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"Censorship" and "Anarchy" - Not "Dirty" Words

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Several items and numerous comments have been written at OpEdNews.com on the subject of editing practices at the website, often using the words "censor", "censorship", "freedom" and even "anarchy". I want to make it very clear that I think that OpEdNews.com can and should publish only what its owner, Rob Kall, thinks is in his long range best interest to publish. However I have disagreements with the way these words and others are generally being used by writers to justify such editorial decisions and to make other points.

The title of a recent article, "The Abuse of the Word 'Censorship'" lead me to think that Anthony Wade would rescue the word "censorship" from the abuse it has been given by so many. Unfortunately he didn't do that at all, as for example in " Just because you disagree with an editorial policy it does not mean you have been censored." The word "censor" merely means "to alter, delete, or ban completely after examination" (from Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002).
The action of altering, deleting or banning does not have to be done only by a government to be censorship. But most important, censoring/censorship are NOT "dirty" words (ie. in the sense of actions which should never be done or allowed to occur). Rob Kall (and his editors) correctly have the entitlement to censor anything they want to at OpEdNews.com because it is his property, and this applies to any publisher. I think it is time for people to stop and think about the etymological meaning of the words "censor" and "censorship" and to cease making them obscenities.

The practice of censorship is only wrong when some outside party - almost always the government in some form (the only holders of the legal entitlement to use coercion) - interferes between a publisher and writer and, by coercive means, dictates what the publisher can publish. As I've stated, a publisher's censorship of one of hir (his/her) own writers based purely on hir own judgment, is hir own valid action following from hir ownership of that publishing business. The writer can go elsewhere and readers can also if they disagree - this act of disagreement would be negative social preferencing, just as positive social preferencing includes support for the actions taken by another. With the advent of the Internet, "going elsewhere" and finding or actually creating one's own platform has become something virtually anyone can do, and is effectively in competition with the advantages of accepting reasonable change requests, not inconsistent with one's fundamental philosophy, so that one can publish on a more highly read site.

Another muddling of words found within Anthony's article, but also made by almost every other writer, relates to "freedom", "liberty" and "anarchy". Although most people use "freedom" and "liberty" interchangeably and even most dictionaries are not clear about any distinction, I am convinced that there is or should be an important difference between them. Ever so briefly, the freedom of a person, as I and husband Paul Wakfer try to always use (and we sometimes catch ourselves in old habits) in reference to the goal society of which we write (and even when we discuss the current society), is the set of all that person's available actions that are not constrained by any means. (Where "available" means actions of which s/he is aware that are performable on Earth at the current time by the particular person having any physical limitations that s/he does.) The liberty of a person, on the other hand, is the set of all hir freedoms that are permitted, ie. not socially constrained - this permission by other humans (lack of social constraint) being the crucial point, making liberty a social concept whereas freedom is a purely individual concept. The definitions given for "freedom" and "liberty" in the Natural Social Contract are very precise because such precision is needed for clarity, conceptual separation and avoidance of ambiguity. (A detailed annotation for the definitions of these two words in the Natural Social Contract can be read at http://selfsip.org/solutions/socialcontract_annotations/freedom.html )

When Anthony wrote, "Freedom has limitations folks and it always has", about the rightful actions of Rob and his editors requiring writers to make alterations, he is not referring to either freedom or liberty as I have defined them here. Such an action is not a constraint of any kind simply because the writer had no entitlement over the Rob's property (his publishing website) in the first place. Publishing on Rob's website is simply not one of the available actions which a writer has, except for Rob himself and any others to whom he has bestowed that entitlement. Now I expect that many people will say "you're just nit-picking here", but if one begins to deeply analyze the different kinds of situations involved which relate to the concepts of freedom and liberty and the vast confusion and misunderstandings that have arisen, it seems to me that one cannot be too careful about the clarity in application of these concepts.

Anthony used "anarchy" effectively as a dirty word when he wrote, "I have seen websites that thought they did not need limitations and allowed anarchy to reign." This sentence actually contains major errors of thought when one examines the real meanings of the words being used. It would be far more meaningful and valid for reality to write it as, "I have seen websites where the owners thought that rules of order were not needed and the result was chaos." It is nonsensical to say websites think or anarchy reigns, since a website is not even a life-form, let alone a potentially fully thinking human individual, and the phrase "anarchy reigns" is an oxymoron to be sure.

"Anarchy" is etymologically "no archy" - the absence of rule/rulers (by one/some over others), it is neither the absence of self-rule nor of social rules of order, and it does not necessarily equate with chaos. The fact that virtually all societies now and in the past have been ruled by some individual or group, does not logically imply that such rule is a necessity to maintain order. The nature of human beings does not automatically lead to the conclusion that individuals must be ruled in order that there be orderly interactions between them. Society, just like any other natural system can be self-regulating by means of interactions between its members, if only humans are allowed to develop the methods by which such self-regulation can be effective, rather than the social system constantly being held in an unnatural (and very unoptimal) state of balance by the operations of its rulers and other influencers. This idea of social self-regulation has been touched on in "Critique of "Bio-Politics" Article: Argument for Societal Self-Regulation"


A website cannot by its very existence have no rule or rulers - it cannot be truly anarchistic. Just as an individual person must have some self-rule to continue to exist, so a website, as property that is effectively a direct extension of one or more individuals (its owners - who spent their time and earnings to acquire it), must have rule by those persons who brought the website into existence and keep it going by paying the fees for the domain at the very least. How many rules, the type and to what extent they are enforced is totally the entitlement of the owners. There is no question that the content of the website can become quite chaotic if there is no organization by the owners. And if comments are allowed by viewers, without any type of moderation, then those comments can include anything at all. This too is an atmosphere of chaos, but not anarchy since the owners have rules that allow that chaotic atmosphere and have even enabled it. In actuality, all readers/viewers have the ability to provide feedback to that website owner - if they find no value in it, they simply do not visit it and let others know that and why its operation is not conducive to exchange of information in the evaluation of such a reader/viewer, nor they think for others also. Therefore, even though the owners' rules are their own business (entitlement because of ownership), they are also subject to the social preferencing of others related to their use of the website. Consequently, the website owners have no ability to make arbitrary rules and still achieve their purpose for the website. (This is just as true for a product/service producer, who must produce a product/service that satisfies the requirements of a sufficient numbers of buyers).

The use of a clear and unambiguous definition for a word describing a situation or idea is essential for conveying one's thoughts to someone else. Censoring or practicing censorship is what a publisher properly does to have the contents of what s/he prints meet the standards s/he has publicly stated. Prevention of chaos or assurance of order is what the vast majority of individuals want for any environment that they use, whether owned by themselves or someone else, in order that planning of their life activities has the best possible chance to maximize the lifetime happiness of each (which is always the goal of each person's life whether or not consciously recognized). Rule by others - whether an individual or a small or large group - over a person's possible choices is paternalism, like the treatment of children/dependents by a parent and not even a wise one, but rather a parent who wants to keep hir children always dependent. Individually self-ordered anarchy is then the social system whose members are humans who have become fully adult. Just as people can become physical adults, so can they become social adults, if only they are allowed to socially mature sufficiently.

 

http://selfsip.org

I am a professional life-extensionist and liberty promoter who practices what I and husband, Paul Wakfer, encourage. More detail about both of us - philosophically and physically - at http://morelife.org/personal/ When the comment time period has closed at OpEdNews.com, readers are welcome (more...)
 
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Thanks for the explaination of the word anarchy.&n... by Michael Dewey on Wednesday, Feb 27, 2008 at 2:41:35 PM