A Comment on Comments

I moderate comments. I do so to block spam and craziness. Do I discourage some possibly interesting comments by moderating? Perhaps. But to me the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Note that I do not necessarily agree with any comment that I let through. I allow comments that I consider to be interesting and civil. Often I reply to comments with which I disagree, but not always.

Today an anonymous poster complained that I have blocked multiple comments from him. (I’ll say “him” though I don’t know the gender.) In order to save everybody’s time, am happy to explain some reasons I block comments.

First, often I consider anonymous comments, particularly argumentative ones, to be somewhat cowardly. Why should I take you seriously if you won’t even give your name? Obviously I cannot know how many of some particular poster’s comments I have blocked when they are all marked “anonymous.” I think I’ve accidentally left an anonymous comment here or there, just because I’m used to my blog and various other services automatically inserting my name. Generally, though, I make sure to leave my name when I post comments on other people’s services. True, there are occasions in which leaving one’s name might put one in danger, but that’s not been the case with any anonymous comment I’ve ever received for my blog. Nevertheless, my default position is to post all anonymous comments, unless they suffer some other serious problem. (Many or most anonymous comments are spam, by the way.)

Second, I am extremely likely to block any comment that includes a gratuitously insulting personal attack against me.

Third, often I block comments that add nothing interesting to the discussion, particularly if they pertain to an old post. Comments like “Wow, that was really interesting” are of this sort.

Fourth, generally I block comments with rampant spelling and grammatical errors. If you can’t be bothered to subject your comment to minimum standards of editing, don’t expect me to post it.

Fifth, I am likely to block any comment that claims, as the anonymous comment of today did, that by blocking comments on my own web page, that somehow makes me the equivalent of a censor. Anonymous is perfectly free to post his asinine comments on his own web page, where the rest of us are perfectly free to ignore him. My property, my rules. Moderating comments is no more censorship than is stopping a drunk from breaking into my home to deliver a speech.


kazriko commented April 25, 2011 at 2:16 PM
Just out of curiosity, by anonymous do you mean entirely anonymous with no name whatsoever, or do you extend this to those who use a name, but not necessarily a real name?

I’ve been debating this particular point for awhile. When Blizzard started to require verified real names to post to their forums using the idea that said real names would force people to behave themselves, I argued that it isn’t the real names as much as the investment in their identities that mattered for civil discourse. I’ve used this name online for 12 years, so I’m rather attached to it.

Ari commented April 25, 2011 at 3:36 PM
That sounds basically right to me, kazriko. Usually I do post (non-spammy) anonymous comments, though often I consider them tainted by the anonymity. I have no interest in using pseudonyms, but I don’t have any particular problems with those who use them.

Stop National Debt commented April 27, 2011 at 12:00 PM
One question would be whether this would be considered spam, or on topic because I’m asking the question? :-) Its hard to find other ways to spread the word to small government bloggers when you don’t already have traffic than posting, and unfortunately I don’t see a more relevant recent posting to comment on with this:

“POLL REVEALS: Americans Are Still In Deep Denial About The Deficit” http://read.bi/h6QDGR If they realized how bad it is politicians would need to act. Non politics-junkies tune out numbers in the $trillions so we need to rephrase the issue:
The federal government will need >$1 million per household to pay its IOUs!
> $116 trillion =”official” debt plus money short for future social security, medicare, etc
Even its “official debt” of $14.2 trillion is $123,754 per household!
Details at http://StopNationalDebt.com with links to contact congress & complain.
Be among the first to join the new Facebook cause “Stop National Debt” : http://www.causes.com/causes/606425-stop-national-debt
since if you don’t spread the word, who will?

Ari commented April 27, 2011 at 12:05 PM
I do think, “Stop National Debt” guy, that there are much better ways to get your message out, including: Tweet, Facebook, comment on *relevant* posts. Here you’re just basically running an uncompensated advertisement for your group. While I have nothing against promoting one’s own articles and causes through comments, generally I think a comment should primarily serve to advance the discussion of the relevant site.

Stop National Debt commented April 27, 2011 at 7:57 PM
Yup, I agree it should advance the discussion of the relevant site in general. I was hunting for posts on libertarian leaning blogs that were related to the topic in order to comment. Your comment on “comments” just happen to bring to mind the idea of the self-referential question regarding spam or I would have passed on.

re: those other methods, I’ve posted hundreds of messages to relevant Facebook groups, tweeted a few hundred tweets at relevant people, etc, but it is difficult to figure out how to be heard above the noise when starting a new blog/cause.

I find it astonishing that libertarians aren’t more interested in using the issue to make more headway when the vast majority of the public has no idea how bad the situation with the debt and moreso unfunded liabilities is or politicians wouldn’t get away with inaction and libertarians would be listened to more seriously. Political news-junkies may already have run into figures like what I’m talking about, but most of the public hasn’t a clue and its a chance for us to wake them up and question why they are spending so much on government that its debt&unfunded liabilities amount to $>1 million per household based on US Treasury figures.

Despite lip service paid in the mainstream media to there being public concern over the debt, I don’t think most of them realize its as bad as it is and libertarians are missing a golden opportunity to get attention. Libertarians wish people didn’t need to care about politics since the government should be an insignificant part of our lives. The problem is that we need to get people to care enough about politics to take time to understand our ideas in order to change the government. The way to get their attention is to point out how badly broken government finances are and how much the government spends per household (details on spending per household at http://StopNationalDebt.com )