The Fountain Pen Network has fallen into something not unlike the Bermuda Triangle, and I’m a little worried. Most of it is just what little techno-addiction I have manifesting itself; I can walk away from the internet for a week or two without a qualm, but to have that choice made for me is deeply unnerving. I’m sure that presently the fire will be out (hopefully only in metaphor) and the FPN will be back to inform and amuse.
The other real concern-generator lies in the comments over at the FPGeeks’ thread on this very same topic. Concern and quivering addiction is expressed, but there is also a dig at the moderators and administrators of FPN. That board is a generally quite civil place, but it is also full of deeply opinionated folks and sometimes the aforementioned holders of power have to swing in an clamp down; usually when the topic wanders to gun control or religion, but there are also a few instances of people with nothing more constructive to offer than “I think Nardwar Brand Pen Cozies SUUUUUX!” in increasing invective. The clamping down is seen by some as an abridgement of a right of free speech (see you local constitution for details and whether this applies to you).
The concern-provoking bit of that thread is what is suggests about us inter-nutters. Thus far, the moderate camp on that comment thread is mainly pointing out that FPN is a salon, not Hyde Park, and the owners of the space have a right to decide when the discussion is too boisterous; generally, founded and reasonably-expressed opinions are OK. The response, which is not entirely unfounded, is that there are a few topics (politics, religion, the merits of Bay State Blue ink) that are entirely off the table, and that the suspicion is that if one’s opinion is different from the moderators, it won’t get aired at all.
I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve once said something sufficiently immoderate on FPN to draw moderator attention; it was a private word, it was entirely civil, and on reflection I found the moderator to be entirely right to tap me on the shoulder. I think its that last bit that the internet’s fora suffer from a want of– reflection. We all have a right to out own opinion, yes, but the right to expression of that opinion has some contingencies. The one we forget most often is, even one’s own opinion may be mistaken.
I’ve seen a bumper sticker that sort of distills the problem. It reads, Haters Gonna Hate. The implication is this; if I say anything contrary to that bumper-owner’s opinion (“say, maybe 150 is too fast for a school zone”), it is entirely a result of a failure in me. If I don’t like what they’re doing or saying, I’m a Hater, trapped by my own inability to see their correctness.
This is not a good direction for society to proceed. No man is an island, no person is necessarily and at all times correct… and even when they are, the way they manifest that correctness might not be quite the thing for polite company.
Now, having no doubt offended many, I am off to reflect on how I might have expressed this better.