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Freedom of Expression

James P. H. Fuller jim at crom2.rn.com
Sat Nov 30 11:52:41 EST 1991

gchacko at magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu (George W Chacko) writes:

> There is something I don't quite understand. Are bionet.molbio.evolution
> and bionet.general moderated or not?
> 1- Bionet.m.evolution -> bionet.molbio.evolution 000378 00254 y
> 2- Bionet.general     -> bionet.general 002026 01747 y
> The 'y' trailing these lines indicate that the group is open and not
> moderated. The news admin here tells me that these files are kept
> up to date. So what's happening here? 

     The confusion arises from the fact that each of the Bionet newsgroups
exchanges messages with a parallel mailing list (bionet.general with the
BIONEWS list and bionet.molbio.evolution with MOLECULAR-EVOLUTION) because
a large number of readers (e.g. all of BITNET) can't receive Usenet or
Usenet-like distributions such as Bionet.  And in the nature of things a
mailing list inevitably has an owner/moderator -- though the o/m can choose
to moderate the list with a heavy or light hand.  Thus we can indeed post
anything we wish to bionet.general, being restrained only by courtesy and
consideration of the group's charter and purpose, but there's no guarantee
that our postings must necessarily be reflected through into the BIONEWS
list.  And I believe the mailing lists still have a considerably larger
readership than the equivalent newsgroups.

     Having said that, I would also note that the large amount of effort
that Dave Kristofferson has put into getting Bionet off the ground and
keeping it aloft in spite of certain lead balloons connected to the sys-
tem puts him in a special position, to my mind anyway.  I would regard a
word from Dave concerning what is and isn't appropriate in any of the
Bionet groups/lists, moderated or not, as considerably more authoritative
than a similar word from an ordinary user.  

     Regarding censorship, I point out to anyone with an interest in the
question that there is an extensive apparatus of censorship, self- and
otherwise, in place in most areas of our public life, and that this ap-
paratus is *absolutely required* in order to keep the noise of human life
from drowning out the frail little thing we (by courtesy) call the signal.
Without the private and everyday form of censorship that is also known as
peer pressure and self-restraint we would all be yelling at the tops of
our voices all the time and communication would cease.  Today vast num-
bers of dimwits yell words like "censorship" and "racism" at the drop of
a hat.  This has the effect of crying wolf: it devalues the warning to
the point that the rest of us simply tune it out.  Censorship, ho hum;
racism, ho hum -- after hearing such words n thousands of times they
drift down to the same level of importance as bald tires and cold feet.
Racism is refusing to sell a house in a white neighborhood to a black
family, not feeling vaguely displeased at the out-of-Africa hypothesis.
Censorship is government troops taking over a newspaper office, not
person A telling person B that B is being pointlessly obnoxious and
ought to shut up.
                                                   -- jf

| James P. H. Fuller, Research Coordinator      Soil Biology Laboratory |
|                                               Institute of Ecology    |
| work: fuller at athena.cs.uga.edu                University of Georgia   |
| home: <jim,root>@crom2.rn.com                 Athens, GA U.S.A.       |

P.S. Flames will reach me faster at my home address.

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