Comments Policy

Short version: My comments policy is not that different from this one. Basically, I will delete any comments that I decide are spam, hateful, trollish, or tedious arguments about the basic premises of this blog. If I delete your comment, it is not infringing on your free speech rights. You can always get your own blog. First-time commenters must be approved by me, so their comments will not appear immediately. Also, comments along the lines of, “This link is broken” or “There’s a word missing” will be read, the issue will be fixed (assuming that I agree there’s an issue) and the comment will be deleted soon afterwards, because when I’m reading other people’s blogs I’d just as soon not read their housekeeping comments, and I think most other people probably feel the same.

Long version: I am basing my comments policy mostly on what I like as a reader. I don’t like to read through comments that start out with “God you people are retarded”–even if I’m on the same “side” as the person who writes it. I don’t want to hear about your diet, especially since such comments more often than not read like testimonials on infomercials. Why would I want to spend my time reading what is basically spam? I find it annoying to read through comments that want to argue first principles when I’ve read through basically the same discussion multiple times before. I am writing this blog for people who have some basic things in common with me. For example, if you think that it is morally wrong not to put being thin and/or healthy near the top of your priorities list and want to tell me why, I may find your comments boring or tiresome and delete them, because it is another boring argument about first principles. On the other hand, if you fundamentally disagree with me but say something interesting, I may not delete your comment.

In the abstract, I used to find the idea of totally uncensored comments appealing. This was before I had much experience with the internet. In practice, I find that unmoderated comments devolve into insults lacking any substance, lightly moderated comments result in interminable arguments about the basic premises of the blog/article/whatever, and heavily moderated comments such as the ones in Shapely Prose mean people can actually get beyond those basic premises and talk about something interesting without constant derails.

I really don’t see heavily moderated comments as a threat to free speech. You can say whatever you want on the internet, but that doesn’t mean that you have a right to have other people host your comments for you. Really, the barriers to entry for blogs aren’t that high. Furthermore, on its face it seems like less restrictions would lead to more free speech, but in actuality it leads to something like the tyranny of the majority. Not being able to exclude people from a particular, privately-owned space would mean that minority groups could not meet together to discuss things without being shouted down by members of the majority wanting to interfere and keep them from getting anything done–or perhaps not having interfering as a goal, but wanting to have debates with them when they’re busy talking about what, to them, are more important things. This is as true in meatspace as it is online–except that the barriers to entry are a lot lower online. If you want to disrupt a meeting in the real world, you have to be physically present; online, you just have to take a minute to type something into your computer.

As you may know, the right to free speech is in both Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United States Bill of Rights, and this is often brought up by trolls (and others, but most often trolls) ranting that by being censored (by a non-goverment entity), their rights are being infringed. Less talked about, but also appearing in both, is the right to assemble, which the trolls are themselves interfering with. When we have the right to assemble and exclude people who don’t want us to have a productive discussion, we’re able to discuss more things and, effectively, we have more freedom of speech. So allowing people to crash meetings and say whatever they want may seem like more freedom of speech in theory, but in practice, there is more freedom of speech when people are able to form groups based on common interests and can exclude people who are disrupting the group’s business.

One last note: comments by first-time commenters are automatically held for approval by me, and I make no guarantees about how long it will take for me to approve them, so if your comment doesn’t appear right away, don’t go off on a rant about how I’m censoring you. Actually, don’t do that anyway, because that’s the kind of thing I’m going to delete. But remember that I said most of the people who rant about freedom of speech in internet comments are trolls? Most of the others seem to be people who think their comment was deleted when it was just held up in moderation.

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