Civil, well-focused, and on-topic discussion is sometimes difficult to achieve in a community forum like Open Salon. There aren't a lot of tools to work with, so one has to make do with what one has.
If one deletes another's comments, one is open to criticism that censorship has occurred. And yet, the fact remains that under ordinary societal convention, people routinely accept that there is a proper time and place for making certain remarks, and that it's socially unacceptable to exceed such bounds. Even the Supreme Court has said that time and manner restrictions are appropriate to apply without running afoul of the First Amendment.
About the First Amendment
Of course, the First Amendment is a right of an individual that may be applied against the government, not against other citizens. That is, the government can't shut down speech it doesn't like, but, strictly speaking, individuals can shut each other down, at least without implicating the First Amendment. There may be other legal protections they have to watch out for, of course, but basically ordinary people need not concern themselves with the question of violating another's First Amendment rights unless those ordinary people are acting in a governmental capacity, abusing the power of the government to control speech.
Frankly, I'll even admit there are days where I think the First Amendment is not strong enough, because some non-governmental organizations, particularly media monopolies (or near-monopolies), have such broad power to stifle speech on a systematic basis in a non-appealable way that they can impede what I see as the supervening moral right to the First Amendment, the Freedom to Hear. So I don't really mind seeing a robust dialog under the heading of First Amendment rights when talking about media empires, even though I think it's often not the right way of framing the discussion.
But I'm not a government nor a media monopoly. Not even close. So my calling for some orderliness in my blog, even at the risk that my rationales may be subjective at times, is not at risk of violating anyone's ability to speak. But to keep my hands unambiguously clean on the question of suppressing speach, I've devised a mechanism to make it unambiguous that my goal is not to suppress speech, merely to control its placement.
For a while now, I've wondered what I would do if someone took over one of my threads or started to use so much airtime that I thought it would be distracting to the topic I had opened the thread to discuss. This is my answer: The Cornfield.
I've based the idea loosely based on a Twilight Zone episode called “It's a Good Life.” In it, six-year-old Anthony Freemont, played by then child actor Billy Mumy, was an out-of-control kid with a special power to make people and things he didn't like simply vanish to a vaguely described place he calls “The Cornfield.”
So I'm going to have something like that, too—a place to move text I don't think belongs without deleting it, just to get it out of the way.
If you carry the metaphor fully through, that makes me the capricious child whose parents won't tell him no. Well, all metaphors have a breaking point. Metaphors are not identities. This is a pet peeve of mine in the analysis people frequently offer. They are offered for the purpose of showing structural similarity, and often have legitimate reasons for not matching on a point-by-point basis. Still, I'm comfortable if someone feels an uncontrollable urge to view me this way. I think the facts will speak for themselves. I just thought I'd steal their thunder by saying I did think of this and I use the metaphor advisedly.
To me, the critical thing is that The Cornfield described in the Twilight Zone episode is not supposed to be about people dying. It is simply about movement to “elsewhere.” And that's what I'm doing. He does it because he can. And I am doing it because I can. I'm tired of being powerless.
Incidentally, several decades later there was a sequel made to this episode, It's Still a Good Life. It stars Billy Mumy and Cloris Leachman, reprising their roles. Many people missed it. It's worth seeing.
How it Works
As noted, if I think you've posted something that's out of place, I'm going to put it in a Cornfield of my own. I've already posted a blog post titled “The Cornfield.” It's not my most recent blog. I'll keep adding to that one, not making new ones. So it won't get promoted. My goal, after all, is not to feature what goes there. It's just to have a place to dump stuff.
Sometimes I feel like people who are pushy in conversations are just daring me to delete their stuff, so I can be accused of censorship. It should be obvious to anyone that since I'm only moving text to another location, I've not deleted it. So the term censorship will definitely not apply.
Moreover, this is a victory for transparency. You can easily see what I've done and complain to me if you think I've done it unfairly. I am, if you'll pardon the momentary corniness, all ears. But just please do your complaining in private mail, or in a blog post of your own. Meta discussion about my cornfield policy is off-topic on any thread not designated specifically for the purpose. It's fine to discuss generic policy here, for example, but not to later complain about specific incidents. Violaters may find themselves in The Cornfield along with those they sought to defend.
In doing this, I have accommodated my view about the Freedom to Hear of my readers. Readers interested in text that moves to The Cornfield can still find it. All I've done is assure that someone else's freedom to speak on my blog doesn't outweigh my own right to speak.
If you want something better than what I'm offering, go write it in a blog post of your own.
The Cornfield is now open for business.
If you got value from this post, please "rate" it.
Please, if you mention me in some public criticism, I'd ask that you spell my name correctly. The extra “t” you're tempted to put inappropriately in my last name goes at the end of my first name, where you're probably tempted to forget it. If you're going to criticize me, you'll want people searching to be able to find it. Thanks!