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09/26/2010 / Francesca Lyn

Speech

The following post is in response to “Blogging for democracy: deliberation, autonomy, and reasonableness in the blogsphere” written by John W. Maynor in Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy (2009).

A proposed Code of Conduct (CoC) is an interesting but totally unenforceable idea. In particular, I personally dislike the idea of not allowing anonymous comments. Sure a lot of anonymous comments can be inflammatory statements – but what about when revealing information about who the commenter is could be damaging to the person’s safety or livelihood? I’m all for civility and the reduction of abuse but those type of comments could be moderated out.

Both blog posts I chose to examine came from the Huffington Post. I chose the Huffington Post because it usually has a ton of people commenting on each entry. It also tends to have writers I have at least heard of before. Huffington Post does not seem to allow completely anonymous posting. You can connect to post through your facebook account, twitter account, linkedin account, google account, yahoo account, or a dedicated Huffpost account.

The first post I chose to examine was “Steny Hoyer: Stephen Colbert’s Testimony To Congress Was ‘An Embarrassment For Mr.Colbert'” written by Sam Stein. This post centered around comedian Stephen Colbert’s testimony on immigration. Steny Hoyer is the House Majority Leader. The second post I chose was “Time Out: A Reality Check for Progressives” written by Clarence B. Jones. This is an opinion piece written by Jones, a Scholar in Residence at the Martin Luther King Jr. Institute at Stanford University. Jones’s post is much more broad in scope. He touches on everything from repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Another promising aspect of whether or not blogs will live up to their potential as a positive form for deliberative democracy is in understanding the nature of the internet as a mechanism of transformation.” (Maynor 460)

Maynor identifies problems with the autonomy theory of information  and calls them the three Vs – value, volume, and velocity (462). I find a Maynor’s questioning of the value of blogging content and comments problematic. The veracity of  posts can be proved in similar ways as print media has always been. Common sense tells us that we should investigate sources, the background of the writer, and the reputation of the news source. Also, Maynor uses Wikipedia as his value example. We now know that in at least one study Wikipedia was found to be as least as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica. I find volume an interesting factor to discuss regarding the Huffington Post. The post about Stephen Colbert had over 1200 comments when I read it Sunday morning. By Sunday evening it had over 3,000. Of course it would be possible for me to read all of these comments but would that really benefit me or add to the discourse of democracy? I found Jones’s post had more intelligent discourse – it seems like while the celebrity of Colbert attracted more comments, the Jones post had more thoughtful responses.The final V is velocity. The Huffington Post and many other blogs allow you to quickly tweet, email, or post to facebook any of their content instantly. I think that Maynor makes a good point here and we should always take into account just how instantaneous our news is today.

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4 Comments

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  1. clocke22 / Sep 29 2010 10:58 PM

    We missed your thoughtful comments in class today! I need to hire you to tutor me in the ways of technology:) I agree that preventing anonmyous comments is a bad idea. From a legal standpoint (where I am usually standing), there is a long and rich history in American constitutional law of valuing anonymous speech, going back to the anonymous pamphleteers of England and revolutionary America. While the environment is different now, the foundation is the same. Anonymity allows “uncensored” expression without fear of retaliation. It also promotes keeping check on government corruption, because anonymous speech online can and I am sure has taken the form of whistle-blowing.

  2. chentingchen / Oct 1 2010 3:44 AM

    I think the opinion about “anonymous comments” you mentioned is interesting. That is true that completely prohibiting anonymous comments may still cause other problems. And some truth may be covered forever because that there is no one who wants to take the risk to reveal it. Therefore, I think that some websites are clever that they let users to decide that commenters have to leave their identities or not. Some websites have the system that people who post (sensitive) issues can decide that readers have to log in to leave their comments. The “anonymous” system becomes flexible. You can ask readers to leave their identity as the filter when you think the issue of the post is sensitive. Also, readers can choose the “safe” place where they can convey important message.

  3. Mindy McAdams / Oct 19 2010 10:01 AM

    One solution to the anonymous comments challenge is to require registration — but NOT a real name. It’s a way of providing an identity to the commenter that remains consistent on that website, without compromising the person’s real-life identity.

    There are more than 5,000 comments on the Colbert post now!!

    You said you found “Maynor’s questioning of the value of blogging content and comments problematic” — but Maynor was overall quite POSITIVE about the potential of blogs for democratic deliberation and discourse.

    Your comparison of the two posts to each other was good, but I think you should have read Maynor more closely.

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