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[at-l] OT Wing Foot Ryan
It is our attitude toward free thought and free expression that will
determine our fate. There must be no limit on the range of temperate
discussion, no limits on thought. No subject must be taboo. No censor
must preside at our assemblies.
William O. Douglas
IMHO, folk confuse the concepts of "free thought" and "freedom of
expression" with a desire for a free ride and/or their need for a captive
But first, even in Government assemblies there are always some limits on the
range of discussion, and some limits on thought. Even Douglas recognizes
that with his use of the adjective "temperate" modifying/limiting
"discussion," in the above quote. It has long been accepted that one cannot
shout "fire" in a crowed auditorium. One cannot defame another, suborn
perjury, or incite to riot, or treason, etc without being subject to
However, even that level of openness need not apply to discussion on an
individual WEB site and mail list. WF, Ryan, and many others have put the
money, time, and afford into creating individual WEB sites and mail lists.
Each has every right to suggest, encourage, and (yes, as in the case of WF)
even control what is said on their site or their list. It is their site or
list. They earned the right to suggest, encourage, and control its content
by the money, time, and afford invested. (BTW, the courts appear to be
going even father -- holding ISP etc responsible for the content (such as
child porn) on sites.)
These are private forums, not government assemblies. To the degree that
this medium is a government entity, it is the entire Internet which might be
an government assembly. However, the individual sites, lists, etc are not
public in the sense of public access. For example, many many sites have no
interaction. For example, you cannot posted anything you want on a .com
site -- say telling the world what you think is wrong with a companies'
product or services on that company's own .com site.
If one wishes to put the money, time, and afford into creating another WEB
site and mail list one is free to do so. In that sense, there is no limit
on the range of temperate discussion, no limits on thought. No subject is
taboo. And no censor presides at our assemblies -- save the common
restriction on defaming another, suborning perjury, or inciting to riot, or
(BTW -- Ryan went far beyond the expected norm in providing the resources
for the TA list. In this case, he provided the money, plus some of the
time, and effort to create another mail list for a different range of
temperate discussion, and thought, than was welcomed on this list.)
There are many, many sites, beyond this list, the TA list, WF's efforts,
etc.-- as recent posting have shown.
Therefore, IMHO, the Internet (in its entirety) fulfills Douglas' plea.
In closing, I would also point out that when we, as individuals, opt out
that does not equate to a censor presides over our assemblies. If I walk
out of a movie, a speech, etc, or if I boycott one in the first place I am
not censoring it -- as I have no authority over others seeing or hearing it.
Rather, I am exercising my rights of freedom of association and assembly.
One's right of free speech does not guarantee one a captive audience. There
are no mandatory assemblies. I am not required to visit every site on the
Internet, read every post, etc. I am free to avoid, ignore, boycott that
which I find boring, annoying, offensive, etc. That is equally true for a
filter I set on an individual list as it is in avoiding, ignoring,
boycotting other sites altogether.
When I visit Ryan's site/lists it is equivalent to visit his home, or place
of business. While there I should conduct myself with decorum acceptable to
him. That is no restriction on my freedom, as I am always free to go
outside and say whatever I like. In the concrete world I am free to picket
on the public sidewalk, not in his living room or in office lobby -- in this
medium I am free to set up a site on the public Internet.