*** Please Note: I wanted one post that I could point people to in regards to the whole Loren Feldman/Techn****/Free Speech situation so that is the purpose of this post. For anyone who lived through the whole ordeal there's nothing new to see here ***
So, if you were living under a rock last week you might have missed this story.
Loren Feldman is an online comedian who is known for his boundary pushing videos. About a year ago he produced a video that asked the question "Where are all the black tech bloggers?" and then went on to answer that question with a pretty risque portrayal of an imaginary black tech blogger and said imaginary blogger's favorite imaginary site "ho-trackr.com".
It did not go over well with the black community and the fallout led to podtech and The Huntington Post severing their relationship with him.
Fast Forward a year later and he has again found corporate sponsorship this time with Verizon Wireless and their vcast service. After that deal was announced several groups became aware of the video from a year ago and threatened a boycott of Verizon which led them to severe their relationship with him.
This brought up a lot of issues in the blogosphere. Some felt the video was racist which led to a debate on race. Others felt the issue was media bias which led to a discussion on that. and so on...
For me though, the issue was Freedom of Speech. I don't think for one second that Loren Feldman is a racist or that there was any negative intent on his part. So from my perspective this is an issue of people taking what he said and vowing to destroy his career because they simply felt it was in poor taste. My point to those people was that vowing to destroy someone for what they say is the same thing as denying them free speech. That's the case I try to make below.
The Primary Stuff
These are the blog posts I made on the issue. These contain the most coherent expression of my thoughts on the issue.
The Iron Fist of Political Correctness: This was my initial reaction to the whole thing and is the post least dedicated to the topic of free speech. The gist of the post is to say that while I didn't really find the video funny either Loren Feldman is a performer who pushes boundaries and that kind of entertainment is going to miss its mark on occasion and is going to offend on occasion. That doesn't mean he deserves to be silenced.
A Little Clarification Before Putting This To Bed: I can't help but laugh at the title of this one. This is where I start to turn my attention to the topic of free speech as opposed to just the immediate incident with Loren Feldman. The general point to this post was that intimidating someone to the point that they don't use their freedom of speech is essentially the same thing as denying their right to free speech in the first place.
Of all the posts outlined here this is probably the most on point in regards to the free speech issue.
Bringing The Censorship Issue Back To Tech: This is a companion post to the last one (though half of it ends up restating the point from the "clarification" post that preceded it). The point of this post is two fold in that I try to (a) get people to realize its wrong to want to get rid of even the most repugnant of ideas and (b) try to specifically make people in Tech realize how dangerous self righteousness can be in the creation of technology products.
The Struggle To Understand Racism: Amazingly this rounds out the series of posts (the emotional toll they took made it seem like there was a lot more). This post was largely inspired by Blogger Hank Williams' post on racism and was basically the story of why I felt ill equipped to address the issue of racism one way or the other (up to this point I had not addressed any issues of racism except to say that I didn't think Loren Feldman intended his video to be racist).
Beyond those posts there were a couple of other places where I posted ideas and I thought I should put those down as well. All of these were written quickly and sometimes heatedly so the writing can be pretty bad. Be advised...
The TechCrunch Post: This predates all the posts above and is largely just me defending Loren Feldman. The gist here is that I didn't really like the video either but its clearly not intended as a racist attack. I only participated for about the first 40 comments (I think it topped out at about 230)
Hank Williams Blog: My comments here are largely just repackaged versions of the above blog posts but there's about three pages of repackaged thoughts so I felt the need to include it.
Jeneane Sessum's Blog: I only made one comment here and didn't get a reply but I felt the need to post this because its the one place where I included a thought that I wish I'd included in my own blog posts. That thought was to compare the protesters who worked to get Loren Feldman's Verizon contract canceled to the people who created the Hollywood Blacklist in the 40s. A large part of the argument from those who defend the protesting has been "censorship is only wrong if its Government censorship". The Hollywood Blacklist is pretty universally considered wrong in today's society and it was done completely privately so I think the point is a powerful one.