Thursday, September 26, 2013

Angry Clowns and a Thought on the Meta Rules of Blogging and Self-Censorship

I have a few more posts on the Tea Party GOP's hate of the poor as demonstrated by their cruel attack on food stamps that I will be offering up later today and tomorrow. But, I wanted to take a brief moment to work through the following issues and questions a bit more.

I would like to thank the folks who chimed in on this earlier post on Godwin's Law and truth-telling as it relates to writing online. Your thoughts were very much appreciated. As I outlined there, I am trying to work through the bigger meta-question of how trying to be an acknowledged member of the commentariat often involves one's compromising their intellectual integrity in order to package an idea to fit within the approved bounds of public discourse.

Styles make fights; we often have to modify our style to get the big payday.

There is a related question here: how do those of us who write online on our own blogs, websites, or in traditional print, learn to censor ourselves (or not) for fear of consequences if we deviate from what the/our public/audience expects from us?

For bloggers and others who participate in online social media one of the options is to free yourself by turning off the comments on a respective post. John Scalzi, one of my favorite writers and online personalities has done some yeomen's work exploring this issue. As he details, there are many advantages to turning off comments. Primarily, a given writer is freed from anxiety about comments, self-censorship, and writing for the purposed of increasing traffic and hits.

And given that one of the trends in blogging is that much of the commenting occurs off site on Twitter and elsewhere, for many very talented online writers, it makes sense to turn off comments in order to free their creative voice from the fear of approval and disapproval on the part of readers.

I appreciate that perspective. But for many online writers who practice their craft seriously, and on a consistent and deliberate basis, the comments of their readers are a resource. I count myself among that group.

However, there is still a sense of being confined by expectations and consequences if you step outside of the box that your readers and fans have constructed. Your readers made you. Your readers can break you.

One of my challenges is always doing my best to say what I truly believe and think regardless of the consequences. However, living up to such a principle can be very difficult.

If we write for comments and hits there is the great risk of being imprecise and  a provocateur just for the sake of driving traffic to a given post, and your website, more generally. I would imagine that when advertising is a variable in the incentive structure rewarding one's online work, the temptation must be even greater.

I try to free myself from those self-imposed boundaries by being my own random self whenever possible. For a variety of reasons, both personal and professional, these last few days I have felt like one of the characters from the underrated movie The Devil's Rejects.

I am the angry clown. What is my fear in sharing such a sentiment? I am worried that folks will bring in the political correctness police as opposed to understanding the politics of pleasure and impolitic indulgence that we as human beings should allow ourselves.

Do share.

What is your favorite anti-hero who you become in your daydreaming fantasies when you are not interested in performing the politics of respectability, pleasing others, or alternatively are having a bad day and not interested in bourgeois norms of politeness and self-censorship?

For those of you who write online, have blogs or other websites, how often do you self-censor and self-police for fear of how others will respond to your honest and sincere thoughts on a given subject or topic?


Black Sci-Fi said...

I appreciate the broad space you've claimed for speaking out on topics that the MSM will never touch, or understand. My only regret is that you don't have a wider audience.
By having opinions on real life (culture, media, politics, etc) you are moving beyond the self-imposed boundries that have "type cast" AA intellectuals in the past.
Your "this is my life and likes" approach allows you to tackle the more subtle forms of racism that pervuade our society and infect our intellects with constant subliminal (white is right) reinforcement, otherwise known a slave seasoning.
On a personal note, I've always feared the divisions of purpose that we see within our community when gender and sexual identity surplant the message of AA unity against white racism. Black women have always been liberated in our community.
MPH on MSNBC is preaching to another audience when she fails to acknowledge, early and often, that WHITE women and White homosexuals have gained the most benifit, by far, from the 60's Civil Rights Movement. Unless and until she starts coming off like Aabagond, i don't see her show lasting beyond MSNBC's need for tokenism. In affect, she and RM have overlapping themes.
Now liberated, (on the backs of the 60's Black Revolution) many high profile white women and white homosexuals have rejoined the ranks of our oppressors and curry favor (dollars) with the white (LW/RW) power establishment by promoting Birchers in Progressive and Semi-Progressive clothing.
Glen Greenwald, Ron and Rand Paul suddenly have more than a toehold on shared values with our so-called progressive allies.

chauncey devega said...

We are getting there. I have some nice folks who have given me shine. TV for me is when not if. There are only so many spaces and roles for black and brown folks among the chattering classes. That is true more generally for the loop stuck on repeat that is most news commentary too.

Shady Grady said...

Favorite antihero?
Logen Ninefingers aka "The Bloody Nine".

No matter what you write someone will misinterpret it, take issue with it or feel betrayed, perhaps even people you like, respect or in some cases write for.

All you can do is try to remain polite, concise and clear and continually remind your readers and yourself that your writing is a work in progress and no one will agree with everything you write.

Just like a carpenter measures many times and cuts once, I edit quite a bit before publishing. But at the same time you can't remove the passion that made you write on a topic in the first place. Ultimately if you keep at it you'll find an audience that hopefully likes your style but understands like anyone else, you have your quirks and blind spots.

chauncey devega said...

Editing is important. Very much so which is why we should try to revisit all of our work online several times. But, how do we avoid letting the need to please some audience from limiting our own voice. Turning comments off has been one way that some have approached that challenge.

Shady Grady said...

Comments, good or bad, are feedback and while I understand why some people might occasionally not want comments I generally find that comments are good for me. They help me (I hope) to become a better writer. Criticism, in the best sense of the word, has been incredibly useful to me.

If I am writing something which I know will upset people I say so upfront or might make a joke about them skipping this particular post. But I do my best to write what I think.

Weird Beard said...

I've heard that fear can be the killer of creativity. The great fight for artists is overcoming that inner critic to embrace what they truly are and truly wish to express. For them self censorship is death. When you are engaging in mind-reading and altering your future courses of action based upon the perception that others will disapprove, that is a death cycle. You can't be looking at yourself through other people's eyes. You have to hold your center and authentically express who you are at this present moment. Perhaps this is an ill primer, but consider Mitt Romney. Old dude changed his mind on everything in accordance to his base's whim ad nauseum. Consider any band you've ever loved that at some point stopped expressing themselves authentically and were driven to pump out albums for public approval instead. If asshats like Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern can be themselves in the public eye, then I think you have some wiggle room. There might be growing pains if you are changing your audience, but there will be some percentage of the public that will accept you for who you truly are and I believe it is a worthwhile pursuit to give them the chance.

chauncey devega said...

What you see here is what I will be. If not, call me on it when/if I get the shot. You are so on point. But, the opportunities are so narrow and the requirement to dance and perform for gold and silver overriding for most.

You mentioned Howard Stern. He is one of my faves. I have followed him from fame to the present. He is the real deal. Limbaugh? A fraud. Now, what do we/us do in crafting our real true public selves?

Learning is Eternal said...

Hancock played by Will Smith. Who can't relate to having powers beyond the publics basic perception of themselves? In that same stroke also having such capabilities & not being the best you, you can be, illuminating lives in your radius, generating more of that energy that makes you (one) great instead of burning joules on things that don't affect change; the underlying current on a wave of topics/decisions/calls to action presented to us daily.

The Sanity Inspector said...

The reading public may not be as shockable as you might think. Amiri Baraka doesn't seem to have stifled many thoughts during his career--and they made him poet laureate.

DanF said...

Turning off comments occasionally probably works well when you're a big enough deal that you know there will be meta conversations around your work; perhaps less useful if your audience is small. In all cases, turning off comments should be required if your publishing platform is Yahoo!. The world has enough shit piles.

I suppose there is a sweet spot of sharp enough wit with a subversive perspective, but with just enough edge off so as to be inviting to the maximum number of readers, but I think if you swing for that spot, you're probably more likely to miss than hit.

Keep your voice true to yourself and either people will come or they won't. You started as a random click for me and now you're a daily read.

chauncey devega said...

I will check out your site. You are free. And don't undersell yourself.

chauncey devega said...

Scientific American just turned off comments. You are spot on regarding traffic. But, there is some anecdotal evidence that good sites w. low traffic can benefit too because the room still looks full.

chauncey devega said...

by definition, "poet laureate" is not a man of the people. don't confuse elite tastes w. those of the masses.

buddy h said...

I was always inspired by Roger Ebert's truth telling, in the medium of film criticism (a medium that can be either very shallow or very deep, depending on who is writing). I recently found an excellent cartoonist who illustrated a small portion of his autobiography: