People who choose to visit the M* site should read the following by Jon Max Wilson.
I will highlight some crucial paragraphs below. I do not always agree with my on-line friend JMax. In fact, he has written a lot of things I don’t agree with. But we have maintained a good relationship because we have disagreed in a civil manner.
His concept of a blog being a digital living room is extremely important. I have expressed this in past privately to others at M* but not as eloquently as JMax does in the attached. Let’s stop and think about this for a second. A blog is a private space in a public world. Each blog has the right to control its content. A blog cannot publish everything. In addition, even the most “tolerant” blog has limits to what it will publish. No self-respecting blog in the Mormon world would publish racist white supremacist rants or calls for bloody violence. So, the truth is that every blog censors, they just decide differently where to censor. Every blog is different, just as every person is different, and they will choose different ways of publishing thoughts and comments.
I have been extremely uncomfortable with many recent discussions on M*. Several writers (including myself) have pontificated on relatively controversial subjects. The responses have often been disappointing, especially from people who call themselves followers of the Savior.
Let’s return to the concept of a blog as a virtual living room. If you invited somebody to your home and began to discuss a given issue, how would you react if the guest to your home began to insult you? If their comments were filled with sarcasm? If they self-righteously questioned your adherence to certain doctrines they consider important? I know what I would do: I would politely ask them to stop such aggressive behavior, and then if they continued, I would ask them to leave.
The relatively anonymity of the internet causes many people to engage in behavior they would never do in person. I have no doubt that the people who often leave incredibly nasty comments on M* are good people in person, good parents, good spouses, good members of the Church trying to negotiate their way through life the best they can. But when it comes to people expressing opposition to opinions they disagree with, many of them literally turn into on-line fiends, desperate to make it clear that they don’t agree, and the person who dared to disagree with them is an idiot, a monster, a sub-human who must be ostracized.
Beyond the issue of tone, there is the issue of just plain rudeness. What would you do with a guest who came your house and spent the entire time talking, never letting anybody else get a word in edgewise? You would not like it. Then why do commenters feel that if there is a post with 50 comments, they must leave 20 of those 50? Sorry, I just think that is incredibly rude. Leave one or two comments and then let other people join in.
I will be frank. I see a pattern of behavior. Many people feel it is their job to police the Mormon on-line community. They gang up on people who express views that do not conform to the majority. They intimidate people from coming forward with certain views. They are, in effect, digital brownshirts. Their behavior suppresses free speech and free expression.
JMax has a few key paragraphs that I would like to quote here.
20. Whether it’s my personal blog, my Facebook, twitter, or some other social platform on the web, my page or site is my Virtual Living Room. The other guests in my virtual living room are my close friends, family, co-workers, and associates. You are welcome to stop in, listen to, and even participate in the conversations as a guest. However, you do not have the right to come into my living room to dominate and monopolize the conversation with constant, lengthy, disruptive or hostile comments intended to promote your own contrary agenda.
21. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, your stalker-like need to stand as a witness against the the things I believe to be true and provide a counter-testimony to those whom you fear might be influenced or persuaded by me, in my own virtual living room, in front of my friends and family, is a manipulative form of intimidation. It discourages my friends, family, and acquaintances from “liking” or commenting on something I have said or linked to because doing so will subject them to tomes of belligerent contrary comments. It discourages friendly, casual, and productive conversation.
22. The consequence of this manipulation and intimidation is that I start to avoid posting things out of fear that it might obligate me to debate the issue in front of all of my other friends and family on a time frame not of my own choosing or that it might involuntarily subject my friends and family to yet another tedious debate that they did not even intend to subscribe to. I do not feel at liberty to say what I think or promote what I believe in even in my own living room, as it were. It gives the false impression that I cannot say anything of import unless I am prepared to answer, and have the time to answer, every possible criticism and dissenting voice. It draws upon my lack of time, my desire not to look like a fool in front of my friends and family, nor to drive them away, in order to silence my voice and shut down my views.
23. But I reject these false expectations. I have no obligation to let you hijack my page to promote views with which I disagree to my friends and my family, most of whom do not know you from Adam or Eve. It is a gross violation of the guest-host relationship and I am perfectly justified in censoring, moderating, or deleting your comments, and blacklisting you if necessary. And no, I am not violating your freedom of speech. You are perfectly free to promote you own views in your own virtual living room. I may even stop in to hear what you have to say. But if I do, it will be because I want to, not because you are making me and my friends and family hear your point of view by invading my space for your own purpose.
24. Whether it’s just you or it’s you and your friends forming a mob of like-minded digital-brown shirts overwhelming the conversation in my virtual living room with your own contrary views, don’t act surprised and complain when your comments get deleted or moderated.
25. I have no obligation to respond to you on your timetable. I have no obligation to respond to you at all. Time and tide do not allow every contention to be addressed. Just because I have not offered a response to your supposedly brilliant contrary argument within your arbitrary time frame does not mean that I do not have one. It does not entail that I have not considered your points, or that I have no rejoinder, or that I concede to your argument, or that I am dishonest. It means that I have a life and a sense of proportion.
You do not have to agree with JMax’s perspective on the Gospel and the Church to see that he is correct in many of his points here.
I believe the whole issue of “counter-testifying” is crucial. This seems to happen a lot with people who seem to feel “how dare somebody express an opinion with which I disagree!” There are well-intentioned people who seem to feel that “Mormons will look bad if I don’t stand up and oppose this viewpoint.” But then of course they usually end personally insulting the person who dared to express an unpopular opinion, making Mormons look even worse.
Just a few reminders:
–People are allowed to disagree with you. This is called free speech.
–Unless you are a M* permablogger, you don’t get to decide what is written here.
–If you don’t like what is written here, don’t visit and don’t read things written by people you don’t like. Life is about choices: make the choice to go visit another web site and read something else.
–If people write something that you consider offensive/beyond the pale/unacceptable, etc, leave a short, to the point comment disagreeing politely. Have the humility to realize that you yourself may have views that others consider offensive and unacceptable. Personal insults, repeated comments, attempts to intimidate by drowning out opposing views will not be tolerated at M* any longer.
One last bit of advice: it is only a blog. M* is only read by a few hundred people a day. Instead of spending your time telling us all how stupid we are (comments which will be deleted anyway), go spend time with your spouse and your kids. Do community service, go to the temple, go to a homeless shelter, call a long-lost friend and offer support. The world will still spin on its access if people on M* express viewpoints with which you disagree.