Monday, April 22, 2013

Free speech versus moderated comments

Version 0.5

Free Speech Versus Moderated Comments

I want to clarify my position on free speech in light of my settings for moderation on all blogger comments. I think there are several elements of confusion, especially about the use of the word "free".

First, let me be clear that I strong approve of free speech in the sense of freedom to say whatever you want. That means I am STRONGLY inclined to approve EVERY comment or reaction submitted in response to any of my blogs. Except for unsolicited commercial spam, I am unable to recall any comment that I did not approve, and I have even approved a couple of replies that came dangerously close, but which seemed sincere enough and strongly relevant to the topic of the comment.

Second, I want to thank you for disagreeing with me so strongly that you actually change my mind. It doesn't happen very often (except for corrections of typos or silly mistakes), but it is possible and I really want to learn about my misconceptions, incorrect reasoning, and especially about any false evidence I am relying upon or unknown and important evidence that I should consider. Even if you disagree with me vigorously, I want to approve your post. However, if you are sincerely trying to change my mind, you should focus on new evidence or analytic flaws in my reasoning.

Third, if you just call me a bunch of vile names, I'm just going to approve your post so I can hold you up and wave you around as effectively discrediting and disproving yourself because you are unable to provide anything more substantive. I actually think emotional writing can show sincerity and there is even research showing it is more persuasive, but I insist that I am an essentially reasonable person and I'm quite happy to say something along the lines of "This fellow strongly disagrees with me, but he is contradicting himself and can therefore be dismissed as some sort of liar without even trying to figure out which side of his own words he actually believes." That's just one example, but I'm frequently surprised by how inconsistent people are... There might be some limit of angry ranting where I would just decide not to approve the comment, but I'm having trouble seeing where it would be, because the crazier someone gets in their disagreement, the more reasonable I feel and the happier I am to use their craziness as evidence of my reasonableness.

Fourth, I want to address the confusion about "free speech", which is NOT related to free beer. Being able to speak freely has almost nothing to do with the actual financial costs of speaking, especially in these days of exceedingly cheap Internet-based publishing. I am moderating these comments because of unpaid COMMERCIAL speech, specifically the scams that are being "advertised" by spammers. Okay, I admit that I don't have many readers, but I am NOT going to help the spammers in harassing them as the spammers desperately search for the tiny number of suckers who can be fooled into sending money. If you are a spammer, your comments will NEVER be approved by me and I will do everything I can think of to put you out of business. I am NOT saying we can convert spammers into decent human beings, but I do believe that without the money, they will crawl under less visible rocks.

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