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THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE : Take it Outside! • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE

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lvcabbie
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THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE

Postby lvcabbie » Tue Jul 17, 2012 3:16 pm

The internet is a boon to anyone seeking information. With a click of a mouse, one may connect with endless libraries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and directly to people in places throughout the world. It offers unlimited discourse between peoples of all races, beliefs, locales, and economic situations.

In the early 1980's, I logged onto electronic bulletin board systems (EBBS) where we shared ideas and information with the world. Most of that intercourse was civil. Personal attacks were unheard of.

Journalism has always included personal attacks, some far, far worse than what we see today. How can the media not be biased? It is owned by individuals with beliefs who hire those with similar ideals to write and spread opinions similar to theirs.

Until several years ago, the press and broadcast media held a primary place in the spreading of information. However, this leadership is being overshadowed by internet websites and Blogs (Web Logs or online journals). Some of these blogs have more followers than many large city periodicals or viewership of certain television and radio sources.

And then, there are electronic discussion forums. These forums cover the entire spectrum of ideas and information. If you have a special interest, hobby, or career field, there is a plethora of forums just for you. They also deal with age, ethnicity, religion, and yes, politics. Many newspapers provide forums for their readers to exchange information.

But, the most expanding area of information exchange takes place in the area called Social Media. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, indicates that;

Social networking now accounts for 22% of all time spent online in the US.

A total of 234 million people age 13 and older in the U.S. used mobile devices in December 2009.

Twitter processed more than one billion tweets in December 2009 and averages almost 40 million tweets per day.

Over 25% of U.S. internet page views occurred at one of the top social networking sites in December 2009, up from 13.8% a year before

As this information is three years old and the availability of devices for accessing social media has blossomed beyond belief, these figures have to be far below current 2012 figures.

There are so many social media services that I don't know where to begin. Facebook. Twitter. Linked In. YouTube. On and on and on. Have you ever seen four people sitting at a table in a restaurant, each of them busily texting on their cell phones? Are we losing the art of talking to people face-to-face?

And yes, there is a very important upside to this social media! Witness some recent instances where people did some truly horrid and stupid things and were caught in the act by someone recording it on a cell phone, then sharing that information with the world. What would have happened if some alert individuals had not taken the time to record the act?

However, the use of pseudonyms to hide one's true identity is bringing about a dark and dangerous side to this amazing tool. When one individual does not like the viewpoint or information you are sharing, instead of responding with a counter argument or logical explanation, the responses are far too often personal attacks and name-calling, some of it degenerating into gutter language and libelous charges.

This is not to say that such extremism has not existed before now. There were and still are many groups and organizations that do not tolerate any but their own opinions and beliefs. But, with but a few months to go until the 2012 General Election, those extremists have expanded their efforts a hundred-fold in order to force their beliefs upon the rest of us. We are no longer just Americans. We have to have hyphenated designations and names. There are the horrid rich who gained their evil fortunes using the poor and downtrodden. There are the poor masses with no chance in life if it not be for government largess. All blacks are liberals. Only certain few Uncle Tom African-Americans are conservatives and they are blasted for being so. Every well-to-do white person is a greedy individual who cares for nothing but themselves. The vast majority of middle-of-the-road Americans are simply too stupid to make their own decisions.

When and where does this stop? Does it always get down to a legal charge or lawsuit to abate the vitriol? Does the blame game ever stop?

I openly admit I am writing this because I have recently been the recipient of vile and vitriolic attacks in the electronic forum of The Review/Journal newspaper in Las Vegas. I have been called a variety of names that would anger any non-saintly person. My wife, who has never expressed a single opinion, has all but been accused of being an illegal and a prostitute. And the R/J continues to let it happen – another example of just how deep into the mire the media has sunk.

I sincerely hope that somehow we will find a way to make our way back to a point where we discuss our differences in a reasoned, well-though-out, and civil manner.

Sadly, I am not keeping my fingers crossed.

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mammamaia
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Re: THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE

Postby mammamaia » Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:57 am

are you referring to that spate of nasty posts back in april?... or has there been some more recent bashing?

i agree it's not fair and one would hope forum sites such as the r-j's could be policed, but do you really think that's practical?... our species is rife with bullies and idiots, so short of devising some way of culling them all and leaving the planet with only a relative handful of humans, there's really nothing anyone can do but ignore them as best we can...

love and healing hugs, maia
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James A. Ritchie
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Re: THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE

Postby James A. Ritchie » Wed Jul 18, 2012 6:02 pm

Name calling is no more prevalent today than it was when this country was founded, and, if anything, the media is much tamer and less vitriolic today.

vitriol, name calling, rudeness, idiocy, and all manner of nastiness is simply the cost of participation. Always has been, always will be. Just make your point, and ignore all those who call you names. It's all you can do, and all you should do. Agree with it or not, free speech also covers stupidity, nastiness, and vitriol.

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shadowwalker
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Re: THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE

Postby shadowwalker » Wed Jul 18, 2012 6:21 pm

If one reads the letters from back in colonial days of the US, you'll find (in antiquated terms and speech patterns) much the same crap thrown as today. The only difference is that today it's out there for all the world to see - and, if smart, all the world to ignore.
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Re: THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE

Postby pat roe » Fri Sep 07, 2012 7:52 pm

Hi Ivcabbie,
I enjoyed the piece you wrote. Although I don't disagree with the responses from others, I think you have a point in this paragraph:

However, the use of pseudonyms to hide one's true identity is bringing about a dark and dangerous side to this amazing tool. When one individual does not like the viewpoint or information you are sharing, instead of responding with a counter argument or logical explanation, the responses are far too often personal attacks and name-calling, some of it degenerating into gutter language and libelous charges.

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atwhatcost
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Re: THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE

Postby atwhatcost » Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:36 pm

If it helps any (and it doesn't do squat for me), you've experienced a legal decision made by our lovely Congress. It has been legislated that social media and website owners are not responsible for the conduct of their users in this law - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_23 ... ecency_Act.

Social media uses that law as a big fat shield, so they no longer need to use any kind of sword to cut out the obviously offensive. (And by "obviously offensive," I'm not talking about the situations judged by either side of the political perspective. I'm talking about mobbing syndrome and random bullies out to merely attack anyone who disagrees with them, often in mass.)

As I see it, most large user-driven websites take that law to the extreme, often to the point of standing behind the mob mentality and letting reasonable people get smashed under mob rule. The only right that I see most user-based websites adhering to is to protect against plagiarism. Even there, it's not really their desire to stop plagiarists. It is their desire to look like they're doing that without the effort required. (I'm not talking about WD.com. I haven't been on here long enough to learn what the moderators on here are required to do or not do. This is based on other sites I have joined and how ineffective my reports against plagiarists were, simply because I wasn't the original author.)

It is the one commonality of today's society - always adhere to the lowest common denominator. It is that thing that now drives many Americans to strive for the lowest point or even to create a lower point.

Because of that, there is no pending death to free speech. Quite the contrary. It will get to the point where people can yell FIRE in a crowded theater with no consequences. We're already hitting the mark where the only free speech permitted is agreement to all forms of PC. You are free to think and say whatever you want to say, since it is the right of anyone else to destroy you for speaking up.

The Internet is much like the Old West was back in the days of "frontier justice." The only difference is, back then, justice meant little because law wasn't enforcible yet. Now it is the law to act the fool.

Until websites are forced to protect the users, it will only get worse. Sadly, it spills into the real world now and I disagree with your assumption that the news media merely hires people who think as they do. To become a journalist, one must have a college education. By the very nature of the beast, colleges are taught by-in-large by liberals. (There is a history to both liberalism and conservatism, and liberals were, indeed, "the educated who wanted social change through education.") It is possible to graduate college as a conservative, but it requires a large amount of reasoning and understanding of self to do that. 17 years of indoctrination in liberalism does take its toll. Because of that, naturally, most journalist are liberal. Meanwhile, people who can afford to own news medias come up through the ranks of conservatism. The only difference is they know what sells. It's a business decision, not a moral one.

Don't expect civil discourse online. It is true - when you are free to say whatever you want without consequences, you are free to act the bully, even if you have no teeth in real life. It was both a business decision and a legal decision to let that happen, while all the time the legislators, business owners, and journalists pretend to be surprised by the outcome.

The new American morality - it is better to look good than to take action to make sure people act good.
Lynn

Working on my first novel.

JamesBrandon
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Re: THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE

Postby JamesBrandon » Fri Mar 08, 2013 7:37 am

Everything has advantages and disadvantages the same way internet also has, so its all up to us to make it our habit or only use when required.
Have for your real estate.

James A. Ritchie
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Re: THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE

Postby James A. Ritchie » Fri Mar 08, 2013 7:48 pm

[quote="atwhatcost"]If it helps any (and it doesn't do squat for me), you've experienced a legal decision made by our lovely Congress. It has been legislated that social media and website owners are not responsible for the conduct of their users in this law - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_23 ... ecency_Act.

[quote]

Would you really have it any other way? If social media and website owners are held responsible for what people write on their sites, they will allow NOTHING to be written on their sites. I don't want censored by such sites. Do you?

Anonymity did not come along with the Internet. It's been around for centuries, and our Founding Fathers used it extensively to get their message out. Real bullying happens. Real libel exists. Both have legal remedies.

It is not bullying and it is not libel when ten thousand people respond to something you post online by saying that, in their opinion, you are an idiot, a fool, or worse. It is simply ten thousand people stating their opinions, something they have every right to do, and always have had.

This does not mean we'll reach the point where anyone can yell fire in a crowded theater. That's silly. It means, purely and simply, that you posted something that ten thousand people thought was stupid or wrong.

As for plagiarism, if you are not the original author, you're supposed to contact the original author, or their estate, and let them know. It's up to them to deal with the plagiarism, once it's pointed out to them. There are legal ways for them to do so, if they choose. Depending on what's being plagiarized, there are also websites you can contact, and they'll pass the word along. But when you aren't the original author, you can't just go around telling this website and that website that they should stop plagiarizing.

You are allowed to say whatever you wish, politically correct, or not. I hate political correctness, and I post all over the place in ways that most certainly are not politically correct. Yes, I often get "attacked", and often in numbers. This is how free speech is supposed to work. They have every right to do so, and I wouldn't respect them if they didn't do so. If they can't reply, I can post in the first place.

All speech has consequences, and "free" never has and never will mean that you won't get a mob of people attacking you for what you say and write. It cannot, by definition, mean this. Free speech cannot be one-sided, and cannot be based on numbers. It cannot be determined by civil or uncivil, and cannot be limited except by where it does definable, real, and usually harm due to outright and knowing lies. Whether this is teens bullying another teen on Facebook, people lying about you in a way that harms your reputation and your business, or whether it's yelling fire in a crowded theater, there ARE legal remedies. But when it's just ten thousand people calling you an idiot, or dirty names, because they disagree with something you post somewhere, you have no right to expect otherwise.

Social media and the Internet did not start this. It's been going on since man learned how to write and how to talk. It will only go away when everyone, including you, is censored by the government. I hope that never happens.

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mammamaia
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Re: THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE

Postby mammamaia » Sat Mar 09, 2013 1:54 pm

i'm surprised to see this year-and-a-half-old thead resurrected so long after it was pretty much done to death...
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robjvargas
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Re: THE PENDING DEATH OF FREE SPEECH AND CIVIL DISCOURSE

Postby robjvargas » Sat Mar 09, 2013 5:21 pm

Slowly putting together a "replacement" forum at http://writerswriting.proboards.com.

It's still under construction, but come take a look.

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