BoingBoing: It’s our blog, and our rules

by Mathew on July 3, 2008 · 11 comments

It’s an old-media adage that if you can find three things that are similar, you have a trend on your hands, and can therefore write a big feature on the rise of the “hand-washing” trend or the “shoe-tying” trend. Well, after the Loren-Israel grudge match and the Jakob Lodwick flame war, we recently got the third in a spate of blogosphere bitchmemes: BoingBoing, the counter-cultural tour de force blog run by Cory Doctorow, Xeni Jardin and the rest of the Happy Mutant gang, came under fire recently for deleting any trace of the sex blogger Violet Blue.

Why did the Boingers do this? No one is saying. Violet doesn’t seem to have any clue, unless she’s being coy. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with something she wrote, or anything she can remember doing, although theories abound about personal relationships getting in the way of a continued relationship with BoingBoing. So what, you might ask? Well, one of the things that makes this spat a bit more interesting is the fact that Cory Doctorow is a prominent free-speech advocate and former Electronic Frontier Foundation staffer. And the site didn’t just remove some posts about or by Violet — it went back through the archives and deleted any reference to her whatsoever.

As more than one blogger has pointed out, this is more than a little at odds with Cory’s views on speech, and the BoingBoingers’ response that “it’s our blog and we get to do what we want” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement filled with logical consistency. Even some of the BoingBoing gang seem to have come to the conclusion that they may have erred badly in the way they approached the issue, although it’s still not clear whether they feel that the error was in deleting Violet or in talking about it and allowing people to comment on the post.

In any case, it’s true that BoingBoing isn’t the New York Times, and doesn’t have any legal or (arguably) moral duty to abide by any media rules. At the same time, however, what they have done does smack of censorship, and that’s not something we’ve come to associate BoingBoing with — or blogs in general for that matter. The BoingBoing team talks with the LA Times about what it has learned from the ordeal, and the central question is an interesting one: to what extent does a blog (or publication) like BoingBoing owe something to its users or readers or “community” when something like this happens?

Update:

The New York Times has a piece looking at the Violet Blue affair, and has some comments from Violet and Xeni Jardin.

  • http://sparkplug9.com johnkoetsier

    Very, very, very, unclassy move by the BB people. Unimpressive, considering that they should know better.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I agree, John. Some of the rhetoric about Orwell and 1984 and so on
    is over the top, but at the same time it's an important issue I think.
    Reading between the lines, it sounds like Xeni decided she didn't
    want to give Violet any link love any more, and removed the posts
    without really thinking about it, and now the entire team is caught up
    in the crapstorm.

  • http://ericrice.com Eric Rice

    And to think, the less they talk, the more talk. I would think that lesson would have been learned by now.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Indeed, Eric — it seems like we've been learning that one over and
    over for quite awhile now :-)

  • bbluesman

    Why do I hear refrains of Cyndi Lauper's,”money changes everything” in my head as I read this post? Not saying I can't appreciate economic pressures or reality. Tough when you stand on that soapbox, it's narrower than the proverbial “painted corner.”

  • Earl E Morningwood

    I wonder how much traffic both BB and Violet Blue are getting over this tempest in a tea cup. Must be a slow news day with Britney sobering up. :D

  • http://joeduck.wordpress.com JoeDuck

    BoingBoing isn’t the New York Times

    Thank you Matt for this important reminder. I sure hope I don't confuse these two bastions of journalistic integrity ever again.

    Blogging standards are starting to look like Google's don't be evil standard = what is right is whatever we say is right.

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  • http://realtech.burningbird.net Shelley

    “Thank you Matt for this important reminder. I sure hope I don't confuse these two bastions of journalistic integrity ever again.”

    +1 to the Duck

  • http://realtech.burningbird.net Shelley

    “Thank you Matt for this important reminder. I sure hope I don't confuse these two bastions of journalistic integrity ever again.”

    +1 to the Duck

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