Breaking My Own Rules … Kinda
One of the basic rules that I’ve set for myself with this blog is that I want to respect other people’s opinions (even when they’re clearly wrong) and encourage discussion and debate via comments to my posts. Thus, comments to this blog are not moderated. For those who don’t know what that means, on many blogs, a comment is not actually displayed until the blog’s author approves the comment. I don’t want to do that and I haven’t done that.
Some of the comments that I’ve received have not been flattering. Usually, when a commenter tells me I’m wrong, I will try to push that person to back up their statement (which they very, very rarely make any attempt to do). When a commenter calls me a name, I usually respond with a discussion on discourse or ask them how calling me a name helps to make their point. And I usually remind them that it is my blog, after all.
But what I have not done is to delete comments. My preference is for my readers to be able to see just what others have thought of the opinions I’ve expressed (and hopefully chime in with their own opinion), even if those comments are critical of my posts. I’m a big boy. I can take it. And, for that matter, note that I don’t post my thoughts anonymously. Moreover, when I make a mistake, I try to acknowledge that mistake and make the appropriate correction.
So far, the only exception to my rule against deleting comments has come in regard to comments that are obviously spam. I’m not sure what the point of spamming the comment section of a personal blog is, but when I come across comments that are clearly spam, I delete them. Neither you nor I want to read them and they don’t add anything to the discussion I’m trying to foster. Recently, I’ve received a few comments that actually appear to be substantive but have a spam URL attached to the end of the comment. As there is no (easy?) way for me to edit comments posted by others to delete these spam links, I’ve elected to leave the comments in place, because they do seem to be at least somewhat substantive and related to the posts to which they are attached.
But a comment that I received this weekend in response to Post-Debate Depression is going to force me to break my rule against deleting comments … kinda. The comment in question is not actually a problem. It appears to be critical of me (and me, personally, not necessarily the ideas that I expressed in my post). In fact, here is the full text of the comment:
You suffer from a severe case of selective political righteousness, no need to bloviate on about your self and what you feel. You need to take a step back from that, a step outside your narrow frame of reference. Taking views into consideration that are outside of your "comfort zone" are what allows personal growth. best of luck.
“So what’s the problem?” I hear you ask. Well, the problem isn’t with the comment; rather it is with the commenter. For reasons that will become obvious in a moment, I’m not going to say who he is (and I don’t actually know his name, only the online name that was attached to the comment). After reading the comment, I decided to look at the commenter’s profile. This is something that I often do, just to get an idea of the background and maybe general political or social leanings of the person making a comment. In this case, the commenter’s profile doesn’t say anything about the commenter (other than that he is a student in the United States), but does list three blogs authored by the commenter (though one appears not to have any posts).
I can still hear you saying, “So what?”
Well, I decided to click on these blogs to try to understand the commenter’s point of view. And that’s where things went off the proverbial rails. The first post on one of the blogs (and the only post on the other) is apparently just a copy of am article by a Pakistani political commentator that is apparently a well-know conspiracy-theorist and who espouses clearly anti-Israel, if not anti-Semitic views (for example, he blames “Hindu-Zionists” for the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008). The article posted on the commenter’s blogs seems to be a sort of laundry list of the “problems” that we’ve allowed to grow in the US. But included in this list is this frightening explanation:
Tell them we come from monkeys and that Adolf Hitler killed six million jews.
Ding, ding, ding. Sorry, but when you start posting articles that lead me to think that you’re a Holocaust denier or approve of the writings of a Holocaust denier, I’m not going to be very interested in your point of view. Oh, and note how either the commenter (or original author) has kept “jews” in lower case.
But I was still a bit curious to see if this was just an isolated comment in a single post. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The commenter only has a 5 posts on his “main” blog. In addition to the one quoted above, he also has a post blaming Jews for the slave trade, a post that seems to imply that the Germans couldn’t have committed atrocities in World War II because the orders given to soldiers essentially told them to act properly (e.g., don’t hurt civilians), a post about Jews threatening European governments in the late 19th Century, and finally a post accusing the Jews of declaring war on Germany and provoking World War II.
Obviously, nothing you or I say to this person is going to change his mind or dissuade him from his worldview. But I see no reason why my blog should provide a link that could lead people to these articles. Outright anti-Semitism is just something that I’m not going to tolerate, especially on my blog.
And so what I’ve decided to do is two things: First, I’ve written this post explaining the situation. Then, I’m going to delete the original comment. But I’m going to repost just the comment under my name with a link to this explanation. Thus, my goal of not editing or moderating the comments themselves will be served, but without providing a link to the anti-Semitic commenter or his blogs.
What do you think? Did I make the right decision? How would you have handled this situation?
Oh, and if the original commenter should happen to read this: Don’t bother posting any new comments. I will delete them. Absent a mea culpa and a recognition that your anti-Semitic posts are wrong, you are banned from this blog.