The care and handling of commenters who irritate us
As our new commenting system takes off (and we are grateful to every one of you who enrolled in it), some of the coziness has left our comment sections. More people means more ideas, including ideas from those with whom we strongly disagree or those who aren’t particularly tactful in how they express themselves.
To try to head off problems at the pass, here are a few bright line rules, along with some suggestions for keeping the comments lively, rather than either sterile or offensive. First, the big no-noes:
1. Absolutely no threats to harm anything or anybody. This is true whether they are threats against someone else in the same comment thread or threats against any other person or entity, public or private, foreign or domestic. For the most part, the commenting software is good about catching such things but, if you’re worried about a specific comment, please copy it into an email to email@example.com so that we can address it.
2. No plans for or threats to engage in illegal conduct. American Thinker believes in the Constitution and the rule of law. The site’s purpose is to share informed, rational discussions about politics and social issues from a conservative perspective. Whether you’re planning a revolution or to rob a bank, this is not the place for you. Again, if something slips through the software, please let us know.
3. Nothing obscene. We live in a coarsened society and, sometimes, swear words or obscene concepts slip through, whether because it’s a quotation or because someone just got mad. Mostly, the software catches these moments but, again, if something gets by, let us know. Often, we’ll tidy things up using the old Nixonian “expletive deleted” approach, either by deleting the word entirely or substituting asterisks.
For all the above transgressions, we have a little leeway in how to handle things. If the no-no is clearly a slip or not too serious, we’ll warn the commenter. If it’s serious, though, we will ban people. And if it’s scary serious, we may have to involve law enforcement.
But what about people who are simply abrasive? These are the ones who use ALL CAPS for the entire comment, shout down our opinions, or are just generally disagreeable? We do have a policy about this, too, although it’s somewhat fluid or subjective.
One of the big dangers in America today is how siloed people get. We are all able to travel through an intellectual world in which everyone agrees with us. (Heck, even Saturday Night Live once managed a funny, insightful comic bit about private ideological bubbles.) Staying in an ideological silo makes life easier, but it also leaves us vulnerable to really unpleasant surprises. Reality has a way of ignoring silos.
Our preference, therefore, is to let those abrasive, oppositional people have a say, provided that they don’t violate the big rules. This allows conservatives to understand their opponents, know what they have to say, and formulate intelligent rebuttals. It also opens the possibility that, sometimes, someone who is not a doctrinaire conservative may be right.
There are ways to deflect pushy, obnoxious commenters. One way is simply to ignore them. Your outrage is their oxygen. Alternatively, you can offer a TeflonTM response. That would be something along the lines of, “We’ll agree to disagree,” “Whatever,” or “I’ve heard it both ways; your way and the right way.” And then just walk away.
Again, we’re delighted that our comment section has become such a vibrant community, with interesting people offering their insights and information. It’s crowd-sourcing at its best.
But as is true for any community that is open to the public, we all must deal with people with whom we disagree or who simply rub us the wrong way. For little problems, we trust our readers’ good sense, intelligence, and discretion. For big problems, please let us know (again, firstname.lastname@example.org).