Response to Nick on "Censorship" vs. Publicity

Responding to my recent post on Patrick Madrid’s turtling of his apologetics forum (head and legs well in shell), one Roman Catholic seems to have missed the point.

Nick writes: “I agree with you, if censorship (via difficult registration) is what is going on, then that’s wrong and Catholics should not be engaging in that.”

No, that’s not what I said. There were (presumably still are) censorship issues at that forum. For example, people were not permitted to link to Dr. White or my blogs, and the administrators routinely edited folks’ posts (on both sides of the Tiber). That’s not the issue. The issue is that Patrick Madrid is trying to hide his apologetics (at that forum) from the public eye: put his flickering candle under a bushel basket, as it were.

Nick continued: “That said, I don’t like such censorship on any apologetics blogs, and only after grave violations should someone be banned.”

I don’t think I’ll ever “get” why folks think that other people’s blogs are supposed to be a “free speech zone” for them. While I do permit most folks and most comments here, there’s no particular reason I need to permit any comments at all. It’s my blog. If you want to respond and you want your comments to be seen by all (as opposed to just being seen by the person whose blog it is), get your own blog – they’re free and easy to set up. I’ll even help you set yours up, if you cannot figure out how to do it.

Nick continued: “I think that to be fair with your critique and not be searching for someone with a speck in their eye, you should not moderate comments on your own blog. I’ve spent time and energy writing responses to some of your posts, only to find they never see daylight. That’s unfair to me and I believe goes directly against the spirit of apologetics.”

If you read the link that I’ve directed all commenters to on the comment submission page, you would be well aware that your comments may end up in a black hole for a variety of reasons. Other times, comments are simply sitting in moderation awaiting my finding time to respond to them. In early January, there were about 150 such comments – and that number has slightly climbed through the first half of the year, even while many comments have been approved and responded to.

There is a mechanism that permits you to comment on the blog post without my getting involved in moderation. That is by commenting on your own blog and providing a link. The blogging software should (and normally does) automatically create a link that directs the readers to your “comments elsewhere” at the appropriate section.

Believe me, I can appreciate that Patrick Madrid does not want to let people speak their mind on his forum – although one might find the name “Speak Your Mind” as the forum title a bit duplicitous. But, of course, aside from the irony of the name of his forum, I wasn’t criticizing him for censoring other people, but for hiding his apologetics.

Besides that, of course, I do host a blog specifically for providing a forum for opposing viewpoints to interact with me (link to debate blog). It’s unnecessary for me to do so, but it does prevent folks from suggesting that I’m trying to hide my positions from criticism.

Nick continued: “To me, censorship on blogs or forums (and I know of a few Reformed apologetics forms who restrict membership) is a bad sign as far as openness to opposing views go.”

Plenty of fora restrict membership. That’s quite understandable. Surely no one expects that my local parish of Roman Catholicism will permit me to get up and share my views after the priest gives his homily. I don’t have the least problem with blogs (and other sites) that don’t advertise themselves as being a free speech forum. What I do find silly is apologetics that tries to hide itself from its critics.

What we do (in Reformed apologetics) is open for the world to see. We don’t try to hide our arguments from the outside world. We’re not afraid of seeing our arguments addressed in the popular media of the opposing side.

Again, don’t get me wrong. There are fora that can and should be private. I’m not expecting that the next college of cardinals that elects Benedict XVI’s successor needs to let me in to review its on-going discussions, nor that Internet fora cannot be entirely private or contain private sections. Not at all. I’m simply suggesting that secret apologetics (i.e. trying to keep the arguments secret) suggests weakness of argument and an attempt to hide from criticism.


Update: Nick’s not alone in confusing the issue. A guy who uses the nick Syzygus makes similar comments on his own blog (link). Interestingly, while Syzygus mistakenly claims I require folks to register to post comments (I do not, though perhaps I should), he also (more accurately) complains that I am pseudonymous and do not post my credentials, while he himself doesn’t post his name or his credentials in any particularly visible place on his blog (perhaps one could find them if one dug more deeply there). What Mr. Burgess misses is that I don’t hide the arguments I use. They are out there in the open for all to see.

20 Responses to “Response to Nick on "Censorship" vs. Publicity”

  1. Alex Says:

    You are making zero sense to me. Please explain further. How is Madrid hiding his apologetics any more than you or White? Your explanation is unconvincing. I’m not a big fan of Madrid’s, so I’m not here specifically to defend him.

  2. Turretinfan Says:

    Madrid’s forum is (now) by registration only, whereas anyone with an internet connection can read our apologetics.-TurretinFan

  3. Turretinfan Says:

    By the way, on censorship, it’s worth noting that Madrid’s blog comment policy seems to be similar to mine. I’m not faulting him for that, at all.

  4. natamllc Says:

    Secrecy, huh?There is nothing hidden that will not be found out, proclaimed on the housetops.God is very capable of seeing and knowing all things. He is amazingly able to forget most of it!Now there is much I want Him to forget about me. Sometimes that is not the case when it comes to others or things I want God to go after. Sometimes my complaint is frivilous. Why? Because I am complaining about people and things outside of my sphere!Let me state for the record, that there either are, many of my comments in that black hole, or, they are one or more of those 150 pending?I count it a privilege to be able to post comments on any blog, let alone getting them published! I have heard of hell. And one man said about hell, he believes there are no exit doors once one gets there! So, all things considered, whether or not my comments are published hereon, is not really for me the major issue, as is the fact that I am not where I ought to be. It is of the mercies of the Lord that He has not consumed my wretched soul!For that, to Him, to Them, I am thankful!Thanks TF to you too, for your courtesies, they are most commendable and always have as an underlying basis, His Grace, Mercy and Peace!Psa 120:5 Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Psa 120:6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. Psa 120:7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!

  5. Mike Burgess Says:

    Oh, and who enabled comment moderation here at ToFT, the internet fairy? You did, with perfectly understandable reason. To pretend that that’s not a “registration” requirement for posting comments is (as is becoming something of a habit with you) disingenuous.

  6. Turretinfan Says:

    Mr. Burgess:When you make a mistake like calling comment moderation “registration” you should just admit your mistake instead of trying to call your theological opponent “disingenuous.”It’s not my fault you erred, so try to find a way of dealing with your mistakes that doesn’t involving falsely accusing the host of the blog.-TurretinFan

  7. Mike Burgess Says:

    read my remark again: “… establishing a blog on the internet and publishing on controversial topics and then requiring registration, heavily screening, and refusing to publish a significant amount of critical comments from numerous readers while choosing to remain pseudonymous and refusing to provide credentials…” The error was yours, because I was pointing out that you require registration for your comments sections, not to view your webpage. I understand that Madrid did do that (now) with his Speak Your Mind Forum; that was never at issue.

  8. Turretinfan Says:

    Mike:Guess what? I read you correctly the first time and you’re still wrong. I don’t require registration for my comments section. Perhaps I should, but I don’t.-TurretinFan

  9. Mike Burgess Says:

    You require that people go through comment mediation which is a distinction without a difference, for all intents and purposes, TF.

  10. Mike Burgess Says:

    Astonishing how swiftly comments can get published around here when you think you’re correct and that they will make you look good.

  11. Turretinfan Says:

    a) “moderation” not “mediation”b) The difference is very real to a small handful of folks who choose to post comments anonymously.c) If you cannot just admit you were wrong …–Turretinfan

  12. Turretinfan Says:

    “Astonishing how swiftly comments can get published around here when you think you’re correct and that they will make you look good.”But, since I very rarely think I’m correct … (eyeroll)Look, Mike. Vapid and easily answered questions get dealt with quickly. That’s just the nature of the beast. The more complex and thoughtful comments take longer to address. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably have to say it again.-TurretinFan

  13. Mike Burgess Says:

    Thanks for pointing out my “mediation/moderation” error. I was typing quickly. See? I can admit an error.

  14. Turretinfan Says:

    ok … great.Now, about that registration error?And finally about the whole accepting Trent thing? (half joking)-TurretinFan

  15. Mike Burgess Says:

    See what I mean? Not so quick on the approval now.

  16. Turretinfan Says:

    Yep. Those two comments (and perhaps one other one earlier) hit the black hole. Not because they were crushingly perceptive, but because they further exhibit that trait which I’ve already permitted you to demonstrate sufficiently above.When you are ready to separate out your own errors from your perception of errors on my part … but I don’t think that will happen (although you acknowledged the mediation/moderation thing above, so who knows?).-TurretinFan

  17. Turretinfan Says:

    Mike:To save your fingertips from further unncessary wear: I’m not posting further comments from you on this subject until we reach a mutual state of mind regarding whether my blog requires registration.-TurretinFan

  18. Nick Says:

    I’d like to say first off that I DID misunderstand you, but I also think that there is more to this.I originally thought you were focused only on the “difficult registration” aspect. It turns out you had a bigger scope than that, including editing people’s posts and such. I AGREE with you on that, such action is still wrong and has no part in apologetics discussion areas. While I believe people like Art Sippo have written good things in the past, he has a long streak of disrespectful, slanderous and unsubstantiated rants on his record. This makes not only him look bad (as much as I hate saying this), it makes Catholic apologetics as a whole look bad. And it’s embarrassing that Pat’s forums have to “clean up” after him, resulting in this censorship issue as well.Given that, I stand by my original claims that in apologetics outposts like your own blog, I consider it just as unfair to not allow opposing views to be immediately posted. I’m not arguing for “free speech” in general but rather in the SPECIFIC context of apologetics, especially when much of your work deals with commenting on other people. These other people should have the right to defend themself or their position on your blog. Otherwise the comment box becomes a cheer leading section rather than an apologetics tool to really prove your case. It is very frustrating to write a response defending a given issue and then not seeing it published. This is especially offensive when posts of lesser worth/quality are allowed to be posted en masse. I don’t see the need for “moderation” at all, it simply creates an unnecessary back log of posts you must spend extra time “reviewing” as well as a delay of posting and even rejection of posting (which is a form of censorship which has no place in apologetics blogs/forums).Lastly, this isn’t about local parishes allowing anyone to speak, because local parishes are specifically for giving their own view of the situation only. The same is not true for apologetics.

  19. orthodox Says:

    “While I do permit most folks and most comments here”No you don’t. You allow a tiny fraction of comments. At least be honest.

  20. Turretinfan Says:

    “Orthodox”: a) You should really consider that your comments are read not only by me, but by God. He knows whether you have a legitimate basis for your statistical claim.b) Your own experience here is not typical because you have a lot of trouble interacting respectfully, as evidenced even by this comment of yours.-TurretinFan

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