Is this blog a public forum?

Several recent posts generated comment trails that were ruthlessly pruned by Miss Snark. In the course of that pruning, the statement "this blog is not a public forum" was thrown down. Several people rose to challenge that idea.

There's nothing Miss Snark enjoys more than a good wrangle over what words mean. She arms herself with an OED , a red ink quill pen, and asbestos underpants.

"Public accommodation" laws address whether or how an owner or manager of a facility can bar entrance to people he doesn't want to have on the premises. Generally as a public accommodation you cannot bar people without cause--they have to violate a code of rules or a uniformly applied standard. So, a motel can't refuse to rent to you because you are a writer but they can if you don't have a credit card, as long as they require credit cards from every person registering not just writers. The MTA can't bar homeless people from being in the subway system...but they can throw someone out for sleeping on the benches. The public library can't ban a homeless person from occupying a seat all day, but they can require him/her to behave according to a posted list of rules that include "not being an olfactory disturbance to other patrons".

My use of "public forum" was based on that sense of public. Your comments can be deleted at will, and arbitrarily. I can delete things that make perfect sense, and are totally accurate and illuminating to the discussion at hand. I can leave up comments that cast aspersions on the character of defenseless poodles. And I can change the rules capriciously. That's because this is not a "public blog". It's mine. Yes, it's used and seen by a truly terrifying number of people, and barriers to reading and commenting are pretty much non existent. BUT, if you don't like what I do, you don't have recourse, other than to stop reading. You don't have a right to be heard here, or a right to post. Even if I call you a nitwit. Even if you ARE a nitwit. Even if you are right, and even if Miss Snark is wrong (don't hold your breath for that one of course).

On the other hand, blogspot itself can't randomly take down blogs for no reason or for reasons that violate anti discrimination public policies and laws. They can't just take down blogs from citizens of Rabbitania at will, but they can take down blogs that are obscene or libelous. They have to post and adhere to a "terms of service" agreement with users. Even though we don't pay for the service, even though we don't have "a right" to have a blog on blogspot. Interesting, huh!

The difference of course is access to posting on THIS blog specifically and access to blogging in general.

Feel free to comment as I oil up the deletious button.


ssas said...

Go Miss Snark!

McKoala said...

I missed whatever this was about. It's that whole being on the other side of the world thing. Not sure what you took down, or why, but yanno it's your blog, it's your call. I trust you.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, thanks for all you do, you're deeply appreciated.

Simon Haynes said...

It's your blog so you set the rules. If people disagree, let them start their own blog to put their point of view. Then they can handle their own comment trails however they like.
I come here to soak up your wisdom, and while I often read the comments underneath they're just that - comments.

Alex said...

Kudos Miss Snark
We come here to listen to your advice and apply it to ourselves(and for the witty barbs) people who don't appreciate it can choose not to read it, that's their choice. Anyone who feels the need as to be rude or, sometimes, downright nasty isn't someone who should be listened to anyway. As they have the right to post what they want you have just as much right to control your own blog. Or to summarize, screw 'em

Kelly said...

Miss Snark, you're beating a drum I've beaten a few times myself. But don't expect to convince anyone who isn't smart enough to already know what the First Amendment says and know the difference between a private and a public forum. My theory is that it's all that "it's a free country" BS they taught us in 3rd grade social studies. Some people never quite made it beyond the simplified version of civics they teach to 8-year-olds.

Delete this if you think I'm wrong. Delete this if I misspelled something. Heck, delete it if you don't like redheads. It's a free country!

Elektra said...

I heart Miss Snark

Mindy Tarquini said...

*steps gingerly through carnage*

I'm always late to the party.

I've NO IDEA what happened here, Miss Snark, but, your forum, your rules and um, you totally ROCK!!

Greta LaGarbeaux said...

Miss Snark, as always, is right. Like bad money, flames and unrestrained electro-hollerin' will drive out all that is good about an interactive site, given enough time and a big enough audience. Price of success. And a firm hand by the site owner/operator is the only way to stop it. I am reminded of Television Without Pity, which keeps a huge range of conversations going amongst an audience of, apparently, millions, only by ruthless enforcement of strict rules of engagement. They will block your sorry butt quick if you get out of line, but the payoff is a site that holds onto its fans and wins more every day. Like this one!

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

New song: "It's my blog and I'll delete if i want toooooo..."

I agree, it's not a public forum. We're guests. Didn't I write that somewhere? I forget.

Anonymous said...

Having read the entire comment trail in question, I have, if possible, even more respect for Miss Snark. Deleting those posts was like cleaning up after a pony-sized Killer Yapp.

It's Miss Snark's blog, no argument. She's bouncer as well as hostess, and doing an excellent job as both. Thanks, MS!

Anonymous said...

Elektra, reading your comments of the life of this blog, I wonder if you're in danger of developing a Miss Snark obsession :)

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Whoa....where've I been? I missed all the fun...Geez...somebody call me next time!

You go Miss Snark, warm up those fingers!

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

asbestos underpants

now we know where that snarkiness began

Anonymous said...

From an Ozzie Down Undah: "Good on ya, Miss Snark." Totally agree with the culling.

none said...

Miss Snark uses the OED :).

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me which comment trail sparked this? Thanks!

CEP said...

Leaving aside the merits of the particular comments, as a matter of law a blog with a comment function is not a public forum. There really is a public forum doctrine; I can't explain it in a comment entry, as it takes about a week in the advanced constitutional law class on First Amendment issues; but a commented blog doesn't come close. Or even far.

As a private forum, the lovely and talented Miss Snark and AgentC (not to mention the charming Killer Yapp) have the right to do anything they wish with it, including refusing to allow certain comments. Although it would be rather silly, they could choose to eliminate all comments by persons they suspect to be Rabbitanian-Americans; discrimination is allowed in private forums. They could choose to eliminate all comments that do not make obeisance to Killer Yapp's favorite brand of dogfood.

Back to your lives citizens. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Bernita said...

Thank you, C.E. Petit!
You rock too!

Anonymous said...

Who would sink to the low of doing a character assasination on a poodle? Honestly people have we no standards?

Anonymous said...

Obviously Miss Snark has the right to delete certain comments. Whether she ought to is another matter. Newspapers publish letters critical of articles to show balance. While I missed the current firestorm, there have been times in the past when comments were deleted that seemed merely critical of Miss Snark or Agent C's opinions. This smacks of defensiveness and a lack of tolerance for different points of view. What seems to ALWAYS get left up are the purely adulatory comments.

Miss Snark said...

Get OVER yourself. If you had any idea about how many compliments I take OFF the emails before I post them with answers, you'd know you're a fool.

I leave up all sorts of critical comments (like yours).
What I take down are the ones that are pointless, off topic or are getting into dogpile mentality and those so long as to require chapter headings.

I also don't police the comments column. I read them and if things don't boil over I let it sit.

And besides, who fucking cares. It's a blog. It's not the New York Times.

Anonymous said...

Since I was the person [or one of the people] who originaly questioned Miss Snark's use of the expression 'public forum', it's only fair for me to mention that I did some research on the public vs private forum issue and I have to cede that my understanding of the term may have been incorrect. [I can hear the jeers, Snarkophiles, so stop now.]

C.E.Petit's comment was instructive, since he appears to have a legal background [?], but it's a pity he could not elaborate.

There seems to be some contention in legal circles as to what constitutes a public forum [see “There is, not surprisingly, debate on the Court as to what sort of places and fora should be considered non-public.” http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/

In addition, my understanding is that private forums are intended for closed discussions among members, while this blog is open to everyone.

Let me reiterate that my comments were/are related to the use of the language, and not to Miss Snark's handling of the blog or removal of certain comments. No problems there, ma'am.