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Note: As of now, "sex" will no longer be blocked from ISJ's online comments (read more).

In Pocatello, Idaho, same-sex marriage is among a group of issues on just about everyone's mind these days. Recently the city's anti-discrimination ordinance was slated for a referendum vote in May. That was a hard-won ordinance. The ordinance was highly unpopular with many conservatives in the community including Mayor Brian Blad. At the request of a local Mormon church leader, counsel from the American Religious Freedom Program was flown into Pocatello last April 4, the day that the ordinance was scheduled for a vote in a city council meeting. As a result, the vote was postponed. When it did get voted on in June, it was passed. Not satisfied with the outcome, a reportedly deceptive petition was circulated to get the ordinance up for currently scheduled referendum. In recent weeks, one gay teenager, Maddie Beard, committed suicide after being mercilessly bullied by her peers at Pocatello High School, and a boy at Highland High School may have taken his life for being repeatedly taunted by others who perceived him as gay.

Yesterday I read a story in Pocatello, Idaho's local paper, the Idaho State Journal. The story is "Add the Words’ protests aren’t effective, Rep. Elaine Smith says". Basically, it's about how a local democratic (?) representative thinks that Add the Words should end its protests at the Idaho State capitol in Boise because some state legislators don't like them.

Add the Words is a group dedicated to having the Four Words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" added to Idaho's state Human Rights Act. It's that simple.

So, I wrote a response to the story. This is it verbatim:

The truth is that Add the Words protests are only too effective or this story wouldn't be running. The current fight against gay rights in Idaho is many pronged, and Add the Words is doing it the right way. But its fight is against more than exclusion from the state Human Rights Act, it is about Idaho's unconstitutional gay marriage ban and the proposed right-to-discriminate law like the one Jan Brewer just vetoed in Arizona.

Stories like Smith's seem to be calculated to make Add the Words protesters lose heart. But your protests are working and you are winning. Here's why. As Mokurai put it on Daily Kos, "Idaho is in the Ninth Circuit. We have two decisions in favor of Marriage Equality in Federal District Courts the Tenth Circuit (Utah and Oklahoma), one in the Fourth (Virginia), and one in the Fifth (Texas). All four decisions are stayed pending appeal to the Circuit Courts of Appeals. There are more than twenty lawsuits in state and Federal courts to overturn same-sex marriage bans, and many other suits seeking other marriage rights. The Right recognizes that it has lost this fight. This train has left the station. This ship has sailed."

Hang in there, and keep protesting. Whatever Smith says, it is just a matter of time and that time is going to come a lot faster than the opponents think.

Why is Smith acting as a mouthpiece for the opponents of freedom?

I got this response:
Your comment cannot be accepted due to the presence of profanity. Please remove any objectionable content from your comment and try again.
Can anyone tell me what is profane or objectionable in the content of my message? How many other comments to this and other stories are being banned?

Later I wrote the online editor and offered to delete a blog I wrote about being censored, if I could get the comments posted.

Last night a friend who read the blog wrote to let me know it was blocked because the newspaper's filter caught the word "sex" in the posting. This morning I reposted my message like this, and it appears to have made it through the filter:

"The truth is that Add the Words protests are only too effective or this story wouldn't be running. The current fight against gay rights in Idaho is many pronged, and Add the Words is doing it the right way. But its fight is against more than exclusion from the state Human Rights Act, it is about Idaho's unconstitutional gay marriage ban and the proposed right-to-discriminate law like the one Jan Brewer just vetoed in Arizona.

Stories like Smith's seem to be calculated to make Add the Words protesters lose heart. But your protests are working and you are winning. Here's why. As Mokurai put it on Daily Kos, "Idaho is in the Ninth Circuit. We have two decisions in favor of Marriage Equality in Federal District Courts the Tenth Circuit (Utah and Oklahoma), one in the Fourth (Virginia), and one in the Fifth (Texas). All four decisions are stayed pending appeal to the Circuit Courts of Appeals. There are more than twenty lawsuits in state and Federal courts to overturn same-s*x marriage bans, and many other suits seeking other marriage rights. The Right recognizes that it has lost this fight. This train has left the station. This ship has sailed."

Hang in there, and keep protesting. Whatever Smith says, it is just a matter of time and that time is going to come a lot faster than the opponents think."

This was rejected before because the word s*x was in the posting. So same-s*x marriage is automatically filtered from comments to the paper. I think you should change that. A few weeks ago I tried to post about another story. I used the word d*mn. That was banned. But in a posting already up about the same story, the poster called Add the Words protesters perverts (their words, not mine, and sorry for any unintentional offense this causes anyone). Why is s*x, the way we got into this world, banned from postings while hateful language was okay until I complained and it was removed after being up for several days? Please change this policy.

My apologies to ISJ for accusing it of censorship. Please change your policy, sex is not an offensive term and I don't think you should be blocking reference to same-sex marriage when this is currently on the minds of so many people in the community.

The AP reported that some of the Add the Words protesters arrested this past Thursday at the state capitol in Boise were holding photos of Maddie Beard. In February, a total of 122 Add the Words protesters were arrested in Boise.  

7:29 AM PT: Previously in my block quote about the comment on ISJ's website, I wrote "All four decisions [in Idaho concerning couples challenging the ban on gay marriage] are stayed pending appeal to the Circuit Courts of Appeals." That is incorrect. The four pending decisions in four states other than Idaho are what are currently stayed in three other Circuit courts other than the Ninth. I've removed the erroneous bracketed language here, and it is also corrected on ISJ's website (thanks to Mokurai for pointing this out to me).


Originally posted to esessis on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 06:59 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Nothing, of course, is profane or objectional (9+ / 0-)

    in your comment. I noticed that four of the five comments replying to your comment at the ISJ supported your point too (the fifth wondered why the protesters weren't arrested, as happens in Scott Walker's Wisconsin).

    I'm guessing that the editorial page is sympathetic to what Rep. Smith is saying, and the "profanity" is

    Why is Smith acting as a mouthpiece for the opponents of freedom?
    That's not profane either, it's you being mean (sort of), but I doubt the newspaper thought it could tell you it wasn't posting something because it was mean. So it went with "profanity."
    •  Maybe it is a little mean (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koseighty, Dave in Northridge, Tool, SuWho

      I wouldn't object to that characterization. But there are things that get printed in this paper that say members of the community are against god, etc. A little scary and makes you wonder sometimes how close some people are to witch burning. Mean and dangerous, So, if it is mean, it is certainly not meaner than even regular columns by the religious in this paper.

  •  Local Standards (14+ / 0-)
    Can anyone tell me what is profane or objectionable in the content of my message?
    As someone who has actually been to Pocatello, perhaps I can help shed some light on the local standards which you unknowingly breached.  You used the following terms, all of which would be considered profane and objectionable to the sensitive folk of southern (i.e. Mormon) Idaho:

    • gay rights
    • gay marriage
    • Marriage Equality
    • gay marriage  (again!)
    • same-sex marriage

    I suggest you clean up your filthy language before you attempt contacting the paper again.  (/snark)

  •  Link to Article (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esessis

    The link in your diary is broken.

    Here is the original article for those interested:  ‘Add the Words’ protests aren’t effective, Rep. Elaine Smith says

  •  You defended gays... (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koseighty, sajiocity, sfbob, esessis, Matt Z, SuWho

    In eyes of wingnuts, that's the same thing.

  •  How quickly after posting your response (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koseighty, lunachickie, esessis

    did the rejection arrive? Since today is a Sunday, I have to assume that the rejection was made by a software filter rather than a human being, and sometimes such filters come up with completely inexplicable false positives.

    Your best bet is to email a real person at the paper asking for an explanation.

    Unfortunately when smart and educated people get crazy ideas they can come up with plausibly truthy arguments. -- Andrew F Cockburn

    by ebohlman on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 06:03:40 PM PST

  •  Lots of things in "filters" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esessis, BoiseBlue, sfbob, SuWho

    which shouldn't be, these days. I've seen the word sex caught up in a lot of newspaper filters lately, particularly those sections powered by Disqus. How amazing that it tends to crop up in comments about "same-sex marriage".

    Coincidence? Probably not, it didn't used to be that way. Though I will say, in the short term, I've chosen to give them the benefit of the doubt, because SEO porn trolls are everywhere. It makes you wonder, though.

    At any rate, in response, I simply started posting it like this:

    s*x
    I've taken to doing that on any LTE I send electronically or any blog post on any "mainstream media" website. And I do that for any word that might be remotely related to the concept of being even halfway questionable. Haven't had a problem since.

    This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

    by lunachickie on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:25:38 AM PST

  •  Pocatello used to be blue (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esessis, sfbob, SuWho

    It still is more blue than the rest of SE Idaho, but that no longer says a lot.

    My grandparents were dyed in the wool, yellow dog Dems, proud Union members, and Democratic activists. My grandma spent a lot of time "politickin'" at the senior center there in her last days. She was feisty as could be and pretty hardcore about politics.

    My grandparents used to be the norm in that area. One of my uncles still lives there and is a Union leader, but has become a bit burned out by that role. When he first joined the union it was a no-brainer in Poky, but like a lot of other places it's increasingly difficult to keep one strong.

    After my grandma passed away I quit visiting that town as much as I could, although my mom and I are planning a trip there next month.

    Anyway, the thing that sucks about this (and in other larger cities in Idaho) is that the elected officials are not really representing their constituents on this issue. Most of that is because getting people to vote is like pulling teeth. Everyone that I know in Poky supports marriage equality, but only a handful of them vote. My aunt and uncle, and my friend's son who is there attending ISU. All  of my other "allies" stand on the sidelines, posting supportive messages on fb then feeling like they've done their duty.

    When I was in Boise I attended all of the "Add the Words" protests, but it wasn't as well coordinated then as it is now. It has gained a lot of momentum over the last few years thanks to the relentless efforts of its founders.

    Also, Maddie Beard's remembrance page is here.

    P.S. I am not a crackpot.

    by BoiseBlue on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:36:11 AM PST

    •  Thanks, Boise blue (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BoiseBlue, SuWho

      I agree that representative government has been hijacked in Poky. Thanks for talking about your experience with that and for sharing Maddie Beard's remembrance page. I hesitated to even bring that up in the blog because I didn't want to appear to use a painful situation in a way that anyone might find  hurtful, but in the end I decided it was relevant.

      Sadly there is a also a strong attitude in Poky that you need to be nice all the time to get along. This is the button Elaine Smith is trying to push. Horrendous statements are made by people with smiles on their faces, and when you speak up, you may be told you're making it bad for everyone. Like someone recently said to me, it's like an abusive family. There may be serious problems, but in some families just bringing them up will get you labeled as the problem, and the discussion ends there. The problem continues, and grows. I think we're seeing that at a community scale. Maddie's parents are loving and were supportive of her, and there are lots of loving and supportive kids and families in the community. But I wonder if you can say that for the kids who attacked her in the larger 'family' of the high school.

      Salt Lake reportedly has the largest population per capita of teenagers living on the street, and I've heard that it is usually because they are gay or perceived gay. There is lots of abuse and abandonment in some places in the region that is part of the political climate that has democratic politicians in SE Idaho complaining about inconvenience at the capital, instead of sounding the alarm about what could have been changed to prevent Maddie's death, and what has to change to protect others.

      As long as people don't bother to vote, it won't change. They have to vote and speak out about this or the bigotry will remain. They need to galvanize themselves with the realization that the battle is, for most intents and purposes, already lost on the right. They have to forget George Will telling them that they have to be good losers so the discrimination can continue a little longer, and maybe in some places they can make it continue a lot longer. No more bullying, no more deaths.

      •  Completely agree (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sfbob, esessis
        Sadly there is a also a strong attitude in Poky that you need to be nice all the time to get along.
        The paternal side of my family is Mormon, and this is a very oppressive attitude to be around. They disowned me for years, not out of spite but because it was just too unpleasant to think about. They have welcomed me back somewhat, but it's still so oppressive to be around them. Everyone is so smiley but it's so fake. Ugh.

        You're right about voting, but that's always the fight, isn't it? Convincing people that posting an equality pic online does not change anything. Voting does. Real world work does.

        P.S. I am not a crackpot.

        by BoiseBlue on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 09:06:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  That smiley happy everything is wonderful (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        esessis

        attitude is soooo Mormon. I hate it. I see it on the local news all the time as reporters talk about how wonderful our community is -- it's the American exceptionalism idea in a microcosm. It reminds me of Barbara Bush's attitude after Katrina, talking about how she didn't want her beautiful mind polluted by the reality of the suffering after the hurricane. I think they believe that if everybody just lived like they did there would be no problems. I moved here in 1968 to go to ISU thinking it was a wonderfully liberal place, after growing up in Idaho Falls which seemed so conservative. Since IF is so much bigger now, I think there is much more diversity there, at least, and probably less conservative than Pocatello is.

        "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." Anais Nin

        by SuWho on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 11:57:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Breast cancer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob, novapsyche, esessis

    There was a case several years ago where AOL had banned the word "breast" from their forums, which ended up inadvertently shutting down the breast cancer support forum. It is sometimes called the Scunthorpe problem, after a town in England which is sometimes blocked because of the second through fifth letters of its name.

    It's a serious problem, and reflects the inability to have an automated, mechanical filter that doesn't take context into account. Organizations want to keep a certain level of tone in their online forums, but don't want to pay the cost of having a large staff of human moderators to evaluate messages on a case-by-case basis (or to make their users suffer the concomitant delay in having their posts appear).

    (On a less serious note, I was thinking of suggesting that your message was banned because of the phrase, "many pronged".)

    La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues, et de voler du pain.

    by dconrad on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:45:36 AM PST

    •  It is even worse than that, until recently (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      esessis, dconrad

      many of those filters only used substring searches which made it impossible to use the word "socialism" at all.  In fact, many still use substring searches because it is easier to program especially if you want to prevent bypass tricks like EsSEX, EsSeX or ESsex.

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 12:31:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, in the case of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        esessis

        Scunthorpe, that was obviously a substring.

        I really like your example. I never realized that you can't spell socialism without cialis!

        You might be interested to know that I used to live near a cross street named "Essex", and the sign was repeatedly vandalized. Someone used spray paint to block out the "E" and the "s" so the sign just said, "sex". The city replaced the sign, but the vandals just spray painted it again.

        Finally, everyone just had to get used to the fact that we lived near sex street.

        La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues, et de voler du pain.

        by dconrad on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 11:40:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I did wonder about the prongs... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dconrad

      but it's definitely the sex.

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