BAexpats and Freedom of Speech

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Mar 25, 2007
Regular readers of this website will be aware that there has recently been some controversy involving Baespats and their decision to restrict the postings of several individuals whom the website’s owner considers to be, in some way, inappropriate. Whether right or wrong, these “bannings” raise a number of important questions: does the owner of a website or blog have the right to restrict what is posted on his/her website? Should a website be open to all opinions including controversial ones? Is it reasonable for a website designed and run by expatriate residents in Argentina, with a target audience of other foreigners, to allow opinions which are critical of certain aspects of Argentine society? These are some of the issues that Baexpats have dealt with in the years that they have
been in existence.

As long as I have been reading this website there has been a vast range of opinions - some useful and thought provoking; others trivial or capricious. More than a few have been controversial. From my perspective the website is informative and entertaining. It also seems to me to be open minded and fair. If being open minded involves permitting freedom of expression, Baexpats should be praised for its willingness to provide an interactive forum to people of different nationalities, races, religions, political ideologies and life experiences.

So why has a forum dedicated to the free expression of ideas taken the decision to restrict some of its readers? Could it be that freedom of expression in a democratic society must include some reasonable limits? Now a website is obviously not a democratic state, however its existence and ability to operate in a free and responsible way is a sign of a democratic society. These are self-evident concepts yet it is a sad and ironic reality that there are those among us in the expat community who do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression, though they claim to be socially and politically progressive. This small group resort to personal insult and intimidation in their attempts to control what is written on this website. They claim to have high minded, liberal principles yet by their actions it is clear that they reject diversity when that diversity does not conform to their own view of the world. Baexpats, resist these spoilers! Continue to use your good judgment and oversight of your website but never cower to bullies who would shut you down merely because they disagree with some of the opinions expressed on your site.
This website is a private property - therefore whoever owns it reserves the right to administer the content that it owns regardless of who contributes it and save themselves from vexacious litigants, strong arm tactics or any other nutter that might cause them an exposure.
Freedom of speech/expression comes in the form of the internet - if you dont like how these guys that run this show - open your own BA expats website - they don't own copyright to BA, expats or forums.
In the same way as if you go in to a shop - you have the right to buy if an item is offered for sale but the vendor also has the right to refuse to sell. Its about ownership - they own it - you don't.
Ironically, the original idea of baexpats site was to create a place where people can say whatever they want to. Over these years we've got a lot of interesting people with different ideas. It was not so important whether we (the moderators) agreed or disagreed with the ideas or liked or did not like the posters personally. As long as it was interesting it was allowed to stay here.

Maintaining a forum is a balancing act and we have always been way too permissive. But we have never dealt with a coordinated hostile takeover attempt before.

I definitely don't mind people creating another forum - yeah, why not? However the website that WW opened within hours after he was banned (here is a sneak pick) hardly gives any doubts about a general direction of his new forum.
I haven´t been reading the forum for a while but it seems to me that this topic was discussed months before... I do believe in cycles.

I am Argentinean and I have been an expat once, in Switzerland. As an expat I found many aspects of that country and that society that I didn´t like but onthe other hand I never forgot the opportunity of a new life the swiss give me (call it immigration policy, luck, people, what you prefer) and all the friends I harvest.

On the other hand as local I don´t like people pointing out the obscur aspects of MY country and its society. But I also know those aspects... and the positive ones too.

Do you like to be those aspects of your country pointed out as the only posible truth? I don´t think so.

Here we say: “in a meeting never talk about politics, religion or soccer” because these topics are always board with passion and passion is not “reasonable” and that´s how big discussion starts.

I was born in 1974, dificult time (in my opinion) for Argentina population. I was raised in a country of no options, and for me is very important to have the opportunity to say what I want but with no need of insulting anyone.

Of course in a private website moderators can allowe or forbid what they consider inappropiate... but isn´t a forum a creation of an utopic world were all opinions can be expressed? Could be. And I think is great! Have you heard about the butterfly effect? Your actions have effectr on others, so please be responsible of your actions.

I believe we are responsible for our own choices. I am sure avery of you have chosen Argentina to leave permanently or temporarily for a reason (work, love, economy, politics, etc). It meens that should be at least one positve aspect to chose this latinamerican country as a home. And for us, locals, the negative aspects foreigners see on us are some of the reasons that make this country choosable or refusable as well as the positive ones...

Today I heard on the radio journalists talking about our new lady president, they said women always make a more equal society... and I remember Margaret Tatcher for instance...

I mean nothing is white or black, the white is white because the black exists... in Taoísm things ARE compared with others but are not absolute. Grey is darker than white but lighter than black...

When I remember Switzerland I do remember my friends (swiss and foreigners), cheese, August with its multiple celebrations, the lake (Geneve) and I also remember feeling strange, having less information on my rights than a swiss citizen... being rejected for a job for my foreigner status... But I am still thankful.

There is a song by Silvio Rodriguez that says: “yo me muero como viví...” (I die as I lived). Please enjoy as much as you can of this country always trying not to hurt any being of this universe and respect everyone´s opinion and we could “imagine a better world”.

Natalia, your post is nteresting. I agree with some of the points, such as seeing the good in things. What I don't agree with is that freedom of expression is only a utopian idea. Freedom of expression is a basic human right. Where there isn't freedom of speech a basic human right is missing. The newspapers in this country are always expressing negative opinions about other countries. Maybe that offends some people but if it can not be helped because people have a right to express opinions. So I don't see why Natalia should be upest to read criticism of some things in Argentina on a website for non Argentenian people. Of course each person should be polite about what they say but it is very repreessive to keep quiet all the time just because someone doesn't have an Argentinean passport and lives here as a tourist or a long term resident. The other democtaric countries of the world give foreigners the right to express their views, good and bad, so why should Argentina be different? I think the days of military rule and fear of expressing yourself are over in Argentina. I think the world is changing because of globalization. National boundaries are blurring because people are travelling more and they have instant communications. I think people should be respectful and considerate about each other but free to say what they think as long as they do not lie or try to hurt someone.
I agree with Fishface, that this forum is private property and we are just visitors and subject to whatever rules they want to impose. I've never paid a cent into this forum and there must be someone, somewhere paying the costs. It's their sandbox.
I've been posting on this forum for about 2 years and I've seen how it's changed. At one time, the forum was so quiet you had to really work to start a conversation. Then it suddenly got busy as people started to fight, mainly Argentines against Americans. It built to a head and some people were forced out. Then the rejects come back to haunt the place.
This has happened several times and this last blowout is just the latest. Now we'll be attacked once again by "friends" of free speech, democracy or whatever they want to call it. It's not a surprise to me that WW is a "friend" of Yanqui Mike, another famous reject who not only attacks this forum personally but also recruits people to do his bidding. It's not a secret. He has a section of his weblog devoted to "watching" this forum. There's little mention of their hidden agenda of course, which is competition for web traffic of the expat variety. Why else would they care or make such an effort?
The most disturbing thing I noticed with this last blowout is how new posters were getting attacked upon first posting and the replies that were coming through didn't have any real value, just long blasts of a persons opinion mixed with distorted advice. To me, this is the worst offense that a poster like WW is guilty of, because he and his gang have likely driven off many new legitimate posters.
How many people are reading this forum and seeing how these attacks come about? In one recent thread, the user Montana was so much attacked that I laughed to myself and said "she'll think twice about posting here again". Then I thought a bit deeper and realized this is probably true.
Freedom of speech is not freedom to insult, dominate or threaten. Did WW and his gang deserve to be banned? YES. They'll very likely prove what type of people they really are when this new forum comes online. Is the new forum going to be about helping new arrivals or discussing BA lifestyle? I doubt it very much. Will it be about attacking this forum, it's users and Argentina? Most likely. All under the guise of "freedom of speech" of course. Freedom at the end of a gun.
My goal in this forum has always been the same. Learn more about Argentina and Buenos Aires while sharing what I've learned with other people. If you met me in person, it would be very much like how I come across in these forums.
"Fishface" said:
I was only 10 years old at the time but she lead the UK into the most stupid and avoidable conflict with Argentina all because of her vanity.
Not vanity. Her poll ratings had become abysmal by 1982 -- her monetary policy was a complete fiasco and there were 3m unemployed. Were it not for Falklands, she would have lost the next general election. And she couldn't pursue this conflict without some measure of support from the British public, which had seen a decline in British prestige over the decades and wanted to recoup some of the former glory of Britain. Without understanding the British inferiority complex (because of the catastrophic decline in British influence and prestige after WW2), it's not possible to understand the country and its people.
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