Before today, I would have questioned the wisdom of imposing any sort of restriction on what can be posted online, either on blogs or in the comments they attract.
But a comment I received today has made me more circumspect. The post that seems to have offended my anonymous commenter is about Yvonne Ridley, a controversial Muslim journalist who attended a conference at Melbourne University organised by an organisation, Mercy Mission, that I know nothing about. (I suspect most Australians are in the same boat.)
In the post, I posed the question: why were the cameras of reputable mutlicultural broadcaster SBS (Special Broadcasting Corporation) not allowed to go into the room where the conference was taking place? SBS nevertheless broadcast from outside the venue and followed up with more footage the next day when other stations picked up on the story.
Mercy Mission used the slogan "Islamic values are universal values" in its promotional material. I asked: "If Islamic values are universal, why is there so much secrecy?"
In response, my commenter said:
Maybe nothing, maybe when you start acting like adults and writing the story as it is, then we might let you in when you become less racist and stop writing according to what your assuming only, no proof, suspected etc etc. Become a more neutral writer for all Australians, not just to attack fellow Muslim Australians.
Naturally, I ask myself if I said something insulting to Muslims. What do you think?
In addition, the commenter said:
Get you story right, don't just attack muslims and you might find we will be very hospitable.
Again, I wonder how it was that I attacked Muslims. Rereading the post, I decided that I had not. In fact, I have always made an effort to deliver both sides of the debate, such as when I wrote about the excessive reaction Jimmy Carter's new book on Palestine provoked among Jews.
More recently, I quoted PhD student Shakira Hussein who characterised Australian Muslim community politics as "chaotic".
I also reviewed a book sympathetic to Muslims by Australian journalist Peter Manning.
On another occasion I posted about books on religion being banned in Malaysia.
Anonymous comments that are excessively passionate serve no end other than to inflame passions on both sides. I completely reject the aspersion cast by this commenter on my motives or method. It is easy to say things that are untrue when you are not being observed. This type of behaviour degrades the online experience for all parties. It pollutes the waters.
If a blogging code of conduct helps to eliminate this type of behaviour, then I strongly support it.