Much has been made of a clamp down on bad language being behind the clampdown on comments and commenters at Whale Oil. In his announcement of Travis qutiting Whale Oil yesterday Pete Belt later conceded he over emphasised it. He initially said:
There has been a shift in culture, where we’ve changed a bunch of foul mouthed blokey commenters for (what they see) a knitting circle.
It all comes down to the ability for people to swear in the comments, and old commenters that could not change being resentful that they’ve lost “the only place on the Internet” where they felt at home.
Many pointed out that the issues were far wider and deeper than “the ability for people to swear” so later Pete conceded:
Travis has alluded to it – I deliberately oversimplified things. It isn’t just about swearing.
I’m puzzled by the over-emphasis on swearing.It seems to have been a simplistic approach that ignores a much bigger problem – abuse.
Note: I infrequently swear on blogs but was banned from WO for, apparently, using the phrase ‘man crap’. The word crap is used so obviously allowed on NZ Herald and Stuff online.
Attitudes to swearing have changed markedly in my lifetime. When i grew up swearing at school was severely punished and you just didn’t swear in front of adults. Print media, radio, movies and TV were very particular about what language must be excluded. That has relaxed a bit in print media and radio, and substantially in movies and in TV programs where nearly anything goes at times. It reflects real life.
Younger people in particular swear far more openly than they would have last century.
While I don’t swear much I usually don’t have a problem when people swear, I’m now used to it being common, including on blogs.
I don’t recall much if any criticism of Whale Oil for the swearing. There was a far bigger problem with personal attacks, regardless of whether swearing was involved. Non swear words are commonly used to viciously attack people.
One of Cameron Slater’s biggest moments of infamy was not for swearing – he was quoted without censorship for language in the Greymouth Star:
Blogger puts the boot in
Provocative right-wing internet blogger Cameron Slater was today standing by a headline that described Greymouth car crash victim Judd Hall as “feral”.
Mr Hall, a 26-year-old from Runanga, died when a car in which he was a backseat passenger left the road and crashed into a house about 11 o’clock on Friday night.
At 7.21am on Saturday, Mr Slater’s Whale Oil blog site carried a brief story on the crash under the heading, ‘Feral dies in Greymouth, did world a favour’.
When contacted by the Greymouth Star today, Mr Slater accepted that he did not know Mr Hall or his family, but justified the “feral” description by saying: “It is Greymouth, isn’t it? Didn’t Helen Clark say that you are all feral?”
He said anybody travelling at 140kph in a car in a 50kph area was ‘feral’, whether on the West Coast or in south Auckland.
He did not regret the headline and would not be apologising for it.
Mr Hall wasn’t even responsible for the crash. Many may consider calling the driver a fucking idiot far more appropriate than the language Slater used.
Excessive swearing can detract from blogs, as it can detract from conversations, depending on the context and the company you are in.
But I think are worse than swearing on blogs are abuse, personal attacks, harassment and stalking. And message control censorship.
Whale Oil didn’t have a bad reputation for swearing, it had a bad reputation for attacking people, sometimes viciously. Slater led by example.
The Standard has a bad reputation for one sided abuse and attacks, protected and even promoted by the site moderation, with lprent leading the way.
Kiwiblog doesn’t have a bad reputation for swearing, it has a bad reputation for personal attacks. David Farrar isn’t criticised for his occasional swearing, he’s criticised for allowing too much free speech – and his recent moderation improvements have clamped down on abuse, not swearing.
There’s probably more annoyance expressed and complaints on blogs about bad grammar than swearing. I saw someone complaining yesterday about mixing brought with bought. For some people the misuse of apostrophe’s seems to be a major offence (and I deliberately misused one there).
So what’s more important on blogs, having swearing police or grammar police?
I’d prefer that people were allowed to freely express their opinions and feelings, as long as it’s not done to attack and abuse.
I’d prefer less religious or Bain argument on Kiwiblog than less swearing.
I’d prefer an even playing field on The Standard to less swearing.
I’d prefer less silent censorship on The Daily Blog than less swearing.
I’d prefer more honesty on Whale Oil than using swearing as an excuse to ban people to sanitise and propagandise the comments.
Each blog to their own. Cameron got around his own swearing ban yesterday by using an acronym – FIFO. That means fit in or fuck off. I don’t think it’s the swear word that is cringe in that, it’s the intent. If you’re careful not to speak contrary to the Whale Oil authors or sponsors and you’re lucky not to strike Pete Belt on a bad day (which seem to be frequent) then you can keep commenting there.
Fuck, I’d rather promote free and robust (with respect) expression than be mob controlled with crap like that.
The most damaging language in society and on blogs is not swear words. Bad language isn’t controlled by using banned word filters.
I’d prefer no censorship and more relaxed language dictates – and as I have my own blog I’m free to have that.