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Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Time, place, and manner" restrictions

This may be a libertarian-oriented blog, but it doesn't follow that there should be no "time, place, and manner" restrictions imposed on posters. As has been noted by several regulars recently, too many people abuse their privileges to post on this blog, by clogging up discussion threads with lengthy, irrelevant, taunting, insulting, abusive, and hateful comments. Shouting down and intimidating others isn't an exercise of free speech; it is a negation of it.

In a libertarian space, the government doesn't get to make the call as to what is appropriate commentary, and what is abusive. The owners of the space have the right to make that call. That's not "censorship" any more than keeping creeps and bums out of your house is denying their mobility rights. If you can't respect the "time, place, and manner" restrictions the owner of the blog requests (and may impose), start your own blog and post away to your heart's content.

I agree with Max Yalden that we shouldn't have an "anything goes" free speech law. No reasonable person advances such a view. It's a caricature and a straw man. Where I differ from Yalden is in who should control the spaces in which speech takes place, and what principles should inform the "time, place, and manner" restrictions that do get imposed.

Posted by Grant Brown on April 12, 2008 in Weblogs | Permalink


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Hi, Grant.

Thanks for this post. Peter Jaworski, Kalim Kassam and I have had many discussions on how the Shotgun should be regulated. We all agree that this blog should be as free wheeling as possible, but some rules and guidelines are needed to make the Shotgun experience valuable and pleasant for readers.

Some of the improvements will come with a website relaunch...our long promised relauch. And some improvements will come when we release or blog rules and guidelines, and enforce these rules and guidelines.

I've written before that I'm loath to police this site, but it is our readers who are demanding that I do.

Does this depart from the Western Standard's editorial approach under Ezra? Of course not. While it was rare, under Ezra and previous editors, commenters and even high profile bloggers were banned from the website for ignoring basic netiquette.

American philosopher Henry Thoreau wrote: "I am as desirous of being a good neighbor as I am of being a bad subject."

I like this concept. We need more good neighbors (and bad subjects) on the Shotgun and a few simple rules and guidelines will help achieve this.

Thanks again.

Matthew Johnston
Western Standard

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-04-12 10:18:46 AM

Oh oh, seems like the regular merry band of racists, sexists and extremist rightwingers are losing discussions badly. Time to rescue them with new rules, regulations and censorship! LOL! Ezra had a thin skin and was quick to sling muck but incapable to taking anything back, even fair criticism!

What the Western Standard regulars want is protection from criticism, protection from having to read contrary opinions, and a hot house environment protected from the elements of societal discourse. They want to be cossetted and closeted off from society in a protective coccoon of their own inbred silliness. They are begging for relief from nimble, quick and sharp posters who run rings around them, despite their numerical advantage and home-turf! Such pathetic whining is laughable. How strange that those who vigorously oppose government action in the name of the people, should so quickly embrace the idea of private owners shutting down discussion and taking their ball home when they start losing! LOL! I laugh at you!

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-12 12:22:49 PM

Grant, you are correct in having the right to set the rules, and I agree that the state or others do not. However I do not agree with Max Yalden's concept of limited free speech. Short of someone inciting murder or treason, it is not the business of the state. Funny though that the state fails to take action when it comes to the ones actually inciting murder and treason in to-day's world.

For libertarians I am surprised that readers are calling for you to censor comments here. It is true about certain people, most whom I consider trolls, writing a lot of rubbish. Personally I just ignore them and their comments and try to stick to the topic.

Best of luck with whatever you decide to do.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-04-12 1:12:41 PM

Judicial oversight is needed to ensure fairness and equality of access. If the state has no role in ensuring that, via judicial review, then does the state have any role in campaign finance restrictions or advertising during election campaigns? What are the limits to ownership with respect to media and what are the rights of the public? If a Saudi billionaire bought up all the media in Canada and decided to exercise tight control over what gets published and which voices are heard and not heard, would that result in Alain and Johnson clamoring for government regulation? Undoubtedly. LOL!

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-12 5:42:18 PM

Perhaps rather than outright banning idiots like Roger who is here to agitate the commenters with childish taunts, if might do to sentence them to say a month off to cool it.

Even criminals who continue to commit petty crimes eventually have to be put in the slammer so they know that there is a line they have crossed.

If one misbehaves in polite company, one is asked to leave or be thrown out. As we are guests on this blog I see no reason not to ask the trolls to please leave or be tossed.

That is not censorship it is maintaining control of what people say and do while shopping in your store.

It's not as though you are going to charge them at the CHRC. It's more like tossing a drunk out of a bar for being rowdy.

Posted by: Jerri | 2008-04-12 7:10:45 PM

LOL! Conrad Black had to be taught a lesson and has been put in jail for a long long time!

Before being put in jail, one has to be charged with an offense and due process of law has to be followed.

So, Jerri, what is my crime? Yes, I have told you and your fellows uncomfortable truths. Yes, I have crushed you and your fellows in open debate. Yes, you have no answer to my substantive posts. Yes, I point out how Harper knows he owns most of you and he is able to ignore you completely because you are a captive audience for the CONservatives. Yes, this riles you up. Yes, I am not hesitant to exercise my free speech rights to rebutt the nonsense others post here.

Yes, I like to laugh at foolish people. This annoys to the foolish people no end. But how is any of this a crime? It is not!

If you cannot stand to hear unpleasant truths and cannot stand to hear divergent points of view, then you better lock yourself into a closet with only a tv tuned to Fox News and read only Macleans and the Gnat Post. And even then you are not safe! LOL!

I do not need anyone to protect me from debate. I am well able to hold my own in debate, no matter how outnumbered and what dirty tricks are used against me. I have strength of character, intellect and courage to take on the clowns. So they run whining for protection! Too funny!

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-12 7:53:48 PM


>That is not censorship it is maintaining control of what people say and do while shopping in your store.< The Gerries are back!! LOL!

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-12 8:27:23 PM

Why would anyone want to ban this LOL idiot Roger. Let him post away. So far I have seen lots of stupidity from him but nothing abusive.

If the WS blog champions free speech and decrys human rights commission intrusions into this area, it should practice what it preaches on its own web site. We are grown-ups. We can choose to ignore Roger and deny him the attention he so obviously craves.

Posted by: JMD | 2008-04-13 4:55:25 AM

Well put, JMD. I choose to ignore a post when I see it is from an idiot. And besides, it's easy to know who is the idiot without scrolling down to his name. Just look at one "LOL" and you know you can skip it.

Posted by: Nothing New Under the Sun | 2008-04-13 6:55:47 AM

The problem is, roger isn't an idiot. He's a calculating, persistent invader. He personifies the struggle we face, our freedoms being used against us.

You're right in your approach Nothing New. Scroll past the obvious bait.

Posted by: dp | 2008-04-13 11:22:18 AM

JMD while I agree that I would prefer a lack of censorship here, it is incorrect to relate it to WS blog's support of free speech and its exposure of the HRC and their abuses. To be fair one cannot compare private citizens establishing rules for visitors to their property to state imposed censorship. Perhaps you did not think that comment through? I know I have at times been guilty of clicking the "send" too soon and regretted that I had not taken the time to proof read beforehand.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-04-13 11:37:58 AM

LOL! I am a "calculating persistent invader" who "personifies the struggle we face!" LOL!

A wringing of hands, a cluck clucking, a shaking of heads, what to do, what to do, about the struggle we face. LOL!

No one here can meet the challenge of substantive debate with me. None of you are up to the task. It is wise to avoid meeting me head on in debate. If one is lacking, it is good that one is aware of one's limitations. But by avoiding debate, the world can see who has the winning arguments and who has conceded defeat. This site is a hot house for those who cannot survive the vagaries of the real world outside. So, thrive in your protected coccoon while leaving the world outside to me. LOL! I luv't! Just luv't.

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-13 1:44:15 PM

ROGER, you're making me feel hatred and contempt for Alain, which I think means you owe me thousands of dollars for violating his human rights and making me feel bad for my own assholishness.

Cough up, Steacy.

Posted by: Christoph | 2008-04-14 1:20:23 AM

All the good posters have left while the dregs have stayed. EVIDENCE: A sharp drop in the number of comments.
This bizarre shift to Libertarianism has alienated all the thoughtful conservatives who used to be here. EVIDENCE: Giving blogspace to drug pushers like Emerty.
A ridiculous preoccupation with subtle nuances of philosophy on irrelevant issues rather than focussing on large important challenges. EVIDENCE: Posters endless boring diatribes arguing about banal points of debate.

So how much operating cash you guys got left? Bet you don't see 2009. In fact, I bet you won't survive the summer.


Posted by: Epsilon | 2008-04-14 8:56:43 AM

I'm 90% sure there's a thing about personal responsibility in the Libertarian credo. Why not ditch the zero-confirmation format and demand OpenID logins, or some sort of real-name confirmation. I'm guessing I can't join the editorial team and say I'm Preston Manning without you first going to some lengths to confirm that, so why not require that for the comment threads?

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-04-14 9:42:36 AM

That's great advice, PR. When the site is finally relaunced, we'll likely have that kind of functionality.

Epsi, while the Western Standard traffic has remained strong and is actually trending up, I don't want to see this site lose its news focus. We're putting together a Western Standard editorial strategy to ensure this, and once the strategy is written, we'll post it for all to comment on.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-04-14 9:49:59 AM

PR: What would you suggest to help fend off attacks from groups such as "roger"? This poster is actually a professor and a small group of followers that pound the site mercilously for hours. The comments are obviously coming from more than one person, and some of the lingo points to a university mentality. The word "frosh" was used to describe the other posters on one thread, an obvious attempt to establish superiority.

This targeted attack might be an attempt to challenge conservative views, or simply an experiment in media manipulation. Whatever the reason, it seems to be achieving its goal. Even though most posters are not intimidated, they eventually get fed up with reading all the ridiculous statements.

Posted by: dp | 2008-04-14 10:10:51 AM

You didn't even have a strategy in place BEFORE you made your investment?

I think you are in over your head.

Posted by: Epsilon | 2008-04-14 10:13:36 AM

MJ, remember it's a blog and a product, not a club or a public service. If a few unmonetizeable fans bail and take all their unmonetizeable friends with them, have you lost anything?

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-04-14 10:28:40 AM

The short term goal was to keep the blog active, which we've done successfully, Epsilon. And we've added editorial content while keeping a very low cost base.

As you may recall, the Western Standard was in deep financial trouble when I purchased it. My goal was simply to make sure the brand didn't die while we went through a restructuring.

I've had my own strategy for the Western Standard since I co-founded the company in 2004. The media business is tough -- and our print magazine focus just didn't work, despite Ezra's Herculean efforts. I'm now going to try something more modest.

I hope you'll be part of it, Epsilon.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-04-14 10:33:05 AM

To anyone laughing at the magazine's "death": Print functionally died a few years ago. Media in general is in a real storm right now. Blogs sucked away traffic from mainstream media, but the financial death of a lot of mainstream media means a loss of primary-reporting resources, which has resulted in a growing monoculture of story-feeds. (When there's ten reporters there'll only be ten stories for all of us to talk about.) But without primary sources, blogs suffocate too. You can only rehash the same old crap for so long.

The market (specifically, the internet) is supersaturated with angry polarized pundits. Supply to demand is something like 967:1, so it takes more than just a strategy to survive. It takes to-the-second flexibility, community penetration, and broad-bandwidth content.

It's far more complicated than most of you are admitting.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-04-14 10:58:41 AM

I think you're dead on, PR. I'm going to post our new mission statment today, so everyone see what we hope to achieve.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-04-14 11:07:42 AM


PR wrote: "Why not ditch the zero-confirmation format and demand OpenID logins, or some sort of real-name confirmation."

You replied: "That's great advice, PR. When the site is finally relaunced, we'll likely have that kind of functionality."

Ok, so now I am calling myself "Fred Cheek". It LOOKS like a real name, and I have even got a real email address attached to it. But is this my real name? Is there anything more the site could ask from me to verify my identity that would not be easy to make up? Banning "nicknames" like "Fact Check" or "Pattern Recognition" is easy enough to do, but ensuring that people are not using made-up names is just about impossible. Good luck trying, however.

I never assume that a name that looks like a real name is real here, although some people (like Grant) get quite bent out of shape at obvious nicknames without seeming to realize that all names used here could be just as fake.

Oh yeah. And if you *DO* try to require that people post their *REAL* names, will that apply to the site's official bloggers ... like "Winston"? You cannot reasonably ask others to use their real names when one of the most inflamatory operators of the site does not do so, can you? Well, I guess you can, but it would make you look rather silly.

Posted by: Fred Cheek (formerly | 2008-04-14 11:17:09 AM

Hmm. Looks like you cannot use quotation marks in the "Name" box. The above was supposed to be signed: Fred Cheek (formerly "Fact Check")

Posted by: Fred Cheek (formerly Fact Check) | 2008-04-14 11:19:45 AM

PR: I stayed at a Holiday Inn in Edmonton last week. On Sunday morning every door had a Globe and Mail. I mean EVERY door. The rooms, the elevators, the utility rooms, the fire escapes, the restaurant, the office, and so on. Apparently circulation is way up.

Posted by: dp | 2008-04-14 11:23:13 AM

The Government of Canada uses a pretty simple method for confirming identity. They mail your password to the address where they mail your tax information.

Facebook and other social network sites use crowd-confirmation to winnow out ID theft. If Joe Smith's friends say that isn't Joe Smith's tone or style, then Fake Joe Smith is busted in an hour or so.

One more important thing to consider though, is whether comments really matter. From a business-model POV they drive page impressions, but not click-throughs on ads, so the value of your ads per-page-impression drops quite a bit (especially during a flame-war because angry people don't shop). Secondly, as is the case here, there may be thousands of regular readers but to monitor the comment threads it looks like there's only 25 or so—also not good for sponsors.

If they can't comment here, they'll have to comment about you on their own blog, which drives up your Google page rank through organic links. Also good. (There are currently 2,210 sites linking in to your blog, for comparison 34,000 link to Techcrunch.com and 11,400 link to barackobama.com and 62 link to Adam's blog - of which 15 are Adam linking to himself).

The altruistic notion of a community is all well & good, but not if it undermines your core business or adds little real value to the product.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-04-14 11:46:37 AM

"PR: I stayed at a Holiday Inn in Edmonton last week. On Sunday morning every door had a Globe and Mail. I mean EVERY door. The rooms, the elevators, the utility rooms, the fire escapes, the restaurant, the office, and so on. Apparently circulation is way up."

I'm guessing you're being sarcastic in catching the way newspapers label distribution as circulation, and circulation as readership. Most of the papers reporting increased revenues mean an increase in online ad revenues that usually offset the decline in print revenues.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-04-14 11:50:28 AM

I think that using Open IDs to confirm identification is probably overkill. I really don't mind whether someone posts pseudonymously as long as their contributions are productive. I choose to post here under my real name, but I don't expect others to as well.
I do think that it is our duty at the Western Standard to actively moderate comment threads. Since my preference is for fewer limitations on speech in what is intended to be a forum for open discourse, I would like to start out with a moderation policy that treads lightly, and only increase restrictions as we feel it is necessary. If we had the sort of commenting community which stayed on point, and only required us to catch spammers and habitual jerks, that would be great. If we realize that nothing short of email confirmation and pre-approval of each comment will keep the discussion focused, so be it. There is a huge range of moderation policies which we could potentially adopt and we should be flexible and willing to change in response to the type of discussions we are seeing.


You are a troll. I commend the other commenters for doing the appropriate thing and largely ignoring you. You claim "no one here can meet the challenge of substantive debate with me. None of you are up to the task." but have not shown that. As you mentioned, noone has engaged you in debate, how can we know they are not up to the task? I personally don't engage you because you are attacking straw-men of libertarianism and conservatism. For example, you seem to think that every libertarian is a "sunshine patriot" who has no consistent or well thought out philosophy. All of the challenges you make against libertarianism are basic and well covered in the literature. Most of the time when you claim "a libertarian couldn't possibly oppose this regulation or oppose government intervention in this instance," even accounting for diversity of opinions by libertarians, the answer is almost always "yes we do". You wouldn't need to look far to find out why. You come here not as someone who is ignorant and curious to learn, but as someone who is ignorant but still desirous of proving your opponents wrong. If you were to get educated on the basics of libertarianism and come back with some interesting or challenging critiques (of which there are many), I would be happy to get into it with you. If you would like recommendations of books or websites on the subject, please ask and I'm sure some of our commenters would be more than pleased to oblige.

Kalim Kassam
General Manager
Western Standard

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-04-14 1:22:20 PM

Whenever you see "LOL" in a post, you can be pretty sure that you're dealing with a lightweight, probably pre-adolescent, intellect. When you see it several times you know that you can safely ignore the post as it will contain nothing of interest to anybody over the age of 11. (Unless, of course, you *are* 11 or under, in which case your views are likely to be similar to the poster's.)

Thankfully, since people who think "LOL" is an intelligent contribution to a discussion usually spell it out in capital letters, their posts are easily screened out -- or noticed by 11-year-olds.

Posted by: Mambo Bananapatch | 2008-04-14 1:28:54 PM

LOL! Mr Kalim Kassam, I do not need a bibliography from you or the people here, because I already have a real education from real universities, not an internet or correspondence school doctorate.

As for not taking me on, I respect those who rise to the occasion, not those who cower in the shadows and who post soliloquys safely outside of discussion. Grow a backbone! Being made to look foolish in public builds character--do not fear the exposure! LOL!

I can conquer my fear and step into the dragons pit. I come here to this terrain, hopelessly outnumbered, and still the mass members run away in fear and panic!

This is a hothouse to coddle and protect people from the real world. It is a place for like-minded to commisserate about how they are marginalized and stymied in the real world. It is a place for victimhood to be savoured! LOL! Pass the soothers around!

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-14 3:58:37 PM

Mambo--I pride myself on reaching out to young people! Thanks--your post is a gratifying admission that I am successful.

If indeed I can so easily be ignored, why are you colleagues here plotting ways to silence me? LOL!

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-14 4:01:24 PM

Hey admin people, do is all a favor and publish ROGER's IP address. We'll do you a favor in return...

Posted by: Denial Of Roger | 2008-04-14 4:14:23 PM

LOL! Desperation is setting in! Defeat like a cancer grows. No one can best me in debate! LOL! The only way is to silence me! Just ask Ezra Levant! Ezra knew he was beat and censored to silence me.

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-14 4:25:11 PM

Roger, here's the thing.
You can be the way you are here because you're safely anonymous.

The reality is, you're a coward.

We all know you'd never ever ever be the way you are to anyone here if we were all meeting in person. Almost everyone here could meet anyone else here in person, and argue as they have and still behave like adults. If you were to behave in person as you do here, you'd wind up being given the American History X Curb Stomp treatment.

You're an abusive loudmouth, which is to say you're a coward.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-04-14 4:40:52 PM

LOL! Pattern Recognition, I take it your real name is Mr/Ms Pattern Recognition? Sure it is! If it weren't, you would be a coward for posting anonymously! What is your address--please include the postal code, apartment number, if applicable, and your phone numbers too.
Oh, and please get Winston to also do so!

Am I a coward? I don't think so, but then I know who I am and you don't. So, you must be clairvoyant. People who know me think I am fearless--it worries them. Of course there are different kinds of cowardice. Some people can fight on a battle field with great valor, but cannot deal with personal relationships. Some professional boxers can take a beating in the ring, but pass out at the sight of a hypodermic needle. Some can take the heat of electoral politics, while others cannot handle the stress. In some things I am cowardly, but not in the sense I suspect you mean it. Do I value my privacy, of course! Anyone who has been in the public spotlight cherishes privacy!

Does my argument improve with face to face meetings and disclosure of identities? That would be an odd argument to make for libertarians! LOL!!!

As to how we would all behave in person to each other, have you watched Steve Harper in parliament snarling and accusing and hurling personal invective against stunned opposition MPs? That is face to face at close quarters!

If it makes you feel good calling me a coward, go right ahead! No one here can beat me in substantive debate. LOL!

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-14 4:58:32 PM

Nobody can beat you in a substantive debate?

Declaring yourself a victor does not make you a winner, ROGER.

In fact ...

Posted by: set you free | 2008-04-14 5:36:03 PM

What a strange thought I just had. I found myself picturing pattern recognition kicking roger's ass, and I was right there cheering him on. Even if it's temporary, people with opposing views can pull together to whip a yapping dog.

Cowardice is term I don't throw around much any more. I've experienced it many times, and overcome it when necessary. I hope it doesn't pull me down when I'm needed most.

Which pro boxers pass out when they see a needle roger? I know quite a few, and I'm curious which ones I can play a trick on. I'm not going challenge roger to a fight or anything. For all I know roger may be Asif Dar. I heard Asif failed his last medical on a bad EEG. That might explain the irratic behaviour.

Posted by: dp | 2008-04-14 5:59:36 PM

These folks have tried to block me from getting access to this site! L.O.L!!!! So much for respecting free speech and being libertarian! These folks believe in free speech as long as it does not offend them and are libertarians only where their own liberties are concerned! Unable to better me in debate, they resort to censorship and silencing! I laugh at them! L.O.L!

Posted by: ROGER BANNED | 2008-04-14 9:03:04 PM

The commenter ROGER has not been banned.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-04-14 9:07:10 PM

So how come I cannot get access to this site except by switching to special extraordinary services? This is the kind of games Ezra used to play to silence me. Facts speaks louder than denials! LOL!

Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-14 9:10:26 PM

Roger, do you live in Calgary? If so, suggest a time and a place. Let's you and I have a talk, face to face.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2008-04-14 9:23:53 PM

Pattern Recognition,

Thank you for the invitation. Regrettably, I only stayed in Calgary a very short time then moved back east.

But I am intrigued. I do love having a good chat. Perhaps you could give me a hint? After I got death threats, I am more careful about giving out too much personal information.



Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-14 9:37:38 PM

PR: I've had several verbal dustups with you, and you've never been this pissed. This guy (or guys) isn't worth the fuss. No way he'd show.

If you sit back and relax, you might find some humour in these comments. Sort of like the toilet paper adds that interrupt your favourite show.

Posted by: dp | 2008-04-14 9:37:43 PM


Surely you gest when you imply that Pattern Recognition means to engage in physical violence? I think you owe Mr/Ms Recognition an apology.

As for whether I would show up for a meeting or not, I am always delighted to meet new people. Why would I not show? A coward dies a thousand deaths, whereas I will only die once. But you are perhaps right in that one ought to be more careful about nuts on the internet.

Yours truly,


Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-14 9:53:13 PM

Straight from the horse's mouth! I never failed an EEG test. It is from birth (congenital). In 1998 I received A diploma in electronic engineering technology and am currently working at Bell Canada as A programmer/tester. By the way thanks for the mention.

Posted by: asif kamran dar | 2008-04-19 2:12:32 PM

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