Why moderate comments?

Somewhat unexpectedly, people have started reading this, which is nice, and commenting, which is very nice, because it proves that you’re real people. It does, however, put me in a slightly awkward position. Up until now, if you’ll permit the comparison, I’ve been a journo – raging impotently in front of whoever happened to be passing. It’s a one-way process, restricted only by whatever rules I’m applying to myself that day. When people write back, I’m suddenly an editor, forced to decide whether to allow you the right to reply. I’m still applying the same set of rules, but now to strangers.

So, given that I have this power, I thought I should probably explain the terms on which I’ll be wielding it, so anyone reading the comments or thinking of leaving one can do so in the confidence that I’m not misrepresenting the views of people contributing. Doing this also allows anyone who feels I’ve moderated them unfairly to call me on it. It’s no guarantee of fairness, but should at least restrict the arbitrariness.

The only thing I would ever ‘censor’ would be spam, or things I believed were spam. Anything else will only ever be moderated – the offensive bit will be asterisked and the comment republished in full here with an explanation as to why I thought it was out of order. Reasons for this treatment would include (but possibly not be limited to) the following:

Ad hominem personal attacks are out of order. I once called Melanie a bigot without feeling like I properly justified it, it was a mistake, and I won’t be letting anyone else make it¹. Rude names will be asterisked, adverse judgements of character must be justified.

– You can’t be rude to people on the basis of their set membership. Call it political correctness if you like, I’ll call it good manners. The fact you’re on the internet doesn’t mean your mother won’t be ashamed.

That’s it – off the top of my head, I think anything else is fine. Try and keep it accurate. Try and keep it constructive. Try and keep it informative.

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¹ And I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise, and to rectify the error. I think Melanie is a bigot because her intolerance of others motivates her arguments, and not the other way around. For instance – there was the article I covered on same sex adoption in which she claimed that there was no evidence that being brought up by same sex couples didn’t adversely affect children; to have missed the body of impartial evidence to the contrary while clinging to the partisan evidence in favour of that position to me suggests a pre-determined opinion which she then sought to justify. See also her concern with Islamic finance or the concern that global warming is a conspiracy to neuter the Western world.

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MODERATED COMMENTS

17th May

Comment on: Insults that betray the bigotry of gay zealots

Author: sonofajoiner

Comment in full:

I have an incredibly low tolerance for The Mail and it’s resident vipers. In fact it’s something akin to an allergy. Spending more than a couple of seconds in the company of Platell, Littlejohn et al causes a tightening sensation behind my eyes accompanied by shortness of breath and nausea. So I really do admire bloggers like yourself who can bear to wade through crap like this in order to counter the seemingly unending lies and innuendo the paper puts out.

And it really isn’t surprising that being exposed to views that promote hatred and fear of vast swathes of the population has lead to you feeling it personally. It’d be almost impossible not to.

Objection: I feel very bad about this, as you’ve been quite nice about me, but ‘vipers’ felt a bit like an unsupported personal attack. Sorry – I did say I was po-faced

19th March

Comment on: Share her pain? No, this woman doesn’t deserve a penny

Author: Claude

Comment in full:

“Spiteful little man he is. Seriously.”

Objection: Again, I’m being rather harsh here, but this has been moderated on the grounds of it being an unsupported character judgement. Littlejohn’s column was unarguably spiteful, that arguably makes him a spiteful person, but the link needs to be drawn if it’s not to be an ad hominem attack. Compare with, from the column in question: “This hatchet-faced harridan is a prime example of a governing class brimming with self-worth and a sense of entitlement, coupled with a complete absence of self-knowledge and responsibility.” – now this comment is not in the same league, but my concern is that you can’t take the high ground if you’re making the same kind of unsupported attack.

19th February

Comment on: Finally, Jade’s sad life has a purpose”

Author : Angry Man

Comment in full:

“We can only hope that Allison Pearson finds some meaning to her life, if meaning is as she suggests attained through something more than attempting to raise a family.

Allison Pearson is a very hateful women, but as you point out, the headline writer puts a much darker spin on the piece than it warrants.”

Objection: Possibly a little harshly, I’m taking issue with ‘Allison Pearson is a very hateful woman’, on the basis that this is an unsupported character judgement. I would have allowed ‘This piece shows that Allison Pearson is’, or words to that effect, but in it’s current form, this reads to me like a personal attack. Sorry about that – the more I do this, the more I realise the importance of civility (and please call me on it when I fall short on this).

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2 Responses to “Why moderate comments?”

  1. Bill Bartmann Says:

    Great site…keep up the good work.

  2. Ann Says:

    Good one. Keep it up


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