Would You Risk Your Life With a Blog Post?

Filed as Features on April 1, 2008 1:29 am

A few days back Lorelle asked what one would not blog about. People had varied responses. Some would not write profanities. Some would not offend other people with their writing. And others would not blog about work. Generally, it’s about doing others no harm.

What if blogging can bring you harm? We do know that restrictive regimes have jailed or imprisoned bloggers, or at the very least blocking access to blog hosting providers. People have been fired for what they have written on their blogs. It can be worse. There are a handful of arguments against blogging.

Here’s one example of something I would rather not blog about. When I was new to the blogging world, someone close to me witnessed a murder in broad daylight. Standing in line at a fastfood counter, a man was shot in the head and died on the spot. There were dozens of other witnesses, but no one dared move for fear of being shot themselves.

At first I thought that it was blog-worthy, that it was a good case of citizen journalism. I had finished drafting the post and was almost at the point of publishing the entry. But then at the last minute I changed my mind. I thought that I would rather not endanger myself and that person with that potentially dangerous blog post. I have several reasons.

First, I don’t personally know the nature of the incident, and the background of the perpetrators. For all I know those people could be members of organized crime. And they could perhaps come after me and my family.

Secondly, I’m not sure I can trust our authorities here 100%. In my country, while there are perhaps a good number of honest civil servants, hoodlums in uniform are aplenty. And in these cases I would rather not be involved lest I become involved in a very complicated and potentially dangerous way.

Some things are best kept private. Or at least anonymous. In hindsight, perhaps I could have posted about the incident, but somewhere not directly attributable to me or my friend.

Put simply, I like the freedom that blogging gives me, in terms of expressing myself. Both in writing opinions and reporting observations and facts (even news, where applicable). I can even go to the extent of writing negatively about people and companies. But when my life and those of the people close to me are potentially at risk, then that’s when I’ll keep my mouth (and my blog) shut.

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  1. By PocketCultures posted on April 1, 2008 at 4:42 am
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    It’s an interesting point. We feature blogs and other content from all over the world, sometimes from people living within oppressive regimes. For precisely this reason we decided not to include political topics, to avoid getting either ourselves or anyone associated with the blog into trouble.

    I guess some potential readers will think this a negative, especially because so much blogging discussion is political, but we would rather keep it like this than risk putting anyone in danger.

    I’d be really interested to read other views on this…

    Reply

  2. By Rob posted on April 1, 2008 at 4:44 am
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    Your suggestion that we need to do our homework in researching is a good one. Last month I posted something that I’d received from what I thought was an impeccable source and that sounded totally plausible. Within minutes one of my readers wrote to let me know that snopes.com said the information was not quite accurate. I could/should have done that simple check myself! I was able to tweak the blog post to make the facts right, but unfortunately the post had gone to hundreds of people by e-mail, which could not be retracted. In the next post, I had to set the record straight, but that does not help all those who received a forward of the previous blog post.

    Though I’m usually careful about what I post, I lapsed on that one. I’m now much more vigilant about checking and cross-checking.

    Thanks for the reminder, especially on April Fools’ Day!

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  3. By tallglassofmilk posted on April 1, 2008 at 8:01 am
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    I find it amusing that a blogger would say they’d try not to offend anyone with their writing. In my experience there is something to offend everyone and even the most benign posts can set off someone of a different mindset. To not offend is an impossibility.

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  4. By Big Fella posted on April 1, 2008 at 11:39 am
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    You are correct, Angelo, a smart blogger is one who does understand the need to “self-edit”. Mainstream journalists, and media publishers, if they are rational and have integrity, also do not publish everything they hear, no matter first amendment rights and no matter potential newsstand sales.

    There are just some things a journalist or blogger should not publish, whether it may jeopardize the publisher or a third party. At minimum it could lead to unnecessary, unearned embarrasment, and at its worst, injury whether in the legal sense or the physical sense. We don’t have the right to play it fast and loose.

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  5. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on April 1, 2008 at 11:30 pm
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    That Publish button carries with it a tremendous weight, doesn’t it. Good for you for thinking of others over yourself when it came time to publish something that might put others at risk.

    We can rationalize this in many ways, but journalists deal with this issue every day. Should we be any different.

    I really loved the movie, V for Vendetta, the moral of which was that it takes one person to change a culture and a government. There are some causes worth risking lives and dying for. When it comes to tackling those subjects on your blog, you have to consider if it is really worth dying for. If it is, blog it. If it isn’t, then…well, we know that story.

    Sometimes, real courage is doing nothing with intent so we can blog another day and change the world in small and less public ways.

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