“Civility codes” – “No twinkie badges here”

The excellent Index on Censorship has emailed me and a few other bloggers with some questions on [the code of conduct for blogs proposed by Tim O’Reilly and Jimmy Wales]….

My answer is this. I would not sign up to this code of conduct. Here are three reasons, in ascending order of importance: I do not believe it could be enforced; I take exception to the notion that I require someone else’s imprimatur as evidence of my civility; and I am opposed in principle to speech codes, which have the characteristic of extending without warning their remit to a new set of perceived slights and insults. There is, for example, increasing use in public debate of the term Islamophobia to denote sentiments supposedly prejudiced against Muslims. I find this concept question-begging and illegitimate. I know how to speak and write in a way that is not personally abusive and is not racist, and I should rightly be held accountable to those standards by people I know (i.e. not a “badge” issued by someone I don’t know). I do not propose to tailor my speech to avoid offence to Muslims or any other group of religious believers. All they are entitled to, qua Muslims or any other religious group, from me is a recognition of our common humanity and equal citizenship, and an insistence on their right to religious liberty. To the extent that it encourages avoidance of offence, a code of conduct is not “conducive to freedom of speech”. Its corrosiveness lies in the self-censorship that it almost inevitably encourages.
. . .
I see no logic in the notion that defending freedom of speech requires me to extend a platform of my own – my home, my dinner table or my web site – to others to use as they will.

Civility codes,” Oliver Kamm, April 11, 2007

I was doing my best to ignore Tim O’Reilly’s misguided effort to play hall monitor to the blogosphere, wishing it would just go away. But unfortunately the New York Times did not ignore it. How could it pass up a juicy opportunity to make us all look like the louts they all too often think we are? An above-the-fold, page-one headline in today’s paper labeled his crusade “A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs.”
. . .
These pledges are all the more dangerous because big-media people think they are ethical and we’re not because they have pledges and we don’t. Let’s not fall in that trap. You have to make ethical judgments every day with every thing you do and no pledge is going to help you do that. Your mother either did that job — or didn’t.

No twinkie badges here,” by Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine, April 9, 2007

Posted in: Caught Our Eye

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