Thursday, April 10, 2008

on comments and "censorship"

When you walk into my blog, you're walking into my house. If I'm considered responsible for the blog's content (as a homeowner is responsible for the condition of his home), then I am equally responsible for the behavior of my guests-- i.e., my commenters. This means, on the one hand, that I should try to treat my guests with a modicum of civility, toleration, and decency. It also means, however, that I should be true to myself: my patience and tolerance are not infinite, and far from allowing people to begin ego-driven pissing contests in the comments section, I will nip all such attempts in the bud. Comments are already monitored; they appear on the blog only with my approval. Comments that are not of a constructive nature simply won't appear; they'll be deleted before they see the light of day.

Notice what I'm not saying: I'm not saying I won't tolerate disagreements. Quite to the contrary, I'm keenly interested in hearing different points of view. But disagreements must first pass the tests of civility, rationality, and relevance, or they won't be aired.

Some over-sensitive folks decry such an attitude as censorship, but this comes from a misunderstanding of what censorship actually is. A person who wishes to express an uncivil or otherwise negative opinion about this blog, the blog's author, or the author's personal project is, of course, free to do so, but will have to do so somewhere else. Censorship is the active suppression of free speech; the speaker is hounded; his posters, his signs, his websites and so on are hunted down and eradicated by the censoring party. Censorship is not the same as being responsible for what happens in one's own house.

So if, for whatever reason, you feel the need to say something that isn't particularly constructive, I won't stop you-- unless you're doing it inside my foyer. I hope we're clear on that. As long as I'm the one who's responsible for this blog's content, I'll consider all reader comments to fall inside the scope of that responsibility, and will handle those comments as I see fit.

I should also note that I prefer comments not to be anonymous. It's easy to hide behind anonymity, and hard to respect people who choose that path. I understand that some people wish to keep their actual identities hidden for various personal and prudential reasons, but even such people can adopt a specific screen name and return to this blog using that screen name consistently. If, for example, someone with the screen name Boogerman69 becomes a recurring character in the comment threads, that's fine with me; Boogerman and his (or her!) style will become familiar to me and to the other commenters.

I do not, of course, respect the use of sock puppets, i.e., the use of several screen names by a single person to make it appear that several different people are commenting. This, too, is an example of cowardice and immaturity.

So yes, I'm draconian about my comments section. Having chosen to maintain such a section, I've also chosen to keep it nicely mown and pleasing to the eye. If this troubles you, then simply surf or comment elsewhere. Or start your own blog.

As I did.

UPDATE: Actor/director Kevin Smith handles a heckler far better than I ever could. I understand where he's coming from.



Kevin said...

Speaking of recycled material, have you seen the Obama video? Me, I think Obama's a fine fellow, but damn, this is harsh.


Anonymous said...

"Just words," indeed. Too bad they just aren't his own.

What he is doing is grounds for failure and expulsion at most institutes of higher learning, so should he pay the same price as those who cheat and steal without citing the true source material or is this more in the realm of one ex-President's evoking of previous works not devised by himself or "his" speech writers.

Ronald Reagan did take some flak for using famous movie lines in many of his speeches, but he came from a background that at least justified their being used.

John from Daejeon