Free Speech

Before I start writing this, Delta wants you to know, as a part of her version of free speech, that she really ought to be allowed to have one of the rum balls I am hoarding on my desk, and I really am a very bad mummy for not sharing. (And I’m going to tell you, it’s been a trying night, and I’m not sharing with the dog. Not!)


It is worth noting that if you are going to google, oh, say your name and the key word abortion, you would would wise to have a drink handy. Possibly, have one before you start, and then have another. It’s eye opening. Possibly even hair curling. Support comes from the strangest of places, and, umm, let’s call it “not support” from other strange places.

Word Press does this thing that I don’t like – if it’s the first time you have ever left a comment on my blog, I have to approve it, before it can be publicly viewed. And I don’t like it because it wastes my time. Even more than that, I think it inhibits the conversations that happen in the comments sections. I’m ok with not moderating my comments and it irritates the heck out of me that I have to moderate because of a stupid system thing that I am not clever enough to turn off.

My commentors are very kind and thoughtful sorts of people. Generally speaking, I might get one comment a month that makes me a bit growly. And not even all that growly. Call it  moderately growly for about 2.5 minutes. Often I can be distracted in less time than that by a good cup of coffee.

It’s not a crime to disagree with me about abortion. It’s not a crime to disagree, and it’s certainly not a crime to debate and argue. It’s not a crime to feel differently and want to advocate for your beliefs. Lots of people disagreed with me. We likely still disagree. Some of us are still friends and we disagree.

Lots of people read the post and thought that yes, whatever you thought about abortion, obstetrical luck wasn’t religion, and FOTF shouldn’t be conflating the two. Some people didn’t think that FOTF was doing that, and some people just thought it was a good thing that the commercial was going to air. All valid and reasonable things to say.

And frankly, when I wrote the post, when I put it up on Facebook, when I asked people to link to it, to talk about it, I knew I’d get some comments that disagreed with me. I am really ok with people who disagree with me. People disagree with me all the time.  I’m trying to say, I’m ok with dissent. I’m more than ok – I like dissent. That’s not the issue here.

I was standing in the McDonald’s in Red Deer yesterday, ordering my chicken nuggets. (I had been to Calgary to see Anna’s husband and the Wee Small Tardy Boy. Both were outstanding. I think Erin might have pictures of me holding said wee boy on her blog. He’s adorable and he takes up most of the photo, so that’s all good.)

Anyway, I was standing at the counter, waiting for my nuggets and checking my email on Gidget, and Lo, there was a comment to approve. Actually, there were about 11 comments, but I’m going to talk about one. (Well, 3 from the same person. I am not doing well at clarity, am I?)

Word Press, when you click on the link to approve a comment asks “Are you sure you want to do this?” Usually, this makes me a bit cross. Obviously, I hit the link saying “approve comment”, of course I want to approve the darn comment!  Only, I wasn’t sure this time. I read the first one in the series. It was pretty odd. The second one was just strange, and penny, as it were, dropped on the third one. No, I wasn’t sure I wanted to approve these comments. I very nearly said no, at least for the second and third comments. The comments weren’t really about furthering a discussion, or presenting an opposing side of view, they were just plain strange, and just plain mean. I think the comments were supposed to hurt me.

Which has left me with a conundrum. You see, I could delete the comments, but I figure I mentioned the word abortion, and I should stand and take the comments. Even the unreasonable ones, and maybe even the mean ones.

I could amend the comments – at least for clarity. I could see the order they came in, and I had a pretty good idea of what I think the commentor meant to say. (I did that – with my own note)

I briefly considered holding up the comments and mocking them, but that’s just rude. And mean.

So I hit accept, and honestly, brushed them off. They are *really* weird.

It’s not actually completely about the meanness. At least some of my issue is that the comments were made by anon y mous. With an email that doesn’t work.  (I can’t be bothered with the whois.)

And I’m wondering, is it free speech if you don’t sign your name?

It seems to be that leaving nasty, miserable comments on a blog without using your name is akin to racist vandalism on the side of a building. It’s not free speech, it’s mindless ranting.

Tell me, what do you think?

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17 Responses to Free Speech

  1. Alice says:

    Yup, free speech allows us to remain anonymous if we choose to. It also gives us the security to provide our names without repercussions.

    That’s the beauty of freedom of speech IMO.

    Would I comment to someone online without identifying myself – don’t think so. But then again, I have always been willing to put myself on the line when saying things – and have gotten in trouble lots (especially when younger) for not thinking before I spoke.

    (or maybe it’s because I have the balls to id myself) 🙂

  2. Angie says:

    Well, I think Anon Y. Mous tends to be a coward. I read this book Traffic about traffic engineering and the sociology of driving, and the author talks about ranting and road rage. People say the rudest, most horrible things to people while driving specifically because the other driver can’t hear them, don’t know them, and they have a sense of anonymity. Research found that when people thought they were being heard, or even that they might get feedback for their driving and actions, they acted nicer, more patient and were better drivers. I think Anonymous commenters puff up their chests a bit behind a screen, project a bigger persona. They become someone not quite them. They become the silent drivers cussing up a storm when you are driving the speed limit. So, no, I don’t really see it as free speech, or that particularly noble, to write an anonymous, nasty comment. Any jackass can do that. But to leave a well-reasoned and brave comment dissenting from the crowd, well, now that is something. XO PS. that post was brilliant, and I linked it. I read it on my blackberry, and couldn’t comment then, but just wanted to say that now.

  3. tash says:

    I just read the comments. I think you’re being generous in what you consider “speech.”

  4. Ang says:

    I agree with Tash! A well-thought out & logical argument is always welcome – even if the ideology isn’t, but that…hmmm, perhaps someone had been drinking a little more than water in the few hours before they found their keyboard?!?

  5. anonymous says:

    Now, I use the tag “anonymous” because I can’t think of a better handle, and I generally stay out of controversial issues or issues which I have no first hand experience, unless it is to extend my congratulations or condolences where appropriate. And Mrs. Spit, you know my email is a functioning one.

    I am so terribly sorry you have been attacked so viciously.

    God don’t like ugly – always remember that.

  6. Natalie says:

    I’m wonder if that anon is the same one who posted on my blog where I linked to you. Except the comment I got was even more rude and inappropriate, so I deleted it. Like you said, I have no issue with discussion and dissent – I do have an issue with insults. I do not need to be randomly insulted in my own space. I also had to think about what to do, do I respond? Because I want to respond. But. Some things I think just don’t even deserve that much. If they want to have an actual conversation they would be trying harder to open a discussion. If all they want to do is rant and spout off their own nonsensical views, then they are welcome to do that in their own space, somewhere else.

    And googling, in this case, could be a very bad thing. I know that it’s a very hot-button issue, but the vitriol that’s out there…. it really just makes me feel a little ill to read.

  7. M says:

    i think that anon comments like those are meant to hurt and disturb rather than further discussion. it makes me sad to see the ugly side of humans (but perhaps that’s just the grade school teacher in me…) in a case like this, i’m interested in the comments merely because it is furthering discussion of free speech on your blog, but most of the time, i think it’s probably better to swallow the sting and click ‘no’ to publish. it’s like what i tell my 7 yr olds… if a bully is pushing to get you to push back, you are better off walking away then engaging in either physical or verbal battles. you can’t win against someone who is only out to hurt you because logically discussion won’t work, all that can happen is that you increase the instances of attack and multiply your pain.

    as a side, i was so moved by your post that i was actually unable to comment earlier. i’m still not sure what to say, other than to applaude your eloquence and bravery and to thank you for writing.

  8. HereWeGoAJen says:

    I’ve only ever left anonymous comments when I am talking about stuff that is not MY stuff and therefore not my place to bring into the open. (And I was okay with talking about it, but identifying myself would have made it known who I was talking about and that wasn’t fair.)

    Why is it that these anonymous people can never spell and typically have poor grammar? Oh, yes, because intelligent, educated people can respond with disagreement but in a reasonable manner.

    That anonymous was truly wrong, Mrs. Spit. I see how some people can disagree, but that person was just wrong.

  9. HereWeGoAJen says:

    I also have a irrational need to point out to that anonymous that no, conception does not begin at day one. Menstruation begins at day one. Ovulation is around day fourteen and that is when conception usually takes place.

  10. erin says:

    The picture of you with the tardy wee lad is on Carmen’s camera, I am sure she will post those up soon!!! It is a wonderful picture!!

    I hadn’t read the comments on your super bowl post (I have now), I hope that this anonymous person doesn’t continue to lurk and cause hurt without being brave enough to stand up and say “this is me, this is my opinion”.

  11. Duck says:

    I think if you don’t have the balls to attach your name (or a blog name -something) to your dribble then you don’t get to dribble on others blogs.

    I think that anon comments such as that are usually made by people who are miserable and want others to be miserable.

  12. Jess says:

    I think you have to do what you feel is right. This is your space, and it’s okay to ask for civil discussion and exclude people who don’t respect that if you wish to.

  13. debby says:

    My take on Anon is that s/he is judgemental and malicious. Unfortunately, there are lots of them out there, hiding behind the guise of Christian. And it obviously is a guise. Imprecatory anonymous comments are not the work of a Godly person. Don’t publish them, and don’t read them. Seriously.

  14. Azaera says:

    Personally I have no problem deleting the comments of trolls. Though the worst I have had on my blog so far has been spammers. I think if it’s inappropriate, rude, or its sole purpose is to incite anger or upset someone then it has no place on my blog. My blog is my space, and while I don’t mind differing opinions I will not tolerate an outright attack on my beliefs or ideals. Whatever the subject matter may be. Anyway that is just my two cents. I don’t think you should have to put up with that.

  15. Virginia says:

    HereWeGoAJen – thank you for pointing out that conception does NOT begin on day one….I was dying to do it but decided to refrain because I was feeling snarky. Glad you did.

  16. If you can’t use your name to criticize someone, then you are a moral coward and just lame.

  17. CaDaLily says:

    I JUST discovered your blog (and have already bookmarked it) and I’ve been reading your recent discussion on the super bowl commercial. I didn’t comment there but feel strongly that you had NO obligation to approve such ignorant, awful vitriol. Those people aren’t adding anything – they’re not trying to have a conversation. I’m not trying to be critical to you at all, but another way to think about whether or not to accept such comments is if you want your readers to be subjected to such a crappy world view. We all encounter that sort of person on occasion, but we come to thoughtful blogs like yours to get away from it, ya know? I’m not saying you’re responsible for protecting us but I understand you’re trying to do the right thing by not giving yourself the power to muzzle someone else. I think you should give yourself that power in your own space. If you were confronted by that person on the street, what would you do? I would walk away without responding. You can do that virtually, too.

    Mrs. Spit’s Note: I did think about just deleting the comments, but I think that there is real merit to holding such ugliness up to the light. People really do think like this, and we should be aware of it. There are a few things I wouldn’t approve, but neither of these 2 women represent some of the worst things I’ve had said to me.

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