Sierra Wyndsong (sierrawyndsong) wrote,
Sierra Wyndsong

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A Matter of Public Record

You aren't as private you think. You are not invisible. And yes, you do have and should take responsibility for the things that you write. Period. If you are going to toss out some comments, be prepared to take responsibilty for your choices.

And no, I am not a hypocrite: Sierra Wyndsong has been my writing name online for over 15 years, I have been published under it and even answer to it. It isn't difficult to find me. And Sierra Wyndsong is considered a secondary real identity for me. However, this journal is not linked to anything that is considered public record with my real name attached to it.  So, therefore, this journal and my birth identity are separated and should not be divulged. That said, I don't have a problem backing my writing or anything I put down. An editor once told me never to write anything that I did not want read, and always be able to defend what I wrote. Because how can you ascribe to Voltaire philosophy and defend someone else's 'right' to say something if you can't own your words, too? It all comes down to respecting what is considered private, what is semi-private and what is public.

And, there is a certain amount of respect that should be given to those who blog and it is obvious that they do not wish to be linked to their journal in real life despite the Internet being a very public venue. However, that invisibility goes away when you are considered a public and published figure, particularly when you speak in an authoritative manner on an issue that is published in an interview given by you, and the article is published and your journal is linked to your name in that interview.

That interview and all information linked to the interview is a MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD as of the date it was published.


That does not change unless you did not grant permission for all of the information to be published. Once it is out there, once permission has been given, then the interview and the information will stand as public record. If you do not EVER want something known as public record, DO NOT PUT IT OUT THERE. It's that simple. Otherwise, it is fair game and useable by journalists.

An example: if you attend a Pro-Choice/Pro-Life rally, in a public park, and your photo is taken, the photo can be published with or without your consent because you are in a public place and participating in a public event that is being documented. If you speak at that rally, you can be quoted, whether you agree to it or not. You have become part of the rally. Now, if you want to hold a private rally in your backyard, that's great.. No one can go there without your consent or publish anything from it without your consent. If you don't wish to be linked to the issue, don't go to the public forum.

Also, when I worked for a small town newspaper with an 'if it bleeds, it leads" philosophy, I had the occasion to respond to an accident at 3 a.m. on a weekday. The driver of the vehicle was uninjured, his vehicle not so much. His alcohol level was quite high and he was coming back from a casino and had gotten lost trying to get home. (He missed it by 20 miles in the opposite direction.) I snapped a photo of the man taking the sobriety test. Great shot of him as he was falling over onto the pavement. He had been drinking and speeding. Typical story, no? Anyone else, people and MADD would have been livid and demanded that he be raked over the coals. However, one of the local supporters of MADD had an issue with me publishing a photo of the very drunk but beloved principal of one of the local elementary schools. As per her letter to me, I should have been ashamed that I put him out in public like that. I should have been more sensitive because he was going through a divorce. And he was a good prinicipal and I was going to ruin him for life. Really? No seriously?

His choices put him out in the public, required public services to be sent out to him for his assistance - taxpayers' dollars are what fund that whole 'protect and serve' deal with the police and fire & rescue - and he should not have made those choices if he was not prepared to deal with the consequences. He should have mourned his marriage with a bottle at his house. IN Private. Now, did his poor choice make him a bad, evil person? No. He could have handled things differently, but if the choice was a one-time deal, then I doubt that it would have mattered. Now, if this was an indicator that he was spiraling into alcoholism, depression and making lots of really bad decisions - then he should have resigned his post as a public school principal. My article was appropriate and correct. He absolutely needed to answer for his actions and his decisions, even more so BECAUSE of his position.

I say all that because I want you to understand why I feel so passionately about people not taking responsibility for their words and actions online as well. I feel the same way here as I do in real life. You are responsible for your choices. Period.

Now there is currently a huge bruhaha brewing between two authors online. One would like to remain anonymous but claims to have been 'outed' by another author. A flame war of massive proportions has ensued, slandering both authors, appearing in numerous blogs and blurring the lines of libel and defamation. Brilliant. Neither author is invisible online, both are published authors, both blog often and have been very vocal in a long drawn out race issue concerning SciFi writers and their writings and blogs have been linked to their real names in published and public forums. Read that again. BOTH. Of them. Period. 

By the time anyone bothers to read this, I am sure the name will no longer be linked to the LJ account. However, in December 2007: The article titled Fantasy Roundtable: People of Color in Fantasy Literature, written by K. Tempest Bradford and published by Dark Fantasy, links an author's name to their LJ account. (It is my opinion that if the article published the identity and link without the author's permission, then Dark Fantasy and Bradford owe the author an apology and a retraction.) This same article has been used very often in numerous blogs concerning race issues in SciFi genre and has always contained the link. So, not just there, but in many, many posts, this article has made it very public who that author is in real life. Therefore, it is a MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD. Get it? Got it? Good. 

The subsequent mob mentality flame war across numerous blogs that have slandered BOTH authors' names blurs the line of libel and defamation on several fronts because they are done based on the idea that the author's identity was revealed on another blog. While said author's real name was written in that blog (and later removed at their request), the accusation that it was a danger because it broke the veil of invisibilty is in error by virtue of the LJ account being linked to an article published very publicly and quite often and containing that link. So, while the other blogger is responsible for listing the author's name without permission in that particular blog entry, they did not 'out' the author, per se. Because, well, they weren't invisible to begin with.

Quite frankly I could care less about the mudslinging. (It gets in your eyes and you can't see clearly!) I have no attachments to either person except that I was curious about something someone wrote on another journal. No I am not going to link here. (I sent that person a private message.) Honestly, the only reason that I was moved to write this was because it smacks of something I wrote a few years ago in a newspaper column that I had. It had to do with the responsibility of what people write online wherein they are slinging someone's name around while remaining anonymous. There was a huge argument that arose on the backend of that column. I still stand by that argument.

If you choose to be a public figure, you are in the public BUT only to the degree that certain things are considered for public consumption with regards to the reason you are considered a public entity AND if you make that information known. Example: A mayor having an extramarital affair is really none of our business. A mayor having sex with his mistress in the mayor's office on the desk purchased by taxpayer money? THAT is public consumption. Any actor walking down the street doing whatever or appearing at a function in the capacity of their job to a specific studio? Semi-Private and Public. The actor's family not appearing in public with them? Private.

There is an exception. A minor child who is a victim of a crime. There is a fine line there in regards to identifying a victim in any way. It isn't necessarily protected by law, or wasn't in years past. It was a courtesy to refrain from printing that information. Even so much as refraining from other identifying markers, such as citing them as the niece or son of their attacker. It is referred to as victim's rights.

However, anyone who chooses to put themselves out in the public has limited rights in that regard. And that is the entire point. The author, as a blogger and a published writer, blogs often and comments often on various web sites regarding race issues in the SciFi genre. And has done so in the capacity of an "expert" representative by participating in the roundtable discussion at Dark Fantasy. Therefore, they have inherently opened themselves up for public criticism and consumption. No different from any other author, actor, politician, etc. who makes a public statement in a public venue.

I am sure anyone who reads this and is familiar with the situation is going to assume I am on one side or the other. I am not. I only have an issue with the blogging community in general not understanding the difference between what is public and what is private. And taking responsibility for their words and actions. And in this instance, I think Dark Fantasy and Bradford are just as culpable as the other blogger who listed the person's name without permission. However, I have my doubts as to whether the LJ community at large will have the balls to hold all three accountable. Sadly, one will likely be vilified and lynched in true mob mentaility fashion and the other two will get a pass. But all are responsible to some degree. So, far, as of this printing, only one has apologized and made a retraction.

Remember: there is a huge difference between what is a right that is protected under the First Amendment and what is a privilege in the spirit of the law. 


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    So, um ... I lost 21 pounds! It's where I have been. ♥grin♥ Didn't mean to drop off the face of the earth!

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