Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Call Me a Conservative

Go for it. I dare you.

For the last few months, there has been an ongoing debate on flickr about censorship. Thomas Hawk, a flickr-celebrity and well-known photographer in Bay Area and online circles (and maybe further, but I only know these areas,) has been sharing his feelings about alleged censorship. One of his beefs is with an account that flickr deleted for allegedly posting pictures that didn't belong to the account holder. Another is that a poster who was upset with Obama had his stream deleted. TH was seriously upset about an alleged "DMCA" notice. Honestly, I don't know if these charges against flickr are true or not. I don't know if TH has some inside scoop, and I don't know if flickr's counter charges against TH, that he has been somehow rude in his challenging of flickr are true, either. I don't really care. Today, one of my contacts posted a picture on flickr announcing their fed-up-ness with flickr, and their decision to leave flickr due to the "nazi-like" tactics of flickr policies.

I have to say, this whole endeavor makes me roll my eyes. I feel like a conservative saying this, but if you don't like it, don't buy it. Free market, and all of that. Flickr has a terms of service that is a supplement to the Yahoo! terms of service. Flickr and Yahoo! are huge corporations. If you use them, you buy into them. This is not some kind of declaration of independence, constitution type situation. It's my understanding that "freedom of speech" is about the government protecting the rights of her citizens. Do some digging around, and you'll find all kinds of case law about things like private corporations "censoring" their employees, even government censoring their employees, etc. I use flickr. I signed their TOS. They can tell me to put up or shut up. I can go elsewhere. They're not nazis, they're a for-profit business, and no one is forcing my hand to my credit card.

Maybe I'm not a conservative, when I think more about it, maybe I'm not just a free-speech obsessed libertarian.

I'd rather be called a conservative than a fascist, which I've also been called. I grew up singing in the San Francisco Girls Chorus. (Apologies for the auto music.) I'm reminded of this because of the rigid structure and discipline that the SFGC demanded of us, and the scorn some parents felt over us, "the little girl soldiers." I joined the chorus when I was 9, in 3rd grade, but some girls joined as young as 7, in first grade. The chorus demanded a lot from us- that we pay attention for two hour stretches, and that we perform like professionals. This doesn't sound like much now, as an adult, but at the time (aged 9 through 17) it was a lot. We gave up the majority of our free time learning out to stand still, hands uniformly at our sides, legs evenly spaced apart, eyes on our conductor at all times, singing in unison. We did as we were told. Conversation and discussion was encouraged as part of the learning process; moving, fidgeting, looking away was not. We wore uniforms for performing, and put on make up as directed. We conformed. We also made fabulous music, pioneering music, even. We were invited places that girls' choruses had never been invited, and sang with operas and symphonies. We were respected. We were respected because of the discipline that was instilled in us- if were acted like professionals, we would be treated as such. People would pay attention to the music, rather than the girls picking their noses. It was true.

It was bizarre, all these little girls coming together to look like soldiers in the name of music. We compromised a lot- our individual personalities and feelings and identities- for a couple hours at a time, a few times a week. There was nothing "free" about it, except that we (and our parents) chose for us to be there. Our parents paid a tuition fee for us to be there. The people who scorned and mocked our little fascist group didn't need to send their daughters there. There was nothing to protest- you either liked it, or you opted not to join. The benefits of the SFGC vastly outnumbered the drawbacks: many of the little girls that joined turned into young women with pride, sense of self, friends, self-discipline, and of course, musical skill.

I loathe Walmart. I detest most things about their practices- the way they chase small business out of town, the way they treat their employees, the whole awful sweatshop-ness of it all. I don't shop there. I am lucky to have the choice not to shop there. I often preach to the choir about my hatred of Walmart. I don't shop there and then tell everyone in the store that I can find (including the employees) how awful the store is- for me, for them, and for the world. I opt out. Maybe this is the free market at its best? I don't know, I'm not REALLY a conservative, so I don't know how that whole free-market-economy thing is supposed to work.

I'm going to keep using flickr. It's $20 a year to host unlimited pictures, which is pretty much a bargain. I've met awesome people to go out shooting with, and I've learned a lot about photography. In almost everything we interact with, there is something to find fault with. A mega-corporation, it's a given. I'm pretty sure if it wasn't "censorship," it would be something else. I'm pretty sure Yahoo! does some business with some shady characters that I would abhor if I looked harder. It's $20 of my money, and I'm sure I could put it somewhere better. But cost/benefitwise, I'm going to keep it where it is. Put up or shut up.


Mick O said...

You're a rational pragmatist. Unite!

Brad said...

Feel the same way you do on the whole flickr "censorship" thing. It's become soooo tedious and boring - and I'm about as liberal as you can get...