Showing posts with label private vs. public. Show all posts
Showing posts with label private vs. public. Show all posts

Open Thread: What Happens When A Thread is Locked?

A Commoner (as he was known on the Speakeasy thread) was banned (and remains banned) from the P & W Speakeasy forum. After a week of heated discussion (March 17-March 14, 2008) The Posting Related Question Thread (under"Mediation"), which I have archived, was locked after this message from motet/Dana, a moderator, appeared:

If you want a pulpit for your conspiracy theories and other extraneous conversation, you'll need to find it someplace else.

The Speakeasy is a private message board and a free service to patrons who post in a civil and respectful manner, are topical with their posts and follow the stated guidelines for posting original work. More than 99% of patrons who come to the Speakeasy easily meet or exceed those standards. It really isn't difficult to do....if you actually want to do it. However, when those standards for participation are not followed, that person is no longer welcome here. You may not like it but while the Speakeasy is a place for most people, it is not the place for everyone.

As Jason has already said, you may not like that answer but that's the only answer there will be. You can either live with those parameters or find some other board on which to participate. It's pretty simple and this conversation is over.


Well, Dana, this conversation is NOT over. It has just moved somewhere else. If anything, the conversation has become more urgent than ever. Speakeasy may be a private forum, but let me remind you: The Poets & Writers organization feeds at the public trough, and your banning of free speech may raise a few bureaucratic eyeballs.

Also, is NOT afraid to take this conversation on, especially when the issue of free speech is at stake--even on a so-called private board. "Poetry" has too long been a place where outsiders have not only been "politely" silenced but also ridiculed.

I see nothing in A Commoner's posts and others that warrants a banning of anyone; your moderation and administration are heavy-handed and petty.

Re: Alan Cordle/Bluehole's statement and question to Dana, "I assume Jason's IT position is paid. Is Dana's moderator position paid?" These are very valid issues to probe because if these positions are paid, then Jason and Dana are simply puppets, and we must question everything they post. It also suggests that freedom of speech is simply a commodity to be bought and manipulated.

In any case, the literary field is much too polite especially when it comes to squashing anti-establishment ideas.

"The river glints, a knife in the land."

Indeed, JoanneMerriam.

More like, "The river glints, a knife in hand."

Thread: ACommoner Responds to "Rotten Grapes"

(Corrected entry)

Evidently, freedom of expression at Poets & Writers is afforded to some poets and writers and not extended to others, taking literally the Orwellian notion that "All pigs are created equal, but some pigs are more equal than others."

Poets & Writers pretends to represent its subscribers and membership, but, in fact, it represents only the politically sanctioned viewpoints of the the power structure: those who hand out prizes and keepers of the status quo.

Dissenting viewpoints not welcome.

Christpher Woodman, a.k.a. ACommoner, a
Poets & Writer reader, wished to respond to the following Joan Houlihan letter to the editor, which appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine Nov/Dec 2007):



Craig Morgan Teicher's profile of Bin Ramke ("Noble Rider," September/October 2007) referred to the now-defunct as a "poetry watchdog," with a legitimate point of view in a "squabble." But thanks to that "watchdog," one of the best poetry series in America has been dismantled (the Contemporary Poetry Series), an independent press was smeared (Tupelo Press), and Ramke, one of poetry's most dedicated editors, chose to retire. Any influence that Foetry wielded came about through its bullying tactics and sensationalist accusations, which were far more serious than what Teicher calls "sour grapes." They were the product of a willful misunderstanding of the process of editing and publishing poetry.

So on November 2, 2007, Mr. Woodman wrote directly to P & W editor Kevin Larimer:

Dear Editors,

I couldn't believe my eyes when I came upon Joan Houlihan's letter "ROTTEN GRAPES" in your current issue. I've admired her too, a lot. So how could she be so blind as to defend the extinct Georgia Contemporary Poetry Series against the very fair and detailed accusations leveled against its editor, Bin Ramke, NOT against the Series? After all Bin Ramke never dared to defend himself--which he could have done so easily by revealing the records voluntarily. When those records did get into the public domain everything Foetry had said about his bias proved to be 100% correct, and he resigned, he didn't "retire!"

Of course there were fine books published in the Series--but the question has to be what even finer and more original, grass-root or autodidact, books were never even looked at? And how sad such a distinguished series should have had to be closed down too--I submitted no less than TWELVE m.s. to Bin Ramke over the years, and would have continued to do so had it not been for his self-serving sleights-of-hand and cronyism. Bin Ramke took something away from me when he fell too--he deprived me of something so valuable in my life. Bin Ramke did that to me, let's be clear about that, not the Series!

I've been reading P & W for years--sometimes I subscribe but at the moment my postal service is so erratic I don't receive it if I do. I've also written to you a number of times, including twice before about Jeffrey Levine. Now you've published this letter of Joan Houlihan--surely you've got to let me be heard at this point too. Because I really am the real thing--the poet unattached, unfettered, uncompromised. Indeed you can check me out at my wife Homprang's website, (is my e-mail address p.c. or is it p.c?).

I wish I could have made the following shorter--I've tried for days and days and just can't say what needs to be said any more succinctly. If you can prune it more do feel free to do so--but be sure it continues to say what it says. Foetry did wonders for me--and I suspect it has changed things for all of us more than we can possibly see at the moment.

With many thanks too for your good work--you can't imagine what a wonderful resource P & W is for isolated writers like myself!

And one last point, dear P & W Editors--do you hear any sour grapes in my voice--or my verse?

All the best, Christopher Woodman

ACommoner added an ATTACHED LETTER TO THE EDITOR, November 2nd, 2007


Your grapes are truly rotten, Joan Houlihan. As a start, Bin Ramke didn’t retire, he resigned—under relentless pressure from the public and from the University of Georgia Press. Secondly, the dispute wasn’t about the Contemporary Poetry Series but about the selection process. In top-flight poetry book contests all the finalists are the very best, and for that reason it’s even more important they all get an equal hearing. If a judge favors a friend or someone connected to an institution he likes, then another equally gifted but different finalist doesn’t get recognition—and when that happens over and over again for years it’s destructive to the whole poetry environment. If only one species of poetry is propagated the art ends up as dead as any other ill-adapted species, a dinosaur, a haemophiliac crown prince, or an emperor with inadequate clothing!

The third of Houlihan’s distortions is the worst--to suggest the whistle-blower is a “bully” and the message just “sensationalist accusations.” No, the “willful misunderstanding of the process of editing and publishing poetry” was not on the part of the watchdog but on the part of the editor/publisher with the secret agenda. It was Bin Ramke who destroyed the Series, not Foetry--and the proof is it’s coming back so quickly without him!

Like a teacher, a priest or an elected representative, an editor has an almost sacred responsibility to the public, especially in the high art of poetry. Bin Ramke was in a position to help American poetry to evolve honestly and naturally, not to foist on it his own claustrophobic hothouse variety!

And Jeffrey Levine? If the Watchdog was rabid then so was P &W, because all the facts were repeated in the magazine too and nobody challenged them. Levine was also given the space to refute the charges, and his excuse was not that Foetry was wrong but that the mess was all due to pressure and fumbling, and he just wished the whistles would stop blowing! Perhaps they will, but not if you try to bully them with your rotten gripes, Joan Houlihan. That will just make them shriller and more frenzied, and suspect that you too have your interests!

Christopher Woodman
Chiang Mai, Thailand

These letters were never published in the print or the online versions of P & W, effectively silencing Mr. Woodman. On March 17, 2008, Mr. Woodman, posting as ACommoner, brought his plight to, and started a lively 2-page thread called "The First Amendment & Forums." There he posted the above unpublished letters. He also posted the following (among other entries):

I was very struck by a letter which appeared a few months ago in Poets & Writers Magazine (ROTTEN GRAPES, P & W Magazine Nov/Dec 2007) in which a well known critic and poet defended the conduct of two equally well-known editors and publishers who had been caught red-handed abusing the trust of those who had placed their work in their hands. One of the editors had systematically undermined the integrity of a well-known poetry series for 20+ years, bestowing the bi-annual awards on his friends and cronies and sometimes not even bothering to read the other manuscripts, including 12 of my own along the way. The other editor sent xeroxed "personal reviews" to 100s of hopeful poets, including myself, all of whom had entrusted him with their best and most precious work. Even worse, the editor in question suggested to us all that he might be able to lift us “up a level” (his exact phrase) if we sent him an additional $295.00, checks made out to him personally. “But will we get published this time?” I'm sure we all asked ourselves.

“I don’t rule out the possibility in some cases…” went the classic come-on spiel.

What upset me more than anything about the ROTTEN GRAPES defense of the two compromised editors was that it accused the whistle blowers, myself among them, of a “willful misunderstanding of the whole process of editing and publishing poetry.” We were all “losers,” the letter suggested, clueless incompetents who had nothing better to do than to “smear” their betters, and even if some mistakes had been made by the two editors, what we had done was far worse!

So I want to know what the process of editing and publishing poetry entails that we didn’t understand? The answer seems to go like this—I’ve heard it hundreds of times. If a publisher’s “lists” are “good,” that’s all that really matters. The taste with which the “lists” get drawn up is what the process is about, not who is left unread or whose feelings get hurt, which is inevitable. If the “lists” are "good," it doesn’t matter what fees are collected, for example, or who knows the judge or is just about to marry her or is baby sitting for her right now on the campus where the decision is being made. Great editors and publishers are above such venal concerns. They devote themselves to such a high art in such a selfless way and for so very, very little money, why trouble them with your small-minded obsessions?

On March 25, 2008, site administrator chissiekl posted:

Christopher (ACommoner),

If you wish to continue to debate this topic, you are free to create your own blog or website to do so. If you wish to discuss poetry, poems, the po-biz in a non-defamatory manner, you are free to start a new thread in this section. Any more defamatory content will be locked and further warnings will be issued. Thank you for your cooperation.

"The First Amendment & Forums" thread was locked, and, for a time, ACommoner was banned from the forum. He was later reinstated with a warning.

An interesting side note: both
Poets & Writers and feed at the government trough. Perhaps shutting down an exchange of free ideas and factual information might give those who dole out free money for the arts pause in awarding future grants.

In any case, ACommoner's thread has been reopened here.

Bring it on!


Forum Thread: What is the Public Forum Doctrine? (Discussion)

(What a webmaster and users discover after registrar and webhost GoDaddy disables a domain name and website.)


Although the Public Forum Doctrine has more to do with protected speech during government-sponsored events and on government property (both real and virtual), this is a topic worth discussing because it isn't clear (at least in my mind) how the internet is defined as a forum space, for example, private vs. public. The Public Forum Doctrine defines the Open Public Forum as "State property that has traditionally been open to the public for speech, assembly and debate. Public forum property has traditionally included public streets, sidewalks, parks and city squares."

Does this apply to the virtual world as well, at least on U.S. soil?

In essence, who "owns" the internet? No one, supposedly. Yes, a governing body called ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Names) develops policy and guidelines regarding the sale and use of domain names (such as, which one must have in order to set up a website (even that free blogger url is considered a subdomain, for example, the blogspot address for is ICANN is an international governing body that is supposed to set policy regarding domain aftermarket sales, the domain deletion process and cycle, and trademark and cybersquatting issues, among other things. In my opinion, ICANN doesn't always enforce its own rules, often resulting in confusion and, yes, cronyism among some board members and backroom deals--another story altogether.

In any case, the U.S. government can only enforce Freedom of Speech issues as it pertains to internet activities on U.S. soil. The U.S. also has jurisdiction over VeriSign, the company that manages the .com and .net extensions (known as Top Level Domains or TLDs) and NeuStar, the company that manages .us. So if a crook from Asia uses a domain with a .com extension to rip off a U.S. citizen or national on U.S. territory, the government can file an injunction to order VeriSign and the actual registrar to disable that spammer's domain name, which, in effect, disables the website.

So, theoretically, the U.S. Government can exercise significant power over the majority of domain names (.com being the most popular, .net the second).

Which brings me to On its website, Rate My Cop has posted its purpose: is a privately-held company based in Los Angeles. The website allows registered users to leave written feedback about their interactions with police officers, and rank the officer's service based on three criteria: Professionalism, Fairness and Satisfaction.

Although a poetry and a cop rating website may seem to have little in common, just hang with me for a bit.

In early March, GoDaddy, the registrar and hosting company for the domain name, decided to shut the site down. According to Wired, Rate My Cop went dark "after hosting company GoDaddy unceremonious[ly] pulled-the-plug on the site in the wake of outrage from criticism-leery cops."

No warning.

When the website owner called GoDaddy's Support Center, he was told that the site was shut down for "suspicious activity." Later the registrar backtracked and said that Rate My Cop went over its three terabyte bandwidth limit.

Yeah, right.

What really happened is that several police organizations had filed their complaints directly to GoDaddy, who then unilaterally decided to shut the site down, never mind freedom of speech issues, which (the last time I looked) includes the right to offer opinions, both good and bad, about cops and any other public officials charged with serving the public.

No injunctions, no legal process at all, just Bob Parsons, the owner of GoDaddy, deciding that he was all nine judges on the Supreme Court.

Rate My Cop is back up and running, but what about the small-website owner who doesn't have the deep pockets to fight the moneyed domain registrars and the powerful police lobby?

Fortunately, the outcry over this illegal act was loud and clear. Members of, a free-speech forum that focuses on the foibles and missteps of GoDaddy, and others posted about about's plight.

As I see it, the owners of Rate My Cop have set up a Public Forum, much like Rate My Professors, reviled by college faculty all over, and no one seems to call for its banning (nor should they). The police lobby argues that placing generally public information (name, badge and home phone numbers, and even home addresses) places police officers in clear and present danger. While it might be a good idea for the owners to nix posting police officers' addresses and phone numbers from being plastered on the web, they are not obligated to do so.

Right now, is in its infancy, so very few people are paying us much heed. But what happens when we become really noticed and the powers in the literary community start complaining about our great big loud voice to our registrar and host? Will (the current registrar of this domain) and Google, the owner of blogger, simply cave and disconnect us without due process?

I don't know about, but Google is well-known for its sometimes heavy-handed style of dealing with its publishers and pretty much hides behind its Terms Of Service (TOS) when dealing with cranky sites.

Because the U.S. has jurisdiction over .net and .com, does the First Amendment preclude an internet company's TOS? On the other hand, given that these are private companies, are they obligated to allow webmasters to incorporate the Public Forum Doctrine, even if aspects of the doctrine may violate a company's TOS?

My primary questions, then: do only the rich enjoy true freedom of speech on the web, money and connections trumping all? Or is the internet supposed to be a venue for unfettered, serious and trivial, discussion by everyone, even if we might personally find some of the content highly offensive, such as the content in, no matter who manages the domain name and hosting?

Here are some links to discussions about the Public Forum Doctrine:

Freedom Forum

In The Public Forum Doctrine and Its Possible Application to the Internet, author Angioletta Sperti, LL.M., UCLA School of Law, says, "It is ... necessary to clarify to what extent the Internet may be considered public and if private entities must be included in the Internet as a public forum and assimilated to the State for constitutional purposes or if a distinction is more appropriate."

This relevant article, certainly for this forum, is well worth reading.

What are your thoughts?

Forum Thread: First Amendment Issues and Forums

"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. 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?, 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 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 banning was a turning point, the primary reason why I purchased the 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 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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