I need to mention a situation that has been brewing in the blogosphere for a couple of years, and is now coming to a head.
I’m not going to detail it here, people who are both better writers and more intimately involved in the story have told it better. But a combination of pressure tactics were applied against bloggers on the right in an attempt to stop some much larger and more prolific bloggers from exercising their First Amendment rights.
Online harassment and the occasional threat is part of the territory, whether you’re a blogger or have some other place in the online world.. The first one scares the shit out of you. But you can’t live at that peak, and eventually a new normal gets established, where you pretty much do what you did before, but there’s that little thing in the back of your mind that you try to ignore.
Then it happens again. Some freak at this point, and run. They delete their accounts, stay offline for a bit, and while they may return, their profile has changed. They’ve been scared into compliance.
But most don’t freak at this point. You do feel the fear again, but not quite as sharply as last time. The peak is a little lower each time after that, and after a few months your basic reaction is something like “Yeah, yeah. I get it, you hate me. Take a number.”
Then someone comes after your job. Not after the side job you do online, or your blog, but after the one you do 60 hours a week to pay the bills before you dive into your online obsession. This will cause your backside to pucker up most sincerely. Lots more people will bail at this point. Others are told by their employer that if they want to keep their job they have to drop the online activity that caused someone to become annoyed enough to contact the employer. So more become silent.
Some lose their jobs at this point. Some of those will shut up, lying low so that they can avoid having the situation online tear up their job hunt. Others at this point get mad. They fight back, and tell the world. And if they’re lucky, sometimes people listen, and step up to help.
I went through most of those stages, though I was lucky enough to keep my job and remain active online, back before most people had heard of the Internet, when a 9600 bps asynchronous modem was considered a high-speed connection, and such fast connections were only available in the 50 or so largest cities in the US. But it keeps happening. Sometimes it happens in small ways. Sometimes it gets bigger than expected.
One round that started with trying to silence a small group has now grown to encompass a number of major players in the conservative blogging world, the National Bloggers’ Club, and the American Center for Law and Justice. So today we make one post, then tell the world that the First Amendment is in danger. (The irony that I post so infrequently that I must break my silence to join the silence has not escaped me.)
It’s hard to know where to start in such a long and complex story as the current one. I guess Stacy McCain’s “Online Armageddon” is a good place to get a summary of where things stand as of this morning. Popehat looks at the story as a lawyer. He’s now created a tag on his site so finding the earlier stories is easy if you’re interested. Patterico.com has pretty much the entire history, as he has lived with the situation as it escalated over the past two years. And if you read only one site, visit Michelle Malkin’s site where she describes how things are, and gives a call for action.
Because we aren’t being silent because we want to goof off on a nice late spring Friday. It’s important to push to insure that the First Amendment applies to New Media. It wasn’t written for big publishing empires, they didn’t exist when the Bill of Rights was ratified. The First Amendment was written to protect pamphleteers and small publishers. That our presses are now electronic should not remove our protection.