Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beyond Chron and "quasi-hate speech"

It's hard to take seriously Randy Shaw's recent riff on extreme online comments as long as he insists on running letters to BeyondChron through his PC filter, which of course means that my letters---and no doubt those of a lot of others---don't get published:

Encouraging participatory journalism and reader feedback is great, but not when it becomes a forum for distortions, personal attacks and quasi-hate speech. These comment sections boosts[sic] cynicism and divides[sic] people, and betray rather than contribute to the media’s public education goals.

My past letters on illegal immigration and the Islamist violence over the Danish Mohammed cartoons didn't make the cut at the oh-so progressive BeyondChron. (No doubt my critique of BeyondChron on its fifth anniversary didn't help.) If you dish it out, you have to be able take it, especially if the letters you reject are not abusive or hate speech but about issues. Shaw on BeyondChron's policy on letters:

Beyond Chron does not have an immediate “comments” section, though we get many requests for this feature. We not only do not have the staff to monitor such comments, but believe that the public gains little from exposure to potentially uninformed and factually inaccurate quick takes on articles. Long letters can also rely on falsehoods, but our process enables us to exclude racist and defamatory content.

Why does Shaw think he has to "monitor" letters/comments that are even "potentially uninformed and factually inaccurate"? Streetsblog and Fog City seem to get by fine without doing that, and they publish my comments with no dire consequences[Later: Streetsblog did block my comments in 2014]. I publish all the comments I get, unless they get too graphic about bodily functions, etc. And I got a lot of abusive comments from the bike people when the injunction came down four years ago, all of which I duly published.

I assume other sites reject feedback that is explicitly racist, obscene, or too full of hate, which SFGate---the main offender in Shaw's mind---routinely does also, by the way. This notation is not uncommon on SF Gate: "This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff." I counted five of those notices of the 24 comments on one of C.W. Nevius's blog posts on the sit-lie issue. Even worse for Beyond Chron, its letters section is so sanitized that it's boring, as the predictable leftist bromides scroll down the screen.

Shaw's squeamishness is odd, especially when you consider that Beyond Chron's intellectual standards aren't very high, as I've pointed out before. But he particularly seems to find any criticism of people of color for any reason as implicitly racist, which is ridiculous. My criticism of illegal immigration is not of the immigrants themselves but of the peculiar tolerance progressives have for illegal immigration. They claim to be concerned about discrimination against black people but somehow justify illegal immigrants working at many low-wage jobs that unemployed black Americans never get a chance to even apply for. In the years before I retired, I worked as a dishwasher in a number of kitchens in the Bay Area, and noticed that so many kitchen jobs are filled by Hispanics, most of whom were of dubious immigration status. (I shouldn't have to say this: all the Hispanics I worked with over the past 30 years have been good people and awesome workers. You learn a lot about people when you work with them all day at demanding jobs.)

Similarly, my loathing for Islamic terrorism and bullying has nothing to do with ethnicity or even with Islam, since only a small minority of Moslems indulge in that kind of behavior.

BeyondChron would be a lot more fun/interesting to read if Shaw backed off of his assumption that he has a duty to protect his readers from offensive and/or incorrect opinions.

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