Friday, March 09, 2007

Purging progressive blogger Robert McClelland from the PB-blogroll is arbitrary, draconian and unfair

I've got serious problem with the latest purge by the moderators of PB. I believe it's anti-progressive to purge a member on grounds of one or two comments which, when taken out of context, can be seen as anti-semitic.

This is what Psychols had to say (I couldn't have said it any better):

Blogging is possible because free speech is an entrenched right in Canada. As moderators you have an obligation to defend it

- not just against government intrusion but against the whims of political correctness. Disagree with Robert, take offense, scream your platitudes and congratulate yourselves on being defenders of “rightful thinking”. Say whatever you want, just try to resist the pressure to define progressive thinking and to ban bloggers who say things that offend you current sensibilities.


Here are some optional responses PB-moderators could have considered before removing Robert:

- Approach Robert (email/ blog) that you find his postings anti-semitic. Talk it out. The web is good for that, so is email.

- Warn him that PB doesn't find his postings kosher. That if he plans to make anti-semitic statements, he should do this at his own blog, not at the PB diaries.

- Take off the offensive comment.

- Lock him out of the PB diaries postings (login), so he won't be able to post on the PB site anymore; but as long his own blog postings are progressive and not explicitly anti-semitic/racial, you will keep carrying his blog on the blogroll.

But no, PB-moderators went for all or nothing. On or off? Let's vote. 5 to 1; off it is. Canada's progressive version of "you're with us or with the terrorists"; forget about nuance.

PB's removal of Robert is draconian. Removing him for a "tasteless" posting is a disproportional response. And just because the decision was made democratically, doesn't make it right. It's democracy abused. Not kosher, "sure as hell isn't 'progressive'".

Canada = Conservative + Authoritarian.
I do think Canadians have a tendency to react more repressive than, say the Dutch, probably due to the more conservative and authoritarian environment Canadians grew up in.

Studies have shown that people who have grown up in an abusive environment, are more likely to become the abuser themselves. This is how a Canadian “fetish for a repressive action” can be explained too. I want to back this up with a little story.

My wife is Canadian and we lived together in Holland for about two years (I've lived there all my life until we moved to Canada together almost 5 years ago). Once we were stopped by the police, about 200 metres from our home. Because I was in a hurry, I had forgotten to bring my drivers license (the Dutch don't have the nifty credit card licenses Canadians have). But I also wasn't wearing my seatbelt; again I was in a hurry and the store was only another 200 metres away.

When the policeman stopped me, he asked for my drivers license and insurance papers. I told him that I had forgotten my drivers license but that I was in walking distance of my home - "I can get it for you right now". He wouldn't have any of it. So I started to argue with him! My wife could not believe what she was getting into; arguing with authority? Because her Dutch is only limited she didn't understand the whole story... the policeman also wanted to fine me for not wearing a seatbelt.

Since this was going to be a really expensive trip, I lied. It told him I WAS wearing a seatbelt, and that I had taken the seatbelt off to show him the insurance papers (those were in the glove-compartment) knowing quite well the policeman had legally not a foot to stand on, because he was on his own and it was going to be his word against my wife's and mine. I ended up paying only for not having my drivers license on me, still an expensive little trip to the grocery store.

The gist of the story? In Holland people dare to speak up to authority (legit or not); in Canada people normally don't.

Hypocrisy
It's the hypocrisy of the PB-moderators that's hard for me to swallow. Yes, Robert should speak up to authority (the Germans) when Jews (or "fags", "sickos" or anyone else who was put into concentration camps by the Third Reich regime) were being purged; not speaking up is considered morally wrong. But when Robert does speak up to authority (PB moderators), unwilling to apologize for a statement he believes is falsely labeled anti-semitic, then PB moderators punish him by removing him from the blogroll. Demanding from him to speak out in 1943 for injustice, but demanding an apology for speaking out 2007 is hypocritical, and the reaction of taking him off the blogroll is called repressive, not progressive.

I AM speaking up, not for myself, but for Robert: "WHAT A SHAME". And I'm truly disappointed in the greater Progressive Bloggers community for not speaking out. Aren't there about 300 people subscribed to PB? I've only heard from a handful.

Inconsistent
Scott, the "The Progressive Bloggers moderation team has voted to remove My Blahg from the blogroll by a 5-1 vote. The decision is final" is authoritarian and repressive, definitely not progressive. I demand that you apologize for citing this; if not, should Scott be purged now?

And "to now be hearing from a very few blogs that we're a bunch of authoritarian ideologues at the site" isn't progressive reasoning either. You know just as well as I, that the opinion of a few can be morally superior to the opinion of the majority; democracy has its flaws. And yes, taking repressive actions is authoritarian.

With regard to the WWII, I wonder what your family, Scott, would have done when they started purging "the Jews". Of course, speaking out ("what a shame") was the right thing to do...but also naive. I've visited several concentration camps in Holland (Westerbork) and France since I was a child; trust me, concentration camps where not the place you or your family would like to literally end up in. And sharing your opinion too freely (muster the "what a shame") would often have meant a guaranteed free trip to Auschwitz. As a matter of fact, the majority of the people (with Jewish neighbours) were NOT able to muster a “what a shame”; they were too afraid...

Dr. Dawg, it is in this light (as described above, imposing on the nuance), that you should be able to see the difference between what Robert said:

When next they come for the Jews I doubt I’ll even be able to muster up a “what a shame”

and what you said:

“If “freedom of expression” is the issue, let me say unequivocally that no one is urging that Robert’s site be shut down. He’s as free as he’s always been to say anything he likes. But he doesn’t get to be on our progressive blogroll if he’s going to defend a vile comment about not giving a crap if they start rounding up Jews. Period. And if you don’t like it, start your own blogroll. No one’s stopping you

People who mustered "what a shame" paid for it, big time. Dr. Dawg, I find your characterization of Robert's comments defamatory. I demand an apology; should Dr. Dawg be purged now?

Scott has already explained that he doesn't think Robert is an anti-semite, but your comments (Dr. Dawg) make me think you are not so sure. Call Robert tasteless, indifferent, even disguisting, but do you dare to call Robert an anti-semite?

When they come for the Jews I've got no clue if I will be able to muster up a "what a shame"; I’m not planning to apologize; am I going to be purged now?

Jason Cherniak recently called the Jew Noam Chomsky a Holocaust denier (Chomsky clearly isn't). Making defamatory statements about a Jew is anti-semitic; Jason didn’t apologize. Why was Jason not purged?

It is inconsistent to purge Robert McClelland, but not Jason Cherniak. Both made statements that can be conceived as anti-semitic, none of them have apologized.

I'm truly sorry about the actions taken against Robert McClelland, one of our fellow progressive bloggers. I realize some of his postings can be conceived as tasteless, indifferent, even anti-semitic. But part of it is his style, and, when it comes to anti-semitism, some of his remarks were (purposely?) taken out of the necessary context, causing the latest witch hunt.

The response to purge him from the blogroll was inconsistent, draconian, and unfair; there is no reason to single him out.

To apologize or not
I personally don't feel the need for apologies. This is the blogosphere; writers use free speech (an “entrenched right in Canada”) to express their opinions. It’s repressive to insist on an apology for offensive comments, not progressive.

“As moderators you have an obligation to defend [free speech]”, not to suppress it.

Progressive bloggers, we've got to stand up for one another. I ask the PB-moderators to consider putting Robert back on the blogroll, I HOPE OTHERS WILL DO THE SAME. It is not fair to punish Robert any longer for his unwillingness to apologize for a statement he believes is falsely labeled anti-semitic. His opinions are appreciated by many, and, most importantly, progressive.



15 comments:

janfromthebruce said...

I too would like the progressive bloggers to reconsider their decision.

Erik Abbink said...

Thank you Jan. I hope more ProgBloggers will speak up, either by
- responding here
- posting a message on their on blog
- or sending an email to the progblog team (email at the bottom left of the PB website)

audacious said...

i agree, it was the wrong decision to remove Robert from the progressive blogrol.

Erik Abbink said...

Thank you, Audacious.

Mike said...

As the one only guy defending Robert over at Cherniak's place that day, I must agree. I thought Robert's comments were tasteless and disgusting. But no more tasteless and disgusting as Cherniak using an accusation of anti-semitism to attack and smear a political opponent (not to mention Chomski).

If Robert goes, so should that Liberal aparachik Cherniak.

Erik Abbink said...

Thank you, Mike. I couldn't agree more.

Jason is not progressive AND makes anti-semitic comments.

He should have gone long before anyone else.

Scott Tribe said...

You're free to express your opinions as always, but the decision has been made and will not be reversed at this time.

I will say this - It was told to Robert this ban was indefinite, not permanent, and if he wishes to re-apply for affiliation in a year's time, we'll review (and at subsequent times thereafter if rejected and he wishes to re-apply thereafter).

That is my final thought on the matter.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

For the sake of argument, I'll agree that Robert is not an anti-semite. For the sake of argument, I'll agree that his stated indifference to the renewed rounding up of the Jews is not anti-semitic. However, no one will ever convince me that indifference to the rounding up of a people based upon their religion and/or ethnicity is anything short of a morally repugnant stance. So, while I respect, and would defend, Robert's right to take a morally repugnant stance, and publish it on his blog, I have no problem with the Progressive Bloggers moderators deciding they don't want someone making such a morally reprehensible and indefensible comment to be associated with their blogroll.

I'm also shocked to see someone else write "When they come for the Jews I've got no clue if I will be able to muster up a 'what a shame'". It's a thoroughly disgusting comment. That one would be unsure whether or not they would intervene as they watched their Jewish neighbours being led away is a scary thought, though perhaps understandable. That you're not sure you could even mutter "what a shame" as they're led away is shocking, and reprehensible.

Shame on you.

Psychols said...

I'm pleased that you have continued to post on this Erik.

We may not manage to have this decision reversed, but if a few of us express our disagreement it may encourage the moderators to take a more progressive and considered approach in the future.

Erik Abbink said...

Scott:
Thanks for your reaction.

Lord Kitchener:
no one will ever convince me that indifference to the rounding up of a people based upon their religion and/or ethnicity is anything short of a morally repugnant stance.

I completely agree.

That one would be unsure whether or not they would intervene as they watched their Jewish neighbours being led away is a scary thought, though perhaps understandable.

I respectfully disagree. Reason given in post, namely fear. I have no clue to how I would react under WWII pressures of possibly loosing my own life, and maybe those of my beloved once. History has shown most people will not speak up.

For the record, I would definitely THINK "what a shame", let there be no doubt about that; I'm not an anti-semite.

Psychols; thank you for leaving a comment. I hope you didn't mind me paraphrasing part of your post. I envy your use of the English language....

Erik Abbink said...

I obviously quoted the wrong part:

That you're not sure you could even mutter "what a shame" as they're led away is shocking, and reprehensible.

I respectfully disagree. Reason given in post, namely fear. I have no clue to how I would react under WWII pressures of possibly loosing my own life, and maybe those of my beloved once. History has shown most people will not speak up.

For the record, I would definitely THINK "what a shame", let there be no doubt about that; I'm not an anti-semite.

(thank God for Ctrl+c and Ctrl+v)

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I agree that many would not speak up. My contnetion is simply that Robert's comment, to me, went well beyond that.

Robert didn't say he doubted he'd intervene (sad, but totally understandable). Robert didn't say he doubted he'd speak up (sadder, but still understandable given fear etc...). Robert said he doubted "he'd even be able to muster a "what a shame". The equivalent of shaking one's head and sighing. He doubts he'd even be a be to do that much. That level of indifference to the rounding up of Jews just goes too far for me. It's more than just inaction via fear. It's outright indifference. I think it's something very different.

Erik Abbink said...

Robert said he doubted "he'd even be able to muster a "what a shame". The equivalent of shaking one's head and sighing.

That (equivalent of shaking one's head and sighing) is your interpretation.

Dr. Dawg's interpretation was as follows:
Well, if you're not even sure you'll be able to say"what a shame" as you sit back and watch your neighbours being led away, how is that different from not giving a crap?

Everybody is entitled to their own interpretation.

I do think the more interesting part of your comment is the issue of indifference. There you might (and just might) be able to change my opinion and pull be over the line of where free speech stops and outright discrimination/anti-semitism starts. Sofar nobody has done this yet. I welcome a reply.

Psychols said...

Hi Erik.

I quoted a few lines from this blog post and linked to it in my latest post. I hope that is OK with you.

Psychols (Paul)

Erik Abbink said...

No problem for using my posting ideas; that's what progressive blogging is all about!

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