Should I shut down the aggregator?

Here’s a discussion question for readers of Virginia Political Blogs.

I set up that aggregator some months ago to provide one-stop shopping for reading Virginia political blogs, with the understanding that all should have a voice. The high quality of blogs at the time made it a no-brainer. It pretty much runs itself, so it’s just done its thing for many months now. Periodically somebody demands that I remove this site or that site because it’s offensive or full of lies or rumors or whatever, but I always give the same answer: if I start removing sites, then I’m an editor, and I have to establish rules, and people will be angry with me, etc. Republicans and Democrats alike give me a lot of grief for this. So the bar for removal is really, really high. So high that I’ve never done it.

Last night I removed a blog for the first time. This site, run by an anonymous blogger, sought to support Rep. Virgil Goode in his attack on Rep. Ellison. To do so, the blogger posted an extremely graphic photo of an American beheaded by his terrorist captors in Iraq. I worked hard to avoid seeing these images at the time of the beheadings, because I found the act so disgusting that I simply did not want to witness them. (Many will recall the anger displayed by many conservatives that these images were even available to Americans, saying that “the terrorists have already won if we see them,” that the press was un-American for displaying them, etc.) I found it upsetting and angering to see that image appear smack-dab in the middle of the aggregator. Terrorists circulated the photo of this man for political gain; now this blogger had done the same. It wasn’t clear to me what I should do, but when the deluge of complaints began I knew that there was only one response: remove the site.

Now, of course, I am an editor. And at least a few bloggers [1, 2, 3] think that removing this website is about the worst thing that I could have done. Some wrongly believe that I’ve “silenced” the site. Of course, I’ve done no such thing. The site continues to run, accessible to all. I’ve simply stopped linking to it. This blogger has no more right to demand that I link to his site than I have a right to demand that he links to my site. Still, I can sympathize wit where they’re coming from: Virginia Political Blogs is a significant source of traffic for little-known sites, and removal from the site could amount to a death sentence. (Jim Hoeft made an excellent point about this last month that has given me much to think about in the past few weeks.)

I’ll say up front that I’m not going to list the site again, any more than I’d list any site that would display any graphic imagery on the aggregator — I don’t care if it’s pornography, dismembered Iraqis or tortured Americans, I’m not going to give that a platform.

So I have three choices.

  1. Turn the site over to somebody else and make it their problem. The catch being that this somebody else has to be familiar with Python, have Linux-based hosting space with shell access and a fair spectrum of command-line tools available to them.
  2. Continue to run the site with a single rule — no graphic imagery — and carry on.
  3. Shut down the because, seriously, I just don’t care enough to take grief over it.

Now I ask you for feedback. What should I do?

139 thoughts on “Should I shut down the aggregator?”

  1. Of your choices, I’d say #2. It’s not the Commonwealth’s aggregator paid for with taxpayer money; it’s your aggregator. Feel free to edit or set requirements however you see fit. I definitely understand your desire to not take grief over it, but at the same time, if people don’t like it, they can make their own aggregator. The fairness and reason of your extremely light administrative touch in this case will speak for itself (at least to anyone interested in reason), while maintaining the resource for those who want it.

  2. Waldo,

    There’s always going to be people pissed for whatever you do. My offering is that you set some standards for decency, such as, not showing graphic images and stick with it. Frankly, it’s your aggregator, and you’re not running at as a dictator, you’ve given access to everyone on both sides of the spectrum. Basically, it’s your ball, your rules. If you felt something was over the top and yanked it, it’s your call.

    If the three blogs above have such a problem, they can ask to be delisted so as to not associate with VAPoliticalBlogs. At this point, I really don’t see anyone having any ability to stop the momentum of VApoliticalblogs nor doing anything other than sniping.

    It’s a good service and a great tool. Keep it going.

  3. Keep it Waldo the way YOU want it.
    I will for one accept anything you do without passing a judgment on your motives.
    But please do not shut down…
    Ismail

  4. if people don’t like it, they can make their own aggregator.

    I know that this is true, but I fear that this would fragment things. I like the idea of single-point entry to Virginia political blogs.

    It’s worth calling up, too, that I really do appreciate that people regard Virginia Political Blogs as a commons. While it is factual that it’s my site, there’s a reason why my name doesn’t appear anywhere on it: I want it to feel like everybody’s website.

    What we’ve got here, now that I think about it is, a tragedy of the commons.

    There’s always going to be people pissed for whatever you do.

    Absolutely true, but I’m trying to simplify my life (and the number of people who are angry with me), rather than make it more complex. :)

  5. Waldo,

    You did the right thing. Don’t let the fanatical hysterics of a few get you down. I vote for #2……

  6. I vote number 2. Virginia Political Blogs is a wonderful resource. It is a great time saver for readers, you can go do one site and scan almost everything in VA political blogosphere.

    The post was horrific, it really was death pornography and I could only think of the man’s family. I also think that what the killers intended, that we look at that image with horrific fascination.

    Virginia Political Blogs encourages people to read blogs precisely because it is low bandwidth and lets them scan everything. It encourages people to start blogging because once they are on the aggregator they will at least some readers scanning their blog.

    As for the Republicans, they should be grateful, because that blog only alienates people. To have written such a post at anytime is offensive, to have done so just days before Christmas, well, I have no words.

  7. Waldo, what is your problem with annonymous bloggers. Ben Franklin had a fine time with it, and used it very skillfully.

  8. Waldo,
    I was wondering where those bloody images went. Thanks for the explanation, but thank you more for providing the political commons. This is a tremendous service for those of us who want and need to read more than just one side. Communication among and between Virginians of various political views and prejudices is more essential now than it’s ever been. Americans must not repeat the Rwanda political experience of neighbors suddenly being so divided into us and them.

  9. I find the aggregator useful, although my own personal blog is not linked (nor should it be since so little of what I have written is Virginia specific and that material is usually available either at dailykos, RaisingKaine, or both).

    I think you have every right, and perhaps even a responsibility, to exercise some minimal control. Most open blogs have rules which if violated lead to banning. Most commonly copyright violation through cut and paste, violating fair use, is an example. I realize that you’d rather not have to exercise such control, but I think it is an inevitable burden for anyone who provides any kind of hosting service, and I fear that legislation sought by people like McCain may even increase the burden.

    I trust your jugdment, and hope that you will continue to find a way to host the service.

  10. I find the aggregator an invaluable resource for me. As an elected official, it is important to hear viewpoints from all across the political spectrum.

    That said, I do not think you have to disseminate anything any yahoo chooses to put on a site. I would hope that if you have to exercise your judgment only once or twice a year (and this is the first time ever, right?) that you would not find it too burdensome to continue with the aggregator.

    Meanwhile, hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

  11. Waldo, it would be a shame if you shut down the aggregator. Hell, it is a shame that you are even pondering such a thought. I found the material to be disturbing and inappropriate myself. I would certainly not want to be associated with publishing that kind of material on a site that I was associated with in anyway.

    My thought is to set guidelines for what is or is not allowed and enforce them evenly. It is tough to do and an unfortunate circumstance to find yourself in. People should be more respectful in the first place.

  12. On one thing I absolutely agree with Waldo. Everyone who runs a site such as VaPoliticalBlogs or BlogNetNews has to confront this editorial decision at some point. Waldo should be able to set his standard as he sees fit with no complaints. I have never seen the faintest hint that Waldo has used his aggregator to promote any of his personal views.

    I have yet to remove a blog from any of my sites for any reason other than their content changed so much that they no longer fit on the site I had them in. However, I have been considered cutting some folks, including Waldo.

    I have really objected to the retailing of defamatory rumors without a shred of reliable evidence (that’s different than honestly misinterpreting a real legal document.). I have also been upset by what appears to be some personal threats and cheap attacks aimed at people’s children.

    Ultimately, I decided to keep everyone I have added in. I think the journalistic value that BNN adds to the conversation is that BNN is an accurate reflection of what is going on in different slices of the blogosphere. If I start cutting people out, I would be changing BNN from an unblinking eye to rose-colored glasses.

    All that said, I would be happy to take on the hosting of VaPoliticalBlogs just as Waldo now has it. No advertising. Full text. Open access.

  13. Is graphic imagery any worse than graphic text?

    I would keep the aggregator up (in fact, it was the only way I was able to keep up with things on a dial-up connection before I received DSL) and reinstate the offending blog.

    The best way to beat back bad speech is with good speech. Blogs do that better than anyone else, so I would keep the images up (even if we find them distasteful).

    More importantly, VAPoliticalBlogs *is* the public square in all it’s glory. I wouldn’t even concern myself one bit with the “Death Star” comparison, because people are still going to read good blogs and disregard the poorer ones. Besides, those just getting started deserve to have a spotlight on ‘em, and shame on the larger, pre-eminent blogs if we think they are somehow cutting in on “our” turf. I want to read new ideas, especially good ideas.

    Aside all of this, the aggregator is a tremendous benefit to the Virginia Blogosphere, and kudos to Mr. Jaquith for doing it as an entirely altruistic hat-tip to Virginia’s blogosphere.

  14. One other thought, we are in a brutal war with incredibly sick people. I think it is perfectly legitimate expression to hold that hard reality up for the public to see.

    It is not the kind of thing I seek out or want to dwell on, but the fact that newspapers and other media deliberately minimize the emotional impact of Islamofascist brutality has just as many political implications as the decision to shove it in people’s faces.

    I’d much rather see the blogosphere known for honestly dealing with sickening reality than being the retail outlet for half-truths and name-calling.

  15. I’m violating vacation rules (no posting) but this is a worthy exception.

    The aggregator belongs to you, Waldo. You may not wish to set standards but, regrettably, such standards may be required as the Virginia blog world grows.

    I am greatly disappointed that some of my friends on the conservative side have such a low opinion of property rights that they would complain when you exercise those same rights. No one has been censored. Rather, they have been denied access to a site which you created, you maintain and you, ultimately, control. They are still free to post whatever they like, as often as they like on their own sites. If that is the definition of censorship, then I need a new dictionary.

    I would urge that you maintain the site but make it clear that being linked to it is not a right, but a privilege. If some choose to read that as censorship or an over-reaction or prior restraint or some such nonsense, then they are free to create their own aggregators run on their own standards.

  16. The image didn’t bother me Waldo… How many times did the Abu Gharib “nude pile” get worked around the MSM and the blogosphere?

    How about this, I thought VaProgressive’s excessive use of the word “Nigger”, repeatedly in hounding Senator Allen and drawing the connection to the word Macaca was offensive.

    My opinion is that if a Conservative site had repeatedly used the “N” word you would have done something about it….

    Having made my political gripes, it’s your aggregator, and edit it as you wish… but it will probably lead to a Conservative blog aggregator…. So as to do away with what will be perceived as outright censorship by you over one image….

    Not a warning to the blogger, to never do it again, but you pulled the plug, because that blogger, has been ruffling the feathers of a lot of Liberal Bloggers…. (I suspect, that is what is really motivating this action of removing said blog).

    Having hosted many a carnival at STD (now on sabbatical, but still “lurking”), I drew the line at pornography and foul language (unless it took away from the content or message of the blogger), concerning all submissions, (which my mother would slap me over), not just a violent image, as we discussed at this years gathering of bloggers at UVA….

    In summary you state that Conservative’s didn’t want that graphic image (beheading) displayed because “the enemy would have already won”? I disagree because Conservative’s wanted to use the 9-11 images to keep reminding the American People of the threat against us by Islamofascists…

    Those Left of Center would have screamed bloody murder if Conservative candidates for office used those images…. i.e. You as the editor are just following the same pattern of all MSM bias here…. It’s really that simple… Censorship.

  17. I would have banned the blogger for using these images in an argument regarding whether law-abiding, Constitution-respecting Muslims possess the natural right to be perfectly incorporated into our republic. Clearly, the blogger isn’t rhetorically competent and therefore can contribute nothing to the discourse and will not be missed. That would be my rule. You choose your own. It’s your machine.

  18. No one has been censored. Rather, they have been denied access to a site which you created, you maintain and you, ultimately, control. They are still free to post whatever they like, as often as they like on their own sites. If that is the definition of censorship, then I need a new dictionary.

    That would make two of us that would need a new dictionary, Norm.

    The point made by Jim Hoeft in the linked post is a good one. The aggregator has afforded new blogs the ability to reach an audience not of their own making. That alone should be reason enough to be grateful for the existence of the aggregator. It has been one heck of a resource for me.

    While my preference would be that folks censor themselves, what we have seen here is that we can agree on what is decent and what is not. I was insulted by the image – and probably should have spoken out immediately upon seeing it. Spank talks about the liberal use of the N-word. I and others did speak out against that. We all have a role to play in enforcing the rules of common decency, each according to our own interpretation of it.

    Waldo, as it is your aggregator, I trust that you will make the right decision.

  19. Not a warning to the blogger, to never do it again, but you pulled the plug, because that blogger, has been ruffling the feathers of a lot of Liberal Bloggers…. (I suspect, that is what is really motivating this action of removing said blog).

    Chris, please don’t call me a liar. There’s simply no reason why you shouldn’t accept my motivations at face value. Believe me, there are plenty of blogs that have ruffled plenty of feathers and I’ve never removed a one of them. I’ve received plenty of complaints from liberal and conservative bloggers about blogs on either side, and on each and every occasion I’ve said “no.” If I were going to remove websites with whom I simply disagreed, I’d start with some sites that are far more feather-ruffling than this little-read blog.

    I can guarantee you that some political blog will start up shortly and begin posting extremely explicit pornography within the context of the discussion of free expression. What should I do then? Chris, I’m asking you specifically for guidance here, as I’m asking the three bloggers who have objected to my removal of the blog in question. If I should allow those images to appear, tell me, would you allow such images to be posted as comments to your own blog? If not, what’s the difference?

  20. You killed my hits when you set up the aggregator. The only way people actually go to a blog anymore is if they want to see comments or make comments…Do as you wish…makes no difference to me.

  21. Vivian:
    I’d love for you to address my point, about the use of the “N” word and who was using it… You can bet that if STD frequently used that word, STD would be creating a firestorm, because I am a Conservative blogger…

    I want to touch on Jim Hoeft’s observation about how easy it is for a new blogger to come on the scene and be heard….

    Get this bloggers.. STD has been on the scene for a Year, which is really akin to 10 years arguably for a blog… in comparison Commonwealth Conservative has been around what 2 years, so let’s say that’s twenty…

    The older bloggers… self annoint themselves as “the influential bloggers”, and quite frankly look down their noses at all new comers….

    That is why I coin the phrase (privately until now), as the Axis of Egos among certain bloggers. Many of us form little Clubs…. Where only our opinion counts….

    Isn’t that what you guys are really trying to say? An aggregator does give a new blogger a chance for exposure, but if the older more established blogs are all that great, what do they have to worry about?

    Now on the work side of things, I know what goes into a creating, and maintaining a blog… I fully understand Jim’s comment on doing all the footwork….

    That said, I think you guys get my drift… sorry if I offend any of you… but I don’t curry favor by kissing up… I think a lot of bloggers would increase their readership if they separated their egos a little further from their blogging.

    Such as actually ranking other bloggers…. I think that is better left to the readers… geeshhhh

  22. My primary question is why did you not simply delete the offending post and discuss with the offending party why you felt compelled to do so. Is what you’ve done correctly defined as censorship? Not in the narrowest sense, but it does carry the same flavor. Of course you had the right to immediately ban him, but having the right to do something is not always the same as doing the right thing.

    I say it’s yours, do with it what you will. But if you start placing content restrictions then you should be upfront about it, with clearly understood guidelines.

    On the subject of “value to the new blogger”, I’ve noticed that your aggregator publishes the entire post, negating any traffic building value you may think it has. If a post can be read in it’s entirety on the aggregator, why bother to visit the actual blog? Do you not think it would be a better traffic builder and a much fairer use of the bloggers copyright to limit your aggregator copy to the first X number of words or paragraphs and let the strength or weakness of those words determine if a blog is worth checking out?

  23. I was all ready to cut lose, then realized Norm Leahy’s post above said it all and better and more concisely than I would have done…so I shall simply repeat this:

    “I would urge that you maintain the site but make it clear that being linked to it is not a right, but a privilege. If some choose to read that as censorship or an over-reaction or prior restraint or some such nonsense, then they are free to create their own aggregators run on their own standards.”

  24. Spank – I did address the point. I spoke out against the use of the word.

    As for the egos – well, I’ve only been blogging since February – not even a year – but I completely understand Jim’s point.

    Alton – your point on the entire post is a good one. I quite often use the “more” tag in my own posts for that very reason. (As a member of other aggregators, though, I can tell you that they weren’t happy with me doing it on every post.) Within WordPress, there is an option to only show the first part of a post in the feed. I have contemplated using that option.

  25. The death of the Virginia political blog aggregator would be the death of the Virginia political blogosphere. I’m not being melodramatic, and I’ll be happy to explain.

    First, to those of us who are expatriots and follow Virginia politics from elsewhere, the aggregator provides an excellent resource to easily ascertain what topics are of interest to politically-attuned people across the Commonwealth. Even if I were to add more than the habitual RTD to my daily news (reading the Roanoke Times or the Pilot, too, which I simply don’t have time to do), I wouldn’t know what stories in those periodicals were of interest to politicos in Virginia, across the breadth of the Commonwealth.

    Second, to those of us who are emerging, or re-emerging, the aggregator allows us to announce our presence, or return, without having to spam a bunch of other bloggers–some of whom may not care. The aggregator is, simply put, the best way for a new blog to announce its existence to the world.

    Third, politics in Virginia, and everywhere else, is already too tribal. Too often, people migrate towards an echo chamber where they can comfortably wallow in intellectual lethargy. Liberals often cloak themselves in Daily Kos, conservatives in Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh. Likewise, if you only build your own blogroll, or you only build your own RSS feed aggregator, you can pick and choose, and only the perspectives you want to encounter are there.

    On the other hand, when you visit the aggregator or when your RSS feed IS the aggregator’s you’re confronted with views from left, right, and center. Yes, you can read the title of the blog, or the title of the post, and skip the content. But you know, at an instant, that that person with whom you always disagree has said something else. If your intellectual curiosity has so atrophied that you’re no longer interested in skimming what your adversary has to say, you can; but you can’t escape knowing that he’s said something.

    Finally, my worst fear is that this episode will increase political tribalism still more. It’s bad enough in my view that BlogNetNews accommodates people who only want to read right-side or left-side blogs; that some liberal bloggers have “LeftyBlog” aggregators; that the Old Dominion Blog Alliance, which on its face suggests an alliance of bloggers across the political spectrum, is full of conservative bloggers alone. (Did they really ostracize Steve Minor, a founding member?) The prospect that tribalism will expand into the aggregator world–that conservatives will react by boycotting the Virginia political blog aggregator and set up their own, and that liberals will react in kind–is unappealing and repulsive.

    That the blogosphere should be a community of ideas, where we engage those with whom we disagree more often than we merely cyber-fellate those who echo our own opinions, is a noble aspiration. I have enjoyed my frequent disagreements with Messrs. Kenney the Elder and Leahy, for example, and their disagreements with me, as much as I’ve enjoyed my agreements with others. While achieving that aspiration may only be a dream, killing the aggregator kills the dream dead.

    As far as a solution to the problem? We are, if nothing else, a community. We blog about Virginia politics, either from within the Commonwealth or without. We voluntarily submit to the aggregator, because any of us who does not want to belong can withdraw. As a community, we have existed to this point in a state of nature. It was easy to do so when there were fewer of us who trod more lightly on the prerogatives of others. I don’t believe that’s possible any more. I suspect the time has come to form a non-partisan editorial board. Its purpose would not be to control the content of individual blogs but to assess when, if ever, the broad body of content of a single blog has deteriorated beyond the standards we bloggers agree on for ourselves.

    Mr. Jaquith has been a generous and gracious host for the aggregator. I empathize with his predicament now and suggest his decision may have been easier if it had had the blessing of an independent group above all partisan suspicion. I do not know now what process should be adopted for creating the editorial board–whether it should be periodically elected by all bloggers, whether some bloggers with longer tenure in the Virginia blogosphere should be given additional weight, or whether the entire enterprise is quixotic. But the only way to escape our present state of nature is to join in some social contract, and I propose that somehow we consider the need for a “constitutional convention” of sorts.

  26. “You killed my hits when you set up the aggregator.”

    Same here, what of it? Unless you are trying to make money with your blog, what does it matter how many hits you have? If the purpose of a blog is to gain readers and communicate, then Virginia Political Blogs is a tremendous gift. Most of us have many many more readers because of the RSS reader. Moreover just sending’s one’s URL around has only limited value in building audience. It is much easier to persuade people they ought to at least glance at Virginia Political Blogs.

    It is a tremendous resource and I am very grateful to be included on it.

    Oh, Republicans, all you have to do is go to Blogdigger and you can set up your own group. Sheesh.

  27. Waldo:
    I was working on my other comment, and just saw your reply to me, so here it is.

    First of all, I did not call you a liar… I am suggesting that this is more politically motivated, and you use Jim’s comments, as I refer in the previous post, and it seems that GGD’s rather hard hitting style is going to prove a little too popular.. or actually wake some people up…. Aren’t you really saying, I need to stop this now… why people will start reading it!

    Pornography is sexual and as we discussed at Sorenson, nothing should be published that your mother would smack you over…

    Here is the difference… one photo is “politically” charged, while the other is socially charged? Personally, I think all nudity should be on a pay per view basis only, and restricted to .porn

    Ten year olds are freely accessing this stuff… think it’s hurting them developmentally, you bet.

    Accessing the photo of a sworn enemy of this nation beheading one of it’s citizens… will also shock a child, but it can be explained by a parent… or should. i.e. don’t play in the street.

    What do I think you should do? If I ran your aggregator, would I pull all images? You know a blogger can build themselves up or destroy themselves by what they post….

    I can think of a lot of things that Left of Center folks could post that will immediately enrage Conservatives… i.e. if this is the test case for decency on the web….

    What would I do? I would ask myself, am I doing this out of a decency standard, or a political standard, or a personal liability issue… Seriously, don’t you have a greater liability of aggregating posts by blogs that are disseminating actual libel? That would be my concern… Posting a photo that was undoubtedly obtained from a public source, in this case Al Quada… hardly compares….

  28. Waldo, the bottom line is who goes on and who goes off this aggregator is your call and you have my support in making that call. No one has a “right” to be linked to the aggregator you assembled.

    That said, I don’t know I would have necessarily made the same call. Many of the images used were over the edge — way over the edge — but they illustrated a point of view and I always find it useful to have a window into the minds of fringe elements of our society. The nuts are out there and they influence other people. Certainly, the thinking of a certain Southside Congressman has been influenced by the logic of the fringes.

    Of course, on the other hand (this is an interesting dilemma) why provide a forum for those who go over the edge multiple times and remain anonymous? If Mr. General Grevious’ Dog has the courage of his convictions then why doesn’t he identify himself? He certainly has a right to be an anonymous blogger and to hide behind that anonymity in pushing his point of view to the edge but not on this aggregator. For all we know he is on this aggregator under a diffrent idenity.

    And this isn’t like you have cut off twenty or thirty other bloggers because you didn’t like what they said in the past so don’t sweat it. This aggregator does provide a service to Virginia. Thank you for that.

  29. Waldo, I would go with the “your creation, your house rule”. If someone came into my house and took a steaming dump on the living room carpet just for shock value, I don’t think I would invite him over again.

    I would say #2 is a good rule. Your call obviously.

    As far as Chris’s point goes, I see the point, up to a point. Shock value can serve a purpose, but it has to be used with discretion.

    If the images are used to memorialize the victims in a responsible way, that’s one story.

    In a case such as this one, I think this is pretty clear cut. If I was the American contractor’s parents I think I would be pretty ticked off that someone was using an image of my son in this manner. Not only was the point completely off the mark (e.g. drawing a connection between the actions of a few radical Muslims and ALL Muslims–a pretty clear indication that this person has never met actually met a Muslim, or studied Islam), it really was a case of disseminating Al Qaeda propoganda. (Why does this person think Al Qaeda released the images in the first place?)

    A little off topic, but on the 9/11 issue, if a blogger is concerned that people are forgetting the lessons of 9/11, I think there are better ways to bring this topic up than just shocking people and trying to scare, or offend them. Simply posing the question, “Do you think Americans have forgotten the lessons of 9/11?” would probably be an interesting post unto itself. I wouldn’t automatically assume that just because this isn’t a regular topic of conversation that the lessons have been completely forgotten. The attacks themselves happened in Virginia. Of course, other people may have a different viewpoint.

  30. A technical question: can the aggregator be formatted to omit all graphics?

    I think prohibiting graphics could be a reasonably viewpoint-neutral restriction. If a reader wanted to see the graphic included in a post, he could just go directly to the post.

    Moreover, banning the site doesn’t ban the images on it. Mr. Maxfield has already copied another image from the banned site and included it in one of his own postings. Stripping all images from all posts would avoid the ugly question of whether republishing the banned-blog’s content triggers being banned oneself.

    Another technical question: do you know why some QandO posts are aggregated and some aren’t? QandO is a lively, active blog, but it only pops into the aggregator infrequently. This has puzzled me for some time.

  31. “As a community, we have existed to this point in a state of nature. It was easy to do so when there were fewer of us who trod more lightly on the prerogatives of others. I don’t believe that’s possible any more. I suspect the time has come to form a non-partisan editorial board. Its purpose would not be to control the content of individual blogs but to assess when, if ever, the broad body of content of a single blog has deteriorated beyond the standards we bloggers agree on for ourselves.”

    That sounds really unappealing. If that happened I think I would ask that my blog be removed from VPB, and I would pull the link on my blog taking both of my readers with me.

    seriously, I really hope you keep it as is, complete with graphics (with load much faster on RSS than on the blog sites). But that’s just me.

  32. Waldo:
    I, too, encourage you to continue with the aggregator using whatever rules you wish to impose on those afforded the privilege of being published. The aggregator is not the public square. It is, like a newspaper, merely a private publisher’s collection that can be edited (or not) in the sole discretion of the publihser.

    I am intrigued by Cory’s suggestion that you delete all pictures/graphics from the feed … those who want to see them can go the blog on which the post is published. I’d personally rather have the text only for ease of perusal and it would be a content neutral way to solve the pornographic picture problem.

    But, that won’t protect you from having to decide at some point whether the words in a post go beyond offensive speech to become obscene and whether you’d feel the need to delete such posts or authors as well. So, ultimately, you’d still have the same problem you have now … there might come a time when you felt the need to edit the feed and when others felt the need to criticize you for it.

    All told, I hope that you’ll agree to continue to be our publisher exercising whatever editorial control you choose (or not).

    Best.
    Claire

  33. Cory,
    (Allow me to go off topic for just a moment)
    Where did the idea that Steve Minor had been ostracized come from? If you got that idea from the fact that SW Virginia Law had been inadvertently left off the blogroll, you are mistaken. I created 4 different formats for the ODBA members to choose from, inadvertently omitting Steve. It’s been fixed now. You obviously did not get the idea from my post outlining a short history of the ODBA which listed Steve as a founding member, because you obviously did not read it. If you had you would know that ODBA was conceived as a right of center alliance from the beginning.

    To Vivian;
    I do set my blogger account to only present the first short section for that reason. Not everyone, and certainly not those new to blogging will know that the option exists. While I make no claim to high literature, why should I work on a piece, sometimes for hours, only to have it just hung out there for consumption by those who have no intention of reading anything else I may have to say? Under those circumstances there becomes no reason for any individual blogs, just set up a place where anyone can post, sort of like RK and Kos, but bi-partisan.

  34. While there’s not a lot politically upon which you and I agree, Waldo, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: your aggregator is “indispensable.” And while I disagree with your decision to remove GDD, it is your privilege to do so. Personally, I would remove all blogs posted anonymously/pseudonymously, but that may well be a different discussion. I guess my questions are two: (1) would GDD have made such a post if his name were attached to it?; and (2) would you have delisted, say, Viv Paige or yours truly if either of us had made such a post?

  35. Waldo,

    In my view, you already are an editor. It’s just not an “editor” in the traditional sense, even if it doesn’t require a hands-on overseeing of all the copy/material presented on your aggregator. And, in removing the material you removed last night, you did your editor’s job in a responsible way.

    When I first saw that crap on VPB, posted by a blogger I usually ignore, I immediately knew it would test your limits in a new way. As I wrote something about how crazy it was getting in the blogosphere I wondered what you would do.

    Then I saw that the decapitation pictures which had outraged me had disappeared. I was glad. It was an extreme situation and you made the right call, because — ultimately — YOU are responsible for what appears on YOUR aggregator web site.

    Hey, you don’t need a bunch of rules, either.

    What you need is just to believe in your gut feeling on such matters. The material you banished ought to have been banished — it was disgusting. No one has a RIGHT to use your web site to spread pornography, or its ilk. And, you hardly forced the blogger to take the material off of their blog.

    No doubt, this uncouth blogger would like to be known as the ultra-conservative virtual terrorist/prankster who blew Waldo Jaquith’s Virginia Political Blogs to smithereens.

    I don’t doubt that some rightwingers, in some dark corners of the blogosphere, now view VPB as having helped the left more than the right, because they think lefty bloggers defeated George Allen. It would be a sad end to this episode to see a tactic which mimics terrorism in its spirit succeed by making you pull the plug on your creation.

    Bottom line: No. 2 (Continue to run the site with a single rule — no graphic imagery — and carry on.)

    – Terry

  36. Republitarian wrote:

    You killed my hits when you set up the aggregator.

    I told you then, as I’ll tell you now, that anybody is free to be removed. You need only ask.

    Alton wrote:

    My primary question is why did you not simply delete the offending post and discuss with the offending party why you felt compelled to do so.

    The software that I use aggregates by blog, not by post. There’s simply no such thing as deleting a post — either a blog is removed or it’s not.

    But you raise a larger question that I must answer. I do not — repeat not — want to be put in the role of the adjudicator of blog-based Virginia political disputes. I don’t want to be put in this position. I hate that I had to make a decision about this, and I really, really do not want to ever have to do it again. I had assumed that Virginia political bloggers had the common sense not to piss in the pool. Clearly, I was wrong. Now I’m stuck running this thing that requires me to make judgments about what is and isn’t offensive, and I really resent that.

    Spank that Donkey wrote:

    Here is the difference… one photo is “politically” charged, while the other is socially charged?

    That’s interesting in an intellectual sense, but fails to address the primary concern. Both hardcore pornography and an image of a beheading are disgusting. They shock and offend, as they are often intended to do. People — myself included — should be able to avoid being shocked and offended.

    When such images were reproduced on television, for instance, they were preceded by serious warnings so that those who did not want to see it could avoid doing so. When such images are described in words, it’s possible to simply stop reading when one realizes what’s being depicted. But when such an image shows up, smack-dab in the middle of one’s webpage, that’s a genie that isn’t going back in its bottle.

    But, to go back to your response, if you agree that pornography is inappropriate on the aggregator then, again, I’m back to acting like an editor. I have to decide what is and is not pornography. What the hell do I know about what qualifies as pornography? Much like with this image — apparently some people are OK with seeing an American beheaded by terrorists. I — and I think I’m in the mainstream here — am not. I certainly hope that the people who are OK with this also favor press access to Dover, so that the media can photograph the caskets of fallen soldiers. And I hope that they favored having these images shown by the media when the acts took place.

    In closing, I hate hate hate that I have to deal with this. I am deeply offended that otherwise rational individuals — people who I thought favored private property rights and treating with respect those who have died in Iraq — are accusing me of acting inappropriately. I would love to see any of these individuals take on the task of running the aggregator and see how long they’re able to continue listing all websites regardless of what they say or do. The entire thing angers me enough that I remain sorely tempted to give the whole thing up and make it somebody else’s problem.

    Life’s too short to deal with this shit.

  37. Waldo – thanks for all of your hard work in presenting equal forums for diverse discussions. I admire your drive and commitment to allow others to present their views in their own words – uncensored. Yet, I think that it is very important for you to preserve your own integrity as you see fit. So, it may not be so important as to be a non-editor as it is acknowledge your intention as this is a truer reflection of your integrity.

    Happy Holidays and a Healthy New Year from my family to yours!

  38. My Opinion:

    It is censorship.

    It’s also your aggregator. You are the sole owner and editorial board – the gatekeeper. Almost every medium that reaches a large audience has some sort of restrictions on speech. You have the absolute right to impose whatever restrictions you want. I cannot disagree with that.

    I think the image was disturbing. It was harsh beyond description. I do not think the image was pornography. I don’t know that it should have been pulled. I am ambivalent about that, and have qualifications to that opinion.

    I think if the blogger had not been pseudonymous, then it should’ve been left up (with no content restrictions- beyond what is legal and illegal), and the blogger would have (like Virgil Goode) been subject to the consequences of the expression of unpopular opinion. I think the Abu Gharib photos analogy made by others in this thread is a fair one.

    I think James Young makes a good point about anonymous or pseudonymous blogging. I think it might be a good new standard to implement for inclusion on the VA Political Blogs, with reasonable methods used to confirm identity. And yes I know I am posting Pseudonymously. However I am not asking to be linked to VA Political Blogs.

    I would also recommend that images be stripped from posts appearing on VA Political Blogs, and that the “short” or “brief” method be used for all posts processed via the aggregator.

    I very rarely visit the VA political blog aggregator. For me going to it is analogous to walking into a crowded room where hundreds of people are yelling their opinions loudly and all at the same time, and still saying very little of import.

    As I said at the beginning of my post- this is only my opinion. It is offered in the spirit in which it was solicited. I will not debate it’s merits or lack thereof.

    Good luck with whichever decision you choose to make.

  39. One Clarification-

    I wrote:

    I think if the blogger had not been pseudonymous, then it should’ve been left up…

    I meant that as – the blogger should have been allowed continued inclusion in the VA political blogs aggregator.

    Images should be filtered out of all posts appearing on the aggregator.

  40. As to the offending image, I think it’s worth emphasizing the point that JPTERP already made. That beheading video wasn’t made by reporters doing a story. It was made by the terrorists who committed the atrocity. It was disseminated by those very same terrorists in order to further their political aims. I feel rather certain that GGD isn’t intentionally aiding the terrorists, so I’ll have to assume that he’s a naive dupe for publishing the propoganda and helping to meet the objective of the terrorists: spreading fear.

    We, as a society, are uncomfortable with graphic images of death. We don’t want to see pictures of corpses of our sons, brothers and fathers who have been killed in battle. Some of us don’t even want to see photos of their flag-draped coffins. Much of that feeling is due to a respect for and sensitivity to the families of the dead. I know that there are photos available of the exploded skull of President Kennedy, but I choose not to view them. I know that there are websites where one can view terrorist beheadings, but I haven’t been there. In the case at hand, GGD took that choice away from me. He ambushed me with a horrific image of an American beheaded at the hands of terrorists. If he wrote words that offended me, I could have stopped reading them, but there was no option when the image appeared on the aggregator. There was nothing I could do about it.

    With respect to the censorship question, I’m reminded of the situation involving artists displaying a painting of the Madonna speared with elephant dung and a crucifix in a vial of urine. People whose religious sensibilities were offended had a case. If the artists had created the work on their own dime and displayed it in private galleries for willing patrons to purchase and display in their own homes, that would be one thing. But, people felt like they were being played for suckers, by subsidizing the artists who displayed their work in public museums, paid for by the people’s taxes. The artists have a right to make their art, just don’t expect those who are offended to pay for it.

    Political protesters have a right to burn the American flag, if they want to. But, they’d better expect somebody’s going to pop them one before they get too far.

    I understand Waldo’s feeling of disgust at seeing that snuff film image, because I had the same feeling. The difference was, although I couldn’t do anything about it, he could. And, I reckon, he felt like a bit of a sucker for letting it remain on the website that he built and hosted. And I’ll bet he felt that, if that was his brother in that image, he wouldn’t want it there, for strangers to gawk at.

    So, what to do? The best way out would be for GGD, after thinking about the situation, to contact Waldo privately and tell him that, upon reflection, he was over the top in showing the image in the way that he did. He might even come to the conclusion that, if he had an important political point to make by displaying the image, it would have been more thoughtful to do so by creating a “click here to display” icon with a warning that the viewer would see a graphic photo of a dead American. Maybe GGD could convince Waldo to allow his site to return to the aggregator under a more responsbile hand. It’s not easy to do something like that, but it sure would go a long way towards preserving what many of us find to be a useful tool in the aggregator.

    Otherwise, I’d feel okay about Waldo’s option #2 (no graphic imagery). He could even put an asterisk at the top of the site saying “except for websites including snuff photos”. Any open-minded reader would acknowledge that Waldo has had an extremely light touch in editorial control. He can handle himself very well when it comes to exchanges of political views and tolerates personal abuse far better than I’d be capable of.

    Although I’d be disappointed, I’d also understand if he chose option #3 and just decided to bag the whole thing. He’s got plenty of other things to do with his life and maybe this just isn’t worth the grief.

  41. I must admit, I find appealing the dual notions of filtering out all images and HTML, and only showing blogs written by people who are (or appear to be) using their real names. It seems a shame to exclude some quite-good pseudonymous blogs, but I think it’s true that some people are at their worst when they believe their identity to be secret.

  42. Having rather thoroughly explored 21 states’ blogospheres, there is something remarkably mature about the debate that is taking place here. There are only a couple other places in the country I can imagine this happening.

  43. Like many people above have said, we all rely on your site and would be extremely dissapointed if this incident resulted in it being taken down. As James Young brought up, there is no escaping the plain and simple fact this blogger didn’t have the reputation of being one who promotes good discussion. In fact, this was an anonymous blogger who had a history of posting controversial pictures without too much commentary.

    If he had indeed just made this one post, then it still would have been highly offensive and an explanation might be necessary. In his case, however, it was just the last straw and I believe most people – whether or not they agree with the decision – can completely understand why the site was removed.

  44. It seems a shame to exclude some quite-good pseudonymous blogs, but I think it’s true that some people are at their worst when they believe their identity to be secret.

    Hear, hear!

    (of course, I would be expected to say that)

    :)

  45. Waldo,
    Number 2 remains the best option if you can stand to stick with the valuable role you fill. This was a good discussion. I would be saddened to see all images disappear from the aggregator. Likewise, as much as I believe people should use their own names when they blog, the smart and sassy folks who must be Not Themselves are too fun and valuable to leave off just because their tender egos shy away from the light of day (or whatever causes them to not stand by their names).

  46. Well, I sure would be sorry to see ALL images banned/blocked. What about ‘toons and caricatures?

    However, I have come to believe that while anonymous bloggers can serve a good purpose, at times, such bloggers ought to understand that they simply cannot be invited to every party while wearing a mask.

    Bloggers who are using their own names to back up their posts are in a different situation than anonymous bloggers. And, generally speaking, aren’t most of the credible self-publishers of Virginia’s blogosphere already using/exposing their real names?

    From a legal standpoint, if I ran Virginia Political Blogs, I would want to know the real names of all the bloggers whose material automatically appears on my web site.

    Furthermore, I’d want them to understand that graphic material, clearly deserving of an X-rating if it was a movie, has no place on an aggregator to be viewed by a general audience. So, if they want to post such on their blog — in the name of free speech and anything goes! — nobody is stopping them, but their blog just can’t be among those listed at VPB.

  47. My first thought was, it’s Waldo’s game. He can make, break and change the rules whenever he chooses.

    My second thought was, thank God for BlogNetNews.com/virginia/ .

    My closing thought is, General Grievous’ Dog proved his point.

  48. Waldo, stripping the HTML and images out might just be the best bet, giving a title and a short snippet of the text and letting people click to where they want to go (since some RSS feeds like mine give the whole post and some just give snippets anyway). That might be the best bet.

    I agree that if people are going to be listed, there should be some guidelines as to decency standards, like not putting up a picture of a severed head or a picture of Ben Tribbett in a pink oxford and black suit jacket.

  49. Waldo:
    You should have never let the left of center bloggers, get you into the middle of this…

    GGD has done nothing wrong… he posted an image of an
    American citizen beheaded by our enemies, and the left of center bloggers know that they can not answer the inevitable purpose of the Islamofascists…

    As it compares to their efforts to Macaca Virgil Goode….

    Unfortunately, by bowing to your friends demands, you have shown your hand… You will censor right of center bloggers when they move that chess piece, into a check mate….

    Blame your friends, not the so callled Rightosphere….

  50. I was not complaining…..just stated the obvious.

    I think you should have dominion over your own creation…just like God.

    I remember when I posted pics of aborted fetuses so people could see the face of what pro-choice means.

    I had people screaming at me to take it down, which I did not do….since it was my blog.

    Do as you wish. I think it is, was, and will be a great way for bloggers to read many posts at one stop…..Heck, it’s Megan’s homepage….

  51. This raises a very interesting question for me. Does the aggregator or blogger have the obligation to take down a post about someone when it is proven that the post is factually unquestionably false? Let’s say an allegation of a marital affair is posted and when the facts are checked, there is no way it could have been true. Is it proper to allow such slander to remain on a blog? I would really like a few of you who have blogs to answer the question of what you would do if someone posted such in a comment on your blog. My email is blkwlnut@aol.com

  52. Waldo:

    You’ve got a tough choice to make, big guy. I’d first want the aggregator to remain intact. It serves a purpose (though I find some of the comments about how vital it is to humanity a bit amusing).

    My suggestion is that you establish some rules (not guidelines), the violation of which gets a post censored or a blogger removed. But it’s easier said than done. I know if I were making those rules, I’d include some of the perverted sexual musings one particular blogger on the left often resorts to to make a point.

    To judge is to make a subjective choice.

    But it’s also your aggregator. Set the rules. Post them for all to see. Have bloggers agree to adhere to them if you think it would help.

    Nobody is forced to adhere to your rules. They can go elsewhere.

    And thanks, by the way.

    Jerry

  53. I opt for #4, which is to let it operate as before with no exclusions. I anticipate two technical solutions the problem, one of which is available today:

    1) The real aggregator should be each person’s news reader. The VA political blog aggregator should serve as an entry point for discovering fresh writers which make their way into each person’s subscription list. If people think of it as a phone book rather than an endorsement the blood pressure all around should be lower.

    2) At some point PlanetPlanet, the software which drives the aggregator, will surely support a mode for reading with filters. The simplest and most useful filter may be to ignore material which a certain threshold of readers have deemed to be aggressive content. This functionality isn’t here today, but I would expect it to be commonplace in due time. The central data issue these days is to manage information overload. I contend that social software is the solution more so than editorial intervention. This should be a relief to Waldo except for the fact that it isn’t here today.

    In the meantime, I wouldn’t omit or remove any weblog unless it isn’t germane to Virginia and politics.

  54. The “I know it when I see it” definition of pornography has always been problematic to me, knowing that all of us have different standards for what we find prurient or offensive.

    I think, however, that it is fair to draw a bright line somewhere, and snuff photos seem to me to be a no-brainer.

    Waldo, as always, your graciousness and thoughtfulness has led to you hosting an important civil discussion here. As someone above commented, I don’t think there are many “commons” left at all between right-of-center and left-of-center bloggers, and it is a tribute to you that this discussion is even happening in such a (predominently) civil manner.

    What has struck me as extraordinary about this particular situation is the extent to which some reactionary right-of-center bloggers are screaming “censorship” for your simple act of removing a blog that disseminated graphic images of the work of terrorists, showing no respect whatsoever for either the humanity and dignity of the victims or for the audience.

    After all, the terrorists who beheaded those Americans did so for the express purpose of photographing the deaths and disseminating them worldwide. The primary purpose of committing the photographed beheadings was not the killing itself, but rather the terror that the publicized execution would provoke. They intended to strike fear into the hearts of those Americans who saw them. They intended for us to change our way of life, to react with an irrational lust for vengeance rather than a respect for our own history and rule of law.

    To see a fellow Virginian use the work of terrorists to defend an elected official who has disdained a fundamental principle of our nation — that is, freedom of religion — is incredibly disturbing and disappointing.

    Studies have shown that visual stimulation is in many ways the most impactful of all sensory stimulation, largely because for most people it is the most memorable. Images are seared into our memories in a way that is unique, and we are right to be cautious of what images we expose outselves and our children to.

    As a liberal who cherishes the right of free expression, I have struggled with my growing concerns about the easy access to hard-core pornography for children on the internet. The more I read about how visual imagery affects the arousal template in the brain, the more convinced I am that we need to protect children, and ourselves, from overexposure to certain types of imagery.

    Once a person views an image, that bell can’t be un-rung. You can delete a blog hat has exposed people to the image, but that won’t erase the image from our memory. This is not to say that the written word can’t also have impact; as writers, we know, of course, that it can. But shocking visual stimulation can have much more of an impact on a person’s brain, and it can’t be taken back.

    There are things that I have no wish to see and I have no wish to expose children in my care to, either. In the history of humankind, no humans have been exposed to more visual stimulation than those of us in the internet world. I dont choose to see murders depicted, either in snuff films or in snuff photography. Unfortunately, “thanks” to this selfish blogger, I will always have these images in my memory, a trauma in itself that simply furthers the goals of the terrorists who committed these atrocities.

    Most people who work in graphic and potentially disturbing imagery have the decency to warn potential audience members before they expose them to it. In our culture in general, we have accepted that graphic images of death and graphic images of a sexual nature are, at the very least, controversial. It is simply common decency to warn people before broadcasting such images. This particular blogger has shown no such decency. Terrorists, to, have no such decency — but WE are the civilized world. We are not supposed to give in to their tactics. We should not be lowering ourselves to their level in furtherance of ANY political objective, no matter how meritorious that objective may be.

    As for the larger concern, if you think about the amoung of new blogs on the aggregator and how fast this blogging community has grown, it is a testament to the good sense of people on all parts of the VA blogging ideological spectrum that this issue has not come up until now. Most bloggers, left and right, know not to post such images in such a cavalier manner.

    To avoid this in the future, a simple solution may be the one suggested above, to strip all posts of images. Anyone can click on the blog from the aggregator if they wish to see such images.

    Solution #2 could work as a guideline. However, it would only work by relying on the judgement of all bloggers to appropriately decide what “graphic” means, and as we’ve seen there are some who think that anything goes when it comes to making a political point.

    Whatever you decide, however, I join the chorus of others hoping that you’ll keep the aggregator intact. This is a very unique situation and I trust that you won’t have to make decisions like this very often.

    Thansk for hosting this discussion and for your generosity in making the aggregator available to all of us.

  55. I have not been on the interwebz for a few days recently, and as always, coming back is like walking onto the scene of a car accident. ;^)

    Now, I’m going to work through this issue in this comment, so please bear with some inevitable flip-flopping.

    The way I see it, and apparently the way many people here see it, the Virginia Political Blog Aggregator is a nigh-indispensable tool for people that wish to see the whole spectrum of the Commonwealth’s blogosphere. Despite having objections to some of the bloggers in terms of quality or truthfulness, I read it anyway, because I’m rather afraid of falling to the temptation of political self-reinforcement. While I have no numbers, other bloggers have mentioned that they have lost hits with the advent of this, so I’m going to assume the aggregator gets a healthy supply of people like me reading it.

    With the numbers there, Waldo, you have to assume that there is a least a healthy mix of all sides of the political spectrum reading. This means your vision is basically fulfilled (i.e. it has become a one-stop-shop for Virginia’s blogosphere). Now you have two implied responsibilities as the webmaster:

    1) Respecting the rights of the bloggers cited, for two reasons. The first being it is the right thing to do, and second because to fail in this might produce an exodus of one side of the political spectrum, resulting in the loss of your vision.

    2) Respecting the rights of the readers, so that they continue to read and your aggregator has a purpose.

    Now, the problem ensues when number 2 is violated, but in order to solve it, you must seemingly violate number 1. Obviously, this isn’t the easiest of choices.

    Furthermore, if you remove a graphic picture, you now have made a judgement. Are lies or rumors allowed, but pictures not? What if the writing is graphic or racist, but there is no graphic per se?

    Now, here is my opinion: If one blogger violates common sense and posts an image such as this, it endangers every other blog that gets the majority of readers from the aggregator. If I knew such filth was posted commonly, I would quickly stop reading, and I believe others would as well. Thus, your vision for the aggregator dies as well. With nowhere for readers to quickly get all sides, and some blogs losing the supermajority of their readership, everyone loses at the expense of fairness.

    However, as I just pointed out, getting kicked off of this aggregator is a near death-sentence for smaller blogs in terms of readership. You can argue that they can continue to blog, but if they only have readers if they follow your rules, then most will simply bend to your rules to get out their opinions and message. You have now effectively become a ruling body for smaller blogs, and suddenly all of this feels very governmental instead of journalistic.

    Do you respect the rights of the minority, even when it displeases the feelings of the majority? Or do you submit to the will of the masses, and eventually have a tyranny by majority?

    Now for where I’m going with all of this. :^)

    Before I go into anything else, I want to attempt to dissuade you from removing all blogs that refuse to use their actual name. While this brings out the worst in people on the internet, it also allows them to theoretically post serious (and sometimes possibly illegal) information without a threat of retribution on their real lives. It also allows those bloggers that may have political careers a chance to write without fear that being able to freely express their opinion will come back to damage their job stability. I think removing this option is unnecessary for the time being.

    I think a key difference between government and the aggregator is that the right to readers is not inalienable. Thus, by providing a service (readership), the aggregator also has a few limited rules that apply to all who join. You can set this up in a veritable legion of ways, but they all fall into either a technical restriction, or a TOS agreement prior to being added to the blog list.

    However, in removing (or not adding) someone, you still have effectively squashed their message if they are a small or new blog. It also could still start the mass exodus of blogs, and thus, readers.

    By going the technical route and applying restrictions to what is generated on the side of the aggregator, I think you can balance out the responsibility to all sides of the equation. Filter out images, and if possible, just display the image tags in their place. Furthermore, reinstate the offending blog.

    This solves the immediate problem in my opinion, but doesn’t solve the earlier problem I presented in images vs. rumors/lies, or images vs. graphic/racist text. Let me try to resolve that as well.

    The difference between text and images is that you can’t avoid seeing an image. In that instant, you have taken in the entirety of the message the image is sending. With text, this effect is delayed across reading the entire entry. Furthermore, almost everyone here can agree that with few exceptions, graphic images have a much more powerful effect than what you can write in a sentence or two (before the digusted reader moves on). With regards to rumors or lies, it is up to the reader to decide. Since the aggregator has such a nice balance of blogs, if there is a lie posted on one, oftentimes another blogger takes them to task on their own blog. Thus, even clicking to read the comments, an aggregator reader usually gets both sides of the story.

    When all sides respect the implied rules of civil discourse, there is no need for laws or restrictions. But sadly, this is that Garden-of-Eden-Fall-of-Man moment for the blog aggregator. Someone has breached common courtesy, and you can’t go on without change. Whatever the case, I hope you make the right one. Good luck.

  56. Waldo,

    My friend, it has been a while since we’ve communicated. I’m back and frankly, it suprised me to see Good Sense still listed on the aggregator. I want to thank you for that… it’s helped get me back on my feet so to speak.

    I want to encourage you to keep up the great work. I’m not going to say one way or the other regarding the aforementioned post. I do hope you continue with the aggregator. It has helped me.

    Yours,

    Charlie Fugate

  57. This has been a very thoughtful discussion, particularly while I’ve been out for the past few hours. There’s much to think about here. Joe, your post (the one two prior to this one) is particularly interesting to me, because you’ve cut right to the heart of my concern here:

    However, as I just pointed out, getting kicked off of this aggregator is a near death-sentence for smaller blogs in terms of readership. You can argue that they can continue to blog, but if they only have readers if they follow your rules, then most will simply bend to your rules to get out their opinions and message. You have now effectively become a ruling body for smaller blogs, and suddenly all of this feels very governmental instead of journalistic.

    We should all find disturbing the prospect of me being in the judge of what is and is not appropriate on Virginia political blogs. To the extent which Virginia Political Blogs is the commons (as opposed to simply having a blog) then, yes, that’s what I am now that, apparently, I’m an editor. It hadn’t occurred to me until last night that I would need to be in the role of being an editor. Now that I am, I don’t like it one bit.

    What I can’t figure out is how to go forward without my being an editor. So long as I am editor, no matter how standardized my rules, there will be people (like Chris, in this discussion) who accuse me of being biased, playing favorites, etc. (For instance, several Democratic bloggers have repeatedly accused me of being far too biased in favor of Chad and his views. I, obviously, think they’re nuts. :) That’s not a scenario that I see as very favorable.

    If there’s a method by which I can continue to run this website while functioning as an editor that doesn’t involve people yelling at me, I don’t know what it is. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.

    (Parenthetically, I must point out the irony of “SWAC Girl” being angry about my delisting somebody, given that she has pointed out that she — as she has every right to — routinely deletes many comments from her own blog simply because she doesn’t agree with them. At least a few of mine have never appeared, which is why I don’t post any comments on her site; what’s the point? Why that’s OK for her to do, but a horrible thing for me to do, I simply can’t figure out.)

  58. Thanks, Waldo – and I want to say me too to Maura’s comment. Count me among those who had made the choice not to view graphic details of the beheadings, and the snuff movie comparison crossed my mind, too. You don’t have to see it to understand what’s going on.

    On your choices (2) may not work. If someone wants to push boundaries with text, it’s possible. And now looking back, do you mean by graphics any computer graphics or graphics as in explicit?

    The reader end may not be getting enough attention. Someone browsing through stories, really didn’t have a choice. I was shocked to see those photos – the very ones I had decided to avoid. For a few seconds I thought the first one was just a bad photoshop.

  59. Unfortunately, by bowing to your friends demands, you have shown your hand… You will censor right of center bloggers when they move that chess piece, into a check mate….

    Chris, based on your comments on F.T. Rea’s site, I think you misunderstand something. You mentioned there something about a dispute between the blog in question and Democratic political blogs. I know nothing about this. Nobody e-mailed me anything about, I saw no mention of it, I had no context for the post in question other than when I read it on the aggregator. Any belief that the blog was pulled for anything other than the content of that particular post is simply wrong.

  60. What possible difference does it make if images are eliminated from the aggregator? If you people are reading the entire post on the aggregator, what became of the concept of the individual blog? Why don’t we all just submit our posts to Waldo and have him post them there in their entirety? Oh, wait. That’s what most of you unwittingly do already.

    Waldo’s aggregator has become just another Diary blog like RK and KOS. It does absolutely nothing to promote your individual blog if you allow the entire post to be reproduced there.

  61. Thoughts:

    * If you’d consider switching to WordPress + FeedWordpress you could manage things at a post level. It’s php and not python, but hey.

    * Regardless, I’m sure there is a way to write plugins/hacks for planet planet (or whatever you are using). I’d suggest stripping html and truncating the posts to a fixed amount of characters. This way you hopefully drive more traffic to people’s sites and stimulate more conversation in the comments. Which is really the point right?

    * I’d have removed the image from the post if it showed up on RVABlogs (if I didn’t already strip html). I’d probably email the blogger and have a conversation with him about how I didn’t agree with that sort of thing — mostly because the majority of my audience reads the site at work. If the site becomes unreadable at work because of unacceptable content, it ceases to be a resource.

    I think I’ve just repeated thing people have already said as I am — typically — late to the conversation.

  62. I’d probably email the blogger and have a conversation with him about how I didn’t agree with that sort of thing

    FWIW, I tried to, but this blogger provides no contact information, and has never communicated me in any way.

  63. Tucker,
    Would that also apply to someone who posted an unsubstantiated conversation with an undisclosed person who relayed an unverifiable secondhand conversation they had on a plane? Just asking.

  64. I find myself wondering if SPD or GGD objected to CNN’s airing of the clips from terrorist and insurgent videos that depicted American soldiers being shot and killed. I recall quite a bit of rancour over that. Even in that case, CNN decided edit out the portion where the actual killing took place. What was the big criticism aimed at CNN over that? Well, certainly it was that they were airing the propaganda footage that had been created by violent extremist groups and, by doing so, were serving as a medium for those groups to display their grotesque acts of violence.

    I have no idea what position SPD or GGD took on that particular issue when it erupted, but I do know that there was considerable criticism from the right over it.

    Waldo, I hope you choose option #2. You’re the person running the aggregator and it’s perfectly appropriate for you to made editorial decisions that serve to protect the interests of of this project. As long as you’re using that as your guide, I think you’ll be on the right track.

  65. “FWIW, I tried to, but this blogger provides no contact information, and has never communicated me in any way.”
    He does allow comments, it was not impossible to contact him.

  66. He does allow comments, it was not impossible to contact him.

    I didn’t say it was impossible to contact him, but that he provides no contact information, a term that traditionally refers to a telephone number, postal address, or e-mail address. I left a comment on his blog within a minute or so of removing his listing, which was how he (and, presumably, everybody else) found out. Otherwise I imagine it would have been days until he noticed. He actually never submitted his blog in the first place.

  67. “Why not shut down Virginia Political Blogs?”

    Why not. This whole day has been spent on a “Waldo Fest”. Dave is running a reputable aggregator and attempting to make it a financially feasible endeavor. As I’ve pointed out repeatedly and Waldo has refused to respond, this aggregator does nothing for the blogger, but only provides a resource for the reader. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but as Myron and I have both pointed out, it’s not a good thing either.

    When I say Dave’s aggregator is reputable, I do not mean to imply that Waldo’s is not. What I am saying is that if this is such a conundrum for you Waldo, then by all means end it now. Stop this silliness of dragging it out and making the whole thing all about you.

  68. As I’ve pointed out repeatedly and Waldo has refused to respond, this aggregator does nothing for the blogger, but only provides a resource for the reader.

    I have responded, Alton, as I did when you brought this up months ago. I’m not sure that I can be any clearer.

    Stop this silliness of dragging it out and making the whole thing all about you.

    Making it about me? I don’t understand what you mean. I’ve attempted to have a pretty in-depth and intelligent discussion here about the role of private property, free expression, and the bounds of editorship. I cannot imagine what would lead you to say that I’m “dragging it out” by having a single discussion and “making the whole thing all about [me]” by holding this discussion. Had I not held the discussion, I’d be accused of acting rashly or “taking my ball and going home.” I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. If you’re not interested in following this discussion, why do so?

  69. Ross Catrow points out that it’s really easy to set up an aggregator — I’d forgotten that other software exists. It’s WordPress-based, as easy as installing a plugin. The list of VA political blogs is available as XML, ready to be imported into any aggregator automagically.

    Among those who object to my delisting this blog, who will volunteer to take over the site? “General Grievous Dog” would like to, wouldn’t he? Chris? Kat? Alton? If it’s as simple as listing all blogs, and there’s no technical problem in running the site, presumably one of you would be happy to step up to the bat, wouldn’t you? I’d transfer the domain name to you, the site continues to run as-is and everybody’s happy. Right?

  70. I’m not sure what you wanted to link to Waldo, but that has nothing to do with the issue that has been raised by me and Myron. The fact that you reproduce an entire post has a deleterious effect on the Virginia blog community. I’m sure you can change that. Or at least I hope you can. If not you are using inferior software.

    As to dragging it out. You yourself have laid out your three options. Pick one and get over it. It did not take a full day of discussion to decide to eliminate a poster, why should it take a full day of discussion to make your decision in this matter?

    And an answer to Tucker’s question and my response would also be appreciated by many who are reading this.

  71. Waldo, I once had a back and forth with someone in the blogoshere that left me with a sick feeling. I was angry. I was disgusted with the exchange. I wished I had done differently and written my comments more clearly. I was amazed at how affected I was by the debate.

    When I first read your post asking for a discussion of what was best, I thought that you must be feeling the same way regarding the removal of this particular blog. And, if you do dislike having any role as editor, then give it up to someone who will take it or stop all together.

    My reason–life is too short to have this hanging over you. There are many other battles to fight, so to speak.

  72. “Now I’m stuck running this thing that requires me to make judgments about what is and isn’t offensive, and I really resent that.”
    No, you’re not. You are not stuck in anything you do not wish to be stuck in. End it like you’ve threatened to do. Get it over with and pull the trigger.

  73. @Alton

    Obviously, you have some conceptions of Waldo’s motivations that differ from my own. Also, you view the aggregator as either negative or not nearly as positive an effect on the blogosphere as myself.

    With that said, I would be very disheartened to see the aggregator go. I’d much rather take a day or three to discuss this than be rash and get rid of it.

    However. To compare that to the “rash” decision of pulling a blog is misleading. You can put the blog back on at any point, but the readers that stop reading because they are seeing graphic images that terrorists sent to be used to illicit digust and fear (i.e. the very things this image is being using for now) will not come back so easily. The two are completely different, and to advocate the same handling for both illustrates a misunderstanding of their consequences.

    Now while I can’t speak for Waldo, I’ve already given an answer to Tucker’s question inadvertently. I quote it below for your convenience.

    “The difference between text and images is that you can’t avoid seeing an image. In that instant, you have taken in the entirety of the message the image is sending. With text, this effect is delayed across reading the entire entry. Furthermore, almost everyone here can agree that with few exceptions, graphic images have a much more powerful effect than what you can write in a sentence or two (before the digusted reader moves on). With regards to rumors or lies, it is up to the reader to decide. Since the aggregator has such a nice balance of blogs, if there is a lie posted on one, oftentimes another blogger takes them to task on their own blog. Thus, even clicking to read the comments, an aggregator reader usually gets both sides of the story.”

    In regards to your question, I prefer seeing the whole entry. Also, if Waldo sets up such a technical change, I think it would negatively impact the blogging scene. In that initial paragraph, I would need to see something quite moving in order to click the link and follow it through. Not everyone has broadband yet, and it takes valuable time to click each and every blog link. Suddenly blogging would be (even more like) sensational news, where the first five seconds, or in this case sentences, has to grab me no matter what. Most likely, I’d simply end up scanning the paragraphs from every preview, and that would be it.

    Basically, I don’t understand what deleterious effect posting the whole entry has on the blogosphere, other than taking traffic hits from each individual website. Maybe you could continue your intended debate by listing some of your percieved problems with the status quo, instead of repeatedly commenting about Waldo’s lack of response, and leaving it at that.

  74. Hey Alton,

    Will you email Waldo and take your blog off the aggregator? It would save me precious seconds during my afternoon stroll through it. Thanks.

    BTW, Waldo. Do whatever you like. It’s your barbeque and it tastes fine. Whenever I do post, I like for it to be read by as many people as possible. If they click through, because they would like to comment then fine. But I’m not upset because my hit count hasn’t gone up…but that may be because of the quality of my posts too.

  75. Would everyone who is feeling impatient with Waldo’s deliberation just take a deep breath and stop reading this discussion if it’s getting you too hot under the collar? Personally, Waldo, I think you’re doing a great job of inviting a thoughtful discussion and reserving judgment until you get some diverse feedback. You haven’t “threatened” to do anything. You’ve put some ideas out there and you’re debating what to do next. Waldo, you’re not damned if you do/damned if you don’t. You’re only damned by some, lauded by others. Indeed, you can’t please everyone. I support your process here.

    Can you institute a one-strike-and-you’re-out blocking rule on graphic photos, but keep GGD in the aggregator, text-only? Everyone else would have photos, unless and until they cross the line. I would be happy with this, if it’s technically possible. Yes, someone could (and will, I’m sure) say horrible things with words rather than photos… But even if someone does start spewing pornographic text or ALL CAPS HATE SPEECH or whatever, just to prove a point, that still wouldn’t be nearly as offensive to me as the photo in question.

    I check email while my three year old daughter wanders about the house. Sometimes she wanders into my office while I’m checking the news. I can’t tell you how glad I am, obviously, that she didn’t see that photo.

    I support your decision, wherever you go from here. I empathize with the spot you’re in and don’t want to have to be in, I hear you that you wish you didn’t have to deal with this, and I’m chuckling at some folks here in your comments section who are getting snarky with you about this. I love watching someone I like keep his cool while others around him get agitated. It amuses me.

    Good luck.

  76. Waldo,

    For the bloggers who say you are hurting the blogging community — what a crock! — why don’t they ask you to remove their links from VPB? Isn’t that an easy process? Why haven’t they done that?

    My suspicion is that a handful of bloggers, who happen to have decided that VPB is a bad thing because it draws its power from being a service to the free exchange of ideas — to readers — want it to go away.

    Dig this: It had never occurred to me to worry about how your posting of entire pieces might hurt my hits count. That’s because I’ve been too glad/grateful to have new readers exposed to my work as a result of your aggregator.

    Is political blogging about hits or ideas? And, I like it that your site works differently that Blognet News. Perhaps some bloggers, still bitter about Allen’s defeat, are trying to buffalo you?

  77. “Dig this: It had never occurred to me to worry about how your posting of entire pieces might hurt my hits count. That’s because I’ve been too glad/grateful to have new readers exposed to my work as a result of your aggregator.”

    Amen FT…Amen. I’m just happy somebody might be glancing at my work. I could care less about hit counts. Those who worry about hit counts should make their blogs better so people will have a reason to click and comment on it.

  78. Virginia Political Blogs is a great site. I don’t agree with censoring, because I think it’s a dangerous “slippery slope.” I do hope though that whatever your decision, it involves leaving the aggregator up.

  79. Waldo, I’m not sure what my opinion is worth on this issue, but I would like to say something.

    I can understand why you would want to avoid censorship like the plague, but I can also understand why you wouldn’t want such an image appearing in plain site on the aggregator.

    I, personally, see no fault in imposing a simple “no graphic imagery rule.” 99.9 percent of people abide by that rule anyway. This was the first time that an image of a beheaded man has appeared on the aggregator, was it not?

    Of course, if you no longer feel that operating the aggregator is worth the anxiety, I, personally, would not begrudge you for shutting it down. I know how it is to juggle multiple online ventures, and sometimes a venture just isn’t worth the effort that you’re putting into it.

    Napoleon Dynamite said it best when he said, “Just listen to your heart. That’s what I always do.”

  80. well, if you want to get complicated, you can tell people “no images without a tag: ‘graphic’” in the image file as you specify. If they break the rule they get booted. any images tagged graphic are not displayed.

    just like atrios has a checkbox that says “open links in a new window” you can have a checkbox that says “display redacted content” — or you can just insert a box depicting a redacted image and people can click on the post if they really want to see it (or the “redacted” box could be a link to the image).

    maybe more hassle than you want, but it should be a win-win (for us, not you. you would have to write the filter.)

    If that’s not an option for you, I’d say no graphic content, and if you start needing more rules as time goes on, pass it off, please keep it up.

  81. While my hits have gone down….more people have reading my junk.

    I hope you continue to do this….I visit several times a day.

  82. It’s terribly funny to see Alton grousing about this conversation. Alton, why the hell do you care? Quit posting, ask for your blog to be removed from the list, and ignore the whole blasted event. What a baby.

    Waldo, keep the aggregator. Continue to use your good judgment and boot anybody who posts disturbing graphic images. Reading this aggregator shouldn’t be like a visit to Michael Savage’s website.

  83. I, personally, see no fault in imposing a simple “no graphic imagery rule.” 99.9 percent of people abide by that rule anyway. This was the first time that an image of a beheaded man has appeared on the aggregator, was it not?

    But that was then. Now that you’ve had to make this decision, there will no doubt be attention seekers who will test the boundaries of decency just to make a point or provoke a reaction.

    Redacting images, so that those who want to see them can make a conscious choice, seems like the best solution so far – and would have the added benefit of the site loading faster for those of us without broadband. Someone way up the thread (Maura, I think) made a good point about the difference in psychological impact between words and images. There is a qualitative difference, and I do not see the need for you to worry about monitoring ideas expressed through language. The marketplace of ideas will take care of that. I also hope you will continue the aggregator.

  84. Waldo,
    I think it was a great idea to offer this up for discussion for readers and bloggers who use the aggregator. That being said, I think you shouldn’t let this thing weigh on you too heavily. From what I can see you made a judgment call that was motivated by concern for readers and based upon some very basic standards of what is appropriate and what you’re willing to be a part of. For the most part the bloggers who are trying to cast you and your decision in this instance as motivated by partisanship or ‘caving’ to pressure from liberals seem to have an agenda of their own. Don’t let them buffalo you. You know what you did and why you did it. Ultimately that’s all that matters. Some people will always bitch, no matter what you do. As long as you’re confident in the reason behind your decision to remove that blog, that’s all that will count in the long run.

    My advice is, don’t sweat this thing anymore. It was a simple editorial decision and frankly, if anyone doesn’t like it they can take their ball and go home. You’ll drive yourself nuts if you let every complaint get to you. In this case, there’s a decidedly dishonest quality to the positions of a few of the loudest whiners.

  85. I don’t know if this will be useful or not but I’ll toss it out there anyway. This discussion reminds me of issues from the old BBS days. I had a women’s community board and a tournament board for a particular text base action/ strategy game. There was far more structure, and there were many more rules because the culture and economics were radically different, even primitive by today’s standards. So was the technology (DOS based, ANSI art, slow modems – every connection required a phone line). It was necessary to be somewhat protectionist and heavy-handed about screening with the women’s board because predators and posers were always trying to get in.

    Fortunately, I was warned about this early on and had measures in place to head off a lot of problems. And while the pornography community was huge, we were able to avoid intersecting with them. There was also a phone sex community very interested in using BBS chat as a way of reaching potential customers – really the immediate ancestor of cybersex. In a nutshell, there was no shortage of sleaze.

    That’s where I’m coming from. The basic questions were the same – how much control, what’s fair, free speech, what are my colleagues doing, conflicting values, how do I build an open community and protect it at the same time, etc. etc. But back then if I had decided not to edit or exercise control in that environment, my phone lines and equipment would have quickly become tools for facilitating porn traffic, maybe even prostitution.

    Our gaming team kicked ass, while the women’s board became a major pain in the ass. There was an active non-partisan politics board, and he’s still at it. Now I prefer the extreme of no rules because I came to despise that policing role and the attendant high drama. But it’s just not realistic to expect to avoid editorial decisions entirely in open venues, especially as they grow.

    What’s eerily similar is that the passion and emotional investment are way out of proportion to potential rewards. So are expectations. By the time it’s all sorted out, new technology may render the question moot. If somebody has a desire to display beheaded corpses they will do it somewhere, but they shouldn’t be surprised when hordes of fans fail to walk that path with them. If you want hits, get them. If your blog really does rival sliced bread, you’ll get the readership. Let the market decide.

    I diary on community blogs because I don’t want those headaches. Triscula says don’t sweat it, and I agree with that. It’s not worth it.

  86. Hi Waldo,

    I’ll be honest, I don’t visit your aggregator as often as a lot of the people commenting here. I use my own aggregator service to sort through, organize and read all the virginia and national blogs.

    Never the less, I swing by every once in a while to see some of the new blogs that have popped up.

    I think you have the right to set whatever rules you want. It’s YOUR BLOG. If SWAC girl (who moderates her comments and has no right to moan) and GG have a problem with it, they can start their own service or not use yours.

    I can understand the outrage if you were censoring people for their opinions, but you’ve NEVER done anything of the sort. I’ve seen some pretty disgusting thoughts posted to local blogs (I’m looking at you, BVBL), but they are opinions and people have the right to post them, and you’ve never censored that.

    A severed head? It wasn’t even an opinion, it was posting something graphic for the sake of posting something graphic, and nothing more. GGD’s posts aren’t “hard hitting”; they’re from a kid who got a copy of Photoshop and learned to use it. The majority of the images GGD creates aren’t meant to further political discussion, voice an opinion on an issue, or even attack people’s ideas on an issue; they’re meant to attack individual bloggers personally (Howling Latina, Rule 303, etc).

    You have the right to censor whatever you want. People would (and should) take this site less seriously if you started censoring ideas, words, rants and raves. But a picture of a severed head of a patriotic American? It’s graphic, it’d be yanked off the MSM, and it’s perfectly logical to be yanked off here.

  87. I support option #2, with modification. I think graphic imagery is fine, as long as it is “below the fold” (not visible from the aggregator) AND the post contains a warning.

  88. While my preference would be to allow the Republicans to go ahead and continue to embarass themselves and their party, I can also see A.J.D’s point: “GGD”‘s post would never be allowed in any MSM outlet.

  89. I’m getting a kick out of the 3-4 bloggers who are attacking me on their blogs, and those blog entries are being syndicated on Virginia Political Blogs. In doing so they are, of course, proving that I am just as tolerant as they claim I am not. Each post is its own rebuttal. :)

  90. Waldo, as everyone has said its your decision to make, but labeling political speech as inappropriate is very difficult, which I am sure you are now grappling with. For example, some Republicans might object to pictures of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the suffering of people there as something that should be deleted. Those pictures are just as graphic as what GGD posted, but people need to see them to understand what happened. Words just don’t do what happened in New Orleans justice. Same thing applies to the brutal way some extremests are taking hostages and executing them in Iraq. I’m remembering the American soldiers who were allowed to surrender in Iraq last year after being ambushed only to be tortured to death instead. This is a reality we have to confront while discussing the public policy involved.

  91. Waldo,

    What we may be seeing is the end of whatever semblance there was of a both-sides-of-the-aisle, collegial spirit out there in the Virginia blogosphere.

    It seems some pissed off Republican bloggers now may regret buddying up to lefties at blogging confabs, and such. I suspect a handful of that ilk has decided that an all-inclusive, both-sides-of-the-aisle aggregator, such as yours, works against their interests.

    They want it to die.

    Perhaps the honeymoon for the Virginia blogosphere is over.

    For a while bi-partisan efforts by bloggers to work together may be more rare. On the other hand, this may be a revealing, crucible sort of time when people who are sincere and reasonable — and their opposites — can’t help but show their stripes.

  92. I have an offer. Let’s call it an olive branch, in the spirit of Christmas. (This was suggested to me via e-mail just now.)

    I will restore the blog in question to the aggregator and not add any new rules. If this single condition is met.

    I want the complaining blogs (Alton, GGD, Jonathan Maxfield, Chris, SWAC Girl, Carl, Flora McDonald and Kat) to post the blog entry of my choice on their blog. I will not write the text or provide the image — I will provide a codeword to an anonymous third party who will send that codeword, along with as much text and as many images as they want, to each blogger. Each blogger will receive a separate blog entry. They must post that blog entry on the front page of their site without explanation, excuse, or followup. In neither word or deed may they indicate that it was posted because of this offer, or why they posted it. I will say up front that I will encourage each third party volunteer writer to provide a highly-charged image and supporting text that will, without question, offend nearly anybody who sees it. The blog entry will arrive sometime in the next week, and must be posted promptly.

    This functionality mirrors that of the functionality that the complaining individuals believe is so fundamental on Virginia Political Blogs. Given that they’re such staunch advocates of such a system, I can only assume that they will not hesitate for a moment to take me up on my offer.

    This offer expires at 11:59pm on December 26, at which time I’ll be sick of waiting. Given the rapidity with which all of these bloggers responded to the removal of the blog in question, and the frequency with which some have written about it, I trust that this deadline will present no problem.

    I await confirmations.

  93. F.T. is so depressing. Can’t Virginia’s bloggers be a dysfunctional family that needs to have a huge fight around the holidays every year? Just because everybody hates each other tonight doesn’t mean we can’t sing from the same hymnal in church tomorrow and then go eat ham. Kum-by-ya My Lord Kum-…

  94. Waldo, I’ve been supportive of your decision to keep offensive material off of your aggregator. I’d do the same. But when I read comments like this (on SlantBlog) – “This blog is (or, was) perhaps the least-known, most irrelevant blog in all of Virginia politics, to my mind, given that I simply didn’t know the first thing about it…,” I begin to question your motivation and your commitment to decency. Jerry

  95. Waldo,
    I made it clear in my post that it is your site. A comment from one of my readers
    “Waldo can show a dead baby because it was blamed on Americans, but not show a murdered American killed by the enemy.”
    The so called outrage is a little one sided and the banning was uncalled for.
    If you are going to run a site that is edited and has rules then make that known. That the VPA is only linking to blogs you approve the content of. To say otherwise would be false. By banning GGD the VPA is no longer a list of political blogs from Va. It is YOUR list of blogs.
    You offer to turn the VPA over to someone. Not many have the skills or equipment. What if I pay you to host and not to edit. Now that is an offer.

  96. Don’t change a thing.

    My perception of your aggregator is that it has been non-partisan. Neutrally censoring political speech is impossible. From my point of view, the best treatment of hateful speech is more speech directed at the hateful speech.

    #2 won’t work. You can’t draw a line on “graphic” imagery any better than anyone else. Is the picture of the hangings of President Lincoln’s assassin’s graphic? How about pictures of war dead (in Iraq, WWII, the Civil War. . .)? Trying to define graphic is like trying to define pornography. Many would say that The David is pornographic.

    Don’t go down the slippery slope. If someone posts something you don’t like, don’t read it, don’t link to it on your own blog, or write up an article on your own blog explaining your point of view.

    Censorship doesn’t solve anything.

  97. Waldo,

    I see you’ve decided to demand a quid pro quo. As a big believer in property rights, real, intellectual, or otherwise, whatever you decide to do is fine with me. However, I finally realized what it was that bothered me about this whole kerfuffle and thought I’d tell you, since you asked and all.

    Refusing to link to the gruesome picture of a beheading of a US citizen by Iraqi terrorists b/c you find it “so disgusting that I simply did not want to witness them” reminds me a little bit of the MSM’s broad refusal to air the video of the planes slamming into the WTC on 9/11. The stated reason given is that it’s “too traumatic” or “unnecessary to the understanding of the events of that day,” but I’ve long thought the real reason was they’re inflammatory abd inciting – they get the blood up.

    It’s this paternalistic attitude that I find objectionable. They, the broadly liberal reporters and producers of network TV, seem to think we yahoos just can’t handle seeing the images of the planes hitting the building without grabbing our pitchforks and setting out to lynch the nearest imgrunt.

    Then, to add insult to injury, the MSM had no problem splashing the Abu Ghraib photos all over the front page and the nightly news – photos that, in my judgment, were equally inflammatory to those they refuse to show. And photos that they had to know were going to be used as a recruitment tool by our enemies in Iraq and elsewhere, thus leading indirectly to more American deaths.

    I hasten to add that my problem was not at all that they showed the Abu Ghraib photos, but merely the double standard I saw in their refusal to air the footage of 9/11. The parallel with your refusal to link to the beheading pic is clear. I think.

  98. @Jerry Fuhrman

    I’m not sure if you intended it or not, but your selective quotation of Waldo from Slantblog is highly misleading. I reproduce a larger quote below, to provide context for what he said.

    “I was barely aware of the existence of this site before the image in question was posted, having only seen Lynn Mitchell (“SWAC Girl”) link to it. Nobody had ever mentioned the site to me before. There was no pressure, no campaign, no nothing. I received several complaints about the image (perhaps a half dozen), and while they were e-mailed before I saw the image, I did not check my e-mail until after I’d decided to remove the blog in order to remove the offending image.

    There was no campaign. This blog is (or, was) perhaps the least-known, most irrelevant blog in all of Virginia politics, to my mind, given that I simply didn’t know the first thing about it.”

    Waldo did not try to insult the blog in question, nor did he supposedly give away his true motivations, as per your implications. He was explaining that since he didn’t know anything about it, there could have been no way he was part of an orchestrated campaign to get rid of it from the left. Furthermore, he explained he removed it -before- checking his mail and seeing the requests to do so, again removing the possibility of conspiracy. Now unless you are willing to call him a liar, I don’t see why we need to get off of the discussion of should graphic pictures be allowed on the aggregator.

  99. Judge Smails ‘just hit it on the head’, and NLS has a great take on this too, along with this quote provided by Kilo -

    “Waldo can show a dead baby because it was blamed on Americans, but not show a murdered American killed by the enemy.”

    and I think your show of arrogance to JM -

    “I would have removed your blog from the aggregator some time ago. Instead, I let you carry on.”

    and that is not taken out of context, you are describing your ‘tolerance’ as King of this aggregator!

    STD has enjoyed, and no doubt benefited from being included on the VPB aggregator, but I have ‘railed’ against the MSM and their ability to pick and choose the letters to the editors that I send… They pick what, and when they will publish…

    If VPB is to contribute (to the VA Blogosphere as a whole), you need to be fair to all comers.. Need I remind you that you expressly used Jim Hoeft’s example of helping some ‘unknown’ blogger who hasn’t ‘paid their dues’ to be heard?

    Alton said it right, that you should have pulled a post if it were that offensive, and consulted via comments with GGD your problems with it. However, even on that method, I would like to refer you to the aforementioned bloggers I am citing here.

    The conclusion is inescapable, you censored a blogger who was only making a point… and calling that graphic ‘pornography’ is a ‘cop out’. I believe NLS made that clear in his comments.

    Oh, and Merry Christmas to you and your family :-)

  100. Waldo,
    Unless they threaten to shoot you (veiled though it may be; SWAC Girl denies that’s what she meant when she said recently that I’d make good target practice, although she admitted being quite fond of guns–but then that may have been a Freudian thing and not as literal as I took it to be) the reactionary whiners (SWAC Girl, Spankie, Commonman, GGD, especially) are best ignored.

    Keep up the good work.

    By the way, I’ve been particularly amused by the reactionaries’ moaning over your use of the word ‘pornography’, as if the notions of obscenity and pornographic had never been used before in connection with something other than the depiction of sexual activity. These folks do live sheltered lives, and apparently are not familiar with the concept of metaphor. But in any case your analogy is more than apt.

  101. Waldo you could always list all banned site in white type on a white page. You could have a special section (like an adult bookstore) for the offenders that could only be acessed after special login.

    Or you could treat it like a cancer and cut it out- that’s my advice.

  102. Waldo, you have earned enormous respect for your keen wit, excellent writing, and commonsense pragmatism. I have never been that interested in regularly reading the aggregator because too much redundant crap gets into it, but it is an interesting and useful idea.

    Thank you very much for the aggregator and thank you especially for your own website, which is always fun, poignant, and informative. It is a model for civil discussion. Thank you.

    Whatever you decide to do, many of us will gladly support your decision.

    I have not commented much lately, because my company’s site hiding practices trigger your blog comment screen’s blacklisted IP system, so I have to drop off the work VPN to post, but I read every chance I get (weekly at least). Thank you very, very much.

    Scott Nolan

  103. Chiming in late here, but I believe that filtering out all images not only would solve this problem but also help people with limited bandwidth for their sites. RVABlogs does this and I believe it doesn’t hurt the aggregated sites.

    Ultimately, Waldo has every right to determine what content makes or does not make the VAPoliticalBlog aggregator. He picks the sites to include or exclude because it’s his puppy. It’s a great service and I’d really hate to see it fall apart because a handful of people want to cry foul over his running it as he sees fit.

  104. I don’t think you should filter out all images. Some could be valuable. There could be unobjectionable images on perfectly good links that would cause that entire site to be banned.

    I do think you should use common sense and filter out hate, whether imagery or text. And as the person who runs the site, you get the responsibility of deciding what hate is. I know you won’t abuse this responsibility.

  105. Waldo, it is your aggregator, you should do as you like.

    That said, I have the “dog” in my feedreader, so he doesn’t offend me.

    I think it would be better if you put him back in.

    Either put him back or don’t put him back. But don’t shut down the aggregator. I have always liked yours ten times better than BNN.

  106. Option #2, amended to eliminate all images, means no one has to argue about whether a particular image is appropriate or not. That’s why it’s a viewpoint-neutral response. For the reasons Joe stated at 12/23 11:59 PM, images are different from text and that’s why they should receive this special treatment.

    If Mr. Jaquith does eliminate all graphics from the aggregator, I think the banned blog could be re-admitted. After all, graphics were his stock in trade. Then the complainers should be appeased.

    As others have already pointed out, filtering out all graphics will make the aggregator faster to load, too.

  107. Waldo,
    Your blog, your rules. Do as you please. As a conservative, I am not into censorship, but that’s just me. ‘Graphic’ is in the eye of the beholder. You can use your own eye on your own property, your own prejudice on that which is your’s.

    Now it seems you are asking that any blogger who disagrees with you must agree to post a disgusting graphic, sight unseen, to get back into your good graces and back onto your aggregator. If they choose not post the graphic that you have chosen, then they will remain out of the aggregator for having the audacity to question you. Do I have that right?

    Wow. I’m so old, I remember when it was liberals who supported free speech and would never have held anyone hostage to silly demands simply because they disagreed with them. Back then, liberals were very open to ALL points of view and very much against censorship. How times have changed. And how sad.

  108. Waldo-
    I know you are a busy dude but when you have a moment could you forward me a copy of the email I sent asking to be included on your aggregator? For the life of me I can’t find it in my sent box nor do I remember even composing it.

    I didn’t mind at all that you included the UCV blog, though, and thought it was quite clever of you to have created the VPB as it must have been a bit time consuming and perhaps costly.

    You may remove the link to our blog or leave it. The choice is yours. I have made no demands on you and expect the same in return.

  109. Janie:

    Here is what Waldo said in his ‘olive branch’ offer:

    “I have an offer. Let’s call it an olive branch, in the spirit of Christmas. (This was suggested to me via e-mail just now.)

    I will restore the blog in question to the aggregator and not add any new rules. If this single condition is met.

    I want the complaining blogs (Alton, GGD, Jonathan Maxfield, Chris, SWAC Girl, Carl, Flora McDonald and Kat) to post the blog entry of my choice on their blog.”

    So, no, it appears that you don’t have it right.
    As far as I know there haven’t been any threats to remove anyone from the aggregator. GGD’s blog was removed because removing the blog was the only way to remove the post (as Waldo mentioned further up in the comments).

    Waldo’s offer (and I believe it was meant more to make a point than it was to serve as a genuine offer, but I may be wrong)was for the biggest complainers to put themselves in a similar position of having to post a very offensive image, not of their choosing, on their own site.

  110. Waldo, you made the right move. I saw the images, they were disgusting. If you shut down the aggregator you’re punishing the majority for the actions of one lone racist. You were right to do what you did. Don’t make it any harder than it is. Case closed.

    NJH

  111. What you should do:

    1. Examine your first principles. Why did you start it in the first place?

    2. Does it still meet that need?

    3. If no, can it meet that need again with some alterations?

    4. If no, then why bother?

    There is another alternative. Can’t you modify your script so that all pictures are not displayed? Then people would have to go to the originating site for pictures. This would be an added benefit for people with dial-up accounts.

  112. I have no opinion in this fight I just find your new title humorous. A loyal reader of the blog aggregrator who cant spell

  113. Now it seems you are asking that any blogger who disagrees with you must agree to post a disgusting graphic, sight unseen, to get back into your good graces and back onto your aggregator. If they choose not post the graphic that you have chosen, then they will remain out of the aggregator for having the audacity to question you. Do I have that right?

    No, you have it wrong. See Triscula’s explanation.

    Flora wrote:

    I know you are a busy dude but when you have a moment could you forward me a copy of the email I sent asking to be included on your aggregator? For the life of me I can’t find it in my sent box nor do I remember even composing it.

    It was Alton who e-mailed me and asked that I include you. I’d be happy to forward you that e-mail, but I would require Alton’s permission to do so, as I hold such things in confidence. Normally I would not even reveal that it was he who sent the e-mail, but given his role in this, I feel considerably less hesitant now.

    You and I exchanged some e-mail about your site’s inclusion; you were troubled that, at times, your entire posts weren’t showing up, but only selected portions. We never entirely fixed the problem, but I did help you debug some HTML problems with your site.

  114. Wow! Back in the daze of the now defunct Virginian-Pilot’s TalkNet era, we “posters” had “posts” deleted all the time. While we might have complained about it, we usually just moved on. Instead of discussing the media we used for our discussions, or the censorship we had from time to time, we got back to discussing the issues themselves – or, some of the posters simply left out of protest. Well, to be completely truthful, much like these commnets we often discussed the individuals posting their views. Ugly and often rude and mean spirited “personal attacks” (online cat fights) where the norm. The “issues” were just different topics from which we could find ammunition to shoot at each other.

    Gee … so much has changed

    The one thing said in all of this fine discussion that I noticed was the conversation RE: the use of false names. Me? My online experiences have taught me that I’d encourage all of you to promote greater use of real names. Accountability is a good thing. The online conversation can benefit a great deal from folks knowing they can be held accountable for the words they communicate in the public square. Politically motivated rumors too.

    I have used my real name since back in the early 1980s when I first began discussing issues “on line”. Yeah, I’m old. It happens.

    Perhaps the recent media attention paid to “Bloggers” has caused some folks to place far too much significance on the “Blogoshere”??? – instead of appreciating that the real value of having community forums available online is for 24/7 access to varied points of view from folks of different ideological beliefs – a place to go to discuss issues and viewpoints; hopefully learning from one another in the process.

    Believe it ot not – Free Speech – and honest conversation can help prevent polarized “sides” from actually reverting to physical violence. Understanding each other – and learning to respect one another can be a wonderful thing.

    But … it seems to me that most of the folks I’ve read on this thread already know this – and are doing your best to practice it.

    Nice job.

    Like a few folks pointed out – this discussion could have become a whole lot uglier than it did. It is nice to witness folks doing their best to get along in a civil manner.

  115. Waldo,

    I didn’t use VPB, and I won’t use WVPB. But I do want to thank you for two things: being one of the most innovative bloggers in 2006, and for tackling the big questions, like how we use the commons and what censorship is and is not.

    I thought GGD crossed the line when he compared Governor Kaine’s preschool initiatives to the Hitler youth, but what do I know. I guess I just have thinner skin.

  116. Goodness. I simply cannot believe that there is any argument over this. It’s Waldo’s site, he can do whatever he wants. Go start your own aggregator if you disagree with whatever policies he implements.

    I have to be honest, I’ve never even visited the aggregator (I subscribe to most of the feeds through my RSS reader, anyway). But it sounds like Waldo’s aggregator has done a good job of bringing attention to a lot of conservative blogs.

    That’s strange behavior for a lefty who is supposedly so bent on censoring certain viewpoints from the right.

  117. Waldo, you can remove my site. I’m sure nobody will miss it anyway, but I don’t see the point of being involved in the aggregator anymore. In spite of the “head of steam” some people think it has, I was already soured on it as I realised it was just a way to take other people’s content and put it where readers didn’t have to visit the originator’s site.

    That didn’t matter to me, I don’t advertise or take any money or get anything back for “hits”, but on the other hand if I am at risk for being removed, I’d rather it be by request, rather than by an absurd application of liberal sensibility.

    I avoided watching images of beheading as well, but it did happen, and there’s a lot worse in this world than being reminded of the war we are engaged in.

    I don’t know if the aggregator brought my blog any “attention”, maybe it just made it easier for the hit squads to know where they had to go to make comments without having to actually do any work of monitoring the blogs themselves.

  118. charles, you talk a big game, but why did you not just take waldo up on his offer? I volunteer to be the one to post any image I like on your blog, and you don’t get to say anything about it or explain it. Surely, you’d want to be consistent with your principles, no?

Comments are closed.