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Diverting Attention
from the Distributist Polemic ?

It seems that for lack of arguments to defend Distributist authors like Eric Gill and Arthur Penty, some Distributist fans are trying to change the subject. One of them, Mr. Eric Grabowsky, questions TIA's right to post repercussions about the Eric Gill articles by Patrick Odou.

To view the repercussions, click here .

Below are Mr. Eric Grabowsky's e-mail and TIA's answer.

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Dear TIA,

I am sending a copy of this E-mail to myself and to the message forum known as RomanCatholics@yahoogroups.com.

In your response, please inform me if you grant permission for me to forward your response to the RomanCatholics@yahoogroups.com forum. Messages sent to that forum are received by all members of the list and posted on an online database that is only accessible by members of the list. RomanCatholics@yahoogroups.com is classified as a "membership required" discussion list.

On your website, you have posted discourse from RomanCatholics@yahoogroups.com:
Wildfire Spreading Over Distributist Founder Eric Gill

In writing this E-mail, I am only communicating as an individual member of the discussion list known as RomanCatholics@yahoogroups.com. I am in no way intending to represent the list as a whole, other members of the list, and/or the moderators.

Since RomanCatholics@yahoogroups.com is a "membership required" group, did all parties involved in the discussion posted on your website (refer to the above link) grant permission to have their material posted?

Who gave the permission or provided the material that was posted on your site at the above link?

As a list member, I express the following concerns: If I send an E-mail to this "membership required" list, I understand that only those on the list will receive the E-mail. Also, since membership is required to read the messages within the database, the messages are not automatically accessible on the Internet. If I engage in a discussion that involves argumentation, there is the question of evidence and explanation. If I know something is going to be in a more accessible public context, I would consider the depth of explanation and citation of evidence.

I am not saying that yahoo groups as such are completely private, but if a list is a "membership required" forum, it is a particular type of public context with aspects of privacy. Also, if these types of materials are posted to a website, there is the issue of the way in which the content of the messages is framed, organized, and presented on a given website. All of this being said, it seems to me that the author of E-mails to a "membership required" yahoo forum should provide permission before the E-mails are posted to a website. I am intending for my explanation within this paragraph to pertain to the original written content of E-mails that are posted within "membership required" E-mail forums.


     Eric Grabowsky

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TIA responds:

Dear Mr. Grabowsky,

Thank you for your e-mail and your questions. We hope the following considerations will settle your concerns.

I - Regarding publicity and privacy

  1. We believe that the Internet is a public forum to discuss ideas. From this perspective, anyone who goes on it is acting in a public domain. This forum gives anyone the right to expose his thoughts that can benefit from a broad electronic dissemination throughout the world. The reverse side of this right is that any idea defended by one person on the Internet can be refuted by any other Internet surfer who enjoys the same right. In principle, therefore, there is no privacy to protect ideas or commentaries. On the contrary, there is complete liberty for anyone to discuss any idea.
  1. The RomanCatholic@yahoogroups.com list, even though it requires an ID and a password to access its material, allows any member to copy and forward to friends its data and the commentaries he judges convenient. In turn, these friends can spread unrestrictedly the same material to other friends. That is, the list starts by being a private forum that becomes a de facto open forum.
  1. Many members of the Roman Catholic list use pseudonyms to protect their privacy, others send anonymous commentaries that are also taken into consideration by the list. This ability to keep one’s own identity private speaks for itself that there is an implicit ackowledgement that such comments can be known by a larger public than the list. Therefore, whoever wants to use his real name is entering a public arena.
  1. You consider the mentioned list as acting in “a particular type of public context with aspects of privacy.” This juridical status you claim seems quite vague to provide sufficient basis for any serious demand. Regarding Internet privacy, we only know two concepts: public and private.
  1. Until further juridical precision is offered, we qualify the mentioned list by its practical effects. Since there is no restriction for the members to forward its material to other readers, we consider it public.

II - Regarding reciprocity
  1. The articles of Mr. Patrick Odou on Distributism were originally placed only on the TIA website.
  1. Members of the Roman Catholics list who are also our readers forwarded these articles to fellow members without any formal procedure of asking permission from us, and they were right to do so. Those articles ignited a polemic inside and outside the list about the topics of Mr. Odou’s articles.
  1. Using the same criterion, we posted a series of comments from the polemic with various pros and cons from that list without asking formal permission.
  1. This seems to us a fair procedure.

III – Regarding the question of “who provided the material”

We are glad to inform you that we have many friends who are also friends of the Society of St. Pius X. They were the ones who forwarded those comments to us.


     TIA correspondence desk

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Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted November 10th, 2005

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