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CFI applying censorship and restricting freedom of speech?
Posted: 20 March 2007 12:28 AM   [ Ignore ]
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On the 7th of February I put an article on this blog entitled [color=blue:16a9faf4a1][size=18:16a9faf4a1]¤Why I Masturbate my SonË.[/size:16a9faf4a1][/color:16a9faf4a1] The reason I chose the CFI Blog was because I regarded it as the most enlightened secular humanist blog in the world. The subject matter of my article was, I admit, very controversial but I felt that I had a philosophically sound argument and I wanted to engage the members of the CFI blog to debate the morality of my actions.

To my amazement my posting was censored and pulled off the CFI blog. Another surprise was two incredible e-mails sent to me from Thomas Donnelly of CFI explaining why he found it necessary to censor and remove my blog posting. Below are copies of these e-mails as well as my correspondence to Donnelly.


[color=green:16a9faf4a1]E-Mail Number 1

From: Thomas
To: mfmahamed
Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 2:35 am
Subject: Re: Why I Masturbate my Son
I have decided to remove the conversation from public viewing only because it appears to be well outside the bounds of CFI’s educational mission. That’s not to say it won’t ever appear, but I want to ask some colleagues to see if this discussion is appropriate for CFI’s online discussion forums. I hope you’ll be patient in understanding and show good will while I consult with my colleagues about this.

_________________
Thomas Donnelly
Center for Inquiry
716-636-7571 ext 420
tdonnelly (at) centerforinquiry.net
http://www.centerforinquiry.net[/color:16a9faf4a1]

[color=red:16a9faf4a1]E-Mail Number 2

From: mfmahamed
To: Thomas
Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 4:07 am
Subject: Re: Why I Masturbate my Son
Hi Thomas,

I am amazed that a fellow secular humanist has found a moral topic "too hot to handle". From your response any person would imagine that I had posted kid porn on your forum.

I look foward to an urgent response to my posting. Please feel free to engage me about your concerns regarding my article.
Fayzal Mahamed

_________________
Fayzal Mahamed,
Johannesburg, South Africa[/color:16a9faf4a1].

 

 

[color=green:16a9faf4a1]E-Mail Number 3

From: Thomas
To: mfmahamed
Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 10:51 am
Subject: Re: Why I Masturbate my Son
Fayzal,

While the topic you are discussing may be interesting to some, CFI has a specific educational mission, and your topic falls well outside it (masturbation of family members for whatever reason isnt a topic within CFI’s purview). May I suggest specific ethics forums online, or sexual ethics forums.

We dont intend to provide a forum for the discussion of absolutely each and every idea under the sun, but instead focus on advancing science and reason in our society. We also have to be mindful of our audience, and our cultural competitors, and how things can be taken out of context (liability). I do not suggest that you have posted about kiddie porn or the like, and have no strong opinion one way or the other about your post.

Despite your invitaton, I do not wish to engage you about your article (demands on our time prohibit my debating with you on this point).

Thanks for your participation in the forums, and thank you in advance for not brooding, having hurt feelings, and for being understanding and showing good will. In other words, thank you for being a constructive, not destructive, member of our online community.

Cheers! Thomas

PS—this email is sent to you and not for public distribution.

_________________
Thomas Donnelly
Center for Inquiry
716-636-7571 ext 420
tdonnelly (at) centerforinquiry.net
http://www.centerforinquiry.net[/color:16a9faf4a1]


You will notice that Donnelly advised me not to reprint his e-mail. However, since Donnelly╠s action to censor and remove my posting is tantamount to a gross violation of my freedom of speech, I have no duty to respect Donnelly╠s request but rather have a duty towards protecting the freedom of speech (even the speech that goes against my own opinion) and to achieve such noble motives I have to expose Donnelly; and the e-mails are central to my argument to show a violation and suppression of the freedom of speech.

What I will not do is reprint any of my original article entitled ¤Why I Masturbate my SonË because this posting is about censorship on this CFI blog and not about the reasons why I masturbated my son.

Questions and comments I would like to pose to Donnelly.


[color=blue:16a9faf4a1]Question 1[/color:16a9faf4a1]
Donnelly claimed in E-Mail 1 and I quote [color=green:16a9faf4a1]¤I have decided to remove the conversation from public viewing only because it appears to be well outside the bounds of CFI’s educational mission.Ë [/color:16a9faf4a1]

Question I would like to pose to Donnelly is ¤If you intend to apply censorship to any article on this blog surely a detailed explanation should be provided for such a drastic measure? It is important to understand the reasons why any secular humanist would resort to censorship and the suppression of the freedom of speech. Did I post pornography that such a drastic measure as removing my posting was called for? Did I advocate pedophilia as generally acceptable? Did I advocate the abuse of children? Was I vulgar in my subject I posted? Nothing of those sorts of explanations as the reasons for censoring my blog was forthcoming.

The explanation that my article ¤appears well outside the bounds of CFI╠s educational missionË is no explanation at all!. What is this CFI╠s educational mission that I have fallen foul of? Why does my article fall outside this educational mission? The impression I got is this is an arbitrary decision based on the emotions of Donnelly to remove my posting and nothing to do with violating any CFI╠s policy of educating and debating issues.


[color=blue:16a9faf4a1]Question 2[/color:16a9faf4a1]
Incredibly just after the above statement Donnelly betrays his ignorance and contradiction by stating [color=green:16a9faf4a1]¤That’s not to say it won’t ever appear, but I want to ask some colleagues to see if this discussion is appropriate for CFI’s online discussion forums. I hope you’ll be patient in understanding and show good will while I consult with my colleagues about this.Ë [/color:16a9faf4a1]

What happened to the CFI educational mission that Donnelly touted in the previous paragraph? What was previously out of bounds, now seems it may well be within bounds except it would be subjected to Donnelly and his colleagues understanding of my posting.

If Donnelly was unsure about my arguments or if my article was too complex for Donnelly to comprehend that he needed to consult his colleagues, why did he not consult his colleagues first and then remove my posting with an appropriate explanation?


[color=blue:16a9faf4a1]Question 3[/color:16a9faf4a1]
After my rebuke on e-mail 2 questioning Donnelly╠s action to remove my posting Donnelly hastily replied with a very abrasive E-Mail 3. Bear in mind that all 3 e-mails were within a couple of hours of each other.

In e-mail 1 Donnelly pleaded for my patience while he consults his colleagues about my posting, yet he was extremely impatient to reply to my rebuke of e-mail 2. It seems in e-mail 3 we have an angry Donnelly firing of salvos to try and save his integrity. What happened to ¤consulting his colleaguesË because the reply of e-mail 3 certainly does not suggest that he consulted with any of his colleagues before returning such a poor response to my e-mail 2.


[color=blue:16a9faf4a1]Question 4[/color:16a9faf4a1]
Again in E-mail 3 Donnelly merely repeats his assertion that my posting falls outside the bounds of the CFI╠s educational mission and again no mention of what this educational mission entails nor why I have fallen out of the bounds of this mission. Yet Donnelly goes a step further this time to state [color=green:16a9faf4a1]¤masturbation of family members for whatever reason isnt a topic within CFI’s purview. ¤We dont intend to provide a forum for the discussion of absolutely each and every idea under the sun[/color:16a9faf4a1]Ë.

Is this a CFI╠s mission statement, I doubt it? Who decides on what should or should not be discussed? Is there a list of topics that can be discussed and where do we obtain the particulars of this list of topics? What are the rules that are applied to see which topic can or cannot be posted on the CFI blog. What are the rules that govern the censorship and removal of postings on the CFI Blog or is this an arbitrary decision that can be left to the whims of a single individual?


[color=blue:16a9faf4a1]Question 5[/color:16a9faf4a1]
Donnelly states the CFI blog focuses on [color=green:16a9faf4a1]¤ advancing science and reason in our societyË.[/color:16a9faf4a1]

This statement suggest that my topic had nothing to do with science or reason. If this is the case then Donnelly can briefly explain what my topic dealt with? I thought that my topic of sexual ethics was part of science (psychology and physiology) as well as reason (ethics). Perhaps Donnelly can give us some indication of which topics he considers ¤beyond the realm of science and reasonË so that I can compare my posting to such topics and see it his argument is valid.


[color=blue:16a9faf4a1]Question 6[/color:16a9faf4a1]
Donnelly states [color=green:16a9faf4a1]¤. We also have to be mindful of our audience, and our cultural competitors, and how things can be taken out of context (liability).Ë[/color:16a9faf4a1]

This is gobblegook speak! Perhaps Donnelly can elaborate? Does he mean his audience are small children unable to apprehend sexual ethics? Are Donnelly╠s competitors those religious folk that will cast an apprehensive, disdainful eye on my posting that will embarrass Donnelly. Could Donnelly elaborate how things can be taken out of context when my article was clear and concise to its points and the reasons for posting it on the CFI blog?


[color=blue:16a9faf4a1]Question 7[/color:16a9faf4a1]
Finally Donnelly states [color=green:16a9faf4a1]¤Thanks for your participation in the forums, and thank you in advance for not brooding, having hurt feelings, and for being understanding and showing good will. In other words, thank you for being a constructive, not destructive, member of our online community[/color:16a9faf4a1].

Donnelly has the gall and arrogance to presume and prejudge my feelings. How dare he! I am brooding because I feel an enlightened secular humanist blog should not remove my posting without any good reason for doing so. I do feel hurt when it is claimed that I have posted something that is beyond science and reason. It makes me feel pretty stupid! I definitely will not be understanding of why someone should suppress my human rights to freedom of speech and this article will indicate that I intend to show no goodwill to those that would like to perpetuate the suppression of the freedom of speech, be it a religious bigot or a secular bigot.


[size=18:16a9faf4a1]To conclude, after my controversial admission that I masturbate my son on a national talk radio here in South Africa I was amazed that the majority of Christians that called in was very sympathetic to my plight and gave their support to me. I am surprised that a fellow secular humanist such as Donnelly, a person whom I thought I would readily get my support from would instead resort to suppressing information and ideas, the likes of what was seen in the days of the DARK AGES.[/size:16a9faf4a1]

[size=18:16a9faf4a1][color=red:16a9faf4a1]I appeal to members of this CFI blog. Either point out to me where I might be wrong with my assesment of the censureship and restriction of all our freedom of speech or protest about the way a secular humanist has used this blog to restrict speech according to his personal whims.[/color:16a9faf4a1][/size:16a9faf4a1]

Fayzal Mahamed

[ Edited: 18 May 2007 06:11 PM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 20 March 2007 01:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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*Sigh* ... it doesn’t rain but it pours.

Fayzal, I must say that the messages you repost from Thomas sound eminently reasonable to me. I would suggest you re-read them in a calmer spirit. I am not Thomas, so cannot respond for him to answer your questions. If you want to open up a discussion on sexual ethics, however, I suggest you start a thread on that subject and see where it goes. If it is done in a civil and responsible manner I expect it might even be enlightening.

:wink:

With regard to the other problematic thread in this folder to which you apparently refer, however, you should also bear in mind our forum norms of etiquette. Personally, I feel it is already a breach of etiquette to post emails which are themselves expressly intended to be private. So you should consider yourself warned as well. Disruptive or vindictive behavior is in breach of etiquette.

That said, I do hope we will see you back on the forum in the right frame of mind. I appreciate your continued contributions.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 06:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Doug quoted:

Fayzal, I must say that the messages you repost from Thomas sound eminently reasonable to me.

I have learnt from experience and my philosophy class never to trust an argument to be right merely because the high priest or the president of the country says he is right. All that matters in any argument are the statements for or against the argument. Only then can any person make an informed decision as to what is correct and what is wrong.

So the question I would like to ask you Doug is since when have you become the High Priest of the CFI blog that we have to rely on your judgement merely because you claim something is reasonable to you without presenting any argument for your claims. It seems you are relying on a lot of “faith” that we do not question your judgement?.

Doug quoted

I would suggest you re-read them in a calmer spirit. I am not Thomas, so cannot respond for him to answer your questions.

Perhaps you may not have noticed Doug but I have been calmy studying Thomas’s e-mails to me for over a month before I decided to make an informed :idea: response to his censorship. This is the reason why I supplied every question with a solid argument as to why Thomas acted in an inapropriate, emotional manner.

What I find strange is that you (Doug) have chosen not to discuss any of my arguments that I brought fourth. This is strange because your previous postings show you to be a very outspoken man on virtually every subject on this blog. Perhaps it is you who should have been calmy studying my arguments before you hastily came with this response in what seems to be defending an “associate from the old boys club”.

Doug quoted

If you want to open up a discussion on sexual ethics, however, I suggest you start a thread on that subject and see where it goes.

I don’t understand how a thread works and nevertheless it does not address the question of censorship on this blog. I think every blog user is entitled to know exactly what the rules are on this blog that enables to inform him or her if they should partake in this forum.

Doug quoted

If it is done in a civil and responsible manner I expect it might even be enlightening.

Again you pass an innuendo that I have been irresponsible in my posting without substantiating in what manner I have been uncivil and irresponsible. You stated you cannot speak for Thomas so I presume we should let Thomas substantiate why I have possibly been uncivil and irresponsible.

Doug quoted

With regard to the other problematic thread in this folder to which you apparently refer, however, you should also bear in mind our forum norms of etiquette. Personally, I feel it is already a breach of etiquette to post emails which are themselves expressly intended to be private. So you should consider yourself warned as well. Disruptive or vindictive behavior is in breach of etiquette.

I disagree and I think an analogy will indicate why I am right on this matter.

Imagine if a serial rapist were to confess to a priest of his evil deeds and that he may have the urge to repeat his crime.

I guess I would feel that it is important that the priest break his vows of silence for the greater good of society and report the serial rapist to the police / detective. I presume from your feelings you would rather the priest keep up with etiquette and remain silent on his vows.

Doug quoted

That said, I do hope we will see you back on the forum in the right frame of mind. I appreciate your continued contributions.

I certainly will be back but only if I have clarity concerning the rules of censorship on this blog. I would hate to spend time and energy in any forum that would limit the freedom of speech based merely on the likes and dislikes of a few individuals.

Fayzal Mahamed

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Posted: 20 March 2007 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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[quote author=“mfmahamed”]I have learnt from experience and my philosophy class never to trust an argument to be right merely because the high priest or the president of the country says he is right. All that matters in any argument are the statements for or against the argument. Only then can any person make an informed decision as to what is correct and what is wrong.

Of course.

[quote author=“mfmahamed”]So the question I would like to ask you Doug is since when have you become the High Priest of the CFI blog that we have to rely on your judgement merely because you claim something is reasonable to you without presenting any argument for your claims. It seems you are relying on a lot of “faith” that we do not question your judgement?

I have never said you should. I simply give my opinion when I have one to give.

[quote author=“mfmahamed”]What I find strange is that you (Doug) have chosen not to discuss any of my arguments that I brought fourth. This is strange because your previous postings show you to be a very outspoken man on virtually every subject on this blog. Perhaps it is you who should have been calmy studying my arguments before you hastily came with this response in what seems to be defending an “associate from the old boys club”.

I have not responded because I had nothing substantive to say or add.

[quote author=“mfmahamed”]I think every blog user is entitled to know exactly what the rules are on this blog that enables to inform him or her if they should partake in this forum.

As you know, we do have a section on “etiquette”. However, no list of rules will be able to cover all possible situations. In the opinion of people at CFI, that particular thread was outside of the purview of the forum. Thomas has explained their reasoning.

[quote author=“mfmahamed”]You stated you cannot speak for Thomas so I presume we should let Thomas substantiate why I have possibly been uncivil and irresponsible.

I imagine he will if he has anything constructive to add.

[quote author=“mfmahamed”]I disagree and I think an analogy will indicate why I am right on this matter.

Imagine if a serial rapist were to confess to a priest of his evil deeds and that he may have the urge to repeat his crime.

I guess I would feel that it is important that the priest break his vows of silence for the greater good of society and report the serial rapist to the police / detective. I presume from your feelings you would rather the priest keep up with etiquette and remain silent on his vows.

In your priest case, of course one might well justify the breaking of a vow in virtue of the greater good of stopping someone from committing a heinous crime. Nothing in this thread is even remotely analogous to that example, however, so the analogy is unpersuasive.

[quote author=“mfmahamed”]I certainly will be back but only if I have clarity concerning the rules of censorship on this blog. I would hate to spend time and energy in any forum that would limit the freedom of speech based merely on the likes and dislikes of a few individuals.

I would suggest you keep in mind that you are writing in public for a broad, general audience, and that not everyone on this forum will wish us all the best. We do have, as Thomas stated clearly, “cultural competitors”. This does not mean that anyone here was making any particular implied ethical judgment about your post; it is simple pragmatism.

I hope you will take Thomas’s suggestions to heart that you show good will and understand that CFI is a public organization. The main mission of the center is to discuss issues of fringe- and pseudoscience, alternative medicine, superstition, religion, secularism, humanism and how those impact society. Family sexual ethics is an important field, but not obviously central to that mission.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 07:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Man Masturbating Son - A CFI Issue?

Thomas asked me to briefly respond to this, and while our jobs often demand that we leave the running of the CFI Discussion forums to volunteers, I will sound off on this issue.

1. CFI’s online discussion forums are intended to be an online community of people who are excited by CFI’s issues, as outlined in the post on forum etiquette: “This Forum exists to help extend the CFI’s mission to a broader worldwide community. In order to best preserve freedom of debate and inquiry, all members are asked to observe certain norms of etiquette. “

2. They are moderated by selected volunteers, chosen because of their contributions both in terms of substance and volume and based on their interest in being a moderator. CFI trusts the judgement of its forum volunteers and supports their decisions. This is in keeping with the standard practices of many online discussion forums on a great variety of topics.

3. We are not apologetic about saying that not all topics fit within the mission of CFI’s online discussion forums. Again, from the etiquette posting: this forum and its threads are not an “invitation to poach a soapbox for personal matters.” What are the topics that generally fit well here? Again, to quote the etiquette posting: “In particular, the Center emphasizes investigation into areas not often seriously explored in the mainstream media: issues of fringe- and pseudoscience, alternative medicine, superstition, religion, secularism, humanism and other issues of science, society and politics. ” The pickle is that this is in itself very broad and a person could try to fit any subject into the forum’s purview. Thus, we leave the decisions as to what fits and what doesnt up to the moderators and people like Thomas Donnelly and Debbie Goddard.

4. Saying that a post on masturbating a son, for whatever reasons were given, does not fit this forum’s subject areas is not infringing on anyone’s rights to free speech. CFI’s discussion forums are not a place to talk about every possible topic, no matter how interesting or controversial, but is generally focused on topics pertaining to ” issues of fringe- and pseudoscience, alternative medicine, superstition, religion, secularism, humanism and other issues of science, society and politics.” The masturbation of a child just does not fit into one of these topics, except in the loosest sense. There are many online discussion forums where the ethical implications of a man’s maturbation of of his son would be better explored.

5. As the manager of many of the people just mentioned, I can’t allow Thomas or Debbie or other employees of CFI to spend their work hours debating sexual ethics with an earnest and well-meaning forum participant. This is not because the issues are too taboo, but because they have a lot of work to do that shouldnt take a back seat to these kind of online debates.

Regards, D.J. Grothe

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Posted: 20 March 2007 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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As a member of the forum but not a part of administration, I have to say I agree with them in this case. 

I have developed some excellent recipes for beans, soups, etc.  When requested I posted them on a family oriented forum.  However, posting them for discussion here on the CFI forum would be out of place.  I would expect the administration to delete them and tell me that they were outside the purview of this forum.

I might be willing to discuss the various points, negative and positive, of child-adult sexual contacts, either in terms of pedophilia or for whatever other reasons proposed, however, such a discussion would have to take place on a forum designed to consider these topics—not here.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Just my two cents, as a recent participant and certainly not part of any “old boys club,” but:

I am a bit concerned about all the talk of “censorship” and “free speech.” While I certainly hope CFI will continue to encourage inquiry into areas not freely discussed in the mainstream media, the bottom line is they are not a government agency but a private organization, and one devoted to lobbying and education in a particular area at that. As such, the organization is under no obligation to let anyone say anything. Rules against supression of free expression apply to governments with power to coerce and oppress, not to private organizations trying to spread their own message and agenda. Much as I loath Christian Fundamentalism, I would hardly make the argument that Christian fundamentalists are obliged by my right to free expression to allow me to say whatever I want on their Internet discussion forums. I’m grateful that CFI provides an opportunity for culturally marginalized points of view, like mine, to be expressed and debated, but they don’t owe me or anyone else anything. If the organization develops a political agenda or set of poilicies for this forum that I find objectionable, I’m free to leave and try to find another forum for my ideas elsewhere.

As for the specific issue, I’m also not convinced it fits in any meaningful sense into CFIs mission, so I don’t see it as unreasonable that is is not allowed. Again, as I stated before with respect to this discussion, I hope CFI will have to courage to allow controversial discussions despite fears about what the larger culture will say, because after all Inquiry is a core part of the organization’s mission. But they aren’t under any moral obligation to let anybody talk about whatever they want on their site.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 02:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I’m new here, but even I have to agree with the staff, admin, and mods.  I never saw the article, but it doesn’t sound like it fits here and to go and post the emails between the two of you, esp when you were asked not to, seems very wrong to me.  It seems very disrespectful.

It also seems to me such an action ends up causing more problems for yourself and an attempt to make the mod look bad, when in reality it actually makes you look bad.  :(  I’d listen to the mods and staff of CFI, go with their opinion, and just let it go.  That’s just my opinion though.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 05:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Just a quick thought.. and I am sure Doug (high priest, indeed), might expect this from me, but this topic - though I have not seen the full posting - does not seem to be the same as one on beans recipes OR pediphilia!  That is, DJ and Thomas made clear that these forums are for a wide range of discussion, and even pediphila would no doubt be a “CFI-friendly” topic if it were Catholic Priests doing the masturbating here :?

Still, two of the subject areas DJ mentions are ‘society’ and ‘humanism,’ and I do believe that sexuality is part of each.  Of course, when noted scientist James Prescott tried to get CFI (several times) to come out with a statement against circumcision, he recieved lenghly letters as to why THAT was not a CFI subject.  Could some at CFI have caught the puritan bug from Christianity? 

Anyway, if - for instance - this posting was about a teenager who was cripled in some way, his dad’s actions might indeed be humanistic.  I do not know that this was the case, and perhaps the post was as insidious as its being made out to be… But being as ‘CFI’ has a limited idea of society and humanism (as if they are subparts of the other “safe” topics to talk about re these forums), even if this post was as I suggest it might have been, I would not be surprised if some at CFI found it to be “periferial” or tangential to the CFI/CSH “mission.”

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Posted: 21 March 2007 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Hi Mckenzievmd,

I disagree with most of what you stated because it goes against how freedom of speech works and what we should guard against. However, to justify my opinion I have to provide you with a detailed response and I hope will bear with me until I provide you with the response.

[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]
As for the specific issue, I’m also not convinced it fits in any meaningful sense into CFIs mission, so I don’t see it as unreasonable that is is not allowed.

How is it possible for you to make such an informed decision without even a glance at my article? Surely you need to see my arguments in my article before you can come to this conclusion. And if you agree that what I am stating is reasonable then it is important that you fight the censorship on this blog because it goes against everything you stand for in being able to choose and see for yourself what may be right or wrong!

Fayzal

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Posted: 21 March 2007 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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How is it possible for you to make such an informed decision without even a glance at my article?

What I was referring to was the question of whether the original discussion b etween you and Chris was within the pervue of the board. Since the staff who created the board thnink it wasn’t, and since it seems pretty tangentially related to typical issues of humanism, atheism, scientific naturalism, etc, I tend to agree. Not that what I think matters since I’m just a participant here like yourself.

I look forward to your more detailed response to my comments on the issue of free speech.

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Johnathan Swift

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Posted: 21 March 2007 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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[quote author=“mfmahamed”]Hi Mckenzievmd,

I disagree with most of what you stated because it goes against how freedom of speech works and what we should guard against.

Fayzal

With all due respect, I’m curious as to your definition of “free speech” and how is it to work?

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http://www.drawingwithlight.smugmug.com

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Posted: 21 March 2007 09:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Censorship on CFI blog

[quote author=“dougsmith”]
In your priest case, of course one might well justify the breaking of a vow in virtue of the greater good of stopping someone from committing a heinous crime. Nothing in this thread is even remotely analogous to that example, however, so the analogy is unpersuasive..

The analogy was meant to indicate that etiquette should at times be broken and since we are in agreement with that all we have is a difference of when it should be broken. In my opinion defending the rights to the freedom of expression is equivalent to the priest in breaking his vows to stop the serial rapist.


[quote author=“dougsmith”]
I would suggest you keep in mind that you are writing in public for a broad, general audience, and that not everyone on this forum will wish us all the best. We do have, as Thomas stated clearly, “cultural competitors”.

Again this word cultural competitors in inverted commas gets bandied about with no clear reference or meaning. What do you mean by “cultural competitors” and why should that allow moderators to censor and restrict the freedom of speech. I also find a kind of conspiracy in your tone.

Finally as a secular humanist I pride myself to think that my answers or questions probed are based on science and reason. Why are you so defensive in protecting the secular humanist interest by means of subjugating or censoring any material. It seems that Americans including American secular humanist after 9/11 see cloak and dagger stuff everywhere and this is very concerning to many of us outside of the USA.

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Fayzal Mahamed,
Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Posted: 22 March 2007 02:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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DJ has emailed me a response to mfmahamed, which I append below:

———————————
mfmahamed:

CFI prizes discussion and debate but these forums are not a place to debate every conceivable topic, as I stated above, citing the forum’s etiquette’s posting. Please do not insist on a debate on the decision of the forum mods, or your posts will be deleted and you will be removed from the forum for persistently breaking the rules. Do not continue trying to hijack CFI’s discussion forums so you can explore the implications of your sexual activities with your son, regardless what interesting moral questions they raise even to secular humanists. Again, it has been decided that such a topic is outside the purview of the forums (I realize you disagree, and respect your right to disagree, but your rights to free speech have not been infringed as there are any number of places you can discuss such a topic—just not here. The same holds true to a public meeting CFI or any other organization holds: your rights to free speech would not be infringed even if you were not allowed to drone on about this topic at a meeting, despite your repeated attempts to. )

Any set of guidelines can not cover all specific circumstances, but nonetheless, forum moderators have concluded, and most members of this online community agree, that this topic falls outside the purview of CFI’s discussion forums. You are free to disagree, of course, but please do not persist in making posts on this topic and continuing to advance your argument about your son and your sexual actvities with him on this forum. Doing so will get you banned from the forums. I understand that you want to get the attention of other secular humanists (or even the general public) on this matter, but it has been decided that using the CFI discussion forums is not an acceptable venue for you to garner the attention you seek.

Thomas gave his reasons, they are generally supported by the forum rules, and by other mods and members of these discussion boards. Again, please don’t persist on going on about this topic. Such activity is not conducive to the goals of this online community, and will get you banned.

Regards, D.J. Grothe

———————————-

I have had to delete mfmahamed’s last message, as it was substantially the same as the former thread that CFI felt was outside the bounds of this forum.

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Posted: 22 March 2007 03:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Censorship on this CFI blog.

[quote author=“dougsmith”]
I have had to delete mfmahamed’s last message, as it was substantially the same as the former thread that CFI felt was outside the bounds of this forum.

Having spent an entire day and a sleepless night trying to ensure I have the perfect argument of why this CFI blog engages in censorship and restriction of the freedom of speech you have removed the posting stating that I am trying to “making posts on this topic and continuing to advance your argument about your son and your sexual actvities with him on this forum. ” This is a blatant lie! My reply was to consistently debate about censorship on this blog.

There was another community blog in South Africa (MWEB Blog) that I posted a similar article to the one that was removed here on the CFI blog.
However unlike the CFI blog I was not surprised by the removal because the Mweb Blog comprised of a vast majority of Christian religious folk. Nevertheless I did enlist the help of the Freedom of Expression Institute in trying to get Mweb to reinstate my posting on the blog. Below is a copy of the letter the Freedom of Expression Institute sent to MWEB.


22 March 2007

Chris Roper
Editor: MWEB
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Dear Mr Roper

Re: Fayzal Mahamed’s Blog

Mr Fayzal Mahamed contacted us regarding his blog posting entitled “Why I masturbate my son”, which MWEB had removed. We read the correspondence in the matter between him and MWEB. We also read his post which you had removed.

We were surprised at the justification that you gave for removing Mr Mahamed’s post. You point Mr Mahamed to your Terms and Conditions which, we assume, he had accepted before he was allowed to create a blog on your blogspace. However, we cannot find anything in the clauses that you emailed to Mr Mahamed that warrant or give you the right to remove a posting by a blogger.

You quote the condition that: “5.9 We reserve the right to ban, suspend, or terminate a user’s blog account should he/she be found contravening the conditions of use or found to be posting defamatory content.” However, you have not even attempted to show that there was an actual contravention of the “conditions of use”. And, of course, there is nothing in his post that you were able to point out as being defamatory. Who, we ask, is the defamed person in this instance? Further, allow us to point out to you that Mr Mahamed’s rights are protected by Section 16 of the Constitution and one cannot simply sign away one’s constitutional rights by accepting a company’s “Terms and Conditions”.

After quoting 5.9 of your Terms and Conditions, your email to Mr Mahamed persists with the defamation approach by quoting 5.10: “We reserve the right to delete or remove defamatory comments at the request of a user or group or users.” Again, allow me to remind you that Mr Mahamed’s post is not defamatory. It certainly is not defamatory of MWEB or any of the blog readers. It seems as if you are using the defamation argument either as a red herring or as a desperate attempt to justify denying Mr Mahamed his Section 16 rights. If this is the case, it would be a grave constitutional violation.

Indeed, it seems from your email and the email of Mr Simpson before you that the only reason that MWEB has for removing Mr Mahamed’s post is that a number of your readers have complained about the post and that the MWEB Blogspace is a “community site”. Essentially, you bowed to pressure from your readers and we find this disconcerting. Freedom of expression is the freedom we are granted by the constitution precisely so that we might have the right to say and articulate points of view that some (or even many) people might find offensive. It cannot be the right to express views that are conformist. Your response to Mr Mahamed is clearly stating that you are willing to violate constitutional rights in order to please a group of people, even if that deprives another person of her / his rights.

To summarise our position on this matter: 1) removing the post is a limitation on Mr Mahamed’s right to freedom of expression, and 2) this limitation is not reasonable and justifiable when set against the right, nor is it empowered by any law whatsoever. You may argue that Mr Mahamed signed and accepted your conditions of use. However, since one cannot contract out of fundamental or statutory rights, any contract such as this “conditions of service” is invalid to the extent of its unconstitutionality/illegality.

In your mail to Mr Mahamed, you omitted to refer to 5.11 of your conditions. In the event that you decide to do so, allow me to point out to you that the words “obscene” and “harmful” are simply too vague to withstand constitutional scrutiny. These words are also open to subjective views as to what is actually obscene or harmful. There is a general presumption in our law that vague words should, as far as possible, not be used in statute or in contract. This was the approach of the Constitutional Court in Case and Another v Minister of Security, 1996 (3) SA 617 (CC) when it held the words “indecent” and “obscene” in the Indecent or Obscene Photographic Matter Act of 1967 to be unconstitutional.

In case you believe that Mr Mahamed’s actions with his son constitute an illegal act and you are concerned that by allowing the post in question to reside in your blogspace you might be assisting in this perceived illegal act, please note that, generally speaking, crimes in our law are committed on commission/omission of the actual offence. Apart from the narrowly-defined crimes of publication/distribution in the Film and Publications Act or Equality Act, it generally is not a crime in our law to state or publish an account of the crime per se.

In consideration of the above, we urge you to reconsider your position on this matter and to reinstate Mr Mahamed’s post on his blog. Failing this, we would, in terms of our mandate to promote free expression and to fight against censorship, be bound to support Mr Mahamed in any action he might decide to take against you for your censorious action against him.
If you wish to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to call either of us.

Yours faithfully

_____________   _____________
Na’eem Jeenah   Simon Delaney
Director: Operations   Law Clinic Attorney

Cc: Ashlin Simpson - .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Fayzal Mahamed - .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Perhaps this letter will indicate why in South Africa we cherish our Freedom of Expression and why we are prepared to fight for it.

It is a pity that I am resident in South Africa because I would have certainly instituted a legal challenge to the CFI against censorship and restriction of my rights to freedom of speech.

I conclude by stating that I think the moderators and management of CFI are policing this CFI Blog like the Gestapo. When you wish to restrict views only to what suits the management of the CFI then you are living under a dictatorship even if the news that filters down is pleasing to you!

Fayzal Mahamed

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Fayzal Mahamed,
Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Posted: 22 March 2007 05:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Paul, I am a little confused, since you are directing your questions at me rather than DJ. It is his words you are quoting.

Just to be entirely clear on this matter, and since you are new to the forum, I am a volunteer moderator/admin. While I do the lion’s share of the work here, I am not an employee of CFI, and so am only tangentially in touch with their organization. However, on serious matters such as these, I do look for direct guidance from them. This is particularly the case during the last several days, since nothing quite similar has come up in the past.

When mfmahamed’s issue came up originally, I flagged it as something that CFI should take a look at. I did not have any particular opinion as to what should be done. I am told that this matter went very high within the organization, was looked at by legal and others, and felt that it did not belong on the forum. I have abided by their decision. I also do not believe that this constitutes censorship, as this sort of information can be freely discussed in other arenas. CFI owns this forum and has the legal and moral right to decide what sort of issues they feel are apt to be discussed here.

Continued discussion of this issue depends on tone and content. Discussion may be calm and reasoned, or it may become a series of repetitive harangues and/or disruptive of the board’s ongoing mission. Insofar as it becomes the latter, people involved are subject to banning.

I have frankly had quite enough of the inflammatory rhetoric on this and the other thread. I find it offensive and obnoxious, and for about the fifth time, I believe it is in fact disruptive. I believe that CFI is bending over backwards here not to ban the individuals involved. I will leave it at that.

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Doug

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