No Surrender

A reader remonstrates:

Andrew, no. You weren't supposed to capitulate. At all.

These are how Freedom of Speech incursions snowball, and you should know this by now. They do not form because some evil person or stupid person with a grand scheme outright plans for the construction of checks on discourse. They are viral disorders in otherwise honest and informed discussion regarding the nature of discussion itself.

The disorder in this case is an fallacy of definition in Tim O'Reilly's perceived idea of "managed civil dialogue". They define "managed civil dialogue" as dialogue without the trash-talking.  Yes, this is a fallacy.  In a scheme filled only with positive definitions ("managed civil dialogue is..."), you cannot define what it is not. Say, in a simple model, 100 years down the road, Tim gets what he wants, but all of the definers of "managed civil dialogue" are long dead. Then future dialogue is civil by our standards (which no one remembers), but people are still ordered to exterminate any "uncivil" discussion, which in our time existed but in theirs does not. Then "uncivil" dialogue will start to describe some other (incorrect) form of discussion, and more exterminations of discussion take place in this vein until censorship is in full effect.

Tim is obviously well versed from the days of BBS and USENET, and he's right in that when you throw out the majority of useless discussers, dialogue becomes much more efficient. But he forgets that he knows what "useless" talking is, yet he ultimately seeks to remove knowledge of it from future principal debaters.  Your gut instincts were correct:  you cannot mess with an inherently pure ideal like freedom of speech, or you will corrupt your own well-meaning definitions.

Actually, I did not capitulate on this issue. At all. The whole concept of "managed civil dialogue" is a creepy abomination. But I shouldn't have been so rude. Which is managing my own civil dialogue, not anyone else's.