July 3, 2008

Different Solution

It would be a shame if something like this happened to this blog.

I invite comments from people who disagree with me, particularly when they can articulate some kind of a reason why they disagree. That doesn't mean I won't defend my point of view, but it does mean that dissent is welcome, because I am confident that disagreement and the clash of competing ideas is a vehicle to determine truth and advance knowledge. For instance, there was a good discussion about same-sex marriage recently between myself and a commenter who believed that the change from "husband" and "wife". I didn't convince him, he didn't convince me. But a useful exchange was created and you might read it and decide who got the better of the discussion.

Point is, the discussion was about the issue and it didn't get nasty. Disagreements without venom are a part of the process of dialogue. Some of these other blogs -- which I read from time to time and some of which I comment on from time to time -- seem to attract people who push the envelope and seem to deliberately push the emotional buttons of other people, often the host of the blogs. And they seem to respond in kind, with more emotional responses.

I do reserve the power to delete a comment that is inappropriate; however, I haven't had to do that for anything but advertising or spam in over a year. There was an exchange between two commenters who seemed to have some spite for one another, and I considered censoring those remarks. But it blew over quickly, and it was clearly a bleedover between them from a different blog where the spite was appparently welcomed, and the spat moved back there, too. All of which illustrates that there are venues where people can engage in that kind of exchange if they wish to.

The question is, if you don't want to host that sort of a venue, but someone comes in and starts writing things that are personally obnoxious, what do you do? There are several options -- the blog administrator can take on the extra work of moderating comments; comments can be shut down entirely; individual users can be banned from commenting.

But I also think if you're going to throw your ideas out into a public forum, you need to be willing to demonstrate a thick skin and not take immediate personal offense to criticism. Blog comments often are not particularly good places to seek emotional validation for your personal activities or feelings. While your friends may offer that validation, people who do not already love you will respond to what they've read from a place other than love. NOTE WELL: I'm not suggesting that anyone in particular hasn't given their commenters the benefit of the doubt or done sufficient probing to try and flesh out a meaning to a comment that was not intended as a personal attack. Some people are just plain pricks, and the victims of their unprovoked verbal assaults are not to blame for that.

You have to be aware when you blog that 1) anyone can read it, and 2) people may react unkindly to what you have to say, and they can hide behind a cloak of anonymity while they indulge their sadism. So before you pour your heart out in a blog post, be aware that yes, there are cruel people out there who will respond to a show of vulnerability with malice rather than with love. (You should also be aware that 3) what you post never really goes away because a skilled technician will be able to find it later, and 4) what you write in cyberspace might be used against you at a later date in real life.)

The only real way I can understand these people is that they are bullies and sadists in search of victims. The way to respond to them -- since I can't punch them in the nose -- would be to silence them. But it would not be to silence myself.

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