What’s behind the XXXXXs (II of II)

The problem is that the Unthanks are, whether they know it or not, running a message board controlled by their own ideological, political, and business tendencies, which wouldn’t be a problem (who doesn’t use their own political, business, and ideological interests to govern behavior?) if it weren’t for those pesky message boards, which often put other people’s ideological, political, and business interests in direct conflict with the Unthanks’ (cf the current blow-up over Jonathan Wilburn’s acceptance harangue). Instead of being dogmatic and ideologically suffocating, the Unthanks would do better to get a good libel and slander lawyer to advise them on the limits of public discourse about public figures, since the issue of acceptable speech in public has been pretty thoroughly scrutinized and codified over the past couple hundred years of press freedom in America (and while they’re at it, the Unthanks might think about the appearance of a conflict of interest that arises when the person determining who can say what on a thread is also stridently pontificating on that same subject). That way, when they’re trying to decide when a comment has crossed the line, they’d have a better and more accurate line to use as point of reference (I know this will get me a slew of unhappy email, but while I can see consulting the Bible for general ideas about and goals for the site, is Romans really the first, best place to look for specific guidance about point-by-point rules governing an internet message board?). Proper legal advice wouldn’t make it any easier to administer message boards (nor, I suspect, would it mesh terribly well with the Unthanks’ scriptural model of new media management), but it would help give the Unthanks a way of operating that doesn’t rely so centrally on their own, sometimes unexamined and downright nasty, biases and opinions. And it would also let in a whole range of ideas and opinions, many of them constructive and useful, as (I hope) this site’s letters page has demonstrated, that otherwise get censored. A set of unideological standards might also de-escalate some of the more intense dog fights that break out between the Unthanks and posters with opposing ideas. Like I said, not an enviable job. All that said, I ought to make clear how much I value and appreciate what the Unthanks do with the message boards and the site generally. No matter my disagreements with them about the way they run their site (and it is their site, which they can and do run any way they want, of course), the message boards are, as I have said, the source of some of my most enjoyable reading about sg, which is why I link to the boards so often. Plus, I assume that at some level, the Unthanks must think about this pragmatically: any publicity (mine included) is good publicity.

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