A few days ago, I received a troubling email from someone active on behalf of food rights, and someone I highly respect.
I see you working hard and contributing to the food freedom and quality battlefront and it lifts me up. My desire to be a supporter and promoter of your blog site is obliterated however by what you choose to allow with regard to the guidelines of posting to your comment column. Maybe you feel that it’s a simple playground where the little children can rip each other to shreds with no adult guidance, I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t understand why you endorse or tolerate this nasty evilness polluting your otherwise beautiful site.
And again, I don’t know much about blogs, I do however enjoy participating and moderating discussion groups. To keep those discussion groups going I have a strong opinion that they be safe for all and that cruel cyber bullies be banished immediately. I have no desire to even listen to childish name-calling, or road rage style insulting. If the writer is savagely attacking ideas, concepts or proposals, that is totally fine, the clear line is when the attack is personal.
Simple childlike attacks on the character of the other members will, in my opinion, only muddy the water, and divide the loyal and hard-working. The enemies of food freedom and farming, if they know about you, must secretly enjoy your self-immolation pyre.
Likewise, I would never allow cyber-bullies to post without having the courage to cite their own true name and occupation! In my one brief foray onto your site (when I was mentioned by you in your blog) my personal character was somewhat viciously attacked by one of your commenters, someone legally registered under their cyber-avatar nickname! I felt it would have been somewhat insane for me to even make comments to either clarify or defend myself from some sheet-wearing coward burning a cross in my yard. I cannot for the life of me figure out how a man of your wisdom and vision could see any redeemable value in allowing this egregious abuse.
In a world filled with pettiness, sideways inappropriate rage, chickenshit attacks and cowardly sabotage why would anyone want to voluntarily expose themselves to your gladiator arena for mutual abuse. It is for these reasons that your site sickens me and why I will no longer recommend it to others. Reading your blog and the comments strikes me as similar to eating something wonderful and then biting into the last half of a meal that is rotten, filled with manure and maggots. That’s the taste left in the mouth.
I answered this individual in part by stating:
“You certainly aren’t the first person to complain about the tenor of the comments. It’s an issue I’ve grappled with over the years. I’ve been tempted to step in according to some of the ways you suggest, but have always shied away. Basically, I’m a big believer in free speech. I have edited out offensive personal attacks that become libelous, but beyond that, I’ve concluded that if I try to eliminate distasteful or immature comments, I can’t realistically determine where to draw the line, and my judgment inevitably becomes arbitrary.”
I also explained why some people need to stay anonymous on the blog—to protect themselves from the food police or, if they are the food police, to protect themselves from colleagues.
I concluded by explaining the role I see the blog playing in the larger debate that is emerging over food rights: “I have come to conclude that by allowing such an open type of discussion, my blog provides an important contrast with the regulator and government web sites, as well as the establishment media. In those places, there’s little or no real back-and-forth of the type that occurs on my blog. I am sure you know well the kind of coverage our food rights issues get in the mainstream media–heavily slanted toward the government view. Only recently are we beginning to get some realistic coverage, like this piece that just appeared in Atlantic Monthly, which relied heavily on my blog:”
I’ll conclude by saying I appreciate the complaint about this blog’s sometimes troubling tenor. It’s a good excuse to seek out your input as to what we’re doing right, and what could be improved. It’s also a good excuse to preview the fact that we’re going to have a new look here in the next few months, a look that hopefully makes the blog easier to read and access.
Food rights is only going to become a more contentious issue, and I’d like this to be a place that is examining it in the most relevant ways.
(By the way, I’m away for a few days, out of email touch, so will respond further when I return late in the week.)