When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one blogger to dissolve the permissive bands which have connected him with trolls and to assume among the powers of the Web, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles him, a decent respect to the opinions of the Blogosphere requires that he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation.
I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all discourse is not equally valid, nor constructive, nor is anyone endowed by his Creator with any unalienable Right to destroy all Harmony and chance for Civil Discourse in a forum provided by the Labour of Another. All men are equally free, however, to start their Own Blogs, where they will be fully entitled to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
— from my old blog, July 4, 2007
Folks, after getting a number of complaints from some of you — mostly in sidebars, via e-mail and other means — about the increasing incivility on the blog, I went in and “unapproved” a bunch of comments from over the weekend.
Removing all the ad hominem attacks, irrelevant rants and pointless catchphrase-shouting is a lot tougher than it may sound. You end up throwing out a lot of stuff from people with the best intentions, but whose comments make zero sense without the offensive comments to which they are responding. So just about everybody has lost at least one comment. Among those I’ve censored, if only briefly, are Lee Muller, “Libb,” “Mike Toreno,” bud, Randy E, kbfenner, BillC, and Burl Burlingame.
This of course is not to say that I consider all “offenders” to be the same. Lee Muller seems increasingly incapable of making a point without peremptorily declaring the illegitimacy of anyone who disagrees. The pseudonymous Mike Toreno and BillC have some really serious hostility issues. On the opposite end of the spectrum, people like Kathryn Fenner labor, often in vain, to elevate the tone.
I’m not sure what to do about this going forward. I’m as sick of the nastiness as Kathryn and others who have simply given up on this forum. So I find myself considering a number of possibilities:
- Requiring active approval from me before comments will post. I’ve done that before, on the old blog, and I really hated it. It killed spontaneity. I want y’all to be able to converse in real time, and I simply can’t spend all day making that happen.
- Banning some commenters from the blog permanently. I’ve done it before, just not for awhile. Some of the greatest offenders are people I’ve banned before, then allowed to come back — perhaps because of misplaced optimism on my part. So I guess it’s time to do it again.
- Requiring a higher level of permission from me, as the moderator, before a commenter can post comments at will. (I’m not even sure this is technically possible, but I intend to look into it.)
- Simply doing what I just did — going through every couple of days and weeding out the worst offenses, with the hope that folks will start to get the idea what will pass muster and what won’t.
- Dropping the blog altogether. Not something I want to do, but it is on the table.
That last option arises from simple weariness with this problem, and the acknowledgment that I can’t (or at least, don’t want to) spend my days policing grownups to get them to act like grownups.
Other (good faith) suggestions are welcome.
As you know, I’ve wrestled with this problem from the beginning. And at various times, the tone has gotten better for awhile. But we’ve done some backsliding lately. I’m going to try, up to a point, to fix it.