Self-Censored Blogging

[Bloggers] are viewed as the church gossip — unable to maintain either decorum or discretion, let alone able to get facts right.

I’ve been working for about a week doing a lot of research on blogging trends. Now that I’m a paid blogger, I feel like I should be doing much more keeping up — in effect CLE credits, but for blogging.

There is a lot of interesting stuff out there, starting with Pew’s latest report and Gallup’s. Then there is some other research a good friend sent my way and few books out by credible A-listers. I’m actually waiting for a book to arrive from Amazon tomorrow with more information that should be quite useful.

I was exchanging thoughts and ideas with a fellow blogger about all of this and the issue of self-censorship came up. In the beginning of blogging, it was really cool to give free expression to your thoughts. To some degree it still is. But, more and more people are finding that they have to self-censor themselves. I’m in the same boat, as is my friend.

My situation is somewhat unique. I actually have an employment contract that prohibits me from blogging in an overtly partisan nature. The original wording intended to prohibit me from all blogging altogether except at the office blog, which I found rather humorous.

But, it goes beyond the employment contract. In my case, working for a new employer that is very nonpartisan, they have to be leery of the new guy, especially given his past blogging roles (though a Google cache or a search of archives does not wholly mitigate that and never can for anyone who has ever put fingers to keyboard). Just as an example, I was asked to remove a post that linked to the company blog. This is not the first time that people from work have expressed concerns about prior statements, etc.

The friend I was talking to, who is in a tighter spot than me given where he works and who he works for, blogs under a pseudonym (a path I probably should have gone down, but chose not to). He does not say anything under his pseudonym that he would not say himself, but it limits what he says and how, to some degree, he says it, lest he outs himself.

Similarly, when Christy was pregnant, she very much did not want me to mention her pregnancy frequently. She was pregnant during the time the lady and subsequent copycats were ripping babies from mothers’ wombs. Even today my mother chastises me saying that “my sisters” think I put too much personal information on the blog. My contention is that this is the nature of blogging and you either get it or you don’t. Anecdotally and from the Pew study, I’m finding that most people really don’t get it.

Of course, given the parameters of my employment contract, there isn’t too much I can credibly talk about — no partisan stuff, and though not written in the contract, I more and more get the strong sense that blogging about work in general is frowned upon. So family and blogging in general are about it (oh, and the idiot happenings in Macon, which isn’t partisan because *everybody* agrees).

My friend and I were talking about this and we decided that, in general terms, bloggers are distrusted. In effect, we are viewed as the church gossip — unable to maintain either decorum or discretion, let alone able to get facts right.

As a matter of fact, on my way home from Orlando yesterday, I sat next to some obnoxious guy who was hammering back Jack & Cokes. Besides telling me how he evades federal taxes and is wanted in Germany for back taxes there, he was grilling me on what I do for a living. I told him I was a blogger and he immediately started talking about his German mother and how she was lied to by the Nazi propaganda machine. Then he equated me with the Nazi propaganda machine for being a blogger. Immediately thereafter he noticed a Bush campaign button that had fallen out of my bag and started asking what I thought about Al Gore in Saudi Arabia — he had heard about it on Sean Hannity. No, he saw zero irony in his statement about bloggers and the fact that he listens to Sean Hannity (Note to all: I’m not comparing Sean to the Nazis. He knows better. So should you). I refused to engage him on the subject and politely turned on my iPod after mumbling something about how I hadn’t paid attention to the speech.

Self censorship is, unfortunately, here to stay. As blogging becomes more open, employers, family, and others will apply more and more pressure to bloggers for the self censorship and restraint of opinions, statements, or journal entries that might be viewed as disrespectful, damaging, or otherwise disagreed with. (I’ll exclude the nuts who disagree and call your office and your home quite literally demanding your head — had that experience back in August and it wasn’t pretty for a few days)

It’s going to be incumbent on all sides to keep open the line of communication and establish some good, but fairly unrestrictive guidelines. Otherwise blogging will no longer be blogging and the individualist voice of the blogger will be changed in a way that is not beneficial for anyone. The world must evolve and accept that the ruminations of the individual have moved online.

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Erick Erickson

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4 Comments

  • You’ve got to be kidding me. You got hired to blog and they wanted you to stop blogging?! I hope they understand by now that you gotta keep it up to be successful.

  • I’ll exclude the nuts who disagree and call your office and your home quite literally demanding your head — had that experience back in August and it wasn’t pretty for a few days

    LOL! I had forgotten about you and Cindy. Have you two kissed and made up? Think she’ll run for the Senate?

  • Those are excellent points. I was in the same boat, though didn’t have an employment contract restricting me. The boss just finally had to realize I was not a threat and people are smart enough to realize that sensible people do not impute employee views to employers.