Feb 28 2009
10:12 am

The motion to limit comments about a high-profile murder case at local media websites is generating a lot of controversy. (See the Knoxville News Sentinel, WBIR, and KnoxViews).

This opens up a whole can of "free speech" worms that will be hotly debated, but one thing really bugs me about all this. I am sick and tired of hearing about "blog" this and "blogger" that in reference to comments at sites like the News Sentinel.

I know that sounds trivial, but it matters and here's why.

People who should know better throw the term "blogging" around as a catch-all to describe every kind of internet writing. The media does it, and even supposedly educated professionals such as lawyers (see the WBIR link above) who presumably research their cases yet still use the terms incorrectly in their arguments.

Morons with a keyboard and a couple of functioning brain cells at these sites call themselves "bloggers" and consider spewing idiocy and hate speech to be "blogging" on comment sections they call "blogs."

You won't find such socially retarded extremist commentary and hate speech on any respectable blogs -- not even the most extreme conservative blogs. Some of it creeps in to comments from time to time, but responsible bloggers at least try to moderate it. I'm sure there are plenty of racist and inappropriate blogs out there, but I don't read them and I'm guessing you don't either and neither do most other people.

But people do read newspaper and other news media websites. Why mainstream media wants to provide a home for this stuff and defend it is a mystery to me. Well, not really, as discussed here before.

Judge Baumgartner seems to get it, though. According to the News Sentinel, he told their lawyers "It's a commercial site. It's a site run for commercial purposes. This is not the Internet. This is a site created by you in which you invite comments. This is something you control."

Something you control. Or not as the case may be.

Anyway, the point is that the terms "blog," "blogger," and "blogging" have been hijacked, co-opted and corrupted by idiots and some people who should know better. Blogging has taken on a negative connotation that is undeserved. Any semblance of responsibility and respectability has been lost and will never be regained.

And that's why bloggers should stop using the term. I strongly urge writers formerly known as bloggers to start using the term "new media" or "independent media" (or something -- suggestions?) instead of "blog," the term "citizen journalist" or "new/independent media reporter/writer" for "blogger," and "new/independent media publishing" or just "internet publishing" instead of "blogging."

Blogs are dead. Long live independent media writing. Or something. And thanks a lot to the creeps who killed blogging.

bill young's picture

Supreme Court?

Not the Tn one but the BIG one.

Is there any court opinions on the subject?

CE Petro's picture

There May Be

I was reading about a case in Texas, that may have some bearing on this, specifically as it relates to individual posters, (link...)

The article specifically says that there is no clear-cut court stances, though, and that each state that has faced libelous or threatening posters lawsuits rule differently. I do think that the biggest difference between the Texas case and the K-town case was touched upon by Judge B, in that the K-town case revolves around commercial sites as opposed to an online community site.

Mello's picture

It is clear that speech over

It is clear that speech over the internet is entitled to First Amendment
protection.13 This protection extends to anonymous internet speech.14 Anonymous
internet speech in blogs or chat rooms in some instances can become the modern
equivalent of political pamphleteering. As the United States Supreme Court
recently noted, “anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent
practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and dissent.”15 The United States
Supreme Court continued, “[t]he right to remain anonymous may be abused when
it shields fraudulent conduct. But political speech by its nature will sometimes
have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight
to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.”16

Someone else may find some good points in these cases.

gonzone's picture

A suggestion

Since it seems to be all the rage on the right, perhaps we could name the Twitters "twits"?

There are always "bad apples" in anything, but you seem to correctly identify the conflation with what major media outlets and what simple comment sections do with what legitimate weblogs are doing. The tragedy of the commons explains the idiots (like myself at times) who make off-color comments on posts but nothing justifies the attempt to co-opt "weblogs" by traditional media to justify the continuation of poor journalism on the cheap. Many weblogs, by comparison, are paragons of truth and accuracy in my opinion. Take TPM, for example, no major media outlet can compare when it comes to great and accurate news.

But framing has degraded the blog as a label for what many do so well. Maybe we could call it a bubbazine?

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Rachel's picture

I saw this piece on the tee

I saw this piece on the tee vee last night and kept yelling "it's not a blog!" at the screen. Sadly, they didn't seem to hear me.

WhitesCreek's picture

Killed or just seriously wounded?

I agree with everything you wrote, Randy, except for maybe the "blogging is dead" meme, and although I don't completely disagree, maybe I just think of it differently. What comes next will stand proudly on the shoulders of blogging, which may be more evolving than dead, except as a brand. (The new media is dead...long live the newer media?)

Maybe I think what used to be thought of as blogging has degenerated to the Facebook box "What are you doing now?" kind of thing that is actually a "log on the web" instead of thoughtful writing meant to advance our ideals that we have grown used to thinking of a blogging.

What we're looking for is a way to brand citizen writer-activists who make content and comment available, mostly for free. (Maybe one day there will be an adequate model for compensation.)

I never have thought of myself as a blogger except as an easy handle for other folks to use. WhitesCreek has always been a Journal in my warped little mind...a life on the creek much rant as it is link journalism or whatever.

So we are looking for a brand name and that seems very appropriate. Do we start a list?

new media
citizen media
new/independent/media reporter writers
independent e publishers

And then work on the acronym?

it's clear that the news corps wish we'd never been born. Good for us!

And good for YOU!



Konanonymous's picture


Hey Steve-o

That new word verification you set up on your blog doesn't seem to work for me.
The image never appears, it just says "loading..." and never goes away.

Just letting you know. I want to comment, but just can't.

See how much trouble those "anonymous" dudes cause?


WhitesCreek's picture

Which blog? WC or RV? I

Which blog? WC or RV?

I actually haven't changed anything but I have noticed that IE has problems on WhitesCreek. I hear it's a Scripts problem and out of our control. Anybody know?

I have been using Chrome and everything works just fine. Very suspicious that Google Chrome works so well on Google Blogger. It may be time for Whites Creek to go out on its own.'s picture

So, protect the 'bloggers'

but full speed ahead on the 'Fairness Doctrine' heh mate ?'s picture

the choir

Please, you're speaking based on conversations you have had with people who didn't like or couldn't stand those guys in the first place. They have never been anything but idiots in your book so the demonstrating never took place.

gonzone's picture


Now that's some fine snark. [hat tip]

Hey, I didn't know you had a book! 'Fess up dude!

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Konamazed's picture


"They have never been anything but idiots in your book"

Not just his book, mine too. Most of America's for that matter.

And you left out traitors, punks, losers, cowards and pedophiles.
And the only thing I'd like them to demonstrate is a high dive with a reverse triple gainer at the nearest rock quarry.

gonzone's picture


Where did you hear that one?
Oh, right, Rush's latest rant, eh mate?

Only place I see that talking point is on the right.
Wonder why that scares the shit out of them and thus must create such a straw man?

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Dwight Van de Vate's picture

A related paragraph from "Snark" by David Denby

"The network news broadcasts and many newspapers and magazines are slowly, hesitatingly, but inevitably sliding into the Internet, sometimes using online sites as an adjunct, sometimes as a principal venue. This massive, sliding-cargo movement leaves editors and writers worried, and not just because they fear unemployment. In the near future, the authority of agreed-upon facts and a central narrative of what's going on in the world could weaken and even dissolve. The Internet is remarkably adept at amplifying, correcting, ridiculing, and overturning that narrative, but it cannot, on its own, create it. In the Internet, there will be no such authority, only the many niches and bat caves from which highly colored points of view will fly wildly like confused vectors, and in that situation, no one will be right, no one will be wrong, and everything will be a matter of opinion. In that future dystopia, the most memorable bits of invective and sarcasm will attain the widest currency, and snark will reign supreme."

Snark by David Denby, Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Dwight Van de Vate

Konanonymous's picture


I really do hate the "anonymous" function.
But what the hell, a commenter could write anything in the fields. Unless it's "captainkona" or "R.Neal" or some other established nickname it might as well be "anonymous".
IPs are usually recorded by default on most reply forums so anon is in nick only.

Hate speech and racially charged comments are a fact of life on the internet and I honestly think too much is being made of the issue.
But it is annoying.
Though in the case of Mr. Carjacking Shitbird, I can understand the anger regardless of how misdirected.

As far as not using the term "blogger" etc...
That depends on how we see our internet presence.
A "blog" in an online diary. Not a newspaper.
If you're simply transferring your thoughts and views to electronic type you're blogging.
If one is trying to identify as a "journalist" of sorts then calling ones self a "blogger" would be inaccurate.

I blog. I've done fine investigative journalism in the past but let's face it, it's boring.
Necessary, but too boring and lack-luster for me. I find political commentary far more exhilarating.

You are correct, however.
Blogging is getting a bad rap, but it's not our fault. The media is indignant because we often call them out on their bullshit. After they're done plagiarizing us that is.

Heh, you were actually angry when you wrote this, Neal. You're cute when your angry.

StaceyDiamond's picture


I noticed that Don Bosch talked about "bloggers" Sunday when he was referring to the KNS posters. Of course I don't think the courts should say the KNS can't allow comments, but I don't think the KNS polices their site properly and I think they do it for profit, trying to sell ads per hits, as Baumgartner alluded to. I don't like anoymous posting or blogging.

Anonymously Nine's picture

Oh my...

Blogs are dead. Long live independent media writing. Or something. And thanks a lot to the creeps who killed blogging.

Oh my. The creeps who killed blogging. How did these creeps kill anything? They have a right to say even things which you find terribly offensive. Even a right to say things that defense lawyers find terribly offensive. Even a right to libel people, although libel does carry a penalty. The right to free speech is not a shield for libel.

So what if someone wrongly and knowingly falsely wrote a person was a pedophile? Would that person be a creep Randy?

What's troubling is that the NS with its "Wild West" comments section has created a situation where the two men accused of the carjacking murder might actually be able to claim that there is no venue in which they can receive a fair trial.

Oh my again. Are you the greatest living hypocrite Toby? KnoxBlab is much more "Wild West" than anything in this town. I stopped posting there because of YOUR violent physical threats Toby. Threats which are very actionable. I could shut down KnoxBlab if I cared to because of your behavior.

Your response Toby? You wrote me that you had given your username and password to a group of people so they could physically threaten me. Implying of course that it wasn't really you who had threatened me.

So, should I file a lawsuit to shut down KnoxBlab because of Toby?

I'll hang up and listen to your answer.

R. Neal's picture

"Randy" Hey, I don't believe


Hey, I don't believe we've met.

R. Neal's picture

Please, let's not go there.

Please, let's not go there. (But it was raised recently on advice of counsel, who laughed at the previous pittance.)

Konaby's picture


Tune in tomorrow when we find out just exactly who "Toby" is. Maybe.

Maybe not....

Anybody got a joint?

Don Williams's picture

Death threats & character smears at the NS site--my experience

Just over two years ago I was involved in a highly publicized disagreement with The News-Sentinel.

One of the issues that wasn't much talked about at the time was the presence of thinly veiled death threats that were allowed to run in response to opinions in my online column, and letters to the editor containing lies and innuendos about my politics, my character and also at blog-sites debating my resignation as a columnist.

This practice of allowing readers to agitate for violence, engage in character smears that dehumanize, and generally whip up hysteria, was and evidently remains a practice at The News-Sentinel website and apparently is allowed at WBIR-TV.

The problem with allowing such hate speech, especially anonymously, is that it becomes an invitation to violence. Unless you've the subject of such an invitation you don't know how vulnerable the lawyers in question feel. These are people dedicated to justice and their profession, who'd taken the case reluctantly. They should not be objects of local terror threats.

Moreover, such hate speech creates a climate that distorts due process, and in my case, public dialogue. I'm reminded of the cartoon that ran in the New York Post showing policemen who'd just shot dead a chimp, implicitly representing President Obama. Such a cartoon is nothing short of an invitation to assassinate the president, who is characterized as subhuman. Similarly, allowing death threats and dehumanizing remarks on the News-Sentinel website should be regarded as the NS tacitly encouraging such practices.

You can't pretend to be a bastion of respectability on Main Street (figuratively) while operating a disreputable back-alley website operation and remain anything short of a pandering hypocrite.

Sadly, that double standard is what the News-Sentinel has long engaged in. Those responsible have had ample time to clean up their acts before now. At one point, the NS website was so negligent as to allow opponents to post the street address of a fellow columnist who shall remain nameless, but who had taken a controversial stand. Eventually, he was able to get the post taken down, but the NS online policies remain bush league. You don't see death threats and dishonest character smears at websites of other major newspapers.

These are despicable practices, and the webmaster should resign, along with the editor, for allowing such hate speech and incitements to violence. Speech has limits.

If you wouldn't allow it in the newspaper, you shouldn't allow it online in your newspaper's name. Classy papers don't.

Don Williams

cooperhawk's picture

It can happen even at the best sites

Look I think college dropouts (Hannity and

Limbaugh), drug addicts (Limbaugh), and sex fiends (O'Reilly and Limbaugh) should have jobs too. The "Fairness Doctrine" isn't about free speech, it's about helping disabled Americans finding jobs.

And you left out traitors, punks, losers, cowards and pedophiles.
And the only thing I'd like them to demonstrate is a high dive with a reverse triple gainer at the nearest rock quarry.

to agitate for violence, engage in character smears that dehumanize, and generally whip up hysteria, was and evidently remains a practice at...

WhitesCreek's picture

The conspiracy theorist in me wonders something...

I would say that the biggest enemy the right wing has is the liberal/progressive/IQ greater than 80 blogger. By lumping the progressive blogosphere in with news website hate speech in the unmoderated comments, this looks like a continuation of O'Reilly's "DailyKos is a hate site" meme which he tried to back up with three bad comments chosen out of several million good ones.

I see KNS as one more struggling news outlet trying to find economic sufficiency at the expense of relevance to the American process. Where are they in this moment? Shouldn't they be defending the new media and loudly differentiating between a hateful and venomous comment and a blog? Don't they disparage their own contributions by allowing a commentor to be elevated to the level of a blogger?

Anthony Welsch's picture


In response to WhitesCreek:

I was the reporter covering this segment of Friday's hearings in the case for WBIR-TV. While I can't speak for our station or attorney, I can say the idea that the "mainstream media" pushed in court wasn't to protect comments or protect blogs, it was about protecting free speech. The argument made by WBIR's attorney was commenting anonymously is part of free speech, whether it's done through a blog or done through comments after a news story on our site.

Is there some conspiracy to wipe out new media? I don't think so. I think the for-profit media will always encourage more exposure of their own products., as an example often links to local news stories by both KNS and WBIR. With that exposure, we are hitting eyes that may not be checking out everyday. The only catch is, from the looks of our parents company, Gannett's stock price, they haven't figured out how to turn those eyes into the revenue that the old home-delivered newspaper would produce.

One other point, do we want a court to decide what is and what is not editorially appropriate. While the News-Sentinel appears to have standards for the publication of letters to the editor, not all newspapers have the same standards or guidelines. Do we want a court to decide what is and is not appropriate for print?

WhitesCreek's picture

I'm not sure what of my post

I'm not sure what of my post you are responding to. I guess I wasn't clear in that it was primarily a call for the KNS and any other media outlet to pay attention: Commenters are NOT Bloggers.

To blur that line or to fail to defend it means that you also blur the line between bloggers and professional journalists...AND commenters.

As for any conspiracy to disparage bloggers or rather new media, there is always the co-ordinated right wing attack on the parentage of any who dare to point out the facts. I haven't accused WBIR, KNS, or anybody else of participating in any way other than failure to act, so far.

It is another discussioin as to whether posted comments should be protected free speech, but I would argue strongly that they are not. I regularly strike them from my own (since I don't say "blog" anymore)new media outlets. In allowing death threats to stand, what does KNS think it is accomplishing?

Anthony's picture

Death Threats

What it boils down to is an editorial decision by the news outlet- If the community feels that has a different standard from what it believes, they shouldn't use it. What I think is interesting is how many times the death threat was flagged--- if it was. I know our website will pull a comment automatically if 3 people flag it. The argument comes from some that the "flagging system" isn't enough- they want to see front-end gatekeeping. WBIR's attorney argued, you don't have that kind of control in conversation downtown at Long's Drugstore, why do we need it on web pages.

Is there really a difference between a commenter and blogger in terms of this case? While obviously blogs are generally hosted independently from traditional media, is a death threat made via blog any different than a death threat made via comment?

Attorneys against comments argued Friday that comments on traditional websites carry the same clout as the reporting. I don't know that online readers are that naive, I think they understand the difference. For accuracy-sake, I will go back and double-check the stories we ran on our website--- because technically, as most people understand, there is a difference. However, attorneys in the case and the arguments made in court at the very least alluded to an inclusion of all online conversation.

The argument was also made, if you allow the court to start making editorial decisions about online discussion, how far down the road are we from journalistic censorship as well? In terms of first amendment rights, is there any difference between a credentialed journalist and a 12 year old teenage girl who blogs about the Jonas Brothers all day?

rikki's picture

is a death threat made via

is a death threat made via blog any different than a death threat made via comment?

Yes it is different. A blog is an ongoing concern, a brand, an identity. A comment is singular and, as you say, clearly different from the reporting or opinion to which the commenter is reacting.

If a blogger made a death threat, he or she would be imminently vulnerable to prosecution, not to mention loss of readership and respect. People have mentioned that the IP address from which a comment came is logged, but if that IP address tells you the comment came from a Panera Bread wifi network, what good is it?

There is a huge difference between anonymity for political purposes and anonymity for the sake of evasion. Number9 has never understood this distinction. He fancies himself a political pamphleteer, as his chosen name implies, but his political opinions are utterly generic and need no protection. His anonymity is merely for the sake of avoiding social consequences.

Anonymity is justified by the value of the content -- whistleblowers, inside sources, revolutionaries and others may have valuable things to say and legitimate need for protection. There is nothing noble about transferring that protected status to those who make threats, tell lies, harass and otherwise debase the dialogue.

Anonymously Nine's picture

Second greatest hypocrite alive...

There is nothing noble about transferring that protected status to those who make threats, tell lies, harass and otherwise debase the dialogue.

You and Toby have admitted to multiple sock puppets that you use to threaten, tell lies, and harass people who disagree with your views and you write that tripe?

There is a new blowup on the blab from your behavior. Trying to compensate?

To the causal reader no one knows who "rikki" is. It is a code to those in the "cool kids club". You game the system on both sides and then exclaim yourself to be noble. You and Toby have libeled more people than most and then you both claim the moral high ground?

I pity you. You have to rationalize your behavior because you cannot look in the mirror and tolerate what you see.

This is what you do rikki, you make "threats, tell lies, harass and otherwise debase the dialogue" and then religiously deny you do so. It must be difficult to constantly have to confront the duality that has cursed you. At some level you know what is true but you keep it suppressed with some justification that you are doing noble work.

You only diminish yourself in this tragedy. No one is fooled.

WhitesCreek's picture

I can't decide, 9... Are you

I can't decide, 9... Are you bonkers or merely nuts? What good purpose do you think that post could possibly have?

rikki's picture

Normally your inability to

Normally your inability to address (or even perceive) issues is pathetic, but in this case it makes me happy, not just because you proved my point, but because I learned that I can be anonymous by using my real name. That is so fucking cool.

 The Lurker's picture

Mr. Gump

"pathetic is as pathetic does," Forest

Anonymously Nine's picture


"No one is fooled." Should have read "most are not fooled". Clearly some are fooled.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

TN Progressive

TN Politics

Knox TN Today

Local TV News

News Sentinel

State News

Local .GOV

Wire Reports

Lost Medicaid Funding

To date, the failure to expand Medicaid/TennCare has cost the State of Tennessee ? in lost federal funding. (Source)

Search and Archives