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A Second Modest Proposal to the Editors

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To my dear Editors, greeting. It is delighting to fancy, and reasonable to presume, that in the hectic course of life, you busying yourselves with many other interesting and important things, have given much thought to the improving of this Public Space, including the several questions and recommendations scattered in two or three articles I wrote of late; and that I having endeavored, most comprehensively in my Examination of 阿藹's Article, to clarify the nature of diverse concerns, which often have not much to do with technicalities, but with power, may have contributed to your deliberation, the fruit of which having regrettably not yet been made known. I take it, that this is due to the lack of time, rather than of motivation or argument. Some of the difficulties I raised in the said Examination may, I am sure, be met on one ground or another; but the piece entire, I hope, may serve to gather various themes and angles, indispensable, in my view, to any genuine reflection upon the character of your collective enterprise.

I do not surmise who has thought what in this reflective process, even though the occasional appearance of very ugly language may be indicative of certain states of mind. And yet I do expect, that some serious thought be devoted to the themes and angles in that piece; an answer, that is, to the questions I put to 阿藹, and thereby to you all, and not a mere repetition of the official version of things. The question of power, for instance, is serious enough, if simply you care to look at Inmedia as you would any critical targets in the world at large. It is this switch of perspectives, applying the same critical language to this Public Space, and thereby experiencing the receiving end of a critical engagement, that I have failed to find in 阿藹's Article. That Article is a good-willed explication of many technical reasons behind the recent adjustments of the front-page; but it does not confront the consequences at all, which, I think, is what most of you, when writing about power structures in social and political life, will normally concentrate on.

A somewhat more disappointing fact is, I must say, that that Article has been put up on the front-page, but no other article, written from perspectives different from the official one, has received the same privilege. Permit me to brag that in the two or three articles I wrote of late, I have put forth more arguments than any of the official pieces has, believing that I have not been so incompetent that all those arguments were obviously invalid. It may be disturbing to put the Selection Question to your Editorship again; but I simply cannot see why my contributions might not stimuate public discussion at least as well as 阿藹's Article.

As of this writing, I notice that out of the ten current pieces put up in "Focus," five are written or reproduced by 阿藹 (林藹雲) and 阿野 (周思中)(two by the former, and three by the latter, both being Editors). I do not question the good will of the writer, nor the worth of the pieces; but seeing that while 阿藹's Article has been faring well on the front page, for quite a few days already, mine must accept a different fate, I cannot help the thought, that either (which I believe not) none of you regarded my Examination had treated of the current debate at least as thoroughly as the Article did and was sufficiently stimulating for other readers, or for some other reason, apart from my writing in English I hope, there is simply no room in that privileged section, reserved as it is for the collective imagination of this community, as some put it, for such a piece as my Examination.

I have argued enough, as much in that piece as elsewhere, for reducing the size of "Focus," restoring, to the extent possible, the old layout, but perhaps with a different system to classify the column articles, so that each may enjoy roughly the same lease on life on the front-page. 阿藹, I recall, has obliged herself to justify the new layout on technical grounds; and yet, apart from the fact that even some frequent readers have found it more difficult now to be alerted of new articles, I should like to believe, that re-allocation of space is not merely a matter of technical concern, just as politics, your Editorship must well undertand, is not merely a matter whether the vote is online or by a physical ballot.

The Selection Question, being clearly a question of power, cannot be dodged. Let us recall the noble vision of this Public Space once put forth in these many words (they being still valid, I presume):

我們要獨立於政權、財團與政黨對媒體的支配和壟斷,實現公民自主的思想交流和資訊溝通,為日趨單一化的言論和思考模式,帶來新的氣象。所以我們會:

--連結獨立知識份子、教育工作者、青年學生和民間社會活躍分子,以多元的觀點回應社會議題,並透過對話和辯論,凝聚出民間對香港未來社會發展的願景;

--以歷史和文化政治的視野,解讀和分析香港民主和社會發展的核心問題,在香港公民主體形成的關鍵時刻,給予他一個必要的歷史、理論和知識座標;

--提供一個開放的「公眾空間」,讓市民大眾可以參與講述、評論各式屬於他們的香港故事;

--提供香港以外地區(大陸、台澳和國際)的社會分析、文化政治評論、改革思維、國際政治評論等資訊,以拓寬我們分析、思考、與想像自我、社會和世界的能力。

From the notion of a public space: "提供一個開放的「公眾空間」,讓市民大眾可以參與講述、評論各式屬於他們的香港故事"; to the emphasis on diversity: "以多元的觀點回應社會議題,並透過對話和辯論,凝聚出民間對香港未來社會發展的願景"; to the longing for new modes of thinking: "為日趨單一化的言論和思考模式,帶來新的氣象": What does it all mean?

I do not see, in this noble vision, an exclusive attachment to only one part of society, to only one set of views, to only one kind of political judgment defined and represented by what the editors happen to favor. It is my belief, that this noble vision does not speak in a partisan language, at least not in the way Inmedia, under the guidance of your Editorship, has increasingly come to speak it. When commentators, writing to rebut me, speak of position, partisanship, and struggle, they seem to forget that this very mode of thinking, which judges the rightness of a thing, not by a full consideration of all pertinent matters, but by its being marginalized or not, radical or not, unusual, un-mainstream, un-governmental or not; such a mode of thinking is, through a less self-complacent lens, little more than a "日趨單一化的言論和思考模式."

Let me observe, with perhaps some other readers, that very few articles fitting the mode of thinking just described, ever received, in their fleeting life, any serious engagement from other writers within the same circle. "以多元的觀點回應社會議題"; is this to be achieved within the Inmedia community, or only in society at large, Inmedia being as always simply a partisan participant in that grand social dialogue?

The project of discovering minor voices is a worthy one. But it should not, I suppose, be taken as a license to presume their correctness or acceptability, to be promoted regardless. The project is to discover, not to presume. I think this much is implied in the noble vision I quoted from your mission statement; yet how does it go in practice?

It is in connection with this larger question, the character of Inmedia, not as the official version now tries to intimate (阿藹 claiming, for instance, that Inmedia is not an open forum), but as the noble vision, and earlier practice, seem to suggest; that I fingered at the problem of editorial power. Who, 阿藹 included, may tell us why an increased discretion given the editors would never conduce to a "日趨單一化的言論和思考模式"?

Under the noble vision have we the following set of principles:

編輯決定焦點的原則:

1. 符合香港獨立媒體網的宗旨及編輯方針(參考關於我們)
2. 民間報導及本網站原創作品優先
3. 富有(廣義的)公共性, 知識性, 能引發反思的文章.
4. 參考讀者評分及回應

And the official comment: "一直以來, 編輯部均以一人建議一人和議的方法選焦點. 新的版面亦會以相同的方法運作."

This much we know. What we, save your Editorship, do not know, is who has moved to select a certain article, and who seconded; and what might happen, when an article seeming to fit the selection criteria set out above, is unfortunately not favored by any of the editors, for partisan reasons or not.

Readers need not surmise what motivated a particular selection, or what caused a pattern of selections, if each time only one selected article could be put up as headline, as in yonder days. But now, with ten articles in a row, occupying the full center of the front-page, but out of which five being written by the same two persons, in fact two Editors, it is not unnatural to ask, I take it, what really determines the selection.

It is unhelpful to formulate a question in abstracto; so when I speak to readers of your Editorship, I speak of real persons, persons moving, seconding, selecting articles. Your Editorship has kindly provided the readers a list, which reads:
羅永生、葉蔭聰、林藹雲、周思中、陳浩倫、林輝、鄭威鵬、梁寶山、朱凱迪、李智良、葉寶琳、陳景輝

And I take this to be current. It is not hard to detect, that articles by your Editorship have been very well represented in "Focus," both in the past, and even more so in the present. But with this, we would still not know who is selecting what, for what reason soever; unless it be made known the names of the selectors (both the one moving and the one seconding), so that over a period of time we may come to see what patterns of selection there might be, if any, and as well the taste as the reasonableness of particular selectors.

I petition to your Editorship, therefore:

First, and most pleasing of all, that the size of "Focus" be reduced, whereby the problem of potential abuse of editorial power would be cleanly resolved; but if that be found infeasible, or not conforming to your Editorship's judgment, then

Second, that the on-line identities of him who moves to select a certain article, and him who seconds the motion, be revealed and appended under the title of the article so selected.

I do not petition that reasons for the selection be offered each time, seeing that they would very well be routinely repeated, shedding little light on why in fact an article may enjoy a better fate. But that aside, I hold that there should be no technical difficulties at all to effect at least the second item above; to append two names, one needs only to type them in the appropriate place, like an editorial introduction.

This much I hope you may consider seriously, it being in part an immediate, but only interim, answer to the accountability deficit of Inmedia, in part a point of departure for reconsidering the character of Inmedia, in light of the noble vision set forth above. To your Editorship I submit this Second Proposal, I remaining your faithful reader and writer

Y.T.

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