As I Was Saying…

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Blog Ethics 101

June 16, 2009

As an old fart with eight or ten treasured stories that friends and family are sick of hearing, I can set up a blog and hold forth at will without drawing much attention and without causing any harm at all. I like to think that’s at least partly because I have some sense of what’s appropriate.

The real reason, of course, may be a matter of demographics. White dudes over 60 don’t attract much attention unless filthy rich (see Warren Buffett), particularly grotesque (see Donald Trump – also rich) or otherwise infamous (see Dick Cheney – also rich and grotesque). Well over 90% of Americans, after all, are not white, male and over 60.

Apparently it’s an altogether different situation for young women. A recent story in the Chicago Tribune reports on a blog devoted to the grief of a woman whose baby supposedly died. The problem is that none of it happened. This left those who had supported her feeling like fools. There were thousands of them, and they resented being tricked.

The only parallel I can imagine is if I had spun a tale in the CaringBridge account of Marge’s cancer struggle—if I had told the story I told when she didn’t really have cancer, or if my actual response to her cancer had been to go all John Edwards on her.

You can gossip over the back fence without much in the way of real consequences. You can sit on a barstool and tell lies (isn’t practically everything said on a barstool a lie?) but blogging is somehow different. Blogging can feel anonymous on the writer’s end of things, but it is intimate on the reader’s end. If you tell your blog readers that your heart is broken, it damned well better be broken.

2 Responses to “Blog Ethics 101”

  1. Darlene Says:

    I agree 100%. There is a blogger (who shall be anonymous) that has posted things I know to be false and it galls me that some readers are taken in. Blogging should be truthful – or at least the author should believe it to be true.

    What to do? Should I expose this blogger or just let it go, knowing it really isn’t hurting anyone?

  2. Pete Says:

    Hmmmmm. I guess it depends on what we want blogging to be. If people are taken in, maybe it really is hurting someone. I don’t think blogging needs to be the same thing as giving a deposition, but self-serving BS is probably out of line.

    So, how about firing a warning shot over that blogger’s metaphorical bow: “I know you’re lying. Are you going to force me to expose you?”

    Whaddaya think?

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