Being a Censor

Being a Censor

Anarchists hate censors.  Who should have the authority to prevent someone from expressing their right to free speech?  Certainly not the state which has it’s own oppressive agenda.  Yet these days, somewhat reluctantly and distressingly, I am donning the hat of a censor.  There is, of course, a story.

Twin Oaks has a number of ways it presents itself to the world.  There is large, complex website which gives information about the community, how to join the visitor program or participate in our 3 hour Saturday tour, media coverage about the community and more.  There are distinct business websites for Hammocks, Tofu, the Women’s Gathering in August and the Communities Conference over Labor Day.  There are also numerous presences of Facebook, including one for ex-members and long time followers of the commune called “Friends of Twin Oaks”. There is a new collective blog called “Running in ZK” and soon there will be an official blog.


Valerie and I manage outreach and recruiting for the community.  There are a number of different tasks which fall under this managership. Valerie corresponds with prospective visitors and guests, answering their questions and scheduling their visits.  She also responds to media requests for interviews and information.  I work with people who are considering the community and have obstacles to membership (typically debts or pets or complicated family or legal situations).  Also part of this area is the TOAST program, Twin Oaks Academic Speaking tour, which presents about the community at colleges and universities.  We coordinate the articles written about the community for the progressive and mainstream press as well as reviewing posts for some of the various blogs.

you will never know

you will never know

And now, we are the ones who resolve disputes about what is posted on the various official community facebook pages.  I don’t really want to go into the content of the recent controversy, which has consumed a bunch of time and frustrated a number of people.  However our internal process as how and what to delete from these facebook pages is worth of note.

Several ex-members started complaining about the posts of one person and asking us as administrators to take them down.  This was novel, we had not had this experience before.  They pointed out that besides being insulting and disrespectful to them, it was damaging to the reputation of the community.  This presented us with problem of how do we decide to pull someone’s writings off the Facebook page?  Is there are free speech right on what is basically an archival and promotional site for the community?

Indeed, don't block exit

Indeed, don’t block exit

In the end we decided on a very simple, and perhaps dangerous method. If someone asks for a post to be removed, we remove it.  My guess is that this wont happen very often.  And my feeling is that for most people who are looking at our various internet presences, this feels like a big request and thus wont happen frivolously.

I have been in touch with the author of the offending posts and he has gracefully agreed to stay off the site for a month and let things cool down.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

4 responses to “Being a Censor”

  1. PJ says :

    I am hesitant to comment on this, as I don’t know anyone involved personally. Athough I am on the Twin Oaks FB and saw this all go down first hand, I am deifinitely not a “full” member of he FB page or the TO group and we are not supposed to post on the page if you weren’t/aren’t an actual member, which is kind of strange if you think about it – why let non-member people join in the first place? But I feel more free to post on this blog, so here I am.

    I get your trepidation at the censorship idea, it is something that sets my personal alarms off, too. Even if necessary, it just sets my teeth on edge. I don’t know if I am a fan of deleting some people’s comments and not others, though. At the very least it causes confusion for those people reading the posts after the fact, who end up not getting the full story. Better to kill the whole thing or let the whole thing stand. Not my call, obviously. Still, I think you are being pretty fair, although I probably don’t trust people to not abuse the post removal rule. But I am also a highly pessimistic mo-fo. Again, you know these people far better than I and you’ve always seemed the reasonable kinda guy to me so I’m sure it will be fine.

    I think both parties were being fairly obtuse about the whole thing. One was being pretty dismissive of the other, and the “aggrieved” party and friends were wielding the PC club pretty heavy to get their way. They both were pretty much flooding the FB page (one side intentionally I think, but I can’t say for sure) with their feud and the TO page isn’t super active normally, which made it all that more louder. Even for someone not in the inside of TO it was pretty awkward, so I imagine it was worse for those of you who are.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest PJ

      Thanks for your comment. i dont recommend being a censor, at least for someone who worries about fairness, it is a terrible job. And you are right that it is a bit weird to have a public page which has restrictions on it. At the same time, it seems wrong to make a “Friends of” page secret or even more restrictive in terms of posting comments, which are the only options available in Facebook.

      i fretted some about how to deal with empowering people to pull down other peoples posts, but i could not come up with another way around it. For this blog itself i have ended up having to put on moderation for comments because i ran into a couple of real trolls, who were (in my opinion) graffiting the page attempting to spark upset, rather than legitimate conversation.

      And the internet is vast, there are all manner of places for unmoderated conversation, nothing “needs” to be on my blog comments page or “needs” to be on the Friends of TO FB page. i think we would do better to save our ire for the NSA and other groups which are intruding and evading in ways which are really damaging.

      Paxus stuck in Beckley WV
      8 Clear Skies 2013

      • Tamara Atkins says :


        I have an indirect observation regarding “Being A Censor.”

        it’s not terribly important, but I seem to recall reading not too long ago
        that TO allowed into membership those with existing debt. After having
        recently visited the TO community description page found on the FIC site
        page, I see this is no longer the case.

        Has TO’s policy changed only recently?

        In a society that seems to encourage debt, how is this policy helpful
        to people?

        This probably won’t make the “post,” but if you could respond back to my
        email with any embelishments – I would appreciate it. – – –

        Thanks – Tam A

      • paxus says :

        Dearest Tam:

        i dont think we have changed the policy (at least if we have no one has told me that we have, and i usually hear about these things). We may well have changed the website to not highlight this aspect. I regularly (including in this visitor group) counsel people about how they can address especially their student debt in the context of moving to community (this one is especially accessible).

        But it is not the case that TO feels like it needs to take on all the problems the world has in our membership policy. We recognize that there are all kinds of limits we can not deal with. People with active mental health problems are often beyond our capacity, the community is not willing to risk our children around sex offenders. We have not been able to make it work with people who have chronic fatigue just to name a few.

        Our job is not to save the world, It is to model a better place, we can not accomodate everyone, but we can handle people with debts.

        Paxus in Cville

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