Crash Of L.A. Times Wikitorial Shows Chaos On The Internet
The L.A. Times has had to temporarily at least end its experiment with "wikitorials," in just two days, after some readers posted obscene photos or inappropriate comments. This is too bad, but not much of a surprise.
The Internet has too often become the repository of fanatic comments, intrusions by the scum of the world, people who use freedom to exercise rank license. This makes it, in many cases, a danger, as when predators entice innocent young people into bad situations, or, as the Times found out this past week, when freedoms it sought to expand are dealt with contemptuously.
It was clear before the Times began this experiment, based on a somewhat similar experience suffered by the Ventura County Star Free Press. that such freedom could only be allowed, if the newspaper were prepared to have personnel available 24 hours a day to police what was entered. Otherwise, it would not be long before things ran out of control.
As I've stated before, it was Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who once observed that freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to hollar fire in a crowded theatre.
It's the same thing with the Internet. It is appropriate for any newspaper trying to show its liberality with such experiments as the wikitorial to put some boundaries on it.
The trouble is this costs money, and few publications have the willingness to hire and pay personnel to keep the boundaries intact.
As soon as the necessary interference with obscene and inappropriate intrusions is exercised, it also must be recognized that controversy will be generated, and the people who don't like the L.A. Times or its editorial pages will be quick to accuse the editors of acting inappropriately themselves.
What Michael Kinsley, head of the Times editorial pages, is finding out here is that it's difficult in the world today to be tolerant and understanding of free opinion. As soon as you try, the fanatics will begin to overwhelm you.
Perhaps, next time, the Times can try with some better filters, although filters are seldom efficient censors, and the paper will not want to acknowledge it is censoring.
It's too bad we are living in a world with an Internet that is so difficult. But them's the breaks, as my former wife used to say to the children when a bad situation could not be cleared up.