Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

* A Plea for Understanding--Beyond False Dilemmas on the Net, by Charles Ess

An Approach to Communication Based on Individual Choice and Positive Freedom

This approach appeals to what libertarians value--namely, individual choice and freedom--but calls them to exercise that freedom as positive freedom, and in a way more likely to build pluralistic and diverse democratic communities.

It further avoids "censorship"--in the form of some governmentally mandated and enforced restrictions on speech, replete with institutions for detecting and punishing violations of these restrictions. At the same time, such an approach recognizes the legitimacy of women's complaints about the women- hostile environment of the Net--complaints that bode ill for any hope of redeeming the promise that CMC communication will bring about greater gender equality.

Such an approach preserves the much-touted freedom of the Net. Men still interested in exchanging snuff pornography stories are free to do so--and women interested in exploring sexuality free from the threat of censorship are free to do so. But this approach calls on both to meet together in some common space, where each must learn to speak the language of the other in order to genuinely communicate across differences, rather than engage in the communicative equivalent of Hobbes's war of each against all, in the battle to see who can shout down the other most effectively for the sake of dominance and control. --

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