2011 July 3

Today in the moderation queue I found what might have been the first thoroughly insensitive comment posted on this blog. Reading it, I faced a dilemma familiar to many leftist bloggers: Do I respect the principle of freedom of speech, or do I respect the oppressed people who stand to be hurt by the insensitive comment? Because I did not yet have a comment policy in place, I felt considerable weight could be given to the idea that I owed it to the poster to publish the comment. But in the end I let the golden rule be my guide: Because I would not have wanted to be the target of certain language that the commenter directed at another commenter, I trashed the comment.

While that solved the problem at hand (albeit in a less than ideal manner), it demonstrated the need for a change. I believe that all commenters, even the most insensitive, deserve the opportunity to have some idea of what content I will reject before they put time into composing their comments. With that in mind I created a policy, which will from now on be accessible in the bar that runs across the top of the blog. (The policy includes the already implemented policy on triggers, mostly unchanged.) My goal is to create a policy that acknowledges power imbalances and is fair to everyone. I would appreciate feedback, including constructive criticism.

New Policy on Potential Triggers

2010 December 28

Lately I have been thinking about the value of trigger warnings. Writing about the use of the phrase trigger warning to indicate that content triggers others, Katherine of The Body Electric writes, “It rests on a massive set of assumptions about what might trigger survivors.” As someone who often finds it empowering to watch depictions of violence that would trigger others but can be triggered by seemingly innocent phrases, I could not agree more. Katherine also points out that trigger warnings have been used to “infringe upon the rights of others”, referencing a post in which Lisa Harney notes that trigger warnings have been used to justify barring trans women from women’s spaces. Taking all this into consideration, it is obvious that there is a problem with the way I have been handling triggers so far.

With that in mind I have decided to draft a new policy on potential triggers, based so much on Katherine’s that I am rejoicing in the fact that copyright law only protects content and not ideas:

  1. I will write the first paragraph of each post in such a way that the reader can easily determine the content of the rest of the post.

  2. I will construct hyperlinks in such a way that the reader can easily determine the content of the resource I have linked to.

  3. I will follow the internet convention of letting the reader know that material is NSFW or contains depictions of violence.

  4. I will tag or categorize all satirical content as such.

  5. I will not hold commenters responsible for content that is potentially triggering. However, I will hold commenters responsible for abusing or insulting me or other commenters.

  6. I will leave it to the reader to determine whether content is potentially triggering before they proceed.

  7. As I strive to make this an accountable space, I will welcome comments that let me and commenters know when we have said something insensitive.

Edited on the 29th to fix a typo.