A tiny pinch-of-salt number of our 10,200 registered online members have experienced first hand our new standard of intolerance for foul and bullying language in the comment sections of our Web site, post-journal.com.
We simply do not put up with it. Those who indulge in that speech lose their privilege to join in on the robust debates waged by our members.
None of the so-far handful of people whose memberships we have revoked could have been surprised. And going forward, no one else will be either. They know they are using bullying or foul language. And they know they are skating on the edge because, when other members report the abusive language to us, those comments are removed.
That is the warning. We will remove abusive comments as they are reported to us and if the behavior persists, membership will be revoked.
Yes, everyone has the constitutional right to free speech. You have a right to stand on any street corner and proclaim your views to anyone who cares to listen. But you have no more right to use bullying or foul language on our Web site than you have a right to barge into someone's home and do the same thing.
There is no appeal. There is, however, a lesson to be learned: Words have consequences.
We all have a right to say whatever we want, but the Constitution's protection of free speech does not mean we are exempt from the consequences of what we say. It is the same with the press. We in the media are free to print whatever we want, but we are not free to avoid the consequences if, say, we libel someone.
We know that some of the people who stop by to comment on our Web site are simply sharing a thought about the topic at hand. Others are looking for hearty debate on issues that spur their passions.
None are looking to be abused by the few people who spoil what might be a heated, but, still, civilized discussion.
And now they won't be. We are weeding those spoilers out as they come to our attention.