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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Token Update and a Rant on Scalzi

I haven't posted here for a while, but something really got my goat today. But first, an update.

As you've no doubt guess, I've been trying to focus on my fiction, meaning back-burner blog for breakfast. It lost my interest for the moment, as everything else I've been doing has been going well. I feel like I'm in a rhythm on my writing where there are fewer blocks. To date, I've finished the first draft of my short stories, gotten up to version 2 on Black Hole Son, sent Avatar in for a second critique, finished cataloguing possible places to send my short stories. Right now I'm working the final revision for Blood 2, and am actively editing (cleaning up) the Blood Wiki, which I was invited to because of my fan fiction. They even did a Bloodite of the Week interview with me. It's hard to believe that a story I wrote 10 years ago in high school still has a following.

The site's a good enterprise, and it's fun to work on, but it needs a lot of cleaning up. Lots of middle grade English, lack of images, lack of pages, ugly main page, ugly templates, no style conventions, and it seems to be . It's really wanting a strong direction. It's got all the earmarks of a fan site, just like the FF Compendium. It's got more pages dedicated to fan fiction than to the items or enemies of Blood (before I got to it). It's got non-canon and fan media junk mixed in with the stuff that actually had to do with Blood. The profile on Caleb had biographical implements from a fan fiction story - that I wrote!

To be honest, I'm fully expecting the same thing to happen that happens whenever I get involved in a collaborative creative effort. The leader won't like the way I'm doing things because he won't have any ambition or any idea of how to make a site look professional. They won't understand the sheer magnitude of the problem, and get scared they're losing control, thus ban me or kick me out, after I've improved the work by a factor of ten.

Now I said that to illustrate a point. I wouldn't be surprised if the editors of the Blood Wiki see this and get riled up that I criticized their work. The FF Compendium did the same thing. The proliferators of the Blood Wiki are writers, so I'd like to think they are more receptive to criticism than to simply deny and lash back. But if not, then its their loss. But my point is, I can say that sort of thing, because I have a blog, and can say whatever I want on it. However, I can't (and shouldn't) stop anyone else from saying what they want here, unless I disable comments or ban some people, because this blog is a public domain. Mr. John Scalzi begs to differ.

Exhibit A: Another Entry in the Annals of “People Who Haven’t the Slightest Idea What They’re Saying”

Read that? Good. Now I'm not an expert on politics, but I do know the difference between how you think something works and how it actually works. Now most of this article seems to be true, except a few points.

Point the first - your first amendment rights do not apply to this blog. Is this blog a medium of speech? Yes. Is speech covered under the first amendment? Yes. Case closed. He makes the argument that the blog is his private property. That is the equivalent of creating a large TV screen that broadcasts whatever you are saying, and then saying that the likeness and his words are his own private property. There's no such thing. I learned in high school journalism there was a landmark court case where a journalist was playing a bridge game with someone. That someone said something that that reporter later printed. The court ruled that this was okay.

Scalzi makes the argument that he is not the government, so the first amendment doesn't apply to him. He seems to be under the misconception that only the government needs to watch their speech. WRONG. Even a fifth grader could tell you that. The right to free speech applies to everyone. The government only enforces the right, making sure that no one's taking it away, so if some other American is taking away your right to free speech, they step in and bring the hammer down (or at least they should. These days they're better at suppressing, but that's another topic).

He says that he doesn't need to tolerate free speech anymore than he needs to tolerate protestors on his lawn. WRONG. That's called freedom of assembly, another right in that wonderful free speech section. I admit I'm fuzzy on the details, but as long as people are peaceable, they have the right to gather. Maybe not on Scalzi's lawn, that could be considered his private property, but on the sidewalk? In the street? Oh yes.

Point the second - the first amendment does not apply to the whole Internet. True, it does apply to only the servers on which the data is stored that fall under that jurisdiction. This point I'm not worried about. And I agree that I wish the first amendment applies everywhere. But then Scalzi does a 180 and says in the same breath that that still doesn't apply on his blog. I don't know where his server is stored, but I don't think it's in Switzerland. That means his text and the text of his commenters is subject to the same law as all other Americans.

Point the third - Not disabling comments does not give people permission to comment. Thne he says I expressly and explicitly deny you permission to comment. This is where the 'how it works vs. how you think it works' comes into play. You can deny me all the shit I want. If you don't disable the comments and then get huffy when someone says something you don't like, you're a moron. He says that even if you do post, you don't have consent, just like even though his house door is unlocked, doesn't give consent to allow entry into his home. First, how the hell is that supposed to work? I don't give consent to you dancing the watusi. Now how do you like them apples? This reminds me of a famous movie I once saw - a stirring epic of biblical, political, and sociological lessons with far-reaching implications. Let's take a look.

LORETTA (a male): I want to have babies.
REG: You want to have babies?
LORETTA: It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them.
REG: But you can't have babies!
LORETTA: Don't you oppress me.
REG: I'm not oppressing you, Stan. You haven't got a womb. Where's the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?
JUDITH: Here. I've got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can't actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody's fault... not even the Romans', but that he can have the right to have babies.
FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother! ... Sister, sorry.
REG: What's the point?
FRANCIS: What?
REG: What's the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can't have babies?
FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.
REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.

Replace that "can't" with "can" and there's Scalzi's delusion.

Second, a home is private residence, which is protected under another amendment. What Scalzi does not seem to realize is that he is posting in a public domain, in a public way. A blog is not a private residence, it is a public forum, especially if you leave comments enabled (consent or not). The closest equivalent I can think of would be a global bulletin board where you have the right to put on whatever you want in the form a big jumbotron everyone can see, and then not giving people permission to put post-it note responses on your jumbotron. It's your jumbotron, true, but people are going to do what they want to do and say what they want to say.

Why has Scalzi appointed himself the king of the Internet? Does he not know how people behave? Blogging software has things like banned IP addresses and comment disabling BECAUSE this sort of thing exists. He says that even if he uses those tools, that doesn't mean his consent thing still doesn't hold. I don't know what kind of Pollyanna world he's living in, but I dare him to set up a post, remove "permission" for people to comment there, and see how far he gets.

So in conclusion, it's up to everyone to promote free speech. The blog is not a home, it's a public forum, especially if you don't take the necessary and freely available steps to stop someone from defacing it. You can't violate someone's free speech by taking it away, unless it's vandalism or hurtful to someone. It's illegal for someone to grafitti a wall (doesn't mean they're not gonna do it), but it's not illegal for someone to put poster on it with a message. That's public domain, and that's free speech, and it's morally wrong for you to pull that post-it note down, because then you're trying to silence someone. Taking away consent is shouting into the wind.

Speaking of which, I hope you don't think I'm a coward just because I'm posting this in my blog instead of the comments on Scalzi's blog. I would post this diatribe there, but he's already gotten enough lip service from people saying the same thing. I don't think it would do any good, because you can't argue with someone who's unreasonable.

Remember, the only solution to bad speech is more speech.
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