Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 11, 2010
You don't get to censor me - I get to censor you

I recently wrote a deliberate misquote of Edmund Burke in a comment: "All it takes for trolls to triumph is that good bloggers do nothing." Sometimes I read something on the internet that I strongly disagree with, and I feel that it is better to speak out against whoever or whatever angered me than to remain silent and just let the trolls win. And nearly every time I get a lot of comments along the lines of "you shouldn't write that", telling me that for some vague reasons of "higher standards" I am not allowed to publicly attack people or opinions I don't like, or use harsh words, because that would be "sensationalist". That is bullshit. I have exactly the same rights as everybody else on the internet to attack anything I don't like in any way that is legal. And last time I checked the rest of the internet isn't exactly shy about using their freedom of speech in that way, so why should I?

Chastity from Righteous Orbs recently had a brilliant post that applies here, pointing out the fallacy of holding public figures to higher standards. This is true especially for prominent bloggers. There are no standards on the internet, and definitively not higher ones. If Gevlon is allowed to call everybody but him a moron & slacker, and Wolfshead is allowed to call all WoW players dumb (and call me a "drooling fanboy"), then why shouldn't I be allowed to call Gevlon a sociopath and Wolfhead's latest post bullshit?

Don't think I don't understand what these attempts from commenters to tell me what I can't write about are: They are the asymmetric warfare of opinions on the internet. Some people are afraid my opinions carry more weight than theirs, because I have a blog that gets a million visitors a year. So when I write something harsh they disagree with, they are trying to guilt trip me, telling me that *because* I have a big blog, I'm not allowed the same range of expressions as everybody else. Up to the rather ironic point where they think they can make personal attacks on me for making personal attacks on others. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. You don't get to censor me. Just the opposite, I'll just use my comment deletion option more and censor anyone trying to tell me "you can't write that".

Is that unfair? No, why? It is completely symmetrical! You have exactly the same freedom as I have: All you need to do is to create a blog and complain there about me, and you can even censor all my comments on your blog if you want. You also have the right to, as some people call it, "unsubscribe" from my blog. That is a bit like "unfriending" somebody on Facebook, pretty much unnoticeable to the person being unfriended or the blogger being unsubscribed to. It's not as if there was a paying subscription here. If anything I'm probably better off if the people who don't like what I write get lost instead of hanging out here and complaining about my "journalistic standards" all the time. This blog would be useless to me if I didn't have the right to say whatever I want here.
Quite frankly Tobold I like your posts a lot better when you cut loose and say what you are thinking straight up. Gevlon is entertaining, but he sure is a sociopath. Wolfshead writes well but his opinions on MMOs I dismiss as ridiculous. Flame on!
Because I know people are more likely to post a negative remark than a positive one, I thought I should make an effort and say that you are right.

The only standards people online should be held to are the ones that they say they expect others to conform to and claim to maintain for themselves.

Consistency and integrity is far more important than some arbitrary 'higher standards'.
I wouldn't presume to tell you that you can't write about something, but I do feel that your more aggressive pieces are often your weakest and most dramatized.
This is a pretty regular conversation here. I'm not going to be like the other 40 posters who try to give you permission to say what you want on your own blog - you should know that already, and shouldn't be waiting for permission or a cheer from the crowd.

My question is, why do bloggers get so upset with each other that they are constantly involved in blogger drama?

My guess is that when a blogger gets fans and detractors, the blogger, at least subtly, wants to be seen as the "better" blogger. I'm not going to point fingers, but I do find it strange that bloggers, their fans, and their haters cruise around commenting in multiple blogs to "defend" their favorite blogger and "attack" their favorite blogger's "enemy". It's a pretty common thing, and I guess I just don't get it.

I still think that people group themselves together based on any tangible commonality they can find, and then run with it, pupils dilated, torches in hand. Whether its politics, religion, favorite band, or favorite blogger, people are easily divided into hostile camps.

The bloggers I read don't encourage it. The bloggers I don't read, silently or loudly encourage their fans to go on the attack.

Opinions are just that. There should be a ToS/Quiz on every comment section that requires you to actually read the definition of an opinion, with a 4 question quiz that requires you to answer correctly, before posting. It might cool people off before they get angry and pull out their pitchforks.
I'm offended that you'd write this.
Part of the reason I've always preferred your blog to anyone else is because you don't get into those personal e-peen waving contests with other bloggers. That's not what I come to a blog for.. I don't really give a shit who's got the most readers or who's better at shit-talking everyone else.

I come to this blog because you write really well and most of the time the topics you write about encourage stimulating thoughts and discussions. Even if it's not something I'm particularly interested in I always find them a good read.

I do think it's bullshit that people think they can hold you or other bloggers to higher standards, but it's because you usually rise above the average blogger in professionalism that I come here.

I hope that doesn't change.

Oh wait! I do get to censor you!

LOL, that's intended as a joke. You are, of course, 100% right on the money.

People knee-jerk rail against you because they feel in the World Wide Shouting Match that is the Internets, you have the louder voice.

If someone is truly bothered by what you say, they also have the option of not reading it.

I tend to get frustrated at the opposite spectrum -- when you play *nice* and try to be all rational with the trolls. Fuck em.

All that said, I'm generally against censorship when it's not an ad hominem personal attack.

That's the #1 reason why I won't read Gevlon's blog under any circumstance -- if you have a valid opposing view, he just deletes it. He's not interested in discussion or debate -- he just wants to preach. And to that I say, Fuck Him Too!

Give me liberty to mildly criticize your stance on Discipline healing or give me death!
personally I don't care if you want to criticize other people, whether it's blog posts or in comment replies. What I always find humorously stupid is your tendency to demand a one-way street: you're allowed to critique anything you want but if anyone disagrees they're "trolling" you and we'll get treated to an entry where you contemplate giving up blogging due to the stress of e-bullies. Can't have it both ways if you want anyone to comment at all. I'm very much in favor of you pushing back, however!
Dear Tobold, I think I have to bash you. Not for the content of this post, which I agree with completely. But don't you see what you're doing? This is what? Your tenth post or so in one week? We were trying to cut down, remember? Be strong!
Pretty soon we are going to have battlelines drawn a flame war between supporters of different bloggers. The sheer ridiculousosity of that is humorous.

I hope you can create a nice flag for us Toboldians to wear into battle.
Give me liberty to mildly criticize your stance on Discipline healing or give me death!

That liberty has never been in question. You can even *strongly* criticize my stance on Discipline healing. What you aren't allowed to is to tell me is "Tobold, you really shouldn't write about Discipline healing", including version like "your journalistic standards on discussing Discipline healing are bad, stop writing such sensationalist Discipline healing posts".
I said it to chas, and I guess I'll say it to you as well, because damn it freedom of speech also allows me to repeat myself :P

you can say whatever your mind desires, simply becasue you are not in any way trying to represent a larger community. you express personal opinions and as such, they are valid regardless of what other people think of them.

now if a person who more or less acts as a representative of many and whose goal is to present his community as something better then normally perceived by others? they have to adhere to those higher standards because their actions don't just reflect on them, they reflect on the entire community, they are representing.

whether its online, or real life or both, the reality is, that when you don't do as you say, people lose respect for what you say, and if your goal is to maintain that respect, you just became your own worst enemy.
- You have every right to write whatevery you want.

- A less social drama approach to issues would be a lot more enjoyable to me and many others.

- You would get a lot less comments with less social drama.

- Fighting fire with fire is your right. Hell you can fight fire with nuclear bombs if you want. It just doesn't make a lot of sense from a less emotional point of view. And, honestly, I don't care that much about what you feel and more about what you think.
And, honestly, I don't care that much about what you feel and more about what you think.

That is the core of the problem, you want to reduce me to an emotionless robot producing drama-free content. Sorry, I'm human.

I did however make an attempt to cut down on the social drama in the future by "unsubscribing" from Wolfshead's blog in my newsreader. No guarantee that I won't stumble upon another idiocy of his via another blog, but it reduces direct exposure.
@Tobold: I think it's a pity with this unsubscribing thing. Feuding is something that fans have been doing since SF fandom was born back in the 30s. As long as you manage to keep it fun and lighthearted there's nothing wrong or dangerous about it.

I sometimes tell trolling, whiney readers who attack my posts on a personal level to make themselves a service and stop reading my blog. But you and Wolfshead are different. You're both good bloggers who normally have pretty good discissions going on. It's sad if you feel compelled to refrain from it.
@Larisa: The problem is that reading certain blogs is extremely likely to make me angry. I completely agree that Wolfshead has good writing skills, but if he is using them to make sweeping generalized attacks on all people who don't share his preference for a certain type of game, or makes his usual completely invalid comparisons, I just can't help feeling strongly about it.

Funnily enough I'm considering putting syncaine back on my reading list. His analysis of why WoW isn't the game for him has much improved. The post you linked to, about the comparison of WoW to UO is rather good, and I agree with it, because syncaine refrained from making judgements. He *is* right in saying that back in the early UO days you had "peaks and valleys" of winning and losing, while in WoW you always win, at worst sometimes a bit slower than you would want.
Wondering why I have this blog on my favorites, must be 'cos I followed a link from Gevlon (a guy who actually has something worth reading).

"and I feel that it is better to speak out against whoever or whatever angered me than to remain silent and just let the trolls win."

If you (or anyone) speak about a troll, he has already won.
I don't think it is the size of your blog that's causing this, actually.

I recently wrote a rather strongly-worded piece about Gevlon on MMO Melting Pot (which, whilst it's pretty big, doesn't have your authority yet), and had a very similar response, with a lot of people including one prominent blogger saying that criticising Gevlon in that way wasn't acceptable.

(Needless to say, I don't agree.)

At some point I'll write an article about this. There seems to be a culture of zero criticism developing in parts of the blogosphere.
@Hugh: I don't know if the "prominent blogger" is me, but since I was about the only one to speak up in the case of that post, I suspect it's me you're referring to. And yes, I spoke up. But it was not because I don't think you can criticize Gevlon's views. You can do it for many good reasons and I've done it myself in the psst. What I thought was dubious was the blogging ethics in the way you gave him your link love. On one hand you said it was a good guide, but on the other hand you said that since it was Gevlon who had written it, you asked for someone else to write something similar. I've never seen that happen in any other case. "Hey, look - Matticus wrote a guide on healing here, but since it was Matticus who wrote it and we know how HE is, can someone else copy it?" I think it's strange to on one hand use someone elses content and ideas, which you basically did here, but on the other hand sort of bash him, not because of the guide, but more out of some sort of "let's hate Gevlon" perspective.

I can't see the parallel between your way of linking to Gevlon and Tobold's argumentation with for instance Wolfshead or Syncaine. His way of debating is way more direct and upfront, and I don't have any problem with it at all.

If there's a culture of zero criticizm, I'm certainly not a part of it.
No one was saying that you *can't* do it. We were expecting that exactly because you *can* do it, you wouldn't. Other people's stupidity doesn't justify our own.

Besides, you writing about it it's already a victory for all those of focus on blog drama.
Yes! YES! DRAMA! MORE DRAMA! GIVE US MORE DRAMA, TOBOLD! Argue with every stupid person by calling them sutpids! HELL YEAH!
I support Tobolds stance here.

Really, we are on a personal blog with a mainstream opinion. This isn't news reporting or an elected official. We invade Tobs personal space to poke around his head - we have no right to gasp when we find what is really inside it - expected or not.
I absolutely agree that you can and should keep writing in whatever way you like. it seems counter-productive for a blog to change its style as soon as it gets more readers.

however, look at it from a bright side - while the higher standards are unfair, they always show that somebody is elevating you and your opinions as a writer. ;)
"they always show that somebody is elevating you and your opinions as a writer. ;)"

All that's all the is matter.
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@Tobold Amen
Sometimes I wish Tobold would post more entries with strong words in it, like really getting off.

I like this mode on his posts :D
I've followed Tobold since he posted over at Grimwell's old site. His articles have always served to intrigue my thought processes in a way that led me to start reading his blog.

The problem that I see from all of this - is that since I began following his posts, the blogosphere has exploded into a cult of personalities where "opinions" reign supreme, but they are the single most tangible benefit that the blogging phenomina has provided for gamers/readers.

Too many bloggers get caught up in the unwise activity of trying to defend their "opinions" whenever challenged with a counter opinion, and the result is often one where the blogger gets trapped in their own web of self absorbtion. Censoring personal attacks is perfectly fine and acceptable, but the way things have progressed in the blogosphere leads us to where we are now - a battle of style and personality rather than the important aspect of substance.

I'll continue reading Tobolds blog regardless of the comments made by readers. I'm interested in what he has to say about MMO's/games, and while it would be nice to always have substantiative discussions in the comments section of a blog as they relate to the post/opinion offered, one has to realize that the old addage holds true...."in a perfect world this wouldnt happen"....but...
{edited for clarity]

@Larisa - ah, I hadn't realised that was your primary point of concern. Thanks for clarifying.
As someone who finds himself at odds with the Blogosphere sometimes way to many times, I agree 100% with you.

I don't twist anyone's arm to read my stuff, and bottomline I write for myself, and the only one who has to be happy with my work at the end of the me.
Tobold - being honest here, nobody ultimately cares about the contents of blogs or the opinions of bloggers, they just help to pass the time when one's bored or should be doing something more important. Just write whatever you want and don't stress over it, it's not life or death, it's just a blog.
That is the core of the problem, you want to reduce me to an emotionless robot producing drama-free content. Sorry, I'm human.

I know, we all are. To express your humanity I'd suggest to focus more on lenience, love and understanding than on defending yourself with the weapons you are attacked with.

That is not saying that you have no right to fire back. It's just that this is not the best facet of our common humanity, is it?
If I felt that you were terribly sensationalist or populist then I wouldn't read your blog.

I feel this is not the case, and whilst I'm not going to spout libertarian "freedom of speech" nonsense, what you say on your virtual property is not something I have any right to impede upon. Hence therefore, continue with your posting.

Also: I don't read The Sun.
Whats sort of troubling to me is that Tobold has repeatedly said how he is bound to get "angry" reading blogs.

I have never once been "angry" reading journalism of any kind..

Maybe a bit *too* emotionally involved? In blogging or WoW.
@Dangerous: No, I get angry all the time. Physical violence doesn't, for some reason, really incite me.

Perhaps you're too emotionally...uninvolved? If we were all apathetic about everything we read then nothing would really happen and writing would be meaningless, since, by and large, people write to covey and express an emotion.
It is important to remember that a lot of us visit your blog exactly because you don't usually engage in screechy ranting and try to analyze topics from a little distance. I visit both your blog and Gevlon's at lunch. I always read your blog but Gevlon usually just gets a glance before I move on to the Pink Pigtail Inn.
I think it's mostly about can vs should - sure you can insult a troll. The question is - should you? I think not, and not because you have a big blog, but because responding to a troll is letting him win - trolls sustain themselves on attention, so the best way to fight them is /ignore them and let them starve.
I feel there's some kind of mess up about "public figure" (from both you and from Righteous Orbs). You are not the same as a politician or a company boss. In this blog you only represent yourself, so go ahead and write what you want.

A politician (or other public figure) represents a lot more than himself alone, as a result he is to be expected to follow a higher standard, because when he sinks in shit it's not just him sinking, he's dragging down with him all the other people he represents.
For me, it's not about your *right* to express things in a particular way, it's about the weight those opinions carry. I find angry, ranty posts off-putting, as they suggest they have been written in the heat of the moment, rather than after careful reflection.

Ultimately, it depends what you want to achieve with your blog. Is it just a place to let off steam about things that annoy you, or a place to share your thoughts and shape the thinking of the community in a positive way.
"It is important to remember that a lot of us visit your blog exactly because you don't usually engage in screechy ranting and try to analyze topics from a little distance."

@goran, I agree with this.

@Tobold, of course you're allowed to rant, and of course you're human, and sometimes humans rant. I rant too. But IMO, the one problem I had with your latest rant about Wolfshead is that it seemed like personal attack when you mentioned about him being paid. So instead of talking about the topic of Wolfshead flipping sides, OR him thinking that Farmville is better than WoW, your entry's main purpose ended up being to insult/cheapshot him.

If it was your blog entry and someone commented and disagreed with you while adding the notion that you were paid, you'd probably censor that and delete such comment for personal attack.

I think that's what disappointed some people about that blog entry. Not that you aren't allowed to write whatever you want in your own blog, but I think people just generally don't expect such thing coming out from you, which is not right or wrong for either side. It just is.
It depends on what the goal is: A blogger (or talk radio host) who wants readers/listeners or advertising revenue is probably much better served with being combative, argumentative and infamous rather than thoughtful and reasoned.

Of course, calling Gevlon a sociopath does not seem particularly controversial or incorrect.
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Likely to be deleted...

It's not that I am telling you what to do...

You open discussions to be dissected by inviting comment. I personally thought your style was under the belt and uncivilised. I disagreed with you... it is your prerogative to delete those posts.

But it was a disagreement you deleted, not a dictate telling you what you can or can't do.

Your blog was once a cut above the rest.

However... reading your blog for the best part of possibly 4 years...


My prerogative.
But it was a disagreement you deleted, not a dictate telling you what you can or can't do.

Not true. Your comment in the other thread was deleted because you said that I shouldn't express my opinion about Wolfshead's post because "he didn't ask to be peer reviewed" by me.
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"Not true. Your comment in the other thread was deleted because you said that I shouldn't express my opinion about Wolfshead's post because "he didn't ask to be peer reviewed" by me."

In fact that isn't true. I found your wording harsh and unprofessional, hence the peer analogy. Aimed at someone who did not invite his article to be dissected here.

I believe your comment 'Bullshit' has it roots in what your blog readers posted here in creating your ire.

Hence finding the personal expletive attack on him more annoying.
There is a huge difference between disagreeing with some part of a post, or expressing the opinion that the whole post should not have been written.
Personal attacks are always stupid. There's no excuse.

And it seems that this is very personal to Tobold. He's written too many times about this being his blog and why he has the right to write whatever he wants.

Why anyone should dedicate so much effort to say the obvious is beyond my understanding.

Maybe it really is the need for drama.
I just can't tell what sort of comments you are looking for. You write as if you are genuinely upset when you receive criticism. Your reactions in the comments often come across to me as defensive and aggressive. I don't want to upset you. If you say what you are want from your readers, then I can try to deliver.

(If I've misunderstood your thoughts and intentions, then I apologise and hope that this comment is not contributing to the unfavourable climate. It can sometimes be hard for me to know people's intentions through writing.)
You said it best, you have a blog that gets a million visitors a year, you're entitled to your opinion. I can't stand Gevlon and said so in my blog. But my opinion doesnt carry the same weight.

My dad always says, "opinions are like assholes, everybody has one and most of them stink". Its YOUR blog, use it however you want to. If people take issue, they can stop reading. . .
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