Sunday, March 04, 2007

On echo chambers

Girl on the Right posted her objections to Dean Esmay's refusal to post certain kinds of islamophobic comments on his site. She writes:

Dean is now effectively blogging to hear his own voice. He has told his commenters that they must either walk in lockstep or leave.

Sometimes, a message board or blog won't allow certain kinds of comments.

I don't consider banning some messages equivalent to wanting to produce an echo chamber.

There's nothing wrong with the desire to not have to explain some very basic principles one holds dear. For instance, I absolutely despise racism-- and not the socialist version of racism. There's nothing wrong with saying a given culture is better than another in my view; or that given communities are disproportionately responsible for crime (and therefore have the greater responsibility to smarten up).

I'm talking about the kind of racism that seeks to deny certain individuals rights and respect simply on the basis of their race; the kind of racism that won't even allow an individual to be evaluated based on his merits. I'm also against the kind of racism that advocates for the segregation of the races. Basically, I'm against white supremacy.

I simply won't tolerate white supremacy on any boards I run or any venture I'm associated with. I simply do not want that vile philosophy in my midsts.

I don't consider myself as someone who does not want dissent. There are some principles that simply so vile and not worth discussing I won't allow them any free expression on my sites.

Other groups feel the same way about various other principles, some beliefs which I hold.

And they don't want to have the debate all over again, about very basic ideas (in their mind) that aren't up for discussion.

People want to be with kindred spirits. They want to discuss and preach to a certain audience. There's nothing wrong with that. They do not want to be challenged on a point they aren't going to change their mind on and don't want to.

Plus, as is the case with money, in discussion forums, the bad stuff drives out the good. The crass, the rude, the more base elements of any grouping drive out the good if there are no rules to keep such elements in check. You'd have to be foolish not to have some kind of rules for engagement. Because even though you can tolerate dissent and all the junk, the readership won't necessarily show the same forbearance. And all you're stuck with are the rabble, not the more intelligent posters.

So I don't fault various websites for having rules about what is acceptable or not acceptable. There's nothing wrong with a few broad guidelines.

I don't think it's fair to say that a website with such rules are echo chambers. The true test is the range of dissent. If a forum has a wide variety of views on a number of subjects, I don't think it can credibly be called an echo chamber.

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