Thursday, 10 November 2005


Ever since, at the age of eight, I was one of the finalists in the contest for the annual Lucy Beamish Prize for Good Behaviour in Class, I have striven (strived?) to Do the Right Thing. In fact, I am known for it; people often point to me and say, “Now there goes a man who always strives to Do the Right Thing”.
So I was mortified* to realise that when I write on the internet I fall a long way short of the highest ethical standards; clearly, nowadays the Lucy Beamish award panel wouldn’t even allow me to be nominated.
I have recently come across several proposals for a Code of Ethics which bloggers are recommended to observe; an example is at Apart from being rather po-faced, they all seem to me to confuse ethics with etiquette or advice on literary style, but whichever way you look at it I have been ignoring most of their recommendations with gusto. Worse, if taken to task for this my attitude would be one of defiance rather than exculpation.

“Ethical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect.”
What, all of them? Including those who merit total contempt? Most celebrities, say, or Bush, or Blair?

“Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.”
I have never attempted the former injunction and consistently flout the latter.

“Always make your meaning clear and do not write confusingly.”
Well, there’s no pleasure in writing if you follow these guidelines. A bit of obfuscation is fun.

“Write only what you believe to be true.”
This would rule out anything in the nature of satire or irony.

“Never add to or amend items you have already published.”
Why ever not?

“Never plagiarise. Always give full credit to your sources”
Wicked to plagiarise if you make money out of it, I suppose. But otherwise, what’s the harm? If I don’t credit J. K. Galbraith with some bon mot that I have lifted from his writings, does it diminish his reputation?

“If you allow comments, reply to them courteously. Never ban a person, or delete a comment from your blog, merely because you disagree with the person, or feel the comment is too aggressive.”
This is fatuous; most comments do not call for a response and some deserve to be deleted. If you write a letter to a newspaper, can you complain if the editor doesn’t publish it or reply to it? At least if you comment on a blog your remarks, however pointless, silly or perverse, will have a brief currency before the author sees them and consigns them to oblivion. Anyway, Other Men's Flowers is not a public space, it’s mine. Others are permitted ex gratia to contribute but I’ll ban or delete whomsoever I damn well choose.

Explain your weblog’s mission.”
No need, mine is obvious: to give wide currency to secondhand jokes, hoary anecdotes and scurrilous rumours, and to attack with cheap jibes the credulous, the pretentious, the bigoted, the humourless and other undesirables. And anyone else I don’t much like.

“Expose unethical practices of other bloggers.”
Do us a favour, guv’nor, I ain’t no grass.

I suppose one should try to observe an ethical code if one aims to have one’s blog esteemed for its fairness, integrity and objectivity; this has never been my ambition.
The hell with Lucy Beamish.

However, although I am quite happy to evoke any amount of obloquy, prison sentences and heavy fines are another matter and I try to keep more or less on the right side of the law. There are some interesting notes on legal issues for bloggers
HERE, though these relate to US law; no doubt there are some more relevant to ours to be found elsewhere.

*I see that one definition of mortified is to become necrotic or gangrenous: this is not what I mean here.


~dawnne~ said...

sadly, the folks at presume that all blogs are journalistic in nature. as that is obviously not true, the freedom of your wholehearted, wanton abandon in posting whatever comes to mind is in no way jeopardized -- not that you even needed me to point that out, of course.

i am glad that you are not mortified in the necrotic sense.

Tony said...

Thanks for your comment, Dawnne: the first time I ever heard from North Dakota.

Tony said...

Sorry, I meant South.