February 22, 2005

Apparently I'm A Blogophobe

There's a group trying to protect bloggers and they've written a Bloggers' Bill of Rights (it's not supposed to be law, just company policy and a threat to boycott blogophobic companies). Here is most of the document:

1.) If an employer wishes to discipline an employee because of his/her blog, it must first establish clear-cut blogging policies and distribute these to all of its employees.
2.) Blogging employees shall be given warning before being disciplined because of their blogs.
3.) NO ONE shall be fired because of his/her blog, unless the employer can prove that the blogger did intentional damage to said employer through the blog.

Blogophobic companies, who violate the Bloggers’ Bill of Rights, will be blacklisted by millions of bloggers the world over.

The first two are just plain fairness and good sense. The third one is silly. So what if you embarrass your company by mistake? That just means you're a fucking idiot who couldn't understand that X action, publicized infinitely again and again by websites and blogs, could hurt his or her employer. If anything, those that knowingly do damage might at least possess the capacity to control it. The unintentional damage can still be your fault.

Just as ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it, ignorance of public opinion is no excuse for falling on the ill side of it. I didn't realize incompetence at public relations was now a valid reason to avoid termination.

Companies don't have to stand behind employees that make public relations blunders - and by the same token, employees have no obligation to stick by companies that support or exhibit inappropriate behavior and commentary (or are run by executives that do the same). The only qualifier is if somebody signed a contract to not fire or quit over that purpose.

Hypocritically the site has a free speech ribbon (blue) because they support their own speech. If employers don't want to be associated with immature, inappropriate or intolerant speech, however, suddenly free speech goes out the window. They have principles, sure - right up until those freedom-loving principles mean they could be fired.

Freedom works both ways, three ways, a billion ways - every direction. If you can decide what to say and what not to say, then your employer can do the same. Companies can say or not say whatever they want, the same as anybody else. If a blog is dragging their name through the mud or drawing on images and values they don’t reflect or want to be seen to reflect, they can break it off. In a way, it’s no more significant than having a friend do embarrassing things and you decide to distance yourself because of it.

I guess I'm a blogophobe, then - I don't support special rights for bloggers. After all, if I made disparaging comments or exhibited embarrassing behavior in any other forum where people heard it - especially somewhere with as much public exposure as the Internet - I'd be fired from almost anywhere. Blogs don't need special rights; blogging is just high-tech pamphleteering mixed with gossip. Thomas Paine was doing it in 1776. The original Bill of Rights ought to be sufficient.


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