What the Class of 2011 Knows
An Elder Morning Slob Routine

Blogs Are Little First Amendment Machines

Long before someone came up with the phrase "social media", blogs were doing it. The essence of blogging is connections, links to people and information we want to pass along to readers and links to other blogs we believe readers will enjoy.

In April, when I posted the criteria I use in choosing blogs for the Elderbloggers list (now posted permanently on the About page), I caught a bit of flak for mentioning that I don’t link to far right-wing political blogs nor to blogs the purpose of which is to support the Bush administration.

This came to mind again last week when I posted about updating the Elderbloggers List. Tamar of Only Connect left, in part, this comment:

“As for your criteria, I thought long and hard about the item on far right-wing politics and Bush administration supporters. I even drafted a comment. Yet because I respect you and the TGB community so much I thought extra hard before posting it. And then didn't — because others covered the gist of my thinking and it is your blog. You get to make decisions (and change them if you want).”

I have wondered if and how Tamar’s last sentence could ever be in question – about any blog. People who run topic blogs generally link to other blogs related to that subject matter. People who write personal blogs link to blogs they like on many subjects and often, to blogs that link to them.

Most never bother to state their criteria for the links on their blogrolls and I would not have mentioned mine except that some readers ask.

Those who objected to my political link choices (or non-choices) said that I am being discriminatory and that since the U.S. is “based on equal rights”, I should link to other points of view.

It is too easy to argue these days, given the shredding of our Constitution over the past six-plus years, that if the U.S. ever was based on equal rights it is not anymore. But so far, we have not been deprived of our individual right to support the points of view we believe in and oppose those we do not unless we are attending (a speech given by President Bush or try to hold an anti-Iraq War press conference in Lafayette Square).

What concerns me about those who argue that my blogroll or any blogroll should link to other points of view is this: how far should this idea be taken? Should I restore the link I removed a couple of years ago because the writer made anti-Semitic statements? What about the link I deleted to a blogger who used an anti-Arab slur?

There are a couple of well-produced, well-written elderblogs that espouse white supremacy. Although I disagree, should I link to those? I don’t write about it on this blog, but I support abortion rights and oppose the death penalty. Now that I’ve mentioned those, am I obligated to link to elderbloggers who oppose my positions? And while I’m asking, is it discriminatory to not include people younger than 50 on my blogroll?

Down at the bottom of the left sidebar, there is a link to the Electronic Frontier Foundation with a quote I heard from Jay Rosen of PressThink at the first Blogher conference in 2005: “Blogs are little First Amendment machines.” I know that Amendment by heart:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In explaining that bolded phrase, people have traditionally quoted Voltaire: “I may not agree with what you say, but I defend to my death your right to say it.”

And so it is at Time Goes by: I express my opinions here through writing and, sometimes, through my choice of links and so do readers in the comments. Is that not true for all our blogs?

[For those of us who like to play with words, at The Elder Storytelling Place today, Paul Henry - the Old Professor - holds forth on the vagaries of English idioms in Corn On and Off the Cob.]

Comments

Well, I'll tell you what. My blog is like my home. I link to what I like. Even if you've taken up the cause of elders, you're perfectly entitled not to support the ones whose opinion you don't like. I'm writing this real fast, without doing much thinking about it, except that I've had the problem come up on my French blog, with people writing bigoted and racist comments. I didn't leave them on my blog. I let people disagree as long as they remain polite and don't behave like bigots.
And I would certainly not link to them.

Like Claude, I feel that my blog is my online home and, furthermore, therefore I am responsible for its content. If I don't allow it in my living room, it isn't appearing on my blog. I can agree to disagree with most people but, like anyone, I have my limits of tolerance.

My dear departed daddy always said opinions are like belly buttons: everyone has one and everyone is entitled to one. I agree with that 99.9% of the time.

You just set your own rules and standards, Ronni! It's your blog and your rules and that's the bottom line.

A good newspaper may be obligated to present both sides of an issue, but a Blog is personal and under no obligation to give voice to opinions that are contrary to those of the blogger.

I enjoy your Blog, Ronni, because it meshes with my own thinking and it's always nice to be with people who are compatible. I really don't want to read the rant of a 'ditto-head' as it makes me irritable.

Could it be that because your blog list is labelled as "Elderbloggers" and your site is about a cause for elders, people misinterpreted the list as a public service? At least I thought so myself until you pointed out your rules. You certainly have the right to make the call on your site though.

On the other hand, as mentioned by others, you're more or less a public figure on elder issues. So this blog means more than a personal blog to many people. (Who has a "home" with thousands of visitors a day?) In this perspective, I don't think it's strange for others to feel that the elderbloggers list should be unbiased and representative of elders online.

Isn't your choice of blogroll links discriminating and not discriminatory? Discriminating in a:

discerning, perceptive, astute, shrewd, judicious, perspicacious, insightful, keen; selective, fastidious, tasteful, refined, sensitive, cultivated, cultured, artistic, aesthetic

way...

Like your other readers, I am so happy to find a source of elders blog links of (relatively) like-minded bloggers. If I wanted a list of elder blogs encompassing every leaning, I'd do a Google search. I am thankful that you take the time and energy to say what you like. That is enough of a reference to peak my curiosity.

I think there is a difference between admitting diversity and suffering bigotry and incivility.
I think diversity is important to maintain perspective lest we all become ditto-heads just talking to ourselves. I feel no need to link to someone I wouldn't allow into my home.
At the end of the discussion, it's your blog and your rules.

I could be offended that I'm not on the blogroll because I'm not over 50 and I might not fit your other criteria. But I'm not offended because that decision is completely yours, I respect that and I still pop by and visit.

The fact that you are upfront about the criteria for who you link to is enough for me. If I want other opinions I'll go and look for them.

If your blog was the only way for others to find certain viewpoints, I might see the concern of including even ugly and hateful voices to your list. As it is, it's quite easy to find anything one wants with a google search. I like the idea that you are including those who think for themselves, who do not espouse a knee jerk viewpoint given to them by a political machine, and who are not teaching hatred as their primary goal while calling it something else. I don't have blogs that I feel are negative. It's different to have one that espouses a different viewpoint than I do to one that is full of venom and vitriol. A blog list is very personal to each of us and I see the rules for yours as good ones which means any reader of you can go to those blogs and not find something totally opposed to everything for which you stand. To me that's what a blog list should primarily be-- finding other voices. Why would you want to lead your readers to voices that were trying to tear down everything you were attempting to build? Those voices are all too easy to find today as it is.

By linking to something on your blogroll, you are in a sense endorsing it as interesting and worth reading. So if you do not find it interesting and worth reading, why on earth would you do this?

I'm sorry that some people view your blog as a "public service" just because it's popular, but blogs, especially one-person blogs (but even those that are shared), are and have been and remain largely personal platforms. Yes, some are sponsored by companies, but even at those I expect a leaning point (to the company's view if not the individual).

If people don't agree with your criteria, there is no reason they cannot do a Google search, find an additional source of links on another blog, or check out what you link until they find a closer match to their views and then follow those links.

A blogroll is usually viewed as a recommendation / what I read list. It's like a list of recommended books, except for blogs. Why would you recommend a book that you disagreed with and/or disliked?

I suppose, if you worry about the people who think that is a "general" list of elderbloggers, you could put a link to your criteria below the title, which might head that off by telling people up front. It shouldn't be necessary, IMO; I expect that a blogger will list things based on what they like, support, or are interested in. But perhaps it would help in this case.

You are under no obligation to link to ANY other blog. Yours is not a political blog and even if it were you are no more obligated to give opposing views on subject matter than are CNN or FOX or even the network news programs. Any given day one can discern biased reports on any of the above mentioned programs.

The same could be said for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Washington Times.

I consider TGB your editorial page and you have the right to post your opinions. The equal time option comes in the comments(letters to the editor) not in links that you may or may not provide.

Yes, it's your blog or editorial page, and you can choose to link to any blogs you choose. Like you, I can accept disagreement, but not vitriol, bigotry, racism, or extreme negativism. Ignore the naysayers and keep doing what you have been doing.

Ronni,

While I recognized the excerpt in your post as my comment, I am proud and pleased to be mistaken for my namesake who blogs at Mining Nuggets!

(While we have not yet met, the "other" Tamar and I share, besides a name, experience living in Israel and working professionally as early childhood educators.)

There's not much else to say. Everyone has defended your right to include what you want on your blog and I go along with that wholeheartedly. If people out there think something is missing then they have the right to create their own blog to their own taste.

Paul might be only half-convinced. He says "On the other hand, as mentioned by others, you're more or less a public figure on elder issues."

That's serendipity at work, Paul. :) Lucky US that someone like Ronni becomes a de facto spokesperson!

Your blog, your say, Ronni! No need to apologize or explain as far as I'm concerned.

Hi Ronni,
While I always appreciate the link, that comment at the beginning of this post was not from me. It's the other Tamar. I go by the name tamarika anyway.
Smiles and waves.

Tamar and Tamarika: so sorry about my utter confusion. I'll be more careful in the future and I've fixed the error.

Ronni, I hope and pray, we are able to maintain whatever we want to do and not be taxed by our blogs. Oh my gosh I shouldn't have said the tax word...let's not give our politicians an opportunity to think about these one free blogs.

Hoping you'll do whatever you want to do whether I like it or not...simply because so far you can...

Dorothy from grammology
the self help blog

Assuming you continue to be happy with Honorary Elderbloggers (I'll make it to the real list eventually!), you might want to swap mine from Fear of Landing to http://backspace.blog.me.uk as a more general blog about writing and thinking. (Or you may hate it - after a lifetime of optimising websites for multiple browsers and legibility, I've ended up with something image heavy in a barely readable script. Maybe it's a type of rebellion :P)

When I get the feeling a panick attack is about to happen, I stick one ;ill under my tounge and within minutes I feel completely calm and no longer anxious. I also use the medication if I drank too much wine the night before (too much sugar), I take one pill and the anxiety is gone.

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