Deleting the Dissenting Comment is Poor Form

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 23rd Apr 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Society & Issues

The value of a comment can not be understated, yet what do you do about dissenting opinions expressed in the form of a comment against your article? Truth is dissent cannot be stopped, nor should it because in dissent we do find the roots of new ideas and it is these that have the capability of making our society great.

The Legal Foundation of Free Speech

One of the things I like about on-line writing sites is that there is a plethora of opinion that can be represented on any issue and the truth is that whatever your viewpoint there will be someone to disagree. According to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19:

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Whilst the majority of the word's governments has signed this convention there are many places today where expressing an opinion, especially one critical of the government in power can land you in prison. After the end of the Second World War, a ruthless war where certain powers removed the rights of their citizens with impunity, as a means of stopping a rapid return to war Europe created the European Convention of Human Rights and Article 10 provides:

    Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

The term freedom of expression has been held by the European Court of Human Rights not only to include speech, but flag burning, burning effigies of politicians, and the production of cartoons of Mohammed.

Of course in the United States free speech has been a powerful part of their laws, with the 1st Amendment (created as part of the Bill of Rights in 1792) stating:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Wherever you live in the world your government has accepted a treaty that grants the right to free speech, even if that government never intends to grant free speech to its citizens. Even in the West there are limits to free speech and explaining those could take a couple of dozen separate articles.

You have Your View, Good for You!

One of the things about on-line publication is that anyone can do it from (almost) anywhere in the world. I am not saying that you should go ahead and criticise your government when doing so will land you in jail, that is a tough decision to make and certainly not something this writer, sitting in a comfortable chair in the heart of Canada - whose Human Rights laws protect my right to free speech, can commend to any person living in a land where free speech is trampled upon daily. Notwithstanding such issues I would say that if you have a view then make use of on-line media to express it.

Wind the clock back a hundred years and the ability any individual person had to express their opinions on any subject were limited, there were no blogs, no Wikinut, no Hubpages, no Facebook, No Twitter, to publish anything you needed the assistance of a newspaper or book publisher, and while there was a wide range of views expressed there was not really any citizen involvement. If you have a viewpoint and are able to express it using correct grammar in the language of your choice then you can make the decision to let the world know - we live in the era of citizen journalism, where every person has the right to have their say.

There can be no doubt that we have turned the corner in regards to our ability to let the world know about anything we like, yet in saying this the topics of politics, religion, and sex are often the most controversial of them all and at times any opinion expressed will have another to oppose it. In these areas an opinion does not have to be "scientifically proven" to be expressed, the writer simply writes it down and presses the "publish" button.

But What About the Opinion of Others?

Sites like Wikinut provide the ability to comment on any page you wish to and a certain segment of people have taken to reading and commenting on a whole range of subjects. Of course it can be argued that this is a good thing because it allows opinions to be expressed - it is a clear use of free speech, and it supports the author because by staying on that page you may be allowing the writer to earn money (when their page is supported by advertising).

Then comes the Dissenting Comment

Of course writers love it when readers make comments supporting their viewpoint, it validates them and the efforts they have made and then comes the dissenting comment, that tears asunder your beliefs, doesn't that make you angry? How dare they? Who do they think they are? How stupid? These and a whole range of questions may go through your mind.

On one article I published a few years ago I have to say that I deleted a dissenting comment, in part because the person posting the comment used bad language and slang terms to denigrate the ideas I had expressed. The worst thing was that his comment was the very first one posted after the article was published. Later the same day I came to a realisation that the bad language and slang utterances made actually weakened his argument and made him look like a fool, but it was too late the comment was gone.

Since that time I have thought long and hard about the value of dissenting views, then I came across a view expressed by Dwight D. Eisenhower:

    Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.

Today I have to say that dissent is important, without it we have no possibility of change in this world, then I ask if we have the right to delete the voice of those who oppose us and I must conclude we do not, especially when I consider the views of Howard Zinn who stated "dissent is the highest form of patriotism", which is ironic because frequently the dissenting words frequently attempt to break down the very things society stands for, yet it is dissent that shows change is required.

Exceptions to Consider

There are of course some exceptions to consider in this regard. Hate speech or racism are probably the the point where we may draw the line, yet it could be eloquently argued that if an opponent makes a comment of such a nature then it should not be deleted because it shows their true character. A defamatory statement may need to be removed, if not by the original author, then by the site owners because it may become the subject of legal action.

Incitement to commit violence, for example the issuing of a death threat against the author (such as the Fatwah issued against writer Salman Rushdie by the Ayatollahs in Iran) is clearly abhorrent to all and should be removed for the protection of those threatened

The Cost of Insurrection

    Just as the Internet drops transaction and collaboration costs in business and government, it also drops the cost of dissent, of rebellion, and even insurrection. Don Tapscott

At the end of the day dissenting views are good, especially those that are well thought out because they keep us on our toes, in fact we should be worried when we see no dissent on a controversial viewpoint. I would not expect to see dissent on, for example, a white supremacist website because such people are both closed and little minded by nature.

One Final Thought

Deleting a comment because it offers an opinion that you vehemently object to is an abhorrent practice that simply shows you are afraid of the impact of your views, if you wish to challenge people then they should have the right to challenge you back, we - none of us - live on a deserted island and we should respect the rights of our most vocal opponents. I respect your right to say and believe what you wish and (as Voltaire would say) I will fight for your right to say it, yet I also reserve the right to vehemently disagree with you.

Image Credits

  • Flag Burning by dallasobserver.com
  • Old man speaking by IMSI (royalty free image collection owned by the author)
  • Angry Face by IMSI
  • Freedom of expression go to hell by radixjournal.com
  • On desert island by IMSI
  • Ecuador insurrection by marxist.com

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Tags

1St Amendment, Article 10, Article 19, Commenting, Denigrate Ideas, Dissent, Dissenting Views, Echr, Free Expression, Freedom Of Opinion, Hate Speech, Racism, Udhr

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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Comments

author avatar Retired
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

So here's a thought: what if the commenter is not a subscriber to Wikinut, for example, and feels like it's OK to post personal denigrating comments? This has happened several times over the course of my posting here, and the "lady" doth protest too much, methinks.

As she is evidently an internet 'troll', I have resolved to allow only constructive comments from her. If a personal comment is made, the entry is deleted.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

Actually Christopher if it is the 'Lady' I think she used to once write here before becoming disaffected.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

I wrote an article once, something to the effect that if controversy over a topic bothers you then do not write about that topic. For example if a person writes in support of vegetarianism they need to be aware that others will comment about their rights to eat meat. If a person writes about a certain religion, they need to accept that some people will not support that religion. Deleting comments that contradict the author's beliefs is not being professional, a good writer will respond to those points.
However spam comments should always be deleted.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

Mark you are right about deleting spam comments, that slipped my mind when writing. If you delete my comment then I know when other people make comments but you are potentially depriving them of my thoughts.

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author avatar Legend
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

I agree wholeheartedly with the article - I only delete spam stuff as I feel they detract from the article!

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author avatar Retired
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

At this point an episode of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" is running past my mind's eye: 'Spam, spam, spam and spam.' (I believe SNL tried to duplicate this with 'Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger...')

Anyway, I wasn't aware of the lady's history, only that she had taken a 'personal' dislike to some of my confessional poems. I shall try to be a little less knee-jerk reactive.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

The queen poet she doth imagine
Of herself she talks down to others
Is she it or simply full of gin?
leave her down and out with feathers.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

The only people who delete my comments that respectfully disagree with their positions are two lady wikinut writers who live on the far right side of the political spectrum. Everybody else is not afraid of a little constructive criticism

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

Steve, it we were to disagree about a topic, there would simply be a statement saying so, perhaps arguing that you misinterpreted X, or Y, or Z, but we would simply leave it at that, not delete the dissenting comment.

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author avatar Retired
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

One of them told me (in no uncertain terms) that I did not have the right to suggest what she may be intending with one of her posts. I've kind-a stayed out of her way since then.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

Steve, Christopher, One time when I was much younger a person stood up to speak and his accent being a northern English one was perhaps a little difficult to understand, then someone speaking the correct queens English called him illiterate, the response he gave was to write the answer (in English, Welsh, and French). What a kick in the teeth!

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author avatar Retired
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

That, sir, was a non-sequitur. I would not denigrate another's reputation, if possible. Even your little poem above has an element of put-down about it. She may be problematic for most people, but I for one (when she's not being 'personal') find her comments interesting. What I didn't appreciate was her 'strike-and-hide' tactic. There was no way to find her (until now). I did a Wikinut search and a lot of comments about her surfaced that I'd never seen before. She even published her Facebook page address, so I went there and looked. She's an impressive specimen, to be sure.

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author avatar writershirley lopez
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

I like this article very much. It helps writers who have problems with those who make negative comments against their work. Write more like this.

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author avatar M G Singh
23rd Apr 2015 (#)

I agree that comments must never be deleted, come what may, but unfortunately some people start abusive and snide comments and also calling the writer stupid names. I suppose then it would be OK. I have never removed a comment except frome ONE lady who became abusive and passed personal comments.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
24th Apr 2015 (#)

Personal remarks should always be out of order.

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author avatar spirited
24th Apr 2015 (#)

Thanks for your thoughts about this Peter. I personally have never deleted a comment. I wrote the article, and I leave it free to anyone who wants to say what they want to in a comment.

But, that's only me. I am also a hoarder mentality. I do not like to delete stuff, or throw stuff away. I find this very hard to do.

I even keep a copy of the comments I make here...LOL...it's true though.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
24th Apr 2015 (#)

I do keep copies of those comments (of others or even myself) that act as trigger ideas for a further article, but not of every comment I make.

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author avatar Retired
24th Apr 2015 (#)

Opinions of others regardless of the democratic decree all over is not having any impact of respect at all.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
24th Apr 2015 (#)

There are many people that I have a great deal of respect for eventhough I disagree with their views.

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
24th Apr 2015 (#)

I have to confess I have deleted what I consider unnecessary comments from my articles Peter...especially if they are long and irrelevant to the subject written about .
Thankfully of late that hasn't been needed.
Bless you
Stella ><

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author avatar Ptrikha
24th Apr 2015 (#)

Disagreement can instantly make us bitter and a bit sad, yet later a realization dawns that even the harshest of criticism may make us see an alternate point of view, and even make us improve in certain aspects of life. However, expecting disagreement to vanish is foolish, and let it remain so.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
24th Apr 2015 (#)

Ptrikha, there are many subjects where if we disagree we must simply respect each other's view and walk away.

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author avatar Mariah
24th Apr 2015 (#)

My theory is 'if you can't stand the heat then stay out of the kitchen'
If writers choose to post articles that will open up the floor for debate then they should be prepared to meet with comments of differences of opinion and respond to them in a dignified manner, excluding of course personal or abusive comments.
Much needed and very well
written post Peter.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
24th Apr 2015 (#)

Mariah, If a person writes a comment you can choose to ignore it, for example leaving it unanswered. I have no problem with writer's doing that, it is their right. There are many comments I don't respond to.

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
27th Apr 2015 (#)

Mine seems to be one of them in this case Peter .
I pray your eye sight is improving .
God bless you
Stella ><

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
27th Apr 2015 (#)

then of course there are times when you have no answer to give.

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
30th Apr 2015 (#)

Ah... Point taken .
Praying for speedy recovery for your eyes Peter
Stella >< .

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
30th Apr 2015 (#)

Thank you.

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author avatar Eve Sherrill York
24th Apr 2015 (#)

I haven't had to delete anything so far. Hopefully anyone commenting on my articles will think first. Difficult for some but good advice.

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author avatar Grant Peterson
25th Apr 2015 (#)

Peter, I agree with you that if people are going to post s controversial article then should be prepared to accept all the criticism that comes their way. As long as the comments are not personal in nature then I agree that even the most critical of comments should be kept.

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author avatar Carol Roach
26th Apr 2015 (#)

I have to differ with you, if the opinion is related to the article it self that is one thing. But there are people on this site who make person attacks on the writer's character and that is totally unprofessional and mean.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
26th Apr 2015 (#)

Carol, Grant, I would agree that if a comment amounts to a personal attack then that is out of order. Would I delete it? I am not sure, but probably.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
26th Apr 2015 (#)

Needed highlight and food for thought, thanks Peter. I have not deleted any comments yet - only the duplicate stuff that is inadvertent.

What Voltaire said about the right to dissent is the way as long as comments/views are not meant to mislead by purposely misrepresenting facts and, more importantly, beliefs that happen all the time - siva

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
26th Apr 2015 (#)

Siva, Given any set of facts or statistics there are always two (or more) ways to interpret them.

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author avatar vellur
30th Apr 2015 (#)

Spam comments should be deleted just as Mark Gordon Brown says. Some other comments that do not agree with the writer's viewpoint can be explained and answered.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
30th Apr 2015 (#)

But, vellur, some comments you may not wish to answer, even when you disagree.

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