(Update: readers tell us some newspaper and cable networks are also banning Ferguson discussions – please send any information you have via our contact page above so we may investigate further- thanks!)
While many Americans are calling for more dialogue on race relations in the wake of civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, one major website has abruptly cut if off entirely. The result looks a lot like Chinese-style self-censorship.
Business Insider readers had been puzzled for days by the unexplained shut-off of reader comments on all stories related to Ferguson. The site, founded by notorious dot.com-era securities analyst Henry Blodget, hadn’t explained the new policy. But one regular poster insisted on answers and finally got one from Founding Editor Jim Edwards.
The entire exchange is actually buried in the comments section of an unrelated, non-political article about Google, but we thought it deserved more prominent attention:
And in the most important news on Business Insider, not being talked about, the self-imposed (we hope) censorship regarding the disallowed commenting on all the stories pertaining to the Michael Brown shooting.
If BI is going to do this, then Henry Blodget should step up and explain this policy as it runs contrary to everything that Business Insider has ever been, or ever stood for as a media web portal.
What are the criteria for this story to be presented in such a manner without commenting?
Who’s decision was this and on what basis?
Was Business Insider pressured by the any governmental organization?
If race was the issue–And it certainly appears to be, to anyone barely aware of the story.–please explain your reasoning, and will other stories be held to the same criteria, if a situation were to occur in an exact opposite situation?
How does Business Insider respond to the idea that it has caved to politcally correct pandering?
Who is BI trying to appease?
A deep explanation is required, as otherwise, what goodwill and recognition this page has, is gone, by the silence it has extended to its readership.
Jim Edwards said:
I can explain it to you: We turned off comments on Ferguson stories because of the overwhelming and repulsive amount of racism being written there. There was no censorship or request – we made the choice ourselves.
Some readers responded angrily or with ridicule:
Mr. Dickman said:
Why not just remove the racist comments? Why close off the dialogue? I personally feel the problem isn’t really about black or white. The problem is a cultural problem, behavior problems in the black community and the police community. Certain areas of whites and Latinos have the same issues as well. Sad BI can’t handle the discussion.
I did my Business Insider said:
So you unilaterally turned off comments based on your opinion of the content but there was no censorship.
Damnit Jim! said:
Are you kidding? Come on! Just check off the pre-approval option for Ferguson stories. 95% of non-trolls can be adults and use big boy words and not epithets and unenlightened reasoning. IP ban the trolls from the site entirely and let the rest of us comment!
SweetDoug on Aug 19, 5:34 PM said:
Thank you for your response. I finally goaded someone at BI to come clean and tell their readership what’s going on with their format.
Why did we have to wait?
A lot of people are pissed off about this uncharacteristic editorial change.
It’s big stuff for BI. You should have, and should, make it a headline, of what you’re doing and why, regarding Ferguson.
It’s important to your readership, because I think they feel betrayed in that you at BI, have caved to at least a self-imposed politically correct theme.
Commenting on Business Insider IS what Business Insider IS about.
Otherwise, why did HB bother with it at all?
We’re all big boys around here; we can wear our big boys’ pants.
I’m sure there was a lot–some, too much?–racism. Let it stand. Let these vile individuals spew their vitriol and hatred.
I’ll take’em on. It’s easy pick’ens. And so will lots of others.
Ferguson ain’t over. And the real story is going to come out, sooner or later. Will you be prepared for it, as a news organization that prides itself on a forum of commentary?
Seems to be, not so much.
What’s the next issue, that you will disable the commentary on? Would the Duck Dynasty furor be allowed if it suddenly appeared now?
I’m not so sure.
You see, that’s the problem with hushing things up, it’s what’s hushed up and why, that people don’t like, as they immediately draw their own conclusions, as they are left with no other choice.
And people don’t like being talked down to, from an elitist arrogance, and this action has this all over it.
I urge you to rethink the position, but certainly, to publicly acknowledge your stance and make it an issue.
Might make for some good press on BI.
These readers make a good point: if a few commenters are out of line, ban them. It’s quite simple.
Another approach: let the racists have their say and allow others to attack them for it. It regulates itself that way without intruding upon free expression.
But simply shutting the whole thing down without explanation is a great way to alienate one’s readership.