Free Speech in the WoW-Blogosphere
Me: Oh hei! I started a WoW blog! I’m not very daring though and I’m pretty politically correct.
Friend: No, if you want to be a blogger, you have be loud! And opinionated!
Me: Ah, but the WoW blogging community is pretty mellow.
Believe it or not, the outline for this post had actually been rotting in my draft bin for some time. I think the recent outburst in the WoW blogosphere had been quietly brewing for awhile. What got me thinking of our extend of free speech as WoW bloggers was actually a post by Daraxxus on Guild Ethics. A post that troubled me quite a bit.
My stance on people getting offended by what I write is…..if you dont like it you can either
a) Not read it
b) Go eat a big fat bowl of dick
The whole post is definitely worth reading and it was more thought provoking to me than any of the more, um, classy posts that had appeared on that topic over the past week.
I’m a very ethical blogger. For the most part. Not because I’m afraid of getting slandered (yes, I was terrified when I first started blogging, but after watching and hearing what the Wow.com writers go through, I got over the fear of having rocks thrown at me pretty fast), but because that’s just who I am as a person. I’m careful when I write about my guild, not because I fear a /gkick, but because I don’t think being a bitch on my blog is the most efficient way to deal with in-game conflict. Honesty, respect and looking at both sides of the story are values important to me in all aspects of my life.
Should I expect other bloggers to follow the rules I impose on myself?
By the light, no!
Who the hell am I to tell others what’s appropriate and inappropriate content? Just because certain values are important to me doesn’t mean they’re important to everyone else. Saying my code of ethics is better than someone elses would be awfully arrogant of me. I’ll admit I can be a goodie-goodie, but there are limits.
Besides, if everyone wrote like me, the blogging world would be a pretty dull place. I stick to a cautious style myself, but I can assure you that I devour exuberant blog posts as much as the next person. I won’t blogroll a blog that I judge unethical (yes, I know I link to Paladin Schmaladin, but Ferraro has behaved for quite some time now and there’s just too much good information on the site to pass up), but I’ll still read it.
Over the weekend, a discussion stirred up on Blog Azeroth. A discussion that covered respect among bloggers, free speech as bloggers and tricks in dealing with criticism and trolls. There’s a lot in that thread to ponder and I encourage anyone interested by the topic to read it (and join in if you have anything to add). For the purpose of this post, though, I’m only going to quote Bellwether’s words:
It has been said to me many times that the WoW blogosphere is a stagnant community because all we, as bloggers, give or get are pats on the back to each other. You very rarely see people taken to task for misinformation or something just plain wrong, and those who do become a sort of pariah for rocking the boat.
As much of a “OMG-lets-all-love-each-other-and-be-happy-friends” blogger that I am, I have to agree with this statement. I’ve seen the WoW blogging community compared to a “circle jerk” before. When I correct another blogger on a mistake their in post, I even feel bad. It shouldn’t be like that.
So where are our limits?
As bloggers, we have two kinds of limits:
1) Legal limits
2) Our own limits.
In other words, a blogger who writes about making bombs and plans school shootings will probably not have a long blogging career.
Beyond that? There’s not really any right or wrong.
But even though there’s no real right or wrong, there are still consequences to what we write.
If someone wants to write a blog about how women suck at WoW, they’re very much in their right. But I don’t expect they’ll make a lot of friends. Same goes for someone who makes a blog dedicated to bashing other bloggers. They’re allowed to, but they’ll get the pleasure of a new hole in themselves pretty quickly.
The issue of plagiarism is a different one, one that I don’t really want to go into in this post. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of power over this. Yes, there are creative licenses and copyright stuff, but since there’s rarely money involved, I question how legally binding they are. There’s nothing more insulting than someone stealing your work, but I really wonder how much credibility I would get if I complained to a court that “X copied my WoW guide!”
Do larger bloggers have more responsibility than smallers bloggers?
You can’t argue with the fact that a larger blogger will influence more people than a smaller blogger. As Tam reported, if Gevlon decided to criticize me tomorrow, I can expect to wake up to pages and pages of mouthy wannabe goblin comments.
As Larisa puts eloquently:
The Swedish author Astrid Lindgren wrote in her book about the red haired super power girl Pippi Longstocking, that if you’re very strong you also need to be very kind.
We who are into this blogging business need to consider this from time to time. You may feel fragile and powerless as you’re ranting your heart out, sharing your burdens, but the posts can have much further impact to our guildies and closest game friends, than you ever intended. We who master the language have a certain advantage over others,which is easy to forget. Remember, we’re dealing with real people, not avatars.
This is very true.
Yet is there a rule saying larger bloggers mustbe more tactful than a smaller blogger?
However, since a large blogger will have a stronger impact than a smaller blogger, the consequences the larger blogger will face will be more than what a smaller blogger will face.The large blogger has far more to lose in terms of credibility, readers and respect.
Whether or not they want to sacrifice their credibility, readers and respect is still left to their own discretion.
One thing that I found very interesting this week was that many of those who were especially critical of Anna’s post on RP Griefing are among those who approved of Kurn’s attacks on Chase Christian (she also takes him on some more here and here). Both women wrote aggressive posts. Yet Kurn’s status as a smaller blogger criticizing a larger blogger made her somewhat of a hero while Anna’s as a large blogger critcizing a smaller blogger had her ostracized across the blogosphere.
Should newer bloggers be handled with more care?
I remember the first time a larger blog mentioned me. (And no, it wasn’t Wow.com, The Daily Quest doesn’t like me for some reason QQ.) I freaked out. My head spinned and I had nightmares.
And that blog was complimenting me. Had the attention been negative, I probably would have never touched the internet again in my life.
But is there a rule saying to be gentle to new bloggers?
Again, it’s up to personal discretion. I would hope that the majority of human beings would have it in their heart to be considerate in dealing with someone who doesn’t yet have the confidence, experience and social network to cope well the, um, “darker side” of being a public figure. (Because yes, whether you have 3 readers or 10000, a public blog makes you somewhat of public figure.) But no has to cater to another’s sensitivities. Barring legal restriction, the blogging world is fair game.
Separating the blog from the blogger
Let’s take my two fake nasty blog examples, the anti-woman blog and the anti-other blogger blog.
I’m a moderator at Blog Azeroth and I feel very strongly about the site. If those two bloggers introduced themselves there and wanted to join the community, would I greet them the same way I would greet anyone else?
Would I tolerate sexist or disrespectful remarks on the forums?
I would not.
Blog Azeroth has strict rules concerning the positive and supportive atmosphere on the forums. Discussions are meant to be constructive and mature. What goes on in member’s blogs is a different game.
Note that this is my own personal stance and the other mods at BA probably do not share my views about blog content!
Byaghro wrote a very well though-out post about Blogging and Social Responsibilities. While I do not agree with overall message, his points are definitely something every blogger who cares about “blogging ethics” should consider.
One thing that I would like to argue is this:
We have defined ourselves as a community. As a group of people with a common interest whose goal is to benefit both the residents of our community and our visitors.To be completely honest, I am appalled to think my name could, in any way, be associated with the “community” after seeing the interaction surrounding the incident that prompted this post.
Thing is, controversy does benefit the community.
The events of the past week, while most likely nightmarish for all those involved, have contributed to enriching the community. So many of us sat down and thought about our personal limits, our definitions of respect, our own blogging ethics and the consequences of our actions.
My two fake nasty blogger examples, do have something to contribute to the community. Discussion, entertainment(!), even friendship between those banding together against the “nasty bloggers” come from those bad apples.
How often do bloggers mention Gevlon in their posts?
All. The. Time.
Our cold, tactless resident goblin does not take part in the WoW blogging “circle jerk”. Yet, in spite of himself, he’s brought a lot to the community in challenging our ways of thinking about ourselves, about our gaming habits and about our relationships with other players.
Of course, if everyone wrote nasty, scandalous posts and took full advantage of their right to free speech all the time, the blogosphere wouldn’t be inviting at all to new bloggers. But that’s not the case. Out of fear, out of personal morals, out of the love of blogging and love of fellow bloggers, the majority of us have set high standards as to how we write in our blogs. Even though we’re a pretty crazy bunch and sometimes get into heated debates, the majority of our interactions are positive and are more than enough to compensate for the less pleasant moments.
Blogging about bloggers vs blogging about guilds
We discovered a couple of weeks ago that many bloggers use their blogs as a form of therapy to help them cope with, um, unpleasant guild experiences. Many of those bloggers hide their blogs from said guilds or share Darraxus’s “let them eat cock” attitude. Some bloggers are ruthless when speaking of guildies or former guildies. However, most of the time, that doesn’t create much of a wave.
Is there a difference in blogging about a fellow blogger vs a guildie?
There’s the obvious, when you blog about someone who doesn’t know they’re being blogged about or can’t really do much to defend themselves (guildie), it’s usually inconsequential. When you blog about a blogger, someone who will know you’re writing about them and who has the power to reply, or send their army of friends onto you, you’re going to get a lot more on your plate. (BTW, TJ’s comment handling in that post should be required reading to all new bloggers. I loved TJ before, but her skill and patience here has earned her my endless adoration.)
Beyond the cowardliness factor, there’s, as Byaghro pointed out in the post of his I linked above, a sense of community between bloggers. Attack a blogger and you’re attacking one of your own.
But as I see it, we’re all human beings here. Attack someone, anyone and you’re attacking one of your own.
We’re all human beings here
I can’t say it enough. Big blogger, small blogger, guildie without a blog, random guy who doesn’t even play WoW, we’re all human beings.
I believe in free speech. I may disagree with someone speaking their mind (or blatantly making up stuff to provoke a reaction), but I won’t blame them for it. They have the right to their own rules of what’s right and wrong, just like I have the right to mine. If someone wants to tear a new hole in me for something I’ve written at any point, I won’t hold it against them. Oh, my feelings will be hurt and I’ll run crying to my more experienced blogging friends for flattery and consolation. I’ll be hurt but not angry.
I believe in free speech and if I’m ever caught saying “this blogger is wrong for writing it like that!” and the issue at hand is not a factual mistake, illegal or plagiarism, I hope someone corrects me.
That said, I will not go around promoting bloggers who have a set of values too different from my own when it comes to writing. Just because I accept it doesn’t mean I’ll openly encourage it. That is my decision and how I exercise my freedom of speech. If you don’t like it, you can go eat a big fat bowl of dicks.
ps. Sorry if this post screws up your feedreader, I’ve editted it a million times to correct my bad spelling.