One of the most effective methods of censorship is to scare writers into avoiding topics you don't want discussed. Not just oppressive governments employ the tactic. It's a favourite of religions and large corporations, too.
This particular form of bullying stifles debate, which is, of course, the idea. There are plenty of organisations that don't want an open discussion of their beliefs, their finances, their actions or their secrets.
Why am I bringing this up in a beer blog? Something happened this week that made me realise I've been bullied into abandoning a full expression of my views. And it's rather disheartening.
I'd wondered why my post "Is Kölsch an Ale?" had suddenly received a couple more comments. They immediately struck me as a little strange, especially as it was apparent that at least one of those commenting hadn't read the related posts. He wouldn't have put in all that technical stuff if he had.
A link to "Is Kölsch an Ale?" had been placed in RBPMail. Someone had then copied my article and posted it as a new thread on BeerAdvocate. Slightly annoying, because there was no reference to me or this blog. (On my request, the inital post quoting the whole article has been replaced by a link to my blog post.)
I'll be honest with you. I haven't read through the whole thread. Depressingly - since my article tried to explain my rationale behind not referring to Kölsch as an Ale - the conversation followed very similar lines to the one on RateBeer. Basically that top-fermenting yeast = Ale yeast, ergo Kölsch is an Ale. Either that or abuse.
The discussion (if you can call it that) was disheartening enough first time around. I can live without a repeat. Head and brick wall situation. Last time it did feel really good when I stopped, but that isn't enough to get me banging again.
It's no wonder that conversations on beer forums are limited to "Watcha drinkin'?", "what's your favorite barrel-aged German Quadrupel?" or "Is XXXXX over-/underrated?". Anyone trying to make a serious point that doesn't agree with current homebrewing orthodoxy is likely to be greeted with a stream of hatred and abuse. At least, that's why I don't bother any more. You need either a very thick skin or to conform. A bit sad, really.
Am I the only one who's been driven away? Maybe I'm just a sensitive soul. Is it inevitable that a small clique of verbal bullies will come to dominate any forum?
In avoiding discussion I'm censoring myself. And, in doing so, helping to reinforce ideas which I beleive to be false by not challenging them. It's a sobering thought.
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