Hate Comments, or, JS Mill in the 21C, Lovink and Scholz on collaboration & cooperation

Like many bloggers, I tend to disregard and if necessary erase blatantly negative comments. "Necessary": comments that are racist, sexist, homophobic, "fascist," or otherwise just hateful, without contributing thought (and by this I mean: a giving of pause, of respect, of consideration, to what the other has said), and so on, I tend to delete, although not without second thought and pause. On Abe's blog, for example, you can't post twice in rapid succession, which limits the damage one can do. While it makes commenting on more than one of his hosted blogs frustrating, it is there for this very same reason: the (almost) anonymous scrawling of Internet Hate.

There is a pause that seeks to undermine the privilege of rationalist discourse while calling for its generalized framework. The horizon of JS Mill--that I might disagree with what you say, but will defend your right to say it--is delimited. But how? First, it is delimited through its own humanist logic, of the individual, the speaker, the voice, and so forth, but we'll skip over that to think the pragmatic ways in which technics reroutes the articulation through the medium employed. This medium is the Net, not Habermas' coffeehouse or the Victorian Commons.

The way I program it is this: on this blog, this medium, of the Net, but also of the blogworld, I will delimit and erase comments that are "hateful." At my own discretion, then, this is also my responsibility as censure. However, anyone is welcome, and I cannot stop them, from going through the productive effort of setting up their own blog and writing what they wish of what happens here or elsewhere. Although this too may be subject to the laws of the land, I can't (and won't) do anything about opinions in another forum, where, hopefully, the writer can be held accountable for his or her words, at least insofar as those words are directed, pointedly, at another.

On this blog, I wish to encourage discussion, and real-world attempts at (ir)rational communication, not "hate," and I will not proliferate such comments. I don't wish to take Richard Dawkins' concept too far, but anger forces memes; the arc proliferates like attractors. On the other hand, and in general, the dynamics of this "hate" is that once contact has been established with the malicious writer, the words often, although not always, turn to ash. (Update: and such has been the curious, intriguing, and "personal" case with Yu, in the sense of a conviction that I might even know this person, and here where there public and the private are most blurred. A dialogue with Yu follows the comments to this post). For the most part, "hateful" discourse remains squalid to the Net. Perhaps the Net provides a venue for the anonymous to voice their anger in all directions without actually having to go to all the trouble of carrying out Beer Hall putschs. (And yet these putschs happen, today, all too often).

Or perhaps the Net offers an opportunity for the touch and the reach without fear of the return strike. And rightfully so.

That said, I had erased a comment from a "Yu" < yu@hotmail.co.uk , IP>, who returned shortly to post again, in an apparent attempt to engage a flame war (Yu has denied this, and has not carried out such antagonisms since). It was a challenge for me not to erase the comment again, and not to write back with spite. My challenge now is to generate a possible discourse, but also to continue to turn this comment to the generalizable subjects at hand: this media/medium, "hate," writing, the parameters of speech, free speech, free writing, and the ways in which we interact, here, on this space, this time. That these comments, from Yu, demarcate a discourse of what constitutes a taunt, is fairly clear. Yet also a taunt that may be aimed at undermining my own position, here, writing. The specter of the "I." Yu displays some metaphysical convictions over the truth, which is what has rendered this possible commenting into an economy. Yu writes:

how cowardly that you remove the negative comments. tobias is scared of the truth. tobias is scared that others will find out the truth.

And what "truth"? This has been the current motion--for whom is "Yu" to know the truth?

There is "hate:" no contact (save for the lynch), no touch (save for the hit), no cooperation (save for the mutual disgust). And always a "save," a salvationary gesture, and with a combination punch of the truth, which grants the (possibly defensive) Nietzschean chuckle.

Expansion, or Generalization to "Hate"
Trebor Scholz and Geert Lovink have discussed the tendencies of mailing lists to erupt in hate on -empyre- in regards to efforts at organising an event dealing with [Free Cooperation]. The commenting system in the blogworld provides a similar venue, although perhaps more anonymous, and not always with a network of list support. At times the Net provides a shield to vent one's anger without actually having to come to terms with anything substantial, risk an investment, personal or published. Trebor writes, in the context of self-sacrifice in cooperation, how:

...not shying away from conflict and finding save arenas in which to stage that negotiation is a possible beginning.

The German media critic Christoph Spehr describes free cooperation as a way of working together in which you remain independent and can walk out with your contribution to the joint action under your arm. I don't know what that would look like.

Perhaps such a scenario, employed here, requires rendering this blog as enough of a safe haven to articulate my own writing without the immediate delay of "hate." By walking away, one erases hateful messages, although not without acknowledgment. This acknowledgment, however sharp the rapport, might lead to change. Geert Lovink writes:

I can't stress enough the potential, the promise for individuals to transform, while collaborating. This is an essentially different take from the division of labour functionality approach in which the 'brigade' turns into one organism, fulfilling the monumental tasks ahead. I guess we talk about free cooperation because of its open end. It may as well end up in a positive New Age ideology with Christoph Spehr as its Leader. In order not to end up there we need to build in disruptions, empty space, brakes, time for reflection. Otherwise we may start to believe in the cynical reading of cooperation as merely self sacrifice and (self) exploitation.

And Trebor:

Online and off we should demand relationships in which we are free instead of forced or enslaved, situations in which we are independent and can negotiate and re-negotiate the rules. And if our "haggling" does not work out, we withdraw our effort or eventually withdraw from the collaboration. Collaborations need to have incentives, not just risks.

posted. Wed - March 10, 2004 @ 12:36 PM           |