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The Listserves Go “Off-List”

The "Listserves" hosted by the Mendocino School District’s private internet outfit known as Mendocino Community Network are heavily underwritten out of Mendocino's public school funds. Which is the real issue here, not that anyone has ever addressed it. Real issue? Did someone say real issue? One more time: Why is a public school district funding a private business? That's the real issue here.

The listserves became controversial during the recent Fifth District election campaign when miscellaneous participants — the usual Mendo array of shut-ins, fake-name assassins, gutless wonders, heavily medicated outpatients, and random psychos — took unsupported (and always witless) pot shots at one or another of the candidates. The Hamburg-ites, save Dan himself, said the Roberts-ites represented an all-out fascist offensive against the cool people of the 5th District. The Roberts-ites characterized Hamburg and his supporters as cult-brained dope heads, and a good time was had by all.

MCN honcho Mitch Sprague announced last week that he had decided to shut down the listserves because people were coming to him and MCN “off-list” with complaints about “slanderous” remarks being made about them on the MCN-hosted listserves. “This is not like a private list which can be privately managed,” said Sprague. “Public [i.e., school district] ownership makes it questionable. Yes, it’s about free speech. But it concerns me when someone says they’re being harmed. Is it true? Is it harmful? Does it rise to stopping someone’s free speech access? We’re not in a position to do this.” Of course they’re not. Sprague said that since MCN was operated by the Mendocino School District complaints about his on-line psych ward might become a school liability.

This all sounds pretty paranoid to us since no sane person takes the listserve postings seriously anyway. On the other hand, Sprague might understandably be tired of offended persons whining at him privately about the on-line insults lobbed at them.

Predicatably, a torrent of listserve postings soon denounced Sprague himself as a major enemy of the people for his decision to terminate the listserves. (Coast liberals take themselves very, very seriously.) Sprague briefly countered with a stripped down “announcements-only” bulletin board for things like lost dogs, trailers for sale and dance lessons. And now he's backed off altogether. The loons are again free to resume fire.

One Comment

  1. Taylor Ellis December 13, 2010

    Why can’t they just start a yahoo group? There are lots of free ways to have an online discussion without involving the school system’s resources.

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