Thursday, January 19, 2006
'Washington Post' Suspends Comments on One of its Blog
NEW YORK Jim Brady, the executive editor at washingtonpost.com, notified users of the post.blog that the public comment feature had been suspended "indefinitely" after "a significant number of folks" posted personal attacks, profanity, and hate speech.
Attempts by E&P to reach Brady have been unsuccessful so far. It seems likely the move is related to controversy in recent days over Sunday’s Post column by ombudsman Deobrah Howell. She has been heavily criticized by some political Web sites and bloggers for writing that indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to both political parties, when most research shows he only gave directly to Republicans.
Then, this morning, Howell responded at the Post’s blog, explaining that she had heard from “lots of angry readers” and wished that she had written that Abramoff "directed" contributions to both parties, adding: “While Abramoff, a Republican, gave personal contributions only to Republicans, he directed his Indian tribal clients to make millions of dollars in campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.
“Records from the Federal Elections Commission and the Center for Public Integrity show that Abramoff’s Indian clients contributed between 1999 and 2004 to 195 Republicans and 88 Democrats. The Post has copies of lists sent to tribes by Abramoff with specific directions on what members of Congress were to receive specific amounts.”
This explanation, in turn, drew an immense and sometimes nasty response to the comments section today, with some critics pointing out flaws in her reasoning and comparisons. A few hours later, Brady announced the blog comment turnoff, without explaining exactly why.
But Brady went on to say that readers refused to follow the site's simple guidelines prohibiting personal attacks, the use of profanity, and hate speech.
"It's a shame that it's come to this," Brady wrote. "Transparency and reasoned debate are crucial parts of the Web culture, and it's a disappointment to us that we have not been able to maintain a civil conversation, especially about issues that people feel strongly (and differently) about.
Mainstream media organizations have struggled to embrace blogging and the open dialogue new Internet technologies enable. The Los Angeles Times last year shut down its "wikitorial" project -- an experiment in creating user-written Op-Eds -- after vandals posted profane messages and pornographic images.
See Full Story - editorandpublisher.com
OK, I'm going to be charitable, here. What we have here is an Internet form of the "seminar caller". Seminar callers are those callers to radio shows that express only the Party line, opposing view of the radio show host and who are encouraged to call in by their compadres in an attempt to muck up the radio show to which they are directed, like good little robots, to call and harass.
So, we have a bunch of leftist activists attempting to shame the Post into retracting a story that was, in essence, correct, though not well written. Abramoff DID have much to do with getting money donated to Democrats and the fact that he didn't do it personally is tangential and rather self-serving of the left to point out as an avenue of attack. Typically, many of the left reveal themselves to be sophists.
But, I feel the Paper has a right to edit out offensive posts on their own website. If they had gotten rid of replies that were solely just attempts to call names without adding to substantive debate, they have that right.
I do not see it as an attempt to squelch "free speech" at all. We all know you cannot yell fire in a crowded theater and this is situation is another example of the proper limit to just any speech.
Good for the Post for shutting down the reply section for a time to allow things to cool off. They have every right to run their website how they want to run it. In fact, I think I would have done the same thing as did they!
Warner Todd Huston