how to handle peripheral topics (101)

Mon, 27 Mar 89 20:44:47 EST

Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 772. Monday, 27 Mar 1989.

(1) Date: Sun, 26 Mar 89 20:38 EDT (45 lines)
From: Joe Giampapa <GIAMPAPA@brandeis.bitnet>
Subject: on "censorship"

(2) Date: 27 March 1989 (36 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <>
Subject: Giampapa's suggestion

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sun, 26 Mar 89 20:38 EDT
From: Joe Giampapa <GIAMPAPA@brandeis.bitnet>
Subject: on "censorship"

I am amazed and pleased with the dialogues which have resulted from my
"Stanford posting". The posting and the joke are insignificant, and perhaps
should never have been posted to HUMANIST in the first place -- given the
appropriateness constraint. Rather than add to the censorship-noncensorhip
debate, I would like to suggest an alternate tack.

Unlike a journal, HUMANIST is a dynamic medium of information exchange.
Nobody has explicitly acknowledged that part of this information is in "meeting"
people of like-minded interests. Whether a HUMANIST wants to submit related,
but "inappropriate" material is not the question to me. It is more the issue
of *FINDING* that person. If the editor kindly asks me to "step outside the
room" to further that conversation, I will gladly comply. I do not want the
editor to prevent me from entering the room because I have the "wrong" question.
The "Stanford posting" was passed to me from a group devoted to discussing such
an issue. However, the most interesting and valuable response to it has been
from the group which was not supposed to have such concerns.

The policy I propose is that the editor will not prohibit a HUMANIST from
posting anything. However, if the material is not "appropriate-enough" to
justify expending HUMANIST resources, then the editor shall not post the item,
but instead, distribute a notice of its attempted posting, the subject matter,
and address of the author. The assumptions are that the contributor will
exercise judgment in what is submitted, that the process of "compromise
posting" is conducted with fairness to the contributor, and (the pervasive)
HUMANIST peer pressure.

On the issue of individual access to the rest of the group: I would like
to shift emphasis from Amsler's remark that "the editor creates the list" to
"the contributors and the editor create the list". I do not want any
authority to inhibit my access to other HUMANISTs. Groups outside of HUMANIST
should be screened access -- perhaps by the same policy as suggested above.
If an honest try at this does not succeed, then I may reconsider my opinion.
Until then, my vote is on no further restriction.

One final remark. I admire Willard for his contributions and thoughtfulness
as editor. None of my comments -- in private or public -- should be
interpreted as dissatisfaction with his efforts.

-Joe Giampapa
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 27 March 1989
From: Willard McCarty <>
Subject: Giampapa's suggestion

Joe Giampapa's suggestion is quite close to something already recognized
in the Guide to Humanist -- that public discussions in some cases should
shift to private conversations. I agree that we have room for
announcements of topics to be taken up somewhere else, but I think we
have to consider exactly how peripheral discussions would be initiated,
and what might happen as a result.

If a topic seems peripheral or irrelevant to Humanist, then I would want
the person responsible for raising it to send in a very brief
announcement giving the information Giampapa suggests. Because of the
way that many mailers work, however, replies to such a posting are very
likely to be returned to Humanist rather than to the person originating
the message. Were this to happen, as I think it would in a significant
number of cases, then I would have the choice either of forwarding the
message to the originator or of deleting it. I fear that the amount of
attention Humanist already requires is great enough that I could not be
counted on to do the former.

Consider, please, that a reply to such an announcement might arrive
several days after the original posting. I would then have to recognize
it as a reply to the posting rather than an independent contribution,
search for and find the original, discover the originating address, and
forward the message.

Once again, we seem to be dealing with the limitations of ListServ, or
less prejudicially, with its characteristics. I have received many good
ideas from fellow Humanists that have fallen on precisely these rocks.
Suggestions for improving Humanist are always welcome, but if they
involve more work for me, they haven't got much of a chance, alas.

Willard McCarty