"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The First Amendment limits the U.S. Government's power to stifle the voice of its citizens; it's a powerful statement that has served us well for almost 217 years (ratified on December 15, 1791).
An in-depth discussion on The First Amendment
Of course, private forums are not bound by the First Amendment and can ban and stifle speech as they see fit. Poets.net is a private forum, and I, the owner, do not intend to apply for government grants. I'm on my own. Theoretically, I could ban anyone I want.
But what is the rule for non-profit organizations that accept government grants? Are they obligated to follow the First Amendment?
Poets.org, whose forum banned ACommoner and locked his First Amendment thread, does take government money: Number 7 in its FAQ says,
"The Academy is supported by the financial contributions of nearly 8,000 individuals (our members) nationwide. We also receive funding from private foundations, corporations, and government sources such as the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs." [Bold and burnt red letters my emphasis]
If Poets.org is accepting government money, should the administrators and moderators be banning the interchange of free speech, no matter how unpopular and "offensive" to other members?
This case is especially ironic, given that the threads in question have to do with freedom of speech issues.
In any case, the code of silence in the literary field is mostly imposed by those in power and thrust upon the rank and file. Often, those trying to work their way up often buy into the power structure, perhaps because they believe that speaking out will hurt them professionally--and they are probably right.
When Foetry closed in May 2007, ACommoner, the banned poster, and others like him, lost an important conduit for expressing important and controversial ideas--and, yes, snark and smackdown as well.
ACommoner's poets.org banning was a turning point, the primary reason why I purchased the Poets.net domain, a likely money pit for me personally.
I wanted an easily accessible forum (with a one-word dead-on GENERIC term) that would be available to everyone, especially the struggling silenced and disenfranchised poets and writers.
They are why Poets.net exists.
It was simply serendipity that the domain went on the aftermarket at the precise moment I needed it.
It is my hope that this forum becomes a place for lively and heated discussion.
"Forum decorum" can be highly overrated--simply a euphemism for stifling ideas and opinions that those in power deem not worthy.
What do you think?
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