Monday November 27, 2006
OK, so a disgruntled former employee storms the Herald, takes a hostage, and then surrenders. The blogs jump all over it, of course. But one particular thing struck me during all this: a comment left on the Babalu post about the event. Here it is:
“Warning: The Attorney General Has Determined that working at the Miami Herald Is Dangerous to Your Health.”
It’s unfortunate that Jose Varela did not seize the racist Tom Fiedler. Had he done so, Cuban exiles would have erected a monument to Varela at the Cuban Memorial Plaza.
Pretty outrageous comment, and Rick and Bob both picked up on it; at some point in the meantime, the second paragraph of the comment was deleted, presumably by Val, the owner of Babalu. (Rick has thoughtfully archived a pre-deletion screenshot here.)
I find that comment outrageous, maybe even bordering on offensive, but for the life of me I can’t see how it rises to the level of needing to be censored. Now, Val runs a great blog, and I’m not trying to suggest that he can’t do anything he wants with his comments section. But I think the deleting of this comment deserves a little discussion. Many people in the Cuban-American community in Miami hate Fiedler. Heck, many Miamians of all sorts of origins hate him — this is a guy who’s claim to fame is sinking Gary Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign.
But nobody believes that the comment was a serious suggestion that someone harm Fiedler, nor can the “racist” comment possibly be viewed as a factual allegation. This poster was voicing serious dislike of, and doing it in an irreverent fashion. It’s not like joking about violence is considered out of bounds; check out Wonkette’s reaction to this very story:
We hope this is the start of a trend, and expect to see Tom Toles firing warning shots out of Downie’s office window by the end of the year.
And that’s a post, folks, not a comment.
OK, so comments get deleted all the time, right? What’s the big deal? Well, for 99% of the comments that get deleted from blogs, it’s because they’re abusive to the process — we delete spam, commercial messages, and abusive language directed at other commenters (ie “trolling”), which undermine the conversation. We do not, generally, delete comments simply because we disagree with them. But wait a second, if we take the gist of the comment to be that Fiedler is an ass, then presumably the editors of Babalu agree with the sentiment.
So what does it mean that this comment got deleted? That Val actually likes Fiedler? That he thought there was a genuine incitement to kidnap him? Or was it that he didn’t want that comment up because it made his blog’s community look a little nutty?
If it’s the latter, then the implications are troubling. Are they that, once again, the Cuban-American community is supposed to speak with one unified voice? That “extreme” comments are encouraged so long as they stay within certain prescribed lines (note that a regular commenter is named “KillCastro”)? Or that the line between flippant comments and violent actions is still dangerously thin for some?
Again, my intention is not to tell Val how to run his house, or what he can and can’t delete. But unlike zapping a piece of spam, deleting this particular comment had meaning, and it’s worth wondering what that is.
. . .and a not unpredictable brawl ensued in the comments below. I want to thank Val for correcting a couple of my points and sharing his perspective on this issue. To wit: (1) I was wrong about KillCastro being a regular commenter on Balabu; I randomly came across some old posts that led me to that conclusion. (2) I obviously wasn’t clear enough in saying that I think the comment should have stayed. (3) the comment was deleted by George, after consulting with Val (not a major point IMHO).
But let me jump straight to what I think is the most significant issue, and one which everyone in the comments seems to be ignoring: The comment was deleted to avoid (further) criticism from Rick. What’s up with that?? As much as I think the comment should have stayed, I think the reason for its deletion is even worse. We all have strong opinions, and we have blogs so we can hash out our intellectual differences. So why delete a comment to avoid an argument, if it’s an honest argument?
The rest of my thoughts are more relevant to what’s being discussed in the comments, so I’ll continue there. Thanks to everyone for participating — it’s a little bit of a flame war, but there’s some good exchange of ideas, too.
Update: This comment says something very important. Thanks, Manuel.comments powered by Disqus