Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"I Believe In The Principle of Free Speech But...

...shut up already!" Or so says Althouse in this post. I assume it's the "but" she objects to, so apparently if you believe in anything less than absolute freedom of speech all the time, she doesn't want to hear it.

I feel for her. Her blog's been inundated with trolls at a time when she probably couldn't be much less interested in maintenance issues. But I've never seen an online community with an absolute freedom of speech rule that wasn't ultimately destroyed by that devotion.

The logical paradox I see is that she's not rebuking the trolls, who are acting in bad faith, but she is rebuking people who bitch about the trolls, even though they're acting in good faith. So why is free speech an absolute for trolls--but not for troll haters?


  1. Any thread with more than about 60 comments is almost sure to be more noise than signal.

    If I have anything to say on a post in one of those threads, it's usually just a hit and run job ignoring what everyone else is saying, cause getting caught up in the nastiness would be silly and counterproductive.

    (and it does get nasty)

    Gresham's Law not only applies to coin, but comment threads, as well.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Re-posted to correct a link.

    This is long, because (great minds, y'know) I was thinking of a post on this, so it's already half thought out, still half-baked, that is to say …

    I suspect that Professor Althouse has a different idea about the nature and purpose of her blog than some of the commenters do. Remember this? Or this thread, with particular emphasis on the discussion that starts here?

    It's a performance art project. Part of that would be to observe the interactions among commenters. Throw up a serious looking topic, see what kind of responses come from the ether. Certainly there's a lot written there that's worth the reading. I've learned a fair amount from the observations of people smarter than I am on those threads. But the purpose of the Althouse blog is the amusement of Althouse. Of course, you commented on this here. And there's her reference to "the Althousian-style bloggish performance."

    The beautiful photos, the witty observations, elicit amusing comments. If the commenters argue among themselves, well, that's just another source of amusement. The to-do about Jeremy is a secondary eddy within the Vortex. The upshot? Althouse is a wonderful salon, with a charming and witty hostess, who would rather watch how her guests respond to the drooling drunk who keeps pawing the other guests, than do anything about it herself. I, personally, regret having to put up with the way that nonsense (example of obscene Jeremyism here) gets in the way of the rest of the conversation, but heck, if it amuses our hostess, well, for those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.

    And there is hope. After all, she ran out of patience with quxxo. Alpha Liberal showed up at Althouse after being banned from Patterico and IIRC a couple of other places, and, while thick, is not repetitively obscene. Lucky/Michael/Jeremy, being a group project, is/are far more tiresome than any of the above, yet may have greater amusement value to Althouse thanks to sheer indefatigability. Like the Energizer Bunny, only not so cute, it goes on and on, and the reactions of other commenters, players in the Althouse blog theatre, go on and on, and are an ongoing source of amusement.

    Another question comes to mind about the Jeremy entity, considering its sheer number of posts per thread: How many clicks would be required to eradicate it? Has Althouse simply become resigned to its presence, as one not obsessed with lawn care might be to dandelions? I got a Weed Hound, which darn near makes dandelion removal fun, but there's no Blogger equivalent.

    I'm not going to stop reading. But, gosh, wasn't it funny when Jeremy thought that The New England Journal of Medicine was published in England? (Referring to your 5:34.) He/she is so clueless … I'd give him/her a copy of Cultural Literacy if the creature would post any contact info at all.

  4. Amazing, how little I commented on those threads Hector linked (and others like them not linked, for the most part, by the way), and when I did, back to Hector's links, it was rather lighthearted.

    Fancy that.

  5. Reader,

    Yeah, it's interesting, isn't it? Looking back on the blog and seeing one's old thoughts?


    Just a great comment, my friend. Thing is, people go there, in good faith, to talk about topics. To cultivate trolls in that environment is to not respect that. And I really don't think that's AA's intention. Amusement or no, she's often pointed out she doesn't read all the comments.

    As for Jeremy/Michael/Lucky/Gene, he may be an experiment, but I suspect he's not very bright.

  6. It's a performance art project.

    Yep! Pretty good one too. I definitely want to read the story behind the story, whenever she decides to sell it.

  7. I think her commenters were just getting too predictable. The comments today were amazing, one thread had over a hundred comments and people were actually talking to each other and agreeing on things. Amazing. She does great work.

  8. My feelings are pretty well known so I won't stain your blog with them.

    I never intended to influence anyone else to post or not post comments there, that is totally up to them. I just do what's right for me.State it plainly and unvarnished. But always in a meataphor.

    I always enjoyed the discussion among the science guys. I hope some day that they explain to me how every action sets off it's accompanying overreaction.

    I think Dr. Bruce Banner had a theory about that.

  9. It'd have to get a lot worse for me to leave for good. And I'd never stop reading the posts, I'd just ditch the comments if I had to.

  10. ... although to address your point, I do agree that giving the trolls a pass is not really a "free speech" issue. For exactly the same reason you and others have pointed out: you can't let the trolls go and then tell others to shush on the grounds of free speech.

    There's obviously something else going on. I've always assumed it's the sheer quantity of Jeremy posts. Impossible to delete, and not easily remedied, without moving her site elsewhere. That's a monumental task for someone who's not into technical stuff.

  11. I think Hector is mostly right. Also, I think Althouse realizes that the Jeremy cannot be reasoned with while real commentors can be. She is just being practical, but she does come across as harsh to the commentors who make her place so much fun to visit.

  12. Chickenlittle, do you think there will be a book? I'd buy it. But then, I bought Flame Wars. The wit, see, the wit is the thing that makes it all worthwhile.

    Speaking of which, I regret that I missed seeing the threads at Trooper York's place on this topic, before I posted here. Trooper, you're still on my list. but I don't check every site on that list as often as I might. That's why I changed the name of it from "Regular Reads" to "Recommended Reading."

  13. Chickenlittle, do you think there will be a book?

    Wasn't she thinking about writing up and editing Titus's comments? I doubt she was planning to give that away. The thought must have crossed her mind.

    Blake, I can't buy the free speech argument--I mean who really believes in absolute free speech, and if they say they do, do they also believe in absolute Establishment Clause? Or absolute 2nd Amendment gun rights?

  14. I believe Althouse has always maintained she didn't have the attention or interest for a book-length project.

  15. Well, the free speech thing doesn't really apply. Nobody's for free anything all the time in their private lives. Those restrictions are for the government.

    People used to whine about their first amendment rights during the glory days of forums--and the moderators were always quick to point out "Shut up".

    It's a rube argument. In a civilized world, any right is contingent on responsible use. Not popular use, but responsible use.

    And I note that one of the lauded new commenters turned right around and revealed himself to be a troll.

    How 'bout them apples?

  16. And I note that one of the lauded new commenters turned right around and revealed himself to be a troll.

    I missed that Blake--can you link?


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