You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

September 07, 2007

Censorship At Commondreams?: An Experiment In Petty, Embarrassing Webspats

I admire Commondreams, not just for being a great resource but for having their act together generally. But John Caruso makes a compelling case here that they're engaging in ferocious and inappropriate censorship of comments.

If what Caruso says is accurate, they haven't just removed ugly or threatening comments. They're (1) removing comments they disagree with politically; then (2) removing every comment by the same person throughout the site; and (3) removing responses to the comments they removed.

I understand there are more important issues right now, like trying to prevent yet another catastrophic war. I also appreciate it may simply be an overenthusiastic intern. And I'm well aware there are fewer spectacles sillier than grown people arguing about comments on websites. But if Commondreams is doing this, they should stop. It demoralizes the folks and thus makes larger goals harder to attain.

Posted at September 7, 2007 08:14 AM | TrackBack

Well it's not only George Bush that likes to live in the well formed bubble of agreement. Shocking that!

I think that there is a general tenor at many progressive sites aimed at reducing the fragmentary nature of discussions -- as if speaking with a common voice would create a clearly monolithic mandate. No, it wouldn't - because we respond individually -- that's what makes us different from the Stepfordites.

And because Progressives are driven by goals that are different from the mainstream Democrats. Human dignity and less reliance on local/nationalistic economic drivers for instance. Screw the Democrats for as long as they want to play dick measuring games with the Republicans.

Posted by: Ted at September 7, 2007 09:50 AM

Pandagon had similar problems with me because I suggested the accused Duke lacrosse players were innocent and Marcotte was pursuing the wrong metanarrative.

It's an unfortunate but human trait for people who know they're right to not hear (or have others hear) opposing views.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at September 7, 2007 10:02 AM

I read Common Dreams daily and was reading them before I knew that blogs (or blurrggs or whatever) existed and they're very valuable and so on, but I always thought they were sorta demagogic. The headlines always make it sound like the Revolution Is Just Around The Corner, or The Greenland IceCap Is Melting Down As We Speak and You're Probably Going To Have To Rent A Boat To Get Home From Work This Evening. It's not enough just to report the horrific truth--they try to be the New York Post of the leftist online world. It's very disappointing that they are engaged in censorship, but it doesn't come as a total surprise.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at September 7, 2007 11:33 AM

Naw, Ted, "reducing the fragmentary nature of discussions" is much too nice a description, or "weasel-wording" as we used to call it, for what commondreams is doing. If the discussions are fragmentary, let them be, and work harder at finding common ground. Shutting or cutting out voices out, as they are doing, is merely dittohead-ism on the left.

Posted by: donescobar at September 7, 2007 11:46 AM

Reddit doesn't censor.

Posted by: patience at September 7, 2007 12:52 PM

It probably is weasel-wording, but I was going elsewhere with it.

It seems that we have to be 100% with the site or blogowner, because if we're not 100% with them, they take it as being 100% against them (for having the temerity to question their blog proclamations). Which is just gibberish because I could be 80% with them and 20% with the anarchists and they'd still be ahead. (I get very worried when I see anyone that's 100% with me because I think that means I'm being played for a sucka.)

I think that view comes from listening to rich and compromised media pundits tell them that "A Real Political Party" is supposed to be monolithic, and behave in an expected manner, and the reason that Democrats aren't viewed as serious (or mature, or worthy of respect) is because they allow that diverse coalition that clamor cacophanously in a thousand undisciplined voices to demonstrate petty differences.

They're afraid that the radical elements in the tent will scare away their centrist wing so they're willing to gladly throw the radicals under the bus just to be liked by a bunch of sedentary, establishment f*cks. Mind you it goes without saying, that the radicals should shut the f*ck up because the delicate sensibilities of the centrist wing are scared to hell of anything that doesn't resemble their comfy status quo.

All this to appease a bunch of people that routinely travel the arduous journey from milquetoast republicans to timid democrats, back and forth in turn.

Posted by: Ted at September 7, 2007 01:17 PM

Well, I'm just glad that Jon doesn't


Posted by: Mike of Angle at September 7, 2007 01:47 PM

Common Dreams has comments?

They didn't useta.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at September 7, 2007 02:12 PM

OK, Ted, I see where you're going. Now, get the f**k out of the tent!

I love that phrase--"worse than Hitler." Since the Mustache's demise in 1945, can you name 10 (ten) things or persons "worse than Hitler?" Really, really worse. Campier doesn't count. Winner gets a week in Bengldesh, accomodations and air fare not included.

Posted by: donescobar at September 7, 2007 03:07 PM


Posted by: donescobar at September 7, 2007 03:09 PM

My comment beneath Ruth Conniff's "Overcoming Censorship", asking why distantocean was being disappeared, was subsequently deleted, as were comments by and referring to "common plans".

Pity. Good articles to be found at that site, and good commenters, too. Why are they doing this?

Posted by: Jean at September 7, 2007 03:18 PM

Jean: Thanks for trying, and I'm glad that you got to see it for yourself, if only since it verifies it. I agree with you that there are good articles (and worthwhile commenters) there, and I do plan to keep visiting them on a daily basis. I don't know why they're doing it either, beyond a desire for complete control over the terms of debate. It's truly a petty, overweening display of control freakery on their part.

If anyone does post regularly somewhere else, I'd appreciate it if you'd mention this story; I think the only way CommonDreams might change is if they get enough light thrown on what they're doing. SteveB (if you're reading), maybe you could throw some more meat to the Kossacks....

Posted by: John Caruso at September 7, 2007 03:36 PM

I've gone back to think on this some more. I saw this quote on HuffPo and considered its value:

In private, many in the House and Senate leadership contend that if more liberal candidates defeat incumbent conservative and centrist Democrats in primaries, many of them representing Southern and Midwestern constituencies, the chances of a Republican victory in the general election sharply increase.

Well, the real value of this is to maintain the current equilibrium. If this is the case, I'd let the Republicans win -- and by consequence fund another decade in Iraq or cheer the bombing of Iran. Stuff the supreme court. Is this price too costly to change the system through collapse?

WRT comments deletion, I wonder if it's not their response to what they perceive as ankle-biters. Commondreams isn't in my view a typical milquetoast centrist organization which is more of what I had in mind with the previous comments.

Posted by: Ted at September 8, 2007 09:58 AM

i think this speaks to the strangeness of comments on articles themselves. from personal experience — as criminal, victim, and witness — i know comments can distort an article, distort the experience of talking about it, especially one not written with an interactive audience in mind.

free-form forums don't have that problem of needing to be supportive of the center while reach outward/inward/upward/etc.

so it seems like to facilitate a discussion centered around an article, particularly an article where the writer isn't available, could lead you into total paranoid-protect mode, trying to defend your editorial choices? is that what i mean? i thought, if you're both writer and moderator it's worse, but it might be a kind of manchurian problem — you have to protect the writers above and beyond reason.

Posted by: hapa at September 9, 2007 03:20 AM

Common Dreams was probably infiltrated by a Repub 5th column, just in the same way someone suggested on another thread that progressives do the same to repubs!
the trolls have been at this for a LOT longer than we have. when someone on the "left" suggests something like infiltration, it usually means that the "right" has been doing it for several years. we're seeing the result of 40+ years of round-the-clock efforts by the Heritage Foundation and their spawn to make our culture "kkkonservative" again.
Heritage foundation, founded 1964--the same year the Civil Rights Bill was passed. also the same year the Republican party took in all the disillusioned "dixiecrats".
....there couldn't POSSIBLY be ANY correlation, though, right? pissed-off racists who just lost a lot of their "power" wouldn't EVER want some kind of longterm payback would they? And we all know that it's possible to legislate morality, and that the Civil Rights Act erased racism from the hearts of humanity?



Posted by: joe mama at September 10, 2007 03:44 PM

FYI for anyone who read my original article: it took them a few days, but CommonDreams finally deleted the one last comment of mine that they'd somehow missed in the initial sweep (I'd guess that queries from people who'd read my article prompted them to look again). So my erasure from their site is now complete. Thanks for preventing me from having to say "except one" every time I talked about it, CommonDreams!

hapa: I notice that you threw out some subtle bait for the editors. I doubt they'll notice; their malice considerably exceeds their intelligence.

Posted by: John Caruso at September 10, 2007 06:44 PM