I don’t generally like comments sections. Though I appreciate the ethos behind them, the notion that a blog is a place where folks can continue an article’s discussion beyond the written post, it rarely serves this purpose. Most of the time, in my experience as a reader and writer, comments are usually a bulliten board for banal or thoughtless exclamations, and at worst, a cesspool of hostility and idiocy.
Freethought Blogs clearly is identified with a robust commenting culture, and its commenters have exemplified both the best and worst of this. Indeed, most of the time in this particular blog’s short history with FtB, the comments have been friendly and considered.
But it doesn’t take much to draw the attention of the parade of fanatical ignoramuses.
So, look, I want to give the well-meaning folks a fair shot at participating in the discussions here (and I’ve actually really enjoyed some of the comments on posts about technology and gadgets) before I decide to shut the whole comments section down. Which I’m really close to doing.
But in order to have folks behave in a manner that I think suits this blog, I probably need to lay out what the comments policy actually is. Fine then.
So here’s how this is going to go.
First and foremost, this is my blog. I am the supreme evil dictator of this stake of Internet property. It’s not a democracy, it’s not a town meeting with the city council. I’m not disinterested in other people’s perspectives, but in the end, this is my space and it’s going to reflect that fact.
I have no obligation to host a comments section at all, and many of the best blogs have none (Andrew Sullivan, John Gruber, etc.). And no, that’s not an example of “censorship,” and it’s not silencing anyone. The Internet is a big place, and if you really want to respond or react to something I’ve written, you can do it on your own blog. Your links back will only increase my Google ranking.
While I do have comments, here are the rules, and they’re simple. You can’t comment here just to abuse or be an asshole to me, other commenters, or anyone else. I will be the one who decides what counts as abuse or “being an asshole.” Debate and disagreement with me is fine, but if you get shitty about it, I’ll mark you as spam. I may just decide you’ve got a crummy, nasty attitude, and that’ll mean you’re out. Again, I will be the one who decides what counts as shitty, crummy, nasty, or what have you. Again, if this doesn’t please you, start your own blog and complain about it there.
Needless to say (or is it?), racist, sexist, bigoted comments, or anything containing threats, won’t be tolerated.
If a comment thread goes off-topic, straying into subjects irrelevant to the post in question, I’ll probably turn comments off for that post.
Life is short, and I have no incentive to waste my time by subjecting myself (or my tens of readers) to a bunch of abuse and garbage.
Hopefully, things will be cool, and there’ll be little reason to act on any of this.
But if it becomes a waste of time or even an additional source of stress, well, I’ll just shut the section down.
(Note: The title of this post is inspired by this immortal exchange. I hope Jed Bartlet does not want to kick my ass.)