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Putting an End to Trash Talk on HNN's Discussion Boards

HNN




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Among the great strengths of HNN are our discussion boards, which are free wheeling, often imaginative, and usually stimulating. But it can equally be said that the discussion boards are one of the great weaknesses of HNN. Too often they feature hyperbola instead of thoughtfulness, vile vulgar language, and rank racist or anti-Semitic barbs.

The question we have faced is how to fix them so that we keep what works and rid ourselves of what is patently offensive. We tried several measures. We introduced rules of civility. We began removing offensive comments. We banned a small number of serial rabble rousers. And still the discussion boards became havens for comments so patently offensive they made grown people cringe.

In a renewed effort to put an end to trash talk on HNN we are turning to a technological solution.

From now on only readers who register with HNN can post comments. Readers are now required to post under their real names. To make sure they are who they say they are they have to provide their email address. Once a reader registers, the system will dispatch an email to their registered email address. They will have to respond in order to be able to post. Once they have registered in this manner they will be able to post as often as they like without reregistering. Email addresses are hidden. The readers' names will appear on the site.

Flagrant violators of HNN's standards will be banned. Offensive comments will be deleted.

It is our hope that by holding people responsible for their posts we will be able to discourage irresponsibility on the boards.

Placing our hopes in technology is as American as apple pie. We hope that in this case the hope is not misplaced.


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petronius arbiter - 2/13/2004


I just wanted to show the operators of this board that the Internet techology makes it easy to keep anonymity if you want to. There is no guarantee the name used by anyone signing up to HNN is real. The guarantee HNN overseers are offering is impossible.
I am also sorry to see HNN take this course.
I must say as a regular HNN reader, I didn't enjoy many of the anonymous comments posted. But, hey, it's the price of freedom and the waves of comments were often interesting for their divergent and very strongly held point of views. I thought some of the public comments on the Bellesiles controversy were valuable, and probably contributed to whipping up public interest in the issue.
Our forefathers published their comments on the Constitution under pseudonyms. Given the political regime we are operating under, I can understand why others might want to follow their example in these days of that our privacy rights are steadily eroded. This posting shows it still can be done under your restrictions.
I also want to echo the comments by others that the diatribes of Pipes and others are repetitive and tiresome. By continuing to post these comments, HNN is becoming more of a board of contemporary political comment rather than historical opinion. And you can hardly be surprised you get a public backlash by posting such provocations.
Trying to silence the backlash is not the solution. Might I suggest moderating the discussion might be a more appropriate approach, if it is civility you are trying to establish.


Albert J Pinkoski - 2/3/2004

"Because the past is the present, and the future too." Today's "political commentaries" are history in the making. I take more of a populist and multidisciplinary approach. Historical perspective and content? Yes, of course! But I also agree with Mr. Catsam who wrote, "I thought part of this was about bringing to bear our historical skills to dissect both historical issues in the news but also to use those skills to allow us to think about the present."

Visit the website http://www.othertimelines.com, "this day in alternate history" - sorry for the apparent plug, but you can exercise your historical skills and imagination in full force there, e.g. "Bush loses election, Gore declared winner." "Al Sharpton wins Democratic Convention nomination 2004." So why not also on the History News Network?


hisham m khatib - 2/3/2004

We agree with Baruch Kimmerling balanced views and fair interpretation of history.

Israel is there to stay. Simultaneously Palestinians were subjected (and still are)to the most unfair practices and injustices. These should be rectified to enable Israelis and Palestinians to coexist in peace.

H.K


Charles V. Mutschler - 2/3/2004

Let us hope so. I must admit that I find a very high grade of commentary on the H-NET sites, compared to much of what has been posted here for much of the past year. I believe that the requirement that one use his real name at H-NET has kept the worst incivility off the list, and has not hindered the content. Let us hope for much the same on HNN.

Charles V. Muschler


Jonathan Dresner - 2/2/2004

Not so much miss him, as wonder what happened. The same thing applies to Herodotus, Suetonius, Southpaw, and a few others: for better or worse, they were a part of this community, and I would like to know if the change in registration resulted in their changing their rhetoric or leaving.

I am increasingly frustrated at experiments without controls, policy shifts that don't take into account the possibility that things are as OK as they can get, and easily answered questions that don't get asked.

So part of determining whether the registered user system was a success should include some tracking of users before and after the change. It's a mostly idle curiousity, I suppose, like wondering where an old girlfriend is now, or the kid who beat you up in fifth grade. But at some level the historian in me wants to try to evaluate changes as they're happening, instead of waiting until well after the fact to piece things together with guesses and maybes.


Jonathan Dresner - 2/2/2004

Sure we did. But not really all that much, and the level of invective was so high that even some of the most committed contributors were pulling back. If NYGuy can't risk speaking his mind under his own name, that's quite unfortunate. But if, as is more likely, he is psychologically unwilling to enter into a debate without the ego-shield of anonymity, and the thrill of a nom de plume, then I'd rather go without his rare insights and constant nattering. I'm quite intrigued by the loss of certain people who were not using pseudonyms but who have not posted under the new regime (or perhaps they were subtle pseudonyms).

Plenty of interesting people stayed. I'm seeing more different names in the last two weeks than I saw in the last three months of 2003. Some of them might have been Herodotus or Suetonius, etc; some of them clearly were posting with only first names before; but there are new people as well, something I hadn't really noticed much in late 2003, and that's the only way these conversations are going to continue to grow. Frankly, I think the range of opinions is going to be broader and deeper than it was before.


Peter N Kirstein - 2/2/2004

Mr Pinkoski,

My previous post disappeared. The text just vanished!

I agree that students in the classroom is a different cohort than even students within an audience in a public setting. The latter is pure advocacy; the former may be advocacy but moderated somewhat by the need to allow the discussion and dissemination of competing perspectives.

I don't shy from the fact that I teach from a particular ideological orientation. I think most professors do. I candidly concede I do. Yet I am fairly conscious of the need to present differing perspectives than my own. I don't feel the same degree of commitment to communicate my point of view in a class as I do outside of class.

Frankly, students must and do participate in my classes. Oral participation is evaluated as heavily as the written midterm and final. I am constantly asking them their opinions and to disagree with me.

Academic freedom does permit me to be an advocate in the classroom and to be controversial. AAUP even suggests that the later should be prized in teaching as a means of developing new and original analysis. I use myself as a foil however. I will say, "Now many of you know my views on such and such. Yet I can hear my critics say, 'Kirstein why don't you give your students this perspective." I repeat that refrain all the time. I engage in a debate with myself that I hope spills over to the students.

David Horowitz was quite gracious to include me on a symposium on the war last summer. The more I read it; the more I feel I gave Victor Davis Hanson a run for his money.
http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=8746

Peter N Kirstein


Peter N Kirstein - 2/2/2004


Albert J Pinkoski - 2/2/2004

Professor Kirstein,

You are right on target concerning the inability or refusal of some (many?) to distinguish between a teacher's intramural and extramural activities. Serious infringements of teachers' constitutional rights can and do indeed occur in this regard. We do need to support civil liberties groups such as the ACLU and FIRE.

Indeed, I believe that it IS possible to treat a classroom audience with absolute fairness and "liberality," but a public or extramural audience is different - if they don't like what you are espousing or proposing, they can ask hard questions later, or just get up and leave and make weird noises if they are not inclined to be polite and genteel. Students really do not, I think, have the luxury of getting up and leaving as easily as a member of a public audience. The relationship between students and teachers, being of a "prolonged" nature, is therefore something that must be treated more delicately than the passing relationship between a public audience and teacher as hired lecturer.

My political worldview has changed since I was in college. I have "done the David Horowitz," so to speak, (but I swear that I am NOT a "neoconservative). I do prowl about Horowitz' frontpagemag.com website, though. I do know that he responds to the "neocon" label with the "neoCOM" label against certain of his critics. That is robust FREE SPEECH.

It amazes me that in another section of this discussion on "trash talk," writers are arguing about which political affiliation produces the most "anony-thugs" - conservative or liberal. One writer proposes a "statistical investigation," which brings to mind the phrase "lies, damned lies, AND STATISTICS," but, oh, never mind.

I myself have written computer programs for statistical analysis, and have supposedly "debugged" such programs for others. I have warned them about the delights and dangers of statistical models, but they do not listen! It is quite possible to publish rival studies that reach OPPOSITE conclusions about the same issue, while at the same time there is clearly nothing that can be proven substantially wrong with ANY of the analyses. GO FIGURE! So you can't really accuse your opponents of "fudging the data," and "lying through their teeth," because they honestly believe that they have stumbled upon the truth concerning who is most likely to engage in anonymous trash talk. "We have followed established statistical practices," they will argue. But suppose the practices themselves are error-laden? The easy solution is to make the statistical analysis so complicated or complex that you frustrate your critics or rouse their further hostility (see, I told you THEY ARE THE REAL ANONY-THUGS!) even while you "shock and awe" the naive and uninitated.


Oscar Chamberlain - 2/2/2004

And I never would have thought that I would say that.

A lot of the time he seemed pigheaded; it often seemed he did not listen. But he made some good points, and on occasion I had some good exchanges with him.

And it is not impossible that he thought I was a bit pigheaded, too (though of course I'm not).

To the point: maybe in a month discussions on HNN will have become interesting again as people log in and get used to the format. But right now, with the interesting exception of the post on the change in policy, the number of different respondents is too low to generate more than a good point or two.

And I would argue that we lost some interesting posts from the pseudonymous along with the invective.


Peter N Kirstein - 2/2/2004

I agree substantially with what you say and appreciate very much your comments. I guess my main point, and it was not meant to disagree with you, was that many of us on the left have experienced a public assumption that our extramural utterances, which may reflect a strong degree of advocacy, are replicated in the classroom as if a classroom audience and a public audience are treated identically.

These charges of not being able to distinguish the two are frequently motivated by a desire to indeed IMPOSE a viewpoint on the students: one that is embraced by the critics.

Peter N. Kirstein


Albert J Pinkoski - 2/2/2004

Professor Kirstein,

Thank you for the link to Dr. Alan Kors' article. I believe that my point, however, was the same as that of Dr. Kors,"...a professor teaching Latin grammar has no right to subject a captive audience---paying good money to study that subject---to his or her views for or against abortion, the war, or affirmative action."

The key phrase that Dr. Kors insists upon is, I believe, "FOR OR AGAINST."

In other words, no teacher of ANY political persuasion has the right to IMPOSE his/her particular worldview inside the classroom, nor does he/she have any right to intimidate or intimate that disagreement, legitimate difference of opinion and belief, refusal to perform "required assignments" that are perceived to be prejudicial, will be subject to negative sanctions such as lower grades, removal from the class or more serious disciplinary measures.

Of course, I support FIRE's efforts to defend professors of any political stripe. For that matter, I do not really care whether these professors are engaging in extramural or intramural (within the classroom) speech, so long as their INTRAMURAL activities permit a true latitude of opinion and discussion.

But I still maintain that FIRE has ALSO found that in certain cases of defending STUDENTS against overzealous professors and administrators and OTHER STUDENTS, there have in fact been efforts to silence and intimidate these students into "ideological submission," that there are in fact "speech codes" that need to be seriously revamped and criticized. "Sunshine is the best disinfectant."

I was fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of a classic "liberal" education. My political science and history professors were -- well, beyond adjectives. History of Western Philosophy from Classical to Modern - yes, INCLUDING Karl Marx (and some of us sneaked in Quotations from Chairman Mao - without fear of reprisal). Even though this professor was somewhat CONSERVATIVE, he was more amused than annoyed by our "rebellion." The written assignment and reading schedules were horrific AND DIVERSE - but the professor was so damned good that he made it painless. The classroom arguments were always OPEN-ENDED, thorough and rigorous, and LIVELY. He did not tolerate poorly prepared and sloppily argued viewpoints.

When one of our history professors introduced a premier course in African-American History, many students signed up for it, so many, that the course had to be taught in seven sections, much to his surprise. The reading schedule for that course, and the written assignments, too, were thorough, covering the FULL history of blacks in America (and some of us sneaked in literature from the Black Panther Party). This professor was thoroughly LIBERAL and somewhat RADICAL, not as prone to suppressing dissenting voices and the students were prone to suppress each other.


Bill Heuisler - 2/1/2004

Mr. Meo,
You are correct, I am wrong. The word, ad, shouldn't have been used. Al Gore referred to the murderer furlough program during a debate with Governor Dukakis. The point of blame-transferral by Dems to Repubs remains, however.

Sid Blumenthal is a Clinton-Gore enthusiast and apologist who writes for many national markets. His words reflect my premise and answer more to Mr. Smale's "Conservative Scare" terminology in his request for examples.

Consider how the Willie Horton arrest and judge's statement were nearly concurrent with the Presidential Primary and the aformentioned debate. My citing the Horton matter was to illustrate how often the actions of Conservatives/Repubs are accorded base or racial motives while those of Liberals/Dems are not. Gore used Horton first, but that fact is hardly mentioned in political discourse or the media. Ditto the Byrd/Lott disparity.
Bill Heuisler


Michael Meo - 2/1/2004

Mr Heuisler.

I am not sure who Sid Blumenthal is. I read of the issue of Republican Party use of alleged Gore-originated 'Willie Horton' attacks on the Bob Somerby website, "Daily Howler."

Your circumstantial defense of such a claim, that Gore used a Willie Horton attack on Dukakis, makes some good points; I still wonder how it amounts to what you said was "a Willie Horton ad". Gore raised the issue, even according to you, of a parole program.

Further, it is difficult to see how the example responds to the admittedly less-than-articulate Smale request for a blacklisting of a conservative.


Carl Roesler - 2/1/2004

Your comments are increasingly sarcastic and vitriolic. Stick to the facts and cut out the sarcasm. You can expect to be challenged unless you comport yourself with tolerance, kindness and professionalism.


Bill Heuisler - 2/1/2004

Mr Roesler,
My God, you're perceptive! You've caught me Red-handed.
My rather sly manoeuvre to cast some ambiguity on the affiliations of Angela Davis who ran for national office as a Communist; on Peter Kirstein who features the grave of Karl Marx on his web-site; on Ed Asner who laments that Communism never really got a chance to work; on Eric Foner who describes himself as a neo-Marxist and Bernie Sanders who runs as a Socialist.

But wait. Hold everything. Wasn't it Mr Smale who brought up the whole nasty subject?
On 1/30/04 at 3:16 pm (#29826) Mr. Smale wrote "Point one: there exists in the United States a long history of the persecution of Marxists, communists, and socialists." To which I responded by naming a few who were quite successful in the US.

Roesler, some advice: Try to read and fully understand a discussion before you grandiloquently scold.
Bill Heuisler


Rod Siberine - 2/1/2004

Don't tell me that you miss NYGuy! :-)))


Carl Roesler - 2/1/2004

In my aging but presumably not inaccurate Webster’s Third New International Dictionary RED-BAITING is defined. “The act of baiting or harassing as a red often in a malicious or irresponsible manner.” The use example is: “the increase of red-baiting within the country in order to stifle even liberal dissent” -Joseph Barnes

I think that Heuisler’s initial comment and then repeating it in a more specific and directed manner qualifies. Except for Dr Davis, I am unaware of the others professing communist affiliation; the conflating of communism and socialism is a rather sly manoeuvre to cast some ambiguity over the affiliation of the others.

My politics are certainly more centrist than those described; yet I think the criticisms raised by the professor are sharp, meaningful and accurate.

In the era of the Patriot Act, one should be alert to such apparent trangressions.


Hugh High - 1/31/2004

And the new format, along with reminders of civility and good taste, as well as the anonymity rule, has vastly improved the site.


Bill Heuisler - 1/31/2004

Professor Kirstein,
Read before you rant. Good for the blood pressure.
My statement was, "Apparently forgetting Angela Davis, Peter Kirstein, Noam Chomsky, Eric Foner, Bernie Sanders, Ed Asner and many other very public Communists and Socialists who are doing extremely well..." So, you consider being called Socialist an insult? Well, me too.

As to Byrd, how understanding you've become. He may be brilliant and eloquent, but does that excuse his racism? Nero was a poet, Farrakhan's a compelling speaker, Hitler swayed millions with rhetoric, but Trent Lott was merely an aw shucks good-ol'-boy. Off with his head. Brilliance allows great and sinister liberty in Professor Kirstein's world, but don't dare call him a Socialist. Amazing.
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 1/31/2004

Mr. Meo,
Gore used the murderer-parole system defended by Dukakis as a bludgeon to beat Governor Dukakis. We must not forget, however, that his citation of the system was made possible by the fact that Willie Horton had been widely reported in the news and had been the catalyst for controversy and political infighting just months before.

Sid Blumenthal has denied Gore used Horton's name during the debate in question, but that's just a smokescreen. He could as easily have said those decrying the Lindberg kidnapping weren't mindful of Bruno Hauptmann. Al Gore didn't say Horton's name, but he didn't have to. His allusion - and the whole subject - was common knowledge in Massachusets, Maryland and the national press.

Recall that Horton's infamous assault on the couple in their home in another state (while on parole) was in April 1987. There were no other like cases covered nationally during this time. Remember the Maryland judge refused to extradite Horton to Massachusets saying, "I'm not prepared to take the chance that Mr. Horton might again be furloughed." The Massachusets Legislature mentioned Willie Horton by name often and for many weeks while passing a repeal of the Dukakis murderer-parole program. The two were virtually indistinguishable.

The HW Bush campaign used the issue and used pictures of Horton, but to allude (as Blumenthal did) that Gore's reference was changed from one of lax Law Enforcement to one of race-baiting is attempting to play a race card while ignoring the dealer.
Bill Heuisler


Peter N Kirstein - 1/31/2004

With regard to Senator Byrd, I meant opposition to the Iraq war in 2003 not the Gulf War.


Peter N Kirstein - 1/31/2004

I don't think you are in a position to lecture me on courtesy. If you read your own postings in which you refer to Ed Asner and myself as a communist, even though we have NOT embraced that label, one could question your standing on matters of civility and professional discourse.

If HNN is trying to minimize trash talk, then I think that should include, although I would NOT censor you, ad hominem charges that are reminiscent of the "Hollywood Ten" of McCarthyism. If you are a private detective from Tucson--there is a person of your name in that position-- or a police officer, then it is even more shocking you would display such egregious bias and intolerance agaisnt those who won't echo or parrot your ideology and politics.

With regard to the cadet, we exchanged mutual apologies, and I also received an apology from the academy. I will make no more apologies EVER to you or anyone else on that matter. I assure you that passion and anger are human responses to a nation that establishes military academies to train their "students" in the profession of killing other human beings; that calls non-white Muslim nations the "axis of evil;" that wages wars against non-white peoples; that lies to both the United Nations and its own citizens over WMD; that plans premeditated violence years in advance against a small country and yet proclaims it an imminent threat.

I believe Senators Byrd and Lott have been guilty of racial insensitivity. I also know Senator Lott apologized for his affirmation of Senator Thurmond's segregationist bid for the presidency and was stripped of his senatorial leadership position. He paid a price but retained his seat in the Senate and therefore avoided expulsion. Senator Byrd deserves condemnation for his remark as well.

He also deserves praise and admiration for his opposition to the Gulf War and his brilliant and breathtakingly eloquent speeches against state terrorism and presidential abuse of power. His criticism of Mr Bush's May Day "Mission Accomplish" pontification on the USS Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest speeches ever given by an American. Go to his website and read it. This side of the senator, his antiwar activist, will be part of his legacy and his greatness as a senator of the United States of America.


Bill Heuisler - 1/31/2004


Bill Heuisler - 1/31/2004

Professor,
My position was in Law Enforcement. Our selection of permissable language was/is far more constricted than a College Professor's. Had I questioned a suspect College Professor with offensive terminology about a curricula, his race, gender, politics, reading material or sexual habits during an investigation, my job would've been jeapordized. Part of our collective disagreement is the scope of courtesy in a civilized society, but my private opinions about public people were also surpressed. But I understood the necessity of such restriction and while resenting, continued to serve. This is also true in the military. Had that young man verbally assaulted you in like manner - without provocation - can you honestly say you would not have contacted his superiors in outrage?

BTW, I look forward to reading anything you write.

One last illustration: juxtapose the treatement of Lott with the treatment of Byrd (not his Klan membership, but his use of the term white n----r two years ago) and tell me you aren't reacting to the wrong side of the problem.
Bill Heuisler


HNN - 1/31/2004

A few months ago we redesigned the threaded discussion boards. This is ho they should look on your computer. On the initial page, whre th article is posted, the postd comments appear as a list, distinguising between comments on the article and comments on individual threads. When you click on a thread the next page reveals the first paragraph of each comment. This gives the reader the chance to take in the whole discussion on that thread at a glance.

If the discussion boards do not appear on your screen as indicated above, please contact the editor at editor@historynewsnetwork.org.


HNN - 1/31/2004

Yes, it is overttime. Your editor has been preoccupied with other matters, among them two redesigns of the publishing system. If you have a recommendation for the Books Feature, please contact me. editor@historynewsnetwork.org. Thank you. Rick Shenkman


Grant W Jones - 1/31/2004

This is a good idea. The editors at HNN has every right to maintain some level of civility on their board.

The only problem is that posts are no longer in the "threaded" format. So its hard to tell if a poster is commenting on the original post or a subsequent one.


Peter N Kirstein - 1/31/2004

Upon rereading your statement on FIRE, perhaps I was in error in my previous response. It does appear you acknowledge FIRE's activities in defending professors on the left of the political spectrum. I would, however, strongly challenge your assumption that those professors, defended by FIRE, attempted to silence or intimidate students into ideological submission. I am unaware of a single instance in which your charge correlates even remotely with the facts of any case. Even several of the professors whom FIRE defended have been recipients of their institutions Excellence in Teaching awards.

Dr Alan Charles Kors, the president of FIRE, rejected strongly correlating extramural utterances with classroom teaching in this interview--see link-- with The Chronicle of Higher Education. I should point out that Dr Kors, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to the National Endowment for the Humanities..

http://chronicle.com/colloquylive/2003/04/speech/

Peter N Kirstein


Peter N Kirstein - 1/31/2004

My only comment to Mr Pinkoski is that FIRE, an organization that you mention, was a major factor in limiting the sanctions against me. You are correct that they generally engage in protecting "conservative" academic entities such as student organizations from what they construe as politically correct speech codes etc., but they have become increasingly non-partisan.

They were most active on a national level in defending Professors Al-Arian, De Genova, Berthold as well. If you read Professor Berthold's article for HNN, he specifically mentions FIRE's courageous intervention in his behalf.

Peter N. Kirstein


Michael Meo - 1/31/2004

Mr Heusler:

George Bush, Sr. used Willie Horton as a means of frightening the electorate against Dukakis. It is false to say Gore, who only mentioned the parole program and never Horton, did so.

George Bush, Sr. should be scorned, not Al Gore. . . but even more to be scorned are the Republican Party apologists who distort history.


Albert J Pinkoski - 1/31/2004

"an attempt to limit the liberty of speech on the HNN website."
The fact that this discussion is ongoing is proof that HNN is NOT the person or group attempting to limit free speech.

"rabid right-wingers"???
I am sure there are plenty of them -- but the trend seems to be in favor of rabid left-wingers -- the vast leftwing conspiracy, despite Hillary Clinton. (Try to find PJ O'Rourke's "hillarious" November 1993 satire - Collective Guilt.) Why do the majority of academic horror stories -- suppressing the academic freedom of ADULT STUDENTS who pay the tuition -- involve LEFTIST professors who resent quality work and informed dissent and critical thinking from their not-so-liberal and not-so-controllable ADULT students. One might think that ADULT students in a college setting would have attained their full rights to be different despite the personal agendas and neuroses of an ultraliberal professoriate. The cases being taken up by OTHER civil liberties groups such as The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (thefire.org) largely seem to involve LEFTIST teachers seeking to impose their personal politics rather than inviting TRUE diversity - the diversity of THOUGHT - on the pretext that it is, after all, the TEACHER'S classroom, or that we must learn to live in a "multicultural" postmodern and deconstructed brave new world. B*S*!

Sadly, even high school teachers - and all the way down to PRESCHOOL teachers (believe it - or not!) have been bitten by the liberal "tolerance" bug. A preschool workshop on "the holidays" given in my community - and this occurred over a decade ago - suggested that "red and green" be the concept taught during the Christmas season - but we must of course do more than mention Kwanzaa and Hannukah and Ramadan, but teach the history and customs. To their credit, the preschool teachers in attendance asked hard questions of the lecturer - and happily IGNORED his ultraliberal agenda when they returned to their classrooms.

Why is it that when a conservative speaker is actually invited and then allowed to speak (without the so-called "hecklers' veto," and without need of police protection against an oh-so-tolerant liberal MOB) a liberal (or more than one, representing the "diverse" universe of liberal discourse) must be there for "balance" and "perspective" and to avoid any hint of suppression and academic tyranny - but when a liberal is the "main event" there is no need to hire a "conservative" to provide balance, a grain of salt, and the acid test of reality? Is it because the liberal is automatically perceived to be truly "tolerant" and "all-encompassing" and a "citizen of the world"? Is it that the established universe of LIBERAL discourse is perceived to be sufficient unto itself? Or could it be that the different meanings of LIBERAL are being confused?

"The ability of writers to post under a pseudonym is also essential for a sense of privacy and security."
Actually I agree with this point. The writers of the Antifederalist Papers especially, if memory serves me correctly, published their inflammatory articles under pseudonyms.

As far as people losing their employment because of their liberal or socialist or communist worldviews, it seems far more likely that people today will be fired for politically incorrect speech, or will cause the company to hire a psychologist or lawyer to give a general lecture on sensitivity towards those who are "different." Actually happened at my workplace after an incident in which a gay co-worker was embarrassed by an overly inquisitive and talkative "moron" who thought she was being sophisticated and sociable and intelligent and got HIMSELF fired because he over-reacted toward a supervisor (and actually assaulted him!),who was merely trying to reconcile and remedy the issue. The "gay co-worker" (a label he did NOT want to be publicized) proceeded to threaten the woman who asked him such personal questions out of morbid curiosity. We did get a good explantation of "free speech" in a privately owned company - that the company DOES have the right to set rules of behavior AND SPEECH in the workplace, and has the right to demand that co-workers respect each other's privacy even if you disagree with their lifestyle.

Another writer states that we should not state that the left is never persecuted or silenced. Of course people on the left are persecuted and silenced! But so are people on the right. Yes, people are still REAL PEOPLE even if they are on the right. I, for one, am sick and tired of hearing comments such as "My goodness, you are such an intelligent person! How can you possibly believe such nonsense!" - whether intended to be humorous, or, more often than not, hostile. It appears that the "liberal" is not content merely to live and let live - but that the "liberal" will not let you live at all if you are too stubborn and defiant. But, hey, it takes a village to raise an IDIOT.


Hugh High - 1/30/2004

This may, in principle, be correct, i.e. that there is no a priori reason to think the one group, or the other, is particularly so disposed. HOWEVER, inasmuch as I have no reason to assume the one, or the other, is so pre-disposed, that seems like a useful starting point . Certainly that is how one would frame an initial hypothesis if there were a statistical investigation.

NOW, you, or others,may have some evidence -- even conjectures -- as to whether the one group, or the other, is more disposed to 'anony-thuggery'. If so, this might provide an initial working hypothesis. (Although, I suspect, whatever initial conjecture is made, someone from the other spectrum might make a strong case for the opposite conjecture.

So, by making this initial assumption,I merely do so as a 'starting point' . I have my own "guesses" as to which would be more disposed, but they are neither strongly held, nor anything more than guesses.


Peter N Kirstein - 1/30/2004

I will continue to speak out and even defend that e-mail when it comes to my core beliefs. You may wish to read my last article in HNN for an illustration. Neither you nor anyone else will change that.

I think I was correct in stating that the killing of innocents, including babies, is indefensible and when referred to as “collateral damage, there is even an absence in recognizing their humanity! I will be publishing an article in Situation Analysis, at the University of Nottingham, in the UK that will contain my first scholarly defense of the rights of the professorate to engage in unpopular beliefs during wartime. I hope you will read it.

People have the right to question my views but not to censure them. I can handle easily a national clamor over my views, but when it degenerates into an effort to silence my beliefs, then persons like you who claim the left is never persecuted or silenced need to be criticized and corrected.

I am struck and saddened that you claim you would have been fired from your current position for uttering certain beliefs. Instead of ‘naming names’ in a manner that is reminiscent of McCarthyism, perhaps you should direct your criticism toward the very institutions that you claim the left unfairly criticizes.


Bill Heuisler - 1/30/2004

Professor Kirstein,
Each of you have gratuitously labeled himself/herself in various statements and writings. Being a professor in an American college is surely a definition of success, and you brought on the often-noted abuse by associating a relatively innocent young man with baby killers. You're courteous on HNN, have the courage of your convictions and write quite well, but perhaps saying your thoughts were sanctioned overstates any Koestler/Orwell scenario.

Had I said similar things in the opposite context from the opposite point of view in my capacity as public officer I would've been fired. Goose and Gander, Sir.
Bill Heuisler


Peter N Kirstein - 1/30/2004

While several of those figures that you mentioned I am pleased to be associated with, I do construe it as somewhat inappropriate to label capriciously persons as Marxists or Communists or Socialists.

"Doing extremely well" suggests that those on the left have not encountered serious and grave sanctions for their thoughts and acts of conscience.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/30/2004

Mr. Smale, No one here restricted your speech rights or refused your posts. You are merely asked to speak civily and accept responsibility for what you say by saying it in your own name. Those same rules apply to everyone.


Bill Heuisler - 1/30/2004

Mr Smale,
You wrote, "Point one: there exists in the United States a long history of the persecution of Marxists, communists, and socialists." Apparently forgetting Angela Davis, Peter Kirstein, Noam Chomsky, Eric Foner, Bernie Sanders, Ed Asner and many other very public Communists and Socialists who are doing extremely well in this Capitalist country you seem to hate so much.

Point two: (see point one) Marxists who have, "a valid fear that they will be persecuted for their political views." either vastly overestimate their importance or have lost touch with reality

Last, please name a Communist government in the world that allows dissent. And name a Democracy that doesn't. Then name a person from the Left who was persecuted by the US government solely for their beliefs in the last thirty years. Can't? Then stop substituting self-serving paranoia for argument.
Bill Heuisler


Robert Smale - 1/30/2004

Dear Mr. Catsam,

The owners of what you now term "public accomodations" sought to prohibit the extension of constitutional rights into their businesses. HNN is now seeking to prohibit the extension of constitutional rights into its "business".

As for your analysis of the American union movement and the American working class. FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS EXISTS. And the American working class is mired in it. If your father failed to see that the capitalist system of the United States was antithetical to his interests as a member of the working class, then he suffered false consciousness. As for the the union leaders lining up to back the Democratic Party--these union leaders are the agents of the bourgeoise within the working class movement. They are traitors to their own followers. The American union movement has to break its ties to the Democrats if they ever hope to truly advance.

Now for your final line, which I think you intended to be a joke. The kulaks exploited their fellow peasants for their own enrichment--if the Soviet Union executed them for that crime during the Revolution, I am not going to cry over their bodies.

Sincerely,
Robert L. Smale


Derek Charles Catsam - 1/30/2004

Mr. Davis (And Mr. Smale)--
To augment your (Jeff's) points --If HNN were saying that certain groups could not post on HNN the analogy would have validity. That is where my argument about suspect categorization comes in. Anonymous posters who want to be vicious is simply not a protected category, nor should it be. If Rick or others on the editorial staff were saying "no blacks, no Jews, no women" we'd have an issue. If a pronouncement came down that certain ideological groups were not being represented, that too would vex me, and I'd stand by Mr. Smale, though not with his analogy. But what is happening here is that HNN has decided that it values a modicum of civility, that it wants a certain quality of debate, and that posters left right and center need to adhere to that. If they do, all are welcome. No group is being discriminated against, no category of persons, no ideology, no religion, no one. So how is the analogy valid? Jim Crow was about discrimination against a group of people who wanted equal rights. Anyone can post on HNN. But there are rules, just as once the restrictions of Jim Crow were lifted it did not mean that black Americans did not have to adhere to behaviors in resturants or waiting rooms or at drinking fountains. The key is access. Anonymity is not a right in a public forum. Nor should it be.
Forget about the Supreme Court as currently constructed. Some might argue that this court has restricted rights. But take, say, the Warren Court of the 50s and 60s. Smale's argument would lose 9-0 in that court. I am sure he rejects that institution, of course, but many of us actually believe in the Constitution and the institutions it creates.
dc


Jeffrey Davis - 1/30/2004

Mr Smale,

The reason that your comparison of HNN asking for an ID for its posters to Jim Crow-style discrimination doesn't hold up is that there are a finite number of businesses, schools, buses, etc. On the other hand, there are virtually an infinite number of venues where someone can speak their mind. On top of that, it has never been the law that people have to listen to what others are freely saying.

Simply put, were you to make a wager about the Supremes seeing the Constitution your way, you'd lose.


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 1/30/2004

There's also no reason to assume left or right would be equally disposed toward anony-thuggery.


Derek Charles Catsam - 1/30/2004

Mr. Smale --
Look, I've said it once, I've said it twice, but here we go again. Your inability to understand the difference between public accomodations -- ie buses, hotels, restaurants, stores, etc. and publications or other private endeavors is simply becoming noisome. Just like the New York Times has no responsibiliuty to publish every thing that comes across its desk, neither does HNN. But beyond that no one is being forbidden from publishing posts. No one. There are things that are restricted -- but show up at a public school playground and start throwing out racial epithets and see where that gets you. Jim Crow in public accomodations is a substantially different thing from what we are dealing with here at HNN. Disagree with HNN's policy. But stop making this damned analogy, because you are just revealing your ignorance of both the thrust of the history of the civil rights struggle and of the first amendment and the right of free speech.
As for being an enemy of Marxism and an enemy of the working class, I may well be the former. As for the latter, do not purport to speak to me about the working class, and do not purport to be their spokesman. I hate to drop this little bomb on you, but the overwhelming majority of the working class utterly and totally reject your reasoning. My parents were deivorced when I was young, my dad owned a dairy farm and when things got tough in the 80s he became a carpenter. Your desire to overthorw capitalism would in his eyes be laughable. So is my obviously working class father an enemy of the working clas? What about the labor unions in Iowa who supported gephart? Enemies of the working class?
As for your sophomoric and simplistic asertion that being a liberal hawk means one is "a cheerleader for US imperialist intervention," well, there are so many flaws i do not know where to begin. This liberal hawk would have supported stronger stances on South Africa throughout the 80s. So if you would not agree, I suppose that makes you a Broederbond supporter? This liberal hawk would have had troops in Rwanda long before genocide had a chance to fan its ugly flames. So if you would not agree, does this make you a coddler of mass murderers? I would have fought the Neutrality Acts of the 1930s and supported intervention against Nazi Germany far earlier than we did. If you disagree does this make you a lapdog for Hitler? My presupposition is that you are not necessarily those things, or you may be but we ought to establish that by bothering to figure out where you stand on them. But in your typical and clumsy fashion -- I can hear Gomer Pyle now, "Surprise, surprise, surprise" -- you go straight to the ad hominem "enemy of the working class," "cheerleader for US imperialist intervention."
Marxists whine about being persecuted. Right wingers whine about being persecuted. Enough of the victim mentality. No one is going to crack down on a well argued post on History News Network. Plenty of Marxists have used their own names on here, socialists and communists too. You discredit them while delusionally self-aggrandizing your place in the intellectual, political, and I'll even use the word, "revolutionary," milieu.
Now aren't there some kulaks somewhere who need slaughtering? I mean, reeducating. I mean . . . oh, forget it.
dc


Robert Smale - 1/30/2004

I have noticed that several of you continue to fling the accusation at me that I do not address the substance of your objections to my original post. The reason is that you have not directly addressed the substance of my argument. Let me lay it out for you once again, and if any of you actually come up with some substantive objections--then I will take the time to respond in a more concrete manner.

Point one: there exists in the United States a long history of the persecution of Marxists, communists, and socialists. In many states laws are still on the book that promote the continued harrasment of communists.

Point two: to create an internet forum that allows for the expression of a variety of political views, anonymity should be respected as a right. Marxists have a valid fear that they will be persecuted for their political views.

Point three: the constitution does not apply just in government and the "public sphere" but its protections extend to the "private sphere" as well. This is the sort of protection that allows the courts to come down on businesses that practice discriminatory hiring practices.

Now once again, I return to Mr. Catsam's objection that the popular practice of Jim Crow in the South is similar to HNN's restriction of free speech. The US Congress and the US Supreme court struck down discrimination in the voting booth and the class room, but private business owners still hoped to preserve Jim Crow segregation in their "private businesses". Eventually throught popular protest and government intervention, racial discrimination in places like resaurants came tumbling down. This is the extension of individual, constitution rights from the "public sphere" to the "private sphere". Now if you cannot see the parallel between the two situations, that demonstrates a serious lack of critical thinking skills. I certainly hope that you apply a greater analytical capacity to your work on the freedom riders, if not I fear that in writing on the subject, you have probably wasted your own time and upon publication will be wasting the time of your readers who might have better spent their hours reading the work of another historian with greater powers of analysis.

Now, as for not understanding whay your views are widely divergent from those of a Marxist. Let me acquint you with one of the central goals of Marxism, and that is the overthrow of capitalism and those who support it for the creation of a more equitable world based upon the political power of the working class. If this is not your final goal, you are an enemy of Marxism and an enemy of the working class. You say that you are a "liberal hawk", all that meens is that you are a cheerleader for US imperialist intervention. The US government is the enemy of the working class both here and abroad. US intervention can do nothing more than damage the well-being of the great majority of humanity for the benefit of the few.

Sincerely,
Robert L. Smale


Hugh High - 1/30/2004

Or, that conservatives were disportionately accused of being 'anony-thugs'.

The assertion by Josh Greenland is an empirical one -- and I don't know which part of the political spectrum has more often engaged in 'anony-thuggery' -- my guess would be that conservatives have no greater tendency in this regard than leftists . BUT, I hasten to add, it is an empirical issue and , I should think , there is no reason to think, a priori , that one end of the political spectrum is more/less disposed to 'anony-thuggery' than another end.


Jonathan Dresner - 1/30/2004

I wonder how many of the formerly anonymous posters will return under the current regime? I do hope that some of the formerly pseudonymonous posters will identify themselves, so we can maintain a little continuity of community, though in a few cases I could understand wanting to disassociate from the other "identity."

Anyway, I'm quite pleased that this change has taken place.

For those of you looking for a constitutional bone to pick, I'll just suggest that free speech, like many other rights, comes at a cost: in this case, the cost is the surrender of anonymity.


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 1/30/2004

It's interesting, isn't it, how often the anony-thugs were conservatives.


Van L. Hayhow - 1/29/2004

I am posting this here even though it is not on topic as I hope that the editor may check in here to see the reaction to the policy. I have been waiting for a new book review since around October. Isn't overtime for a new review?


Hugh High - 1/29/2004

I would hope that Mr. Smale has benefitted from the responses, from those at different points on the political spectrum ( Mr. Catsam has said he might be 'categorized' as a 'New Republic' sort ; I am a very hard core libertarian . )

It is clear that Mr. Catsam like me, and a number of others who have written here, is clearly devoted to the principle of vigourous, yet civil, discussion and arguement about IDEAS and CONCEPTS, and recognizes those are what matter -- not the political beliefs of the particular writer. That is what a 'liberal education' gives one -- how quaint that phrase now sounds ; yet how grateful I am that I had the good fortune as an undergraduate to receive such an education, in no small part from those whose political views I thought wrong, but who were always concerned with ideas and concepts and conveyed to their students that was what mattered.

At the risk of besmirching Mr.Catsam via 'guilt by association', i.e. by virtue of being in agreement with a libertarian and thus, in the view of Mr. Smale, doubtless a heinous individual, I would strongly endorse the words of Mr. Catsam who wrote , about Mr. Smale :

" You take issue with the arguer rather than the argument. In addition to being silly, anti-intellectual, and logically flawed beyond belief, that is rather, well, discriminatory. And not in a good way. "

That is, it is the argument -- the concept, the idea, not the individual, which matters. At the risk of being flippant, "some of my best friends are socialists" -- but they are committed to ideas and to civil,rigourous, discourse, and not ad hominem attacks.


Albert J Pinkoski - 1/29/2004

"This is the thinking of a racist, a bigot, an anti-semite, etc. I am applying none of these terms to Mr. High--I am simply saying that he has the same patterns of thought as the most regressive elements of human society. I am sure that women, minorities, and oppressed groups of all types would disagree with the hateful thinking..." Oh, come on! Everybody together, now - racist, classist, sexist, homophobe, Islamophobe... Rightwing hacks? I've met MORE THAN plenty of leftwing hacks in my time! Do you and your "kinfolk" therefore represent the better instinct of better people everywhere? Do they now and will they forevermore hold the higher moral ground? Is a "progressive" agenda railroaded through federal, state and local governments via intimidation and name-calling truly what this nation needs? I have always thought that the two extremes of egalitarianism and libertarianism are not what we should seek to implement, for they both inevitably hurt many people while trying to cater to privileged others. Forget not the extreme skeptic, too - who questions all authority except his own. Why not just state, "We were in the process of inventing high culture while your ancestors were still swinging from trees and picking each other's fleas"? Why not just resort DIRECTLY to the acronyms "genetic throwback" and "troglodyte"? The same tired nonsense, the same uncritical LACK of thinking, the same counter-productive and alienating NONSENSE that was heard during the so-called activist 1960's and 70's. There was and continues to be far more bloodshed and B*S* from the left than the left will ever care or dare to admit! Then again, they deny that confession is good for the soul. Confession? Soul?


Bill Heuisler - 1/29/2004

Mr. Smale,
My misspelling your name was inadvertant.
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 1/29/2004

Mr. Smales,
My praise for Professor Catsam's work has been for its intrinsic excellence. Although he may be misguided, his heart is purer than most and his love for this country is beyond question. The fact he labors in the Groves lends me confidence and optimism; the prospect of a Professor Smales infusing hatred and envy in some classroom in the name of Marx only tightens my jaws.

Your question: "When is the last time in the United States you say the black-listing of conservatives, a "Conservative Scare", or conservative-baiting?"
can be answered by a quick look at the Golden Globe awards or other of Hollywood congratulatory events. Consider Mel Gibson's reception for his latest movie or the NYT Book Review's exclusion of any of Coulter's, Limbaugh's or O'Reilly's books while they fawn over Moore. Prime Time News shows exult in their New York effete Liberalism and sneer at apostates like Goldberg and Stoessel (sp).
The list of exclusion in the media and arts is endless.
In Politics, remember Al Gore's Willy Horton ad against Dukakis? And how it was later blamed on conservatives? Remember the pickup truck dragging the chains with a voice-over blaming W for lynching? Remember the phantom Arkansas church-burnings? Were the Right to try such inflamatory images/dialogue we'd be castigated forever. The Left? Not a peep.

I'm surprised you ask such an easily answered question.
Bill Heuisler


Derek Charles Catsam - 1/29/2004

Mr. Smale --
Bill Heuisler and I agree on relatively little, though I am a liberal hawk (think New Republic) and so we are closer on security issues. Bill and I have taken the gloves off on a number of occasions. And that's ok. You believe that his side is unrepentantly evil. I just think more often than not it may be wrong. He and I have come to respect one another over the course of the last 2-3 years. That's a concept you may well want to embrace. Someone can be conservative and yet can be your friend. Really. In any case they do not deserve your contempt.I do not know Hugh High, though I know his posts. But if he agrees with me when I'm right, that is fine. This is a difference between you and me, one of many. You live life by the ad hominem -- just look at your post. You don't address my substance, but rather try to smear me by associating me with (and of course simultaneously smearing) Mr. High and Mr. Heuisler. Basically what you are saying is that Bill and Hugh cannot ever be right about anything. You take issue with the arguer rather than the argument. In addition to being silly, anti-intellectual, and logically flawed beyond belief, that is rather, well, discriminatory. And not in a good way.
Stand by the analogy all you want. Several of us have shown what folly it is. You have not addressed any of our points, and you willfully maintain its relevance. It makes for bad history, worse policy, and mediocre demagoguery. I have seen American Idol for the first time in the last few days (I hate myself for both doing it and admitting to it), and you remind me of one of those clueless contestants who is irredeemably terrible but who insists on how good he is. For the rest of us it adds a nice comic effect. Though frankly, you're embarrassing yourself.
As for my views being far away from Marxism, I don't even know what that vapid statement means. I don't know what measuring system you would use to gauge these things. I guess in a European context I am a social democrat. I do not believe in Marxism nor do I believe it to be irredeemably evil. As an intellectual, Marx deserves to be taken seriously. It is not his fault that ninnies, murderers, and improvident lackwits have embraced the caricature that has become Marxism. But ninnies, mass murderers, and improvident lackwits have embraced that caricature. This is a historical reality. In any case, I am more than happy that liberalism and Marxism are worlds apart.
Further, I cannot help but notice that you've continued to post under your own name, that the jackbooted thugs have not broken down your door, and that the republic still stands. You are in a bit of a dilemma, aren't you? -- the more you post, the more your chicken little world does not come falling down, the more the complaints about anonymous posters being denied their rights seems like ridiculous pablum. Let freedom ring, Mr. Smale. Let freedom ring.
dc


Robert Smale - 1/29/2004

I appologize that my previous post contained not text. Please disregard it.

Dear Mr. High. I am happy to see that you do not discriminate in all situations, but only when choosing "friends, marriage partners...employees, to whom to grant credit, to whom to grant favours..." I am sure that all of the African Americans in this country denied a loan from the bank because the were black will appreciate your limited form of discrimination.

Dear Mr. Catsam. I still stand behind my analogy. Also, you may consider yourself a leftist within the political spectrum of the United States--but that still places you far to the right of a Marxist. You really should reexamine your stances if you are agreeing with the likes of Hugh High and if fanatic conservatives like Bill Heuisler have praised your work in the past.

Dear Mr. Heuisler, The reason you have not seen much "anonymous vitriol from the Right " on HNN is the fact that Conservatives can express their vile views in public without the fear of retribution. When is the last time in the United States you say the black-listing of conservatives, a "Conservative Scare", or conservative-baiting. As for my opinion of the "Bill of Rights". I realize that it is a document that seeks only to protect bourgoies rights--but under the growing repression of the Bush administration they are the only rights that we might hope for. Socialism would craft a more complete "Bill of Rights", but in the meantime one has to defend what little one has. Also, thank you for your elightening history of the word "discriminate".

Sincerely,
Robert Smale


Derek Charles Catsam - 1/29/2004

Bill --
That's not true at all about the smears. You have gracefully kept out of the Homer Simpson discussions, and some of the other stuff I've taken whenever I've written about race has been ruthless. Much of it has been purged. And we're not talking about the sorts of pissing contests you and I have. We are talking flat out racist viciousness. There is a lot of it, and I would say it runs neck and neck from left and right. Neither side of the ideological coin has a claim to virtue, neither is immune from vice. In any case, my own experience has been thus. This is onviously purely anecdotal on my part. In any case, hopefully this latest step will bring about abit of civility while still allowing many of us to take the gloves off when need be.
Good to hear from you, Bill. I was afraid maybe you'd run off to Iraq to set some folks straight. They could probably use you these days.
dc


Robert Smale - 1/29/2004


Bill Heuisler - 1/29/2004

Derek,
You wrote, "...many, maybe even a majority, of the vitriol spewing anonymous posters have been ardent right wingers..." An unkind cut since most of the attacks against you and your articles have been from the Left, and most of your defenders from my side of the aisle. In fact, I'm hard pressed to recall anonymous vitriol from the Right on HNN. Convenient memory? Perhaps.

And when responding to Mr. Smales, remember he's an avowed Marxist. Nearly every sentient being with a memory of the last century is to his right. Also, he obviously can't grasp the US Constitution was written to describe and limit a Federal Government, certainly not to influence the interactions of private citizens. And this is not difficult stuff. His pride in Marxism and apparent unfamiliarity with the Bill Of Rights leads me to believe normal discourse will be insufficient to his cravings.

Discrimination has acquired an undeserved pejorative meaning in the last fifty years, but we all discriminate every day in various benign ways such as ordering from a menu and leering at one woman while only glancing at another. Mr. Davis is correct, HNN rules are none of the government's business, thank God.
Bill Heuisler


Nigel Anthony Sellars - 1/29/2004

While I understand Robert Smale's arguments, I have also long believed in a greater need for civility. As some on the Left myself, I still respect courteous, informed, and reasonable discourse. [Indeed, we Lefties should be the ones demanding the civility and not let right-wing ideologues use it for their own purposes.] The vast variety of of anon-posters acted like thugs & bullies. If we wish an analogy, the appropriate one is to the Klan: these posters used their anonymity as the Klan used its hoods, to mask their true identities and not face up to the responsibility (and consequences) of their words & actions. A little sunshine (to borrow a Progressive Era idiom) shone into dark places will send the rats scurrying. If they haven't the courage of their convictions (which I suspect they don't) then good riddance. I enjoy debating well informed, courteous real conservatives, if only to show them the error of their ways. The anony-thugs and their appeals to the basest of human emotions I can do without.


Derek Charles Catsam - 1/29/2004

Mr. Smale --
Good to see that you'll resort to the ad hominem with your own name. It's a least a step. However, if you think I am a "right wing hack" (to use your oh-so felicitous phrase) you really are out of it. I think my liberalism has been pretty clear for lo these many years. But it is so much easier to call names and make vacuous analogies.
You do understand that public accomodations are a separate category from privately published forums, right? Or do you also scream first amendment rights when the Times -- or Communist Worker -- refuses to publish your articles anonymously, or, gasp, refuses to publish them at all? And you do realize that Jim Crow involved discrimination against what the court has come to call "suspect categorization" and that from what I can tell, anonymous posters on a website probably do not carry that categorization (though tort lawyers are, at this very moment, scheming)? You also are well aware that many, maybe even a majority, of the vitriol spewing anonymous posters have been ardent right wingers, aren't you?
But I suppose it is easier to cast aspersions on someone's ideology, character, and work than to admit that maybe, just maybe, your analogy was a little overwrought and that while you may not like it (reasonable people can, believe it or not, disagree, and we can sometimes do it reasonably) it probably is well within HNN's right to choose what it will and will not publish as much as it is Time magazine's, or Sports Illustrated's, or Bob's Bait and Tackle monthly newsletter.
I do, however, think maybe the next time my work is sent back for revision from a publisher I am going to try your "this is just like Jim Crow" histrionics. And I'll call them right wing hacks to boot. That'll learn 'em.
dc


Hugh High - 1/29/2004

Robert Smale has taken issue with part of my earlier submission -- the part in which I asserted that a world without private discrimination would be an unpleasant one indeed. Perhaps he has difficulty discriminating as between words and/or with other than simplistic concepts and/or rhetoric.

I stand by that statement and suggest that but a moment's reflection will verify the correctness of it --

Assume a world with NO private discrimation : how would one chose friends, marriage partners, jobs, employees, to whom to grant credit, to whom to grant favours, what to read, to what music to listen, etc.

It is hardly "racist", "bigoted" , or "anti-semetic" to suggest that private discrimination is most desirable and hardly "regressive" [ and, I would point out to Mr. Smale that using words such as "progressive" or "regressive" which are value laden and intended to evoke a particularistic bias by the reader/listener in favour, or against, a particular idea or individual or group, is so transparently obvious as to invite dismissal. ]

Moreover, but not really the point I was trying to make, in a free country, the right of individuals qua individuals to be racist, or bigoted, or anti-semetic, etc. without more, is to be treasured. Indeed, arguably, that is an important test of the extent of freedom in a nation-state -- as, again, presumably but a moment's reflection will suggest.


Robert Smale - 1/29/2004

Several friends have already reccommended against continuing to post to HNN, but I persist in doing so. They reccomend against wasting my time trying to communicatete with the right-wing hacks that dominate the website, but I persist.

Their reccomendations make a lot of sense when one has to listen to the illogical thinking of writiers such as Mr. Hugh High. I am not the sort of person who usually picks out just one sentence to criticise, but in the case of Mr. High's recent posting, I think that it would be illustrative to do so.

He concludes by saying "...a world in which there was no private discrimination would be a very unpleasant one, indeed." This is the thinking of a racist, a bigot, an anti-semite, etc. I am applying none of these terms to Mr. High--I am simply saying that he has the same patterns of thought as the most regressive elements of human society. I am sure that women, minorities, and oppressed groups of all types would disagree with the hateful thinking that Mr. High demonstrates.

Sincerely,
Robert L. Smale
(A proud opponent of discrimination)


Michael Meo - 1/29/2004

A critique of another for his inability to construct well-written prose which neglects the capitalization and punctuation of Standard English can only be regarded as paradoxical.


rebecca stern howell - 1/28/2004

and being new to posting,I am curious to see if I completes my assigned task correctly...


Jesse David Lamovsky - 1/28/2004

Very, very well put, Mr. High. And with all due respect to Mr. Smale, I'm not sure if a self-proclaimed Marxist is the right guy to interpret the United States Constitution, which in essence is simply a written contract limiting the power of the central government.

In defense of the offensive nature of some of the posts (I'm thinking specifically of Ms. Cornett, and F.H. Thomas, the two contributors who have most often been accused, rightfully or not, of anti-semitism), it should be said that even the most... controversial statements can lead to interesting and enlightening discussions.

Jesse Lamovsky


Gary Ostrower - 1/28/2004

Leckie is right, and not only because of the constitutional issue. Many of us have stopped reading the discussion postings because so many are boorish and ad hominem. But requiring civil discourse, I suspect HN will encourage more discourse generally.


William H. Leckie, Jr. - 1/28/2004

Reading this thread quickly, I saw some rather strong remarks about the First Amendment, "constitutional rights," oh, and one mention of "fascism" I've noticed. So--even if I missed something, let me point out that the Constitutional amendment in question does not affirm a universal right of free expression, but as I recall merely says that "Congress shall make no law....abridging freedom of speech." It does not say anything about unleashing anybody to say anything, anywhere, any time, any place. On those grounds, I or anyone else has the unfettered right to insult any of the protesters to the HNN policy in his own home with legally guaranteed impunity, to scream obscenities at school children, to disrupt library patrons' concentration, on and on. Years ago, driving a taxi, I told an abusive passenger to speak respectfully or shut up, to which he replied, "This is a free country man." To which I responded: "The government can't shut you up, pal, but I can. Get outta my hack." [expurgated version] If anything, the cries of indignation so far posted reflect a basic ignorance of the origin, meaning, and application of a constitutional doctrine rendered not as authentically constitutional or even "natural" but rather arbitrary, reflecting, indeed, what an early modern jurist might see as the "negative community" of the state of nature, but I prefer to impute to the failure of speech in US society generally. Holmes it was, who came up with his marketplace of ideas notion in a dissent, but failed to take note of Gresham's Law.

The horizons of the First Amendment have expanded with their times, certainly with the doctrine of incorporation experienced a moment of non-cosmic inflation, perhaps, and a serious case can be made that it was conceived originally as applying to strictly political speech. Any soi-disant "conservative" who argues otherwise is neither informed not much of a conservative. Should we permit the sale of pornography in public school hallways? Swamped now with claims derived from such sources as speech act theory and the use of money in politics in a way that would've been regarded as fatally corrupt by the Founders, we now have to bear the breakdown of civil society, partly inspired by the narcissism of consumption?

I admit to having gotten a kick out of poking fun at the Right while waking up with my morning coffee, occasionally getting exasperated myself, too, but I am also relieved that HNN has taken a step toward civility.


HNN - 1/28/2004

From the Editor: This reader posted under a phony name. His comments are now blocked.


petronius arbiter - 1/28/2004

In addition to the political climate today, some people with aspirations for other jobs or maybe political appointments are advised to keep their comments off the Internet. Comments written on the Internet live forever and can come back to haunt the writer, or be taken out of context and twisted for political effect. It's wrong, it shouldn't happen, but this is the era we are living in.
By supressing the potty-mouthed or whatever, HNN has taken a swipe at this other group of readers whose reasons for seeking to stay anonymous is quite valid. I find this troubling especially for a site aimed at historians, who surely know what happened in the Red Scare years.


petronius arbiter - 1/28/2004


Hugh High - 1/28/2004

Mr. Smale's knowledge of the US Constitution -- and, indeed, constitutions generally, is woeful. Constitutions are a bulwark between individuals and the state -- they do NOT attempt to regulate relationships as between individuals. It is hardly illegal or unconstitutional for me to discriminate against people because of their political beliefs, or because they do or do not smoke, or have red hair, or are male or female, etc. You might think I am not a nice person for my choices, but there is hardly an issue of state interest involved, and most assuredly not a violation of the US Constitution. If, then, the NAACP wished to expell WEB duBois then, as a private group, surely it had the right to do so -- for any reason it chose. Similarly, Marxists, while having a right to speech, etc. , surely do not have a 'right' not to be held up to scorn for holding foolish views -- ibid any number of people who hold views which are held in general disrepute. Smale confuses private acts with public wrongs.

Secondly, it is to be noted that, almost invariably, successful , sustained, and widespread discrimination against individuals occurs because of State involvement and/or state sanction of the activity. For mere example : racial discrimination/Jim Crow laws in the South served to prevent people from, for example, having black and white patrons in the same restaurant -- it was forbidden by legislation so to do. Robeson was denied a passport by the state -- which, of course, in collaboration with other state, determined the individual ability to move from country to country should be restricted -- there were no passports in general usage in, say, 1870.


HNN is a private group. If it wants to require that anyone writing herein be a member of a political party, or of a particular church, or be only of one gender, or have an income of at least $ 200 000 , or ......... it is free to do so. There is no state interest here . Moreover, and as all too often forgotten -- as Smale's comments reflect -- a world in which there was no private discrimination would be a very unpleasant one, indeed.


Oscar Chamberlain - 1/28/2004

I think seeing the HNN editor as John Ashcroft's disciple in the suppression of free speech is over the top and past the moon. He was responding to a real problem, and hyperboles like that do nothing to help find a better balance.

Having said that I think the discussion above does show that banning pseudonyms is not going to be all that effective. I had thought of a way to do it before "petronius" chimed in above, and I am not all that internet savvy.

Moreover, at least one commentor above pointed out that one problem has been the choice of articles and "headlines." (I had complained once about a submission whose title was provocative to the point of inaccuracy.) If articles and headlines push the
edge of incivility, a percentage of responses will cross that line.

The pseudonym ban will stop some of the knee-jerk trash. But it will be at a cost of getting knee-jerk insights from people who are uncomfortable sticking their names on the web and those who simply prefer pseudonymic posts.


Robert Smale - 1/28/2004

Dear Mr. Catsam,

The analogy is dead on. What HNN is doing is akin to Jim Crow businesses in the American South as they fought a rear-guard action against the demise of segregation in the public sphere. They are attempting to create two different standards of conduct--one for the government and the public sphere and the other for private businesses and private forums. Both arenas should be held up to the same standards of constitutionality.

Now, as to your reference to the courts' failure to defend a right to anonymity as protected free-speech; a right to anonymity might be defended under any number of constitutional admendments. But I am not going to hold my breath waiting for the courts to begin defending the spirit of the Constition. The current make-up of the US Supreme Court is enought to convince any true believer in the US Constitution that the courts have become as great an enemy to civil liberty as the President and the Congress.

Also, for those of you who are not brave enough to confront a world where speech is not regulated, here is a finer distinction that you might feel more comfortable with. There is a big difference between make threats under the cover of anonymity and engaging in political and historical debate under the cover of anonymity. If you have read my previous posts, you know that Marxists in this country have legitimate fears that someone might might take retribution for their political views.

Since you seem to be a student of the civil rights movement, here is a bit of civil rights history for you. Paul Robeson was not denied a passport to travel abroad because he was black, he was denied a passport because he was suspected to be a communist. Also, W.E.B Duboise was driven out of the NAACP, an organization that he helped to found, because he was a communist.

Sincerely,
Robert L. Smale


Peter N Kirstein - 1/28/2004

My institution is not Jesuit as you incorrectly noted. While you may use theological discourse from the seventh century to guide your life, I do not feel I am required to do so. Pride is an essential element of development and being human. I assure you it is a very useful tool to pursue my mission and my calling regardless of the enemies of free speech and the armies of the night.

Pride may be excessive; it may also be a means of resistance against those who wish to coerce and silence.


Kevin M Gannon - 1/27/2004

I have not come to this site for almost a year, after being a regular reader/sometime commentator previously. I got "flamed" in response to what I thought was a fairly innocuous comment on a message board, and said 'the hell with it." As a new faculty member (non-tenured), I have plenty of people waiting to dump on me; I didn't need it undeservedly from a website where I went for intellecutal colloquia. I heartily endorse this new policy. If you're strong in your convictions, you can be civil about them. If not, you shouldn't be posting.

I'm sorry if that previous statement sounded bitter, but I'm glad that there's a policy in place that will foster civility and respect, regardless of opinion/political persuasion. I look forward to rewarding and enlightening discussions with my fellow visitors to this site.

All the best,
Kevin
--
Kevin Gannon
Merrimack College


Kevin M Gannon - 1/27/2004

I have not come to this site for almost a year, after being a regular reader/sometime commentator previously. I got "flamed" in response to what I thought was a fairly innocuous comment on a message board, and said 'the hell with it." As a new faculty member (non-tenured), I have plenty of people waiting to dump on me; I didn't need it undeservedly from a website where I went for intellecutal colloquia. I heartily endorse this new policy. If you're strong in your convictions, you can be civil about them. If not, you shouldn't be posting.

I'm sorry if that previous statement sounded bitter, but I'm glad that there's a policy in place that will foster civility and respect, regardless of opinion/political persuasion. I look forward to rewarding and enlightening discussions with my fellow visitors to this site.

All the best,
Kevin
--
Kevin Gannon
Merrimack College


Ralph E. Luker - 1/27/2004

Mr. Winthorpe, if that's who you are, I don't think anyone said that the new policy of registration is meant to discriminate against people who are not historians. I think that you have confused two very different issues and are unnecessarily defensive about not being a professional historian. No one here asked that of you.


Charles Roald Winthorpe - 1/27/2004

Last minute edit - make that "Madison," not "Jefferson."


Charles Roald Winthorpe - 1/27/2004

Mrsrs. Hamilton and Jefferson,

We regret to inform you that your obscene works may no longer be published. Despite the potential consequences of airing such inflammatory and dangerous works, we require our authors to use their true names. We sincerely believe our new policy will elevate the level and intellectual value of Colonial journalism and literature.

- The Publishers

On the other hand, I witnessed the rank and anti-Semitic barbs of cowards who hid their identities under such obvious pseudonyms as "Gus Moner" and "Barbara Cornett." Apparently HNN has figured out that a forced unveiling of identity is the surest method of preventing the dissemination of intolerance, ignorance, uncritical or incomplete thoughts, vulgarity and defamation. Surely no one person would stoop so low as to say something stupid when their "good name" is at stake.

Which is precisely the point. I am not a professional historian, and perhaps some believed that my comments devalued the discussions. Everyone is free to hold their own opinion, and everyone is free to question the "credentials" of those who speak. I also understand that Gregor Mendel was not a professionally-trained biologist. Probably one of the reasons that his work was never published had something to do with not having chosen the right profession.

My point was no more to demean one's professional credentials than it was to hold them in a sense of awe or absolution. There were many things which I was able to learn from more than a few of the "professionally-trained historians," but such credentials, alone, were never what provided the convincing.

I respect HNN's decision, and may continue perusing articles and comments from time to time. But I am also respecting my own decision to not reveal my identity, and therefore, forfeiting the opportunity for further contributions, as well. Perhaps some will welcome this, perhaps some will miss it. My only regret is the following: Banning pseudonymity may be a double-edged sword, but the blade that chills the free, if sometimes provocative speech of those who dispense with the veil of identity, whether it is regarded as authoritative by one’s own standards or otherwise, is much sharper than the blade that is sufficiently emboldened to cut down opposing contributions on the basis of anything other than their content.

And, if I may trade one final barb, Professor Kirstein. Since you bring it up in your “challenge,” I believe that pride is one of the seven deadly sins. I don't know what the Jesuits at Xavier would say, but if pride is ok, I would channel it into professional works that were produced in my own official capacity, rather than my mere name at the end of a post on a chat-board.

Good luck to you all and thanks.


michael antalek - 1/27/2004

it's interesting to see a psychological perspective of bush's behavior. but the implication is that bush is the source of policy in the white house. from what i've seen and read about him, i can't see him as anything but a telegenic frontman for dick cheney, karl rove, grover norquist and assorted neocoms.

this is a guy who told america in a TV interview that he doesn't need to read about issues. he has 'objective' advisors to give him the information he needs. how can he even assess the information he gets if he hasn't done the work to understand the issues? i suppose he thinks that his objective advisors don't have agendas of their own.

when john kennedy was in the midst of the cuban missle crisis, he was advised to invade by some of his advisors. others counseled caution. but he was the one to weigh their arguements and come to a decision. can you see george w bush in that situation?

his apparent intellectual laziness makes him unfit to deal with the complexity of issues that every president must deal with. how can he hold his own in policy discussions? he can't construct coherent sentences without a script to follow.

he's nothing more than a figurehead who's content to let others tell him what to do and say.






Derek Charles Catsam - 1/27/2004

Yes, I agree. The idea that anyone has the right to do whatever they want anonymously is absurd. Rather than invoke specious analogies with Jim Crow Mr. Smale would be better advised to invoke the KKK. Fortunately, the courts have made it clear that in fact one does not have the right to do or say as they please anonymously, even if they pathetically hide behind free speech. As oen finishing a book on the Freedom Riders, I damned well know that there is a difference between restaurant owners in the South during the segregation era and HNN demanding that people use their own name when they otherwise freely post on an internet site that welcomes their comments but demands at least a modicum of civility. Some people should just be thankful that there is no restriction of dumb historical analogies.


Jeffrey Davis - 1/27/2004


The comparison of a private forum trying to instill manners in its posters to Jim Crow laws is fatuous. No one is being denied any right to contribute to HNN discussions.


Robert Smale - 1/27/2004

So I see that you are in favor of violating constitution protections as long as it is done within a private forum

This is the same sort of logic that restaurant owners in the South employed when they refused to serve blacks. Hey, as a private business they had the right to refuse service to whomever they pleased.

I really hope that Jeff Davis is your real name an not a pseudonym (But it is appropriate for the character of your posting).

Sincerely,
Robert L. Smale


mark safranski - 1/27/2004

I agree with Dr. Kirstein that there is no particular utility or good purpose in annonymous posting on HNN - particularly since it seems to attract libelous, ad hominem flaming trolls, anti-semites and other unsavory types. Some anonymous posters have been great but unfortunately they are now disproving the rule.

H-Net, for example, functions perfectly well with registration and maintains a generally scholarly conversation, even on highly controversial topics posted by people with views as divergent as say mine and Dr. Kirstein, or Daniel Pipes and Chalmers Johnson. If you want to excoriate people while hiding behind a psuedonym get yourself a blog.


Alvin William Brinson - 1/27/2004

I've kept out of many of the discussions recently due to the kind of trash talk that's being addressed here. Glad to see something being done to clean things up before they get too out of hand.

I will always stand by what I say. Even if I've changed my mind 20 years from now and some internet archive shows that I used to think otherwise. I'll just consider it good material for some future biographer.

Alvin W. Brinson
Senior Undergrad in History,
Stephen F. Austin State University.


Jeffrey Davis - 1/27/2004

Discontinuing anonymous posting has nothing to do with freedom of speech. HNN is a private forum and can go about its business as it sees fit.


Robert Smale - 1/27/2004

First a reply to Mr. Hayhow. I accept the admonition that I did not draw a proper distinction between federal prosecutors and local DAs. But I would like to remind you that legal practice at the federal level tends to influence legal practice at the local level. Also, Ashcroft may not have appointed all of the federal prosecutors currently serving under him, but he has instructed all of them to always go for the maximum penalty and to avoid all bargains. Also, I am sure that you need no reminders that the Justice Department as run by Ashcroft is quite liberal in its interpretation of who is a terrorist and who is a threat to national security.

As for Mr. Luker. One should not wait until the arrests begin to start fighting against the erosion of our Constitutional rights. Other web sites have already had members arrested and thrown in jail on trumped-up charges. If you want an example of this just look at the anarchist web-site: raisethefist.com. One of the founders of the web site Sherman Austin has already been convicted of bogus charges. I am not in full agreement with anarchist politics, but I am opposed to the political prosecution of individuals exercising their right to free speech.

Now for Mr. Greenland. I am a Marxist, and I am not afraid to declare myself as such under my own name. But I am not currently in a position that I have to worry about my job because of my political opinions. The US courts have already decided that the US Constitution does not protect individuals fired from their jobs for their political inclinations as it does individuals fired for religeous or racial reasons. I think that there have been a number of good posts by Marxists who use pseudonyms. I do not think that they hide their own name to be cute or sly--they do it because they have a legitimate fear of persecution.

I am worried that the fascist tendencies of the current presidential administration are begining to affect other segments of American society.

Sincerely,
Robert Smale


Name Removed at Poster's Request - 1/27/2004

"I must disagree in the strongest of terms with the recent changes implemented by the HNN staff. The recent change is clearly an attempt to limit the liberty of speech on the HNN website.

"The ability of writers to post under a pseudonym is also essential for a sense of privacy and security."

I agree that this is a limit in freedom of speech (rather than that it just being a technical fix as management is claiming). However after witnesses numerous HNN forums swamped by dittoheads, trolls and other liars and fools, I'm happy to see this change. I accept what some of the pseudonymous individuals have said, that they have professional reasons to worry if they use their real names, but to be blunt, there has been too little use of pseudonyms by sane, intelligent people to put much weight on the non-restriction side of the argument. I wish there had been more, but I think we'll lose relatively few good posts in exchange for the discussion-destroying inanity that we'll be screening out.


Charles V. Mutschler - 1/27/2004

Thank You, HNN.

I for one, will not miss the cases of potty mouth, or the unsigned, and often unreasoned commentary.

Personally, I tend to discount most of the unsigned work as suspect, because the author is unwilling to publicly stand by his words and take credit for them. Let us hope that we will see more thoughtful commentary, and less sound and noise, signifying nothing. In any case, the new policy ought to be an improvement over the last month of vitriol on the list.

Charles V. Mutschler


Ralph E. Luker - 1/26/2004

Mr. Smale, Have you followed discussions on the HNN comment boards and failed to see the high correlation between pseudonymity and scurilous ad hominem attacks? If under pseudonym, intelligent contributors to these boards had regularly posted reasonable and thoughtful commentary about the issues raised here, I'd be the first to defend pseudonymity. Unfortunately, here it has been used irresponsibly. And, by the way, when you first hear of anyone being grilled by a Justice Department functionary over a posting at HNN, do please contact me for a contribution to her or his legal defense. Courage, Mr. Smale, courage! You are an American. We do not cower.


Van L. Hayhow - 1/26/2004

A minor point: Mr. Ashcroft is the US Attorney General. He has nothing to do with DA\'s, who are invariably local officials, not federal. While the President can remove and reappoint US Attorneys this is not commonly done on a wholesale basis. The last President that made a concerted effort to remove all the US Attorneys appointed by a President of another party was President Reagan. The attorneys under the level of US attorney are not replaced as new US Attorneys are brought in but remain, often through the term of several US Attorneys.


Peter N Kirstein - 1/26/2004

I am curious if Ms Pryor or CRW (Luker's article) survives the cut.
I also ponder how many denizens that responded to my Hot Seat listing could survive the cut.

I stand behind my name; I am proud of it. More so in the past 14 months than anytime in my life.

There is no excuse for anonymity when characterizing a person publicly whether favourably or unfavourably. It is a lack of honour, maturity and professionalism to engage in public assessment when one is unable to be tested, debated or held accountable for their comments.

I STAND BY MY NAME! NOW STAND BY YOURS AND USE THIS WEBSITE HONOURABLY AND WITH PROFESSIONALISM.

PETER NEIL KIRSTEIN
PROFESSOR OF HISTORY
SAINT XAVIER UNIVERSITY


Timothy James Burke - 1/26/2004

I am the last to insist that historians can never talk about the now, only the then. History pays its rent in the present. But reading today, for example, that George Bush is a \\\"dry drunk\\\", I don\\\'t see any attempt to ground that in any kind of historicity. Pipes and some of the other habitues here often just do a sort of quickie, potted slam on the history of academia or Middle Eastern studies, etc., before going on to thrash their latest victims. There\\\'s a distinctive ground here to inhabit, and I\\\'ve felt there were times that HNN did so nicely, but lately I think a lot of the pieces have just been Bush-is-bad, liberals-are-bad sorts of things. You can\\\'t expect the commentators to strike a radically different tone than the initial provocations.


Robert Smale - 1/26/2004

I must disagree in the strongest of terms with the recent changes implemented by the HNN staff. The recent change is clearly an attempt to limit the liberty of speech on the HNN website.

The ability of writers to post under a pseudonym is also essential for a sense of privacy and security. Let us not forget that many states in this country still have laws on the book that prohibit communists from holding public office or holding state employment. An overzealous DA of the type that is currently being promoted by the Ashcroft Justice Department could use posts to the HNN website to launch a new "Red Scare". Does HNN, with its attempts to limit "Trash Talk", really want to give rabid right-wingers information so that they might strip people of their employment because of their political views.

I really hope that the HNN board reconsiders their recent change.

Sincerely,
Robert L. Smale


Derek Charles Catsam - 1/26/2004

I would tend to agree too, although I am not sure how we decide what is historical and what is not, especially since many of us take the Hofstadterian view that the reason we got into history is that it is the politics of the past, and further that the politics of the present can benefit from the study of the past. Further, this is the History News Network. I've never quite understood why people want to eliminate the "News" is order to get rid of what theys ee as distasteful about the politics. I thought part of this was about bringing to bear our historical skills to dissect both historical issues in the news but also to use those skills to allow us to think about the present.
That said, I do think that at some point someone like Carpenter's status as a regular columnist should come under scrutiny -- not only does he do little of a historical nature, he also is a bit of a one trick pony. In other words, my main criticism of him is not that he is political so much as that he is boring. Several of us are better equipped to be regular columnists here, and we also engage with the readers, which is part of the purpose.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/26/2004

I'm inclined to agree with Tim about thus. From the beginning, HNN has intended to feature articles and op-eds. Op-eds are likely to be of current political interest and I don't think that HNN should exclude them. But articles and op-eds selected because they are provocative may provoke the worst instincts in us. We know the difference between a feeding frenzy and tough intellectual engagement of historical interest. Let's see if we can shun the former and engage in some of the latter.


Van L. Hayhow - 1/26/2004

I think there is a lot of truth in this comment.


Van L. Hayhow - 1/26/2004

Just trying to see if I am signed up


Timothy James Burke - 1/26/2004

I think the next step would be to redirect the focus on the main pages away from political commentary and back towards history. I feel like lately most of the main-page articles have been simple political commentary, often fairly stridently partisan, without much or any historical perspective or content. Not only does that rob HNN of some of its distinctiveness, given how many sites there are with political commentary, it tends to attract people for whom comments sections are just a blood sport.


Oscar Chamberlain - 1/26/2004

I understand the frustration at aspects of the debate. I have often felt it myself, but this seems like a big jump in complexity.

The real name requirement also has the disadvantage of scaring off those people who, correctly or not, fear that their views are unpopular among their colleagues.

Still, you've been doing this for a long time, and you have the right to your judgement as well as to act. So i will simply cross my fingers and hope this works well.

PS

It would help to post instructions for Sign up (and a link) as the top article for a while. If I had not had a heads-up about the change, I would have been realy confused.