Thursday, April 9, 2009

Comments patrol

I am proud to say that I've never deleted a snarky comment on this open blog -- but that does not speak to any virtue of mine. It's because nobody has ever left an unpleasant, offensive, wilfully ignorant or racist comment here, though they have posted plenty of contrarian ones.

(Only twice have I deleted comments, and they were both from "spambots" that crawl the Internet leaving blatant ads for wares that might have been mentioned in blogposts.)

I like to think that it's because of the high intellectual quality of people who love the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and especially my books, but the truth is probably that the wild-eyed wackoes just haven't discovered the Reluctant Blogger yet. When they do, I'll be faced with deciding what to do with their drivel.

Maybe the wise action would be to take no action at all. Today Doug Feaver, former executive editor of, posts a provocative article defending the site's refusal to moderate or edit comments left by readers, no matter how disgusting and offensive they might be -- and I have seen comments there that actually turn the stomach.

Feaver makes three powerful points. First, he says that counter-commenters down the line often provide a valuable counterpoint to angry or offensive anonymous comments, and that this self-policing provides considerable enjoyment as well as edification.

Second, he argues that a host of furious and impolite comments on a given subject is a strong indicator of how people actually feel about it, and that newspapers have much to learn from this phenomenon rather than exercising their rights of private censorship.

Third, he declares, "I believe that it is useful to be reminded bluntly that the dark forces are out there and that it is too easy to forget that truth by imposing rules that obscure it. As Oscar Wilde wrote in a different context, 'Man is least in himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.'"

Excellent ideas all. I think I'll just let the shits fall where they may.


  1. I think there is a difference between the blogs like those under the Washington Post--with thousands of commenters, and the little blogs like mine. Like you, I haven't yet had to delete any comments except a couple spammers. However, I would if I considered it potentially insulting or hurtful to my family or friends or other commenters. Public figures are fair game because they're public.

  2. Good point, Valerie. People can call me an asshole so long as it's not personal.

    By the way, I believe I know that Anonymous who called me a putz. He's a harmless schlemiel.

  3. I am not a schlemiel, you schmendrick.

  4. Geez, I was gonna take your post as a challenge, but I've been left in the dust... in Yiddish, no less!

    I'm such a shlemazl.

  5. What kind of mishegas is that?

  6. So much for a pg blog!!!

  7. We are all adults around here, aren't we? An occasional R post, or comment, is acceptable. (If it's X or NC-17, it had better be good.)