Boo-ing Boing Boing

11/23/2010 By Shawn Burns

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.