I've been thinking a great deal about civil speech. Recent events have brought the issue to the fore in a way that impels me to speak. And what I'd like to say is this: words are powerful and they can really hurt. The saying that sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me isn't true at all. Words do hurt.
I don't want any mean-spirited comments on Groklaw. I remove them here, when I come to know of them, but on other sites especially, there seem no limits to what folks are willing to say to and about one another. I wish to say that I don't believe that such speech is helpful. I cringe when I turn on the TV and see how so-called news show hosts villify and attack their guests and one other. I guess it's the In thing, but I can't accept it as normal or acceptable human behavior. I don't want Groklaw to become like that.
To give you an example, let's look at the current flap about LinuxWorld and Maureen O'Gara's articles. I've just read the editorial and some of the comments being left there, and it is very distressing to me. I want to ask, is it not possible to express a different point of view without personal attacks on fellow humans? I am happy to say I didn't see any offensive comments from Groklaw folks, and I'm glad about that, because I simply don't approve of such speech. We are all imperfect, subject to making mistakes and sometimes doing the opposite of what we wished we had done, are we not?
I don't minimize the serious issues in this matter at all, obviously. However, nothing makes it all right, in my view, to diminish the dignity of another human, to call them "trash", for example, as I saw someone do to the editor of LinuxWorld. How can that ever be all right? Does that inspire the editor to improve? Does it strengthen his resolve to stand for what he believes in? If he has made a mistake, does it make it easier for him to admit it or harder?
As far as Ms. O'Gara is concerned, Groklaw has on more than one occasion written that she is a very good reporter. She is. That entire career doesn't get thrown overboard because of recent events, even if it turns out she made a mistake. She was the first reporter to tell the world that SCO had hired David Boies and that Linux was on their radar. I don't forget that, despite the most recent series of articles, and neither should you forget.
As far as I'm concerned, if she wants to keep writing about SCO from her point of view, that is her right. I reserve the right to point it out if I see errors. And readers can validly ask if they wish to read her articles or if they now trust entities that publish her. All that is fair. But that is, in my view, the line. Even if we cast the most negative possible interpretation on what has happened, is she not still a fellow human worthy of the dignity we all should accord one another? Is she not trying to make it through the world in one piece, just like you are? Have Americans forgotten how to disagree without being disagreeable? I don't want Groklaw associated with anything like that.
Most of us were not at the hearing. Eyewitness accounts are valuable, but not necessarily determinative. If you've ever been involved in a car accident, for example, you may have observed that not everyone sees the same things. That is why my article about this said that only a reading of the transcript someday can establish what did or did not occur in that courtroom. The issue I was addressing was that both LinuxWorld and Slashdot were presenting a point of view that to the best of our knowledge was not accurate. Also there is an issue as to where that information came from, in my opinion. We do have several eyewitnesses, including now some who were not Groklaw eyewitnesses, who disagree with what Ms. O'Gara wrote, and they didn't hear or see what she reported. But that doesn't, in my view, rule out altogether the possibility that they all missed something. It's less likely, but until the transcript is available, we don't know yet for sure. I don't think it's right to say more than you know. The simple truth is, we don't yet know 100% and we can't until the transcript is unsealed.
Here's what I do know. If the transcript reveals that what Ms. O'Gara wrote was not accurate, she will absolutely report it honestly. I sincerely believe that.
I would ask Groklaw folks, please help me to maintain a level of politeness and fellow feeling on Groklaw. Thank you. I'll try to do my part, and I know I can count on you to do yours.