I’ve noticed a particular trend among a lot of bloggers. The mentality can be summed up in the phrase, “It’s my blog, and I can write whatever the hell I want to write in it.”
Having been a blogger for almost four years, I have seen – and read – a lot of blogs that espouse this mentality. On many occasions, I’m guilty of this. If there’s anything I learned both as a blogger and as a writer, it’s this: blogging is NOT a license for slander.
Freedom of speech is one of the most protected and valued rights in democracy, if not for the fact that much about democracy is grounded on that essential freedom. I have to say, though, that this basic right does have its limits.
A Latin proverb goes:
“Juris pracepta sunt: honeste vivere, alterum no laedere, suum cique tribuere.”
Translated: “The precepts of law: to live honestly, to harm no other, to give each one’s due.” Free speech, like every other freedom guaranteed by a democratic society, is limited by another person’s rights. No right of an individual should transgress upon the rights of another individual.
This is not an issue of whether or not we live in a truly democratic society, or if cyberspace is really a “digital democracy.” If I had my way, everyone who has access to the Internet should blog. To a certain extent, things are going my way. More and more people are blogging, so much so that information is decentralized. People are as much able to access information, as they are able to create information not only for themselves, but for the public as well.
Let me get back to the mentality I mentioned earlier. If it’s your blog and you write whatever the hell you want in it, then I, as a reader, have to make a retort: so what? It’s not a disregard for “blogging ethics” that makes me, as a reader, come to that retort, but a disregard for my presence in your writing. It is to disregard my humanity, my existence, and my being. It’s as if a blog is a world of its own, that it’s not part of the world-at-large. More than that, it’s as if nobody reads blogs, and nobody will come across your blog. Can you write whatever the hell you want in a blog and get away with it?
I don’t think so.
“Alterum no laedare:” harm no one. No other precept of the law, no other requirement of justice, is more meaningful and more important than this.
Like I said countless times before, blogging is no different from writing. It’s the same banana in a different medium (Cyber-Banana, Computer-Mediated Banana, Virtual Banana, or what-have-you). We cannot, as social beings (much less as members of a democratic society), escape the responsibilities that come with exercising our right to vote, our right to free expression, and heck even our right to fart in crowded elevators. While we cannot take back what we say or what we write, it behooves us to be responsible for it.
Every time we write something, we commit ourselves into those words. Everytime we write about somebody, we commit them into those words. Responsibility goes hand-in-hand with the right to free speech, if not that it defines free speech.
I like to think of writing as a mistress, and the writer as a cheating husband. No matter how much a writer cheats on his wife (the reader), the mistress is bound to be discovered. A writer is burdened by the responsibility he has to his wife and to his mistress.
Maybe it’s because I’m an old blogger, but I can’t help but think that blogging has become way too mainstream. Four years ago, people think that something’s wrong with you when you have a blog. These days, if you don’t have a blog, you’re behind the times. The damning part is that whether I like it or not, this is what “free speech” has become. This is what blogging has become.
I can only hope it doesn’t stay this way.