The First Blogging Controversy I Wrote About Involved Profanity

A smartphone displays an AOL logo©Cosmin-Constantin Sava/123RF

Long-time readers know I hate double standards. Twenty years ago, the first blogging controversy I tackled involved a doozy.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve written about various double standards. This blog began in 2004 on AOL’s long-defunct blogging platform AOL Journals. It died a few years later. But the first blogging controversy I addressed came straight from AOL’s editing team.

This this blog has now entered a third decade, I thought I’d take a bit of time — occasionally — to look back over the past 20 years. Just two months into this blog’s run, I wrote about a blogging controversy at AOL involving blogs it would feature every month.

It would not be the first time AOL editors earned the wrath of users. Those users wanted clear rules and fair upholding of those rules. For the most part, they never really got it.

How do you feel about profanity in blogs?

Yes, that’s a loaded question to be sure. No two bloggers will agree on what they prefer. Some bloggers seem incapable of posting anything without multiple F-bombs or worse. Others write like they’re Sunday School teachers with nothing more harsh than an occasional darn.

More power to both of them. As in many things, I fall somewhere in the middle. As a general rule, I go with “broadcast standards.” So I won’t use the F-word, but less concerning pieces of profanity might occasionally appear.

On your blog, you have the right to decide what you’ll write. You also have every right to decide what you’ll tolerate from others, particularly when it comes to comments.

It’s your site. You can do that.

When we published our blog posts on AOL’s platform, we, of course, were forced to follow their rules. If we didn’t agree, we could go elsewhere. But as long as we were a part of AOL Journals, we were bound by their rules.

Unfortunately, they were neither always clear nor consistent with those rules.

And there’s the rub.

If you’re going to set rules, set them…and follow them

AOL Journals used to feature blogs each week. This one, as a matter of fact, was featured for what was supposed to have been a single week, but it stayed up for three.

But AOL’s editors later decided to feature a different journal among its “top five.” After picking one of them, a journal called “Amused,” it stripped the journal of the honor. The reason? An article featured a quote from comedian Chris Rock that included the F-bomb. But the writer didn’t actually include the word. Insead, it wrote it as the letter F followed by a string of asterisks.

AOL’s editors explained they were removing the blog as a featured journal because it contained “masked vulgarities.”

Yes, that’s their right. One might argue that the fact that the blogger took the effort to mask the word at all should have sufficed. But for AOL’s editors, that just didn’t seem good enough.

A new featured blog appeared written by a user named Aaron. When you clicked into Aaron’s blog from the featured pop-up window, it took you to an article that quoted Michael Moore. The first sentence stated, “I have never seen a head so far up a Presidential a** (pardon my Falluja) than the one I saw last night at the ‘news conference’ given by George W. Bush.”

I wrote it now as I wrote it then: I masked the word ass. Aaron used the word. In terms of broadcast standards, you can use that word to imply an irritating, arrogant or stubborn person. But you’re less likely to get by with using it as a part of the body, especially if you imply the orifice itself as that quote clearly does.

AOL didn’t seem to notice. If the editors did, they didn’t seem to care.

They stripped one blog of its featured honor over a masked vulgarity then featured one with an unmasked vulgarity.

Double standards ticked me off then and they still do now. Some things — even after 20 years — just don’t change.

But you can understand why AOL Journals became so maddening for so many of us who eventually either left for greener pastures and those who decided to stay until it went belly-up and their blogs were deleted out from under them.

It was a nice place to begin a blog. But I’m grateful that I made the decision to find those greener pastures. And I’m grateful to you for reading what I have to say all these years later, whether you were here back then or are a newcomer!

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.


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