Raph al Guul
Remember how, back when you used to read actual, physical newspapers, there always was this one section where you could send in letters and they would be printed? Anybody could do it, no journalistic experience required. Fun times. Did you ever wonder, though, why there never was a letter that just went full-on “shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits” (R.I.P. Carlin), designed to offend each and every reader individually without offering any sensible argument or statement whatsoever? Even before the internet, you’d think someone would have come up with that idea of being needlessly hostile towards complete strangers.
Let me tell you a little secret: those letters existed – hundreds, thousands of them. But they were never printed. Shocker. Did you know that when it comes to public author-audience correspondence, the environment within which this happens is highly controlled by the entity in charge of publishing? These days, we call that a moderated community, but I will not deny that it resembles censorship a whole lot. The truth – obnoxiously ignoring the question whether or not that is a morally justifiable truth – is that you can’t just write anything when you are engaging in public discourse with newspapers and prolefeed, be that in print or a digital format like the ZEST.
Let me give you the scoop on how we systematically disfigure your freedom of speech on this fine blog:
– Unless you are a registered contributor approved by the editor, you cannot post comments without consent, at all. Admittedly, it’s not particularly difficult to become one of those. Then again, think about how easily the editor could revoke such privileges again.
– If you try anyway, nothing noticeable will happen for a while; the author of a post you commented on will receive a friendly email requesting approval for your comment and the ZEST dashboard will notify anyone who can and does access it (I suspect that these are very few people) that there are comments awaiting approval.
– It often takes authors days to even get around to checking your pending comment. They are very important and busied people, you know. Once they finally find the time, they will be able to read what you wrote and access any available information about yourself (don’t worry, depending on the nature of your WordPress account, that can be very little information – only just about enough to figure out your Wi-Fi password and empty your bank account).
– Next, the ZEST author will be confronted with four cute little buttons: Reply, Approve, Spam, Trash. It has to be decided how to proceed:
– Reply: my favorite option. It (usually) means your comment is approved and even interesting enough to be replied to. In a perfect world, every internet comment would be like that, but we all know the cruel reality.
– Approve: what most ZEST authors would like to click. It means the comment was found acceptable, although it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was pleasant to read. Sometimes constructive criticism can be rather harsh, but as long as it is written in decent English and does not give the impression that its purpose is to be hurtful towards other human beings, I would imagine most responsible authors will still go for this option.
– Spam: the mystery button. It doesn’t really do anything that is immediately apparent. It basically just flags the comment, possibly even the user. You know this sort of thing from your email account; press “spam” a couple of times, and the quantitatively or qualitatively unwanted content will eventually cease to pop up in your inbox. I personally think that this button should be made use of more liberally. The internet is a breeding ground for indecent behavior and even the slightest hint at something like that has no place on the ZEST and should be eliminated right away. Don’t just trash, flag what you deem inappropriate.
– Trash: a little conservative, but pretty much what it sounds like. Admittedly, I would kind of like it if pressing this button would cause WordPress to trash(-talk) the comment in question. That could be rather amusing. No such luck just yet. Instead, it will remove the disproved item entirely. This formulation is misleading because a) this process, like all other options, can be reversed, which means the item is not removed entirely and b) the comment never actually showed up on the ZEST, so, technically, it was never removed, either.
And that’s how our moderately intricate ZEST-minitrue-scenario plays out. Now, I find it imperative to point out to you that most of your comments are more than welcome. And I certainly don’t mind casual speech (how are you reading this without having noticed that?). I personally disapprove of about one out of 25 comments and I only do it because it starts out with “You are an ass…” (believe it or not – but yes – this was taken from a real-life example), which, don’t get me wrong, I find entertainingly humorous, but I also consider it inappropriate. And in the end, if you are going to post something that show-cases your own self-important ignorance, we are actually doing you a favor when hiding that from the public.
However, don’t think this meant I would only approve of comments that go something like “You are a person I like…” (no real-life example this time). I want you to speak your mind, not just goodthink. But never forget that there is little purpose in expressing your dislike if you don’t follow it up with some form of explanatory statement. It’s much more permissible to post bellyfeel flattery on an article than it is to lay into it without presenting the reason behind it. Please be critical in a constructive fashion for maximum satisfaction on both the authors’ and readers’ parts. I like interacting with anyone who has anything to say about what I write, be it flattery, criticism, or just a random remark. For that to happen, we just need to be able to approve of your comments, keep that in mind. Feel free to duckspeak, being vulgar and inappropriate, too, though; always makes for plusgood entertainment, but it will most likely be made an uncomment, if you catch my drift.