Thursday, 12 April 2012


From Wikipedia

When I’m composing a blog post or comment, I often find myself in a situation where I write something then decide it isn’t what I want to say. I don’t quite agree with what I've written – almost but not quite.

It could be put down to diffidence, uncertainty, lack of self-confidence, conceptual cowardice or whatever, but I think it’s mostly a fear of self-deception. I use the word fear deliberately here, because people seem to vary in this respect.

Some people seem to be unafraid of deceiving themselves, apparently quite willing to let it all hang out and parry the doubts or criticisms if and when they arrive. The rest of us seem more likely to be wary of self-deception, not wishing to find ourselves adrift on a sea of dubious words to which we never gave enough thought.

This self-censorship seems to be affected by alcohol. No surprises there. So you see more self-confidence down the pub from about nine o’clock onwards.

If like me, you are affected by this kind of self-censorship, you may have noticed how quickly it can operate and how it seems to be to some degree sub-vocal. I don’t say to myself I can’t write that – it’s more like ummm, no.

Hardly even that really – more like a flicker of recognition that the censor has stepped in – no words needed – change the post - edit it or delete it. Maybe the words come afterwards, as a kind of rationale of what happened.

Theories of language must have a hard time here, because who is to say quite what is going on with something so ephemeral and dynamic? Not me that’s for sure – even if I had a theory I’d end up censoring it before it saw the light of day.


Anonymous said...

Isn't self-censorship a matter of writing something you want to say but decide 'better not'. Deciding some writing is not what you want to say seems different, a kind of editing or steering of the thought process. I find the act of writing clarifies thought - often to the point where I think 'that's crap' or ' that's not quite right' and change or delete as needed.

So what is the difference between the the two forms?. One seems to avoid trouble, the other seems to me to not want to appear a prat. Neither process entirely succeeds, one path smacks of cowardice or kindness, the other of a lack of confidence or daring.

I sometimes imagine a picture of bloggers and commenters, to be able to cartoon them would be good - maybe.

John Page said...

I was agreeing with Roger before I saw his comment.

You're not censoring something you wanted to say. You're censoring an inaccurate exposition of your thoughts.

Fortunate the person who can fluently expound their thoughts first time round. Or maybe there wasn't much to expound!

Anonymous said...

To drone on. Writing can be a form of conjecture or experiment and if expressed so it seems fair enough for less well-formed ideas to come out.

Have you noticed how 'VIPs' seldom say anything new - their ideas have always been well trailed to see how they will go down.

Sam Vega said...

I think it makes sense to see ourselves as a little committee of voices; some sensible, some impetuous, some angry, some friendly, and so on. Some days one voice takes over, and some days another. Self-censorship is when the meeting is well-chaired. It is, I think, the essence of morality and concern for others, as well as being essential for one's long-term well-being.

James Higham said...

The great advantage of blogging and commenting [at OoL and my place anyway] is that you can go in and change comments after you've made them, as well as changing posts at any time.

This though plays into the hands of the unscrupulous. A few of us had a stalker in 2007 and he regularly wrote libellous material and then removed it later when it hit the fan. However, RSS feeds and caches caught him out.

A K Haart said...

Roger - I wrote the post when I noticed how quick the process can be. It often seems too quick for rational thought. Not always, but very frequently.

For instance I just hesitated there over the word 'very'. It was so brief a hesitation that I wouldn't usually have noticed.

John - Samuel Johnson was said to speak like a second edition, as if he organised his thoughts before speaking or writing.

He would publish issues of his Rambler without even checking them. I don't think many of us work like that.

Sam - I like that, a little committee of voices. I suppose the fewer voices you have the more authoritarian you are.

James - I almost never change either unless I've made a gross error - like leaving a comment against the wrong post! I've done that a few times.

I tidy posts up sometimes, when the formatting isn't so good.