The Sticky World of Journalism, Twitter, and Freedom of Expression

WARNING: THERE IS A DIRECT QUOTE IN THIS POST THAT USES PROFANITY/OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE. PLEASE NOTE THESE ARE NOT MY WORDS AND I DO NOT BLAME YOU IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO READ ANY FURTHER ON THIS POST!

Journalists should be in favor of freedom of expression, right? Anyone’s expression, even that which contradicts our own…I mean, isn’t their business kind of based on the First Amendment?

Today, journalist and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis tweeted this in response to people retweeting and him and saying they didn’t like what he had to say:

New policy: Announce to the world you don’t like what I’m saying, I’ll do you the favor of blocking you. Win-win.

Trolls are annoying. I’ve had them on my blog. I’ve had them on twitter. I’ve had them in real life, believe it or not. I can’t see what was “so offensive” now because Mr. Jarvis has already blocked the offenders.

I have to detect a hint of irony here and because I’m not afraid nor do I care if Mr. Jarvis blocks me, hypocrisy. He wants all the free speech that comes along with journalism, but not for anyone else.

There’s an old adage my husband uses: Yes, you have your right to your opinion, and I have my right to think you’re an idiot. I think that applies here both to Mr. Jarvis and to his detractors. First off, Mr. Jarvis created a public twitter profile which means anyone can follow him at any time, for any reason. If one wishes not to deal with others whose opinions differ from their own or does not want anyone to seriously engage them on said opinions two options immediately spring to mind: 1) Don’t use social media or 2) Use only “private” social media. #1 is ideal in this situation because nothing in social can ever be truly “exclusive” or “private” but should one choose #2, you vet your participants ahead of time. That sounds like a win-win.

And anyone whose been online more than one second knows that if you don’t want trolls, DON’T FEED THEM! (by the way this is true for bears and alligators in real life as well) Recently a post by Jennifer Fulwiler on National Catholic Register’s website on abortion and feminism and who respects women http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jennifer-fulwiler/feminist-dont-respect-women-the-catholic-church-does/ which allowed several trolls to find their way there. Some made unsubstantiated claims and when asked for the source of their info, simply ignored the request. One even stated she was just there to stoke the fire and didn’t really want to engage. But she kept coming back because someone jumped at her bait. Even AFTER she acknowledged her game plan. So, before attempting to “engage” a troll, it is always better to consider asking him or her his or her motives. If he or she does not respond, best not to respond either.

In the case of Mr. Jarvis, he later clarified his position with an example:

For example, one person said only I should shut the f*ck up. Quote. Fine. Blocked.
 
I would heartily agree and endorse this type of blocking and have used it myself. However, Mr. Jarvis never fully explained if only these types of comments are verboten and require a blocking, or if there was a broader stroke with which he paints his “free speech ban.” Hmmm….
 
 

 

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