Most all of us out here in the Big PX cherish the First Amendment, perhaps even more so when it's under attack by the government, the Tediously Moral crowd, or other miscreants. And some of us have even figured out that freedom of the press, generally, belongs first and foremost to the guy who owns the press. No particular problem so far. On the other hand, two separate issues have cropped up in my back yard, and while they're essentially identical at the core, they've elicited totally different reactions from me, which makes me wonder if maybe I'm missing a nuance here or there.

My usual chat haunt is located on one of those antediluvian services which has a reputation for censorship. This would seem to be a step backwards, but I figure I'm probably smart enough to word things well enough to sneak them past the powers that be, or whatever artificial intelligence (or natural stupidity) they choose to employ. Enforcement has been stepped up in recent weeks, or so it seems, which has inflamed passions already overheated for other reasons, and vast (well, half-vast) numbers of people are getting their access suspended for testing the channel robot's mettle. "We're paying twenty bucks a month for this?" they wail. Well, they could always pay it to someone else who doesn't have a CensorBot to deploy. I'm not sure whether to be annoyed at the service, for inflicting this device upon us, or at my friends, for behaving in a manner I thought I had outgrown at 13, or at least at 43.

A hundred and eighty degrees away, but obviously still on the same line, my employer provides a message board on the corporate Web site. The level of moderation is, shall we say, highly variable: any new posting is scrutinized when it's submitted, but follow-ups are generally only checked after the fact. This has led a number of individuals to try their luck at retreating to verbal adolescence, which is infuriating a few of the other posters and, worse yet, now starting to annoy the boss. Now, it's his Web site — it has his name on it, for crying out loud — and he can do what he wants with it, including expunging the entire message board if he so desires. For some reason, I am almost gleeful at this prospect, and I'm not entirely sure why. It would certainly save me a couple of minutes of work each day — which, out of the usual ten hours, is insignificant. Is it just that I don't have any kind of bond with the board posters? Do I resent their freedom to be juvenile? Consistency certainly isn't the hobgoblin of this small mind.

The Vent

1 April 1999

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