From author Anne R. Allen:
Ruth and I often get requests to censor our posts when a word or link or piece of news has offended somebody. We usually comply. We don’t want a minor distraction to interfere with our purpose—which is to share information about the writing business in a straightforward, lighthearted, encouraging way.
But the complaints are getting more frequent, and we’re beginning to feel a little battered.
I’m not talking about our helpful readers who point out typos, errors and broken links—we’re sincerely grateful for that kind of help, and we never pretend to be infallible. Keep it up. We really appreciate our watchdogs!
But I’m kind of scared by the number of permanently “offended” groups who think their needs trump all others. They seem to believe that one offended person—whether or not an offense has actually been committed—is more important than our creative freedom, or indeed, the creative freedom of the entire artistic community.
I fear we’re moving to a sort of neo-Darwinism: survival of the whiniest.
. . . .
Our complainers come from all points of the sociopolitical spectrum, and they contact us by email, Tweet, DM, G+, FB, etc. but they all have one thing in common: they advocate censorship.
. . . .
- Some people think we shouldn’t be allowed to give advice to those who want to publish traditionally.
- Others think we shouldn’t write about self-publishing.
- Some argue we shouldn’t talk about publishing at all, since not all writers care to be published.
. . . .
- We’ve also been asked to change the wording of posts or eliminate paragraphs because of some personal meaning or power the complainers have assigned to those words.
- I’ve been called “ageist” for saying we Boomers have more trouble dealing with technology than Millennials who were born into it. (This is where actual Boomers are totally ROTFL.)
- I got complaints when I compared gangs of online bullies to the Taliban—from people who believe that criticizing the Taliban is an insult to Muslims.
. . . .
It struck me recently that a lot of these complaints are examples of something called The Dunning-Kruger Effect. Dunning and Kruger are scientists at Cornell University who proved that people who are the most confident and vocal are generally the most ignorant and incompetent.
In other words, the loudest complaints usually come from the least-informed people.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being uninformed. We were all born uninformed. But some of us are more open to absorbing information as we move along in life.
Yes, of course we need guardians and watchdogs and whistleblowers. The Internet can feel like the wild west and people who work to keep the general discourse respectful are doing everybody a favor. But there are others who go way beyond this. They want everything censored to reflect their own world view…even if that view is not based on facts or infringes on the personal freedom of others.
. . . .
There are also communities created for the purpose of giving feedback. These communities, like Wattpad, Readwave, Readership and many others, allow writers to post work as they write it and get immediate feedback.
These communities seem good for newer writers who don’t have an in-person critique group, and I’ve recommended them.
But veteran publishing industry journalist Porter Anderson wrote a warning about these writing communities recently at Thought Catalog, and his piece struck a chord with me.
He asks “if it takes a village to write your book, is it your book?”
Some people take to these sites and enjoy using them for critique, and that’s great. For writers who are able to cherry-pick useful comments, and don’t feel forced to make changes by the crowd (or the most vocal members of the crowd), it’s an inexpensive way to learn to write, and I still endorse them.
But I fear all this has created a sense of entitlement in the general public, who now think they have the right to change and mold the work of professional artists to their own tastes and world view.
And of course the Dunning-Kruger Effect people are the most likely to feel that entitlement.
Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog and thanks to Suzie for the tip.