Tuesday, July 19, 2005

OMG...They Killed Kenny!

-deep sigh-

Kenny Sia, Malaysia's Number 1 blogger, appears to have fallen on hard times, due to a picture he took of Sarong Party Girl, sans top. He has since taken down said pictures due to some rather strong response from his readers - minishorts in particular.

Update: The post is gone. Kenny has taken the whole post down. In its place he's put up a parody of a parody.

I confess to enjoying some of Kenny's older gags - in particular, the Xiaxue Proposal and the recent parody of Sarong Party Girl's nude photo. Here's the question - what has changed about this new gag that provoked mob-lynching?

Some of the comments I've managed to glean from Kenny's post:

"This post is offensive. Why would a so called decent guy like you think this is funny?

Could you give me ten good reasons why your girl friend would be okay with this? No decent girl out there would think this is okay. I never posted a comment before, and I have enjoyed reading your decent posts in the past. Even the one about your dad made me all teary. But this is utter nonsense."

- by aka

I lost my respect for you Kenny. And I pity your gf. How do you think she feels when she sees that pic? Maybe you're saying that 'hey, it's just in the name of fun', but this is already over the limit. At least respect your gf by not posting up a pic of you and another girl - half naked - for the world to see.

Totally tasteless.

- by bleh

It seems to come down to (i) Kenny has a girlfriend (ii) Kenny should not be posing half-nude with Sarong Party Girl and (iii) Kenny should not have post these pictures. My question here is - what is the limit? Did Kenny step over some invisible line of morality?

Let me come right out and say it - I can't find it in me to condemn either of them, or both of them collectively.

To the facts - from what I gathered, I doubt Kenny anticipated SPG's easy acquiesance to his request to disrobe. At MOST Kenny was culpable for making a request he did not anticipate will be followed through, supported by his version of events that he didn't even realise that SPG had disrobed. Yes, I know this is his version of events - I was not there, but I am willing to take Kenny's version at face value given the glowing reports minishorts wrote of Kenny's character. Since the bulk of the comments seem centered around his perceived lack of faith with his girlfriend, my question here is - Is Kenny culpable for something that he did not intend?

Hence, it comes down to Kenny's decision to post the photo on his blog and make the breasts jiggle - about the only intentional act he may be culpable for. There was a perceived "tastelessness" to the post. Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn't, but this doesn't seem to be the real issue, does it? Was the post -in isolation- tasteless? Or was the post -in combination- with his perceived lack of faith that made the post tasteless? I get the impression it's the latter, not the former.

Let's face it - in this particular case, when aka and bleh said that Kenny has crossed a line of morality, what they are really saying is that they have crossed their line of morality. Yet, nudity is highly subjective. Depending on context it can be moving, funny, distasteful, obscene, or titillating. The very FACT that there is so much controversy over this picture supports the diversity of views that Kenny's post inadvertently caused.

All I ask Kenny readers to do is to take a deep breath, consider the diversity of views available, then make your decision. More importantly, I ask you to consider things from Kenny's perspective. He obviously found it funny. A few of you did not. Is that really grounds to be disappointed in him?

For the record, I am not sexist - I believe the fact that I am willing to remove myself from my lucrative legal career in Singapore for the uncertainty of living (and possibly not finding work) in California to facillitate my wife's desired career in academia speaks more than I can ever write in this blog. I fully support SPG's right to nudity, and more than admire her guts to be unashamed of her body and sex. I fully support Kenny's right to post whatever rocks his world and feels is true to himself.

-IF- there is one thing I find objectionable about the whole thing, it is the fact that Kenny took down the pictures. I do not think he has done anything wrong, and his pictures, while distasteful to some, obviously provided amusement to others. To support some readers at the expense of others seems to smack of a compromise of what Kenny had set out to do in that post.

For that, Kenny, I mourn your passing. May it be temporary.


minishorts said...

i'm ok with this post. but there's another thing that you guys forgot to see.

that kenny is kenny first, kennysia.com next.

the next time you guys think you'll look good by you know calling either one of us a f*face or something more ingenious than that, try to think about what you'd feel like if you were either one of us.

but thanks for posting. Keep it up.

Anthony said...


If you had come in two seconds later I'd have taken down this post.

I've just been told by Huichieh that my strong language ain't quite strong enough, so calling someone a f**kface is quite beyond me. At least online. Offline, bets are off.

I take your point about what you've said about Kenny - I don't know him, I've never met him, so what I write is strictly about his online persona, and his post.

I defer to your closer relationship with him - indeed, it was your relationship with him that prompted me to offer to take this post down. I want to smooth things over, not make things worse.

percolator said...

I have one simple question. But first, I'd like to state upfront that my context is not a moralist one, vis should KS have posted that pic, and posted done it the way it was.. bla. My point is, how exactly did KS expect readers to react considering he titled his entry "The SIArong Party Girl Controversy".

Now, why did a right-thinking, intellgent person knowingly, willfully create such a public 'controversy' if he wasn't prepared to accept the erm... less than favourable consequences? Did he not understand culture and society and its expectations? Did he think he was above potential criticism that likely attends anything that by definition is controversial?

J-Teoh said...

Hey Anthony,

I think you're right. I'm an avid reader of Kenny's blog, and well ... it's not good news lah. Ppl should give him a break.

Personally, I don't see what's wrong with calling his post The SIArong Party Girl Controversy. It's just a name after all. I could call my plays names like "Sweet (four letter word for copulation) It All" if I wanted to.

-ben said...

Poor Kenny, imagine having your readers tell you what to and what not to put on your own blog. Such readers must have really dull lives of their own to have their knickers in a bunch over another individual's blog.

Anyone who tries to control what I put on my blog inevitably gets this response:


Bring it on.

Anthony said...


I think Kenny's expectations were that it would be funny - I've alluded to that in my writing. That he made a misestimation on how far he -can- go is not, to me, grounds for the pounding he received.

Sure, go ahead, make criticism - and your criticism, Percolater, is well-reasoned and valid, which I accept. I submit to you one further factor in consideration, that Kenny's own readers - the very same ones that found him amusing in other...not quite tasteful situations...had no problems with those - and indeed egged him on!

In short, if Kenny's not chicken then the egg must share the blame.

Hence, the only conclusion I can draw from the reaction from his readers is that they find -this- post reprehensible precisely for the moralist stand that they are taking, which I have attempted to address in my writing.

Ben, j-teoh,

My short answer - I don't like lynch mobs. I much prefer reasoned arguments. That was why I wrote what I did.

mooiness said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment about Kenny taking down the post. By doing that, he's now lost a bit of the larker that we have come to love reading about.

We don't pay him to write - we don't own him. He is his own person and I for one say: if he's got the "coconuts" to post it up, then more power to him.

Ppl can be so anal and hypocritical sometimes.

Davester said...

I agree. I find that there appears to have developed the 'moral majority finger wagging censors' in the Blogsphere. I might not agree with what Kenny said or posted, but he has the right to post whatever he wants.

Anthony said...

Actually, what gets me -more- is the fact that his readers are laughing with him all the way till this point - at some past stuff that isn't exactly tasteful. What happened between that post and this?

Yes, he has a right to post. Yes, his critics have a right of reply - which I think his critics wasted on moralising about it where they have at least some blame to bear.

What saddens me -more- is that Kenny took down that post AFTER he put it up so briefly. I'm pretty sure he wasn't motivated by not wanting to get into legal trouble - his posting the photo of SPG is grounds enough to have him hauled in if Malaysia's online publication laws are anything like Singapore's.

Hence, I am a bit sorry that he did not weather the harsh storm of criticism. But that's the only thing I think he has to be sorry for.

Veetwo said...

boo.. i have found your blog. wahaha... dunno whether you remember me or not.. *sobz.*

go and ask the infernoxv...

mrs... see lah can't even remember that psycho character's name...

fame!! i wanna leeve foreverrr...

Anthony said...


HI MA! My goodness, how are you?

Veetwo said...

heh.. ok lah... going off to study in aberdeen soon.. got msn or not..

Anonymous said...

I think xiaxue wrote a good post on why spg shouldn't have done what she did. Leave the morality debate aside. When I saw the pic, instantly I was repulsed. A girl who exposing herself in public because she's "bored" clearly has psychological issues. I mean, is this a normal response to boredom? You may say singapore is stuffy but I'm sure even in the US it's considered sleazy to do something like that at what is considered to be a blogging conference after party, not some college party.

If a guy flashes himself in front of a bunch of girls, he's a pervert, but apparently it's classy if a girl does that?

Having read his original post, which contained a narration of what happened, I didn't get the feeling that the exposing was totally unpreampted by K. Anyhow, posting the pic afterwards shows that he had time to think and ultimately thought that it's cool to have a 19 yr old expose herself and sit on your lap.

Anthony said...


You're going to have to do better than citing an argument Xiaxue made. :D

My question here is this - WHY did you feel disgusted? Because it was not normal? Was what Kenny did with the Saddam Hussien photos normal? Or what he did with the Xiaxue photos normal?

Actually, where I am in the States, women expose themselves all the time. Sunbathing especially. I've seen topless sunbathers behind a Jesuit Mission Church. I didn't see the mission priests doing anything to stop them.

That was an extreme example - designed to shock you out of some preconceived notions. Nudity is treated differently in different countries, in different contexts. I personally think what SPG has done is artistic, and displays an aesthetic beauty in the female form. The fact that its -her- female form that she posted is something that I respect even more.

The point I'm trying to make is this - you can't make an argument about how disgusted you feel without going into some measure of moral judgement about what SPG has done. The reverse is not true - you CAN withhold judgement while having a moral view on the issue.

In order to impose a moral judgement, you need to establish some sort of moral/societal norm which is WAY too easily rebutted. In short, no one can show a good reason without resorting to some arbitrary line-drawing. It's precisely this arbitrary line-drawing that I'm against. US Supreme Court Judges have spent decades attempting to determine what is obscene/distateful and have come no closer than arbitrary line-drawing. I have doubts you'll do much better.

Indeed, the wisest thing I've seen the Supreme Court Judges do is to uphold the general principle of the right to speech, EVEN unpopular speech - on the basis that what is today's unpopular speech is tomorrow's trend.

Let's face it - what SPG has done is just something that goes beyond people's comfort zones and that to me is a lousy reason why condemnation should be heaped upon her.

Anonymous said...

You're mentioning situations in which it is considered normal to strip. sunbathers strip in an appropriate setting, where no one would bat an eyelid because it's considered normal. Even in Korea and Japan, the women go undressed in spas (onsens), and that is a setting in which it is appropriate and not distasteful to strip.

It isn't the nudity which has led readers to criticise the issue. Hey, read most blogger's blogs. Young people today are anything but prudish. What makes it seem wrong is the setting and the desired effect she was hoping to create.

spg stripped with an intent to spice things up and draw attention to herself. If the only way a girl can relieve boredom is by using her body, isn't that at least mildly distasteful? Doesn't Bailing also draw flak from the US media for exposing herself in the most unlikely of places?

As I said, what happens if it's a man stripping in front of a bunch of girls?

Anonymous said...

And Anthony, if spg didn't think that this move would create a stir, she wouldn't have done it. Hopefully you can be more forgiving of the singaporeans who thought the act distasteful. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion right? Even in the most liberal of countries, there's bound to be differing views.

I'm not heaping condemnation on spg, but the act. The action, not the person. The photos on the blog may be considered classy, but this act is crass.

Anthony said...


That's a lot to read into SPG's post I must say! :)

Eh, "relieve boredom" can mean many things. Some people paint, write music and -yes- pose nude for nice artistic shots. Others strip to get attention. Can you tell which is which without being the person? There goes the argument about intent - you can't prove it.

I've read the post in passing on SPG's site - I certainly didn't get the impression she woke up one day, went "Oh, I think I'll strip online today!" just to cause controversy. It's a bloody lot of trouble to go do an artsy-fartsy shot when you can just remove your top in front of a webcam and get the same effect? Same words, same post, two different views. There goes the argument about effect - you can't prove it.

AS for the effect that she wanted to cause - well, congrats. If that's the entire effect she wanted to create, why bother to humour her? Congrats to the judgmental - she's got you hook line and sinker, and you're the sucker. :D

If that -wasn't- the effect she was going for, congrats - you've just grossly misrepresented a perfectly innocent person. In this case, she's the sucker. :D

You see where I'm coming from? Nobody wins.

I'm not sure I condemn the -act- or the -person-. If a woman can draw attention to herself by dressing in revealing clothing, where do you draw the line between what's tasteful and what isn't? You can't - at least not in an objective sense. Context - and as I've attempted to demonstrate, context itself is a highly subjective thing. Or at the very least, objective only if you are able to take in the totality of the factors which is damn near impossible.

What happens if a man strips in front of a bunch of women? Again, depends on context. Japanese baths - okay. Posing nude for paintings - okay. Nude beach - okay.

If you're trying to get me to say "Women will yell molest", I'm telling you it -may- happen but there's a good chance it may not.

You're drawing a trend where none may exist chum. Try harder - it doesn't seem to be happening.

-ben said...

> I've seen topless sunbathers behind a Jesuit Mission Church. I didn't see the mission priests doing anything to stop them.

I see Anthony discovered what some of the professors in St. Joseph's Hall nickname as "The Beach." ;-)

It is interesting how anonymous leaps to the defence of mediocrity and conformity. Oh yes, Xiaxue's blog is "safe" while SPG's is out of the norm. Bitching about other bloggers and backbiting is on a higher moral plane than posing nude on one's blog. Man, it sure sounds like you are PAS material. You should really try your hand at politics across the Causeway.

And this is the very same nation bemoaning the lack of originality and creativity in its population. It's a crisis of moral consequences when a 19-year-old bares herself on a blog, but it is acceptable for an entire society--no, an entire country--to whore herself to China, in hopes of boosting the local economy *roll eyes* (This is where you attempt to justify the atrocities committed by the Chinese government).

So it looks like Singapore has two teats to wean her perennially-cradled-population on now: China and Mammon (the 2 casinos). And you chose to fixate on nudity by a single young adult on a blog? If SPG "has psychological issues," you may very well have an entry in the DSM-IV waiting for you as well.

To the (hypocritical) puritans in Singapore (who, oddly, desire a high birth rate), I say, "Carry on, Mr. Cyber-Talibana!"

Huichieh said...

Going on a limb here...

Let's grant that right of speech/expression/discussion.

(1) This entails, in the first instance, that Kenny should be legally free to put what the pict (which, I have not seen--was too late). His detractors are also likewise free to criticise him. He--and his defenders, including Anthony--is also free to defend the action. Both sides are also free to disagree with each other make use of whatever arguments they wish to, including fallacious, or emotive, or vulgar ones.

And, Kenny should also be free to and take down the pict/post (or not to do so, but let's grant that he did). He is further free to defend his action, or not to do so, and the others are likewise free to defend or criticise his action, or not, as they please.

In other words, the state and its coercive powers should not be involved.

Furthermore, if anyone should use force or the threat thereof to attempt to influence the outcome (e.g., send a horse head to Kenny's place, etc.), they, are in any case, breaking some other law and should be prosecuted thus. And yes, defacing or hacking into his blog would break the law too.

(2) The hope is that through all this, the right reasons would prevail, though they may not--there's no way to guarantee that they would without compromising the freedom of speech, expression and discussion. To compel people to act according to the good is still to compel. The freedom and right to expression whatever you want to express does not and cannot guarantee a particular outcome--in particular, it does not and cannot guarantee that there will not be unfavorable (though non law breaking or right violating) responses by others.

So: as far as those who believe that the pict was in bad taste are concerned, a 'good outcome' has been effected. As far as those who disagree are concerned, a 'bad outcome' has been affected. But this issue is distinct from that of whether anyone's rights have been violated.

(3) Now the "gray area": what happens when people, individually acting in full accordance with their right of speech, expression, discussion should end up exerting a sort of compelling social pressure?

(A classic analogous case, but not freedom in general, not just of speech, would be, e.g., people in a neighborhood all refuse to buy from a grocery story because the store just employed a Jew, and the people are all anti-Semites. Though no law is actually broken--after all, people should be free to buy or not to buy from a grocery store of their choosing--the outcome is detrimental to the store keeper, and probably much worse to his Jewish employee.)

I don't know enough of the specifics to have a firm opinion as to whether Kenny did right or wrong to post what he did. But which ever side taken, I think we could be more precise about the issue at stake. Is it that

(1) Some law has been broken, or some right has been violated by some party? -or-

(2) Though no law was broken, or right violated, is the outcome nevertheless 'bad' from some point of view? -or-

(3) Has the situation entered "gray area"?

I am inclined to answer "no" for all three--but, as I said, I don't know all the specifics.

Huichieh said...

Sorry, it should be: I think that the answer to (1) is "no", to (3) is "probably no" and to (2) is: "well, it depends on what you believe is a good outcome, and there's no reason why we must agree". After all, people should have the freedom to be prudes (or its converse) if they want to be...

Anthony said...


WHOA - that's a lot of assumptions to make! :)

Huichieh, Anonymous, Ben,

Let me just set out the basis of what I've attempted to discuss, and inadvertently went all over the place with. Thanks Huichieh for giving a nice framework to work with.

(1) We have a right to the freedom of speech. The corollary to that is that we have the freedom to criticise speech. I am -NOT- advocating that people with Anonymous' stand stand by and shut up. Far from it, they have the right to criticise.

(2) This right to the freedom of speech has one exception - the right to the freedom of speech may not be itself used to curtail the right to the freedom of speech. Much like a man cannot -ever- sell himself to slavery as much as someone else may -impose- slavery.

(3) The right to censor speech has been justified on several levels, the primary being the one Huichieh spoke of - the accomplishment of a "good effect" or the prevention of a "bad effect".

(4) It's my submission that any pressure that has the effect of censorship is an inherent "bad effect" - you'll need to show an overwhelming "good effect" to justify the censorship.

(5) Here's where the morality comes into play - the judgment of a "good effect" or a "bad effect" IN THIS CASE came down to primarily a value judgment on intent, effect and context. Given that neither side can -show conclusively- a "bad effect", the "bad effect" of suppressing free speech must be the primary consideration.

(6) I further submit that, in further balancing the competing interest in the right to criticise against the danger of influencing censorship, the solution would be to criticise, but do so in a manner that is gentlemanly and civil - certainly not the feedback that SPG and Kenny has received.

Huichieh said...

My apologies in advance for another long comment. But you always have the right to scroll down...

Ok, first, an addendum to clarify the difference between my (not Anthony's; see above) cases (2) and (3). In (2), no one's rights have been violated, period. In (3), the "gray area" it is arguable that someone's rights are being violated. At the very least, the outcome is in some way manifestly unjust.

Ok, in response to Anthony's latest. Well put, though there are a couple of points I am a little hesitatant about:

1. Here's a conundrum for someone who believes in the right to free speech. What about the fella who advocates that free speech should be curtailed, say, that someone should just shut up? And I am not talking about legitimate cases where, otherwise, some other significant right would be violated, e.g., there is no such thing as a person's 'right' to shout "fire" in a crowded place; that 'right' has been trumped by other, much more pressing concerns (e.g., life and limb).

Anthony's position is this: "[the] right to the freedom of speech has one exception - the right to the freedom of speech may not be itself used to curtail the right to the freedom of speech. Much like a man cannot -ever- sell himself to slavery as much as someone else may -impose- slavery."

But I wonder if there is an ambiguity here. I agree that (a) any actual curtailing (by state action) of freedom of speech cannot be justified on the basis of the the right to freedom of speech; that (b) any proposal--through the exercise of speech, providing an argument, etc.--would not be justified by appeal to a right to freedom of speech (i.e., any such argument would be fallacious); -but- the following two do not follow:

(c) No one has the right to propose (e.g., in speech) that the freedom of speech ought to be curtailed by state action, either in general, or in a particular case (e.g., with reference to, say, Kenny).

(d) No one has the right to tell someone to "just shut up".

The denial of (c) and (d) implies the following.

Re: (c) I don't think anyone was calling for state intervention. If anyone did, (I think) they are within their rights to do so, but if the agents of the state are responsible and are committed to uphold free speech, they would not and should not acquiesce. By all means complain, but the police should tell the complainer that the fella has broken no law so stop wasting our time.

Re: (d) Even those who call for Kenny to "just shut up" (sans state intervention) are acting within their rights (to freedom of speech)--though if we are in our right minds, we (Kenny, ordinary citizens, agents of the state) should not buy their arguments, let alone agree. In fact, if we are responsible people, we should come out and combat their arguments and seek to refute them, stand by Kenny, etc.

However, note that by the same argument, if all we can muster is that these people should "just shut up", we are back to square one...

2. I would prefer all criticisms and debate are civil. But I don't believe that anyone has the right to a civil reception to what he has to say.

Someone who leaves a comment to the effect that Kenny'd better watch his back when going home--that's a threat. The person should be reported to the police.

Someone who argue against Kenny's position, even if done in an uncivil manner, is something else. I am inclined to think that he has the right to do so. He does not have the right to the rest of us agreeing with him, or the expectation that agents of the state would thus taking action against Kenny, sure, but I am extremely doubtful that he does not have a right to swear, to make dirty jokes, etc., etc.--as long as it does not cross over into the ballpark of a threat.

This may be controversial, but I don't think there's a principled way to draw the line between civil and uncivil speech (as long as threats are not involved) because 'offense' is often just too subjective a matter. (Ok, I'll confess to being less that 100% sure about this...so this is tentative.)

However, the guy who comes up the the uncivil response should expect that we would lose respect for him, that even as we might defend his right to spout nonsense or to get all emotional, he should not expect us to take him seriously.

I think Anthony is absolutely right that so much of the case seems (as far as I can tell) to come down to judgments about intent, etc.--i.e., rather controversial things. Not necessarily 'subjective', but rather--even if we all agree on the general morality of it (and we don't even), we might not agree on the facts of the case sufficiently to render an uncontroversial moral judgment. Let alone when the morality of it appears controversial in any case.

Ok, end of rant; sorry to take up your time if you have been reading.

Anthony said...


Never pass up a good debate I say!

Nope, wouldn't run a federal/state/government argument here. That's not relevant - but nice catch. :D

Let me point out some items for consideration.

(1) I'm not objecting to someone's right to say "Just shut up". It's not likely to work in any case. What I am against is social ostracism to limit free speech. That's effectively what the lynch mob of commentary has done in both the Kenny Sia / SPG case. Take this down or we're ostracising you.

(2) Note, I've NEVER stood for the bare proposition that no one has the right to criticise, counter-criticise etc. What I have been advocating from the start is that the duty on the person exercising free speech is to exercise it in such a manner that does NOT curb free speech - and the controversial portion of my stand is that I believe civil discourse is the most effective method this can be done. There are certainly other methods - this one's the best.

Conversely, my argument excludes uncivil discourse - not because it is uncivil, but because it's the most iresponsible use of free speech. It has the effect of curbing free speech, and it's quite effective at doing so.

Hence, when uncivil discourse is invoked, on the face of it, there's already a leaning towards the supression of free speech.

(3) Nice tight little feedback loop isn't it? That's the whole idea. :)

Huichieh said...

Ok, I see your position better now. It's probably closer to my "gray area" case that I originally thought.

Huichieh said...

Incidentally, I don't agree that "state intervention" issues are simply not relevant. When we are talking about "curtailing freedom of speech", it's usually the state that has that kind of power.

Short of that, a coordinated effort by private individuals ("online vigilantes")--people stepping in for the state illegally.

And finally, short of that, the uncoordinate efforts of private individuals, each of which may be perfectly within his rights to do or say what he did, but the overall outcome is effective social ostracism (my "gray area" case, example of the Jewish grocery store employee).

Anthony said...


I'm asserting state powers are not relevant for this discussion - we're talking about a private collection of individuals.

That's a VERY interesting proposition - that a private collection of individuals can "take over" the power of the state for the purposes of suppressing free speech.

I am not sure I agree with that proposition - the point of free speech guarantees in constitutions is to curb state power, which, under most circumstances, would have a greater set of powers than any group of private individuals, save during election time. :D

The state governs through laws - how can a private group of individuals step in using a process that the state obviously does not condone, i.e illegally?

That third proposition sounds like its going to be the default scenario for mobbing actually.

Huichieh said...

No, I agree that state powers are not actually involved or even invoked in this case, but I think we should keep it in mind because what a state can do presents the paradigm case of "curtailing freespeech".

Think about it, when the state wants to curtail some's freedom--not just of speech--it can issue threats and back up those threats with force, and the force would have the authority of legality as well. The state never has to send its agents to your blog to post nasty comments. It can simply issue a warrant for your arrest. This means that IMO, to talk about "curtailing" someone's freedom of speech when the state--or something like it--is not involved, is, to say the least, hyperbolic.

As long as the state does not step in, we can at least rule out any worries that Kenny's rights have been violated at that end. The question is, what else could or must his detractors to have done in order to reasonably be considered as "attempting to curtail his freedom of speech".

It is at that point that I propose the possibilities: at one end, we have individuals or groups threatening Kenny with undesirable consequence (e.g., telling him to watch his back when going home from work); in the middle, individuals coordinating to post nasty comments; and at the other end, we have individuals, no coordination, voicing disagreement--even uncivilly--on his blog. I am trying to make sense of the conditions that must be met in order for us to non-hyperbolicaly say that someone's freedom of speech has been curtailed.

I don't know enough of the case details, but from what I do know, I think we can say that the top and middle possibilites do not apply. As far as I know, no one threatened bodily harm; nor was there a coordinated attack. This suggests that at best it's the bottom end of the spectrum--what I call the "gray area": private individuals voicing their disagreement (civilly, uncivilly), each acting fully within his rights, and if we examine each case in isolation, it would not be obvious that Kenny's rights have been violated at all. Only in aggregate does it look as if an bad outcome--adverse social pressure--has resulted.

(Think of it this way: suppose out of 100 comments, 5 were of the nasty kind. Not a nice experience but I think most likely Kenny will move on ignoring them for the most part. We would probably say that the 5 are merely exercising their freedom, badly I'm sure, but heck, that's part of the deal of freedom of speech anyway. Things only become bad when it's not 5 but 95. Now, even though each individual case is exactly as before, the aggregate outcome presents a kind of social pressure.)

I think this is the best way to spell out what you are after. (Probably more later)

Anthony said...


I ask you to consider - how many lynch mobs are actuall premeditated? That still doesn't stop a lynch mob from being...well, a lynch mob.

I'm not sure the line between a coordinated attack and a bunch of people getting together to exert social pressure is so easily established. God knows - I had a hand in unintentionally triggering one against Steve McDermott over the infantile thing.

Let me put it another way - the -fact- that Kenny, and indeed, other bloggers take down posts to blog-mobbing shows, ipso facto, that there is indeed some effect to free speech. If a blog-mob were mere individuals, the social pressure could easily be ignored.

That incidentally, is the rationale for imputing criminal intent to all members of an illegal assembly/riot group - it's very easy to be inflamed by a collection of passions.

Huichieh said...

I'm not sure if we disagree...I'm trying to understand exactly what your complaint is, that is, what the best construction of your complaint against Kenny's detractors.

Ok, I'll add that there are two different cuts involved:

(1) Coordination (individuals in a group in a concerted, planned attempt to "get you") vs. (2) no coordination.

For the latter, (2a) the actions of each individual could, when taken in isolation, be perfectly within his/her rights; perhaps uncivil, perhaps not; e.g., voluntary, uncoordinated boycotting of the store that employs the Jewish guy. OR, (2b) the actions of each individual could be more than uncivil--throwing rocks and bashing people in a mob is not the same as boycotting or even leaving a nasty comment.

You are absolutely right about thing: the blogosphere can generate it's own special brand of online "lynching". Think the "chain" reaction to the initial revelations about the scholar's racist remarks (now that was a while ago). One comment leading to another. One post leading to another. The intensity increasing as it travels through the ether.

If this was what happened to Kenny...sigh.

Question: how can such things be stopped, or at least tempered?

Anthony said...


Mob mentality works both ways. Individual acts that may not be horrible in isolation may collectively be horrible. Likewise, a mob can egg individuals on to do things that people wouldn't ordinarily do. I don't think the two are disjunctive or mutually exclusive.

It's my belief that's what happened to poor Kenny. Xiaxue and minishorts apparently got some of the splatter as well.

Simplest answer I can give Huichieh - I don't know how best to stop these online lynch-mobs forming. I do what I can - whenever an issue like the recent Kenny incident flares up, I write in an attempt to get people to cool down a bit.

It unfortunately doesn't work and backfires at times - especially when the issues are tough to explain, let alone resolve.