Free speech means editing my comments

August 19, 2017 § 50 Comments

Just for the record.

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 3.54.43 PM

UPDATE:  I cropped the screen grab in a bit to make it more readable.

UPDATE 2: Two days in, all of my chopped up and modified comments have now been deleted from the Orthosphere thread, and from the earlier “PC” post. Comments are (hilariously) closed on the Free Speech post.

§ 50 Responses to Free speech means editing my comments

  • Zippy says:

    The OP seems to be in a constant state of editing too, though I didn’t screenshot it. To be fair, I do edit my own posts after the fact sometimes — but not in an attempt to fix up ideas criticized by commenters or break the context in which the comments were made. Originally that post started as a rant against Inquisitions and torturing people; now the opening paragraphs are about Plato.

  • Zippy says:

    It is only fair for commenters in that thread to know that their comments may be edited and the OP may be completely changed in a way which radically alters the context of your comments. The irony in a post celebrating the incoherent idea of “free speech” is delicious.

  • Zippy says:

    The original opening lines of the post:

    “An inquisition involves torture and execution as a mode of forcing people to conform – either by killing them or by literally violently forcing them to renounce their beliefs. Inquisitions …”

  • I saw that; at first I thought he was just replying to your comment within the text of your comment (which I thought was in poor taste); I didn’t realize he edited the text of your own words. That’s rather anti-free speech of him.

  • Scott W. says:

    Just to make sure I understand you: he didn’t fisk you and just leave out or change stuff in the fisking, he actually changed your original comments, right? If so, that’s dirty pool and I can’t imagine what would posses someone to do it. Bleeping out obscenities I might do, but even then it would be clear the poster intended it.

    I don’t care for replies in my comments either. The biggest offender is Fr. Z, who does it in a bright red font which all always struck me as the internet equivalent of interrupting someone with your finger in their face.

  • Zippy says:

    As far as I can tell (I wasn’t expecting it so I don’t have a full electronic audit trail) he didn’t actually change any of my own actual words. But he did delete parts of at least one comment, completely changed the OP, and started in with the rude “replying in the comment” thing which he is not doing to other commenters (yet). He also calls me “Skippy”.

    He obviously hasn’t grasped the substantive criticism, either.

  • T. Morris says:

    It would be helpful to readers if Prof. Cocks’s in-comment bracketed editorials were at least done in bold and under his initials. I can of course make the distinction, and I don’t really mind all that much putting in a little extra effort to do so, but the blending makes it too easy to mistake his editorials for your comments if readers are pressed for time.

    As far as the changes to the OP go – Larry Auster used to do that kind of incessantly, and I complained about it many many times. All to no avail. 🙂

  • Zippy says:

    Terry Morris:

    In-comment bracketed editorials totally destroy the flow of a post, and I consider them really rude. (I wouldn’t do it unless I was being rude on purpose, which raises the question of whether that is the case here).

    Changes to the OP (at least significant ones) are rude to anyone who has already commented, because it makes it look like the comment is addressing the new text not the old text. Here I consider the content of a post “fixed” other than grammar or very minor corrections once someone has commented. That seems only fair to me.

    Censoring comments is of course fine, but it is rude to do it in a partial-snip way without at least making it clear that the content of the comment has actually been censored.

    People have different views of these things and that’s fine, but I won’t contribute myself when there is a demonstrated propensity for the moderator to change things after the fact in a way that makes it look like I am responding differently than I actually did to content different from the actual content to which I actually responded.

  • T. Morris says:

    Zippy – amen! I was very disappointed to see that Prof. Cocks had referred to you as “skippy.” That indicates to me that he is purposely being rude. We should be able to have an adult conversation about the merits of ‘free speech’ without insulting one another with childish slurs.

  • Zippy says:

    Terry Morris:

    To be fair, that might have been just a typo. Not everyone is familiar with my monumental intellectual reputation. 😀 😀 😀

  • Mike T says:

    Editing comments is a tricky thing because you are acting as the site owner and changing someone else’s words. There are plenty of occasions where that can veer quickly into negligent defamation like when a site owner cuts out text and puts something like blah blah, Nazi content blah blah. I am not sympathetic to the argument “their site, their rules” in such cases because actual harm is happening when you go from stripping out things like profanity to changing the general language of the comment.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    Agreed, but I need to make it clear that I don’t think that was done here (though I can’t be sure: once a moderator starts doing this kind of stuff it can be hard to trust even your own memory of what actually happened). I don’t think he actually put different words into my mouth that I did not say.

    The main point is that bloggers who do this kind of thing can’t be trusted to have an open and fair conversation. Ordinarily I probably wouldn’t have mentioned the incident at all, but the very subject of discussion was the coherence or incoherence of ‘free speech’ as a concept, so I couldn’t let the irony pass.

    What was done here (I am certain of this much) is:

    1) At least one section of at least one of my comments was removed without anything indicating that part of the comment was removed.

    2) My comments were edited to chop them up with bracketed replies from the OP author. (I don’t really know if additional content of mine was removed in this process).

    3) The OP was changed at least twice, with each revision a radical alteration in content not merely a tweak of grammar or what have you, well after a body of comments below were in place presumably in response to the original content not the revised content.

    4) I was given an alternate pseudonym by the OP author — whether on purpose or on accident only he knows.

    I don’t even particularly mind rudeness, and of course sometimes I am guilty of rudeness myself. But the irony was too much to pass up (thus the ‘humor’ category for this post). The incident might even be taken as demonstration that free speech and fair speech are mutually exclusive in practice.

  • It is hard to tell, but I think he may have even added even more bracketed comments to your comment after the first go through. It seems his bracketed comments have become more thorough.

  • Zippy says:

    TimFinnegan:

    Yes, I noticed that as well. It is impossible to have a fair discussion under those conditions — which is deliciously ironic.

  • The irony is quite delicious as you’ve said. Playing free and playing fair do seem mutually exclusive, and not just when the game is speech. As a society we seem to have substituted free for fair, and in the process now have neither.

  • Ian says:

    Huh, I hadn’t even noticed that he had edited the OP.

    I wonder if there is a different way to present the argument that would make it easier for him to grasp. I used to be a big free speech advocate myself, and it’s hard to know whether I would have grasped the there-is-no-such-thing-as-free-speech argument back in those days either.

    Maybe the Orthosphere should change its masthead to a painting of St. Michael fighting for Satan’s right to speak his heresies.

  • Zippy says:

    Ian:

    He made major edits to the front end of the post at least twice, after comments were well underway.

  • Ian says:

    Right, I see that now. I just hadn’t bothered to re-check the OP until I saw your post pointing it out.

  • T. Morris says:

    Zippy: you were right, I was wrong.:

    https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/free-speech/#comment-108933

    My apologies to professor Cocks.

  • Zippy says:

    As for how to reach right liberals on these questions, I just don’t know. Or, more accurately, what I do know about editorially reaching folks is already right here in the posts and comment archives.

    I don’t understand why right liberals don’t get it that once you stipulate ‘within limits’ you are talking about limited speech not free speech: that all speech is free within limits so the basic issue is “within what limits” not “free”, the latter doing no substantive work and just obscuring the basic issue.

    That was one of the first clubs that hit me over the head and destroyed my own liberal commitments. To me that starts an unstoppable cascade of understanding. So I don’t know how to reach people who don’t just go ‘huh’, think about it a while, and then concede what follows.

    But I know it can be a very disconcerting point to concede, and it is possible that my own endogenous sociopathy made it psychologically easier for me than for normal everyday Joes. Though Jim Kalb suggested back in the day that I myself was kind of an everyday Joe, with a few paleo tendencies.

    Anyway, the psychology doesn’t really interest me except to the extent it can suggest more editorial options which might help other folks grasp the point. Modernity is built on a foundation of avoiding reality, and there are probably thousands of minefields and defenses keeping accurate perception of reality at bay. I have a few tools in my own toolbox but there are probably always new ones to discover.

  • Zippy says:

    T. Morris:

    Yeah I didn’t think it was intentional. My pseudonym is rather ridiculous, and substituting one ridiculous clown name for another isn’t really much of an insult.

  • Aristokles Contra Mundum says:

    I don’t understand why right liberals don’t get it that once you stipulate ‘within limits’ you are talking about limited speech not free speech: that all speech is free within limits so the basic issue is “within what limits” not “free”, the latter doing no substantive work and just obscuring the basic issue.

    That was one of the first clubs that hit me over the head and destroyed my own liberal commitments. To me that starts an unstoppable cascade of understanding. So I don’t know how to reach people who don’t just go ‘huh’, think about it a while, and then concede what follows.

    Scripture repeatedly makes use of the language of blindness, and the more I read efforts like your own to make people see what is right in front of them and the more I try to do the same in my own life, the more I’m convinced that Scripture is correct (shocking!). We’re so blind,and can only respond to the most piercing of lights.

    An old professor of mine was a master of helping others to see, and indeed it was a (seemingly) off-hand comment of his that caused the scales to fall away from my eyes on the question, though this was in the context of freedom of religion, rather than freedom of speech.

    I’ve tried to retrace the steps he took, to emulate his method, and even have spent many hours attempting to figure out how he was so effective with one of his students, but neither of us has ever been able to replicate it. I’ve begun to suspect that the key is personal holiness, which is regrettably in short supply for me. The answer, as always, seems to be, “become a saint.”

  • Zippy says:

    Aristokles Contra Mundum:

    I’ve begun to suspect that the key is personal holiness

    I wish, because that would make me look pretty good (assuming I have a better grasp of the truth than these folks). But cold reality suggests that you should look elsewhere.

  • John says:

    Zippy:

    But I know it can be a very disconcerting point to concede, and it is possible that my own endogenous sociopathy made it psychologically easier for me than for normal everyday Joes.

    Wait, are you serious? Are you actually on the sociopathy spectrum, or is this just some sort of joke on your part?

  • Zippy says:

    John:

    I have never been tested for sociopathy, if that is what you are asking; but I am in general monumentally unmoved by other peoples’ opinions of me and/or the consensus views of groups of people.

  • John says:

    but I am in general monumentally unmoved by other peoples’ opinions of me and/or the consensus views of groups of people.

    I guess this makes you more open minded then; which makes your opinions have a bit more credibility than other people’s, because this attitude of yours that you describe seems like a very dispassionate one.

  • Bonald says:

    I came across that comment where Prof. Cocks inserted his comments in brackets. I was half way through before I realized what was going on–you didn’t seem to be making any sense. Then, when I realized it was a comment and its reply spliced together, I was so annoyed I stopped reading the whole thread. I’m sure he didn’t mean it as a way of sabotaging your case, but it’s a nuisance for readers, one I didn’t feel like putting up with.

    There does seem to be a diversity of opinions on the Orthosphere.

  • Zippy says:

    Bonald:

    I am perfectly fine with censorship, obviously. Making it really annoying to try to parse my actual comment out from his interjections is a way to censor while pretending not to censor. Liberals always find themselves doing that sort of thing as they attempt to act in a manner consistent with their own incoherent commitments. This particular case is obviously no big deal substantively, but it is illustrative — on the very point under dispute.

  • This is my comment which did not make it through moderation:

    I’m not a fan of the whole suppression business and so long as I am not claiming that free speech can have no restrictions at all maybe you’ll come around to thinking that you ought to be allowed to express your views after all.

    If you are for any amount of limits at all on speech then you are, by definition, supportive of suppression of at least some speech. This is what is being pointed out to you. You cannot simultaneously be against the “suppression business” and for limits on speech. The two are incompatible.

    Once we admit that “free speech” doesn’t actually mean “absent of suppression” then we can realize that “free speech” doesn’t actually do the legwork it’s being asked to do. If we are contrasting “free speech” with “speech with some suppression” then you are not really in favor of “free speech” if you are in favor of limits on speech.

    Then we know that the real discussion is concerned with what speech ought to be suppressed, not whether or not speech should be “free.”

  • Zippy says:

    Freedom means crushing dissent from my own preferred configuration of limits under the boot of emancipation

  • Wood says:

    Freedom means crushing dissent from my own preferred configuration of limits under the boot of emancipation

    Wow – this is permapost worthy to have as a reference!

  • Zippy says:

    I just noticed this bit in reply to aureliusmoner:

    I think Zippy has persuaded you that I think free speech does not exist if it is restricted in some way. I do not. Perfectly free speech would be immoral and unattainable. Even perfect justice on the Earthly realm would lead to horrors. Zippy is just insistent that I stop calling it free speech if it is not perfectly free. I think that’s ridiculous.

    It is bizarre that folks don’t immediately grasp that “speech is free within limits” means precisely that permissible speech is allowed, while impermissible speech is suppressed and punished: that the word “free” is entirely superfluous and merely begs the question.

    The word “free” pretends to be doing some work in defining what speech is permissible and what speech isn’t, but this is pure illusion. The word “free” is a pure propaganda term designed to focus your attention on the fact that some speech is permitted while minimizing or ignoring the fact that some speech isn’t permitted. The “free speech within limits” tautologist becomes outraged when that same question-begging is turned against his own view of what speech should and should not be permissible. The limits he asserts are “limits”. The limits he rejects are “PC”. But both sides are just begging the question with the word “free”.

    Of course Cocks himself believes that “restricted free speech” is a coherent idea. It isn’t that I don’t accept that he is personally committed to the idea of free speech within limits; it is that the idea to which he is personally committed is incoherent, as demonstrated to him repeatedly, with all that that implies.

  • Mike T says:

    Of course Cocks himself believes that “restricted free speech” is a coherent idea.

    From the liberal PoV that is the case because they play a mental trick on themselves where they merge multiple issues under one term and ignore the fact that they are related, but different concepts. “Free speech” covers roughly at least these issues:

    1. Preventing authorities from arbitrarily shutting down any speech that is not harmful simply because they don’t like it.
    2. How to enable the discussion and examination of evil without allowing evil to openly recruit.
    3. Who gets to publish and disseminate and when.
    4. What role should a government bureaucrat have in adjudicating truth WRT speech.

    It’s similar to how “the rule of law” is a loaded concept that contains a lot of issues around justice, fairness and such. (And similar to absolute free speech, I have never met someone who would choose the consistent enforcement of bad laws by cruel, hyper-efficient and consistent courts)

  • […] are firmly committed to free speech, as a core […]

  • It is bizarre that folks don’t immediately grasp that “speech is free within limits” means precisely that permissible speech is allowed, while impermissible speech is suppressed and punished: that the word “free” is entirely superfluous and merely begs the question.

    I think this is obvious to people who hold an essentialist view of free speech, but as I said in my most recent post, I think Professer Cocks’ view of free speech (as well as other goods such as justice) is utilitarian. That they are goods but all goods can be opposed to each other in some way, and it is only by determining the good with the highest utility in a certain set of circumstances that we can determine which good should take precedent over others. That seems to be the view of goods that he takes in the revised opening paragraphs of the article (which is now closed to commenting).

  • TomD says:

    People confuse “free speech” with “some evil may validly not be punished by the state”, and then try to create a right out of avoiding punishment for evil.

  • Zippy says:

    Not only have all of my comments now
    been removed from both threads (which is what he should have done in the first place if he didn’t want them there, rather than mutilating them); but comments are now (hilariously) closed on the Free Speech post.

  • Ian says:

    Not only have all of my comments now
    been removed from both threads…

    I just noticed that, what the heck?? (It’s not like you – or anyone else – were being a particular jerk about it).

    My comments are still there on the Free Speech post, but they’ve been removed on the Political Correctness post.

    Well, I guess I was wrong about Richard Cocks having a classical liberal conception of free speech. It’s more like a 1984 conception: those comments just never happened.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Free speech for everyone except folks who disagree about free speech. Which was, amusingly enough, the bulk of the commenters (I only saw two that weren’t).

    I wonder what else he would consider deleting comments for, apart from probably profanity.

  • Zippy says:

    [I accidentally posted this comment in the wrong thread and moved it here].

    This event does illustrate the phenomenon of “you may advocate any politics you want as long as it is liberal politics.”

    I think interpreting events charitably has two benefits though. First, charity is good for its own sake. Second, it presents additional interpretive options, any of which may be true.

    One possibility folks should consider is that perhaps some of our comments have led him to question his own position. Working that out in public while posting under your real name – making the Predator become visible right in front of your own person and livelihood – can be quite dangerous, and prudence might dictate a strategic retreat for private reflection.

    It is at least somewhat dangerous for even independently wealthy people to directly challenge liberalism itself under their own name, unless you don’t care about anyone but yourself. And I wouldn’t question another man’s prudence on the issue of pseudonyms.

  • Scott W. says:

    Not only have all of my comments now been removed from both threads (which is what he should have done in the first place if he didn’t want them there, rather than mutilating them); but comments are now (hilariously) closed on the Free Speech post.

    Cue The-Price-is-Right Fail: https://youtu.be/9Jz1TjCphXE

  • Zippy says:

    It is another good opposite day entry: free speech means that any speech challenging liberalism will be censored and punished.

  • One possibility folks should consider is that perhaps some of our comments have led him to question his own position.

    Another possibility is that (at least with your case Zippy) he realized the problem with editing your comment and including bracketed replies and things of that nature and made the decision to do what you said he should have done in the first place, just remove your comments (and I guess any comments based on them?).

  • Zippy says:

    TimFinnegan:

    True. Though if I were to do that myself I would leave some sort of annotation indicating that I had done it.

  • Though if I were to do that myself I would leave some sort of annotation indicating that I had done it.

    I think its safe to say that Professor Cocks does not typically do things they way you would have done it.

  • Zippy says:

    Only discriminating authoritarians can conduct a fair debate.

  • buckyinky says:

    Zippy’s blog, Orthosphere, and Bonald’s blog are three of my favorites to read regularly. It is thought provoking for me to observe that, of the three, the only two where I’ve never had a comment actually censored are the two blogs (Zippy’s and Bonald’s) where the hosts are specifically pro-censorship (Of course Orthosphere is hosted by many, including Bonald himself).

    I do understand the “more permissive” is not a virtue in itself, but it is interesting nonetheless that I have experienced more permissiveness in the places that (theoretically?) one expects less permissiveness.

  • djz242013 says:

    In the land of lies, liberal (which is a synonym of permissive) people do not brook disagreement.

  • A Portuguese man says:

    I’ve only now seen all this.

    Very amusing!

    Seems like he really believes limited speech more than it looked…

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