Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Comment About, Well, Comments...

So, I have decided to change my policy with regard to comments on my blog. Moving forward, I decided to review each comment before allowing it to appear online.

This whole issue of comments is something I have wrestled with for a while. Initially I blocked comments from anonymous posters (a policy followed by Mark Newgent's "Red Maryland" blog). Then I changed it to allow unmoderated comments from everyone (as does Joe Steffen's blog "Darkness Rising"). Ultimately I decided to chart a middle course between these worthy fellow bloggers: Anonymous posts will be allowed, provided that I have a chance to screen them first.

I decided to do this for two basic reasons.

First, unchecked anonymous postings create opportunities for abuse. The textbook example is this blog posting from "Darkness Rising" which appeared last spring. Clearly the subject of this blog posting was so upset by it that a team of illiterates was dispatched to punish Steffen. As you can see, hundreds of nasty and (in some cases) borderline libelous comments were posted, many originating from the same Montgomery County poster using several different names. At one point, the poster in question even asks Steffen if he's "had enough" and if he will finally shut his blog down. Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather critique idiots on my blog, not empower them or give them a free forum to spout their uninformed, venomous, libelous, hate-inspired views.

Second, I believe that criticism is always fair game when it comes to blogging - but harrassment is not.

I'm very aware that many of my views are controversial. Many of my readers took a good whack at me for including FDR in my top ten presidents list. I understand that's fair game. Dissenting comments will always be welcome.

What won't be welcomed, however, are unsigned comments by people who keep repeating the same concocted falsehoods over and over again (e. g. that I am a "trust fund baby" of some kind, that I "helped write" Joe Steffen's blog, or I am currently posting on the Sun forums under any number of different names even after I devoted a blog post addressing that rumor) sheerly for the purpose of harrassment.

These people are the blogger's equivalent of drivers who let themselves be stranded in the middle of an intersection after the light changes, blocking traffic for everyone else.

Repeating something over and over again does not make it true. Unsigned comments from posters who do so without offering any supporting evidence are not contributing to the kind of meaningful debate I want to host on this blog.

So, that's where we stand on comments. I will continue to rule on the side of liberality when reviewing comments. I appreciate my readers and want them to have a chance to weigh in. I don't think this will change things very much from readers' perspective. That said, if you think this new policy sucks, leave a comment telling me why.


  1. One anonymous responder felt the new policy "sucks," stating that I should be willing to "take it" the same way that I dish it out.

    I think we're talking about apples and oranges.

    I sign my name to my blog postings, collecting both the occasional attention and the frequent consequences resulting from my willingness to speak my mind.

    If someone can help me understand how that equates to someone posting anonymously for the solely purpose of spreading deliberately concocted falsehoods, then you're smarter than I am.

  2. Good call.

    When you comment anonymously on a blog of this nature you're basically saying that you haven't bothered to form an opinion that you'd be willing to support in real life.

    If it isn't worth your own time, why should it be worth mine, the readers, or yours, the authors?

  3. I believe that John your comment on anonymously writing on blogs is completely off base. What bothers me is that you think that because someone chooses not to seek attention or shamelessly self promote their identity they are incapable of forming opinions in which they would not be open to share normally in the real world. Through out history great works of literature and art have been released as anonymous. Does that make them less important? Less influential? For example, Beowulf is a piece of literature thats author is unknown, but yet so many have taken the time to read and even to create films based on it. I speak for many of us who care more about the content of the entry then the author itself when I say to you John substance matters!

  4. I'm sorry, I didn't realize that anonymous commenting on political blogs was such an art form. I wouldn't want to offend the artistic community...

    If you want to see the real purpose of anonymity, look at what "Anon" has done in protest of the Wikileaks prosecution. Or look at whistleblowers and protesters who live and work in unjust, totalitarian conditions. Don't denigrate the work of those who truly needed to remain anonymous by comparing yourself to these people.

    When I post my name to this comment (as when RJC posts his real name on his blog) I am not promoting myself -- I am saying, "This is my opinion. I have thought about the issue and this is how I feel. If you disagree with me, I give you full permission and ability to engage me in reasonable debate, be it on or off the site."

    By contrast, when I see a comment made by "anonymous" (where there is absolutely no need for anonymity save an abdication of responsibility), this is what I see: "This is my knee-jerk response. I haven't bothered to educate myself on the issue because that would be too difficult. If you disagree with me, tough, because I am going to post this and then fade into the obscurity of the internet because I know my opinions are too flimsy to stand the test of a discussion."

    If you want to prove me wrong, my contact information is just a click away.

  5. This blog was brought to my attention by some friends who took offense to it. I read it and saw the comments. I did not get on here to get into some petty fight with some nobody who thinks he's a somebody, enough so that he puts his name out there. Seriously, get over yourself and get off your self righteous high horse. If you want to have a real discussion post a link to your facebook profile and I will talk to you.

  6. Unnamed sources make me crazy. Just one time, I'd like to see, instead of 'according to unnamed sources,' I'd like to see 'according to tweaky little, ill-informed, chicken-ass, wannabe.'
    -Abigail Bartlett, The West Wing