Thursday, December 1, 2011

Censor this! (by Xavier)

With our recent debates about what is and what is not appropriate to censor on this blog, I figure it’s about time for a post on the issue.

“To censor” is a verb connoting the act of excluding or banning some verbal, written, or behavioral act from a certain forum, usually on moral grounds.  The question for us is what level of censorship is appropriate on this blog, if any.  To answer this, we need to have a firm grasp on what this blog is about, or at least how I conceive it.

In the very first post of this blog, on Dec. 8th 2010, I wrote this:

As we witness acts of hate violence on our own campuses bred from ingrained stupidity,
as we watch politicians and pundits spew bullshit and lies,
as we incredulously stare at the selfish, greedy ways of our politicians, bankers, and CEOs,
as we consume media that gives crazy impressions about body image and gender-appropriate behavior,
as we live in a country where you already have strikes against you if you are LGBTQ, black, hispanic, muslim, woman, disabled, old, poor, and/or atheist,
and as many of our fellow Americans question the worth of rationality and a good education...


We can no longer sit idly by as many of today's loud voices are not the right voices.  They are not the voices of reason.

In the ongoing war by many well-reasoned people against the irrational, I hereby announce another front, The Critically Pissed.  The hope is that many of the students and faculty at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater will rise up to make our mark against the rising irrationality of our country.

We are going to think critically, write critically, and be pissed critically on those issues that matter to us (and should matter to you).

I ardently maintain that this remains the guiding principle behind our blog.  In short, the principle is: for the promotion of critical thinking to make our world a better place.  Lofty?  Yes.  Idealistic?  You betcha.  Worthy goal?  Yep.  Will we be effective?  I don’t know – that will depend on your scope, whether that be individuals or communities.  What does “better place” mean?  It could mean a whole host of things, but I assert that the better we develop our critical thinking powers, the better we will be.

Now, let’s speak about reality.  Since this blog is open to any UWW student or faculty member to give reasoned rants about those things they find important, there is going to be a host of different perspectives, written well and poorly, from different qualities of argumentation.  That means that we will get some posts with shitty logic.  Oh well.  At least those students are attempting to come up with an argument at all in their articulation of a position.  Even if a post is poorly argued, that student was hopefully trying to think critically about the issue, and that is a good in itself.  Nonetheless, as has been evident, commenters are quick to point out logical errors, gaps in reasoning, and poor moral values.  That is what is called critical dialogue, and it is tremendously important as it feeds into the goal of the blog.  Don’t get me wrong; I want the quality of all our posts to be high.  But the point of the blog is NOT to censor out poorly argued posts – even those posts can be instrumental in sparking critical thought, whether that be to blog readers and commenters or only to the original poster. 

So as long as a post contains an adequate amount of argumentation, it will probably get posted [I will get to the “probably” in a minute].

But what about posts that contain elements of racism or sexism or elitism or [fill in your own ism]??  Ok, what about them?  Should I censor them because they are morally questionable?  NO.  Let me be clear, I DO NOT condone the morality of such posts if I post them; my posting of them does not mean that I agree with them.  But posting those posts certainly does contribute to the main point of the blog!  They open up a space for critical dialogue as we have been doing in the comment section.  The original poster and many commenters go back and forth arguing their points, sometimes softening their positions, and sometimes outright changing their positions.  There is tremendous critical value in that!  That is what we are about, is it not?

If I were to censor all those posts that I deem morally questionable, I would be failing to enact the frequently cited dictum on this blog “Let a thousand flowers blossom.”  A noteworthy point is that that dictum originated in 1957 when the Communist Chinese government invited the Chinese intelligentsia to criticize the communist political system.  The Chinese government was trying to promote progress by letting all ideas have a fair hearing.  This sounds a lot like John Stuart Mill’s philosophy.  I too follow Mill in that we should let the many voices speak, and with ample critical discussion and debate, the better views will hopefully emerge over the poorer ones.  Thus, I see no moral grounds for heavy-handed censorship.  If the overall voice of the blog started to advocate racism or sexism, then something would have to be done (and it would be a huge indictment of Whitewater members).  But this has been far from the case if you have been reading.

Thus, in general, all posts will have a fair hearing here at The Critically Pissed so long as they are argued for and not simply stated as fact.

What will I censor?  I censor (1) posts that have no argumentation, (2) posts that are inappropriately bombastic or use derogatory terms toward groups of people, (3) posts that disparage particular UWW people by name, (4) posts that are personal attacks even if under the veil of anonymity, and (5) threats.  For “comments,” I disregard (1), and uphold (2)-(5). 

Thus, merely submitting a post that has adequate argumentation is not a ticket for publication.  If you commit any one of (2)-(5), your post will not be published.  Fortunately, this has rarely happened, and only a handful of comments have not been published.

If you find this wrong, please comment.  This is my view, and it is the approach that has been operative since the beginning of the blog.  I am open to changing my mind if your argument is convincing, but I have not found a convincing contrary argument yet.


  1. Censorship is a slippery and dangerous slope. If someone is extremly racist and has a rant about it, I'd say let them post it and let the opposing views of reason a logic shut them down. Same goes for anything anyone considers taboo. Most people will rally to the defense of something they hold true/right/just. So let all the ideas fly, hopefully the best ones will stand the test of this blog. (not that this blog is super fantastic) maybe some of the people holding some absurd view will be swayed, even if it's just slightly. That's better then them not being swayed at all by just censoring them and just hoping they go away. Censoring just makes those who hold the "wrong" view, hold the views more deeply and root themselves in their views. Nope, were all adults now, time to be able to discuss anything like adults.

  2. Well I do think that some of the posts on this site come nowhere near anything I would label as "reasoned" I don't think any of it should be censored. This is a place to talk about whatever people want. I have enjoyed most of the posts here and If I see a headline I don't want to read I just skip over it.

    Prof. Chaos

  3. Censoring just makes those who hold the "wrong" view, hold the views more deeply and root themselves in their views.

    I definitely agree with this. Nothing makes people you disagree with disagree with you even more than telling them that they can't say or do something.