Boo-ing Boing Boing

So, I used to read Boing Boing. I liked the blend of tech news, copyright manifestos, anti-DRM rants, and weird stories they would post. Lately they’ve been on a mission to demonstrate that the TSA is bad. I salute them for every effort the editors have made over there to share horror stories of TSA misconduct, bad policies, and stupid defenses of bad policies.

Tonight one of the editors posted a link to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article that had a headline reading: “Hartsfield TSA worker allegedly abducts, assaults woman”. The Boing Boing post was titled: “Report: TSA behavior detection officer kidnaps, rapes woman before attempting suicide.”

There have been a lot of posts on the site about legitimate TSA misconduct (or at least apparent misconduct), but it struck me that linking to this article was going beyond making a case against the TSA and devolving into mere smearing. I don’t leave a lot of comments on Boing Boing, but I left one tonight. It read something like: “So? Look, it’s not crazy to post link after link about TSA misconduct….But posting this is just asking readers to say “Boo TSA” when the TSA has nothing to do with the wrongdoing to be condemned here. Be better than this.”

I have to paraphrase my own comment because someone at Boing Boing decided it violated their comment policy and they deleted it.

I wasn’t happy, but it’s their blog and they can delete whatever the hell they want to, I suppose. But I thought I’d try again, this time without the overt criticism of the blog or the editors that infected my first comment. So I left a second comment, along the lines of “No, you don’t get to add this to the pile of evidence against the TSA. There’s no link here except for cynicism.”

Again, I have to paraphrase because that comment was also deleted. Again, it’s their blog, they can delete whatever the hell they want, but for a comment without a profanity or an ad hominem attack to get deleted…it just seemed like what was going on was someone decided that comments that ran contrary to the anti-TSA story Boing Boing wanted to tell were just going to get iced.

This was confirmed for me when I saw someone post a similarly disappointed comment (although they used stronger language than I did; I believe they used “disgusted” to describe how they felt about the link between the sexual assault and the TSA) and then saw that it was removed a few minutes later.

Annoyed, I decided to give up. So I posted “Boo TSA”. But wouldn’t you know it? That one was deleted too. That one probably deserved to be deleted. Although on its own, without the context of my other comments, it would have stood. Because those are the comments the moderators wanted to see.

However, I decided to finally play along with the comment policy and not post anything “annoying”, which is the moderator catch-all at Boing Boing to get rid of those comments that the moderators just don’t want other people to see. So I left the following comment, which criticizes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for running with the headline they did and for contributing to the fear-mongering that a recent article in The Daily Beast attempts to counteract. Fearing that comment would also be deleted I copied it so I could refer to it later. Here’s what I said:

It looks like the Atlanta Journal Constitution is engaging in some fear-mongering here, doesn’t it? Linking the TSA with a sex crime? There’s an article in the Daily Beast today (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-11-22/tsa-body-scan-pat-down-policy-sparks-media-frenzy/?cid=hp:mainpromo1) that attempts to allay precisely the kinds of worries the AJC is fabricating with headlines that make it sound like the woman was abducted from the airport by someone performing a pat down.

That comment? Got me banned from leaving comments on Boing Boing.

And that finally clued me in to the fact that although I had considered Boing Boing a source of news and a community of critical thinkers, it isn’t. It’s just a very successful blog without journalistic regard for objectivity or disagreement. It isn’t some haven for free, anti-corporate thought or considered, rational discussion. I shouldn’t have been expecting it to be something other than a blog, but for some reason I was.

I don’t have any power to fight whatever moderator at Boing Boing decided to lay down the law. I don’t have any right to tell them, on their blog, that they’re doing it wrong. I shouldn’t feel obligated to tell anyone else that Boing Boing is doing it wrong. But I do, a little. I’m disappointed in something I used to respect and that’s making me lash out, more than a bit childishly. I can hear the sulk in the words as I read them. It’s okay though, because this is my blog and I make the rules. That’s how blogs work.

29 thoughts on “Boo-ing Boing Boing”

  1. Sulking or not, I agree with your standpoint, and I'm surprised that Boing Boing would post it at all. The fact that they decided to turn around and blog nazi their own blog by deleting your posts and even banning you is childish, and while I'm not one to follow in a lemming fashion, they've been kinda rubbing me the wrong way lately, but this is just the last proof that I needed to leave them in the dust. Between their article, and their treatment of someone who wasn't even picking fights but simply posting an opposing viewpoint, just simply means that they're not part of this blog community that I choose to be a part of. And you're right, it's your blog, you totally have the right to sulk here! :)

    (This is MojoMama… it didn't give me a chance to log out of my other account…)

  2. Sulking or not, I agree with your standpoint, and I’m surprised that Boing Boing would post it at all. The fact that they decided to turn around and blog nazi their own blog by deleting your posts and even banning you is childish, and while I’m not one to follow in a lemming fashion, they’ve been kinda rubbing me the wrong way lately, but this is just the last proof that I needed to leave them in the dust. Between their article, and their treatment of someone who wasn’t even picking fights but simply posting an opposing viewpoint, just simply means that they’re not part of this blog community that I choose to be a part of. And you’re right, it’s your blog, you totally have the right to sulk here! :)

    (This is MojoMama… it didn’t give me a chance to log out of my other account…)

  3. Sulking or not, I agree with your standpoint, and I’m surprised that Boing Boing would post it at all. The fact that they decided to turn around and blog nazi their own blog by deleting your posts and even banning you is childish, and while I’m not one to follow in a lemming fashion, they’ve been kinda rubbing me the wrong way lately, but this is just the last proof that I needed to leave them in the dust. Between their article, and their treatment of someone who wasn’t even picking fights but simply posting an opposing viewpoint, just simply means that they’re not part of this blog community that I choose to be a part of. And you’re right, it’s your blog, you totally have the right to sulk here! :)

    (This is MojoMama… it didn’t give me a chance to log out of my other account…)

  4. While I completely understand your point, and not being a Boing Boing reader myself and unable to comment on their practices, I do have one question. In light of the accusations that are being made about TSA, should we not be concerned about the type of people they hire? What that one particular person did "off the clock" makes me think I would still not want him patting me down. So, while I get your point, that story, perhaps(again, I haven't read it. I'm only reacting to your blog post.) does illustrate the problem of being violated by people you don't know before you get on an airplane.

    1. No, I don't think the worry that someone might be a sexual predator or criminal has anything to do with whether or not we allow a government agency search powers. Anyone could be one, or could become one, but that doesn't change the original need for searches in the first place. (Debating the actual need for searches is something Boing Boing was doing well in early posts.) And there is no policy the TSA could enact that would keep a sexual predator from gaining employment, so linking them together as the article does isn't raising any productive points.

      There's no policy hospitals can enact to make sure there are no sexual predators working as pediatricians. And a story about a pediatrician committing a crime like this would have nothing reasonable to contribute to a discussion about hospital policies.

      Unless the person is wearing their deviance on their sleeve, something that hasn't so far been alleged, the only reason to bring the story up is to pile on because of a pseudo-link. It doesn't, or shouldn't, increase the worries about the TSA policies or the way they are executed.

    2. No, I don’t think the worry that someone might be a sexual predator or criminal has anything to do with whether or not we allow a government agency search powers. Anyone could be one, or could become one, but that doesn’t change the original need for searches in the first place. (Debating the actual need for searches is something Boing Boing was doing well in early posts.) And there is no policy the TSA could enact that would keep a sexual predator from gaining employment, so linking them together as the article does isn’t raising any productive points.

      There’s no policy hospitals can enact to make sure there are no sexual predators working as pediatricians. And a story about a pediatrician committing a crime like this would have nothing reasonable to contribute to a discussion about hospital policies.

      Unless the person is wearing their deviance on their sleeve, something that hasn’t so far been alleged, the only reason to bring the story up is to pile on because of a pseudo-link. It doesn’t, or shouldn’t, increase the worries about the TSA policies or the way they are executed.

  5. While I completely understand your point, and not being a Boing Boing reader myself and unable to comment on their practices, I do have one question. In light of the accusations that are being made about TSA, should we not be concerned about the type of people they hire? What that one particular person did “off the clock” makes me think I would still not want him patting me down. So, while I get your point, that story, perhaps(again, I haven’t read it. I’m only reacting to your blog post.) does illustrate the problem of being violated by people you don’t know before you get on an airplane.

  6. While I completely understand your point, and not being a Boing Boing reader myself and unable to comment on their practices, I do have one question. In light of the accusations that are being made about TSA, should we not be concerned about the type of people they hire? What that one particular person did “off the clock” makes me think I would still not want him patting me down. So, while I get your point, that story, perhaps(again, I haven’t read it. I’m only reacting to your blog post.) does illustrate the problem of being violated by people you don’t know before you get on an airplane.

  7. Interesting. I'm not a regular reader of Boing Boing or this blog; I was directed here by a link in my Twitter timeline. Hard to disagree with your sentiment about Boing Boing's handling of comments. It doesn't sound like your comments were out of line or against the policy, but they were deleted anyway. Lame.

    That said, I'm not sure this story is completely meaningless in terms of the current TSA debate. I believe it speaks to the general lack of background checking and training of the people hired by the TSA, which is in fact part of the objections people have to the screening process. Perhaps no vetting process would have revealed this guy's problems (if he did what he is alleged to have done), but I don't think that makes the connection irrelevant to the debate.

    1. If it turns out he was somehow detectable then that's a different story. The link that gets established, illegitimately, is that the TSA has the tools to detect the hidden motives of its employees but isn't doing their screening well enough. There's no evidence they have such tools, or that anyone does, and in fact the TSA search policies are in complete accord with them recognizing they CAN'T detect hidden motives in people and that's why they think they need to perform backscatter searches and pat-downs on passengers. All they can do, they think, is make sure someone with a hidden agenda can't cause a disaster that requires more than their own body. That prevention-philosophy is up for debate, as are the hiring practices and training. But if this guy was a secret predator or a snapped employee this incident doesn't bear on either of those.

      1. I see your point. (Ex: He could be a Secret Service agent and still capable of doing what he is accused of, possibly.) I think that may be an even finer distinction than the ones we've been trying to make about the TSA screening! As in, in the grand scheme of things, it's difficult to get most people to see that it is worthwhile to distinguish between a connection that could be prevented and one that couldn't. But that doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile to make such a distinction.

      2. I see your point. (Ex: He could be a Secret Service agent and still capable of doing what he is accused of, possibly.) I think that may be an even finer distinction than the ones we've been trying to make about the TSA screening! As in, in the grand scheme of things, it's difficult to get most people to see that it is worthwhile to distinguish between a connection that could be prevented and one that couldn't. But that doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile to make such a distinction.

      3. I see your point. (Ex: He could be a Secret Service agent and still capable of doing what he is accused of, possibly.) I think that may be an even finer distinction than the ones we’ve been trying to make about the TSA screening! As in, in the grand scheme of things, it’s difficult to get most people to see that it is worthwhile to distinguish between a connection that could be prevented and one that couldn’t. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile to make such a distinction.

    2. If it turns out he was somehow detectable then that’s a different story. The link that gets established, illegitimately, is that the TSA has the tools to detect the hidden motives of its employees but isn’t doing their screening well enough. There’s no evidence they have such tools, or that anyone does, and in fact the TSA search policies are in complete accord with them recognizing they CAN’T detect hidden motives in people and that’s why they think they need to perform backscatter searches and pat-downs on passengers. All they can do, they think, is make sure someone with a hidden agenda can’t cause a disaster that requires more than their own body. That prevention-philosophy is up for debate, as are the hiring practices and training. But if this guy was a secret predator or a snapped employee this incident doesn’t bear on either of those.

    3. If it turns out he was somehow detectable then that’s a different story. The link that gets established, illegitimately, is that the TSA has the tools to detect the hidden motives of its employees but isn’t doing their screening well enough. There’s no evidence they have such tools, or that anyone does, and in fact the TSA search policies are in complete accord with them recognizing they CAN’T detect hidden motives in people and that’s why they think they need to perform backscatter searches and pat-downs on passengers. All they can do, they think, is make sure someone with a hidden agenda can’t cause a disaster that requires more than their own body. That prevention-philosophy is up for debate, as are the hiring practices and training. But if this guy was a secret predator or a snapped employee this incident doesn’t bear on either of those.

  8. Interesting. I'm not a regular reader of Boing Boing or this blog; I was directed here by a link in my Twitter timeline. Hard to disagree with your sentiment about Boing Boing's handling of comments. It doesn't sound like your comments were out of line or against the policy, but they were deleted anyway. Lame.

    That said, I'm not sure this story is completely meaningless in terms of the current TSA debate. I believe it speaks to the general lack of background checking and training of the people hired by the TSA, which is in fact part of the objections people have to the screening process. Perhaps no vetting process would have revealed this guy's problems (if he did what he is alleged to have done), but I don't think that makes the connection irrelevant to the debate.

  9. Neat experiment. I don't read Boing Boing, but if I ever did, I know I won't waste my time commenting. I wonder if was just one particularly abusive moderator or a critical mass thing. Can people flag your comment?

    Even though I don't read it, I too assumed it was more a news site just from the stuff you hear and see about it.

    I delete comments all the time on my blog but not for disagreeing with me. It's mainly for quasi spam or just assholian behavior.

    BTW, your blog's tagline is quite brilliant. I mean that. That's not sarcasm.

    Anyway thanks for completing your experiment. It's the conclusion that makes it science rather than anecdote.

  10. It's too bad that it took you this long to encounter the arrant douchebaggery that powers boingboing.

  11. just for fun I'm going to comment on Boing Boing "Boo TSA" and if my comment stays then it means they were targeting you as an individual.

  12. just for fun I’m going to comment on Boing Boing “Boo TSA” and if my comment stays then it means they were targeting you as an individual.

  13. I can only assume Boing stops reviewing comments after a certain point because right now there are alot of angry comments against Boing for writing the article.

  14. I can only assume Boing stops reviewing comments after a certain point because right now there are alot of angry comments against Boing for writing the article.

  15. I posted a similar comment in that thread as rps13. It wasn't deleted, but I suppose that was because it came late in the game. I left another comment about the story posted yesterday about the kid who snuck into the wheel well of a plane and froze to death because it's the same schtick — using a random tragedy to score political points. That comment was deleted and my account was suspended. I never realized that site was run by bunch of thin skinned 14 year olds. Oh well…

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