To publish or not to publish a clearly bigoted rant?

If you’re easily offended by racist slurs, you might want to skip this post, or at least the article I’ve linked to.

A recent Addicting Info article details a recent incident in the Lincoln Journal (Lincoln County, West Virginia). The paper ran a transcribed voicemail rant, complete with uncensored racist and homophobic slurs (which are blacked out in the illustration). Suffice it to say that it contains a pretty broad cross section of slurs, that I would only assume describe most of the non-white, non-straight population of Lincoln County. From the article:

The paper’s Managing Editor, Sean O’Donoghue, says that, as a Roman Catholic, he is offended by the rant. Further, many residents were disgusted. However, the paper is defending the decision to print the rant, saying that it is in reference to a local story about a local gay teacher who was recently terminated, which has recently been the top story.

However, the question is, should a paper, regardless of reasoning, publish something like this?

This is a situation I’ve grappled with on many occasions right here on this very blog. I’ve erred most often on the side of publishing my post, sometimes with warnings. But a hobbyist blog with relatively low readership and an area’s major print newspaper are two completely different animals.

The Addicting Info article goes on to say the Lincoln Journal should not have published this, or at least should have published a retraction. The rationale is that this is blatant hate speech. I can see their point of view, however, as much as I abhor racism and fascism, I feel there’s something to be said for publishing something like this occasionally (once every two or three years). There certainly should have been at minimum a prominent disclaimer and an advance apology for offending anyone, once the decision was made to publish.

My rationale: Every once in a while, it’s easy to ignore these types of people and pretend they don’t exist. I believe shining a spotlight on them once in a while helps the rest of decent society realize that we still have a racism and bigotry problem on this planet.

I share the dream of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and I hope that we can realize that dream as a society within my lifetime. But it is important to realize ignoring racism does not always make it go away.

(Footnote: I refer to “the late” Dr. King because even though his death was, at the time of writing, mere days short of four and a half decades ago, I believe his natural life would have extended through at least the next couple of years. That, and it was only in 2011 August that the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was opened.)

China and censorship: the Green Dam fiasco

Maybe it’s just me, but the first thing I think of now when I hear “China” is “censorship.”

Two recent articles on Freedom to Tinker address the new “mandatory” Green Dam software. The first article by Dan Wallach exposes just how powerful censorship software becomes when installed on the end user’s PC. Since I doubt that Green Dam will be released under a free software license (this is China we’re talking about here) it also highlights just how dystopian things can get when one trusts proprietary, non-free software. This is either the bottom of the slippery slope or very far down it.

The second article by Ed Felten describes just how insecure Green Dam is. In essence it is a security breach waiting to happen. I’m not surprised. A quote from a University of Michigan report quoted within the article sums it up nicely:

Correcting these problems will require extensive changes to the software and careful retesting. In the meantime, we recommend that users protect themselves by uninstalling Green Dam immediately.

I honestly am quite surprised that the software would even allow for uninstallation given what it is designed to do (censorship) and where it is designed to do it (on PCs in China). If Green Dam does allow for uninstallation, this is the first thing any responsible PC owner in China who gives a damn about his/her freedom will do.  I personally build my own PCs when I can, and start with a clean hard drive when I can’t. It would honestly surprise me if neither is an option in China.