Critiques, like charity, may be said to begin at home. How, then, can a longstanding author and commenter on OpEdNews.com fail to critique potentially-adverse changes to his favorite website for progressives? The ancient Romans were fond of asking: Who will watch the watchers? That remains an excellent question today -- except that, first, one must know the identity of those watchers! At OpEd News.com, those watcher identities seem totally unclear. Perhaps those with sufficient computer skills might be able to dig them out -- but if they are policing our articles and comments, for most of us authors they must be a form of secret police. WHY?
First, though, to understand the genesis of these issues, consider the following statement posted by OpEdNews.com each and every time an author tries to comment on an article (boldface italics added for emphasis -- disconnect at the start of the bullet points is part of the format given by OpEdNews.com and is not a typo), as follows:
These discussions are not moderated. We rely on users to police themselves, and flag inappropriate comments and behavior. In accordance with our Guidelines and Policies , we reserve the right to remove any post at any time for any reason, and will restrict access of registered users who repeatedly violate our terms.
--welcomes lively, CIVIL discourse. Personal attacks and/or hate speech are not tolerated and may result in banning.
--Comments should relate to the content above. Irrelevant, off-topic comments are a distraction, and will be removed.
--By submitting this comment, you agree to all rules, guidelines and policies.
Consider the implications of these official OpEdNews.com policy statements. Who determines whether discourse is sufficiently CIVIL, and whether or not it might constitute inappropriate comments and behavior? Who determines what remarks constitute personal attacks and/or hate speech? And, in reality, who if anyone knows all rules, guidelines, and policies at our own OpEdNews.com? Is this a website emphasizing progressive free speech, or an insurance policy?
Then there are the threats in the same quoted paragraphs above: authors may be subjected to banning; irrelevant off-topic comments are a distraction and will be removed; and certain other types of comments are not tolerated if, to the secret watchers of OpEdNews.com, they are hateful. Worst of all, is this threat: we reserve the right to remove any post at any time for any reason, and will restrict access of registered users who repeatedly violate our terms. That type of vague innuendo would not even be a legal part of any modern insurance policy, let alone appropriate for any progressive website! All of this has a chilling effect on free discourse at OpEdNews.com.
French philosopher Voltaire stated: While I may not agree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it! So, in the spirit of Voltaire, the floor is now open -- I am looking forward to comments from other concerned authors, who will react to this sad, new trend.