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March 24, 2006


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A speech act, or blog intervention, is contingent and contextual, and that contingency and context are, in the moment of the articulation, indeterminate. Why attempt to regulate it in advance, when, as Zizek said about the romantic advance, it is only retroactively that it finds its determination and evaluation?


I don't see it as regulation or even self-censoring, but that if you are going to post a comment, you should be willing to defend it.

There is no doubt that when we express ourselves about things we care about we will use language that not only others will find offensive, but will in fact actually offend others.

If that is the intention - well that's a different matter - but when it happens and you have some respect for the site - you have an ethical duty to defend your statement - even if upon further reflection you find the comment was inappropriate. More likely, you are given the opportunity to provide more context so that perhaps it wasn't intended as offense.

I don't think that "I was making a joke" really cuts it as an explanation - even if one WAS trying to make a joke.

We are not talking about physical confrontations here - but among people who feel that language is important and is a means for political change, if you don't take it seriously you probably should go elsewhere.


Jodi, thanks for the neat post. Oh, and thanks for the neat conversation on the Zizek piece. I think the variables you note here are important, we neeed to be savvy about the kind of practices in which we engage when communicating with others. Pejoratives, insults, slurs, abusive and harrassing language might very well be signs of autonomy, but at what cost to others? I worry about the issue of intent. It is by no means clean or clear cut. There are some things that we might not intend to say -- we might be on autopilot, or rage renders us dumb... but we can't explain those away. They require that we look deeply at what lies beneath and what prompts our even returning to such primordial understandings. Arguments for lack-of-intent, and for autonomy, seem strangely removed from the other. I can't help but think of the person who told me that Bill Bennett's statements on aborting black babies was not racist, and that one had to intend to be racist for statements to count as racism. Ludicrous, and a strong renunciation of the other.

In one of my blogs a person started with abusive, threatening, and insulting language directed at me over pretty much nothing. After he attempted to spam the entry with more of that I banned him, and unpublished his comments. There was no apology on his part. He figures I need to apologize. I could have left the comments up for folks to see, because ultimately he was hanging himself, but my own practice tells me that I need not add fuel to the fire, that I need not respond in kind, and that I ought to try to take the path that will cause the least suffering.




Pe Bird and Nate: thanks. I agree. I think that the regulation provided by norms in this bloggy environment is important; it's also often contested and that is good as well. I don't get why people see any objections as irrational policing or why there is something suspect in following norms. In part this post was my reflecting on an exchange elsewhere where Anthony Paul Smith called someone various unattractive names. I was impressed by his willingness to defend his use of these terms. He didn't say he was joking (not a defense). Rather, he took full responsibility. I admire that.

Anthony Paul Smith

Thank you.

hysterical blackness

I've been away from responding for a bit -- teaching, still preparing for a conference, etc. I'm not caught up but I appreciate this thread. This (constitution of blogging "communities" and offensive posts, discussion norms and threats in the blogsphere, etc) is cropping up a lot. I'm new to blogging and I'm not surprised exactly but I find some of it puzzling.

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