Pandagon co-blogger Ilyka Damen responds to my post on The Liberal Avenger’s now-admitted alteration of a comment on his blog with sophomoric sarcasm, or actually, more like junior high school sarcasm (“I am astonished that such deceit could be countenanced anywhere, let alone on the internet. Goodness gracious! Where’s the integrity?”). To the extent that Damen and her supportive commenters make actual points, they are as follows:
1. Everyone knows that blogmasters have the ability to edit comments, so what’s the big deal.
The big deal is that we trust them not to do so, at least not in a malicious manner, and if that trust is broken, the result (not to sound like a broken record) will be to damage the exchange of ideas in the blogosphere. Newspaper can easily alter a letter to the editor in a way that makes the letter-writer look like a jackass, but we trust them not to do it. (Edits for spelling, grammar, or space are a different matter.) To use an analogy from a different sphere of life: everyone knows that the cook or the waiter at a restaurant has the ability to spit in your food. However, we trust them not to do it. And I would assume that if a cook or a waiter actually got caught spitting in a customer’s food, initially denied it, then admitted it and justified it on the grounds that s/he thought the customer was acting obnoxiously, people would be strongly discouraged from attending said restaurant unless the offending cook/waiter was fired.
Also mentioned in the thread was some bloggers’ practice of inserting their own editorial remarks in comments by their posters — for instance, in response to a point made by the poster. But these editorial remarks are always identified as such; typically, they are bracketed and italicized. There is simply no comparison.
2. There was no harm done because anyone reading the comment would have known that it was edited and that Carlito did not actually casually admit to an incestuous affair with his sister. Liberal Avenger’s prank was no different than commenters on left-wing blogs spoof-posting as “Ann Althouse.”
Yes, I assume any sane reader would have known that Carlito’s tale of sibling sex was not true, but they could have easily thought that Carlito was a troll making an extremely tacky joke, or (since the incest story was supposedly meant to demonstrate why abortion is sometimes necessary) ridiculing his pro-choice opponents by painting them as sister-humping perverts.
The “Ann Althouse” comments are pretty juvenile, but they are obvious spoofs, not alterations of actual posts by Ann Althouse. (The names used are often variations such as “Althoos.”) Do the people at Pandagon see no difference? When Hustler ran the infamous Campari parody ad in which Jerry Falwell described having drunken sex with his mother in an outhouse, that was political satire protected by the First Amendment (and in fact the ad carried a parody disclaimer in small print). Would anyone find it funny, or ethical, for a liberal editor at a newspaper or magazine to take an actual interview with Falwell and spike it with a similar “confession”? I have a sinking feeling that the people at Pandagon would, because, after all, Falwell is one of those subhuman “wingnuts” toward whom anything goes.
3. There was no harm done because the altered post was deleted in a few hours, and it’s “wingnuts” like Patterico and yours truly who are keeping the text of the altered post on the Internet. (The Liberal Avenger webmaster even says that we should apologize to Carlito.)
Nice try. If Carlito asks me to remove this post, I will. By the way, according to Patterico, the edited comment was removed only after he emailed Liberal Avenger about it.
Meanwhile, over on Patterico’s blog, Liberal Avenger offers this defense:
What sort of penance do you folks think I should do?
Would you like me to apologize to Jamail Hussein on your collective behalf for destroying his life in a war zone?
Maybe you guys could pass a plate to raise some money for one of the firebombed-yet-not-actually-destroyed mosques in Baghdad, and I could deliver it on your behalf and help them rebuild?
Because, obviously, the war in Iraq has so much to do with altering comments on a blog.
Several people have told me that this story is a non-scandal because who cares about small fry like The Liberal Avenger. There is some truth to that, but I still believe this incident raises some important questions about blog ethics. It also highlights the all-too-widespread tendency in the blogosphere (not limited to any political persuasion) to dehumanize opponents.
More: Another left-wing blogger, Thers of Whiskey Fire, chimes in with an “oh, get over it” admonishment:
The reason it is not a “blogosphere scandal” is that nothing that ever happens or has ever happened or ever will happen in a blog comments section is worth getting upset about for more than two minutes.
After all, Thers remind us, there are people dying in Iraq.
This is from the same person who, less than a week ago, devoted his only post for the day to Ann Althouse attributing a negative blogpost about her to the wrong blogger, and then being mean and rude to said blogger in her comments section when he showed up to expose her error. Something tells me that post took more than two minutes to compose, especially since it even includes a YouTube video clip for humorous effect.
And this is from the crowd which thinks that if some of Michelle Malkin’s blogposts are written by her husband, that’s very serious business indeed.
Imagine that, in a discussion related to rape, Ann Althouse altered the post of a commenter she found annoying and added the following:
Of course, rape isn’t always a totally bad thing. When I was a college student at the age of 19, a bunch of guys at a frat party got me drunk and then took turns raping me for 10 hours straight… [lurid, obscene description of various sexual acts follows] I kept saying “no” and “stop” the whole time, but damn it felt good — I never had so many multiple orgasms in my life! I still get horny every time I think about it.
Suppose that, caught in the act by a left-wing blog, Althouse brazenly denied altering the comment, then admitted it and said that her earlier denials were just meant to tease the moonbats, and added that the reason she altered the comment was that the commenter was spouting predictable leftist crap. Suppose, too, that it came to light that the commenter was particularly upset by the alteration because she was in fact raped in college, and that after finding this out Althouse still refused to apologize and told her critics to “stop taking themselves so seriously.”
The same people who are now willing to give Liberal Avenger a pass would be calling for her head. And that’s pathetic.