Why I Am Friends With “Moderation” and “Ban”

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Walter Russell Meade at Via Meadia, a blog I frequently read, is ending comments and here is his explanation why:

 

We apologize to the readers who participated in or valued the comments section on the blog, and especially to the well mannered and thoughtful contributors who never tried to hog the microphone, launch flame wars, smuggle hate speech into the comment page, rant about personal pet peeves repeatedly and predictably, let partisan or ideological animus run wild or otherwise abuse what at its best was a forum for reflection and thoughtful debate. To such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven, and your insights were appreciated, your praise cherished and your thoughtful censure was a cause for reflection. You know who you are, and this would be a much poorer world without you.

For the rest, we wish you well, and are confident that you will find many opportunities both in cyberspace and in the meat world for the kind of exchanges and conversations you seek. Thankfully this remains a free country where all of us can pursue happiness along whatever paths look promising; enjoy the pursuit and may we all find our heart’s deepest desire at the end of the road.

I believe that comments add a lot to the blog.  They turn a monologue into hopefully an entertaining give and take;  thoughtful criticism can improve most posts;  the blogger gets immediate feedback on what he or she has written, etc.  I have found for the past few years however, that in order for comments to be useful, it is necessary for a blogger to be quite familiar with the terms “moderation” and “ban”.

TAC is a group blog and each contributor normally makes moderation and banning decisions in regard to their own threads.  When the blog started four years ago I was initially somewhat hesitant to use either moderation or banning but that has changed over the years.  Here is some explanation of my current policies regarding both.

Moderation is automatically applied to anyone who has never left a comment at the blog.  This of course is a mechanism to prevent drive by trolls from launching a pure insult comment.  After the initial comment is approved the commenter is taken off moderation and may post freely.

What gets someone placed on moderation? 

Direct insults aimed at another commenter.  I normally allow some lee-way if a commenter is directing an insult at me, at least if it is witty, although my patience tends to be limited.

Outrageous comments.  (Yes, T.Shaw I am looking at you!)  These include threatening to shoot anyone, a comment filled with vulgarities, etc.  I have T.Shaw on permanent moderation in this category, although I suspect he rather likes it as it enhances his bad boy of the blog image.  Happy to oblige T.Shaw.

Anti-Catholic bigotry.  This blog was not set up to give anti-Catholics a forum.

Riding a hobby-horse too frequently.  Some commenters will insist upon bringing every discussion around to their hobby-horse issue.  Do that too frequently and moderation awaits.

Getting on Don’s nerves.  I blog for fun, and commenters who take the fun away will find themselves in moderation.

This is not a comprehensive list, but the above are the major categories.

Banning from the site occurs in the following situations.

Drive by trolls.  Normally you do not get to see the comments and I simply ban the authors as a matter of course.

Anti-Catholic bigots.  Banning is for those who either do not take the hint from a stay in moderation, or who make a comment so vilely anti-Catholic that it is a waste of time keeping them around.

Anti-Semites and Anti-Blacks. I do not wish to keep them from their Klan rally.

Disturbed individuals.  If a comment indicates to my untrained eye that someone is mentally disturbed they will be banned, mostly since taking verbal potshots at a deranged individual is not sporting.

Conspiracy mongers. If you are certain that the Illuminati, the Tri-Lateralists, the Cattle Mutilators or (insert name of group) are behind the scenes pulling the strings, we will not keep you from sharing your insight on other sites.

Being a persistent pest.  Longtime readers may recall the Catholic Anarchist who was banned after a year’s attempt at turning every thread into a fight between him and all and sundry.  That got old fast and it was a violation of the first commandment of blogging:  Thou Shalt Not Bore!

Violating the rules against acting crazy on the internet.  Go here to this fine post by Paul Zummo to read the rules.

Not a comprehensive list of the factors I take into consideration when banning someone, but most of them.  I hope that no one I ban takes it personally or to heart.  Banning from a blog to my mind is equivalent to being gummed by an elderly toothless poodle who is attempting to tell you that your presence is no longer desired on her turf.  It doesn’t really hurt, but it is time to move on!

Banning and moderation help me prune the comboxes to make them more entertaining to our readers.  To me, the comboxes are just as important as my posts, and I pay close attention to the comments as a result.

We have a great stable of regular commenters at TAC.  I usually find your comments insightful, frequently witty and sometimes challenging.  You have helped make this blog the success it is, and I thank you from the bottom of my cold lawyer’s heart!

12 Responses to Why I Am Friends With “Moderation” and “Ban”

  • Thank you Paul! I have often appreciated your expertise on nuclear energy which you have shared in the comboxes. Commenters bringing their different backgrounds and educational attainments into play on the issues discussed on the blog have added quite a bit to the blog over the years.

  • Art Deco says:

    Comments to Mead’s blog were all moderated as a matter of policy. He had interns working for him reviewing the comments and seldom if ever had large quanta of commentary. He had one problem commenter, whose modus operandi was to issue verbose opinions which read like first drafts of DNC press releases. I suspect what he was actually telling his readers was that the grant money for stipends to the interns dried up. The thing is, it is atypical that a blogger’s posts are so engaging as a matter of course that he remains so without opportunity for reply and discussion. You have people who are habitually quite bland (Ross Douthat) or insufferable (Rod Dreher) who are nevertheless capable of provoking a discussion. Without comments, there is no point in reading them. If Mead is tired he can always return to scholarly publication.

  • T. Shaw says:

    Mac,

    I likely wouldn’t post that stuff if you weren’t 100% moderating me. The outrageous ones are generally brief, anyhow.

    It’s called, “Blowing off steam.” I’ll stop if you want. But, keep me moderated.

    Blog commenting is akin to showing baby pictures of your children to strangers in a saloon.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    Without blog comments I would not have had the opportunity to meet and befriend several commenters, and that alone makes it worthwhile to keep comments open. Otherwise, I wholeheartedly agree with Don. I admit to being overzealous on occasion with the delete or ban button, but overall it’s good that TAC keeps its trolls at bay.

  • Tito Edwards says:

    Cattle Mutilators! That made me laugh.

    My favorite political pundit has this to say about the Trilateralists. . .

    Charles Krauthammer alluded to the conspiracy theories when he was asked in 2012 who makes up the “Republican establishment”:

    Karl Rove is the president. We meet every month on the full moon. . .[at] the Masonic Temple. We have the ritual: Karl brings the incense, I bring the live lamb and the long knife, and we began. . . with a pledge of allegiance to the Trilateral Commission.

  • Big Tex says:

    If you are certain that the Illuminati, the Tri-Lateralists, the Cattle Mutilators or (insert name of group) are behind the scenes pulling the strings, we will not keep you from sharing your insight on other sites.

    No explicit mention of the Bilderberg Group. Could it be true? ;-)

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