Wednesday, September 3, 2014

National Catholic Reporter Responds to Jerry Slevin's Request for Information about His Recent Censorship at NCR Site

Jerry Slevin has now received an email from Dennis Coday, National Catholic Reporter's editor, responding to Jerry's request for information about why he recently found himself banned from commenting at the NCR website. In a posting today at his Christian Catholicism site, Jerry publishes Coday's email (which he received yesterday), along with his own email on August 13 asking for information about why he had been banned. 

For those making comments at the NCR site, be forewarned: it appears you can be banned for not commenting regularly. Coday's email informs Jerry that a decision he had made in the past to absent himself temporarily from commenting at the NCR site several times was part of the reason NCR decided to ban him. Though, as far as I recall, none of the guidelines for commenters at NCR's site informs commenters that the site has a publish-or-perish policy — comment regularly or court the possibility of being banned from the site — this hidden policy seems to be have helped determine the decision to ban Jerry Slevin from commenting at the NCR site.

That, and "several complaints" that Jerry is "aggressive" in his comment-making . . . . 

As I said when I first reported Jerry's recent banning from NCR, the comments policy at this site is not in the least transparent, and it's exceptionally capricious. The email Jerry Slevin has received from Dennis Coday appears to me to bear out that judgment.

As I noted last year when comments I made about the U.S. bishops' cozy ties to the Republican party and the economic elite that dominates that party were scrubbed from the NCR site — on the ostensible (and ludicrous) ground that my comments were unfair to Republicans! — the NCR system is set up to allow unidentified and undisclosed interest groups to pressure NCR to censor commenters to whom those groups object. The system positively invites pressure groups outside the NCR system to step in and seek for certain comments to be expunged from the NCR site, or to have certain "aggressive" commenters banned. The system positively invites a call or two from a well-placed hierarchical figure or board member whose goat a particular commenter has managed to get and, hey presto!, said commenter can be disappeared by the powers that be from the NCR site. 

With no transparency at all: it seems to me very likely that no one at NCR would have provided Jerry Slevin with any information about why he has been banned from commenting at the NCR site if he had not made a stink about the banning, and publicized the fact that he had been banned and the shoddy way in which he was being treated. This is a capricious system that functions entirely at the behest of those administering it, which purports to be fair, clear, and transparent, but is preeminently the opposite. 

Think about it for a moment: if every comment that is "unfair" to Republicans had to be expunged from the NCR threads, they'd surely be stripped threadbare in an instant, wouldn't they? And if every "aggressive" commenter found herself or himself banned from the site, the commenting system would shut down in a heartbeat.

Wouldn't it?

How any of this helps NCR achieve its professed goal of building a healthier, more inclusive, more informed Catholic community in the U.S. is beyond me to understand. How it helps anyone in the hierarchy or within powerful interest groups who wants to suppress the kind of free-wheeling discourse necessary to build such a community: that's self-evident, isn't it? 

Can't you just imagine what might happen to Sister Joan Chittister if the "too aggressive" crowd managed to get the ear of NCR's managers as they try to have her silenced? Since there's not a single word that courageous, prophetic Catholic leader writes that a whole boatload of critics doesn't construe as unacceptably aggressive . . . . 

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