Main | Thursday, September 08, 2005

Blog Burning

Isn't it fascinating how blog traffic moves? You folks land on my blog, then you peruse my blogroll, where you find a blog title that intrigues you, you skip to that blog, and you continue from there. Bloghopping, some call it. Often, you'll find yourself on a blog and have no idea how you got there. It's probably how most of you first found me.

Blogrolls have an elasticity that appeals to me. Bloggers stop blogging, and you delink them and add someone new. Or bloggers grow stale or uninteresting to you, and you delink them and add someone new. The wise Troubled Diva once put it this way: "When de-linking someone from your blogroll, or when being de-linked from someone else's blogroll, it helps to visualize the blogosphere as a perpetual cocktail party, and the de-linker as the person saying: "Well, it has been lovely talking to you, but there are some people over there who I simply must meet." Because if you deploy this paradigm, then it takes all the silly paranoia out of the situation."

But recently I came across a situation that didn't quite fit the Diva's cocktail party scenario. Several months ago I became aware of a gay man's blog in which he advocated for gay-bashing men he found feminine, among many other repulsive statements. OK, he's a jerk, don't read his blog anymore, right? But it turns out that this guy's blog is linked to by several people on my blogroll, and through bloghopping, I'm surely unwittingly sending people to his hate blog.

Some other bloggers in my predicament exchanged a series of emails with me in which they advocated that we all delink anybody that linked to this hate blog, as a statement. Initially, I resisted this idea. It felt like groupthink. But I also really hated the idea of someone getting to this guy's lousy blog via mine, however convoluted the connection. So a couple of months ago, without comment to the bloggers in question, I quietly removed their links from my blogroll.

I'm still not sure that delinking them was ethical, regardless of the certainly negligible decrease in traffic to the hate blog. But instead of asking The Ethicist, I'll ask you, gentle readers. Do we as bloggers bear responsibility as gatekeepers to hate sites even if our readers arrive at these sites without our advocacy or recommendation? I certainly wouldn't hesitate to post links to anti-gay or right wing websites in the context of condemning them.

Would you stop going to a bookstore just because they stocked a particular book that you found offensive? No? Would you stop going if the staff recommended that book and displayed it very prominently by the front door? Is trying to prevent your traffic from reaching a site with ideas that you dislike just a digital version of book burning?

(If you comment, let's keep the discussion on the question, and not name any specific bloggers. Thanks)


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