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Words.

I haven't read anywhere near all of the posts on the latest round of warnings discussion, not even all the ones appearing on my own various friends/reading lists.


Global

When I am posting content in my own space, it is my responsibility to determine what content I will and will not post, and in what manner, and why. In this, I am subject to the restrictions that my upstream providers put upon me, including: hosting provider, connection provider, laws of my home and my host's home, and my personal ethical and/or religious convictions. It is my responsibility to be aware of the law, my hosting and connection providers' rules, and my own personal restrictions.

If I am posting content in someone else's space, it is my responsibility to be aware of what restrictions exist, and either abide by them, refrain from posting there, or work to change the restrictions if I feel they are not appropriate.


Personal

These are some (although hardly all) of the personal restrictions that I subscribe to.

As a responsible archivist of myself, I strive for accurate and self-consistent labeling of the things I write. This is the way I operate. My answer to most problems is more words.

I use this space not just for myself and any person who should happen to wander by on the internet, but as a space to interact with friends. Since they're my friends, I have a vested interest in not pissing them off unnecessarily.

To avoid what I call the Harriet the Spy effect, this includes a certain amount of (yes) self-censorship, where perfectly valid observations I make in the privacy of my head don't get shared with the internet.

Because I know people appreciate a heads-up on some things, I don't post that many penis pictures outside a cut, or page-breaking content, and I try to describe what it is that I'm linking to. Since I operate on that level of detail, it's well within my usual operation to provide things that serve as warning as well as description.

I write. I know the power of words. I don't want to flatter myself by thinking that all of my writing is powerful, but I know that words in the hands of an accomplished writer are not just a toy.

My words also do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in the context of their time and place, which is generally right now, and right here. They exist in the context of the other things that I have been reading, and that which those around me have been linking to. They exist in the context of my mind, and within the rest of my body of written work.

When I release them to be read, they exist in the context of the other minds that I know or guess will read them. When they are read by others, they encounter that mind's own context. That context may have things I know well, things I can guess at from shared experience and my knowledge of the things I've learned from watching in my corner of the human experience.

Humans' brutality against other humans is part of that experience. While I'm less scarred by it than many, I cannot discount its effects, both immediate and long-term. I will write words that interact with those effects, and I would be amiss as an operator of the language if I did not realize that. My ethical code puts on the fucking brakes at the idea that I should knowingly play with the sort of stuff that leaves people hiding in their closets unable to think without giving some sort of warning.

The context in other people's heads can also contain things that I cannot even guess at. I cannot take responsibility for how my words will interact with the things I cannot guess at. If some wingnut reads one of my LJ meta pieces and decides to show up on the doorstep of the LJ offices and create a scene, the responsibility for their crazy begins and ends in their own head.

(Closer to home, I never expected that anyone would anticipate that the telephone ringing or a casual mention of someone being on some drug or other, said in just that place or just that way, would flip me back to 1996 and leave me a shaking, sweating, stuttering wreck and pushing well-meaning hands away from me. There are only two other people who were there, then, and only one of them is likely to read this. It's not my fault that I went through all that, but it's not hardly common enough to expect that anyone will share it. It's nearly 13 years now, and I can talk about it in person now. He didn't die, and he's not my responsibility anymore. Maybe someday I can write about it in public, but today is not that day.)

If I did write something for the purpose of inciting a riot, and a riot then occurs, how does one apportion blame? Certainly in the case of a riot, one blames the rioters. One also blames the situations that stacked up upon each other to make a riot possible, and one of those factors would be that nasty little agitator in her nasty little blog.

There are a thousand moments in between. There are no easy answers to what I should be expected to know, and how much responsibility I should take for how my words interact with the rest of the world out there. That's why these are ethical issues. They don't always have easy answers.

I know, for the most part, where I stand. I label, I provide commentary, I attempt to organize. I feel that I wouldn't be behaving responsibly or in a consistent fashion with my own ethics if I did not. I urge other people to use their words responsibly when people may get hurt as a result of reading them. In the end, I recognize other people's right to act in their own space as they please.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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