Levels of Discourse (was Re: Rape / apology)

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Wed, 18 Jan 1995 14:50:22 +1000

Bjorn Fry attempts to justify a minor netiquette transgression by launching
a massive counterattack:

> Why would anyone post a contribution to the thread to me PERSONALLY that
> should not be posted to the list? What's going on here?

I can think of quite a few reasons. There's certainly nothing mysterious
about it, anyway.

> Any contribution I
> make, except to personal friends and relatives or for certain
> administrative functions, are for PUBLIC consumption! Do with it then what
> you may. I can't control what happens anyway.

If you post them to the list, sure. But if you send somthing to an
individual then it's assumed to be private, and it's considered bad
form to resend it publicly.

> Should I judge a person's
> words differently based on the intended addressee?

I certainly look at messages sent to an entire mailing list or
newsgroup in a different light to my private mail (admittedly this
is exaggerated for me because I read the two with different commands).
Do you judge someone's words differently depending on whether they
are printed in a large circulation journal or handwritten in a
private letter?

> Am I supposed to think
> that there is some sort of political or other ulterior motive involved?

There could be, but then there can be political/ulterior motives in

> The
> more I think about it, the more I can categorically say that ANYTHING that
> is said on a particular subject of public import, and that is not
> specifically of a personal nature, and that cannot or should not be held up
> to public scrutiny, is not worth the bytes its written with.

This seems a little strong. Let us imagine that someone posts
something and I think they have made a major mistake. I might want to
tell them about it and let them correct themselves rather than doing
it myself. Or I want to solicit opinions on something controversial,
and don't want the flames I know I will get from a public posting.
Or I have a draft copy of a paper. Should I be obliged to ask for
comments on it from everyone who is likely to be interested, or is
it ok just to send it to a few people?

> I for one want
> to let it be known that I have not and will not intentionally do the same
> to anyone and definately don't want anyone to do it to me anymore! In other
> words, if you can't say it publically, don't bother to say it to me or ...
> treat others as you would have them treat you.

Well, if you want to wire your house for sound and give me a feed,
I'm happy to make it publicly available :-). But even on non-personal
topics, don't you ever have conversations with one or two other people
that you don't particularly want to share with everyone in the world?

> I am sick and tired of
> people not taking full responsibility for their actions, or standing up for
> what they believe in. If you don't mean what you say all the time and to
> everyone, DON'T SAY IT! Or, is this some new PC double standard where it's
> OK to be descriminatory and disingenuous some of the time?

What about the case where standing up publically for what you believe
will get you put in jail or shot or stop you getting a job? Is it
not reasonable to restrict your comments to then "hidden transcript"
(in the sense of Scott 1990), if the "public transcript" is controlled
by others? (I'm not necessarily saying that this *is* the case in
anthro-l, and the extreme examples obviously don't apply, but the
strength of non-coercive social sanctions in virtual communities
shouldn't be underestimated.)

> Mayby they are right, the internet needs to be controlled legally.

The internet *is* controlled legally. It may not be controlled to
the extent some would wish, and too much for others, but there are
laws that apply to the Internet and are enforced: e.g. defamation and
copyright violation.

> Such
> freedom, that universally and perpetually requires thoughtful reasoning,
> consideration and responsibility, is dangerous. We simply can't have that.
> It would mean that we would have to believe in something. ;-)

Like the consideration not to make public something the author didn't
want read by everyone? It's not something I'd ever make a fuss about
(unless the message had plastered all over it "Do not make public"),
but surely it's just common curtesy.

Now let's look at what Michelle actually wrote:
> >So you know, the message that Bjorn refers to below was a message sent
> >specifically to him, as opposed to a message posted to the list. I've
> >very deliberately refrained from posting to the whole list on this
> >thread.

> >As I understand it, posting private messages to a public list without the
> >author's permission is at best a breach of "netiquette" and at worst, not
> >exactly legal. I realize that this may well have been an honest mistake
> >on Bjorn's part, but wanted to point it out in any case.

Michelle doesn't sound too upset. I don't know why she didn't want
her message reposted, but then I'm willing to accept that people have
desires, feelings, etc. that are hard, if not impossible, to explain
and communicate to other people.

Danny Yee.

P.S. I have stuffed up and sent personal mail publically before; a
couple of times it was really bad, but most times it was just commented
on as here.