Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Freedom of speech on blogs and listserves.

Lately, I read entertainment writer Jeffrey Wells' HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE blog (found at for information about films being touted for awards, film festival coverage and assessments as to the current state of the Industry.  Occasionally, directors such as Mike Binder (REIGN OVER ME) and George Hickenlooper (FACTORY GIRL, THE MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS) will drop by and offer comments. 

Jeffrey weighed in a few hours ago with an entry on the horrific death of director Bob Clark (who will be forever known for directing A CHRISTMAS STORY like Victor Fleming is now known only for directing GONE WITH THE WIND and THE WIZARD OF OZ) and his son in a car crash last night on the Pacific Coast Highway.  It included a somewhat brutal assessment of Clark's career as a journeyman director--to me, a bit overvehement considering Clark died less than 24 hours ago.  But, at the same time, I'll defend Jeffrey's right to offer opinions that may be unpopular--and allow no-holds-barred critiques of his posts from other posters without threatening them with banishment.

Jeffrey Wells-in believing in almost-absolute freedom of speech-is to be commended.  Because that's a virtue not currently allowed in the Los Angeles poetry community.

In the poetry community, listserves are now kept pure and decorous with miscreants often banned for arguing with other poets.  Sometimes banishment can be avoided as long as you're not criticizing a poet on his/her listserve.  And raucous disagreements of the HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE variety aren't found since some poets running listserves scrutinize every post for evil and perfidy, or the potential for evil, before allowing them--leading to listserves mostly being filled with poets announcing their upcoming readings.

Perhaps the difference between the poetry and film communities is this: the film community is more secure in commenting on an art form that is consumed by millions of people while the poetry community (at least in L.A., counting a few hundred poets who are active) practices an art form that pays very little, if anything, and isn't often heard outside its tribe.  Therefore, a hemophiliac level of hypersensitivity exists, leading people to think that silencing naysayers/stifling dissent is being protective of their brothers and sisters.  If this mania for avoiding "hurtfulness" could be channeled into, say, more intervenue (two readings crossing over to each other's venues--as was done years back with Beyond Baroque and The World Stage) reading events, the community would be better off.  Instead, there's the grim humor of witnessing socially-conscious progressives going into contortions to justify censoring "negativity" of others while complaining when they are censored themselves.

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