What's most interesting to me at this point about Surfline's "new and improved Power Rankings" (as described objectively by Surfline's editor) is that they feature yet another attempt by Surfline to stifle dissent from their audience.
Like all Surfline features, the comments section for the new rankings is moderated.
Unsurprisingly, I received a large number of emails from surfers this week who claimed to have left non-profane, respectful yet critical comments on Surfline, only to see them go unpublished. Instead, Surfline's editors cherry-picked a batch of comments that painted the picture they wanted to tell. Then they went back and removed some more comments, then they closed the comments section altogether.
This isn't the first time Surfline has tried to control the commentary surrounding their actions. Surfline allegedly shut down their message boards after being bombarded with negative comments concerning their actions regarding Barra and Scorpion Bay. More recently they closed comments on both my last installment of the Power Rankings and their new version, once the mood turned sour.
Students of history are well aware that attempts to squash dissent and mute the exercise of free speech usually only encourage more vitriolic responses.
Surfline has learned this the hard way - or perhaps it's more accurate to say they've experienced negative repercussions, without learning at all. The harder Surfline has tried to snuff out critics, the more discussion has bloomed concerning Surfline on other message boards.
Innocents will of course think that Surfline's moderation amounts to responsible comment management instead of censorship. It's paranoid to think Sean Collins is actually trying to control what people say and think - right?
Turns out, not so much.
In emails from June 2008, variously sent to Surfline employees, industry insiders, and the editors of Surfer, Surfing, and Transworld, Sean Collins expressed the following thoughts concerning online discussions:
"With the propagation of Web 2.0, blogs, user generated comments, etc. Everyone can post anything they want...While this new information age brings many great things, for sure it's also troubling times as the safeguards aren't yet in place to control those people who may try abuse the system..."
"This is sickening stuff... We learned that from Barra last year but at least you guys have the opportunity to react quickly, and with a "cooperative" non-competitive media in the surf world to get the truth out quickly..."
Well, good luck attempting to "control those people" who have the nerve to excercise their constitutional right to express opinions. You may be able to silence their voices on your own site, or even lobby editors of other magazines in what you see as a "'cooperative' non-competitive media" to remove dangerous opinions from their sites.
But this is PostSurf, and things work differently here. And the funniest part is, a shitload of people in the industry are reading.
So our comment of the week is simply one of many that Surfline's editors refused to run on their site:
April 23, 2009 at 9:29 am
As attempted to be posted on surfline:
“Nice job, fuckwits. This already sucks.
And I like how any negative comments are edited out by the thought police (sorry for the reference you don’t understand). Go Stalin! Go Mao! Go Collins!
Even if you are editing only because of the powers that be, then you have traded your morality for money.
Surfline has sunk even lower. 'Oh, cool! Another ‘Groms Attack’ feature.' Fuck you.”