Friends with Blue Pencils - January 2011
I have a friend who has violently different politics to mine. We all have such friends I imagine unless we live in a very sheltered corner of the world. For the third time today he deleted a comment that I made in response to a post of his on Facebook. I just happened to notice that the comment had disappeared, because amongst the many irritating messages these networking sites send you, there isn't one to inform you when your comment has been deleted.
Now of course I could have been posting abusive and offensive material, and you'd be fair to delete that, but this wasn't that sort of comment at all. In fact my comments were in response to a post that I found offensive. It made me wonder, are we really in such an open world of free communication as we think? My politics have been soundly on the Right for all my adult life: yet many, if not most of my friends sit firmly on the Left of the political spectrum. That makes for lively dinners and sparky evenings in the pub. I respect my friends' views, even where I profoundly disagree with them.
When an item appears in the press that get us excited, emotional, angry, or just makes us laugh, we now feel it appropriate to post on-line links to the article and add our own comments. But how many of the comments that get added do we get to see?
I have written thought-out comments to many articles that have irritated me (mostly in the Daily Mail), and to stories on the BBC News website. Many of them never see the light of day. On other occasions they get picked up and run as news stories, such as my comments on MPs' pay that were written as a 'comment' on a web page and subsequently to my surprise appeared as a letter in the Evening Standard and Metro.
Who makes those decisions? And by what criteria do they judge them? What proportion of the comments posted on news sites, and on Facebook get deleted by their owners or by the proprietors?
If I post a political link on Facebook (which I have been known to do), I expect the full range of comment and argument (and corrections when I'm wrong) to appear as a matter of course. They usually do. Sadly it seems some don't feel as I do, and our new world of communication and debate is the poorer for that.
Of course, I'm on the Right and therefore believe in freedom of speech...
(That should get you going)...