So what is ‘appropriate’?

Thoughtful post by David Robinson on Freedom to Tinker.

A couple of weeks ago, Julian Sanchez at Ars Technica, Ben Smith at Politico and others noted a disturbing pattern on the incoming Obama administration's website: polite but pointed user-submitted questions about the Blagojevich scandal and other potentially uncomfortable topics were being flagged as "inappropriate" by other visitors to the site.

In less than a week, more than a million votes-for-particular-questions were cast. The transition team closed submissions and posted answers to the five most popular questions. The usefulness and interest of these answers was sharply limited: They reiterated some of the key talking points and platform language of Obama's campaign without providing any new information. The transition site is now hosting a second round of this process.

It shouldn't surprise us that there are, among the Presdient-elect's many supporters, some who would rather protect their man from inconvenient questions. And for all the enthusiastic talk about wide-open debate, a crowdsourced system that lets anyone flag an item as inappropriate can give these few a perverse kind of veto over the discussion.

If the site's operators recognize this kind of deliberative narrowing as a problem, there are ways to deal with it…

There’s an interesting parallel here between the mindset of Obama supporters and that of ANC supporters when Mandela came to power in South Africa. I knew several South African journalists who had been passionate opponents of apartheid and who found it very difficult to report frankly on the deficiencies of the new black government run by people who they had hither admired and supported.