From the desk of Sherif Soliman

2024.02.25 14:41 PST / 22:41 UTC

We all feel the pull to be Rust. Truth is many of us are actually Marty. And the answer is probably being more Maggie.

Some thoughts on self-censorship

2024.02.09 22:50 PST / 06:50 UTC

This post is a response to Jason’s post on self-censorship.

I appreciate Jason writing out a clear and succinct post. I’m afraid I wasn’t as capable or restrained.

I think self-censorship is a real problem. I think there has to exist a fourth category (see Jason’s post for context), a super important category imho, of thoughts that when shared result in “having a pretty bad time”. But before I get there, we have to define what we mean when we say “censorship”.

I’ll use “free speech” as an analogy. “Free speech” has a legal interpretation and a practical one. Legally it’s codified in the First Amendment; it’s about what laws Congress can or can’t pass when it comes to expression, that’s it.1 Like people who like to mock others who invoke the idea of free speech online often say, the First Amendment says nothing about what private companies allow or prohibit on their networks/premises. But the practical meaning is about the spirit, the behavior of society in the main, practical consequences, the behavior of the mob (where mob is not used pejoratively, but to mean the behavior of a cohesive group that is unchecked in the current arena), and I think that’s a meaning that matters just as much as the legal one. To make the point with an extreme/straw-manny example, so what if the government won’t put you in jail if you say something if you become ostracized by your professional and personal tribes, shunned into a life of solitude? Is that a community where free speech thrives?

As with free speech, I think the “censorship” in – reasonable invocations of – “self-censorship” doesn’t refer to legal proceedings or redaction of speech. It refers to choosing silence to avoid not just “lots of people disagreeing with them”, but a collective mass of negative consequences that is disproportionate to the expression of a minority offensive opinion, even if it doesn’t mean jail or physically removing your speech from all publication. And that’s reasonable. If it means an employer might fire you, if it means people protest at your home or your job, if it means they harass your family, that still passes the threshold to me.

Okay, back to the presence of a fourth category. I think there surely is a fourth type of opinion not covered by Jason’s post that people share that results in “having a pretty bad time”, which is an opinion that is objectively or morally correct, but is considered blasphemous or corrupt or immoral by the current large majority. That’s the type of opinion that, once upon a time, claiming the Earth was round, denying the existence of a monotheistic god, and thinking gay people should be able to get married belonged to. All of those were opinions that when shared resulted in “having a pretty bad time” at a particular time. Now we think differently, but people had to die.

I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m splitting hairs here, because I think that fourth category is everything. It’s so important to our growth. And we have grown, in that in the West we no longer think anyone should die for saying something. That’s the legal side mostly solved. But – most? – people who complain about free speech or (self) censorship refer to the second meaning, a very real meaning. How do we as a society balance condemning abhorrent views while allowing for whatever today’s equivalent of “the Earth is round” to be said without drowning its sayer? How do we differentiate between when it’s right to think someone should be fired for saying something and when we should disagree – hotly if necessary – but as the quote goes, defend to death their right to say it?

All to say, I think self-censorship might be an idea invoked disingenuously by some, but is still real, and still worth thinking about.

  1. yes yes, this is US-centric. 

2024.02.02 22:31 PST / 06:31 UTC


Happy Bandcamp Friday.

2024.02.02 19:56 PST / 03:56 UTC

I wish OmmWriter wasn’t abandoned and buggy. There’s nothing else like it out there.

2024.01.30 20:45 PST / 04:45 UTC

Conscience do cost.

Butchie, The Wire

2024.01.22 23:21 PST / 07:21 UTC
Screenshot from amtrakexplorer.com

amtrak explorer: explore the amtrakverse, by Rachel Binx

Amtrak. The last bastion of mechanical romance in America.

(via Bill HuntJason Velazquez - Where have all the websites gone?)

2024.01.11 00:13 PST / 08:13 UTC
Thumbnail of Folding Ideas video on the gold ad-umentary.

About That Idris Elba Gold Documentary

Dan Olson of Folding Ideas is a national treasure.

”Wait what toxic pit problem?”

2024.01.08 16:57 PST / 00:57 UTC

Boeing 737 Max 9: United Airlines finds loose bolts during inspections

Bolts in need of “additional tightening” have been found during inspections of Boeing 737 Max 9s, United Airlines has said.



2024.01.06 13:19 PST / 21:19 UTC

Nationalize Boeing.

2024.01.06 11:12 PST / 19:12 UTC

Last time I was this sick I read all four volumes of The Years of Lyndon Johnson.

I was sick for a long time.

2023.12.31 23:40 PST / 07:40 UTC
Photo from Portugal

📝 2023: A personal review

2023.12.31 16:36 PST / 00:36 UTC

Slowly clearing out years of unread bookmarks in Pinboard. So many dead links. It makes me glad I pay for Pinboard’s Bookmark Archiving, but it’s sad to think of the lost blogs and gardens that people once tended with love.

2023.12.27 09:42 PST / 17:42 UTC

There are no writing tips that can fix bad thinking, and no Elements of Style will fix a lack of ideas. Rather, the best writing advice is guiding you to think for yourself.

iA Writer - Writing Tips.

2023.12.24 14:18 PST / 22:18 UTC

My number one Maps wish – by far – is to be able to create custom mixed-mode trips. Ride my bike from my home to the light rail, take light rail from station A to station B, walk from station B to a waypoint, then bike from waypoint to destination.