Town Square

Concerted Effort to Silence Free Speech

Original post made by Stacey, Amberwood/Wood Meadows, on Mar 3, 2011

An ongoing, concerted effort to shutdown all reasoned and civil discourse on important issues facing our community is well underway. This type of activity should not be welcome here. It is a direct attack upon the freedom of speech. This effort goes far beyond respecting everyone's rights to hold opinions and disagree. It is a tactic that seeks to demonize legitimate viewpoints that deserve to be debated on their own merits and prevent such concerns from arising. The use of ridicule is used by those who are desperate, uninformed, and are not interested in engaging in a real and honest debate. For they truly have no arguments of merit and only have the ability to offer up melodramatic tripe.

Civil debate is the highest form of the freedom of speech. It is the mark of a true democracy. Without debate, Pleasanton's citizens cannot reach a consensus that is in the best interest of our community on local matters Public debate lies at the very heart of self-governance. For example, a voter may come to this forum when, in order to make an informed decision at the ballot box on Measure E, they feel the need to read or engage in debate on the pros and cons of the measure. When they cannot do so due to the actions of those who engage in such online hostility, self-governance is undermined. It is through the public dialog process that individuals learn from others and the Internet is merely the latest vehicle through which that process manifests.

The present attack across all Measure E topics on this website is not written by those writers who are either for or against Pleasanton's parcel tax measure, for such passion to participate in writing here only arises from a sincere interest in the problems facing this community. It is an attack initiated by those who care nothing about education or children, only about protecting their own interests that may or may not be best for this community.

The Pleasanton Weekly website has two features that help to encourage civil debate. The first is registration and the second is the ability of registered users to restrict comments to registered users only. I encourage the use of these tools while also recognizing that this may not be an ideal choice for some other users. Whether registered or not, the true remedy is to continue to engage in focused debate using facts and demand it of those who do not engage in it. Together, we can protect our freedom of speech from those who seek to silence it.


Like this comment
Posted by Einstein
a resident of Mohr Elementary School
on Mar 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Einstein is a registered user.


I couldn't agree with you more. If you remember over 2 plus years ago I started trying to bring to everyones attention the danger of the 3 point retirement system and its impact on the state of California. At that time I was basically shouted down and attacked for being an alarmist and look where we are today.....insolvent. Let's stick to the facts on these blogs and if you do not have an answer then please do not attack those or those with facts which do not support your point of view.

Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 3, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Here's a good article that talks about online hostility and how it can be distinguished from comments expressing strong yet unpolished opinions.

"What Exactly is Online Hostility?" Web Link

"Some questions to ask yourself:
(1) Was it a one-time or ongoing attack?
(2) Was it perpetrated anonymously, by an online pseudonym, or under someone’s real name?
(3) Was there one attacker or are several involved, i.e. mob attack,
(4) Was the attack unprovoked or a defensive response?
(5) Was it made privately to the target or publicly online?
(6) Do the attacker and the target know each other, and if so, what is their relationship?
(7) Was the attack made exclusively online or has it migrated offline as well?
(8) Was it about the target’s appearance, character or behavior?
(9) Was a specific or general threat made against the target?
(10) Could someone interpret that attack as humor or satire?

Actions include but aren’t limited to [edited]:

* Rude comments aimed at target
* Online screaming at a target
* Teasing or mocking target
* Insulting and name-calling
* Negative insinuations about target that have no basis of truth or are knowingly false
* Negative gossip about target that is intended to harm target, which may or may not have a basis of truth
* Ad hominem attacks against target
* Criticism of target’s appearance, age, gender, race, intellect, and so forth
* Impersonating the target online
* Spreading half-truths of lies about target and his/her family
* Accusations of fabricated wrongdoing by target
* Threats of attacks against target’s reputation
* Defamatory statements about target or his/her family

Like this comment
Posted by SteveP
a resident of Parkside
on Mar 4, 2011 at 10:33 am

SteveP is a registered user.

I'd like to think that most folks who take the time to post on the PW would be capable of policing themselves and adhere to the suggested guidelines enumerated above.
However, when that fails, can the webmaster ban abusers (maybe after a warning)by blocking psots from their IP address? Just in the last week, we've all seen what appears to be the same abusive poster (woody, steve is right, robinhood in reverse) using different (unregistered)) names to try to stifle a productive conversation.
Without an active monitor of the forums, the anonomous abusers will continue to pollute the conversations and hijack the forums.