On any given comment thread…

Maybe it’s because we talked about Religulous last night; the Universe has a nasty habit of springing surprise synchronicity
into my lap. Maybe it’s because springtime is here again. Maybe it’s coincidence, and someone just learned how to ego-surf the internet.

Regardless, I got the first
in six months on an old post of mine: On Any Given Pro-Life Sunday. My basic premise? Pro-life demonstrators could do far more good actually supporting pregnant women than standing around. Instead, I suggest that such demonstrations are less about change and more about stroking one’s ego. (The more limber-minded of you will notice that this argument can, in many cases, be applied to ritualized annual demonstrations of any type, regardless of political persuasion or creed.)

In the post, I quote the Dayton Daily News – who was, in turn, quoting another individual.

That’s the person who commented on the post.

The first paragraph of their comment simply disagrees with my position. No problem there, right? It’s the second paragraph that troubles me:

I’d also suggest that since you’re not the owner of my words and you don’t know anything about my life that you please take down your post slamming me for my comment and for that of Emma, one of the kids in my youth group. I do not agree to let my words to be used to slam Christians or those who support the anti-abortion cause. Thanks!

Read that over one more time. Starting at the end, there’s the assumption in the last sentence that I’m automatically pro-choice because I disagree with a tactic of the pro-life
movement. Then there’s the assumption that being quoted in an article (or blog entry) presumes that your words must support that action.

Um, right.

And then the big one: the idea that each person “owns” the distribution of their words, even after being disseminated in public.

It’s a tempting idea to think about – but it’s utterly and completely false.

We “own” our words only in the sense that we produce them. Especially when uttered in public, especially when talking to a reporter (or for that matter, writing on the internet), other people can quote you. You don’t get to control that. Think about all the review blurbs for movies that are… selective excerpts of the
whole thing. “This movie is exceptional in its sheer lack of momentum” can become “This movie is exception in its sheer … momentum”, and still be a valid quote.

What’s especially worrisome is that I’m not misrepresenting Randi Hom’s position. I present it exactly the same way that the DDN did. I simply disagree.

Ultimately, they are asking me to take down my post…because I disagree.

And that’s a damn dangerous idea, isn’t it?

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