Monday, May 26, 2014

Implicit content, the absence of gatekeepers, distribution of free speech, and integrity

It is certainly true, that I have built my “second career” (after my semi-forced retirement from legacy IT at the end of 2001) based on broadcast speech, without the regulation or supervision of any third-party gatekeeper.  That was a critical aspect of my affidavit for the COPA trial back in 2006.  Although the Supreme Court has been very supportive of the concept generally as constitutionally protected, I think I am somewhat lucky that the Internet developed with the did, with the mass of self-publishing and free search engine indexing in the early (Web 1.0) days.  The legal environment  evolved with Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor, largely relieving service providers the responsibility of supervising speech, increasing the risk to more vulnerable users of the web.

I have outlined the various parts of my media plan (including screenplays, fiction, music, and a master video, above the blogs).  This is my “homework”.  As I have noted, I get pressure by people from all kinds of directions to do something else.  One angle is to focus just on selling books, another ads.  One concept is that self-broadcast may not be morally legitimate unless it can pay for itself with its own revenues, even though the speaker has (possibly inherits, or derives from previous career savings) other resources.  A second is to join a cause, or hock someone else’s wares rather than my own. Another angle is that one should not enter into punditry unless one experiences personally the responsibility for others that leads to considerable challenge and hard-to-control risk of hardship, “real life” (as my mother called it) for most people.  Giving back seems like a moral imperative.  But I find I cannot give in an interpersonal way until I’ve done my own homework, have my own oeuvres. I can't make someone else "all right" or join someone's emotional world; I can only bank on what I can actually do.  There is behind this idea, however, a background in everyday skills, some of which I did not pick up, that have to do with proving for others.  It’s arguable that everyone should have these, even people who don’t have their own children.  Putting all this together, I can see where a lot of the contacts are heading:  give up your own message, hock what you did (I worked on life insurance systems for twelve years) and prove you can provide for a family like everybody else – even OPC, “other people’s children.”  Putin would love this.

One of the most troubling developments in my practice has been the “implicit content” problem.  I’ve explained before how that came up with my substitute teaching.  I do present personal material that can be interpreted as confessional, or putting me in a bad light.  I can say that my purpose is to show irony, perhaps a dangerous luxury. When there is no other obvious motive for the material (like having been paid for it or actually making money from it), a less mature reader might, taking the material out of context, interpret it as enticement.  That was the issue the substitute teacher incident presented here July 27, 2007.  In that event, I would maintain I had freedom of speech as a public employee (as long as it wasn't illegal) and since I had a low-level position, there was no conflict of interest.  But the school could say I have to avoid speech that even metaphorically could cast aspersions on my fitness to be with kids,  but that is a very subject standard. Consider how that would have compared to "don't ask don' tell" in the military in the past.  The advent of social media, particularly Facebook, has pretty much made the "double life" obsolete. 

Why, one may ask, stir things up and keep playing the devil’s advocate?  For one thing, I think I am an effective history teacher, for younger adults, often more privileged (younger gay men in particular) who don’t understand what it was like in the past, and particularly, why it was the way it was.  Society used to be much more collective. (The diagram above of Chickasaw living abodes along the Natchez Trace in Mississippi makes the point.)  Interdependence was not avoidable.  And even today, in an open society, there is real tension between individualism and fairness (and hidden bad karma) which can lead to instability.  At some level, one can be brought low because of the indignation of others, both as an individual and as a whole people.  As much as I broadcast “personal responsibility” (like SouthPark), we have to accept that at any point we are what we are, even if others wronged us gravely.  Talking about victimhood never goes anywhere.

There are aspects in my writings that could be troubling, such as the talk about how easily some (straight) men are unnerved when made conscious of their own shortcomings by people (like me) stepping on their toes to “hit back”.  Over ten years ago, I did get a few email or forum comments about a couple of my movie and book reviews from a couple people really off the rails. (In 2000, someone was upset by my reviewing “A Perfect Storm” when Sebastian Junger wrote the book.)  That hasn’t happened since.  (I have gotten a few terror tips, as bloggers sometimes do, including one about OBL, and, any claims about journalist shield notwithstanding, shared them with authorities.)

If someone else did something terrible (I’m thinking of the tragedy in Santa Barbara CA this weekend as an example), and claimed he had been upset or unnerved (as in his own self-image about sexuality) by my own “gatekeeper-less” speech, I wonder if there could be any liability for me.  In the US, I don’t think so (and I think I would have won the substitute teaching issue had a litigated, however riskily); overseas, even in western Europe, it could be a different matter.  Nothing like this has ever come up.  If someone (like the authorities) actually believes an issue like this has actually occurred, the right thing to do is call me by cell phone (“” contact link).  Leave a specific and clear message.  I don’t answer while driving.  But I pull over and return serious calls promptly,

Implicit content, in the absence of gatekeeping, may be a sleeping big dog.  

No comments: