Thursday, August 6, 2009

First Amendment Rights or Being Nasty?

Pardon me as I step up onto my soapbox.

I embrace the First Amendment and our rights to say what we want, write what we want, publish what we want, etc. I do, however, have a problem with those who--in my opinion--step over the line in exercising their rights by stomping all over the rights of other people.

Case in point: an exceedingly nasty comment left by an anonymous individual on another blog that I moderate. Here's the scenario:
  • Blog post about Person A - with links to Person A's website, blog, etc.
  • Comment left by Person B, who did not provide his/her name and specifically requested his/her comment to be posted anonymously. Comment contained NO remarks about the content of the original blog post, but Person B did: (1) call Person A three nasty names, (2) make disparaging remarks about Person A's website, (3) make disparaging remarks about Person A's personal life and relationships, (4) say that he/she would never utilize the services of Person A if he/she were the last person on earth.

Does Person B have a right to say what he/she wants? Absolutely. But I had to ask myself several questions (and then answer them):

  1. Did anyone solicit Person B's opinion? (No)
  2. Was the purpose of the original blog post to discuss a particular topic? (Yes)
  3. Did the comment address the topic discussed in the original blog post? (N0)
  4. Did the comment serve ANY purpose? (Yes: Bashing Person A from a personal perspective so as to negatively affect Person A's business life.)
  5. Was the comment's intent purely objective? (Absolutely not.)
  6. When does a person cross the line between freedom of speech and slander/libel? (Can't tell you, I'm not a lawyer.)
  7. When does a person cross the line between being constructively critical and downright nasty? (When his/her sole purpose is to do injury/harm rather than offer the opportunity for growth, development, and improvement.)

I'm all for exercising our rights. But please, consider the rights of then next person you talk about or write about. S/he has rights too. If you cross the line, you're definitely going to harm yourself right along with your target. In some cases, you'll harm yourself more. Maybe Mr./Ms. Anonymous feels he/she got away with jabbing at Person A. Maybe, in fact, he/she did.

But if you ask me (I know, you didn't--please humor me any way), bashing someone anonymously is a small, sneaky, especially repugnant form of nasty. It's lower than low. And there's only one guy I know who'll be able to exact the appropriate form of punishment. So I'll leave it up to Him and step down from my soapbox.

Thank you for listening.

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