to know for some of you :-)
--
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
[ Parent ]
So simple? (3.00 / 2) (#36)
by awgsilyari on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:48:40 PM EST

Do contracts placed upon community media producers and journalists which attempt to coerce producers into self- censorship, denote Prior Restraint, and are therefore unconstitutional under the First Amendment?

No, if a journalist gives up his or her right to free speech to an employer or other person, he or she can simply find another job where that won't happen or start his own paper.

It's not really that simple when the media is controlled by giant conglomerates with monopoly control over the method of distribution. It's also not so easy when you need a governmental stamp of approval to enter the industry. At least it certainly appears to be heading that way...

Of course, this is done under the guise of regulating the "airwaves" when what is really being regulated is broadcast public speech. In other words, how can you get your message out when you aren't allowed, on your own, to oscillate the EM field, and are forced to go through a regulated and privately held third party?

--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

Yes (4.50 / 2) (#44)
by ThreadSafe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 07:58:02 PM EST

This is only because of flaws in the legal system. In a truly free market it is that simple.

Make a clone of me. And fucking listen to it! - Faik
[ Parent ]

After reading Adiffer's stuff.... (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by bjlhct on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:15:35 AM EST

some people say their ears started bleeding.

...

ha!
* Beware, gentle knight - the greatest monster of them all is reason. -Cervantes
[ Parent ]

Interesting (none / 0) (#86)
by Herring on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 04:30:18 AM EST

Not only do things which weren't acceptable become acceptable (hell), but also words move the other way. Historically, the words fuck and bollocks had non-obscene meanings (this way key to the defense the Sex Pistols mounted when the were pulled up for bring out the album "Never mind the bollocks, here's the Sex Pistols").

What should be our attitude to ancient ornithology texts which discuss "windfuckers"? Is this obscene or not?

PS Apologies for the lack of links - I am not going to google on these terms from work because I don't want to have a discussion on the nature of obscenity with the management.


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
[ Parent ]
I was injured by porn (4.35 / 14) (#8)
by The Turd Report on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 03:47:35 PM EST

Does there exist one example anywhere now, or at any time in history an demonstratable example of someone who was injured by exposure to naughty words, or images of naked people?

Last Monday I was walking by someone cube and they were viewing porn. A lady with rather large boobs distracted me and I wacked my knee on a dividing wall.

:)



I wacked my knee. (none / 0) (#43)
by it certainly is on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 07:56:26 PM EST

Trick! You wacked your knee! I always wanted a crazy wacked-out knee, how do you do it?

or perhaps you meant 'whacked'

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Boy... (5.00 / 3) (#47)
by spectecjr on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 08:22:46 PM EST

Last Monday I was walking by someone cube and they were viewing porn. A lady with rather large boobs distracted me and I wacked my knee on a dividing wall.

Boy do you need to get to know your body better. Clue: don't bother with your knee. Try higher up - it's more fun.



[ Parent ]
Why We Needed Dr. Elders (5.00 / 1) (#139)
by The Turd Report on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 01:36:07 PM EST

If Dr. J. Elders had become Surgeon General, I'd have known that. :)

[ Parent ]
Purely legalistic interpretation (4.22 / 9) (#10)
by kphrak on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 03:56:41 PM EST

Although your arguments have merit, there are laws that you have not taken into account which are not written in any constitution: Social mores, which sometimes are more ironclad than any mere law. Let me provide an example.

There is no law (to my knowledge; there might be) that prohibits calling a black man a nigger. Using the same rationalizations as in your article, it is perfectly reasonable; the person who says this is merely exercising his free speech rights, as long as he's not calling for someone's death. However, I'm sure a black person who heard this would be able to successfully sue for "mental distress". Now it gets complicated: Said person is only likely to be offended if the name-caller isn't black. If he is, it will probably be considered slightly crude, but acceptable. Fifty years ago, it was considered almost completely acceptable by all but a few progressives.

Things are a lot more complicated than the laws indicate, because you can't cover everything under the law. Eventually what it comes down to is how many people are likely to object to something. Vegans who see a hamburger ad are such a small demographic in society that even if they all protested, it would still be a toss-up as to whether the ad would be pulled (with the odds significantly stacked against the possibility). The same reason explains why you won't hear someone say "fuck" on the radio; because enough people listen to it who would be offended that the carrier wouldn't want to carry it. This will change over time; perhaps that will fall into common usage (it already is much more common than twenty years ago, I believe). This happened before with the word "hell"; if you read magazine articles from a century ago, you will find that it is written "h--l".

In short, you are looking in the wrong area for the definition of indecency; there need be no legal definition. It's hard to codify indecency because it's a pretty nebulous thing that changes from day to day, but I suppose you could define it as "whatever the majority thinks is too bad to see". And even if you managed to get an explicit law passed, saying that some obscene words were OK, it wouldn't matter unless you also had a law to force carriers not to discontinue shows on the grounds of obscenity, because the general public just wouldn't stand for it. Perhaps it is a disservice, perhaps not, but that's democracy for you: The majority makes the laws, even if they don't write everything down -- and even if the results do not affect them directly.


Describe yourself in your sig!
American computer programmer, living in Portland, OR.


I think that (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by krek on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 04:06:25 PM EST

that was, more or less, the authors point.

It is just that you seem to think that it is perfectly fine to have an arbitrary definition of offensive that can change with little notice based on the subjective interpretation of arbitrary pop-culture influences, and have this abitrary definition enforced as law.

The author acknowledges the fact that 'offensive' is arbitrary and subjective, and suggests that we treat it as such, arbitrary and subjective.

What is your point?

[ Parent ]
My point is (4.66 / 3) (#18)
by kphrak on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 05:02:36 PM EST

That there is no use in telling people to treat offensive things as arbitrary. They may be arbitrary to you, but social interaction has an somewhat agreed-upon protocol (which is arbitrary), and those who do not follow it are alienated at best, punished at worst. The author is complaining about a certain facet of social protocols. You can change social protocols slowly, from within, or you can convince enough people to deviate from them that the protocol will change, but you can't stay in a form of limbo, treating everything equally; it's like a country in a permanent revolution. Sooner or later, things settle down, either in a society or in a single person's mind, and mores will appear...and a minority, such as the author, will dislike parts of them.

Therefore, my argument is that decrying the social protocols people "force" you to observe because they are arbitrary is just so much wasted breath. They are arbitrary, and they are an unspoken law...and there is no contradiction.


Describe yourself in your sig!
American computer programmer, living in Portland, OR.


[ Parent ]
Exactly (none / 0) (#117)
by krek on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 11:02:04 AM EST

Just doing my small part in trying to push those moors to the point were they consist of recognising that all such judgements are arbitrary and subjective, in my opinion this is just as valid an attitude for a society to hold, in fact, more valid.

I am hopinig that at some point in the future things will settle down, and that the moores that will appear will be ones that acknowledge the points that I have made.

I am well aware that my judgements are just as arbitrary and subjective as anyone elses, it is just that I also believe that my judgements more closely reflect the true ideals of our society, and it is only a matter of time before most people come to the same conclusions that I have.

Hope that wasn't too vain of me.

[ Parent ]
Whole Point of the Bill of Rights (5.00 / 2) (#25)
by CENGEL3 on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 05:58:54 PM EST

Part of the whole point of the Bill of Rights is to protect against tyranny of the majority. It is a guaranty to individuals that they have certain rights which they cannot be alienated from simply by the will of the majority.

Further the U.S. is NOT (a common misconception) a democracy but rather a Constitutional Republic and frankly alot better off for it (IMO).

I also happen to believe the "mental distress" scenerio presented above is a prime example of one of the things that has gone terribly wrong with our civil legal system and far more dangerous to true civil rights then any of the horrible things the KKK used to do.... since this actualy has the force of law behind it.

In no way should "calling some-one a name" ever be construed as an actionable injury.


[ Parent ]

Old (none / 0) (#131)
by cpt kangarooski on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 02:51:28 AM EST

The tort of assault is basically a form of mental distress, and it's been around since the 1400's IIRC. (where someone threw an axe at a barmaid and missed)

Most concerns with emotional distress are really that it's too easily faked.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]

Push and pull of the warp and woof (3.00 / 3) (#14)
by Perianwyr on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 04:16:06 PM EST

Obscenity laws are an attempt at moving a particular behavioral expectation from one sphere of influence to another.

Everyone *knows* what obscenity is, and if they don't, they'd better go back to their mother and ask. Your mother might know whether something is obscene or not, because the assumption is that older and more "mature" people have a greater awareness and acceptance of social norms (and are usually understood to have accepted them as precondition for action, rather than having to test them.) Social norms are hardly ever codified, and to be aware of them, one is always required to work backwards, as Carlin did in the creation of his routine.

There is often a legal intersection with social norms, and obscenity laws are a good example of this phenomenon. When those adhering to a certain social norm feel that said norm is threatened, they may then rely on another sphere of influence to aid their defense. This isn't the only way one could keep offensive speech out. A couple of other ways:

Buy up all the printing and publishing equipment available and become the gatekeeper for information dissemination, and then deny all you consider obscene. In a way, this regime is already in place, especially in radio. A few titanic entities control the pathways for information, and are very accountable- above and beyond any legal sanction- when obscenity is transmitted over their facilities. Angered moms clog the telephone lines, and advertisers flee association with the station.

Make systems of information transfer inherently resistant to obscene information. This is the tack that censorware proxies take, with varying degrees of success. A whitelisting system with oversight would be ideal, as those adhering to the social norms that are desired could oversee every transaction, and authorize those they deem worthy. It isn't practical in the least, however.

Anyway, the method of norm maintenance we're interested is the legal one. You create a law that says, "break this norm and you will feel the wrath of the state." The definition of the norm is irrelevant with regard to the wording of the law, since all complaints will ultimately be handed to a judge (in fact, that is exactly what relevant Supreme Court opinions have said- it's all based on "community standards," a moving target if ever there was one.) The judge's decision (as well as that of any jury involved) is what stands. If you, as a vegetarian, brought the concept of McDonald's ads that featured the result of the deliberate slaying and dissection of animals for all to see as obscenity, the judge would likely either not take the case or simply throw a memorandum opinion at you saying "bug off, you don't get it." The mechanism that does all the work here is one that is susceptible to norms, and is thus effective for enforcing them.

WRONG (2.50 / 2) (#15)
by krek on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 04:35:39 PM EST

It is rather presumptuous of you to assume that your concept of 'obscenity' is better or more valid than mine or anyone elses, and this is what you would have to do in order to be able enforce your perceptions.

And I dare you to try to proove that your concept of 'obscene' is completely in accordance with the majority.

Arbitrary and subjective is arbitrary and subjective, and is not, in any way, the sort of solid foundation that you would want to build your laws upon.

[ Parent ]
Eh? (none / 0) (#27)
by carbon on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:17:35 PM EST

That's exactly what his point is! Read his comment more carefully.


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
You are arguing circles... (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by mberteig on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:20:01 PM EST

The parent comment is saying that in fact arbitrary and subjective is the only way to build laws in a democracy. The community (of voters) uses their democratic powers to (indirectly) decide how social and community norms are institutionalized in law. The parent's concept of obscene is irrelevant to the law - it is only a demonstration of the point that the definition is defined by the community and articulated by the judicial system.

That articulation is the currently accepted means for working with inherently "soft" or "subjective" or "arbitrary" legal issues. If you don't like that, you have a few options: you can stew on it, you can campaign to have the legal system change, you can campaign only about the things you disagree with (thereby implicitly accepting the legal mechanisms), you can ignore it and act illegally whenever you disagree with the law.

Currently we do not have any widely accepted mechanism to make (or discover) rational laws. Law is not a science - it is a social phenomenon that has its roots in religion.




Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
[ Parent ]
Point taken (none / 0) (#119)
by krek on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 11:08:53 AM EST

I just have to point out that I think that arbitrary and subjective laws lead to arbitrary and subjective judgements, and that I, personally, do not like the idea of living under an arbitrary and subjective rule of law. The idea makes me want to retch.

[ Parent ]
Cool (none / 0) (#87)
by Perianwyr on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 04:30:27 AM EST

What I think is excellent is how I didn't even mention what my definition of obscenity was. I just suggested that asking mothers is a good start :)

[ Parent ]
My mother (5.00 / 1) (#118)
by krek on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 11:08:50 AM EST

thinks that coughing too loud is offensive.

[ Parent ]
Okay, I'll bite (none / 0) (#56)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:48:00 PM EST

Everyone *knows* what obscenity is

Nope. I'll give examples. Is Ice-T's song Cop-Killer obscene? It is a song about murdering cops. However it also has an important message about police brutality and suggests standing up for ones rights. Also George Carlin's "the dirty seven" routine in the article is a good example. It was considered obscene, however his speech was also a valid political statement. Also he was only using the words to talk about the words themselves. He was not discussing tits but the word "tits" for example.

Some subjectivity will creep into the laws, but we need to minimize it or else they will be arbitary.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
[ Parent ]

Then, I hope you are on a jury with such a case. (none / 0) (#70)
by Perianwyr on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:57:37 AM EST

My point is that obscenity is entirely subjective and arbitrary, and the people framing the laws know this. So they leave it to judges and juries to determine what's what.

A reading of US states' obscenity laws shows that they generally define everything except what obscenity itself is (MD example.) Refreshingly, Hawaii has no state obscenity laws.

US federal law is no better- it has a huge pile of synonyms for "obscene" ("Every obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile article, matter, thing, device, or substance;") but no definition of the act in question.

[ Parent ]

hmm (3.66 / 6) (#16)
by sasquatchan on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 04:39:24 PM EST

ya said ..


    Here are some examples of such speech which perhaps should not be protected under the First Amendment:
  1. A parent who tells their child every day, multiple times per day, "You're stupid! You will never amount to anything. You should kill yourself."
  2. A man who shouts "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater.  
  3. Playing loud amplified music all night long, or recordings of the sounds of animals being killed. [These psychological warfare tactics amount to torture, and are routinely used by the military and police agencies, and were used by the U.S. Army during the invasion of Panama (1989), against the Branch Davidians in Waco TX (1993), and against Shirley Allen in Roby IL (1997). There are certainly others. ].
  4. A man who publishes a list of doctors who performs abortions, including their home addresses,  and  text which suggests they should be murdered.
  5. A man who publically states, "All niggers are deserving to die". This could just as easily be "Jews", "Anarchists", "Drug Users", "Communists", "Homosexuals", "Pagans", "Pacifists", "Animal Rights Advocates", "Arabs", etc. etc.


I believe #2 and #4 have been found to not be protected speech.
-- The internet is not here for your personal therapy.
right. (4.33 / 3) (#19)
by DrSbaitso on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 05:03:24 PM EST

You don't have a free speech right to play music all night - the police can come to your house and make you turn it down. You don't have a free speech right to insult your child - your child can be taken from your care and you can be charged with child abuse. I guess you could be arrested for the last thing because of hate crime laws?

point being, I think he meant that none of those examples were protected. Police regulations that limit them are all valid, whether issued by federal, state or local governments.


Aeroflot Airlines: You Have Made the Right Choice!
---Advertising slogan for the only airline in the USSR
[ Parent ]

Rephrase (none / 0) (#110)
by sasquatchan on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:28:11 AM EST

I should say all the other points he listed are valid free speech to some degree.

The ones I pointed out, #2 and #4 are recent court cases where the court has said "this is not protected speech".

But for #1 and #5, I have not seen an court rulings saying that those are not protected rights.

In fact, #5 specifically has been protected. Granted, some state laws now try to restrict hate groups by modifying and incorporating new laws against "hate speech" but in the federal venue, speech like #5 is definitely protected.

My point was to say that his list was flawed because some of those have been permitted and some have been deemed non-protected speech. He should have done more research or clarified his list when he threw it together.
-- The internet is not here for your personal therapy.
[ Parent ]

Sigh (3.80 / 5) (#24)
by gauntlet on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 05:47:35 PM EST

This is frustrating to read, because while I agree with the author's point, it's being argued rather weakly.

First of all the question as to whether or not a right not to be offended comes down to whether or not that right was put into law. If it's not in the law, then no. If it is, then yes. Judges are responsible for making the determination, and if they make a determination that sufficient people are displeased with, then those people should elect someone else to rewrite the laws. We're not reading tea leaves, here.

As to the question of whether or not there exists an example of a person that was injured by obscene words, it depends on what you determine to be an injury. Unfortunately, an injury is just as variable a concept as "obscene." So, yes, there are likely people that have considered themselves to be "injured" by "obscenity." There are others that don't feel it is injurious. There are those that pay people to perform acts that would otherwise be deemed torturous, too. The consensus has been set that for most people, however, those things constitute injury. If a consensus is reached on obscenity, the consensus is no less valid.

The third question assumes that in order for a definition of obscenity to be useful, it has to be universally applicable. That is simply not true. A definition only needs to be based on an existing consensus in order for it to be useful.

Whether or not something is actionable, therefore, falls under the jurisdiction (so to speak) of the judiciary. They determine, given the definitions available, whether or not those definitions apply to the particular circumstance. Does the doctor that unplugs a respiratory machine at the request of a fatally ill patient's family not commit murder? I should hope that a judge would say no, he does not.

So is it unconstitutional to place prior restraint on things that would otherwise be legal free speech? I don't know. Whether or not it's unconstitutional is for a judge to decide. If you're asking me whether or not it should happen, my answer is very plainly, "No, it should not, and if the judiciary interprets a law in that way, the law should be changed."

That's the useful question, but that's not the question you asked.

Into Canadian Politics?

The right to free speech (2.00 / 5) (#30)
by dipierro on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:22:17 PM EST

doesn't include the right to use my airwaves to promote your speech.

No one owns the airwaves (n/t) (none / 0) (#55)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:31:26 PM EST



I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
[ Parent ]
The public owns the airwaves (n/t) (1.00 / 1) (#57)
by dipierro on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:55:48 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Broadcasters are as much the public as you are[n/t (none / 0) (#89)
by rcs on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 04:40:11 AM EST



--
I've always felt that there was something sensual about a beautiful mathematical idea.
~Gregory Chaitin
[ Parent ]
Not true at all... (none / 0) (#122)
by dipierro on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:15:38 PM EST

Broadcasters actually have more rights to the airwaves than I do.  They have broadcast rights.  But along with those additional rights come additional responsibilities, such as to act in the best interests of the community they are serving.  If the broadcast rights are abused, they can and will be taken away.

[ Parent ]
then the airwaves should be silent... (none / 0) (#108)
by substrate on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:18:27 AM EST

If I have no right to express myself on your airways, what right do you have to express yourself on mine? If this is really the standard that determines whether something can be aired or not, then nothing must be aired. Everything is offensive to some segment of the population.

That only certain types of speech are censored means that this really has nothing to do with rights and everything to do with lobbying. The Moral Majority (or whatever it's called now) puts money in the pockets of politicians and can get a group of voters to vote against a particular candidate, so to some extent they get to restrict what everybody else gets to see or hear through the FCC.

Let's say that the FCC throws up its hands and says "You're right, we'll only regulate the allocation of channels and not the content". Does this mean that the airwaves will suddenly be awash in hard core pornography and KKK propaganda? In general, no. In order to keep your station on the air it needs to have enough viewers to pay for the station. This can be through direct payments from individuals or cable companies such as HBO, The Christian Broadcasting Network or the Playboy Channel or it can be through advertisers banking that enough viewers will see their commercials to drive up product sales such as CBS, NBC, ABC or FOX.

Commercial sponsored television will always be relatively tame in the U.S. since these stations need to offend the least number of viewers in order to have large enough markets to charge advertisers for commercial time. This is a business decision.

This also leads me to this point: What gets aired on public access television is also a business decision. They're not willing to jeopardize their other earnings by giving time to views that their customers find objectionable. From a business perspective this is the right thing to do, and it is censorship, but isn't a violation of the First Amendment since most cable companies are not the government.

Remember, any suppression of speech is censorship, but not all censorship of speech is a violation of the first amendment. I won't have you coming into my home and spouting off racist speech, religion or soap operas. I'm censoring you, but in this case only from this particular venue.

[ Parent ]

Mixes-up law, philosophy, theories (4.14 / 7) (#31)
by Seth Finkelstein on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:24:38 PM EST

The article confuses many things in terms of abstract philosophy, law, and the theories used in either. For example, you have:

For the law to have force, it must define its scope and effect in very specific terms. If the sovereign wants to make a law against writing the obscene word "fuck" in a book, the lawmakers would have to write this in a book, becoming obscene in the process. All obscenity law will suffer from this paradoxically necessary omission.

This is a strawman version of the law. The standard for obscenity is the Miller test, which considers "significant scientific, literary, artistic or political ("SLAP") value.". So the law can can say that the law-book has significant value, but something else might not.

Concretely, the error you're making is assuming that the law must say "No-one can write this word in under any circumstances whatsoever", and then claiming it's a paradox. But really, what prevents the law from reading "No-one can write this word under the following circumstances, but it is permissible under these other circumstances, including this one where we write it" - then it's merely self-referential, not a paradox.

Disclaimer - I'm not a lawyer, but I've studied this topic extensively.


-- Seth Finkelstein

Miller test = dreadfully modernist [n/t] (none / 0) (#82)
by Josh A on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 02:40:53 AM EST


---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
I'd call him a scarecrow, personally. (none / 0) (#113)
by ip4noman on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:57:53 AM EST

From your linked reference:
"Obscenity" is that subset of pornography--sexually explicit speech--which is, according to Miller v. California,
  • prurient;
  • patently offensive; AND
  • lacking in significant scientific, literary, artistic or political ("SLAP") value.
The first two prongs of the test--prurience and patent offensiveness-- are determined with reference to contemporary community standards for the geographical area where the charges have been brought. The third prong, SLAP value, is determined according to a hypothetical "reasonable person" test.
This is illustrates my point exactly.

For a law to have any force, it must be *defined*. Without a clear and precise definition, there is no way to determine compliance. Any enforcement of such a law would be arbitrary, and likely to be capricious.

In this excerpt from your link to the Miller test, it outlines a 3 pronged test. Yet there is not a single prong which does not either refer to a "community standards" or a "hypothetical reasonable person". That is, this law defers definition to someone else. Therefore, this "law" is not defined and cannot have the force of law. It resembles law, it smells like law, it has the color of law, but it is not, in fact, law.

"Hypothetical Reasonable Person". Dearest Seth, I think we have just found your straw man ;^)



--
Breaking Blue / Cognitive Liberty Airwaves
[ Parent ]
Hmmm (3.00 / 3) (#32)
by jmzero on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:32:38 PM EST

Does there exist anywhere an example of someone who was injured by exposure to "obscene" or "indecent" words, images, or ideas?

Lots of law relies on the existence of mental or emotional harm, however unprovable.

In any case, any change that would lead to it being legal for someone to put Mr. Goatse.cx on a billboard is a bad change.  

(There's some emotional harm, if ever there was some - one click off SlashDot that I'll forever regret...)
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife

Obscene/indecent vs. rascist (3.00 / 3) (#33)
by DodgyGeezer on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:33:30 PM EST

Try take a lot of your arguements for the public use of obscene/indecent words, and apply them to rascial words that are considered inappropriate.  I think these days people are more offended by rascial terms than sexual ones.  But be careful what you ask for when it comes to freedom to use obscene/indecent words as somebody might twist it around.

Good. (5.00 / 2) (#61)
by Korimyr the Rat on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:51:13 PM EST

 Just as we need to grow up and realize that sexually-charged words and images are basically harmless, we need to grow up and realize that racially-charged words and images are basically harmless.

 It's one thing to be polite and civilized, and not use language that the people around you will find offensive. It's another thing entirely to be too weak and too sensitive to these things, that other people can hurt you by saying them.

--
"Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein
Founding Member of 'Retarded Monkeys Against the Restriction of Weapons Privileges'
[ Parent ]

Carlin is right (Korimyr too) (none / 0) (#84)
by Curby on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 03:59:21 AM EST

Context is everything.  A black man can call another a nigger: this is not considered an insult in most cases, in fact it's sometimes a sign of good will.

If a white man calls a black man a nigger: the black man feels insulted.

A white man uses the word nigger in front of a black man: depending on context, I argue that this doesn't necessarily have to be a racist statement.  

It used to be universally thought that certain words have magical powers.  They don't.  But when bad words get seen as being marginally aceptable, then more creative bad language crops up.  I can say something much more racist without using common racist slang than I could with only those dreary, overused terms.  Watch how you use words, not necessarily which words you use.

[ Parent ]

One thing you have to consider (1.40 / 5) (#34)
by medham on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:43:01 PM EST

Is that, according to Natural Law, everything that is, must be. Therefore, when you have bullhorns blaring Eric Blair at 13 o'clock in the morning, that's natural. Anything we as humans do is natural and must be blessed, for we know not why.

"Why" is not ours to ask. We must content ourselves with "what."

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

Sexual Harassment (2.80 / 10) (#35)
by Ruidh on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:46:46 PM EST

Clearly, people have been injured by exposure to obcene images and language. The display of sexually explicit images can cause a "hostile work environment" which affects how a person is treated and their well being in that environment.

Additionally, pornography can have the effect of dehumanizing people. Women become sexual opjects and not individuals worthy of respect. The internal attitudes which are engendered are unhealthy. Pornography can be a tool of male opression of women.
"Laissez-faire is a French term commonly interpreted by Conservatives to mean 'lazy fairy,' which is the belief that if governments are lazy enough, the Good Fairy will come down from heaven and do all their work for them."

What about men? (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by TheEldestOyster on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:57:12 PM EST

Are men in pornos somehow immune from this sexual objectification? Have you never heard of PlayGirl? What about gay pornos?
--
TheEldestOyster (rizen/bancus) * PGP Signed/Encrypted mail preferred
[ Parent ]
Seriously. (5.00 / 2) (#40)
by Matt Oneiros on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 07:32:25 PM EST

I'm tired of this "only women can be and are objectified" attitude, as I would assume you are too.

I mean jesus, I've been objectified my fair share.

Think about this, a woman asks a man "can I feel bicep" a man asks a woman "can I feel your breast" both are objectifying, and both could be construed as harassment. A bicep is concievably just as sexual to a woman as a breast to a man, so the argument "but it's entirely different body parts" can go straight out the window.

How about this, a woman asks a man how large his penis is, a man asks a woman if she's shaved in the nether regions. There is no difference.

Word to all you wanna-be, gonna-be feminists: Take a look at the real issue for these situations, the way the opposing sexes are conditioned to act, then you'll see the real problem in society.

Men are human, Women are human, both deserve equal treatment and equal rights, they deserve the right to dignity and respect. So unless you truly believe that women are the superiors to men, refer to yourself as a humanist.

Don't fight for womens rights, fight for everyones rights.

Lobstery is not real
signed the cow
when stating that life is merely an illusion
and that what you love is all that's real
[ Parent ]

It's all about intention (4.00 / 1) (#54)
by cyberlife on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:29:28 PM EST

Think about this, a woman asks a man "can I feel bicep" a man asks a woman "can I feel your breast" both are objectifying, and both could be construed as harassment. A bicep is concievably just as sexual to a woman as a breast to a man, so the argument "but it's entirely different body parts" can go straight out the window.

This is highly arguable. Ultimately it all comes down to the intention behind the act. There are many reasons to feel a bicep or feel a breast. If the intent is non-sexual, there shouldn't be any problem. Proving intent, however, is rather difficult.

[ Parent ]

Because (none / 0) (#60)
by sal5ero on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:32:52 PM EST

it is difficult to prove intent because our culture sets norms for what is considered "sexual" which may not be (and is not) exactly the same norms for any other given culture. those media-advertised "norms" may not even be the true norms of the culture. maybe many girls do find biceps to be "sexually exciting", but it is not widely acknowledged to be the case.

[ Parent ]
Of course... (none / 0) (#67)
by TheEldestOyster on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:39:52 AM EST

Then there's also the fact that the majority of people (in my local culture anyway, may be different in other regions... but I doubt it) look to physical attributes first when looking for a S/O.
--
TheEldestOyster (rizen/bancus) * PGP Signed/Encrypted mail preferred
[ Parent ]
Certainly (none / 0) (#126)
by sal5ero on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 11:27:03 PM EST

I don't have any objection to that, or to one person "checking out" another. I know some people do have a problem with that, but I don't see why - hey, it's flattering! :^)

IMHO, it's only offensive when done in a creepy or lecherous way (think: inappropriately grabbing someone), or in a way that abuses someone's power over another (ie. the subject is made to feel that they mustn't object).




[ Parent ]
yep (none / 0) (#146)
by Matt Oneiros on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 08:36:33 PM EST

intent is one of those things that it's hard to prove either direction... but as I recall one of the key things is reasonable assumption of intent on the part of the "victim."

If, during a physical a doctor asks to do the previously mentioned action, then in all likelihood it could not be inferred to be a harassing behaviour. Where as when such an exchange were to take place, say, in an elevator between strangers it most likely WOULD be inferred as harassing, and probably rightly so.

Lobstery is not real
signed the cow
when stating that life is merely an illusion
and that what you love is all that's real
[ Parent ]

Indeed. (none / 0) (#66)
by TheEldestOyster on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:36:48 AM EST

I'm tired of this "only women can be and are objectified" attitude, as I would assume you are too.

Not only that, but problems of reverse sexism. For instance, a woman in a workplace can generally wear a dress or pants, or have long hair or short hair, or have ear piercings. What about men? I had to cut my hair earlier this year just to get a shit job, which I quit a month later when they wanted me to cut more off. I also lack my ear piercing because I had to take that out, then I couldn't find it later.

Don't fight for womens rights, fight for everyones rights.

Right on, brother!
--
TheEldestOyster (rizen/bancus) * PGP Signed/Encrypted mail preferred
[ Parent ]
Gender rights (none / 0) (#80)
by Josh A on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 02:23:27 AM EST

You're talking gender rights now. The only reason sexism of any kind can exist is because of our falsely dichotomized gender stereotypes.

I'm glad you quit your oppressive job. I hope you told them exactly why they were losing you.

---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
And last time I checked, women were objects (n/t) (none / 0) (#49)
by Anatta on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:09:02 PM EST


My Music
[ Parent ]
Can someone please explain to me... (none / 0) (#42)
by ThreadSafe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 07:41:37 PM EST

how porn can possibly be degrading to the female species. I mean supposedly the process of degradtion happens within the psyche of one person, what one finds degrading another may find exalting. I think perhaps in your case if you think about it the porn you are talking about is just as degrading to the all men wank over it. (thats right i said wank) RELINQUISH YOUR BULLSHIT COLLECTIVST VIEWS for fucks sake.

Make a clone of me. And fucking listen to it! - Faik
[ Parent ]

No one makes you look at porn (none / 0) (#50)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:30:14 PM EST

You have a point with the sexual harassment thing. (Although I never thought about it from a 1st amendment perspective. I've got something to think about.)

However, pornography is not thrust upon you and is easy to avoid.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
[ Parent ]

Not on the Internet (none / 0) (#59)
by bodrius on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:29:14 PM EST

It's rather difficult these days to go beyond "Yahoo" without encountering pop-up after pop-up after a while.

Which I guess is a matter of method more than of content. Would a TV advertising that "chased" you through different channels and forced you to watch it again, and again, and again unless you turn off the TV, count as "harassment"?

I'm sure if it were the government, or a particular TV station, it would be considered as such. I suspect if it were a private corporation it would also be considered as harassment, because the viewer has manifested (repeatedly) his desire to be left alone.

Yet I'm acquiring a remarkable, lighting-fast reflexes for my alt-F4 combination for an out-of-shape geek.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]

easy solution (none / 0) (#65)
by roju on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:33:38 AM EST

Switch browsers.  Use Moz, and turn off pop ups.  Done.

Hell, use any of the opensource browsers, I think they all have the option of limiting javascript.

[ Parent ]

Or Proxomitron (none / 0) (#134)
by cpt kangarooski on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 03:16:57 AM EST

Which is a lovely -- though overly difficult to use -- proxy filter.

In fact, I'm using it right now to get rid of ads, well, everywhere. Including k5.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]

I love this line of thinking. (5.00 / 2) (#52)
by NFW on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:44:00 PM EST

Women become sexual opjects and not individuals worthy of respect.  The internal attitudes which are engendered are unhealthy.

If pornography does that to you, I strongly suggest that you not watch it.

Pornography can be a tool of male opression of women.

Does construction work oppress workers?  Do they become robots and not individuals worthy of respect?  Does restaurant work oppress waiters and waitresses, turning them into food delivery machines and not individuals worthy of respect?  Does ballet oppress dancers?  Do professional sports oppress athletes?


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

Pornography and Degradation (none / 0) (#72)
by RadiantMatrix on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 01:02:54 AM EST

Additionally, pornography can have the effect of dehumanizing people. Women become sexual opjects and not individuals worthy of respect. The internal attitudes which are engendered are unhealthy. Pornography can be a tool of male opression of women.
Actually, the increased acceptance of pornography correlates rather well with the increased equality of the sexes. While pornography could arguably used to opress some person or class, its mere existance does no such thing. In fact, rather than "dehumanizing" someone, it shows them at their most human -- one of the few basic commonalities all people have is the desire for sex.

Aside from that, how is pornography depicting stronger women (i.e. BDSM) opressing them? I think, rather, that the nature of pornography today is more a result of the liberation of women. Women need no longer fear that being a subject of pornographic materials will make outcasts of them.

--
$w="q\$x";for($w){s/q/\:/;s/\$/-/;s/x/\)\n/;}print($w)
[ Parent ]

Correllation does not causation make (none / 0) (#173)
by Ruidh on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 11:30:07 PM EST

The story to which I replied stated that no one was ever hurt by pornography. I gave two fairly obvious counterexamples and I get jumped on as a troll. Someone who spends an inordinate amount of time viewing pornography, thinking about sex and mentally evaluating every woman they meet for fuckability is no longer deailing with members of the opposite sex as individuals. When sexual attractiveness becomes the single yardstick by which people of the opposite sex are measured, they are dehumanized. I'm not claiming that all people who view pornography are depraved. But I am reacting to the implication of the article above that pornography is harmless.
"Laissez-faire is a French term commonly interpreted by Conservatives to mean 'lazy fairy,' which is the belief that if governments are lazy enough, the Good Fairy will come down from heaven and do all their work for them."
[ Parent ]
Why are people modding this below a 3? (none / 0) (#111)
by lb008d on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:29:13 AM EST

Of course this post is a troll, but the statements expressed are shared by many people in the US. I doubt anyone would disagree with the first post, but then again who would put a nude pic up at work! (unless you're a mechanic, where it is expected).

Thankfully there is some discussion about the second point.

"Kuro5hin: politics and pretension, from the $3,000 leather recliners on the hill overlooking the trenches."DarkZero
[ Parent ]

Do we have a right not to be offended ? (2.90 / 10) (#37)
by Phillip Asheo on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:56:35 PM EST

We sure do, and that right, like every other right grows (metaphorically speaking) from the barrel of a gun at the level of the nation state, and from my bare fists at an inter-personal level.

Offend me, and I will exercise my right to deter you from doing it again.

The only rights we have are the ones we can physically defend. All the rest is bullshit.

--
"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long

That's nice (none / 0) (#79)
by Josh A on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 02:18:10 AM EST

I think I'll be getting a restraining order against you NOW, that way if I happen to offend you and you decide to defend your "right" physically we can have you thrown in in jail more easily.

---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
The rest is NOT bullshit. (none / 0) (#83)
by Curby on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 03:24:43 AM EST

The only rights we have are the ones we can physically defend.

A small boy doesn't have the right to not get beaten by his parents because he can't defend himself?

You don't have the right to life because I can't prevent a bullet from hitting me?

One of the great things about our civilization is specialization.  Some people don't have the interest, ability, and/or opportunity to become a professional martial artist/wrestler/sharpshooter/knifefighter/swordsman/archer, etc.  But they don't have to.

I agree with your second paragraph.  But what do you mean by the third?

[ Parent ]

Irresistible quote (none / 0) (#95)
by mr nutter on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 06:58:21 AM EST

Though I generally dislike glib quotes I can't resist the urge to trot out this one:

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf" -George Orwell

Mr Asheo sounds a little like the teacher from that silly book Starship Troopers. Someone who can grow decent vegetable marrows is entitled to the same rights as someone who is good with their fists but crap with a hoe since they are both useful in their own way, Mr Violence to defend Mr Marrow's vegetable plot from the depredations of others for example.

[ Parent ]

1st amendment (3.00 / 3) (#39)
by SwampGas on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 07:19:23 PM EST

Before things get out of hand and people bring up the first amendment rights (which they will), it should be said:

The first amendment does not protect your freedom of speech per se...it protects you from the GOVERNMENT passing a LAW which prohibits you from saying whatever you want.

You can say whatever you want..but there's no constitutional right that says the other person can't censor you or sue you for it.  It only applies to laws passed by the government.

Still fumbling towards reality (none / 0) (#41)
by sigwinch on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 07:37:59 PM EST

The first amendment does not protect your freedom of speech per se...it protects you from the GOVERNMENT...
Not quite. It protects you from bills passed by Congress. The First Amendment reads "Congress shall make no law..."
...passing a LAW which prohibits you from saying whatever you want.
They most certainly can prohibit particular types of speech. Because the stated purpose of the U.S. Constitution is to protect the people, an act of speech that unambiguously and necessarily endangers someone can be prohibited without interfering with the purpose of the Constitution. "Fighting words", incitement of riot, libel, violations of copyright, parading without a permit, solicitation, etc.

Gah. I'm apalled that a story this ill-informed made front page. You've got most of human knowledge at your fingertips, people. Check the facts, check the facts.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

...uhh? (none / 0) (#48)
by SwampGas on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 08:24:15 PM EST

Not quite. It protects you from bills passed by Congress. The First Amendment reads "Congress shall make no law..."
But that's what I said. Congress is a government body. The government can't pass any laws that prohibit free speech.

And like I said, on the flip side, a private person can still censor and sue you for slander, libel, et al.

[ Parent ]
Congress vs. gov't. (none / 0) (#63)
by sigwinch on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:54:38 PM EST

But that's what I said. Congress is a government body. The government can't pass any laws that prohibit free speech.
No. The First Amendment only affects the Congress of the United States of America, consisting of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. ("Congress shall make no law...") State governments are free to do what they want regarding speech and religion. Several of the early states did, in fact, have official state churches. These days the state churches have been rescinded and most states have their own free speech laws, but this is not related to or required by the First Amendment.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Anachronistic (none / 0) (#68)
by cpt kangarooski on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:40:47 AM EST

This was certainly true a long time ago. However, after the passage of the 14th Amendment, the other Amendments were taken to apply to the states as well. Thus, at present, no state may, even if permitted under its own constitution (and state constitutions can be really protective!) prohibit speech any more than Congress may.

It's also been more or less extended to the other branches of government anyway.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]

Bullshit (none / 0) (#128)
by sigwinch on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 01:30:37 AM EST

Even if we accept that completely erroneous (and nigh traitorous) misinterpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, there remains the patently obvious fact that the free speech and religion provisions of the First Amendment are restrictions on the Congress of the United States. They do not constitute rights, natural or otherwise; a restriction on government is not the same thing as a right. If that were true, an amendment that said "The Bureau of Engraving and Printing shall not paint their buildings orange" would mean that citizens have a right to not be subjected to municipal buildings that are painted orange.

If your ludicrous misinterpretation of the 14th was correct, it would invalidate, for example, state trade secret laws that cause a confidentiality obligation to arise from an employment contract, because no state law would be able to impair the purported Constitutional right to freedom of speech. It would also invalidate state laws regarding electioneering near polling stations. Et cetera, et cetera.

But it doesn't. Like all judicial activism, it only applies to particular undefined situations that offend the moral sensibilities of SCOTUS.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Misinterpretation? (none / 0) (#133)
by cpt kangarooski on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 03:12:46 AM EST

Huh. The Supreme Court has been pretty happy to continue to expand the incorporation doctrine over the years. I'm sure they've been called "completely erroneous (and nigh traitorous)" more than once though.

The 14th A. on its face requires that states cannot "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process...." Ever since the 1930's or so the Court has accepted the idea that the liberties that states cannot infringe coincidentally happen to basically be the same as those in the Bill of Rights, though they can actually expand even further. (and in rare instances have, IIRC)

The 1st A. is fully incorporated. The Court has used it against states for a LONG time. Barnette is a nice, early example, dating from 1943 where a state law requiring students to pledge allegience to the flag was overturned for violating the 1st A.

While it is true that they do not constitute rights, they mesh VERY nicely with what we perceive to be fundemental rights: the right to speak, think, believe, and associate freely. They're all defeatable per strict scrutiny, but that happens less than you'd think.

I would suggest that you actually start reading some of the relevant cases on the 1st A. and the incorporation doctrine before making such wholly unsupported claims as you have.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]

Danger ! (none / 0) (#130)
by IriseLenoir on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 02:09:13 AM EST

Could you explain to me how libel, violations of copyright, parading without a permit and solicitation "endangers" people? Libel might be argued in extreme cases which most libel cases have nothing to do with. In my opinion, it is copyright which is socially dangerous, but certainly no direct threat to an individual and I can't see how you could argue that violation of copyright endangers anyone. Solicitation is ridiculous, how could you say that? The only case I would see is if you force someone to listen to your solicitation, but then it is the use of force, not solicitation per see that is the problem. Needing a permit to parade is what is dangerous to freedom, not the reverse. As for incitement to riot, sure, but sometimes it is Government that more dangerous than rebellion and it can become necessary. I thought your constitution protected your right to revolution when the Government becomes corrupt, but maybe I am wrong in this. Obviously it makes no difference because it would then not let you exercise that right, but a society that thinks that incitement to revolution is always wrong is a society that can fall into fascism quite quickly. Anyway, those things are subjective and subject to interpretation and personal values, so I don't think "checking the facts" is that relevant here.
"liberty is the mother of order, not its daughter" - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
[ Parent ]
not really critical, but funny... (4.27 / 11) (#45)
by squidinkcalligraphy on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 07:58:59 PM EST

A couple of funny free-speech anecdotes from Melbourne, Australia when it was being goverened by the somewhat fascist premier Jeff Kennet:

A man who was charged by Kennet for assault after spitting in his face was found innocent on the grounds of freedom of political expression.

Another man hung a banner from his balcony proclaiming `Kennet must die'. His landlord took offence and reported him, and subsequently he went on trial for the death threat. He successfully argued in court that Kennet, being a mortal, must eventually die.

An identity card is better that no identity at all

not ha ha funny (3.60 / 5) (#71)
by majcher on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:59:12 AM EST

I wonder how long one could get away with, say, a signature that proclaimed, "President Bush Must Die", in the same vein. I'd be willing to bet cash money that it'd be a matter of weeks before the SS paid you a little visit, and maybe you disappear to a secret tribunal, arguments of mortality notwithstanding.
--
http://www.majcher.com/
Wrestling pigs since 1988!
[ Parent ]
ou contrare. (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by cicero on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 04:19:46 AM EST

I laughed audibly at the second one. meaning that, at least to me, the second anectdote was "ha ha funny".


--
I am sorry Cisco, for Microsoft has found a new RPC flaw - tonight your e0 shall be stretched wide like goatse.
[ Parent ]
Definitons.. (2.71 / 7) (#46)
by ThreadSafe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 08:02:51 PM EST

Perhaps we should take a look at the defintion of offend : To displease; to make angry; to affront. All I can say is what a fucking boring world it would be if we all stoped offending each other so freaking often.

Make a clone of me. And fucking listen to it! - Faik

I think you mean "definitions." (none / 0) (#51)
by NFW on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:33:33 PM EST

Only if displeased/angered/affronted people are the only thing you find interesting.  

You need therapy.

Tell me about your mother.

(Actually, don't.  I only offend you in an effort to make you interesting.)


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

Three words... (3.00 / 3) (#53)
by skyknight on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:22:15 PM EST

Time, place and manner... These are the only grounds upon which one may censor another justifiably without trampling First Amendment rights. This is a simple distinction and easy enough to apply uniformly. For example, I have every right to say whatever I damn well please in print, online, in the privacy of my home, etc... I do not, however, have the right to do so at 3am, on your front lawn, with a bullhorn. I can say whatever I damn well please to someone, and it is not harassment. If I repeatedly say something to someone despite their indication that they want to be left alone, then that is harassment. This distinction is crucial.

You can not censor based on content alone.

You can not censor based on content alone.

You can not censor based on content alone.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
There are exceptions, however (none / 0) (#74)
by kholmes on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 01:24:54 AM EST

Such as ASCII drawings of gaping anuses.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
[ Parent ]
Granted... (none / 0) (#124)
by skyknight on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 11:13:22 PM EST

Time, place, manner, or ASCII drawings of gaping anuses... All reasons for censorship.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
In a perfect world (4.00 / 4) (#58)
by Happy Monkey on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:07:40 PM EST

One would not have the right not to be offended, one would have the ability.
___
Length 17, Width 3
You'll Probably Call this Flamebait but... (3.40 / 5) (#62)
by broody on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:52:44 PM EST

I think you need to revise your essay.

Let's go over the essay's transitions for a moment. All those questions up front get me thinking of all kinds of "deep" issues regarding censorship. Suddenly we drop to the microcasm of what could very well be the rant of the local public access drama queen. The Carlin story sucks me back in, much like Dr Suess' "Oh the Places You Go". I heard it a thousand times but I still get a smile and some hope from it. Than we cut to the bit about torture and right there I tune out. We're back to exagerating for effect and the transition is as subtle as a Calvin Kline commercial.

My constructive suggestion is to break the questions out of their large block and play with them. An essay is a tease and a promise of what you'll get afterwards. Your giving it up to easy. Give a big zesty question and follow with a little practical application or at least break it up a little.

So why should you care I get bored half way through your essay? I am probably one of your most likely target demographics to read your essay all the way through. You see, I am one of those people who bought Dave Marsh's "50 Ways to Fight Censorship", read the thing several times, and still does a third or so of the things. So, you see, I have an interest in the topic.

Ok, now here is the part where I tell you that you have some good things in your writing. You should develop it more. No horseshit Jack. The trouble is that it's still got too much noise on the line. Don't worrry. You'll figure out how to get the signal through if you keep at it.

P.S. Thank you, Thank you, Thank You for getting something besides that damn Lessig article on the top of the page.


~~ Whatever it takes
good call... (none / 0) (#78)
by scubacuda on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 01:56:14 AM EST

...on that damned Lessig article.


There are a thousand forms of subversion, but few can equal the convenience and immediacy of a cream pie. Noel Godin
[ Parent ]

Time For A New One, Not A Slam. (none / 0) (#103)
by broody on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 08:41:04 AM EST

It's nothing against your article. Anytime K5 stays the same for 5 days, I want a new article.


~~ Whatever it takes
[ Parent ]
Two words... (2.75 / 4) (#69)
by glenebob on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:52:08 AM EST

Common Courtesy.

Laws are made when two many people ignore common courtesy.  It's as simple as that.

Common Courtesy (none / 0) (#92)
by lonesmurf on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 05:09:44 AM EST

I'm offended by your lack of proper use of the word, "too"!

Ha!

This entire article is making me crazy. It always amazes me when someone can call something absolutely obscene. Who is that person to judge what is or isn't acceptable?


Rami

I am not a jolly man. Remove the mirth from my email to send.


[ Parent ]
Well, I hope not (5.00 / 1) (#101)
by greenrd on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 08:19:41 AM EST

There's no law against general rudeness, is there?


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Rudeness (none / 0) (#140)
by glenebob on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 03:01:56 PM EST

There's no law against general rudeness, is there?
No there isn't, but general rudeness obviously has a name and you likely understand what it is. Are you generally rude to everyone you meet simply because there is no law against it? Would you go around saying "fuck this" and "fuck that" in the presence of children or people you believe would be offended by it? Would you light up a smoke in a confined space containing mostly non-smokers?

[ Parent ]
I want a pay out... (2.50 / 4) (#73)
by Fuzzwah on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 01:16:25 AM EST

I'm offended by censorship.

--
The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris

I'm offended... (4.66 / 3) (#77)
by scubacuda on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 01:54:00 AM EST

...by someone who yells "movie" in a crowded firehouse.


There are a thousand forms of subversion, but few can equal the convenience and immediacy of a cream pie. Noel Godin
[ Parent ]

Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word (4.25 / 4) (#75)
by scubacuda on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 01:50:59 AM EST

I just read a book that you might want to check out: Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word, by Randall Kennedy (who, BTW, is quite accomplished). If you're interested in the legal aspects, check out the (I think it's called) Nigger in Court chapter.


There are a thousand forms of subversion, but few can equal the convenience and immediacy of a cream pie. Noel Godin

Salon article (4.00 / 2) (#76)
by scubacuda on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 01:53:02 AM EST

Here's a Salon review of Kennedy's Nigger.


There are a thousand forms of subversion, but few can equal the convenience and immediacy of a cream pie. Noel Godin
[ Parent ]

That is a perfect book to mention (4.33 / 3) (#91)
by Perianwyr on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 04:43:39 AM EST

Regarding Chris Rock's routine about a white person praising Rock's statements about blacks, and receiving a punch in the face (my emphasis:)

"Rock's message is clear," Kennedy writes; "white people cannot rightly say about blacks some of the things that blacks themselves say about blacks." That may be a double standard, but it's not one that violates the basic commonsense principle that context is everything. And it's a double standard we all abide by: "Just as a son is privileged to address his mother in ways that outsiders cannot (at least not in the son's presence), so, too, is a member of a race privileged to address his racial kin in ways proscribed to others."

Fair in a legalistic, explicit sense? Not really. Socially obvious and acceptable? Yeah, at the end of the day.

The word "nigger" is unarguably obscene in nearly every context in which a white person can use it, and a curiosity at best in those cases that are not objectionable. Black people, however, get to use that power-word however they like- and honestly, I'm inclined to let them. If you can reclaim a sigil that's been used so harshly against you, why the hell not? Cosmic irony.



[ Parent ]
I guess that makes sense... (2.60 / 5) (#81)
by srn on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 02:24:40 AM EST

After all, in Australia we don't have rights enshrined in the constitution - we just rely on common law.

So far common law seems to be more reliable, in the long term.

Yeah... (5.00 / 1) (#88)
by nustajeb on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 04:38:27 AM EST

There's no censorship in Australia!

[ Parent ]
There is no right to not be offended. (4.50 / 6) (#90)
by Arker on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 04:42:28 AM EST

  1. Does there exist a right not to be offended?

This is really the core question. Fortunately it admits to an easy and certain answer, and that answer is no.

One key and essential characteristic of any Human Right is that it is something which you can have without thereby depriving your fellow Human of it. So, for instance, your Right to Speak Freely does not require the limitation of mine.

If you assert, however, a right to not be offended, this assertion clearly does not comport with this criteria. As you clearly point out, different people are offended by different things. You may be offended by my speech. I may be offended that you are offended, and so on.

Therefore 'to not be offended' may be a good, but it cannot be a Right.



I think people are looking at it backwards (5.00 / 3) (#144)
by krek on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 04:22:58 PM EST

The issue is not whether people have the right to 'not be offended', in otherwords, whether people have the right to exist in a completely non-offesive environment at all times. The issue is whether people have the right to 'get offended', in other words, the right to become offended, and rather put-out, by any random stimulus that happens to ignite their neurons.

I would say that this is perfectly reasonable. Evereyone should have the right to be as offended as they want to be at anything at all that strikes their fancy. They would also have the right to complain about it as much as they want, as well as the right to push to eliminate the offensive stimulus. What they do not have the right to is the expectation that anyone at all is required to listen to them or pay them any heed at all, and they certainly do not have the right to force anyone to conform to their standards.

[ Parent ]
The real corollary for weblogs is... (3.16 / 6) (#93)
by RobotSlave on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 05:30:20 AM EST

...do users have any right to post messages that violate the "community standards" of a given weblog?

In short, does there exist a natural right to troll?

Those who have been empowered by the tyranny of the majority at K5 possess the right to silence dissent via the coveted "zero rating." The guidelines for comment rating clearly state that this "zero rating" should only be deployed to counteract "spam," but in practise, though it is sometimes exercised in the intended manner, the "zero rating" capability is in actuality deployed far more often to silence dissent, mockery, or merely uncomfortable opinion, rather than spam (characterized by repetition and/or mercenary commercial intent).

In point of fact, clear-cut spam can make it through the submission queue without significant opposition, while dozens of legitimate opinionated comments are censored every week due to nothing more than personal bias or reactionary "democratic" police action.

Do you fancy yourself a person who believes "obscene" speech should be tolerated? If your answer is "yes," then you must, of ideological necessity, welcome and embrace trolls.

What happens... (3.33 / 6) (#94)
by MrLarch on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 06:08:12 AM EST

... when the however "obscene" trolling consumes a large portion of communication in some context, becoming repetitive, failing to be constructive, and -- arguably -- existing as the most readily available example of spam to be had?

[ Parent ]
and how does that deserve a 2? post, don't mod -nt (2.66 / 3) (#105)
by MrLarch on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 08:54:50 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Some people (1.33 / 3) (#143)
by krek on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 04:07:51 PM EST

feel insulted when they fail to understand. Thus, the two.

[ Parent ]
And some people (1.00 / 2) (#152)
by MrLarch on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 10:15:29 AM EST

feel arrogant, so they fail to communicate. Thus, the one.

[ Parent ]
This begs the question, of course. (3.00 / 2) (#115)
by RobotSlave on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 10:28:46 AM EST

The question being, "which portion of the discourse constitutes trolling?"

For example, in a debate on any well trodden political topic, is the person who ploddingly lays out a familiar position for the umpteenth time a troll?

According to your view, that sort of activity exists "as the most readily available example of spam to be had."

In effect, anything boring, in your conception, may be labelled spam, and censored.

[ Parent ]

Troll was originally a verb (3.66 / 3) (#142)
by krek on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 04:07:30 PM EST

Trolling is the act of posting comments with the explicit goal of infuriating as many people as possible, preferably to the point where they can no longer string two characters together in a coherant manner, thus making them look like the idiot.

Jargon file entry here

I would say that the part of the troll that constitutes a troll is the motivation rather than the content. A troll want to be a troll, otherwise they are just a poorly informed moron.

[ Parent ]
yes (3.00 / 1) (#153)
by MrLarch on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 10:18:17 AM EST

It's intent, rather than the most readily available interpretation of the comments. There are varying probabilities that it will be interpreted as both trolling and sincere, and the readers will react. However, some of it really is obscene, as in gratuitous and blindingly obvioius.

[ Parent ]
I see. (4.00 / 4) (#156)
by RobotSlave on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 11:12:30 AM EST

So what you are saying is that yes, there is a right to troll, because the intent can not possibly be determined by the reader, and thus all posts must be assumed to be sincere until admitted otherwise.

This differs from obscenity, which is determined based on the perception of the audience.

Those who argue that a community has a right to censor material that is percieved to be "trolling" should have no qualms with censoring material that is percieved to be "obscene."

Aside to krek: thanks for the link to ESR's Jargon File, you condescending prick.

[ Parent ]

no (none / 0) (#164)
by MrLarch on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 05:33:04 PM EST

That's not what I mean at all. I mean that you can't always tell because of perceptions, therefore the only thing you can do in rating things without relying on such interpretation is to take care of the obvious stuff, which has become obscene through its excessive presence. Got me?

[ Parent ]
Got it. (5.00 / 1) (#165)
by RobotSlave on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 06:47:10 PM EST

So you do, in fact, believe that obscenity ought to be censored, regardless of intent.

You believe that obscenity is to be determined by the reader, and censored, provided the reader is in the majority in that determination.

I find such a position ethically consistent.

[ Parent ]

you are twisting away (1.50 / 2) (#166)
by MrLarch on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 06:56:28 PM EST

So you do, in fact, believe that obscenity ought to be censored, regardless of intent.

I didn't say that -- my definition of obscene in this context (and for very good reason, as I've explained) is gratuitous, and therefore annoying, trolling (identifiable by its repetitive nature and self-evident intent to call attention to itself).

You believe that obscenity is to be determined by the reader, and censored, provided the reader is in the majority in that determination.

If you mean determined bad by the majority of readers in the same sense that armed assault is considered bad by the majority, yet good by the few who perpetrate it... yes. On the other hand, if the majority itself becomes as obcenely trollificious as those who should be slapped with 0's, then we should leave. It's just a website, after all.

Now, is there a reason you're stringing this along without reading me? Is it to prove a point?

[ Parent ]

Ah, now I've got it. (5.00 / 1) (#168)
by RobotSlave on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 08:29:52 PM EST

You believe that trolling is self-evident. Trolling is that which can be called trolling. Anything gratuitous and annoying can be deemed a troll, so long as its troll-ness is self-evident. Trolling is that which you think is a troll.

Having thus determined what is and what is not trolling, you then suggest that trolling should be silenced by whatever means available.

Furthermore, you state that trolling is comparable to armed assault, and should be regarded in similar terms.

Yes, there is a reason I am continuing this argument. Yes, it is to prove a point.

[ Parent ]

Gimmie a T... (1.50 / 2) (#170)
by MrLarch on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 09:59:47 PM EST

You believe that trolling is self-evident.

Wrong. I suggest that some trolling happens to be self-evident, and that this quality is one among a few which can be used as a basis for censorship.

Trolling is that which can be called trolling... Trolling is that which you think is a troll.

The word troll has a definition, and I don't apply "obscene" to all trolling.

Anything gratuitous and annoying can be deemed a troll, so long as its troll-ness is self-evident.

I consider all three qualities necessary, and often one or more is a result of realizing the others.

Having thus determined what is and what is not trolling...

No, because this discussion started out with obscenity: so, "having determined what's obscene," etc.

Also trolling is comparable to assault in the metaphor, it works to a point there. Taken out of that strict context, it's meaningless.

And no, I don't consider a(n over-) lengthened thread to be worthy of censorship. It may be annoying to some, but it's not gratuitous (interesting conditions would have to exist for that to be true, I'm sure) and usually only one side is trolling purposefully. The other is attempting to find reason in the argument.

[ Parent ]

Dear Mr. Bravado: (5.00 / 1) (#177)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 01:24:04 AM EST

Which "side," then, is attempting to "find reason in the argument?" Do you claim to be in the sole possession of reason in this debate? Are you really so stupidly arrogant? I hope not.

You have offered several definitions of "trolling," and abandoned each when challenged. Surely this does not speak highly of your mastery of "reason?"

I await your explanation of what makes "some" trolling "self evident." Without quantifiable definition, your assertion amounts to "that which I believe is trolling, is trolling."

I'm afraid "trolling" does not, in point of fact, have a definition. In fact, it has many definitions, and the simple-minded flat assertion that ESR's definition in the Jargon File is the "correct" one constitutes no more than a pathetic appeal to authority. There are many other existant definitions of "trolling," and not all of them are as pejorative as one in your position might wish.

Consider, just as a starting point, the slogan that labels trolling "education through disinformation." Like all slogans, this can be dismissed quickly by anyone comitted to any incompatible dogma, but it ought to at least give you pause.

But there are more substantial arguments. It is not nearly so simple for the dogmatist to dismiss the rich anthropological record of trickster gods, or, in the modern era, the scholarly efforts of the situationist international.

In addition, I await your detailed explanation of how armed assault can be used as a reasonable ethical surrogate for trolling.

Go on. Ignore death and physical suffering in your complaint against subversive, or merely objectionable, speech. I'm sure it will be ever so convincing.



[ Parent ]

Objectionable (2.00 / 1) (#192)
by MrLarch on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 07:21:50 PM EST

If you think my definition has differed over time, then explain how, for it has not. You quote me as if your speech were original to attack me for no express purpose, putting me in a position of tracking your evasive games intent on eliciting something. Your trolling is such because it yearns to teach me something, to correct what you assume to be wrong. Ignoring it does not ignore anything beyond your own sad pleadings, and the act would not need to be convincing to you unless I would be unfaithful to it.

Now, why do you assume I subscribe to the jargon file's definition when the popular or notable uses of it define its meaning? Is not my own definition good enough, or must I please you as well? From what you have chosen to reveal, your connotation of the word is only a simple subset of an integral part of human behavior. Do you so fear that the most effective or perhaps only means of expression you can maintain should be deemed distasteful and, by some perversion of the technology which lends your speech some degree of freedom, removed because of it? I hope not. There are other ways to speak; there are quite a few ways to persuade.

If anything would give me pause it is the notion that you consider yourself a rebel, a "subversive" individual who is but one locus of dissent in this authoritarian life, the smothering walls of which you can only hope to affect with your sharpened nails and your wits. That is offensive to some, though I do not vouch for their reasons. Its arrogance offends me, for it assumes far too much.

Falsities intended to render a truth can not be sure to do much but breed reaction and thought. All thought is not the same. If one desires to shape the world, however, then it will do. It always does. But it lends no credibility to the direction in which it is being shaped.

I object to many things. I do not exist to convince you of anything -- what you perceive as self-evident and arrogant you will not divulge. But you refuse to meet whatever your convictions happen to be with honesty. That makes your methods annoying, for it puts the burden on me to assemble your hidden motives, the thesis of this piece. The task is not a pleasure, and your assurance to me that it is indeed my rightful job is incorrect.

You will not suffer death or destruction by my moderation of any post to zero, excluding whatever action you choose to follow. In choosing a number, I project the outcome and its desirability to me. If I were to follow the rules by the letter, then I would need a textbook definition of both spam and troll and to abide by them. Of course, this could be done automatically. I would rather shape the things in which I participate through the facilities provided with which to shape.

Kuro5hin is an online community, and accountability is low. If you wish to engage in some ongoing debate with the rules incompatible with your own indecently hidden delights, then I can not stop you. But do not come up to me, or whoever your figure to be a ripe mark, and expect me to play along with you for any reason. Your weapons do not frighten me, for I have contemplated death and anarchy. I do not care whether you are convinced by me or whether you dismiss me as you have done all along as incompatible dogma. Will you discuss or react?

[ Parent ]

Don't drink and post, dude. (3.40 / 5) (#197)
by RobotSlave on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:22:57 PM EST

You should try using shorter sentences. You're not very good at the long ones. The best example of what I'm talking about here is this little gem:

"You quote me as if your speech were original to attack me for no express purpose"

That, simply put, is absolutely atrocious writing. It might be possible to render it readable with a pair of commas, but I'm afraid the poor little punctuation marks would not be up to the rather more substantial task of rendering it coherent. If we ignore for the moment the fact that I do indeed have an "express purpose," one which I have repeated many times, we are still left with the baffling task of somehow connecting and drawing meaning from the straightforwad "You quote me" and the either oxymoronic or tautological "as if your speech were original" (but which is it? It's simply too poorly wrought to decide).

In answer to your first question: you argue here that "trolling" is a matter of intent. When challenged, you change your mind and imply instead that that it can be recognized, indeed, that it is "obvious," due to a different distinguishing trait, to wit, that of "excessive presence." When that basis of definition is disposed of, you start in with the laughable concept of a mystical and reflexive "self-evident" distinguishing trait, which boils down to "trolling is that which is trolling." When this folly is revealed, you fall back to the position that only some trolling possesses this distinguishing trait of "self-evidentness."

You do seem to be clinging at that point to the notion that "trolling is trolling," as you insist that "trolling has a definition," but you conspicuously fail to produce that definition. After you've been reminded of the inconvenient fact that trolling has many definitions, we arrive at the present, in which you seem to have abandoned entirely your initial effort to define trolling in a manner consistent with your rationale for censoring the "trolls" that you hate.

I do not consider this ongoing argument to be an act of "trolling," but you do. To one familiar with the repercussions of solipsism, this would strongly suggest that you are the party currently engaged in "trolling."

My larger point, the one that I have been trying to get across from the start, is very simple. My definition of "trolling," in service of that point, is a pragmatic one.

From a pragmatic standpoint, "trolling" is speech which a given community finds offensive. This, as it happens, is precisely the definition that is most often used for "obscenity."

Given this equivalence, I suggest that those who decry the suppression of "indecent" speech, while at the same time rabidly doing all in their power to suppress "trolling," are hypocrites of the first order.

That is my point.

Since you seem to think I am required to voice an attachment to some ideology or another before I can be permitted to argue ethics, I will outline my personal beliefs briefly.

I do not believe speech should be suppressed or censored. I believe it is very important to make sure that speech that violates "community standards" can be heard. I am not an absolutist; the standard objection of yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is a compelling one. I do not, however, think that exceptions should be based upon mob rule, on the tyranny of the majority, on, in short, "community values."

I also believe that property rights should not be the basis on which we decide what sort of speech may be safely suppressed. I believe that a person on your bed, in your house, on your property, should have the right to speak freely, to say "yes" or "no," to say things that you find frustrating or painful.

I believe that speech should only be suppressed when there is a an immediate threat of great, physical harm (as opposed to, say, irritation, expense, or emotional upheaval).

I will be disappointed but not at all surprised when you attack this system of belief (and I do not pretend that it is "truth" rather than faith), having failed to defend, or even clearly articulate your own beliefs, let alone make the slightest dent in my initial argument.

These attacks, which you will not be able to resist, despite the prudence of such a course, will be ignored or lampooned at turns, at least until you have acknowledged the hypocrisy of simultaneously decrying the suppression of "obscene" speech, and agressively censoring "trolls."

 

Aside to Mr. Isnt: Yes, I know. God help me.

[ Parent ]

Very prudent. (none / 0) (#207)
by MrLarch on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 10:43:12 AM EST

So because you're always right, then I'm inconsistent and will attack you. Also, since I have erred in separating "trolling" and "obscene" speech, I am to be attacked. Furthermore, I troll because what I say is disingenuous and see strawmen where there aren't any (I gather you don't understand the term, but no matter). Thank you, sir. That is prudent.

[ Parent ]
Not quite. (none / 0) (#208)
by RobotSlave on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:56:03 PM EST

You have failed to seperate trolling from obscenity, rather than committed some error in deciding to undertake the task.

Furthermore, while you "see" strawmen, you have been unable to defend your charges of strawmanism when challenged.

By way of comparison, I can call you a "bloodfarting ratfucker," but the charge carries no weight if I can not show that you do, in fact, fuck rats and fart blood.

Thank you for sobering up, by the way. You've only got one minor problem this time around, provided we let the incorrect "because/then" construction slide for now. You should have written "sees," not "see." Subject/verb agreement, I think they call it.

Just keep making those sentences shorter until they become clear and unambiguous.

[ Parent ]

"I sees you abuse strawmen." (none / 0) (#213)
by MrLarch on Sat Oct 19, 2002 at 12:28:18 AM EST

The reason they're seperate is that trolling in itself isn't anything to take action on, whereas obscene can be defined however you want. In the context of K5, much of the trolling is obscene if for no other reason than that it is offensive, ratfarter.

[ Parent ]
Begging the question. (none / 0) (#214)
by RobotSlave on Sat Oct 19, 2002 at 01:02:26 AM EST

So one should take action on trolling but not on obscenity because trolling differs from obscenity in that action should be taken on trolling.

In other words, you justify censorship of trolling with a tautology.

I think you fail to understand that a consequence of your bullshit is that any obscene or objectionable speech my be censored, if one first accuses it of being "trolling."

You are, in other words, in favor of censoring obscene or indecent speech, so long as one first applies the label "troll" to that speech.

[ Parent ]

trolls deemed obscene; elves protest (none / 0) (#215)
by MrLarch on Sun Oct 20, 2002 at 01:53:55 AM EST

Compare:

... trolling differs from obscenity in that action should be taken on trolling.
(your paraphrase of me)

and

The reason [that obscenity and trolling are] seperate is that trolling in itself isn't anything to take action on...
(me)

If that isn't "exaggerating" the point to the point of reversing the meaning, then hyperbole is fact and old German immigrants are right not to burden themselves with the concept of sarcasm.

[ Parent ]

Very well, then. (1.00 / 1) (#216)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 20, 2002 at 02:26:53 AM EST

So what you are saying, then, is that obscenity can be censored categorically, but trolling can not?

IE, that "trolling" may be censored only after it has been labelled "obscene?"

[ Parent ]

Wrong (3.00 / 5) (#97)
by Arker on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 07:29:05 AM EST

The right to speak does not imply a right to force someone else to give you a pulpit to speak from. Simple as that.



[ Parent ]
Wrong? (3.50 / 4) (#116)
by RobotSlave on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 10:39:56 AM EST

What do you mean, wrong? How do you arrive at the conclusion that a question is wrong?

Furthermore, from what part of my question did you derive the notion of entitlement to a "pulpit?" Is K5 some sort of solipsist church?

Finally, I must question the logic of your assertion on its own terms, as it applies to the notion of "free speech." Are you saying that people have the right to speak, but they do not have the right to be heard? Isn't that essentially a rejection of the right to communicate? Are you saying that people only have the right to unfettered speech when they are alone, and no-one is listening to them? Orwell would have had a field day with that notion.

"You may speak freely, so long as there is no-one in earshot."

Lovely.

[ Parent ]

Wrong. (2.80 / 5) (#125)
by Arker on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 11:14:47 PM EST

What do you mean, wrong? How do you arrive at the conclusion that a question is wrong?

It was not the question that I said was wrong, it was the conclusion of your post:

Do you fancy yourself a person who believes "obscene" speech should be tolerated? If your answer is "yes," then you must, of ideological necessity, welcome and embrace trolls.

It is this which is wrong. Yes, you have a right to troll. But no, no one else has any obligation to help you do that. No one has any obligation to provide you with a webpage to post your trolls on, no one has any obligation to read them, certainly no one has any obligation to 'welcome' or 'embrace' them.

No one has any obligation to do any of those things for speech they find obscene or otherwise offensive either. The right of free speech entitles you to expect them to refrain from using force to shut you up - but not to actively help you propogate your speech.

Furthermore, from what part of my question did you derive the notion of entitlement to a "pulpit?"

Why the very first line of your post, to whit:

...do users have any right to post messages that violate the "community standards" of a given weblog?

You're not just calling for the right to speak, but for the right to speak through a weblog that disapproves of that speech. This is a totally different thing. Weblogs run on computers, physical devices who have owners. You are free to start your own blog, in fact there are a number of free services that will take care of the hardware for you in return for ads or whatever. But that, apparently, is not satisfactory, for you are claiming some right to post messages on someone elses weblog, messages they actively disagree with!

Are you saying that people have the right to speak, but they do not have the right to be heard?

I'm saying you have a right to speak, but whether or not anyone else will listen is up to them. You do not have a right to force them to listen. You do not have a right to use their property without their consent.

"You may speak freely, so long as there is no-one in earshot."

Despite the fact that you formatted that to look like a quote, it's not something I wrote, it's entirely your own.



[ Parent ]
Oh, wow. A point-by point rebuttal! (3.00 / 4) (#129)
by RobotSlave on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 01:35:08 AM EST

The weakest (and rudest) form of argument imaginable. How quaint.

Unfortunately, you've really fucked it up. Your cut-and paste hack job amounts to this: you are arguing that there is not and should not be a right to free speech on private property.

You completely ignore the fact that the most common sort of censorship at K5 by far, that performed by "trusted users," is not carried out by the owners of the site.

The problem with the common "no free speech on owned property" refrain, especially with regard to obscenity laws, is that every last bit of property is, in fact, owned. "Public" parks, in which the archetypal "free speech" occurs, are by and large owned by municipalities, which are in turn governed by communities of voters. This fact does not give those communities of voters the right to arbitrarily restrict speech in those parks.

You are claiming, in essence, that property rights supercede speech rights. A perfectly tenable philosophical position, of course, but one with repercussions that you must be willing to accept, such as the fact that a man without property (a tennant, in other words) has no right to free speech, period.

It is one thing if a site openly declares an anti-troll policy, and the site admins then set about enforcing the no-trolling policy by deleting offending comments. In fact, this can work quite well (it can also fail miserably).

It is another thing entirely when there is no mechanism in place to stop a community from silencing voices that violate de facto "community standards," and an individual must discern those standards by trial and error.

Your argument is only applicable to the first sort of site, where the relevant standards are clearly posted. K5 is not that sort of site. K5 is and has been from the start an experiment in democracy, and it must be judged on those terms. It should hardly be surprising that K5 exhibits exactly the same sort of human rights problems that political philosophers have suggested we ought to expect in an absolute democracy.

[ Parent ]

Public / private distinction (3.00 / 1) (#132)
by cpt kangarooski on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 02:55:50 AM EST

The mere fact that a municipality owns a park doesn't mean we should treat it -- a government entity -- as though it were a true private landowner. If there is a space controlled by a government or quasi-governmental body that is inherently public or has been indiscriminately opened to the public, they ought not to restrict speech there merely by virtue of their ownership.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]
On what basis? (4.25 / 4) (#135)
by RobotSlave on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 03:18:27 AM EST

The owners of parks do, in fact, restrict the "free speech" rights of people in those parks, particularly with regard to "obscenity" and "community values."

If you don't believe me, try taking a portable dvd player to a park and showing porn to the kids on the playground.

On what basis do you make your claim that a "public" landowner "ought not to restrict speech" on their land via property rights? What other basis for enforcement do you suggest?

Or are you instead suggesting that there is a certain class of property owner that "ought not" obtain the right to restrict speech? If so, on what principle do you make the distinction? ("government" begs the question-- what principle distinguishes a "government" property owner?)

[ Parent ]

Obscenity (none / 0) (#169)
by cpt kangarooski on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 09:11:28 PM EST

Obscenity isn't protected regardless, though it is a narrow category, and getting narrower all the time. (see, e.g. the Reno case)

At any rate, I propose that if a private party puts itself into a situation where it occupies a traditional government role -- e.g. owning a park that is open to the entire public -- then it should be required to adhere to the same standards as government in that respect. This likely means that private owners of public spaces cannot meaningfully restrict speech. I think that's good.

If they don't like it, then they should not be acting in a role that is normally seen as regulable.

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]

Oh, dear. (none / 0) (#202)
by RobotSlave on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:00:20 AM EST

Please provide useful definitions of the following terms:

  • "private party"
  • "traditional government role"
  • "standards of government"
  • "private owners of public spaces"
  • "normally seen as regulable"
Once you've told us all precisely what the hell you're talking about, we can get down to the business of deciding whether or not your outlook is ethically consistent.

[ Parent ]
Illustration (none / 0) (#203)
by cpt kangarooski on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:04:39 AM EST

Perhaps an example would help you out then.

Consider the case of a company town. A single business, which is a private entity, purchased a large amount of land. It built a town there for its workers to live, and in fact turned out to be far and away the most convenient place for them to live. The company owns the freeholds, it owns the roads, the park, the church, everything. It provides its own public services, e.g. security, firemen, doctors, what have you.

Can the company close the town in its entirety to a religious proselytizer because management doesn't like that religion?

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]

could the company close it to the Democratic Party (none / 0) (#204)
by adequate nathan on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:32:28 AM EST

Because it doesn't like Democrats?

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

Insufficient example. (none / 0) (#205)
by RobotSlave on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:27:28 PM EST

Your example does nothing to elucidate the priciples you are advocating.

All I've learned is that you can come up with an example in which some degree of implied but unexplained "governmentness" mitigates an otherwise assumed preeminence of property rights over speech rights.

I have outlined an example elsewhere in which I argue speech rights ought to outweigh property rights when the property in question is no more than the home of a single person.

Does the homeowner in that example meet your as yet unstated definition of "governmentness?"

The problem, you see, is that the use of examples in argument is useful for discovering problems with principles, but unhelpful in regard to stating principles.

Here is another example for you to knaw on:

Suppose we have a corporation. Let us assume that this corporation is fairly large, but that it does not dominate or even represent a sizable fraction of its industry. Perhaps it is publicly traded, perhaps not.

Suppose, further, that I have something critical to say about this company. It may involve newly discovered information, or it may simply be a conclusion drawn from readily accessible sources. This proposed statement, this speech, will clearly be damaging to the corporation, and result in real financial harm.

The corporation, clearly, is the private property of its owner or owners. My speech will damage that private property. Do I have the right speak out against the corporation?

If so, could you explain how the corporation embodies a "governmentness" which mitigates the property rights in question? Would a small family-run business also posses these magical governmenty properties?

From your previous posts, you seem to be arguing from the standpoint of current US law. While that might be an interesting topic for another day, it is not pertinent to the matter at hand, unless you are of the school that believes that we ought to attempt to determine what is right by examining the law, rather than attempt to make law by examining what is right.

[ Parent ]

Despite the gratuitous insults (1.00 / 3) (#137)
by Arker on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 08:57:35 AM EST

You did say at least a little worth responding to, so I shall.

Unfortunately, you've really fucked it up. Your cut-and paste hack job amounts to this: you are arguing that there is not and should not be a right to free speech on private property.

No, that's a distortion. What I'm saying is that you have the right to speak, but not the right to compel others to help spread your speech. You must pursuade people to render such aid, or do without it, you cannot force it.

You completely ignore the fact that the most common sort of censorship at K5 by far, that performed by "trusted users," is not carried out by the owners of the site.

Well it was my impression that you were trying to talk about a more general thing, not the specific conditions here on K5, but if that's what you want to talk about then why not. There are some good points you could have made, but this is not one of them. The 'trusted users' are essentially deputised by the site owners and acting as their agents, therefore my point holds just the same. Whether their actions are right or wrong (and I'll state up front that they are frequently wrong) they do not and cannot rise to the level of human rights violation, that's absurd.

You are claiming, in essence, that property rights supercede speech rights.

No, I am claiming no such thing. What I am saying is that human rights are by their nature *negative injunctions* - they oblige others only to refrain from forcibly interfering, not to actively aid you in their exercise.

It is one thing if a site openly declares an anti-troll policy, and the site admins then set about enforcing the no-trolling policy by deleting offending comments. In fact, this can work quite well (it can also fail miserably).

I don't know about adequacy, never spent enough time there to really get it... the other site, however, does not as a practice, and AFAIK has perhaps only once under legal threat, deleted offending comments. Exagerrations like that make it very difficult to take you seriously.

That said, I agree that the moderation system on slashdot works quite poorly, and K5, for all the high hopes we had when it started, isn't doing much better. But saying either 'fails miserably' is IMOP hyperbole - in both cases moderation achieves its stated goals more often than not - though the screwups are far more common than I would like to. And yes, I've been on the receiving end of them many times - I've had whole threads moderated into oblivion simply because a few highly motivated people wanted to punish me for saying things they didn't want to hear. That's not what the moderation system was supposed to be used for, but it is used for that on a daily basis, we all know that. If that were your complaint, I would agree with it, and ask if you had anything constructive to offer by way of solution, or if you just wanted to kvetch.

But that doesn't seem to be your complaint at all, is it? No, you think you have a right to troll? Why? Sorry, I think that's just stupid - and tends to trivialise serious, real human rights issues.

It is another thing entirely when there is no mechanism in place to stop a community from silencing voices that violate de facto "community standards," and an individual must discern those standards by trial and error.

Yes, moderation guidelines are quite vague and even, though you don't go this far in your analysis, I will add mercurial. Do you have a suggestion, or are you just kvetching?

K5 is not that sort of site. K5 is and has been from the start an experiment in democracy, and it must be judged on those terms.

If so then it's been a failure from day one, but I don't agree with you on that. K5 has striven towards a format where the barrier to entry in terms of getting involved in the operation of the site, is much lower. That does not mean democratic, not by a long shot.

It may well be that some here that should have known better have claimed it was 'an experiment in democracy' or some such rot, but that's clearly absurd. You can't have a democracy without identity verification, and we've never had that here, period. The admins, for all their faults, are surely quite aware of that fact. It's their site, they just like to run it with lots of volunteer labour...



[ Parent ]
Sorry to intrude, (2.00 / 2) (#141)
by krek on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 03:53:50 PM EST

but as I was reading your comment I finally decided to pose the question.

Why do people, like you, who seem to be able to express themselves in the written word in a clearly articulate manner, insist on using those ridiculous abreviations?

Is "As far as I know" really so arduous to write out? Does writting IMO really save you vast amounts of time? Why do you brutalize your writting with such unsightly, lazy, cheats?

I do not want to pick on you in any way, please believe me, but, I just cannot figure out why so many people use these abreviations.

[ Parent ]
What, another one? (3.66 / 3) (#147)
by RobotSlave on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 09:00:33 PM EST

Can't you compose your ideas without interrupting mine?

Well, it's nice to see you've abandoned property as a basis for silencing "obscenity." You could have conceded the point in far fewer words, but so be it.

Now you seem to be out on some weird limb where you think it's OK to silence trolling, or other forms of "obscene" speech, so long as one does not censor the speech directly, but rather effects the censorship through the removal of some sort of amplification device. In effect, you claim that there is a right to free speech, but microphones can be closely guarded, and removed at the first sign of "obscenity."

You might as well say: "you have the right to free speech, but I have the right to remove your vocal cords."

Yes, I am engaging in hyperbole. Is this not a valid argumentative technique? Does it render the underlying point "false?" If so, could you explain how, please?

You also seem to be suggesting that posting to a weblog is an inherently coercive act, that by posting a comment, any comment, you will "compel others to help spread your speech." Presumably, the parties so "compelled" are now free to delete your message, or render it invisible to most.

This is an interesting angle. When I send personal email to a group of friends, am I not "compelling" our respective ISPs to "spread my speech?" Should they be allowed to silence it if they find it "obscene?" What about the Postal service? Should they be permitted to confiscate "obscene" goods?

Finally, where do you get the notion that the "site owners" of K5 have "deputized" the "trusted users?" By "site owners," do you mean the people who provide rusty with free hosting services and bandwidth? Are you honestly suggesting that it is reasonable to call the democratic (yes, it is democratic) selection of trusted users "deputization by proxy" on the part of rusty? You could, I suppose, but I don't think it's a much stronger argument than the claim that the UK is still a monarchy.

You seem to be laboring under the assumption that I have asserted that there is a natural right to troll. I have done no such thing, and I have offered examples of sites where trolling is prohibited, for better and worse. I have put forward a simple proposition, to wit: if you believe that "obscene" speech should be tolerated, then you must, of ideological necessity, welcome and embrace (or at least tolerate) "trolling."

There are certain aspects of K5's experiment in democracy that have been successful. In particular, the stories that appear on the front page are not selected by Rob Malda, or by any other nerd or small group of nerds*. That, if I remember correctly, was the original inspiration for K5. It has not "failed" as an experiment in democracy; rather, it exhibits exactly the sort of problems that one should expect in an absolute democracy. It is an ongoing experiment, much like the "Great Experiment."

Putting democracy on a pedestal is dangerous. It is a problematic system, like any other, and it can harm a society from time to time. Dismissing such effects as "failed democracy," or "undemocratic" is a refusal to understand the fact that democracy is inherently problematic, and such refusal is a grave impediment to the improvement of democratic society.

 

*   No, I don't think that a large group of nerds is any better as an arbiter of taste than a small, insular group of nerds. It is a question of the boring versus the horrifying.

[ Parent ]

Step away... from the straw man... (3.25 / 4) (#154)
by verb on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 10:18:36 AM EST

Hyperbole such as that does not invalidate your underlying point. It simply makes you look like a frothing ninny who has nothing better to do than hammer out self-absorbed essays on the computer in his parents' basement.

Breathe deeply. Relax.

If I own a printing press, the Right To Free Speech does not mean that I am obligated to print pamphlets for you. It simply means that the state cannot prevent you from purchasing your own printing press and printing your own fliers.

Your mistake lies in equating 'lack of cooperation' with 'active interference.'

--the verb

[ Parent ]
What straw man? (3.66 / 3) (#155)
by RobotSlave on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 10:50:04 AM EST

Could you show me which part of that was a "straw man?"

Why are the kurobots so obsessed with the "straw man" fallacy? Is it because they're unfamiliar with the "name calling" fallacy?

You can't dismiss an argument by calling it a straw man. You have to dismiss it by showing how it is a straw man. Which you will have a lot more trouble doing, in this case, because that would require slightly more careful reading.

I don't think I've equated "lack of cooperation" with "active interference" at all. It is active interference, such as zero-rating, that I have been writing about.

Who are you "obligating to print pamphlets for you" when you post a comment on K5? Have I ever suggested that anyone is obligated to read comments or pamphlets?

You seem to have missed the fact that this is a debate about "active interference" with comments that are deemed "obscene."

Breath deeply, and relax-- it'll make it much easier to put my fist up your ass.

[ Parent ]

Lessons In Logic, Pt. 1 (4.00 / 3) (#158)
by verb on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 01:42:42 PM EST

The straw man fallacy is an attempt to undercut an opponent's position by drawing an extreme charicature of it. Misrepresenting someone's views and dismissing the 'straw man' is easier than discussing their real ideas. Let's step back for a moment and clarify what you're saying.

Are you seriously implying that user-rating of messages on K5 is Censorship? Multiple people assign value to someone's written words, and other people may, at their discretion, use that assigned value to judge whether the written words are worth reading.

If this is 'active interference,' then the New York Times practices censorship when it gives books bad reviews.

The 'straw man' in your post was the comparison of voluntary filtering of low-quality content with the removal of a *means* to exercise a legal right.

--the verb

[ Parent ]
Grade: D- (3.66 / 3) (#159)
by RobotSlave on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 02:11:47 PM EST

A straw-man argument is not simple hyperbole. In a straw-man argument, one misrepresents what the other has written, and then attacks the misrepresentation.

Sound familiar?

I am most certainly suggesting that zero-rating is censorship. Are you suggesting it is not? Can you honestly say that a comment that is no longer visible to most has not been censored?

Furthermore, I am suggesting that the distinction between censoring "speech" and means of speech is disingenuous, as the end result in either case is that the speaker is denied his freedom of expression.

A "straw man" does not consist of a "comparison," either. If you do not understand this, or the larger argument I am making, please feel free to ask questions. I'll be happy to clarify things for you.

[ Parent ]

Clarification, C- (3.50 / 2) (#163)
by verb on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 04:58:36 PM EST

My apologies for the insufficient explaination. I considered your argument to be a straw man NOT because of the comparison itself, but because of the characterization of the viewpoints of the earlier poster as 'censorship' when in fact they were not.

Now, however, I realize that you do in fact believe that this IS censorship. Realizing this, I understand that you are not simply trying to characterize the original poster as 'advocating censorship.' You've just got a wildly different view of what censorship is than I do. I would argue that you have a wildly different view of censorship than the framers of the Constitution did.

You seem to think that I did not understand your argument. Actually, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. I didn't think you could *really* be saying that zero-rating a comment was censorship. I'm rendered speechless. I'll have to collect my thoughts and figure out how to respond. I feel as if someone has just insisted, vigorously, that the moon is in fact made of old socks.

--the verb

[ Parent ]
More name calling? (4.00 / 4) (#167)
by RobotSlave on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 07:08:48 PM EST

Once you've recovered your faculties, would you mind explaining how zero-rating a comment, which renders it unreadable to the majority of registered users, and the entirety of the anonymous readership, does not constitute censorship?

Being astonished is all well and good, but you're going to have to do more than express astonishment if you want to put forward a credible argument.

You might want to start with a definition or two.

Once you've read the definitions (it's OK to move your lips) you might want to have a look at what the United States Constitution has to say about censorship, censors, or censoring. (Hint: do the words "finished searching document" ring a bell?)

When you're done not finding the words you're looking for in the constitution, you might want to mull over the fact that the purpose of trusted user status in the first place was to provide a mechanism for censorship, specifically, a system for censoring out spam.

[ Parent ]

the system of censorship, simple question (2.00 / 1) (#171)
by MrLarch on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 10:12:08 PM EST

Since it is not an effective system of censorship, does it still merit the objections to certain trusted users' definitions of spam?

[ Parent ]
I don't know. (3.00 / 4) (#175)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 12:37:56 AM EST

Does it?

[ Parent ]
so you don't have an opinion (1.00 / 2) (#190)
by MrLarch on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 06:25:37 PM EST



[ Parent ]
And you don't either. (3.00 / 2) (#201)
by RobotSlave on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:06:54 PM EST

So what's your point?

[ Parent ]
Grepping the Constitution for fun and profit (3.66 / 3) (#174)
by verb on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 11:59:31 PM EST

*sigh*

Yes, that's correct. The word 'censorship' does not appear in the constitution. Either does the phrase 'separation of church and state.' Either do the words 'right to privacy.' Your point is? I think we can all agree that censorship runs counter to free speech rights, and that the Constitution protects free speech rights.

The disagreement we seem to be having is about what constitutes a *violation of those rights.* In the context of political discussions, we commonly refer to violations of those rights as 'censorship.'

You seem to insist that any action that decreases the chance of Person A voluntarily reading your words constitutes a violation of your right to free speech. Am I correct in that summary, or have I misunderstood you?

--the verb

[ Parent ]
Yes, you have misunderstood me. (3.66 / 3) (#176)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 12:44:25 AM EST

I have not, at any point, insisted that that any user is obliged to read any particular comment.

I thank you, incidentally, for conceding the point that zero-rating is, in fact, censorship, though you could have done so more explicitly. This is to be expected; the standard protocol at K5 at present seems to allow admission only via failure to address.

[ Parent ]

Wheee, absurdity! (4.00 / 3) (#178)
by verb on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 02:24:58 AM EST

This is starting to get silly.

I did not in fact concede that zero-rating is censorship, in any way, shape, or form.

Main Entry: cen·sor·ship
Pronunciation: 'sen(t)-s&r-"ship
Function: noun
Date: circa 1591
1 a : the institution, system, or practice of censoring b : the actions or practices of censors; especially : censorial control exercised repressively

Main Entry: 2censor
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): cen·sored; cen·sor·ing /'sen(t)-s&-ri[ng], 'sen(t)s-ri[ng]/
Date: 1882
: to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable

Rating a comment 'zero' is not censorship. The item in question has not been deleted, nor suppressed. It certainly doesn't meet the 'exercised repressively' criteria that's mentioned in the first definition. There are no doubt moderation systems in existance that may fit the definition of the word, but I do not believe that K5's does. Posts are still visible to those who are interested, regardless of how poorly the community rates them.

In fact, the community is actively discouraged from rating based on conflicts-of-opinion. "Disagree in replies, not in ratings," remember?

As a side note, what gives with the 'I'm the loner K5 rebel, despise me of love me' schtick? The constant comments about 'K5ers this' and 'K5ers that' doesn't hold much water; I've only casually scanned K5 for a couple of months, and comment infrequently. I hardly consider myself a representative of The Community. Though I suppose it is tempting to dismiss the opinions of those you disagree with by lumping them together as one easily mockable group...

--the verb

[ Parent ]
What planet are you on? (3.66 / 3) (#182)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 02:57:35 AM EST

A comment rated "zero" has, undeniably, been suppressed. It is most emphaticly not available to "anyone" who might be interested, seeing as how any one of the anonymous majority might be interested in a given comment.

Were you smoking the three-dollar crack when you came up with that argument? Do you want to ask rusty about percentages of page views for anonymous users, logged-in users, and trusted users? Do you, in short, have any fucking idea what you are talking about?

Again, a zero-rated comment has, without question, been suppressed. It is visible only to other censors.

It looks to me as if the only pragmatic purpose of comment rating is to choose the censors. Could you point me to the place where the system of comment ratings prevents censors from disagreeing via "ratings, not comments?" Can you point to real checks and balances?

Of course not. You state that there is a "community spirit" backing this principle, but in point of fact, the evidence suggests the contrary. You can not say that a system conforms to your ideals without evidence.

Gee, what's that definition of "straw man," again? I just forget it every time I learn it. Could you remind me?

I've never made any sort of "us K5" versus "them K5" distinction. I have, admittedly, made a distinction between the majority in an absolute democracy, and any given minority. I suspect a careful distinction in meaning such as this is too difficult for you to grasp, but I would love to be proven wrong.

My assertion is still a simple one. I say that those who oppose suppression of "obscene" speech should oppose suppression of "trolling."

I suspect this simple and, I had hoped, obvious catechism, has caused some cognitive dissonance in a few members of the K5 userbase.

This, of course, was the point. I suspected there might be a particular hypocrisy afoot, and I set about exposing it, wherever it might arise.

The results are not utterly conclusive, lining up perfectly with my hypothesis (and when, in science, is this ever the case?) but I am, at this point, sufficiently impressed with the results to believe that the hypothesis deserves further research.

[ Parent ]

Posting from planet Zarqon (4.00 / 3) (#184)
by verb on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 08:14:06 AM EST

Okay, a couple of points of clarification.

First, the fact that you seem incapable of making a single post without insulting whoever you disagree with is what prompted my *first* reply to you. It's annoying as hell. The fact that you believe you are correct does not, in fact, make you unique.

Second, there is no cognitive dissonance on my part regarding the 'spam/obscenity' point that you are trying to make. I agree that many people who rant about he need to 'shut down' spammers also oppose obscenity laws. It's amusing to watch them fall back on property law when they try to argue why one should be kosher and the other not.

Our point of disagreement is whether or not a voluntary, overridable rating system constitutes censorship. Since day one on K5 I've had my account set to ignore ratings. I see them when I read a comment, and it allows me to judge the comment's worth before I scan it, but I am not unable to read it.

I'm willing to concede that there is probably some aspect of K5's rating system that I am not aware of. I've spent much longer on other sites with similar systems, like plastic and (God save us all) Slashdot. Slashdot could use some censorship. The rating system certainly doesn't provide it.

So, if I have misunderstood some aspect of K5's rating system, and a zero-rated comment becomes invisible to users regardless of their preferences, and cannot then be rated back up by users who find its content valuable, I apologize for my misunderstanding and concede the point.

What I maintain is that a voluntary rating system does not constitute censorship. I can still view them if I desire. The anonymous user bit is a red herring -- anonymous users cannot maintain journals, either. Have they been censored because that platform is denied them?

Does restricting posting to registered users constitute censorship?

--the verb

[ Parent ]
Clarification, then. (3.66 / 3) (#188)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 12:39:01 PM EST

Yes, a comment rated zero does, in fact, become invisible to the majority of users, regardless of their preferences.

Since you can't rate up a comment that you can't see, no zeroed comment can be rated up by any old person who might find it interesting (it can only be rated up by another censor; i.e., only trusted users can view zero-rated comments).

It would appear that our little argument, with all those nasty, dirty insults that you find ever so annoying, is due entirely to your failure to read the FAQ.

There's another link to it up there on the title bar at the top of the page, in case mine doesn't work for you.

[ Parent ]

This is ridiculous (3.40 / 5) (#157)
by S_hane on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 11:51:07 AM EST

Can't you compose your ideas without interrupting mine?

To suggest that quoting your text, in pieces, after you've composed and sent it is "interrupting" is a little disingenious. Interposing idea with response is a common technique that many people (including myself) indulge in. The technique ensures that I am able to answer each of your points, and also tends to be easier for third parties to follow.

Well, it's nice to see you've abandoned property as a basis for silencing "obscenity." You could have conceded the point in far fewer words, but so be it.

Do you always argue by misinterpreting other people's positions? It is quite obvious that the parent poster has at no stage suggested that property is a "basis for silencing obscenity".

Now you seem to be out on some weird limb where you think it's OK to silence trolling, or other forms of "obscene" speech, so long as one does not censor the speech directly, but rather effects the censorship through the removal of some sort of amplification device. In effect, you claim that there is a right to free speech, but microphones can be closely guarded, and removed at the first sign of "obscenity."

Not really. Consider the act of sending the message as satisfaction of your free speech rights. In general, that message is even held in a persistent form for a period - something that k5 does, for you. Of course, k5 doesn't have to do this, and can stop at any time.

It seems that your definition of free speech requires anybody who hears a particular item of speech must immediately start repeating this item, out loud - and if they stop, then they are violating human rights!

You might as well say: "you have the right to free speech, but I have the right to remove your vocal cords."

No. Let's go over this one more time to make it perfectly clear. If you want to say something, I can't stop you. If you are using my microphone, I can take that microphone off you. If you are using your own, legally purchased microphone, I can touch neither you nor the microphone. I certainly can not engage in a violent act against you such as removing your vocal chords.

Yes, I am engaging in hyperbole. Is this not a valid argumentative technique? Does it render the underlying point "false?" If so, could you explain how, please?

Quite simply, your argumentative technique failed at the point you misrepresented what your opponent was trying to say.

You also seem to be suggesting that posting to a weblog is an inherently coercive act, that by posting a comment, any comment, you will "compel others to help spread your speech." Presumably, the parties so "compelled" are now free to delete your message, or render it invisible to most.

The parent seems to be suggesting no such thing.

This is an interesting angle. When I send personal email to a group of friends, am I not "compelling" our respective ISPs to "spread my speech?" Should they be allowed to silence it if they find it "obscene?" What about the Postal service? Should they be permitted to confiscate "obscene" goods?

When you send an email, the act of sending that email is exercising your free speech rights. If an ISP between you and the recipient decides to filter that email, then they are merely exercising their rights to use their own property as they see fit.

Finally, where do you get the notion that the "site owners" of K5 have "deputized" the "trusted users?" By "site owners," do you mean the people who provide rusty with free hosting services and bandwidth? Are you honestly suggesting that it is reasonable to call the democratic (yes, it is democratic) selection of trusted users "deputization by proxy" on the part of rusty? You could, I suppose, but I don't think it's a much stronger argument than the claim that the UK is still a monarchy.

It's also completely irrelevant

You seem to be laboring under the assumption that I have asserted that there is a natural right to troll. I have done no such thing, and I have offered examples of sites where trolling is prohibited, for better and worse. I have put forward a simple proposition, to wit: if you believe that "obscene" speech should be tolerated, then you must, of ideological necessity, welcome and embrace (or at least tolerate) "trolling."

This is a good point, but it's also beside the point. Whether or not you, as an individual, tolerates trolling has no bearing on whether or not the individual that relegates a post to 0 tolerates trolling. That same individual may also not tolerate "obscene" speech.

[ Parent ]

Please stop stealing my intellectual property. (2.60 / 5) (#161)
by RobotSlave on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 02:56:12 PM EST

Quoting short excerpts from a work for purposes of review is allowed under the fair use provision of US copyright law. Quoting an entire work, or a substantial portion thereof, is not.

Now, with that out of the way, on what basis do you base your claim that point-by-point rebuttal is easier for third parties to follow? On the contrary, I claim that contiguous, original prose, perhaps interspersed with small quotations, is much easier to read.

Furthermore, I claim that those who indulge in the lazy argumentative technique of point-by-point rebuttal all too frequently miss the forest for the trees; in responding to details, the point-by-point rebuttalist quite frequently fails to make any substantial case of his own.

Allow me to provide an example of friendlier, more readable, and legal quoting, in service of my argument:

"This is a totally different thing. Weblogs run on computers, physical devices who have owners." --Arker

This clearly suggests that right to expression is trumped by property rights. In your comment, S_hane, in your discussion of microphones, you clearly assume this yourself. Should TV networks be required to give equal time to opposing candidates? By your microphone argument, the answer is a clear "no."

As to the use of hyperbole, I'm very sorry that it confuses you, but I'm afraid that it does not constitute a failure of argument. I think what you mean is that you do not like the fact that the hyperbole in question exposes a problem with your beliefs.

In your email example, you again clearly and unambiguously imply that property rights trump speech rights. You attempt to explain this away with a distinction between expression and means of expression, ignoring the fact that the end result in either case is a curtailment of the freedom of expression.

At the very end of your cut-and-paste hatchet job, you seem to understand at least part of the larger issue that I am arguing, but I'd like to finish connecting the dots for you.

I am arguing that censoring a comment that is percieved to be "trolling" is censoring a comment believed to be "obscene." To see that this is so, all you need to do is think about the functional definition of the word "obscene."

[ Parent ]

I'm not stealing anything (3.33 / 3) (#172)
by S_hane on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 10:43:50 PM EST

Do you really mean to suggest that I am somehow "stealing" your work when I quote it? When you post to k5, you grant k5 permission for your comment to be displayed on k5. Given that I am not exceeding the bounds of this permission (as I would be if I displayed your post elsewhere), I see no grounds for complaint.

Of course, if you feel there is an issue, you could always go an ask a lawyer...

Now, back to the issue at hand. You say that:

contiguous, original prose, perhaps interspersed with small quotations, is much easier to read...miss[es] the forest for the trees... fails to make any substantial case

I claim, on the contrary, that selective quoting is much more likely to be abused than block quoting. If I block quote you, a disinterested third party is able to see each of your arguments presented in entirity, rather than only the portions which I choose to provide.

Furthermore, each and every one of your posts in this thread have misrepresented quite badly the points of the parent posts. Perhaps this is because by the time you come to address the point, you have forgoteen what it actually was? Maybe if you "indulged", your arguments might have more merit.

In conclusion, I will continue to practise point-by-point rebuttal, if the best alternative you can provide is the one you make use of.

Allow me to provide an example of friendlier, more readable, and legal quoting, in service of my argument:

    "This is a totally different thing. Weblogs run on computers, physical devices who have owners." --Arker

This clearly suggests that right to expression is trumped by property rights. In your comment, S_hane, in your discussion of microphones, you clearly assume this yourself. Should TV networks be required to give equal time to opposing candidates? By your microphone argument, the answer is a clear "no."

Under the standard first-amendment rights granted by the government, this is exactly what I would expect. In fact, if you argue from a freedom of speech viewpoint, a TV network should be able to broadcast whatever the hell it wants, whenever the hell it wants.

Have a look at how the government actually handles this issue, however. The public "owns" the airwaves. When the government grants the use of the airwaves to a particular company, they provide this (physical) distribution media subject to certain conditions - which is precisely the model that we have been pushing and that you have been rejecting!

As to the use of hyperbole, I'm very sorry that it confuses you, but I'm afraid that it does not constitute a failure of argument. I think what you mean is that you do not like the fact that the hyperbole in question exposes a problem with your beliefs.

And this is exactly why you should block quote. Please find the point at which I stated that hyperbole "confuses" me.

In your email example, you again clearly and unambiguously imply that property rights trump speech rights. You attempt to explain this away with a distinction between expression and means of expression, ignoring the fact that the end result in either case is a curtailment of the freedom of expression.

Your freedom of speech rights state that you can say what you want, when you want it. My property rights state that I can decide what purposes I wish to allow my property to be put to. In particular, I can decide not to let you use my property to push your message. This is fact. If you feel that this means that property rights trump speech rights, then go and take it up with the government.

I don't curtail your freedom of expression by preventing you from using my property to broadcast your message. Try marching up to your local TV station and "requiring" them to broadcast something that you have written. You won't get very far, simply because they have the right to decide what they want to show on their network.

At the very end of your cut-and-paste hatchet job, you seem to understand at least part of the larger issue that I am arguing, but I'd like to finish connecting the dots for you.

I understand that the point you profess to make seemingly has no connection with the prose you write.

I am arguing that censoring a comment that is percieved to be "trolling" is censoring a comment believed to be "obscene." To see that this is so, all you need to do is think about the functional definition of the word "obscene."

And on this I completely agree with you. What you seem to be arguing, however, is that k5 should not be allowed to remove a comment engaging in trolling from their servers, and on this it seems we disagree.

[ Parent ]

You poor thing. (3.00 / 4) (#179)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 02:28:12 AM EST

you haven't, in accordance with your own taunt, consulted with a lawyer, have you?

I didn't think so.

You clearly do not understand the distinction between publishing a work, and reproducing that work. Come back when you've taken the trouble to "ask a lawyer," or even think for thirty seconds about the distinction.

Now then. I continue to assert that a non-interruptive, legal, and original block of contiguous prose is easier to follow than a cut-and-paste point-by-point hatchet job. Do you notice that you've made no fucking progress on this point? Perhaps because you've offered absolutely nothing to back up your assertion that the "small" quotes I used "misrepresented" the arguments of their respective authors?

I continue to offer more substantial and more readable argument than the lazy and blindered reactionary methodology that you have wilfully failed to rise above.

You have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of the point I have been trying to make. You make vague assertions about things that "everyone," or at least a presumed majority, believe, without ever stating any underlying priciple for these allegedly "popular" beliefs.

I will say this one more time, in yet another manner: there is no "rational," "natural," or "logical" principle that places property rights above speech rights.

I'm sorry that you can't handle quotation marks or paraphrasing (on top of your failure to understand hyperbole); I will try to remember to use only HTML-code-standards-compliant "block quotes" when communicating with intellectually stunted nerd-formatting-dependant specimens such as yourself, in the future.

Your continued insistence that property rights trump speech rights fails to impress me. If anything, I'm disappointed. You wilfully disregard countless cases in which the courts have found that speech rights are, in fact, more important than property rights; you cling, like an unthinking barnacle, to the notion that there is no place for the freedom of expression on private property.

Have you given even thirty seconds of thought to the consequences of that extremist position?

There are a lot of nerds who become violently upset when the supremacy of property rights over speech rights is questioned, because that supposed supremacy has to date been categorically invoked in rationalizations for the criminalization of spam. That other reasonable and justifiable legal and moral grounds for such criminalization do, in fact, exist, is utterly repugnant to the young libertarian coder brainwashed on the one hand by hopelessly biased libertarian propaganda such as ESR's "jargon file," and on the other by the cloying promise of economic superiority promised to the nerd class during the internet bubble, which is sadly still tremendously coercive to the young and oblivious in the present day.

Allowing net.libertarians to define the terms of the debate was, in retrospect, a certain recipe for disaster. Conservatives, Pragmatists, and devotees of Realpolitik will be eating the libertarian nerd's lunch for the forseeable future.

But enough of this little soapbox. I do not argue that "kuro5hin," whatever that word might encompass, should or should not censor trolls. I have been rather even-handed about this throughout, which you would understand if you'd taken the time to process my comments rather than simply let your eyes slide over them en route to your next post, your next assertion of ego.

What was that again about a "straw man?" It's such an easy definition to forget, isn't it?

But no more of this. You have conceded my central point, and I therefore consider the substantive portion of this debate finished. I'll stick around for the question and answer period, of course, and beers are as always on me, for anyone who puts up with the unofficial portion of my harangue.

[ Parent ]

I have been trolled? (2.75 / 4) (#181)
by S_hane on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 02:52:09 AM EST

It should have been obvious much earlier, but of course the subject matter obscured it somewhat :)

Nice troll - or at least, I hope it was intended as a troll. If not, I can only suggest you get help soon.

[ Parent ]

You have? (3.00 / 2) (#183)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 03:27:11 AM EST

That's up to you, of course. The subjective nature of "trolling," especially vis-a-vis "obscenity," has been my entire point all along, of course. That and a minor exploration of hypocrisy.

Was it a "troll?" Was any of this intended as a "troll?" If you've decided it was all a "troll," does that negate every substantive argument put forward? Are you now free to dismiss the points that have been made?

For an honest man, "troll" is a question, not an excuse.

[ Parent ]

And indeed, I was asking the question... (3.00 / 2) (#185)
by S_hane on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 08:29:15 AM EST

Were you trolling? Do you truly believe that our point even argued for supremacy of property rights over freedom of speech rights?

Does your argumentative technique really involve insult, hyperbole, and badly constructed arguments? Do you routinely ignore the opposition's points when you don't have an adequate response?

Do you really think that misrepresentation will help you win an argument? Do you really believe that k5 takes this kind of thing seriously?

Or, were you trolling?

Just in case you weren't, let me point out that our arguments illustrate the orthogonality of freedom of speech and property rights, not the "supremacy" of one over the other.

Magazines do not have to print your crap if they don't want to. TV Stations don't have to broadcast your shows if they don't want to.

Journals routinely reject peer-reviewed scientific works. Books are routinely rejected for publication.

This is not indicative of oppression of freedom of speech. You are completely free to say, write, or produce whatever you want to. You are also completely free to purchase your own distribution media. Don't confuse your right to free expression with someone else's right to dictate what happens to their property.

What part of this are you having trouble understanding?

[ Parent ]

Ooh, more name-calling. (2.33 / 3) (#187)
by RobotSlave on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 12:21:22 PM EST

I'm sorry, again, that you don't understand hyperbole, or that you don't like it when flaws in your arguments are exposed.

I'm also sorry you're not clever enough to come up with amusing insults of your own.

You can call my arguments "poorly constructed," but you have failed, as yet, to back that claim with any reasonable analysis.

I'm also sorry that you are unable to understand a person who questions the lamentably common assumption that property rights trump speech rights.

If you want to call any demonstration of the ethical problems with that position "trolling," thereby casting the apparently unsettling implications from your timid mind, you are free to do so.

[ Parent ]

Didn't you momma ever tell you... (3.81 / 11) (#96)
by Karellen on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 07:03:09 AM EST

"Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you."

And the bit she missed out...

"... unless you let them."

If you get offended by something someone says, well, that's your problem. It's only words, it's only sound in the air, or little pictures on a page. It's not acutally hurting you. Don't want to get offended? Then choose to not get offended. Decide that you don't respect the opinion of the person who is trying to offend you enough to give a shit what they're saying. Whatever. You should be able to find something that works for you.

You can only be hurt by words if you choose to let words hurt you.

Choose to not be hurt by mere words, and you life will become a much more tranquil place.

Grow up and get over it.

Not true (4.66 / 3) (#100)
by greenrd on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 08:18:22 AM EST

That's not true, you fucking scumbag.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

"Sticks and stones may break my bones..." (2.00 / 1) (#150)
by JChen on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 11:11:13 PM EST

"...but whips and chains excite me."

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]
People have to decide which is more important (4.62 / 8) (#98)
by kcbrown on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 07:38:00 AM EST

Is it more important to not be offended, or is it more important to be able to speak your mind when and where you need to?

These two are inevitably going to conflict. At that point, you can choose only one.

And to choose one at one time and the other at a different time is to introduce nasty inconsistencies that probably cannot be resolved for the purposes of codifying into law the rights involved. So you really have little choice but to consistently choose one or the other.

Now, the Constitution explicitly lists the right to free speech as a protected right. It also says in the 9th amendment that other rights exist and that enumeration of some rights doesn't mean the others don't exist. So the fact that the "right to not be offended" isn't enumerated doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

But the fact that the right to free speech is explicitly mentioned, while the "right to not be offended" isn't, means that the framers of the Constitution believed the right to free speech to be much more important -- so important that they had to explicitly mention it.

Since these rights are mutually exclusive, and since the right to free speech is listed in the Constitution as an explicitly protected right, the right to free speech wins.

And that means that you do not have the right to not be offended, at least in the U.S. Sorry, but you have to be willing to give up your right to free speech in order to get it. If you believe so strongly in your right to not be offended that you believe the right to free speech should be given up, then get the Constitution amended. But I, for one, won't support you in that endeavor.

Community standards (4.50 / 6) (#99)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 07:48:42 AM EST

In my town in Colorado, they were campaigning to keep the 7/11 from selling Playboy, which was already up on high, obscured shelves. It was considered obscene.

Meanwhile the local gas station in Germany has hardcore porn books on the front counter. This arrangement is not considered obscene.

Of course, remind me again which country has a higher incidence of rape and other sex crimes?

Let me get this straight... (4.71 / 7) (#107)
by pistols on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:11:24 AM EST

Of course, remind me again which country has a higher incidence of rape and other sex crimes?

So you're suggesting that higher rates of sex crimes cause people to dislike porn?

[ Parent ]

ROTFL!!! (n/t) (1.00 / 5) (#109)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:23:05 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Objectionable images and speech (2.66 / 3) (#102)
by greenrd on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 08:31:43 AM EST

Is it possible to describe all objectionable images?

No, but we don't have to. You really ignored here the topic of violent or gory images - which can cause children distress. FCC policy (and the policy of its equivalents in other countries) is based in part on the notion that before a certain time, broadcasts should be suitable for all ages, so that parents can let children watch TV "unattended" during those times, which seems reasonable.

Also, many parents do not want their children exposed to swear words - which may be almost impossible - but more importantly, do not want their children thinking that swear words are acceptable. Also, many people do not want the airwaves "polluted" (in their eyes) with the casual use of swear words. Two more good reasons.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes

government as babysitter (4.66 / 6) (#114)
by FourDegreez on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 10:22:18 AM EST

You are advocating that the government play the role of babysitter, that it should pass laws requiring radio/television/internet/other be G-rated in any instance where an unattended child might tune in. The whole country has to be brought down to the sanitized level of a child so that parents don't have to be aware of what their children are watching/listening/reading. This is nonsense. The government has no business in this arena. The main problem that I see with society (in the US, anyway) is that somewhere along the way, adults forgot how to be parents. Adults just don't want the responsibility. They want the glowing screen to mindlessly babysit their children. Heavens forbid they should have to monitor what their children watch! And we even have V-chips these days for the lazy parent, and yet they are still out there advocating censorship. Let me tell you something: The parent should be the V-chip, and not just for television but for radio and internet and books and magazines.

Well, with the censorship fascists banging their drums, next thing you know we'll have a WWW as sanitized as Nickelodeon. But it's for the children!!

[ Parent ]
Interesting Article (4.75 / 4) (#104)
by Malaclypse the Younger on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 08:43:03 AM EST

The laws against obscenity are obviously in contradiction to the spirit of the First Amendment. The First Amendment clearly embodies the principle that speech itself cannot cause an injury (or rather, that any injury caused by speech itself1 is categorically preferable to the injuries caused by censorship).

The author's procedural points are indeed weak. The inclusion of context and intent in the definition of "obscenity" permit anti-obscenity laws to be written without internal contradiction. And the community standard test(offensive to the majority or preponderance of the community) negates the problems of individual standards of offense.

The crux of the bisquit, though, is simply this: Do we or do we not permit the government (or monopolistic corporations2) to decide what is said or heard? There's no middle ground here; it's an either-or proposition. If the people are to decide what is right and wrong, they must be able to discuss the issues; if the government decides what is said and heard, the people cannot make that determination for themselves. Either the First Amendment means something, and it is up to the people to decide right from wrong, or it means nothing.

Context and community standards don't help here. It is well-known that the majority, even the preponderance, of the people can change their minds about what is right and wrong (i.e. slavery, women's sufferage, the teaching of evolution). Who knows which modern moral standard which everyone agrees with will be found deficient in the future? If the government prohibits even only speech which is contrary to the preponderance of opinion, there will be no chance to debate these issues.

The United States owes its power and (relatively) incorrupt government to free speech. The tyrannical government of the Soviet Union was brought down by glastnost. Shall we turn our backs to John Stuart Mill and chip away at the very foundation of liberty and democracy?

"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows." -- George Orwell, 1984">http://orwell.ru/library/novels/1984/index.htm">1984

1 There's a substantive difference between "obscenity" and speech such as criminal conspiracy, incitement to riot, shouting "fire", etc. It's debatable whether or not the spirit and intention of "free speech" is compromised by prohibiting such forms of speech, but that's a different debate.

2 There's also a substantive difference between a publication and a common carrier (especially a monopoly carrier). A publication is the expression of the free speech of its publisher(s).

The trouble is... (4.60 / 5) (#112)
by poopi on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:35:04 AM EST

...that we try to legislate what should be left as courtesy. It seems we have forgotten lately that society has a method for dealing with things that are difficult to legislate or do not require legislation: manners.

po·lite - adj. Marked by or showing consideration for others, tact, and observance of accepted social usage.

I guess voluntary self-control is just not very 21st century, but wouldn't it be nice if it could be?

-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera

Good luck getting porno onto public access (2.50 / 4) (#120)
by Fon2d2 on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 11:17:18 AM EST

I hope it works out for you.

Time Warner vs. Free Speech (4.00 / 3) (#123)
by bugmaster on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 10:44:43 PM EST

I am not sure I understand this issue correctly, so please don't bite my head off if I am wrong. But, as far as I understand, you asked Time Warner for permission to broadcast some content on the public access channel. Time Warner said that they'd only air this content if it was acceptable by their narrowly defined set of guidelines.

Now, I believe that in this case what Time Warner is doing is bad. However, why would it be illegal ? Time Warner is not the government. If they decide that all the content aired at their channels has to include Barney the purple dinosaur, they can do it. No Barney in your TV program, no broadcast. Same thing goes with obscenity and any other form of content restriction.

I think the real issue here is that Time Warner has the monopoly on airwaves. If you want to broadcast anything, you have to go through them. If Time Warner did not have the monopoly on airwaves, you could simply go to Bugmaster Inc. or some other company, and have them broadcast your content; but, right now, there is no way Bugmaster Inc. could even come into existance. This is very bad; however, this is no longer an issue of the First Amendment.
>|<*:=

They are bound by the constitution. (4.00 / 2) (#138)
by PowerPimp on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 10:56:03 AM EST

Because television has become such an important means of mass media communication, and because there is a monopoly on it, legislation exists that says that all TV broadcasters have to adhere to first amendment protections, and, I thing, provide public access to airwaves if there is demand. /n/n I know that broadcast television stations are required to serve the public good by the terms of their FCC broadcasting license, though that may not apply to cable. /n/n
You'd better take care of me God; otherwise, you'll have me on your hands...
[ Parent ]
Overrated standards (none / 0) (#221)
by A Trickster Imp on Sun Oct 27, 2002 at 09:29:04 AM EST

That's the theory, anyway.

The reality is like this:

In Detroit, there's a broadcast (not cable) channel 38, created about 10 years ago.

It shows nothing but infomercials 24 hours a day, except for Sunday mornings and mid afternoons, when it shows religious infomercials (send money for Jesus so I can live in a nice house).

So if they could just show a little boobie now and then, we could get some better shows on it!

[ Parent ]

showing hardcoer to kids makes them easier victims (3.00 / 1) (#127)
by livus on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 01:23:53 AM EST

I have two issues with your reasoning. The first is that your understanding of what constitutes an injury is very unimaginative, I can think of two instances immediately which contradict this:
  1. - children who are exposed to hardcore porn tend to be more at risk of falling victim to pedophiles because sexual activity is 'normalised'. Some pedos know this, it's a tactic with them, but this isnt the only way it happens.
  2. - people who inadvertantly witnes something horrific can be traumatised by it. Just ask the vietnam vets.
My second problem lies with your assumption that there needs to be:

"Intent to cause pain, suffering or death, optionally coupled with
a captive audience,  and/or  
repeated exposure"

None of these have to be present in the examples I just gave. It's perfectly possible to inadvertantly witness something awful. The fact that no one meant specifically to cause you harm doesn't mysteriously stop it from being traumatic.


---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

The answer to too much freedom of speech. (5.00 / 2) (#136)
by gromm on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 03:36:16 AM EST

Is more freedom of speech. Kids up late watching porn on cable? You need to teach them healthy values regarding sex (ie, that noone should ever do anything that feels wrong, and likewise shouldn't do anything to anyone else that they don't want). Preferrably before it ever becomes an issue. Kids up late watching graphic violence on cable? (like that never happens in America) Teach them healthy values regarding the use of violence. Preferrably before they're about 3, because otherwise the whole world is going to get there first.

Like your founding fathers said, the cost of freedom is eternal vigilance. If you're too lazy to be eternally vigilant, then go build yourselves a nice, cozy police state to keep yourselves secure in the guilded cage they'll make for you. And for god's sake, stop whining about the bed you've made to lie in.
Deus ex frigerifero
[ Parent ]

no offense intended (5.00 / 1) (#148)
by el_guapo on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 09:31:18 PM EST

but ***i'll*** be the one protecting my kids from inappropriate material, thank you very much. you protect your kids, i'll protect mine - i don't need no stinking government to help me protect my kids by taking away my (and yours!) rights :-)
mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
[ Parent ]
assignment of blame (none / 0) (#160)
by codejack on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 02:27:59 PM EST

to your first instance, first, i would like to see any evidence supporting your theory. second, who is at fault? the person producing the hardcore porn? the person showing it? or the "pedo"? getting drunk in a bar and stumbling down the street might make you more at risk of being mugged; should we outlaw alcohol?
to your second instance, I agree, but this is symptomatic, not a root cause; a child might be traumatized by seeing two airplanes crash into the side of buildings and set them on fire right before they fall down. should this not be shown on TV?

as for
"Intent to cause pain, suffering or death, optionally coupled with a captive audience, and/or repeated exposure"
isnt the pedophile doing this? and if the Viet Nam veterans weren't a captive audience, who is?!

"The horse is dead. Fuck it or walk away, but stop beating it." Juan Rico


Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
I doubt that (none / 0) (#217)
by aeschenkarnos on Thu Oct 24, 2002 at 06:37:08 AM EST

What's your source for #1?

Seems to me (and I don't have any source data either) that exposing kids to porn would do two things: (1) stimulate curiosity about sex, which is a long way, in the case of the normal kid, from instilling an obsession with sex, any more than showing kids Sesame Street instills an obsession with fake fur puppets; (2) provide them more information with which to make decisions about sex and reduce the 'shame and silence' that surrounds sex that is a benefit to nobody but pedophiles and the marketers of ... well, porn, basically.

The second point I want to make is that no-one has a presumptive right to be preserved from all possible sources of trauma. Another name for trauma is LIFE. Life brings negative and positive experiences. Sometimes these are due to the actions of some person, who may be punished; sometimes the ground quakes in a traumatic way and traumatic bushfires burn your house down.

[ Parent ]

Moreover (none / 0) (#220)
by A Trickster Imp on Sun Oct 27, 2002 at 09:25:05 AM EST

Moreover, IIRC, the Supreme Court ruled that "protecting the children" is an insufficient reason to ban an activity for adults, at least in the cases of pr0n and the Internet.

On the other hand, they did allow the backwards state of Tennessee to extradite some California BBS operators for transmitting pr0n via telephone in pre-Internet days.  (Did CA put up with that willingly, or were they forced, the idea of sovereignity w.r.t. extradition being little more than a paperwork fiction the feds can blow away at whim?)

[ Parent ]

Does this count as obscene speech? (1.37 / 16) (#145)
by exc on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 06:58:06 PM EST

*.g.o.a.t.s.e.x.*.g.o.a.t.s.e.x.*.g.o.a.t.s.e.x.*
g...............................................g
o./+++++\+++++++++++++\++++++++++++/++++\.......o
a|+++++++|+++++++++++++\++++++++++|++++++|......a
t|+++++++`.+++++++++++++|+++++++++|+++++++|.....t
s`++++++++|+++++++++++++|+++++++++\|+++++++|....s
e.\+++++++|./+++++++/++\\\+++--__+\\+++++++|....e
x..\++++++\/+++_--~~+++++++++++~--__|.\+++++|...x
*...\++++++\_-~+++++++++++++++++++~-_\++++++|...*
g....\_+++++\++++++++_.--------.______\|+++++|..g
o......\+++++\______//+_______+(_(__>++\+++++|..o
a.......\++++++C_____)++______+(_(____>++|++/...a
t......./\+|+++C_____)/.......\+(_____>++|+/....t
s....../+/\|+++C_____)|.......|++(___>+++/++\...s
e.....|+++(+++_C_____)\______/++//+_/+/+++++\...e
x.....|++++\++|__+++\\_________//+(__/+++++++|..x
*....|+\++++\____)+++`---------'+++++++++++++|..*
g....|++\_++++++++++___\+++++++/++++++++++__/+|.g
o...|++++++++++++++/....|+++++|..\++++++++++++| o
a...|+++++++++++++|..../+++++++\..\+++++++++++| a
t...|++++++++++/+/....|+++++++++|..\+++++++++++|t
s...|+++++++++/+/......\__/\___/....|++++++++++|s
e..|+++++++++/+/........|++++|.......|+++++++++|e
x..|++++++++++|.........|++++|.......|+++++++++|x
*.g.o.a.t.s.e.x.*.g.o.a.t.s.e.x.*.g.o.a.t.s.e.x.*


unwritten law (4.00 / 2) (#151)
by Phantros on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 01:31:56 AM EST

Every society has certain rules it lives by. Some of ours deal with the restriction of nudity, public sex, profanity, etc. This has nothing to do with fascism or freedom of speech, it has to do with the unwritten laws that bind our culture into a cohesive whole. Without these laws we would have an even more fractious society than we do today, because we'd find very wide variability in what is accepted from person to person, and what we'd gain in "freedom" would be more than made up for by extra chaos and strife.

So, why wasn't this written into the constitution? Because as society changes, so too do our mores. Why have immutable laws for something that is dynamic? Let the unwritten law suffice, and when that fails, let the fleeting and easily revocable law suffice. What is taboo today will not be what is taboo tomorrow. About 60 years ago, Lana Turner the "sweater girl" was censored for wearing tight sweaters. Today she could flash her breasts and still get a PG-13 rating. It's not a matter of what is right so much as a matter of what is right today. It's a self-regulating filter that adjusts to fit the needs of the times much better than absolute freedom.

Profanity does serve a purpose. It expresses extreme emotions (mostly negative ones, or things with negative connotations attached to them). However, this is best done sparingly. Try referring to everyone you meet tomorrow as "Fucker" and see how it goes. Since we've decided to attach powerful meanings to these words, we must also regulate their use.

As for your argument that making an obscenity law is a paradox, this is a weak one. Think of it more like the Christian commandment, "Thou shalt not use the Lord's name in vain." It has nothing to do with saying "God," it has to do with saying it in ways that are deemed inappropriate. Making a law against being inappropriate is not inappropriate.

4Literature - 2,000 books online and Scoop to discuss them with

Three Types of "Inappropriate" speech (4.75 / 4) (#162)
by artsygeek on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 04:56:10 PM EST

The first type I'll visit is obscene. Obscene is illegal UNLESS it has a control, in which a person can "opt out" of it. For example, if you want to see vaginas and whole breasts (in some states, the breast itself is legal, the nipples are simply illegal, hence pasties) you have to pay for it, because it must be something that you can opt-in for in the US. But, it doesn't necessarily have to cost...cable companies make the channels that happen to carry this stuff be a "value-added". Obscene on radio is defined as saying "I fucked this girl", "I have to take a shit" (the line between obscene and indecent is coming up, which allows the "seven dirty words" in certain instances). The WBAI case was about indecency. An earlier Pacifica case involving Allen Ginberg was the basis of modern Obscenity. Obscenity gets defined as "I know it when I see it", but like indecency can be circumvented with the SLAP value.

Now comes the more nebulous (in terms of definition, and point at which it "causes injury") form of "inappropriate" speech. We'll start with radio and the FCC. For example, in certain situations you can say "I fucked up", "This is fucked up", "This is bullshit", "I'm pissed off". What is that situation? Well, it depends on the average standards of the community at large. Which means if you're in Salt Lake City, you probably can't ever use it. While in NYC or Miami, you can probably get away with it when it's late enough for kids to be in bed(this will also be explored in terms of public access as well). Something can even be rendered indecent if a person (with a dirty enough imagination) can "fill in the blanks", such as in the case of an Eminem song played by a station, which was censored to be "radio friendly", was considered indecent by the FCC's enforcement division, because there was enough of a base of complaints in the community regarding the fact that people could GUESS what could fill the blanks. Later, FCC chair Michael Powell chastised the enforcement division for this action, saying that it's parents' responsibility to control this sort of thing. This is where the "Standards and Practices" factor comes in. A station, in the effort to C.Y.A. can have its own definition of indecent, and if there is a complaint, they can attest that they at least tried with a "reasonable" set of standards.

Now, I'll explain the public access part of indecent and obscene. In some communities a naked woman can be shown if it's a late enough hour, simply because the local community standards have an expectation that the station will carry such material at that hour, and a reasonable parent will prevent their child from viewing. A great example was when NBC showed "Schindler's List", they made it a point that very young children SHOULDN'T see it, and children who are allowed to see it should have their parents there, to explain to them what's going on. NBC's Standards and Practices allowed a LOT of questionable (by broadcast standards) material through because of the SLAP factor, and the fact that parents were warned over and over again.

To continue on the subject of the "iffy" material, the best way to allow as much material through as possible is to warn viewers before they see it, and allow them to have an expectation, thus a smoother transition, and less of an injury to those who choose to continue watching.

Finally, the category of "Other unacceptable speech", all of that material from the old fire in a crowded theater, to bomb jokes on airplanes, to lists of abortion doctors and an explanation of what most be done to them, to abusive language, to blasting material expressly for the purpose of disturbing (Psych warfare being a great example) all falls under the umbrella of reasonably unacceptable.

Now I'll answer question number 1, which was "Do people have a right NOT to be offended?" The answer: Yes AND No. People have a right to not have material that offends them intrude into their space. That was the whole idea behind the WBAI case. People do not have the right to be protected from material that disturbs them to action (that's the idea behind SLAP). All you have to do is prevent them from being "invaded", and under WBAI you'r okay. Of course, I am not a Lawyer, but I've studied this extensively, since I've worked in broadcasting.

It's amazing (4.00 / 1) (#180)
by Herring on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 02:45:40 AM EST

What some people can be offended by.


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
God is understanding (5.00 / 1) (#191)
by SanSeveroPrince on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 06:41:29 PM EST

And the final, ultimate proof that there is no God is that people like the CAP are allowed to print their hatemongering bs....

----

Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think


[ Parent ]
Flawed Example (4.00 / 1) (#186)
by Woundweavr on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 11:35:31 AM EST

Additionally, they have responsibilites under the First Amendment to provide diverse points of view.

As far as your example goes, you are incorrect. Prior restraint is, in fact, unconstitutional, to the government. However, this does not mean non-governmental organizations can not censor that which uses its facilities to publish. Can the New York Times choose to not publish an op-ed piece or crime scene photos it feels is obscene? Of course. If it feels an advertisement someone has bought is obscene can they remove it? Obviously again. So why would this not occur to the facilities of Time-Warner?

Furthermore, just because the FCC does not require them to censor indecent material on cable only channels, does not mean they can not. Non-mandatory != prohibitive.

Freedom of Speech does not equate to a Right to a Platform. The only guarenteed platform is the Right to Assembly (and to a lesser extend Religion). Believing there is one is just the other side of the "Right to Not Be Offended" coin of misinterpreting of the First Amendment.

PS - In order to head off the best counterexample to this, I'll address Universities. They do have to allow diverse viewpoints to be expressed by the student body, in the newspaper, etc. They are not, however (except in some state colleges), required by law. Rather, if they fail to comply they will lose federal and state funding. Accountants and beauracrats, not lawyers or civil rights activists create this situation.

Problem (none / 0) (#189)
by godix on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 02:29:03 PM EST

You are correct that the first ammendment is only for the government. However in the case of TV and radio the government has granted a limited monopoly to the broadcasters. The government specifically prevents me from broadcasting my own radio station or TV broadcast unless I apply for and follow government regulations on the entire thing. Considering that I think a valid arguement could be made that all government pretections, including the first ammendment, are valid since the airwaves are regulated by the government.


Love, like god, only exist at orgasm and agnoy


[ Parent ]
Not a broadcast (none / 0) (#194)
by Woundweavr on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 10:16:06 PM EST

But, as the author pointed out, this is not a broadcast situation. It goes over privately owned fiber. As I understand it, cable companies don't have the same restrictions as if they used the leased spectrum.

[ Parent ]
Cable companies (none / 0) (#195)
by godix on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 11:02:00 PM EST

Not quite no, but there is still a limited monopoly there. Same logic as a monopoly in the telephone area really, there has to be a limit to who can put in an area wide wireing and how much distruption they can cause doing so. Government regulations are less for cable companies, but I believe they're still there.


Love, like god, only exist at orgasm and agnoy


[ Parent ]
Now there's competition (none / 0) (#219)
by A Trickster Imp on Sun Oct 27, 2002 at 09:18:17 AM EST

Now there's competition, although I don't know if it's the feds who have blown away the monopolies local cities gave to cable companies.  Given such monopolies were granted in exchange for complete coverage, the cities got a free channel for themselves and a nice liberal lining of their pockets, both officially and unofficially, so I'd be surprised if they parted with it willingly.

[ Parent ]
So, let's revisit the phrase "public access&q (none / 0) (#196)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 11:10:40 PM EST

A private cable company, having been given a defacto monopoly in an area, is usually required to provide a "public access" forum. So, now the questions are (a) under what terms was the public access channel granted and (b) can the government, in creating this public access channel, cause or allow the cable company to censor what appears over that channel?


--
Once one sock is sucked, the other sock will remain forever unsucked.


[ Parent ]

And until.... (none / 0) (#211)
by Woundweavr on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 08:50:33 PM EST

Until I see some evidence that the cable company is compelled to have a completely open forum (which is doubtful considering the restrictions on broadcasts, it would suggest it would be quite the opposite), I don't see how it is Unconstitutional. Nor, as I see it, would a failure to do so be a Constitutional violation by the government(again, newspaper example).

[ Parent ]
Amusing (3.00 / 1) (#193)
by UnConeD on Sun Oct 13, 2002 at 08:05:53 PM EST

I find it amusing that the US, which preaches its supposed ideals of free speech, seems to have a lot more censorship than Europe (I'd like to say rest of the world, but I'm not able to form a good opinion about that). A lot of this is slowly influencing European media as well.

Take for example MTV Europe. When I compare their censored clips to the local music channel (TMF Belgium) there is a huge difference. Most rap videos tend to have more bleeps and scratches in them than actual text (not that I mind, I don't listen to that crap :)) on MTV. And clips that happen to have artistic nudity or 'inappropriate acts' are shunned as well.

I can see how some things can influence children, but again this is one of those things that parents should look after. The reason some kid started shooting his teachers and fellow students? Ah! Videogames! Violent movies!
Hell forbid we place any blame on the parents and their ignorance of the real problems their children had.

The US, with its 'I sue you' culture seems to find this normal. I find it disgusting. On top of that, it seems censorship has become a normal practice, regardless of context.
For example, what about an artistic painting showing a nude person? Would that get censored just as easily as a porn magazine?

Kind of reminds me of the scene in 'Ghost World' where the racist image of a black person is considered 'offensive' and 'inappropriate', even though the point was actually anti-racist, suggesting discussion and thought on the matter rather than censorship.

On top of that, the fact that there are people who think Harry Potter or E.T. are completely offensive films shows that some rediculous ideas, when supported by enough people, can become acceptable. There seems to be a much stronger Christian influence in the US' censoring practices as well.

I guess the people shouting "Please think of the children!" do so because they themselves can't do it.

MTV is terrible (none / 0) (#198)
by RyoCokey on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:11:14 PM EST

Besides not playing much in the way of videos these days, they won't let guns be shown in videos, much less nudity.



The issue here is not the facts; Right - so how does this apply to Mr. Scott Ritter?
[
Parent ]
Difficult to understand (none / 0) (#200)
by epepke on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:14:47 PM EST

I find it amusing that the US, which preaches its supposed ideals of free speech, seems to have a lot more censorship than Europe (I'd like to say rest of the world, but I'm not able to form a good opinion about that).

I see this kind of comment all the time and have always been puzzled by it. I'm wondering if it may have something to do with a fundamental split between the European and American worldviews.

Why is this amusing? The reason that there are Constitutional protections and so much American talk about free speech is precisely because there are a lot of people who would deny free speech for others. What you find amusing or ironic makes perfect sense to me. People make laws when there's a threat that the laws are intended to counter or prevent. Just like hurricane insurance is more popular in Florida than it is in North Dakota. No duh.

After seeing this over and over again, I am beginning to think that Europeans just don't understand the basic concept that America is not uniform, and therefore that some Americans need protection from other Americans. America is made up almost entirely of peoples who were oppressed when they were in other countries (primarily European) or who were and are oppressed by other Americans. So there's an awareness of the effects of oppression, and these ideals and laws exist as a means of trying to keep the tyranny of the majority in check.

I actually agree with your attitudes pretty much completely, but I'm an American. And that's why I tend to promote free speech, etc. as an ideal in America. I don't see why that's strange or amusing, but maybe you do.

On the other hand, there are things I find strange and sometimes amusing about Europe. I find it strange, for example, that Belgium, a fairly small country, finds it necessary to have an alarming degree of personal hostility between the French- and Flemish-speaking portions. I find it strange that in Bavaria you'll see Bavarian flags all over the place but almost never a German flag. (You will see "rebel flags" in the American South, mostly on pick-up trucks owned by young males with pellagra, but the Bavarians are serious about it.) I find it strange how so many English can talk shit about the Irish or the "Pakis" without its ever once occuring to them that this is something not entirely unlike bigotry. I find it strange to have concentration camps in the former Yugoslavia with nobody in the backyard even caring. I find it strange that Europeans consider neo-Nazis to be the only threat of tyranny or oppression, as if tyranny did not exist before 1939 and then was set in stone for all eternity. I think the fact that it's very difficult to obtain a copy of Mein Kampf in Germany or that you can't get "Nazi memorabilia" is probably more dangerous than the fact that most television stations in the U.S. don't show nipples or broadcast "motherfucker."

But that's probably just because I'm from a different culture. These things may make perfect sense to many Europeans.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
MTV-Europe (none / 0) (#218)
by A Trickster Imp on Sun Oct 27, 2002 at 09:12:30 AM EST

> Take for example MTV Europe. When I compare
> their censored clips to the local music channel
> (TMF Belgium) there is a huge difference.

MTV Europe was a joke when I lived in the Netherlands 11 years ago.

I used to watch the Superchannel to get my daily dose of Rap with nudity (including at one point a very grainy, almost intelligible closeup of a copulating penis and vagina) and, guess what America!  Madonna's boobies in videos!

We really are heavily censored here in that department, in spite of a Constitutional protection.

To those who would say "Well, it isn't really speech!" I only respond that do you like the idea of giving government and their power hungry thugs more areas to lead people on cruscades over?  We already have enough problem with socialist populist nonsense in supposedly "free" countries without throwing in anachronistic little old ladies' attitudes to boot.

What ever happened to the Superchannel anyway? I couldn't find any references on the Internet.   It was half (vastly improved) MTV-Europe and half (boring soccer) sports.  Who was the redhead who used to host videos?  I can't remember her name.

[ Parent ]

Major misinterpretaion (3.00 / 1) (#199)
by unstable on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:09:19 PM EST

it all comes down to people not understanding one of the rights....

and no its not the first amendment.

the pursuit of happiness.

alot of people read that this means they have a right to be happy, and be kept happy.

no it means that if you want to try to be happy, I will not stop you, but if you are not happy, ITS NOT MY PROBLEM.

its the rigth to pursue happyness, not the right to have it handed to you on a silver platter.

you hear something offensive, tough, suck it up and get on with your life, dont try to outlaw what i say because your just not happy.

about people that say "kill all (insert subculture)"  I totaly disagree with them but I will fight to the death to defend their right to say that.

people that have a stock pile of guns to overthrow the gov't.

fine let them have them  its their right to bear arms.. and why,  to overthrow a gov't if it becomes oppressive.

yes that right... the bill of rights is basicaly a built in revolution

what are the things that an oppresive goverment wants,

people that dont try to rouse up trouble  (freedom of speech) people that dont fight back (right to bear arms) and for nobody to know what they are doing (freedom of the press),

the list goes on but you should get the point.

When the constitution was written it was right after escaping (what we felt was) a overbearing goverment, so "the founding fathers" wrote in steps to try to prevent this from happening again.

they tried to limit the amount of power a single person has and to try to create "safteys" to prevent one group grabbing total control.

this is why we must resist people creating laws that effect these freedoms.

I think its wrong to expose children to certain things, and i dont think somethings should be said at all.

but I dont want ANYONE forcing the decision on me or anyone else.

rant off i got far enough off topic for one night.



Reverend Unstable
all praise the almighty Bob
and be filled with slack

Except... (3.00 / 1) (#206)
by tempysmurf on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 08:13:42 PM EST

...laws are made for the majority (or special interest groups) not for the rights of "Man". If it were really about the rights of every individual and their protection, there would only be a handful of laws. Not to mention you're purpose is flawed, because of that thing called property rights. Just like you should be allowed to say whatever you want, they have the right to determine who uses their network and for what. You are trying to impose on their property rights and at the same time arguing about others imposing their rights on what others say. I find that amusing.

except for one more thing (none / 0) (#209)
by Celestial on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 07:23:52 PM EST

The cable/broadcast company has a legal obligation to provide public access. Things have got all muddied up in the last few years, but essentially every person living in the US has a right to show whatever the fuck they want to on public access station which the cable company has a legal obligation to allow. The same is true for radio. Property rights no longer have anything to do with this because they gave these specific rights long ago.

[ Parent ]
true enough but... (none / 0) (#210)
by tempysmurf on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 07:35:36 PM EST

..not on ethical grounds.. see first point. If you want to start your own network, that's all good, but forcing others whether it's the law or not doesn't make it right.

[ Parent ]
A minor rewrite of this essay now online. (5.00 / 1) (#212)
by ip4noman on Fri Oct 18, 2002 at 10:09:30 AM EST

PS: A slightly improved version of this essay occurs here: http://www.binghamtonpublicaccess.org/story/2002/10/13/131517/97 (Improved the flow [removed sidebar], incorporated Seth Finkelstein's argument about the Miller test, and included an interesting Zappa quote at the end.)

Thanks for all the excellent comments, and I'm sorry I didn't get time to reply to all of them.

--
Breaking Blue / Cognitive Liberty Airwaves
Some Questions on Obscene and Indecent Speech | 221 comments (203 topical, 18 editorial, 0 hidden)
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