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For Cryin’ Out Loud: Free Expression on GateWorld

Friday - February 26, 2010
Category: OPINION | Tags:

For Cryin' Out Loud - Jack ("Window of Opportunity") Our brand new editor’s column starts out with an important topic, which doesn’t seem to be winning us many friends lately.  As the saying goes: You can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but if you try to please all of the people at any time you’ll make everyone super-pissed. I think that was Abraham Lincoln.

So does GateWorld allow freedom of expression, or do we censor opinions that don’t agree with the Stargate party line? If you dislike something (say, Stargate Universe), will GateWorld’s moderators let you have your say?

On the flip side of that, why does GateWorld allow so much hate and criticism of the new Stargate show? Some days it seems like you can’t go two clicks without running into the same old names posting the same diatribes against SGU. Particularly since the show’s premiere in October, we get a constant stream of flack from both sides: “You’re censoring me!” and “You shouldn’t allow this!”

What’s a guy to do?

Both here on the news comment threads and at GateWorld Forum — which I’m proud to say is now nearly a decade old — our decisions about what we allow boil down to two guiding principles, which are elaborated in the posting rules:

1) We want to be a place where free expression wins the day, where fans of all stripes and points of view can share their opinions and have meaningful conversations.

2) We want to be a place where respect wins the day, friendly and fun to visit, where members of the community are held to the most basic standards of decency and dignity.

Mutually exclusive goals? Some days it feels like it.  Is it actually possible for critics, many of them angry and disappointed, to express their opinions in a respectful way?  Is it possible for devotees to read tactful criticism and not take offense?  Some days I want to tell those who think that we allow too much to try moderating GateWorld for 48 hours under the conditions of #1. Other days I want those who seem to have nothing to say apart from their bitter condemnation of SGU to show their appreciation for #1 by trying #2 on for size.

In my opinion, GateWorld’s writers, editors, and moderators have been working hard to provide a moderating voice in a Stargate fandom “war” that is quickly putting all past scuffles to shame. We have vocally supported the show, publishing news and publicity and talking on the weekly podcast about how the writers seem to be giving us just we want: a show more focused on character drama than action, with more extended story arcs and a fresh take on storytelling in the Stargate universe. From the first frame, I think SGU has been delivering.

On the other hand, I think those who have criticized certain aspects of the series have a point. So we’ve also criticized aspects of various episodes, though we’ve tried to be thoughtful and respectful in doing it. But more than any specific criticisms with which I might agree (too much use of the stones) or disagree (I think “shakey cam” is dynamic and not overdone), viewers have a right to be heard. If they can comment on the show tactfully and with respect for its cast and creators, and for those fans who do like it, they should be able to do so. Even if they do it a lot.

Unfortunately, the tactful and respectful criticism has been too rare for my tastes. Words like “crap” and “stupid” and “idiot” aren’t respectful to anyone, and we’ll continue to delete posts where readers insist on voicing their discontent through hate and insult. Call it “censorship” if you like, but I don’t come over to your house for dinner and rant about how the pot roast tastes like crap and that your kids are ugly.  There’s a time and a place for criticism — but, more importantly, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it.

So, my advice for those who are complaining about censorship and who want to get their voice heard: Do it with class. Think it through. Be specific, and be constructive. Self-edit. If you are moderated, try and figure out why so that you can improve your posting habits.  If you’re trying to get your comment noticed by the producers, think about the fact that they really do want to know what people think of their work … but if the critique is couched in insults and malcontent, they won’t hear anything you have to say.

We don’t want to censor anyone. And we don’t want to continue to crumble into a place known only for hatred and bile. And so we try to maintain the balance. And most days, no one seems happy with the result. So, tell me — what would you do differently?


Q&A

I really enjoy the podcasts. Please keep up the great work. I’d really like to hear a podcast on the comparison of Babylon 5 vs. Stargate in general.” (Eagle1)

I would love to do a Stargate vs. Babylon 5 show, but first I have to convince David to watch it!  If you listened to this week’s show, you’ll know that I bring up B5 just about every time we talk about story arcs or religion in sci-fi.  He’s rather selective and doesn’t seem to like watching 10 shows at the same time, like me … so I guess you need to get on his case, too!

“I would like to know your take on the issue of the SG-1 / SGA movies. Sources say that MGM is out of money or running out of money, yet we get such deep thought provoking fair as Hot Tub Time Machine …” (OCD4theSGC)

Any time MGM releases a film I take it as a good sign and pray for its success.  The studio is down to something like one or two releases per year, which I take to be just this side of out-of-business.  They need hits other than Bond, Stargate, and (sometimes) Rocky.  Otherwise the studio has to live off its archives, which probably just won’t work.

What is going on with the Stargate Movies? I know about all the financial trouble … but give us some more details on when Brad Wright thinks they will start filming?” (Jimmy007)

Obviously everyone is eager (and growing frustrated) about the next Stargate movies.  Will they happen?  Won’t they happen?  MGM is on the auction block at the moment, so I don’t think anyone knows for sure.  Ask the new owners.  There’s no point in The Powers That Be at Stargate saying anything more right now, because there is nothing definitive to say.  They’d like to make the movies, but need money from MGM to do it.

The movies aren’t dead, gang.  The more time that passes, perhaps the longer the odds get.  But the people with the purse strings have to say “Yes” or “No” before anything else happens.

How do you view SGU’s treatment by Syfy? Since it’s been pushed to April, does that mean Syfy has little to no faith in it?” (Mrja84)

I think the network has done well by the show.  The 4-month break in the middle of the season has nothing to do with Stargate and everything to do with Syfy’s desire to air original programming all year long.  It’s a strategy they’ve used with Stargate just about every year, with a few exceptions (including the last two years of Atlantis).

Unfortunately, while it may be better for the network to not have to show reruns of Sharktopus and Mansquito, I don’t think it’s better for the show.  SGU is too arc-driven for that long of a break to be anything but harmful.  MGM and Syfy spent a lot of money and effort getting viewers to tune in for the October premiere, and now they’ll have to do it all over again for April.  ABC learned a long time ago that when they split up a season of LOST, they can’t get nearly as many viewers to come back. (Same with FOX and 24.)  There is definite wisdom in running the season all the way through and then making us wait six to eight months for the next run.

With SGU, there’s also the added factors that 1) it’s a brand new show, so viewers are deciding whether to follow it; and 2) it’s controversial with established Stargate fans because it’s such a departure.  Many fans gave it 10 episodes, but may not come back for #11 — which we hear is when things really get good.  If there was a small (or no) break between “Justice” and “Space,” I suspect audience retention would be higher.

Do you see SGU using any previous elements of Stargate in future episodes? Technology may be the easiest, but would characters/cultures likely appear that are not apart of the previous main characters?” (Mrja84)

I would just about guarantee it.  The show’s writers love to bring in elements from the show’s established mythology, which is one of the reasons we love it so much.  Take the Ancient chair interface, for example.  We also know already that a certain group of baddies from SG-1 will turn up before the season is out …

Realistically, how deep in the hole do you think CME is?” (Mrja84)

From the statement the video game studio released this week:  Deep enough to declare bankruptcy, but not deep enough that everyone at CME is convinced they should have.

“What happened to the Friday 5! I really miss those.” (Emily)

That series was a lot of fun to do but a lot of work.  Add to that a cross-country move, a wedding, an international move, and then the launch of SGU, and I decided to limit it to a summer series.  Time permitting, it may return next summer.

Last but not least, we received the following alternate title suggestions for this weekly column:

“Windows of Opportunity” (David Bloch)
“Indeed!” (Cindy Billings, Brett)
“I Was Told There’d Be Cake” (Brett)

Thanks, everyone!  I think we’ll stick with “For Cryin’ Out Loud,” at least for the time being.  It captures the way I feel just about every Friday, after spending a week of moderating comments.

We got lots of comments and e-mails with topic ideas and questions, so if yours didn’t show up this week, we might work it in next Friday!  In the meantime, your questions and comments about this week’s column are always welcome.  See you in the thread below — but please, keep it nice!




ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Darren created GateWorld in 1999, and today is the owner and managing editor. He lives in the Seattle area with his wife and three children. (More)


COMMENTS (175):Rules | Report Comment | Trackback

  • The root of problem isn’t the Gateworld mods, it’s the thought Nazi who wants to control how fan should feel and what they should say.

  • At this point, I’d be happy for ANY expression on GateWorld. Signed up, made a hello post (and no, not a flaming heap of insults entry post) and my access at the forum has been squelched. I keep getting told to contact the mods. Fair enough. Just try to do that when your access to the forum has been zapped. So at this point, ANY expression would be nice :)

  • Darren

    Do contact the mods — you can e-mail webmaster -at- gateworld.net and I will forward it on. On rare occasion they moderate new accounts preemptively when the e-mail address, linked Web site, etc. smells of spam. Not saying yours did, but it does happen on occasion.

  • @Pot
    Thats a bit harsh.

    I like SGU, but I am happy to hear criticism of the show. However when every single newspost, has 4 or 5 people verbally abusing SGU the whole time it gets ridiculous.

    Hell The article about Stargate Worlds being delayed was rife with it. Why do people feel the need to tell the world over and over again that a show is s***. They aren’t adding to the debate, they are Trolls, it’s like going onto a Mac forum and going.
    PC’S RULE MACS SUCK!
    or going onto a Windows forum and going.
    Microsucks is a load of crap!

    All you do is make people angry, and frankly I am sick of people mindlessly insulting a show. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
    Also this isn’t a country, you aren’t stuck here, you can easily leave this site if you want to. Don’t like the Mods, leave find a site that supports your views.

  • Everyone should be able to post something without writing ugly and vulgar words, it shows a lack of class, character, and knowledge. I personally have enjoyed watching every episode of all of the Stargate franchises. If I had to rank them, they would be in the following order: (1)Stargate Atlantis; (2)Stargate SG-1;(3)Stargate Ark of Truth & Continum; (4)Stargate Universe. We all should not agree about everything that comes on TV, but we all should be able to post comments without being rude to others.
    Thank You for all the stargate shows!

  • You will always encounter heated discussion/debate when you have a myriad of different opinions and more so when you get emotions thrown into the mix. Not everyone expresses themselves the same way and sometimes in hind sight some posts could be worded better, but overall I don’t understand the fuss the SGU criticism has generated. Most of the criticism has been in threads where posters have been asked their opinion, or discussions on the Home Page such as the Brian Smith one. There are many places that fans of the show can go and discuss what they like about the show to their hearts content,and where posters who dislike the show rarely frequent.
    But even if your opinion of SGU has been asked as soon as it becomes too critical or gets a little heated the thread gets closed. Downright rudeness should be curtailed and any personal insults, but I don’t see why they should be limited in what they are allowed to say or how many times they say it. Is there a limit to what you are allowed to dislike about the show. Is it only permitted to criticise aspects of the show
    But what if you like nothing about the show. I think most posters say their piece and move on and only topics such as the recent Brian Smith one draw them back into SGU related topics. Most of these fans are either fans of SGA/SG1 or both and are not just stopping by GW because they have nothing better to do then criticise a show just for the sake of it. Maybe SGU gets so much criticism because it deserves it. Its not just fans who have criticised this show. Its from a wide range of critics. The ratings have only been marginally better than SGA, DVD sales are not good, but yet anyone who criticises the show are labeled haters and treated as if they have no reason to feel how they do.
    When did fans ask for a new show or for everything that they loved about the franchise to be taken out of it. When did they ask for the show they loved to be cancelled, so how can it be said that fans are getting what they asked for. Fans asked for more character development for the existing show and the characters they loved. They asked for some decent writing for all the existing cast and possibly some new talent allowed into the writing room, so why should they be happpy with what was delivered when it had nothing to do with what they asked for!
    But the ptb should be able to deal with the level of criticism and stop lashing back at fans. You can’t force anyone to like something they don’t. If SGU is done well, irrespective of what direction the ptb have taken the franchise it will get an audience. It will thrive on its own merits no matter how far removed they are from the original premise. Time will tell whether SGU will retain a big enough audience who enjoys this new style but the ptb cannot keep trying to silence or get upset with fans who are not interested in this new Stargate.

  • As far as censorship goes on this site I have noticed a few posts that I agree with have suddenly vanished but over all I have found the site to be more or less fair. Those who don’t like SGU have been given more than their fair share of chances to state the reasons why they don’t like the show. As have those who do. The back and forth between the two however has not always been very mature or respectable on either side. This does not apply to all and I will refrain from naming names but this problem runs from TPTB and the SGU supporters down to the SGUSucks.com people all of whom refuse to show any respect for those with differing opinions.

    Personally I strongly dislike SGU. I gave it the 3 part pilot to hook me (both SG1 and Atlantis won me over with their 2 part pilots) but SGU did anything but. I have since followed SGU on this site as well as caught bits and pieces on TV and have found absolutely nothing apart from possibly the episode Time to take my interest. But considering my strong dislike, bordering on all out hatred of the characters and already knowing they all survive the episode my interest in actually watching it is close to zero.

    People are free to think what they will about SGU but the petty attacks on both sides are really quiet pathetic. The sad thing about it is that it isn’t just limited to the fan base but TPTB and the actors (like Smith in that recent interview or by extention his mum when she entered the fray) are throwing themselves into this mess, defending the show without showing much (if any) respect to the fans. Which in turn leads to the fans not showing much if any respect back.

  • @canonfodder

    There are so many holes in the logic of your comment, namely:

    1. It is not same people telling over and over again, it is many people expressing similar opinions.

    2. People are free to express their opinion as long as they are not attacking anyone.

    3. This is not like PC vs MACs at all, this is like XP vs Vista, two different product from the same company with the same root. When microsoft released Vista, it was exactly like when Syfy released SGU. There was massive uproar by many of the windows users. All expressing simialr opinions that it sucks. (then MS quickly fixed their problems and released Windows 7).

    4. Just because you feel angry that doesn’t give you more rights than others.

    5. On this site, there are far more “mindless bashing” to THE PEOPLE who express why they don’t like the show, than actual mindless bashing of THE SHOW itself.

    6. The right way to counter negative opinions is to express that you like the show and why you like it, not tell others to shut up and go else where.

    7. A lot of people don’t like SGU, this is the current reality. If you hate the currently reality that is your problem, not ours, Again, it doesn’t automatically give you any extra rights.

    8. Your words can apply to yourself: “If you don’t like it, don’t read it.”, “find a site that supports your views”.

    All you said was basically “I don’t like what you are saying, shut up and go away”, and this is exactly what I was talking about, thought Nazi controlling what others should feel and should do.

  • I like the moderation. I do believe in freedom of speech but that does not excuse rudeness or verbal cruelty.

    I only came back to the forums at GateWorld a few years ago because I was going to a Stargate Convention by myself and had hoped to find some Con vets to get some info.

    A long time ago I was a GateWorld forum member. I ended up leaving because of repeated verbal attacks. The straw that broke the camels back was when I was asked who my favorite character was. My reply was not even a sentence, just two words, a first and last name. I was told off by more than one person. After that I left.

    Not everyone is going to share the same opinion. And there is nothing wrong with debating about it. What is wrong is attacking posters, being rude. No system is ever going to be perfect. The moderators are volunteers and I thank them for what they do. If you do get moderated and don’t agree, contact the moderator directly (not in an open forum).

    Slam

    PS – Good article Darren.

  • “Fair and Balanced”

    Where did i hear that before?

    Oh right…

    Also the need to respond to accusations of censorship and denial of freedom of expression is proof enough that something is very wrong on this site.

    Seriously, you had the need to write a column about freedom of expression, so I’m guessing its not just one or two trolls whining but enough people to warrant an official response.

    Also, you know, the more you say you are “fair and balanced” the less it’s true.

  • If all one wants is praise about this new show then just write a blog and don’t allow any comments at all. If all you want to read mirrors your opinion then you can just read your own writings. Just wait until SGU starts up again. The diatribe will dominate once again.

  • I am going to try and keep this has civil as I can.

    GW censors, cannot get any more to the point. Why? Negative posts about SGU would be removed in a heartbeat. Then when members start bashing SGA and SG-1 those posts don’t get removed. Obviously since I am far from the only person who sees this, there is a problem.

    I think it is interesting that GW’s new vision statement came into play right before SGU was released. It seems BW and the producers asked Darren to cut things down or they would pull their endorsement or whatever. I hate to believe that but it really feels like that is the case. One of the mods on the forum went the extra step to even insult another member.

    I was visiting SGUsucks.com. They said that the SyFy forums less censor than GW. That is a shocker since SyFy is a network forum you would think there is more censoring.

    I’m sorry, but I only post on GW to talk to some of the members there who are still interesting to talk to. Sadly have to take the censorship and the bitter mods in the process. Not sure how much longer I can take.

  • Are you guys getting pressure from people in charge of universe and family members of actors to censor negative comments? Has there been a spoken or unspoken threat of discontinuing your insider access if you don’t censor? These are honest questions and many people are asking them. Some now see gateworld as less of a site for all fans and viewpoints and more of a sterilized mouthpiece for the show.

  • @adamtn
    It would have been more wrong if Gateworld did not responded at all to the critisism.

    My opinion is that Gateworld is a fansite, not a federal agency. They don’t have to be fair and balanced if they don’t want to. And yet, I believe GW is the most neutral place about all Stargate. And that’s a big compliment to the website

  • @tanith
    you have asked that we post criticisms in places that make seance.
    this implies that you want us to talk to the dead.
    SGu isnt there yet but it is only a matter of time.

  • @Darren: Just to clarify, “I don’t come over to your house for dinner and rant about how the pot roast tastes like crap and that your kids are ugly. There’s a time and a place for criticism”

    Are you referring to Comments left by posters to your Articles and Editorials, or are you referring to poster comments about SGU?

    I know it’s a bad example about people coming over for dinner, and complaining about the pot roast. But then, I don’t give out open invitations to every Dick, Tom and Harry to walk in and eat my Pot Roast. The friends I invite already knows how bad a cook I am, and how ugly my kids are, and respectfully stay away. A Blog or a website like Gateworld is by default, Open House. A few Pro SGU people seem to have got a free pass to say whatever they want, but as soon as they were called to task, the posters who objected were called the rabble rousers, and their posts got moderated, edited for content or downright deleted. If your site has affiliations, openly state it and get it out of the way. We understand it. If it is a part of a revenue gathering infrastructure, sure we understand, ’cause everyone desires making a monetary profit. But to come off as an “Unbiased Third Party Reviewer” gets stretched quite thin when the sentiments are obvious.

    To begin with, most of us never had a Beef (pun intended) with Gateworld, but since it is evident that Gateworld had picked a side (and to go on with your Pot Roast analogy), We now have a bone to pick. Again, to most of us, Gateworld WAS the quintessential gathering place to discuss topics relating to Stargate. Once the gags, and the duct tape came out, we saw the site in a whole new different light. Wordsmiths more eloquent than I, have put forward a solid case why we don’t like SGU. So I don’t need to beat that dead horse. Being an operator of fan site also calls for objectivity. If not, these same people come off as “sell outs” losing all credibility.

    Hopefully I have stated my case, without cause for moderation.

  • Darren

    adamtm, you are blowing smoke. Tell me how you would moderate this site under these conditions, while upholding both principles outlined above?

    Or would you sacrifice one?

    ScoobyDoo: “Negative posts about SGU would be removed in a heartbeat.” Then why on earth are so many people complaining to me about the SGU hate that is posted here every day? You may not like the level of moderation we’ve chosen for our site, but you can’t tell me that we bar negative comments about SGU. Anyone with eyes sees that it ain’t so.

    You’ve seen posts removed. You’ve had posts removed. Granted. Have you considered the possibility that they weren’t removed because they were critical of SGU, but because you violated a clearly stated rule about tact and respect?

    US06154: Thanks for the comments — I appreciate your post. I’m referring generally to GW Forum and more specifically to the comment threads on GW news items (and editorials, like this one).

    Yes, the family dinner analogy can be stretched too thin. You’re right that a public Web site like ours has an “open door.” The point is not that people don’t have a right to say anything, but that they have a duty to treat the home owner and the cook with respect when they say it. “Seems like it needs more salt” is a more welcome criticism than “Yech, this is godawful.”

    From where I sit, GateWorld hasn’t had to pick a side. We’ve refused to pick a side, and both sides are now at us for not doing things their way. We either moderate way too much, or not nearly enough.

  • I think GW does a fine job of moderating.

    I understand not liking SGU, I really do. I absolutely hated SGA and can rarely find anything good to say about it. So y’know what I do? Nothing. I don’t need to insult SGA, or its cast, or its fans. I don’t crack jokes about it being “dead.” I don’t go into a thread about a video-game company going bankrupt and say things like (to borrow a few words from Darren) “I’m so glad they cancelled that crap SGA. SGU is loads better than that stupid show!” It’s unnecessary and it’s rude and it creates a hostile environment. Mind you, not all the fans opposed to SGU are so tactless, many have expressed themselves eloquently and politely, and I’ve yet to see them being modded.

    The only mistake I think has been made by GW/the mods is to not allow a critique and contemplation thread for SGU when both SG1 and SGA have them. I know it was done in the attempt to not create fancamps (and considering the vitriol spewed by some fans I can even understand it), but it does sort of give off the vibe that SGU is being held to different standards than the other shows.

    At the end of the day, the mods are just trying to make GW a place where all fans can feel welcome. I don’t envy them the job.

  • Darren, nobody here expected you to come out and say Gateworld isn’t fair, of course that is what you’re going to say.

    But come on, everyone knows the so called “tact and respect” bar for the Gateworld forum is at least 10x higher than the news article comment section.

    The same posts that would appear on the Syfy forum, would never see the light of day on Gateworld forum, it has been this way for months.

    I am sure about this because I posted the same post on Gateworld and Syfy, the ones on Syfy forum showed up but the ones I posted on Gateworld never saw the light of day. Since then I never bothered to check the forums again, and I’ve been hearing similar feed backs from those who tried to post on the GW forum.

  • @tanith: sooo… to get this clear. you want free speech, as long as people don’t post an opinion that differs from yours? Are you sure you understand the meaning of the term?

  • @ashizuri:

    When you say “I’ve yet to see them being modded.”

    That’s simply because by design you can’t see the ones being modded.

    It was common sense never to post anything against SGU on the GW forums or you’d never see them approved.

    Unless of course your post count is 1000+ and is already know the mods or something.

  • Darren, I would not moderate at all.
    I am strictly against any and all moderation on a closed internet forum (one that is not accessible by Guest or Anonymous accounts and uses an image verification system like captcha to prevent spam.)

    If posters go at each others throat, let them, its not your business, you just provide the platform to conduct the discussion. I even accept insults against people, not to mention a SHOW which is an impersonal entity with no feelings.

    Having worked in the industry i can say, if you get all worked up because someone insulted your work, grow a thicker skin.
    If i would run amok every time someone criticizes my work, i would barely have time to live.

    I am not interested in respect that has not been earned, especially if it is in the way of free speech and freedom of expression.
    Yes i am a neo-libertarian if it comes to freedom of speech.

    Also to make this clear, i am against moderation that will delete posts. I am absolutely fine moving, splitting and merging.
    You could even make a sub-forum called “RAGE” where you put all the posts that might be not to your liking.

    That you are going with the deleting, shows that you are not interested in freedom of expression, you are only interested in preserving the image of the site so you can keep the endorsement of TPTB.

  • i have a feeling gateworld will be up for sale soon or canceled soon also. so whats the point?

  • @ Pot:
    What I meant to say, and perhaps didn’t clearly express, was that not all negative comments are being modded, as I myself have made negative comments regarding SGU and they’ve been posted, and I can go into any thread in the SGU subsection and find negative comments. Respectfully expressed negativity is making it through the mods just fine.



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