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Your 2¢ vs. Passing the Buck

Posted by Bob · October 1st, 2004 · 4 Comments

“Fools” said I, “you do not know
silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed in the wells of silence.

Words and music by Paul Simon; Fair Use by a Big Fan

Writing for a blog is often like shouting into the wind. What you hear is your own words passing by on their way to no one you intended them for.

This blog is rich with intelligent, opinionated readers. We know this from seeing the numbers from Sitemeter, but the comments are few and far between. (Thousands of visitors drop by Unspun™ per month; about 13,500 visitors have read over 18,700 pages since we started tracking statistics about six-to-eight months ago.)

Here are my most compelling reasons why you should comment on what you read here. Don’t worry, I won’t make you feel guilty.

I promise to only tell you the truth . . . the very scary truth.

It should be no surprise to anyone when I call these unsettling times. There are not just battles abroad but battles on our own soil. New York, Washington and Pennsylvania all have scars from terrorists. We have returned the battle to the enemy and left our own scars on two other countries. We have men and women in harm’s way and no end in sight to return them home.

During times of war the refrains of patriotism are heard loud and clear. But loyalty to our country, and to the men and women defending it, has recently been redefined.

This president runs for re-election on a platform stated only hours after our country was attacked. Since then, any country that harbored terrorists was against us. No gray area. No wiggle room. This was a simple test with black or white results.

This thought has congealed into a new definition of patriotism. Now, questioning the President’s policies is like reopening the McCarthy hearings. You’re marginalized as someone “less than American” and “not one of us” by a large group of people who consider themselves patriotically enlightened. You’re “for us or against us.”

And just to make sure questions are not heard, there are “news” networks that carry the right message and impugn your character 24/7. Add to that the fact that the daily message comes from the White House itself, and is sent through to cable networks, network television, radio networks and networks of NeoCon blogs, questions are not just silenced, they are literally blown away by a hurricane of noise.

If you think I’m blowing this threat out of proportion, just ask yourself:

What was it like before 9/11?

Were you considered a subversive so quickly for your opinions?

Can you imagine how much tougher it can get in the next four years?

And if you think this sounds a little inflammatory or panicky, please consider this: since around the time of the Republican Convention you have heard precious little from Rumsfeld, Cheney or Ashcroft. In the previous three years, these guys were daily headlines. They were put on the shelf to avoid creating unplanned controversy but if they win the election, there is nothing to stop them from doing what they want.

None of them is going to be in government after the next four years, they have nothing to lose.

We do. We can speak. We can comment. Or, as the song says, we can let the edited, censored daily news personally typed in a White House Office erode our voices like a cancer. We can allow discourse to dry up and blow away in the “wind from Washington.” Eventually our little blog will be considered subversive and we will all shut up, like good little patriots; or we’ll be shut up, like treacherous little treason-mongers.

That, my dear reader, is where you come in.

Either in agreement or disagreement, when you comment on this blog you begin to build a virtual community. The purpose of this community is really very bold. It’s to preserve not only free speech (now used as a weapon by NeoCons), but free thought.

Your ideas, combined with others, will encourage and enlighten everyone who reads them. Even if they disagree. Yup, the traditional definition of free thought and free speech is welcome here.

For a while here at Unspun™ there was a person who abused the First Amendment, just like he was taught. Comments dried up. Creative thinking didn’t stop, but it certainly wasn’t shared, for fear of drawing a certain NeoCon’s reply.

Our bloghost was in a quandary because he firmly believes in free speech. His tactic was to debate this person instead of silencing him. The end result was commenters driven away; a silent blog, a one way street of opinion and ideas.

Today, our host will still anguish over silencing anyone’s opinion but his decision will be made quicker if that person steps over the lines of courtesy. [Editor’s Note: Bob is alluding to the fact that we’ve discussed different methods for muting, without silencing, distracting voices that engage solely in ad hominem, rather than true discussions.] He will support all opinions, just not all methods of delivering them.

And you NeoCons out there, don’t be shy. My opinion of NeoCons is not always repeatable in public, but here is a golden opportunity . . . to change my mind. Yes, I am willing to voice my opinions in real discussions. I will re-examine my beliefs and values, but not when shouted down. Let O’Reilly have his show, this is Unspun™, not UnHeard.

So readers, we can create an oasis on the web. A place we all anxiously look forward to going to: to read new ideas, new opinions, talk to old friends.

Or we can shut up . . . like the good little patriots this administration is hoping we’ll become.

Categories: Blogs & Blogging


4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob // Oct 1, 2004 at 12:18 pm

    There is a remarkable website that I have bumped into regarding free speech. I don’t advocate their methods but I have to admit that it is remarkably effective and their messages are very creative.

    You just have to ask yourself just how much frustration was the very first freewayblogger feeling to come up with this idea.


    If a reader of Unspun™ does use this method to express their freedom of speech, will you send us a picture please? Thanks!

    (PS Posting a comment is still way easier …)

  • 2 Bob // Oct 1, 2004 at 12:44 pm

    Think I’m still crying wolf about this whole freedom of speech thing under this administration?


    Can we all spell manipulation?

  • 3 Bob // Oct 1, 2004 at 7:49 pm

    STILL don’t think that the press is manipulated by the White House?


    What a coincidence it got posted the day AFTER THE DEBATE!

  • 4 Rick Horowitz // Oct 2, 2004 at 11:29 am

    Bob, one of the reasons we’ve had difficulty getting people to comment — you yourself have pointed out to me that you’ve heard this same thing in emails from other readers — is the fear some people have of contributing, only to be pounced upon.

    Now, to some extent, some of the people feeling “pounced upon” feel that way because someone disagreed with them — and only because someone disagreed with them. But, after all, in a discussion (particularly a political discussion) people are going to disagree; I don’t think folks should take that as a personal attack, but many do.

    There is, however, a legitimacy to the feeling that some of the posts here are too vicious. As you and I both know, Mr. Dawson drove away all but the strongest of commenters. I believe that was actually his goal. You’ll note that he disappeared for awhile, until he noticed the comment count was climbing again, at which point he chimed back in, only to vanish again once the comments stopped. He occasionally sends me private emails taunting me about freedom of speech and about the lack of comments on this blog. These are the reasons I think his acts were deliberately aimed at stopping commenting.

    The difficulty is that in political debates, there will be times when even friends mock one another — I’ve done it to you; you’ve done it to me; Mark and I have done it to each other as well.

    Therefore, I think we should make it important to ensure that when comments are posted, we carefully consider our responses.

    At any rate, based on the numbers (which you’ve seen) from the log files, I’m confident that the blog is worth the effort. Nearly 14,000 people have viewed the blog over the last 6 to 8 months, with the most popular articles being those touching on the political situation. (As you know, we get the most “hits” on the articles about Kerry and the Hanoi War Remnants Museum and on the article about George Bush’s statement that “there ought to be limits to freedom.”)

    And, frankly, even if it were not the case that hundreds of people every week are visiting the blog, I’d still write because I realized a long time ago that one way to become clearer about what I think is by forcing myself to write out my thoughts in a coherent message, like these blog articles.

    All that said, I naturally welcome the comments of others, hope they will participate and will do my best to treat even Republicans with civility — that doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally poke some fun! It does mean that, with the exception of the truly disruptive like Mr. Dawson, it will be intended as a good-natured poking of fun.

    And I invite others to treat me exactly the same way.

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