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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Censorship is Defined by Intent, not Effectiveness

Over on theRPGsite, the Pundit's forum is the odd bird. Its purpose is to archive my old blog posts, and to discuss threads about my works, about me, or about things that interest me.  This also makes it the only place on the entire RPGsite where political discussion is allowed, if it falls into one of those contexts.  It's also been clearly stated that if a thread is not about me or my works and doesn't interest me, it gets closed. If a thread eventually stops interesting me, it gets closed, to avoid endless threads that I no longer have an interest in reading.  This is the only part of theRPGsite where that is done (though threads can sometimes be closed in other parts of theRPGsite, if for example they become so badly derailed with off-topic material that they are unsalvageable).

In the last few months, possibly because of the super-heated political atmosphere, I've had a couple of people claim that this policy means I'm not practicing Free Speech on my own forum, or that by closing threads once they bore me, that's "Censorship". Most recently, someone claimed that this was like "rpgnet bullshit" because I was "censoring talk about RPGs".

Here's why they're wrong on all counts: first, Censorship depends on intent.

For example, people try to counter-argue the exposing of censorship by the Ctrl-Left on social media (or in the gaming hobby) by claiming "what they're doing isn't censorship because there are other places where the banned products/speakers can promote themselves!"

The error in this is that if those people had the power to do so, they would ban those products in those other places too. They're not "allowing" Free Speech, they're just lacking the power or competence to drive their urge to Censorship to complete success. They still WANT products to cease to exist and speakers to cease to speak altogether. It's still censorship, and the fact that the people perpetrating it can't get all the censorship they'd wish to have doesn't change that fact.

On the other hand, closing a thread because it's off-topic, or in this case closing threads because they've gone on long enough to no longer be of interest to the forum owner has nothing to do with Free Speech, and is not Censorship. That is, so long as the reason those threads are being closed have nothing to do with being opposed to what the person writing in the thread has to say.

If I were closing threads because someone was making an argument on that thread that offended me (and I somehow lacked the capability to offer a rebuttal, something which rarely if ever happens with me), then that would be a free speech issue. But closing a thread because it does not fit the clearly-stated rules of the forum, regardless of who is saying what, is not censorship because there is no intent to censor.

Also, no "talk about RPGs" is ever censored on theRPGsite (unless a thread deviates into violating the very very few rules theRPGsite has, none of which have anything to do with gaming). If you are posting a thread about RPGs in the Pundit's forum, and for some reason it holds no interest to me at all, I'll just move it to the main forum.

So theRPGsite is still very much the place for "non-censored talk about RPGs", and always will be as long as I'm alive and own it.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Half-Volcano + Blue Boar


  1. The problem is intent is hard to perceive, apart from one' own of course. And there's really no way to prove you acted in good faith.

    1. Of course there is, by looking at precedent and patterns of behavior. It's very clear, for example, that I don't close threads because there's people disagreeing with me; if anything, having people to argue with or mock is more likely to keep me interested and thus keep the thread open.

  2. Replies
    1. It won't be, if the Left get their way. Eventually, they'll be going after people who've never openly said something but who do not seem Sufficiently Enthusiastic about whatever lies they're peddling.

    2. They started doing that a couple years ago - Diversity Training has been moving from listen-in-silence to requiring positive affirmation. Basically following the three stages O'Brien explains to Smith in 1984 (Spanish Inquisition > Stalin's Russia > 1984). They've been moving from the Stalin approach to the full Oceania-1984 approach.

  3. I agree with your analysis re censorship & intent. I've occasionally been annoyed when an interesting discussion got closed down, but I definitely don't think it's censorship. There was one case on your main RPG forum board where I started a thread (asking re free speech supporting RPG publishers) that got immediately locked for what seemed to be censorship reasons - it was RPG related but "too controversial" - but it wasn't you who locked it.

    Overall, I disagree with your decisions sometimes but your approach seems entirely consistent and non-hypocritical.