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Undoing The Moving Hand

Every now and then, we here at Wizbang get an e-mail asking us to remove an article or comment that refers to the e-mail's author. It seems that sometimes people say or do things that they later regret, and they would like our assistance in purging proof of those errors from the public record.

I always defer to those matters to Kevin. He's the one who owns the site, and he's the one who's on the hook should such requests get ugly. And he's already shown that he doesn't take threats well.

Another such e-mail found its way into the "Tips" mailbox last night. This was from a guy who used to comment occasionally around here. It seems that he's now looking for work, and he's concerned that prospective employers might Google him. And when they do plug in his name, a couple of the top results are comments he made -- one making rather salacious remarks about some politically prominent young ladies, another a rather crass remark about a couple of prominent political men.

For the record, they're not particularly clever or witty.

Now, this is an entirely theoretical discussion. It turns out that Kevin has already made his decision, and I'm not going to divulge what he did or did not do at this point. But it brings up an interesting question: what would be the appropriate response?

My instinct is to say no to the request. He wrote the comments, he signed his own name, and now he regrets it. It would take some seriously convincing reason for me to delete or alter the comment. "I was a minor when I wrote it" would qualify; "I thought it was funny at the time, but now I'm embarrassed about it" doesn't cut it.

But I'm curious about what others think. What would you do in such a case?


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Comments (38)

Words have consequences and... (Below threshold)
goddessoftheclassroom:

Words have consequences and so does bad judgement. Let the writer be up front with his prospective employer and explain himself (and apologize if appropriate). Deleting the comments so that he can pretend that they never happened is dishonet and suggests more serious character flaw that ranting on a blog.

Personally, I follow the rule never to write anything I'd be embarrassed to have published on the front page of a newspaper.

Would blogging while intoxi... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Would blogging while intoxicated be a good enough reason?

Seriously, though, that is a tough queston. I'd prolly leave it up though. If I was hiring someone I would be upset if things like that were hidden from me.

There's a third option, bla... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

There's a third option, blackmail. The person still feels a stinging reminder of why some degree of levelheadedness in remarks is important. He gets his job, anyway. Which he will need to keep the Wizbang Staff in the manner in which they've become accustom.

It's a win-win-win situation.

But in all seriousness,

And not to be too big a jerk, but unless Tea is your last name, are we really arguing about whether someone should be punished for not being smart enough to pick a moniker?

My feeling is if the post/comment was done via work property, then leave it up. He reason isn't good enough. In fact removing it would be helping him conceal past negative work practices from a prospective employer.

If the comments were on non-celebrities, then leave them up as well. I think a similar standard to the liable/slander was 'sue-able' should determine if this stays up or not.

If it was done off-hours, then mangle the name so people here can access it if necessary. I don't think the internet needs to be used as thought police unless some actionable offense was committed at the time of the posting.

I'm the forgiving sort - so... (Below threshold)

I'm the forgiving sort - sometimes to a fault. But I would suggest that since the authors have the ability to edit comments, give the guy an opportunity to write his own retraction and amend his comments with it. Make it brief, 50 words or less, and it the author of the post has the discretion of deciding whether or not it shows sufficient remorse for a good enough reason.

I'm curious now though what comments were made and what sort of work the person looking for that such commentary might keep him from getting. So I would certainly make some restrictions from allowing him this "fix".

For instance:

If he made a comment suggesting someone be killed and was looking for a job as a policeman, all bets are off.

If he habit of making comments pre-judging someone's guilt and was looking for a position as a judge - fuggedaboutit.

If he made salacious comments (as you said) about certain women and was seeking a position that put him in the proximity of women who are victims of sex crimes - no way, Jose.

and so on....

You know, I even previewed ... (Below threshold)

You know, I even previewed my comment and still made errors :)

I demand a retraction if I'm ever looking for a job as an English professor!

At the very least, if you a... (Below threshold)
SilentStorm:

At the very least, if you are going to use your name, you should be prepared to back your statements to the hilt. Hence, don't say anything stupid that you may regret later.

That's why most of us go by monikers or handles. Mind you, whether I go by my real name or my handle of Silent Storm, I will stand by what I said. But most people are smart enough to know what to say, how to say it, and when to cloak it with an alias.

If he used his real name when he said what he did, he owns it. It should stay.

I think it stays.I... (Below threshold)
drjohn:

I think it stays.

I'd have to ask if this person was warned about this sort of thing privately. If so, then it definitely should stay.

But this thread should serve as a warning to others for future reference.

The guy should post a bunch... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

The guy should post a bunch of other more, appropriate, comments on various blogs. Search heuristics should supplant the older comments with the newer ones, effectively burying them.

I wouldn't take them down.

The bed he made is his own.... (Below threshold)

The bed he made is his own. If he wants to build a new one, it's up to him. Not any one else.

Poor decisions(1):... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

Poor decisions

(1): Using your real name.
(2): Writing things for which you don't want 'credit'

One could argue that taking the comments down aides the person into duping their prospective employer at the quality of the the person's judgment. I'd also weigh whether the comments were typical of the person or not.

Jeff has the best answer, a... (Below threshold)
epador:

Jeff has the best answer, and since the fellow in question hasn't thought of or isn't capable of them. the answer is obvious.

We are as a whole, supposed... (Below threshold)
maggie:

We are as a whole, supposed to be of a
forgiving heart. I suspect though, this
commenter is remorseful only of being
outed for their crassness, and not for
realizing they needed forgiveness for being
wrong.
This poster should always be aware of the
need for checks and balances in all aspects
of our lives.

I'll seocnd what maggie sai... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:

I'll seocnd what maggie said.

Being sorry and being sorry you got caught are two completely different things.

Wholly the descretion of th... (Below threshold)
Nylda:

Wholly the descretion of the site owner who would be gracious for honoring such a request, but not obligated to do so. The poster should have no expectation that his request be honored and as others have said, what kind of judgement is exhibited by a poster when, one, making crude remarks and, two, signing his name? This poster's past behavior is probably just the insight an employer needs for the hire decision. Somewhere down the road this new employee can be expected to again wax obnoxious at an inappropriate time, possibly with unwelcome consequences maybe embarrassing or raising the specter of legal action.

Is Googling a prospective e... (Below threshold)
Jer:

Is Googling a prospective employee a common practice these days? Whatever happened to the old fashioned face to face interview?

On the other hand, one is entitled to his own opinion but with a bit of decorum, if you please. Many people post using a nom de plume for security reasons but if one posts comments and attaches his own name to it I must assume he wants credit for it. Hindsight by default is after the fact; that's why foresight was invented.

Character is what you do when you think no one is looking (or reading).

Interesting point about usi... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Interesting point about using your own name. I make it a point to use my name as a blogger, although not every detail. I am who I am, and I am what I write, and I generally respect people more, who post their comments under their name instead of hiding behind a mask.

Having hired and trained and fired people before (many times), I have to say that a blog comment regarding sexual behavior can indeed be relevant to whether I want to hire a person; harassment is a very serious offense, and if there is any doubt about how a person will conduct himself around his coworkers, that kills the application. I think it is a clear danger sign when someone thinks a lewd sexual comment on a political blog is appropriate, because the comment comes from something other than the discussion. As a result, I would be concerned about that person's likelihood of making a similar comment in the work environment, because I have had to clean up after jerks who made inappropriate advances and behavior - even after you get rid of the offender, the work environment has been poisoned and it is very difficult to rebuild trust.

In general, then, I would have to say 'no', what is written stays to speak its own message. Internet Karma and all that ...

I would agree with DJ. I am... (Below threshold)

I would agree with DJ. I am who I am and stand behind my comments.

Deleting this person's comments would diminish the credibility of Wizbang.

Why delete this persons com... (Below threshold)

Why delete this persons comments? Is he now trying to claim he never said such things?

The comments should remain, and hopefully the person who e-mailed has learned a lesson. The internet is fun and you get to feel safe when posting because no one is going to reach out and punch you no matter how insulting you get, however, what you say on the internet is forever, and can come back to haunt you.

This man should have remembered a simple rule. If you would be unwilling to say something in another persons presence, don't post that same statement on the internet for all to read.

Absolutely let it stand-you... (Below threshold)
irongrampa:

Absolutely let it stand-you said it, you own it. Deletion would posit that acceptance of consequences for an action is not a matter of concern. Sooner or later, everyone DOES come to the realization that actions DO have a consequence, denying it shows a remarkable lack of maturity.

So, what's his name? Enqui... (Below threshold)
Brian H:

So, what's his name? Enquiring minds want to know!

;)
B-D

Leave the comments...... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:

Leave the comments...

Prospective employer: "Son of The Godfather, you wrote on some blog that Nancy Pelosi is the daughter of Satan..."

SOTG:
A) "No, that was someone using my name!"
B) "Senator, I do not recall that statement."
C) "Yes, she's an old hag and I stand by what I wrote."

Prospective employer's response to
A) "Oh, I see, how awful!"
B) "We'll be in touch."
C):
a) "You're hired! Wanna go for a beer?" or
b) "You rightwing neocon... Get out of my office!"

If I use my real name, I expect to be able to stand behind my comments.

I really think commenting o... (Below threshold)
Brew:

I really think commenting on a blog is much like a phone conversation. The only one held accountable should be the authors. They set the standards of decency and can edit, or choose not to post comments. If i comment on a health blog or support page, why should these comments concerning my health be re-viewable for all others to read as a Google search? I do understand that this is an open area, but when i comment i believe i am commenting to a community of like people who share similar ideas and beliefs. And it is this community that protects me.

Of course you should delete... (Below threshold)
jp2:

Of course you should delete it. This is a hot-topic blog where people fire off-the-cuff remarks constantly.

Jay, you yourself have made numerous statements that would disqualify you from a job, certainly anything in the realm of journalism. At the end of the day, it's just a blog and it shouldn't be in the habit of personally hurting other peoples lives and their respective chances. It would be cruel of Wizbang.

Why am I not surprised to f... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Why am I not surprised to find that jp2 is opposed to Personal Accountability, and presumes that political opinions are the same thing as sexual come-ons, in terms of propriety?

Must be a Liberal thing ...

Forgive and forget. The int... (Below threshold)
capital L:

Forgive and forget. The internet, despite all clamor to the contrary, is not serious business.

Obviously blogs are not as ... (Below threshold)
JP Abenstein:

Obviously blogs are not as informal as conversations. However, the prospect that every stupid comment one may make will last forever certainly hinders discussion (but probably decreases the heat of comment, for some).

One solution would be to make all comments time limited, say 6 months to a year. After that, the comments on the vast majority of topics are no longer of much relevance since the topics themselves are mostly time limited in importance. Deleting all comments after a preset time limit may be appropriate.

Just my humble opinion.

jpa

Accountability -- it is... (Below threshold)
Morrissimo:

Accountability -- it is a bitch.

The comments should stay. I would be surprised and disappointed in Wizbang should it become yet another enabler of the "no accountability" epidemic...

"For the record, they're... (Below threshold)
LaMedusa:

"For the record, they're not particularly clever or witty."

This is probably the deep-seated reason he wants them deleted. The comments should stay.

The shame of it is that wha... (Below threshold)

The shame of it is that what the prospective employer really ought to be aware of is not the orginal comments, but that the guy is a sniveling little mouse who, rather than owning his actions, tries to go back-channel and hide them. Mistakes of human nature I expect and can tolerate. Weakness of character ... not so much.

My response would be a simple, "Screw you!"

I would be supremely disappointed if I found out, some day in the future, that you guys gave in on this one.

In response to Jer: <block... (Below threshold)

In response to Jer:

Is Googling a prospective employee a common practice these days? Whatever happened to the old fashioned face to face interview?

We just got through a round of interviews and I'll tell you what - I look at anything and everything I can that the candidate hasn't manufactured for the express purpose of getting the job.

Resumes, for the most part, are full of crap. Although a nice development is that people seem to have lost the will to even try to cover that fact up.

As for the interview, most candidates come in with canned answers, and sometimes it can be an absolute battle to get them to venture outside of what they've rehearsed.

jp2, by your logic, I shoul... (Below threshold)

jp2, by your logic, I should go back and delete anything I've posted that could come back and cause me problems -- and I'd be perfectly entitled to, even if it's to keep trolls from throwing my own words back in my face.

I won't, though. I stand by every single thing I've ever written. Even when I've been wrong and apologized, I will stand by having said them. I think very carefully before I post anything, even a comment, because even though I only use my real initials, I have put a great deal of effort into my online persona and am always, essentially, "myself" whenever I post here or on any other sites.

I am a little embarrassed about some things, but I will never try to deny having said them.

It's a little thing called "integrity." Others can argue whether or not I truly have it, but I believe I do and try to act accordingly.

But as I said, this is an entirely theoretical discussion. Kevin -- the person who has the responsibility of deciding how to handle the request -- had already made his decision, without consulting with me, before I posted this, and that's just fine and dandy with me.

I just thought it would be an interesting discussion on blogging ethics and the nature of the internet, so I hijacked this guy's request -- he'd said some mildly salacious things about some politically prominent young ladies, and some mildly crass comments about some prominent male politicians, neither overly clever or vulgar -- and now, several years later, regretted it and wanted them unassociated with his true name.

I think I was right. It was a good topic for conversation.

J.

"I am a little embarrassed ... (Below threshold)
Knightbrigade:

"I am a little embarrassed about some things, but I will never try to deny having said them.
It's a little thing called 'integrity.'"

Exactly!! I may be embarrassed also by some of my comments, but I would NEVER deny ANYTHING I have said online or in person.
You SAY it you OWN it!

I would leave his posts up.

Holy Crap! People are actua... (Below threshold)
1918:

Holy Crap! People are actually blog commenting with their real names?

Ok, I give up. Not clever ... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

Ok, I give up. Not clever or witty.

Has to be Barney, right? Oops, I don't think Barney works.

So, who the hell is it? I'm dyin' to know. I didn't know these guys worked.

You got it, Mitchell. It wa... (Below threshold)

You got it, Mitchell. It was BarneyG2000, whose legal name is "Barney G. Two-Thousand."

No, I'm not going to identify the guy in question (apart from saying it as a guy, and saying he made the comments a couple of years ago). this is a discussion about the issues, best left in the abstract. To make it about one individual would defeat the purpose.

J.

Here's my concern. <... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

Here's my concern.

A Democrat is likely to win the Presidency and Democrats will have full control of the FCC.

First I expect its quite possible the Fairness Doctrine gets applied to Radio. Because it has 'Fairness' in the name it must be fair, right?

Then I expect them to come for the blogs. There's no telling what form that will take. I could see it involving a list of names and associated IP addresses to make life miserable for some in one way or another. Especially if they tag authors for campaign contributions.

"it's just a blog and it sh... (Below threshold)
Mike:

"it's just a blog and it shouldn't be in the habit of personally hurting other peoples lives and their respective chances"

Um, no. Wizbang is not hurting him or wrecking his chances of whatever. He did that himself. Now he would like everyone to forget what he said and not tell anyone else. Sorry. If you don't want people to think you're an idiot or irresponsible, don't say things that sound idiotic or irresponsible.

The sooner accountability comes to the internet, the better. More signal, less noise and all that. If you're not willing to make a particular statement publicly why would you think it's okay to make it on the net?

No question in my mind. You wrote it, you own it.

I have the opposite request... (Below threshold)

I have the opposite request: could you post a comment by me that has me predicting the correct winners of the primaries, but backdate it a year? Btw, I'm considering applying for a position as a political analyst, so your help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! ;-)




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