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Let’s Talk About Free Speech and the Internet (again)

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[T]he fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it. Indeed, if it is the speaker’s opinion that gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according it constitutional protection. [p56] For it is a central tenet of the First Amendment that the government must remain neutral in the marketplace of ideas. FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978), quoted in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 486(1988) **

Back in the olden days, before the Internet made everyone an expert on what can and can’t/should or shouldn’t be said online, Jerry Falwell sued Hustler for their satirical portrayal of his “first time.” Mimicking and spoofing the old Campari ads, Hustler presented a faux-interview, in which faux-Falwell talks about drunkenly losing his virginity with his own mother in an outhouse (“Campari in the crapper with Mom,” the faux interviewer calls it). It’s crude, rude, offensive, and, according to College Humor, “funny as hell.”

The Supreme Court ruled against Falwell, holding that because the piece was so obviously satirical, it must be protected, even if “is patently offensive and is intended to inflict emotional injury.” The Court goes on to point out that the nature of political cartoons is that they are “often calculated to injure the feelings of the subject of the portrayal. The art of the cartoonist is often not reasoned or evenhanded, but slashing and one-sided.”

Although the First Amendment traditionally protects individuals from government intrusion into their right to speak and assemble freely, there are private tort actions that can result from certain types of speech (defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, for example), which is why Falwell could sue a privately run magazine for the purported harm caused by its lampoon.

The Hustler case is a good example of how speech can be extreme and incredibly offensive, but still be perfectly legal. It’s also a good example of how even when speech is legally protected, that doesn’t mean it can’t be hurtful and costly in certain ways. And in our ongoing back and forth about book reviews and “bullies” and the alleged need for more “civility,” we need to start being more open and honest about both sides of the speech discussion, because the less we’re willing to look at both sides fairly, the more inaccurate, warped, and antagonistic the whole subject is becoming. And the closer we’re coming to chilling good, constructive creative and critical speech, from both authors and readers.

I realize this is a tall order, and it requires attention to — among other things — Constitutional law, political theory, the role of criticism in a society that has such broad speech protections, and the nature of our online communities, particularly how we want them to function and what we want them to look like. It’s going to take more than one post to flesh out. But I want to undertake a little project to talk about why it’s important to protect speech we may find offensive, hurtful, and even divisive, while at the same time taking a good look at the potential effects and costs of such speech on our online communities.

So let’s start at the beginning:

Free Speech and the First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The sentence construction is very telling — a prohibition against Congress 1) legally recognizing one religion over another, 2) refusing to allow people the right to freely practice their religion, 3) limiting free speech or free press, 4) limiting the right to gather and protest something the government has done. Note that the Establishment Clause actually appears before speech rights, and that the amendment itself is explicitly conscious of the relationship between individuals, groups, and the government.

This awareness in part derives from the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the first being an assertion of separation and liberation, the second an attempt to contain, stabilize, and delimit what remained after freedom from English rule was secured: “We the People . . . in Order to form a more perfect Union. . . ” It is no mistake that “We” is the first word of the Constitution, because the US is a constitutional democracy, which means that we rely on the Constitution to ensure that the rights of the minority are justly represented in a political system that rests power in the majority through representative government.

Representative government is, under the best circumstances, an imperfect reflection of the “people,” and so the Bill of Rights attempts (among other things) to guard against the legal and political tyranny of the majority (there’s a ton of political philosophy I’m skipping over here, so as not to make this longer than it already is). It is not, despite casual, persistent perceptions to the contrary, a guarantee for anyone to say anything in any venue at any time, nor is does it differentiate among ideas. In fact, “viewpoint neutrality” is a hallmark of free speech law, so as not to allow the government to sanction some ideas (or religions) as superior to others. This is both a blessing and a potential weakness, because it provides for minority viewpoints, however pernicious, to be given air (like in the cases where the KKK is given the right to march and speak), but it also inadvertently recognizes that a democracy can undo itself through its own legitimate processes.

This is not to say that all types of speech are recognized as equal. Political speech, for example is recognized as “core,” which means that it is considered to be highest priority when measuring the individual’s right to self-expression against the government’s right to suppression. When a right is “fundamental,” meaning it is named within the Constitution or included as part of Due Process, the government’s interest in impinging on that right must be “compelling,” which is a very high legal standard. By contrast, commercial speech – that is, speech related to products and services offered for sale and profit – receives less Constitutional protection, and if it is deemed to be dishonest or false, it has basically no protection.

So how does this relate to book reviews and book communities? After all, as many have pointed out, we’re often speaking of things that don’t seem to have much social or political importance, and books for sale participate in the stream of commerce. However, language about art and ideas has long been treated as vital to the political and social welfare of a democratic society. The right to express oneself artistically has long been recognized as of great value in a society that places foundational trust in individual rights and voluntary submission to a social contract. And the right to talk about and criticize ideas expressed in art is equally valuable, as is evident in the Constitutional rationale behind copyright: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” Authors are granted copyright and inventors are granted patents because such rights promote the arts and the sciences, which, in turn, advance society.

Book discussions rarely implicate free speech in the most obvious sense of the government directly impinging on the right of authors and readers to express themselves online, but the kind of discussion at stake is critically important to speech law and political theory. By the same token, the welfare of the community(ies) is also at stake, because speech rights are only significant insofar as they affect and are affected by the community at large. The rights of the individual are always contextualized by the integrity of the whole, and vice versa. Which is why all of this is important to our most mundane and our most explosive exchanges about Twilight or September Girls or all those creepy billionaire tentacle sex books on Amazon. And why, in turn, those discussions can model all sorts of constructive qualities — empathy, critical thinking, respectful listening, heterogeneity of viewpoints — that enhance individual and social bonds.

Constitutional scholar David Cole points out that

In the United States, a strong First Amendment tradition means that people are free to, and often do, say plenty of outrageous, stupid, malevolent, and hateful things. Just listen to radio talk shows. But what we don’t see in response are riots and violence. The constitutional principle that demands freedom for speech that is offensive may in turn teach and reinforce the tolerance that is at bottom, essential to a functioning diverse society and world. . .

There is a place for limits. I am a professor. I do not tolerate, in my classroom, disrespectful speech of any kind, because it interferes with the learning environment that I seek to foster. I am also a father, and have a similar view with respect to the need for respectful speech around the dinner table. A responsible newspaper publisher might well decline to print an article that its editors were convinced was likely to spark violence. But these limits are not imposed by law, but by social norms and ethics, which are in turn informed by discussion, dialogue, and culture.

The vast majority of the time, the speech we’re arguing about is lawful. What we’re often debating are the “social norms and ethics” by which our communities do/should function. Sometimes these norms are asserted as a means to shut down lawfully expressed ideas that some may find offensive, while other times “free speech” is invoked to defend something that is really more about community standards and ethics than the law. In both cases, legal and social concepts may be misapplied, and an opportunity to have robust debate short-changed.

As we move forward, I’d love to know what your ideal online book community looks like. What are the primary values, who are the participants, what does participation look like, and how does the community remain functional?

Next up: The book community as a Marketplace of Ideas and a primer on the different varieties of protected and unprotected speech.

 

** Note: this series is primarily a US-centric analysis, in part because issues of “free speech” are so often conceptualized within a US political and legal context. I will try to include international comparisons when relevant.

 

 

 

 

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

29 Comments

  1. Ros
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 07:14:16

    I don’t think I want one homogenous book community. I want lots of communities which all have their own social norms and ethics. I want places where people are free to spout gif-filled ragey rants, and other places where dispassionate academic analysis can happen. I want places where people just say, ‘Here’s a book I loved, why not try it?’ and other places where people say ‘I don’t know what I thought about this book but I’d love to chat to someone else who’s read it.’ I want reader spaces and I want author spaces and I want some spaces where readers and authors interact. Because mostly I just want people to be able to engage with books any way they like, not have to conform to a particular set of standards. You know what, I think I want the internet.

  2. Patricia Eimer
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 07:54:44

    I agree with Ros, I want people engaging in books even if it’s in ragey, gif filled rants and name calling between reviewers. At least they’re engaging. And I agree with you that what people are arguing about is more social nicety rather than legality. It’s not “nice” to bully people– even authors– but guess what? If you haven’t noticed the world isn’t nice. As long as we’re not threatening each other with physical violence and stalking and all those things that are illegal then I think people– even us book lovers– have to live with the fact that when we step outside our doors we may have to face bullies. And just like 13 year olds everywhere– we’re going to have to deal with it.

    Oh and the Hustler bit? We read it in my undergrad media law studies class years and years ago. I still chuckle at the memory of reading it.

  3. Sarah
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 08:21:34

    I want a space where everything can be said. I want engaging commentary on books. I want snark. I want honesty of opinions and explanations.

    That said, if a community is established where set rules and behaviors are defined, joining to act AGAINST those rules is setting yourself up for a banning, and crying “Buy my free speech!” is ridiculous.

    Also, like any type of consumer product (and the internet is a consumer product) you put your money where your mouth is. If you truly do not like what is being said, leave. It’s far easier to click “Close” on the tab and delete the bookmark and history than it is to crusade against words typed on a page.

  4. library addict
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 08:34:23

    I want a places to discuss books in depth and places were we can rant about books we didn’t like. I want authors and some reviewers to undertand that books are not the author and “attacking” a book is not the same as “attacking” the author of that book. That books are also not the authors’ children.

    I also want places where readers can disagree about what books they like/dislike and even the reasons they like/dislike the books. And places where people who have read a book can discuss it and other readers who venture into said discussion understand spoilers will be talked about and they can’t cry foul because they haven’t read the book yet and now it’s been ruined for them.

    I want some interaction with authors, but I want authors to understand that reviews are for readers and just because a book didn’t work for one reviewer doesn’t mean that same review won’t still get another reader to buy the book. And not every book will work for every reader, but that’s okay.

    I think the online romance community is great overall because I can talk about the books I love (even when I don’t like all of them) with people who get the why. That’s important.

  5. dick
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 08:51:18

    First, the second illustration at the front of this essay caused me to belly-laugh.
    I like to discuss, argue about, and even decimate books, so I certainly agree with the central thrust of the essay. The difficulty with freedom of speech is, I think, that it’s “freedom” of speech, which allows not only the well-founded argument but the generalizations, the ad hominems, and the bandwagons too.

  6. hapax
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 08:58:22

    Sometimes these norms are asserted as a means to shut down lawfully expressed ideas that some may find offensive, while other times “free speech” is invoked to defend something that is really more about community standards and ethics than the law.

    I want this in a bright red boldface banner across the top of every discussion forum.

    I am all about very restricted “safe spaces” when the community calls for them; I am also glad that sites like 4chan exist, although I’d rather eat sand than ever visit them.

    The reader communities I would like to participate in will be vigorous, honest, and fun; not necessarily “respectful”, but if anyone wants to say “this book should doused in gasoline, then set on fire”, they’d better be able to back it up with quotations and have a fire extinguisher on hand if things get out of control.

  7. helen
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 11:16:36

    @library addict:
    I want to start out with, I am not an author!
    I understand where the idea of reviewers and author’s not engaging comes from. However, a reviewer puts their work out there much in the same way an author does. Isn’t a reviewers interpretation of a work open to critique just as the original work was? Why is it not ok for the author to respond? Where did this idea that a reviewer’s opinions are sacrosanct come from (or the author’s)? It is certainly a new development! I remember reading a very amusing round of letters to the editor from an author and Mark Twain while in a college lit class on literary criticism. Why shouldn’t an author respond to a review when the review is in an open forum?

  8. hapax
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 11:30:43

    @helen: “Why shouldn’t an author respond to a review when the review is in an open forum?”

    I am not libraryaddict, but the reason is that it changes the dynamics of the conversation.

    The power of social convention is enormous, and it is very difficult to have a frank discussion about the merits and failings of a work of art in the presence of its creator.

    The STGRB types attempt to insert this pressure to be “nice” even when the author is not overtly present (“think of how the poor author feels when you are mean to her babies!”) But reviews — as opposed to fandom, which has a legitimate place — should ALWAYS be about the work and the writer-as-an-artist, never about the writer-as-a-person.

  9. library addict
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 12:16:16

    @helen: I meant more that the author shouldn’t respond to argue with the reviewer and/or other commenters about how the reviewer misinterpreted something in the book or read it “wrong.” (That’s happened more often that I would have thought).

    I used to think it was fine for authors to comment. Indeed we had some nice conversations in a couple of the In Death reviews with Nora Roberts here at DA. But after a couple of incidents with, let’s just say “less agreeable” authors, I’ve come to the conclusion that the author’s website/board/Facebook page would be better suited for that type of author/reader interaction. And I don’t believe you have to be totally fangirl to an author. Many authors (Nora at ADWOFF, Christine Feehan at her board, Cindy Gerard when she had her board as examples) are quite capable of interacting with readers who don’t like everything they’ve written. Most authors understand that.

    Where did this idea that a reviewer’s opinions are sacrosanct come from (or the author’s)?

    I don’t think that. And I think the comments section of a review is a good place for readers who both agree and who disagree with the review can discuss a book. But as hapax said, get the author involved and that changes the dynamics. Not always for the worse, but it still changes.

  10. Marianne McA
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 12:33:39

    Dear Author is a US based site, and it makes sense that you would write about issues of free speech in a US-centric way.
    However the post script is a bit baffling, because you don’t specify who ‘so often’ conceptualises the issues within a US political and legal context.
    If you mean Americans do, that hardly needs saying, and if you mean everybody else, I don’t think we do.

  11. Persnickety
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 16:38:36

    That last line made me smile. As an American living in Australia, I have lost count of the number of times I have heard an Australian refer to freedom of speech or the right to bear arms. Neither of those concepts is in the Australian constitution. But American movies and tv shows so saturate out culture, that people think that is our structure. I get a lot of funny looks when I try to explain that there are some fundamental differences in the legal and social underpinnings of our government structures.

    I agree with idea of a range of communities, with clear indications as to the nature. I want to know that the review site I go to is comfortable with giving negative reviews as well as positive, and allows the snark to flow.

  12. Robin/Janet
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 16:48:04

    @helen: In regard to authors responding to reviews, I think the nature of the forum is important. For example, what constitutes a “public forum” is complicated online, because a lot of the spaces we see as public — because we can access them so easily — are actually more like private businesses open to the public. So they’re public in the sense that anyone can visit, but the proprietor may have specific limitations on how people behave and talk in that space. Some readers just don’t want engagement from authors, while others welcome it.

    Another issue I’m going to discuss in a later post is that when authors are in the business of selling books, there may be a gray area in regard to whether their speech is perceived to be “commercial speech,” which is a little different from general talk talk about books. I don’t think this is a *huge* issue, but I do think we don’t spend enough time really looking at the different kinds of online speech and how they compare.

    @Marianne McA: I really just meant that when people invoke the free speech defense online, they often do so within the broadest possible context, which is that of the US. Although the term “free speech” and the concept of “free expression” extend far into history and broadly across nations (even into the UDHR), the US by far has the most generous legal protections. Among other things, the US does not recognize “hate speech” as a term with legal weight, has a safe harbor for ISPs and websites (through section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) against litigation for third-party content, and a political philosophy of individual rights that contrasts to what’s often referred to as a “human rights” model for countries like Canada and the UK, which have narrower speech provisions. As recently as 2011, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church’s extreme form of public protest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snyder_v._Phelps).

    I’m not saying that everyone talks about speech rights the same way or that Americans have a better (or even correct) understanding of the legal provisions regarding speech in the US, just that I think the US has kind of colonized the Internet with the idea that there is an irrefutable, unlimited individual right to say whatever the heck you want anywhere you can manage to say it.

  13. Robin/Janet
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 17:08:14

    @Persnickety: Thank you for making the point much better than I did!

  14. Arethusa
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 17:17:49

    @Marianne McA:

    I agree with Persnickety. As another reader who is not American I find that American mores and value are often pretty prevalent or often the go-to standard to which my country’s citizens compare ourselves, politically and otherwise. Many often have a better understanding (even if simplistic) of the American constitution than their own country’s. Sad but true. I would guess that this applies more to primarily English-speaking countries….. So Robin’s caveat isn’t as off-base as it may seem.

  15. Daniela
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 17:38:11

    @Arethusa:

    It not only applys to English speaking countries but also at least to Germany. It’s sometimes both amusing and perplexing when people talk about “their rights” and one then has to point out that CSI/Law&Order/etc are US-shows and the law in Germany is somewhat different and their “rights” are also different.

  16. Daniela
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 17:41:53

    @Robin/Janet:

    Definitely agree on the question of the different kinds of online speech.

    There’s also often the problem that in some situations it’s not very clear if a writer is speaking as a fellow reader (all writers that I know are also readers) or if he’s speaking as a writer trying to support/defend a fellow writer out of sympathy/support/empathy.

  17. Robin/Janet
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 17:44:08

    @Daniela: Germany is actually a good example, because like Canada, the UK, Israel, and other countries, Germany has pretty robust hate speech codes.

  18. Robin/Janet
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 17:47:21

    @Daniela: Yeah, I think this question around what “hat” the author is wearing is very much in the mix. Part of me wonders whether the online communities are just so new — relatively speaking — in regard to authors serving as their own publishers and marketers, that we haven’t yet sorted everything out and gotten comfortable with these fluid boundaries and shifting, multiple roles, or whether this is just an endemic issue that is going to generate contention no matter how long authors and readers are online together.

  19. Daniela
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 17:48:53

    @Robin/Janet:

    Not only hate speech codes. Germany actively censors certain things and some books are not available in German and can’t be shipped to Germany.

  20. Robin/Janet
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 17:55:23

    @Daniela: Oh, yes; if we get into the censorship issues, things get really interesting when comparing across different countries.

  21. Daniela
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 18:03:23

    @Robin/Janet:

    Definitely.

    It gets even more interesting when you look at culture-based self-censoring that people do. I noticed that a lot when I was working in the US.

  22. Robin/Janet
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 18:08:50

    @Daniela: Yes, and often those are the people you wish could engage more readily. But it’s difficult to determine what constitutes a “safe” space when some of those you want to make it safe for are not necessarily part of the discussion (for whatever reason — perhaps because they do not feel welcome, perhaps for other, more mundane reasons). Online is even worse, because community “membership” is so fluid, circumstantial, and so often opaque to other members.

  23. Daniela
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 18:30:51

    @Robin/Janet:

    Yes, that’s one thing. Even in fandom which is often referred to as a ‘safe space’ there are a lot of people who are very careful with what they say and to whom and who are hesitant to speak up about things they feel passionate about, especially when it’s maybe not a popular opinion/ship/pairing/show.

    I think online it’s often worse because we lack all the non-verbal clues we get when we talk face-to-face or even on the phone. Things that even subconsciously might put us at ease are missing and so those who already are cautious stay that way.

    But I was thinking about the sexual harassment-debate we had in Germany a while ago. Germans like to mock the ‘prude’ Americans for their severe harassment policies, but I know why I like working with Americans.

    In Germany John Scalzi’s call for a Convention Harassment Policy would probably only lead to snide comments and derision. And to bring this back on topic, there are people who can’t understand why a country like the US has something like ‘Freedom of Speech’ and yet at the same time has such stringent policies in place. It doesn’t seem to go together.

  24. Wahoo Suze
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 19:17:50

    Wow, there must be something in the air. Popehat has a post on free speech and the various consequences thereof today. http://www.popehat.com/2013/09/10/speech-and-consequences/#more-19731

    The post clarified a lot of murky thought for me. A lot of people think freedom of speech means they can say anything they want (which is true) without any kind of consequences (which is not). To paraphrase Starhawk, When we choose an action, we choose the consequences of that action; not because they are imposed by an external authority, but because they are inherent in the action itself.

    So, yes. You can say something obnoxious, and hurt people’s feelings. But people can respond in a way that hurts *your* feelings. That is the natural social consequence of your action.

  25. Liz Mc2
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 20:37:56

    I hope/I think/it seems from your closing questions that in future posts you are going to tease out the questions of civility/community mores and their relationship to free speech. Because I am really conflicted about this and would love more discussion.

    On the one hand, I believe strongly that we all have a responsibility to defend our ideas in the Marketplace and be willing to argue for them if we want to put them out there. There are ideas that don’t deserve a respectful hearing, as far as I’m concerned, and people who put them out there in the Marketplace deserve the pasting they often get (e.g. racist ones). On the other hand, in a practical sense, sometimes the more laissez-faire and rough-and-tumble the Marketplace is, the fewer people are willing to engage there. Nasty speech may not be especially valuable to me, even if it is protected. (By nasty I don’t mean angry. Angry people often have really important things to say).

    For example, when I look around me, I don’t really think the American version of free speech has gotten us a robust and valuable political discourse focused on issues and policy. It’s mostly gotten us bloviating ideological sound-bites and corporate money. On the internet, many discussions where “but my Freedom of Speech!” gets invoked have devolved into mud-slinging with few actual ideas involved. (There should be some kind of internet law to describe this).

    So, yes, I think that rules for “nice” behavior can be used to stifle speech in many settings. But community mores can also foster speech if they encourage frank but not ad hominem discussion and make more people feel safe speaking up. I think this is a very vexed issue (well, I hardly need to point that out here) and I’m not sure what I think. I guess I think that it’s very hard to generalize about, if nothing else.

  26. Robin/Janet
    Sep 11, 2013 @ 01:05:01

    @Daniela: There are a number of people who believe that some sexual harassment law in the US violates the First Amendment, but my response would be that sexual harassment is simply another limit on speech, in addition to those we already have. Additionally, not all harassment is speech-oriented – some of it is conduct, and it’s not expressive conduct, which means it’s outside the protection of the First Amendment, anyway. There are also times in the law where you have two competing sets of rights, and I think this is the case with sexual harassment law; on the one hand people have broad speech rights, even when that speech is offensive, but on the other hand, people have a right to be free of discriminatory treatment based on race, gender, age, religion, and other protectable categories.

    @Wahoo Suze: I really appreciated Ken White’s post and will be making use of it at a later date myself. ;D I actually want to go in a little bit different direction — that is, away from specific issues of “consequences” to individuals, and more toward the effects of particular speech on our online communities.

    @Liz Mc2: To answer your question/hope/perception, yes, that is exactly the direction I’m ultimately headed, for many of the same reasons you articulate. As @Daniela pointed out, our online communities are further impaired by a lack of physical cues that can help smooth difficult encounters, which makes it so much easier for the community to become disrupted by conflict. Which does NOT mean we don’t protect that speech at the margins; what it may mean is that we think more about what we want in our communities and how we can better facilitate that. Not fully the “consequences” model Ken White outlines, but more what I’d like to see as positive incentivizing, maybe?

    Where I think you really see broad speech protections as valuable is in a higher education setting. In part I think this has to do with the value of academic freedom, and the way in which a really open community supports critical thinking and rational inquiry. But I also think that there’s something to be said about the *structure* of the university, for example, that allows for a natural contextualization of the argument for expansive speech rights. And the variety of time, place, and manner policies that maintain the integrity of the learning community, while allowing for student protest, for example. Are there things that are valuable and can be modeled in our online book communities? Not sure, but I do wonder about how institutional boundaries and democratic infrastructure may shape how we can make the best use of our broad speech rights.

  27. Jenna
    Sep 11, 2013 @ 10:44:01

    I love the book communities that I’m currently involved in. To be honest I wish authors would stop participating. Barring one exception (and even that one felt uncomfortable) I find it really impedes the process of enjoying books as a group when the authors are involved.

  28. Lindsay
    Sep 11, 2013 @ 12:33:50

    I love the SBTB book club, as it lets people chat about the book together and at the very end the author will come in to talk about it as well — the power dynamic swings massively, but because it’s expected the community is able to re-focus and shift with it. I actually think I’d be uncomfortable if the author was there right from the start even if we LOVED the book.

    I really enjoy communities online with very clear rules and very strong moderation because, quite honestly, they’re the only communities where I’m able to read the comments. In fact, they’re the communities where I come for the articles but STAY for the comments! DA is one of them. It is such a relief from the rest of the internet-at-large where people will link me articles (that are good and relevant to my interests) but the caveat is, of course, DON’T READ THE COMMENTS.

    The way we sum it up between friends is that “Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences”.

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    Sep 13, 2013 @ 19:24:46

    […] Dear Author on the internet and free speech. […]

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