Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The dilemma of a civil libertarian

As a civil libertarian, I believe that everyone has the right to express their views. However, I also feel a strong urge not to legitimize those who promote racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other kind of overt bigotry. As the Oklahoma editor of BlogNetNews, that contradiction is causing me a real moral dilemma.

Several weeks ago, I removed a blogger from the Oklahoma BNN feed because of an anti-Semitic post. I informed the owner of BNN that I had done this, and he did not object. I have also discussed with the owner of BNN my desire to remove certain other bloggers for similar hateful remarks made about the GLBT community.

Recently, several of the same bloggers who had been on my radar for their rabid hatred of "the homosexuals" have been posting incredibly bigoted blog posts about Muslims.

Now, if I were to apply the standard I used to remove the blogger who posted an anti-Jewish slur, I would immediately have to remove these other bloggers for what they have repeatedly said about Muslims.

However, the civil libertarian in me has to ask the question, "What if the shoe were on the other foot?" What if a right-wing blog editor were to decide that what I write about evangelical Christians is hate speech and remove me on that basis? How would I react? Do I really want to set a precedent that the editor has the right to remove bloggers for posting material that the editor considers "objectionable?"

I also have to figure out what is in the best interest of Oklahoma blog readers. Is it better to shield them from the extremist views of the far right bloggers who seem to dominate the Oklahoma political scene? Or is it better to show the hatred and bigotry, and let readers make their own decisions?

Despite my revulsion at reading some of the hate speech on certain blogs that are a part of BNN, I have decided that the best course of action is not to censor. Therefore, I will reinstate Stan Geiger, the aforementioned blogger who posted an anti-Jewish slur, and I will not remove any other bloggers from the feed.

By the way, you far right hate bloggers, you can thank groups like the ACLU for influencing me to be a civil libertarian. And you can thank the ACLU for fighting to preserve your right to spew your filth freely in this country.

Am I objective? No. Will I be fair? Yes.