Alterum No Laedare

By in
17 comments

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.”

Bullocks.

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.

17 comments on “Alterum No Laedare”

  1. Reply

    A woman was suing a man for defamation of character, charging that he had called her a pig. The man was found guilty and fined.

    After the trial, he asked the Judge, “Does this mean that I can’t call Miss Stuart a pig?”

    The Judge said that was accurate.

    “Does this also mean that I can’t call a pig ‘Miss Stuart’?” the man asked.

    The Judge told the man that he could indeed call a pig ‘Miss Stuart’ with no fear of legal action.

    The man then looked Miss Stuart directly in the eye and said, “Good afternoon, Miss Stuart!”

    ************

    I agree with “harm no one”. Yet, it’s not exacty the same banana Mr. Marocharim.
    That’s the beauty of creative writing.

  2. Reply

    jamestoned:

    any action, whether it’s writing or speaking or living in society, does not exempt one from acting with justice, harming no other, and giving every person his due. even with lapses in justice, fairness and accountability, we should all take responsibility for what we write. you, me, or anyone else cannot disown that responsibility. if we don’t, we might as well not write at all.

    no author is exempted from the bar of history and the judgment of the reader. that’s the beauty of literary criticism. 😉

    thanks for the comment!

    marck

    • la petite fille
    • June 23, 2008
    Reply

    belles-lettres! well-written, well-said. 🙂

    • aika
    • June 23, 2008
    Reply

    well said marck! even in cyberspace, the written word should not be used as an option to create chaos or to harm whether deemed creative writing or not. alterum no laedare.

  3. Reply

    Very nice words. I believe that those three precepts of law came from the Institutes of Justinian. And I beleive it shouldn’t pertain merely to law, but to every aspect of the life of a human being.

    Let’s go Romans!

  4. Reply

    2 words: Ideology Vs. Pragmatism

    They always say another World is indeed possible, but that’s utopia. The dogma of conventional wisdom that leads to more casualities.

    If I have to choose… I choose the latter.

    To quote Mr. Willet “Not every restriction on the freedom of action of an individual is significant.”

    What could make more sense?

  5. Reply

    Endnote:

    It seems the given satire (on my first comment) is NOT enough explanation for the TRICKY” aspect of Marocharim’s BLOGGING AS A LICENSE TO SLANDER post.

    Here are the subtext that many people here failed to comprehend:

    1.) Blogging as a license to slander is too strong a statement because if YOU SLANDER, WHERE’S CREATIVITY IN IT? Isn’t the magic words “report as abuse” exists in the blogosphere? Take note the word “abuse”.

    2.)Play of words. That’s how legitimate forms of writing (practiced even by established media outfits) comes in… such as blind items, critical memoires, toilet humor, stand-up comedy, forums, personal narratives which the number one limitation is “we did that” or “I did that”… ALL of which CAN indeed harm somebody. The mnotive may NOT slander but it “harms” isn’t it? Can you explain the legitimate existence of such with regards to your latin references? If this is the case, I don’t see why the writer is the cheating husband.

    3.) The mere fact that these cases exist- means it isn’t universal. To quote “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”: Facts leave no room for possibilities.

    —-other aspects:

    3.) Blogging AS A PHENOMENON is created by the readers. Or else, it wouldn’t even be a phenomenon.

    Alterum No Laedere is a great philosophy. But I was pointing out to its utopian qualities: a world where there is no protagonist, no villain, no case studies, no politics of color, no resistance.

    It’s called Pleasantville

    I guess I’m too pragmatic for this post. It did help me understand why ideologists often get deppressed.

    Great post nonetheless. I rarely comment 🙂

    • jeanie
    • June 24, 2008
    Reply

    Wonderful post Marck! Well, only those who actually have the conscience to practice responsible blogging will find this post wonderful….so, I hope you never lose your conscience as they have. Write beautifully, harm no one. Amen! Amen! Amen! Writer or not, it separates the mentally and emotionally-evolved ones from those who can’t go beyond the “I have to push someone down to feel good about myself” level.

    Cheers!

    • Alex
    • June 25, 2008
    Reply

    As a reader/audience, I have all the freedom to discriminate information I get from blogs. If I see a relatively bad opinion badly delivered, I have all the freedom in the world to assess this information/opinion and determine what I should believe in and what not to. Therefore, to say that responsible blogging lies mainly on the blogger is bullcrap.

  6. Reply

    before i write a rejoinder…

    alex:

    of course you do have the option to click the “close” button and not read what a blogger has to write. responsible blogging – that is to say the act of writing – is THE responsibility of the blogger. blogging is way different from reading; a reader doesn’t assume a responsibility to disseminate information that is well within the bounds of what is fair and what is just.

    i don’t know about bullcrap, though: when you say that “Therefore, to say that responsible blogging lies mainly on the blogger is bullcrap,” it seemed – at least to me – that blogging the same as reading, that writing is the same thing as reading something written. which it’s not.

    i do agree that a critical reading of blogs is very important.

  7. Pingback: The Marocharim Experiment » Alterum No Laedare: A Rejoinder

    • Alex
    • June 25, 2008
    Reply

    I see blogging as a new tool for the masses to finally air their opinions and thoughts, because it’s no longer 1958 when it was only the journalist, or the reporter, or the celebrity, or the senator or the president who had the means to speak up and reach out to millions of audiences.

    It is not entirely a very good idea to teach a 3-month old baby how to write supercalifragelistisecdsvrtdrgvhhndrasudnc!@#$%. Since you can’t just tell engineers or carpenters or high school kids to practice journalism ethics or research paper standards or English proficiency (because it’s not their line), then tell these engineers and carpenters and high school kids to be engineers and carpenters and high school kids and NOT be journalists or researchers or linguists. Since you can’t get these people to follow technicalities or blogging ethics or whatever when it comes to an issue they are not well-versed or quite adequately oriented about, then tell them to blog because the blogosphere is a marketplace of ideas and opinions. All people from different walks of life blog because they can — the English proficient, the slacker, the corrupt, the irresponsible blogger, the responsible blogger, the senator, the police, the gradeschooler, you. The cyberspace is market and I can only hope you know how it goes there.

    When we see relatively bad blogs not worth our time, or if we see a really bad opinion badly delivered, then that’s where our role comes as recipients of information — to know what information to believe and what not to. The burden is with us readers/audience to assess what we read.

    We have all the freedom in the world to discriminate information we see from blogs as much as bloggers have the freedom to express what they feel.

  8. Reply

    alex:

    i concur.

    freedom, though, comes with responsibility. if you choose not to read a blog, there is always that option of not reading it. click the “close” button. this is not a matter of whose-burden-is-heavier. this is a matter of bloggers acting with justice and fairness and accountability to readers.

    “all the freedom in the world” comes with the fair warning that in the exercise of freedom, no fundamental and essential right is transgressed.

    • her royal badness
    • June 25, 2008
    Reply

    i dont think its just about blogs, but the written word in general. if you can just click the close button, then might as well just throw away all newspapers and publications that talk crap about other people. The burden of writing does not lie in the reader; only the processing does. Yet, despite this, not all readers choose to just click the close button. And that’s when the danger starts. Sometimes, they get misinformed because of what’s written in the blog. Writers should at least practice accountability.

    • Pablo
    • December 11, 2008
    Reply

    The thing is, blogs are public journals. Many of them contain the personal thoughts of a person on a subject. You, as a reader, have to get it in your thick skull that you are reading the PERSONAL thoughts of a person. This is not news writing. It’s not objective, but biased. If you want a responsible, objective, textbook style of writing read the newspapers. There are plenty of them around. Blogs are different. The moment they were conceived, the rules of democracy have been bent. It’s the same thing with piracy, digital cameras, and all new technologies. Technology, propelled by the needs of the market, constantly bends the rules.

    People have been condemning each other in their diaries from time immemorial. Blogs made that fact public. What are you going to do? Tell the world that they should refrain from it because a written law somewhere said so? People can do it and society allows them to do it. You can’t do anything about it unless you get rid of blogs altogether.

    The blogger is not responsible to anyone but himself. He agreed to play the game, so he agreed to take the risks. You, as a reader of a blog, also agreed to play the game. If you don’t like what you’re reading, close the window and get out of the blog. If the blogger really slanders you, report him to authorities or burn his house down.

    Responsibility to the public ceased to be an issue the moment blogging existed.

    • Krie
    • March 19, 2009
    Reply

    Does anyone else have any experience with this?

  9. Reply

    Agreed, agreed, and agreed. I find it rather naive that we still have people who go, “it’s my blog, and I’ll write what I want.” Even the Wild West had sheriffs.

    I keep saying this because it’s true: with great power comes great responsibility.

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