May 21, 2004

New Comments Policy

Itís time to start cracking heads in the comment section.

Iíve been getting too many complaints from reasonable people about trolls, and invariably the people who (rightly) complain tell me they donít want to hang out here anymore or that theyíre thinking about leaving.

This is going to stop now.

Iíve had open comments for almost a year, and Iíve banned fewer than ten people. So far Iíve only kicked people out for two reasons. Either theyíre exceptionally rude to others or theyíve posted overtly racist and inflammatory statements. I had to summarily kick out one German neo-Nazi who wants his country ethnically-cleansed of Muslims and Jews and who bragged that his grandfather got a medal for shooting at mine sixty years ago. I kicked out another person who said 250,000 Bosnian Muslims deserved to die at the hands of Serbian fascists because they were all ďstinking terrorists.Ē The rest Iíve banned because they have some kind of serious social personality dysfunction that I and everyone else found intolerable.

I have never kicked anyone out because I donít share their opinions. And I wonít start now. Argue with me and everyone else all you want. Thatís what the comments are for. But I am going to have to start showing people the door if they repeatedly harrass everyone else with unserious, scurrilous, and idiotic commentary. I wonít kick you out for arguing with me, no matter how sharply you disagree. But I will boot those who insist on acting like idiots and twelve-year olds.

For a very brief window of time Iíll be open to changing my mind. If you have a reasonable objection to this policy, use the comments and tell me why. I donít want to be a hard-ass about this, but I prefer that option to letting my comments degrade like so many others all over the blogosphere. If you want to convince me to change my mind, address the fact that my comments are degrading and that something must be done to put a stop to it. I refuse to passively sit and watch it happen.

(As a side note, donít bother accusing me of wanting to ban people because theyíre liberal or conservative. Save the partisan victimology. This has nothing to do with your voter registration. Of those Iíve had to kick out so far, roughly half were left-wing, and the other half were right-wing.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 21, 2004 02:40 PM
Comments

A Troll is not marked by his ideology, but rather his desire to disrupt the flow of ideas and debate. Good on you Michael for cleaning house. If you add nothing to the debate, then you shouldn't be here.

Posted by: FH at May 21, 2004 02:58 PM

There is, of course, a bit of a slippery slope problem with this.

On the one hand, wanting to boot people who are willingly doltish is crystal clear. Banning people who are unwillingly doltish is another matter.

I guess this, if implemented, pretty much boils down to a Potter Stewart "... I know it when I see it." kind of call.

Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at May 21, 2004 02:59 PM

As I mentioned in a previous comment--- 'it's your blog",so any decision is yours to make absolutely.
That said ---- GO FOR IT.!
There is nothing to be gained by tolerating the abusive and the deliberately ignorant trolls that often infest the comment sections of many blogs.They just ruin the sharing experience for everyone else.
On a related note,it has been SNEAKING up on me that PERHAPS total freedom of expression is not all that I once believed it to be.I was once totally convinced that the clearly stated rationale for free expression was that by throwing all ideas into the pot, the bad ones would be burned off,or rise to the surface where they could be skimmed off,leaving only the 'good'ideas which could inform public discourse and policy.I am now not at all convinced that this is a certainty.It appears to me,based upon our current malaise, that 'bad' ideas are just as likely to drive out the good leaving everyone in a worse state.This is especially problematic when the defenders and purveyors of the free exchage of ideas become agenda driven dogmatists ( aka the main stream media),and willfully distort how reality should be interpreted. I have grown very worried about this trend and therefore even if this is 'censorship',censor away.Sorry for the little rant but it seemed to on-topic at this point.

Posted by: doug at May 21, 2004 03:17 PM

Mr. Totten,

Good for you. Your site will be better for it. I am fairly sure that we do not see eye to eye politically, and I have absolutely no fear of being banned.

Freedom of speech does not entail a right to every microphone.

Gerry

Posted by: Gerry at May 21, 2004 03:26 PM

Doug,

Bad ideas lose out over time, even if they sometimes temporarily rise. Hardly anyone thinks the Earth is flat. Very few Germans still think Hitler was right. Very few Western leftists carry water for Stalin or think the Gulag is a myth. There were times when this was not so.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 21, 2004 03:27 PM

As blogger, you are free to set the tone of the comments section. If certain commenters are ruining the tone that you want, and are detracting from your enjoyment of running your blog, then that needs to be fixed.

But, as someone who was recently rather brusquely and abusively banned from commenting on another blog, may I suggest that it be done nicely? Especially as these comment sections have a flavor as being owned by the commenters, and there isn't much guidance as to what is approved and not approved. I also think that many commenters would respect polite requests to not comment on a blog, or to change their style of commenting. If someone is asked, and then won't, then IMO, that would be the time to ban them.

My two cents (one point five cents American).

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at May 21, 2004 03:29 PM

Hey, MJT, some commiseration, sorry you have this odious chore. I love your blog.

Posted by: Jim at May 21, 2004 03:35 PM

Stu (double-plus-ungood),

We disagree a lot, but there is no chance I am going to ban you, impolitely or otherwise. I can't imagine why anyone would kick you off their blog.

I'll be as polite as the situation calls for. I don't want to be a jerk. I just want a nice comments section. Thanks for being a part of it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 21, 2004 03:43 PM

I had been getting a little annoyed with too much blather over here myself, Michael. Thanks for saying something.

Posted by: d-rod at May 21, 2004 03:48 PM

Stu (double-plus-ungood),

Hey, howja know I changed my handle?

We disagree a lot, but there is no chance I am going to ban you, impolitely or otherwise. I can't imagine why anyone would kick you off their blog.

Nice of you to say. I rubbed a prominent blogger the wrong way, I think, and he kinda blew up. I hold no grudge tho, and haven't posted to his blog since he told me to "$#@%$@ off, you &#%#$ %#@*&&&*~~@!!!"

And yeah, I figured you wouldn't be jerk about it, and I also understand that you want a low noise-to-information ratio in the comments section. Many comment sections are the equivalent of roller-derby rinks, and I spend most of my time on the blogs with actual discussion. Maybe a guide to polite commenting on MJT would be in order?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at May 21, 2004 03:54 PM

Stu: Hey, howja know I changed my handle?

I look at your blog once in a while.

Maybe a guide to polite commenting on MJT would be in order?

In a nutshell: It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to be a troll. A troll is someone who brings nothing to the table because all he wants to do is heckle, mock, and jeer everyone else.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 21, 2004 04:00 PM

As one who visits your site frequently to learn about other's viewpoints rather than argue, I appreciate your decision.
I quit checking your comment sections about a week ago, when it seemed like the vitriol-meter was pegged in the red!

Posted by: jrw at May 21, 2004 04:04 PM

FH gets it right trolls disrupt the conversation towards unpleasantness from others.

Do not worry if you kick a few off that might not be deserving, you have so many good commentators that the ones you dispose of will not be missed.

Posted by: tallan at May 21, 2004 04:33 PM

Michael,

I enjoy your commentary very much as well as the insights of many of your readers. I think it's wise to moderate the comments and the only suggestion I'd make is to issue a warning prior to banning. Someone may just be having a bad day.

Keep up the good work and thanks for your efforts.

Posted by: spc67 at May 21, 2004 04:40 PM

A Troll is not marked by his ideology, but rather his desire to disrupt the flow of ideas and debate. Good on you Michael for cleaning house. If you add nothing to the debate, then you shouldn't be here.

--my own sense from what you mean by disrupting the flow of ideas is the stating of ideas with which you disagree.

Posted by: calibar at May 21, 2004 04:49 PM

I was thinking that I should have put together a pool on how many comments it would be before someone yelped CENSORSHIP!

Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at May 21, 2004 04:59 PM

You are mistaken on this one calibar. Disagreement is not disruption. Disruption is leveling personal attacks against someone, not attacking their positions. Among other things. I trust Michael to make the right choices on this.

Posted by: FH at May 21, 2004 04:59 PM

Disagreement is not disruption. Disruption is leveling personal attacks against someone, not attacking their positions.

--I didn't know I was making 'personal attacks'. I don't recall calling anyone ugly names like 'idiot' 'moron' 'dick' etc. I don't swear. I don't threaten people.
I do use sarcasm.

Posted by: calibar at May 21, 2004 05:26 PM

" Bad ideas lose out over time, even if they sometimes temporarily rise ".

What if ALL the information you ever got was broadcast by the Arab TV Satellite Channels,and when commented on at all by the rest of the world services,was PROBABLY re-inforced in your world,by the slant they took on the story.

Censor Away if you must ----

Posted by: doug at May 21, 2004 05:57 PM

Calibar,

To be fair, you do not usually use gross personal attacks, with the exception of Mussoli-blog brigade and consistent attacks on the character of third parties.

Past this, one of the big things you must remember about sarcasm (and other strongly emotive tones) is that it is actually ferociously difficult to put across in hastily written commentary. What may be sarcasm on your keyboard may simply be nasty, petty, and vicious on someone else's monitor.

Towards that end, the phrase "personal attacks" may have not effectively communicated what I imagine the poster may have meant, but if I understand him correctly, disruption would still apply.

Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at May 21, 2004 05:59 PM

What if ALL the information you ever got was broadcast by the Arab TV Satellite Channels,and when commented on at all by the rest of the world services,was PROBABLY re-inforced in your world,by the slant they took on the story.

--you would have a pretty good idea of what happened in Fallujah, whereas if you watched CNN/FOX, you'd have no idea what happened.

Posted by: calibar at May 21, 2004 06:12 PM

Towards that end, the phrase "personal attacks" may have not effectively communicated what I imagine the poster may have meant, but if I understand him correctly, disruption would still apply.

--fair enough, but what the poster is referring to isn't disruption as much as ideas that he disagrees with.

Posted by: calibar at May 21, 2004 06:13 PM

fair enough, but what the poster is referring to isn't disruption as much as ideas that he disagrees with.

Tomato/tomatoe - that's the kicker with the internet. I disagree pretty conclusively with your interpretation of this. Absent clarification there's no way for us to know exactly what he intends. This, in a nutshell, is part of the problem with blogging, comments, and e-mail in general.

Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at May 21, 2004 06:17 PM

"Calibar, you have apparently misinterpreted my thoughts. I meant to say that you can disagree with me all you want. As long as you don't openly insult me, I am fine."

Here is how I could have said that in an improper manner:

"Calibar, your response is apparently a case of projection, as your attribution of intent to my words was clearly NOT what I was implying. Perhaps you need to look in the mirror yourself."

See the difference?

Posted by: FH at May 21, 2004 06:42 PM

"Calibar, you have apparently misinterpreted my thoughts. I meant to say that you can disagree with me all you want. As long as you don't openly insult me, I am fine."

--I base it on what I've heard in previous threads from others who have said the same thing you've said whenever I refute something that someone says or make an argument they don't want to hear. I would hope I was misinterpreting you, but I'm not at all confident of that.

I'll give you a good example from another thread. The frequenlty heard [in the comments section, possibly from Michael too, though I can't recall for certain] the sentiment that I and leftists and liberals 'don't believe the US [or Bush] can have any good intentions. Therefore people like me are 'idiots' 'morons' 'unpatriotic' or worse and our comments therefore are 'supercillious' 'stupid' 'flippant' etc.
So, in response I actually lay out a thoughtful critique of that perspective stating that the charge is ironic because one of the defining characteristics of a leftist [if you read left literature carefully] is the ability to agree that a Bush Jr. or Clinton or Bush Sr. very much believe what they are doing is 'promoting democracy', 'freedom', 'making the world safer', that I certainly have no trouble believing they believe that. even if i said they were lying to do that, i have no problem believing they were lying to accomplish what they thought was a good goal [any honest person would agree their goals are not that different, the strengthening of US capitalism in any event]. The left position is actually very different from the liberal and conservative shared obsession with individuals' intentions. Instead it actually takes quite seriously the entire notion of 'unintended consequences' and asks why it is that despite the good intentions of leaders of the capitalist world, their endgoals of 'democracy' 'freedom' 'a safer world', etc. are not met by their policies, whether of the 'liberal' or 'conservative' ilk.

And what happens after I provide a response like that, carefully written and certainly something that could be debated by thoughtful people on this list? no response, just the continued accusations of 'you always change the subject' 'you disrupt' 'you're an idiot' 'you think the Bush is evil', etc. etc. Go figure.

Posted by: calibar at May 21, 2004 06:57 PM

Calibar,

Funnily enough, I think you may have missed the point that FH was making about tone. But that isn't particularly relevant to the thing that struck me, is that this is (in my opinion) by far and away the most cohesive, well thought out and reasonable post you've made in ages and eons.

Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at May 21, 2004 07:01 PM

Michael, I'm glad you are going to exit the trolls, It makes life a tad bit easier in the blogosphere.

Posted by: GMRoper at May 21, 2004 07:04 PM

"Absent clarification there's no way for us to know exactly what he intends"

Only a problem if you are trying to find the line that shouldn't be crossed.

For people who just want to argue and debate, it is a non-issue.

Gerry

Posted by: Gerry at May 21, 2004 07:05 PM

An important species of trolling is to make a comment buried in two or three layers of sophistry so thick that will take 50 comments of others to undo the contorted turns of its pseudo-logic, when all parties, including the commenter himself, and indeed any reasonable person know full well that the debate is being derailed by rubbish.

Posted by: Jim at May 21, 2004 07:27 PM

Crack heads.

The law and order part of my right wing personality will love it.

Posted by: Roark at May 21, 2004 07:56 PM

Jim,

I see you know who Askel5 is.

Posted by: Gerry at May 21, 2004 08:17 PM

Ban away.

Posted by: Eric Blair at May 21, 2004 08:19 PM

Gerry,

Never heard of him, but from the tone of your voice, I'm going to hope I never do.

Posted by: Jim at May 21, 2004 08:23 PM

Calibar: my own sense from what you mean by disrupting the flow of ideas is the stating of ideas with which you disagree.

Wrong answer. You are now officially warned. Knock if off or you will be asked to leave. (And your IP address will be blocked.) I've had a very long list of complaints about you. No serious person would write what you just wrote after reading my post.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 21, 2004 08:33 PM

Fine with me -- we really do need a Web equivalent of Roberts' Rules of Order. The only qualification I'd make is that you should give everyone you ban exactly one advance warning and opporunity to straighten up their act.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at May 21, 2004 08:34 PM

--Wrong answer. You are now officially warned. Knock if off or you will be asked to leave. (And your IP address will be blocked.) I've had a very long list of complaints about you. No serious person would write what you just wrote after reading my post.

--I really thought I was just noting that people on this list have had all kinds of 'complaints', often enough it's after I've made a reasonable attempt to answer a question or comment, only to then be called the most obnoxiously rude names by the same people who were complaining about my 'behavior'.

I'm sorry if you don't think I'm serious or worth taking seriously.

Posted by: calibar at May 21, 2004 09:11 PM

Michael

IMO, it's your web site, to police, set the tone for, or otherwise run as you wish.

I understand being busy (believe that!), and appreciate you creating and maintaining an intelligent forum for frankly discussing what I believe are some truly historic issues facing our country. I don't post terribly often (poor typing skills + 2 lab jobs means that someone's usually already articulated my thoughts here, often better than I would have, long before I can get them down). I read the comments regularly, and have learned a lot from many of the people who post regularly, regardless of whether or not I agreed with them.

That said, the tone in the comment sections has seemed a little off the last few weeks. Somethings gone sour in the mix. At first I just thought that people were just angry, venting over Abu Ghraib or poor Nick Berg, but now I think it's mostly just partisan rancor (of the "people who disagree with me are ignorant/evil" variety), and increasingly thoughtless arguments (e.g., "People like you suck." "No, People like YOU suck", etc.). While personally satifying for the posters, this sort of is truly a waste: hijacking otherwise intelligent discussions, and neither informing nor challenging the ideas of the readers here. This is the essence of Trolling.

If you can make time to check people who, perhaps, type faster than they think, a warning (and the threat of a ban) might make a world of difference in raising the level of the various dialogues here.

Posted by: Gene Thug at May 21, 2004 09:31 PM

And speaking of typing faster than thinking, I meant to say:

this sort of thing is truly a waste

in the previous post.

Posted by: Gene Thug at May 21, 2004 09:46 PM

calibar, I don't know if this is a thread where we should discuss capitalism and its opponents. Perhaps somewhere else, as that does seem to be a large part of that post you mentioned.

As for that snarky remark, I have thick skin. However, I would ask you to judge me not by others.

Posted by: FH at May 21, 2004 09:46 PM

Good on you, Michael. Your house, your rules.

I have been seriously considering establishing an essay blog (no comments - no way I'll be able to keep up with that) to link to when I feel the urge to respond at length on a subject.

Something like Belmont Club, just without the style, depth, or readability...

In other news, FOX has a poll up showing seventy percent of a national poll believes that media is spinning negative on the war. Who woulda thunk it?

Posted by: TmjUtah at May 21, 2004 11:58 PM

TmjUtah: I have been seriously considering establishing an essay blog

Feel free to announce it here when it's up. It's major time suckage, though, I gotta warn you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 22, 2004 12:01 AM

COMMENTS SO GOOD THEY DESERVE A SECOND GO-AROUND...

SPC67: "I think it's wise to moderate the comments and the only suggestion I'd make is to issue a warning prior to banning. Someone may just be having a bad day". Had one of these "bad days" a while back. Went off the deep-end, way out of character. Some of you may recall. I wholeheartedly second SPC67s idea.

ROARK: "Crack heads...The law and order part of my right wing personality will love it". Just had to include it. On sheer rhetorical value alone. Roark, you're damn good at that sort of thing.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at May 22, 2004 12:29 AM

TMJUTAH...

Dude, where have you been? Stick around this time! You're one of the sane ones.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at May 22, 2004 12:33 AM

Uhm, well, of course, I didn't read all of the preceding comments before posting mine.

But here's my 2 cents: I have stopped reading two blogs I can think of off the top of my head because of the tenor of their commentors. Unfairly to the blogger, I couldn't help thinking -- yuk!

As to your blog specifically (but more generally, lately), I find that I don't even open comments that show greater than 50 posts. Maybe erroneously, but I assume there is a hi-jacked thread or circle-jerk on-going.

I guess it goes with being a popular blog. But certainly my experience has been that a high ratio of moonbat (or simply repeatedly illogical exposition) comments can drive away blog readership. Perhaps you've hit upon the right tactic -- high standards for permissible comments. It might take more up-front time to winnow the wheat from the chaff, but I think such editorial input will pay off in the long run.

Posted by: cj at May 22, 2004 12:54 AM

Honestly, who is calibar?

Posted by: chopperdave at May 22, 2004 02:09 AM

He is the left wing side of my personality.

Posted by: Roark at May 22, 2004 06:06 AM

If you cut slack for people "having a bad day," can't some people just have one bad day after another?

And what's to stop someone from feeling like they had a good day because they went on the attack, then claiming afterward that they were just having a bad day?

As for the "one warning" idea: Michael, why don't you make the first comment-section post for a while, saying something like this, each time:

"If you make an ad hominem attack on me or anyone posting in this comment section, you will be cut without warning. You have been warned."

I look forward to seeing how the new system works out in practice. I hope I don't see calibar getting cut for calling someone "a tad disingenuous", while HA is allowed to continue calling me a "shit", and a terrorist sympathizer, with impunity. That would be disappointing.

Posted by: Michael Turner at May 22, 2004 06:19 AM

calibar, I don't know if this is a thread where we should discuss capitalism and its opponents. Perhaps somewhere else, as that does seem to be a large part of that post you mentioned.

--no, this is not correct. i used it as an example of a serious and reasonable response that I had given on another thread, a direct response to a claim on that very thread that 'leftists and liberals' don't find it possible to attribute any good intentions to Bush or the US. I put that in this thread merely as an example, not as a move to actually discuss those issues. I think that is clear from the way I wrote the above comment.

Posted by: calibar at May 22, 2004 06:31 AM

I hope I don't see calibar getting cut for calling someone "a tad disingenuous", while HA is allowed to continue calling me a "shit", and a terrorist sympathizer, with impunity. That would be disappointing.

--I think this reasonably sums up exactly my sentiments.

Posted by: calibar at May 22, 2004 06:33 AM

I visit here most every day, and often several times in a day. I post occasionally in an attempt to add some perspective and to the debate - not always articulately or wisely I suppose, but honestly. Mostly, though, I find the debate informative and it is easy for me to ignore the, usually, obvious trolls.

Passion for a topic is great. Sarcasm and humor are styles that can entertain while informing. Vitriol and hate are, among other things, boring, pedestrian, and lazy.

Do what you will Michael, you have one of the best blogs going and your instincts are correct more often than not.

Posted by: steve at May 22, 2004 06:58 AM

"Bad ideas lose out over time, even if they sometimes temporarily rise. Hardly anyone thinks the Earth is flat. Very few Germans still think Hitler was right. Very few Western leftists carry water for Stalin or think the Gulag is a myth. There were times when this was not so."

While I generally agree with this statement, Michael, it does have a problem. At least fifty million people died in order to make it so -- a rather mindboggling number. It should give those of us on the West Coast of the USA pause since it's pretty close to the entire population of our states. Whew! Solution? I wish I had one.

Posted by: Roger L. Simon at May 22, 2004 08:02 AM

Good idea Michael. I was starting to become dismayed by your comments section. It is much more enjoyable for others to read comments that are courteous and substantive.

Posted by: Ben at May 22, 2004 10:42 AM

Better late than never. I read your blog every day (though I rarely comment), and not too long ago recommended it to a friend BECAUSE the comments section was generally outstanding. Lately, two posters in particular have changed that. Hopefully, they'll have the good sense to recognize that their behavior of late has been unacceptable, and correct it themselves; if not, I'll be glad to see the last of them.

Posted by: Phil Smith at May 22, 2004 11:50 AM

Bravo, Michael Totten! Use your discretion and use it liberally. We will all be better for it.

BTW, if anyone doubts the need for reining in certain blabbermouths on this blog. I have done the analysis: one individual is responsible for a whopping 21 percent of the 4,244 words posted in this comments section as of 2:40 p.m.--and this is a little below par for him.

I rest my case.

Posted by: Fresh Air at May 22, 2004 12:06 PM

Let’s be honest, some of the bashing is quite entertaining. This is not the Supreme Court of the United States, it’s a blog. Michael, there are limits to everything and you’ll decide what the limits are to be here but keep in mind, a little mud slinging is downright fun.

Posted by: Joe Marino at May 22, 2004 02:11 PM

At least fifty million people died in order to make it so -- a rather mindboggling number. It should give those of us on the West Coast of the USA pause since it's pretty close to the entire population of our states. Whew! Solution? I wish I had one.

--included in that are the american rightwingers who were sympathetic with European fascism for many years until the early 1940s and thereafter in great denial about the atrocities committed by many of America's closest allies around the world. amazing indeed.

Posted by: calibar at May 22, 2004 02:23 PM

The left position is actually very different from the liberal and conservative shared obsession with individuals' intentions. Instead it actually takes quite seriously the entire notion of 'unintended consequences' and asks why it is that despite the good intentions of leaders of the capitalist world, their endgoals of 'democracy' 'freedom' 'a safer world', etc. are not met by their policies, whether of the 'liberal' or 'conservative' ilk.

Calibar, what is the left’s solution to the problems caused by the unintended consequences of capitalism?

Posted by: mary at May 22, 2004 02:39 PM

Calibar,

I have blocked your IP address.

I didn't wait for you to commit some particular banning offense. I don't have time to be a babysitter. I have three jobs (four if you include this blog) and a wife and friends who would like to see my face a little more often.

I was hoping to see a change in your posting behavior. Maybe you would take the not-at-all-subtle hint that you were a primary cause for my new policy in the first place. It didn't happen. Instead I got nothing but defensiveness, thread hogging, and more immature heckling of others. No one post of yours by itself is blockable. It's a pattern that didn't change a bit 24 hours after I created the new policy. Everyone but you is supportive of my policy of changing the tone around here. So I am doing what I need to do. Sorry.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 22, 2004 02:41 PM

I should add that I occasionally have to ask some commenters to change their tone and it works. I don't want to embarrass anyone by singling them out, but a few days ago I did ask a certain individual to knock off a particularly annoying behavior, and since then it stopped. If you're who I'm talking about, you know who you are. I noticed it, and I appreciate it. There's not much I can do if this is beyond some people.

I apologize for having to be this way. I'd really rather not. I don't have an authoritatian personality, but no one else can be the moderator so I'm stuck with this task.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 22, 2004 02:52 PM

(Deafening sound of applause).

Posted by: pcr at May 22, 2004 02:54 PM

Thank you, MJT. For the guy who introduced me to the term "Mussolini Lobby" to be defended as merely calling people a "tad disingenuous" seemed, er... a tad disingenuous.

Posted by: Sortelli at May 22, 2004 03:36 PM

"Bad ideas lose out over time, even if they sometimes temporarily rise. Hardly anyone thinks the Earth is flat."

Not to be pedantic...well, yes, to be pedantic, hardly anyone ever thought the earth was flat.

http://www.ethicalatheist.com/docs/flat_earth_myth.html

The same is basically true about angels and heads of pins, but I can't find the cite right now.

Rick, frequent reader, almost first time commenter

Posted by: Rick at May 22, 2004 04:27 PM

So, people stopped believing in a flat earth long before we conventionally assume they did.

And this invalidates the analogy in what way? :)

Posted by: Sortelli at May 22, 2004 05:21 PM

Good call MJT.

Dude was straight up annoying.

Posted by: Roark at May 22, 2004 07:57 PM

Sortelli writes: "Thank you, MJT. For the guy who introduced me to the term "Mussolini Lobby" to be defended as merely calling people a "tad disingenuous" seemed, er... a tad disingenuous."

Since this is an indirect reference to one my recent comments, allow me to clarify: what I meant was the case where calibar called someone "a tad disingenuous" in any future postings. I was not defending calibar's use of "Mussolini lobby," which I personally consider over the top. Nor was I defending his claim that Totten is biased toward viewing disagreement with him as an ad hominem attack - that was also over the top.

However, HA can call me "treasonous fucking bastard", "shit", and can say that I want the terrorists to win, and this elicits no comment from Michael Totten.

Joe Marino says that a little mudslinging is fun. That's true. The question is where this kind of thing leads when left uncontrolled. "Fun" is not in itself "good."

As we can see from some recent photos from Iraq, lots of things can be fun. See how big some of those smiles were? When people feel that their cause is moral and just, when they shrug off mistakes as those broken eggs in making an omelette, and when they feel that there are no rules except the inherently correct ones they make up on the spot, administering justice as they see it can turn into more fun than a barrel of monkeys. After all, a barrel of monkeys is what you get in that kind of situation - baboons rending flesh and breaking spirits triumphantly. It's in all of us. To imagine otherwise, to be absolutely sure that you're permanently above that degraded state, that you could never be anything like your enemies, is the beginning of degradation, it is the beginning of heading right down the path toward being a baboon without even realizing it. Terrorism is successful insofar as it points its victims down that path. Terrorism fails to the extent that its victims recognize this manipulation for what it is, and resist natural temptations.

Posted by: Michael Turner at May 22, 2004 09:18 PM

Since this is an indirect reference to one my recent comments, allow me to
clarify: what I meant was the case where calibar called someone "a tad
disingenuous" in any future postings. I was not defending calibar's use of
"Mussolini lobby," which I personally consider over the top. Nor was I
defending his claim that Totten is biased toward viewing disagreement with
him as an ad hominem attack - that was also over the top.

For the record, I'm not defending HA's, er, "colorful" language either. But calibar was being incredibly dishonest to portray himself as a sincere dissenter who's getting picked on, as opposed to the flat out sophistic troll that he was. Implying that he could be singled out when someone on the other side is given a pass gave him one more thing to hide behind.

I apologize for saying that you were being disingenuous, though.

Posted by: Sortelli at May 22, 2004 09:38 PM

Michael Turner: However, HA can call me "treasonous fucking bastard", "shit", and can say that I want the terrorists to win, and this elicits no comment from Michael Totten.

I've told HA to knock if off repeatedly. He knows I don't like it. I've let it slide lately because I only have so much time to babysit in here. Calling someone else a "treasonous fucking bastard" formally fits under my blocking policy. And since I'm back into babysitting mode, at least for the time being, I suggest no one use that formulation against someone unless it truly applies, such as with George Galloway and Ted Rall who really do support terrorism and have no qualms saying so.

You're not being singled out as an acceptable punching bag, Michael. Sorry if it looked that way.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 22, 2004 09:39 PM

And I apologize for not making sure my crummy old work browser didn't screw up what I cut and pasted too, heh.

Posted by: Sortelli at May 22, 2004 09:40 PM

I must admit I come here to read Michael's post, not listen to the carry on in comments.

Once comments get to a certain size they get too big to be good. Kevin Drum's are another place I don't normally go.

Posted by: Scott at May 23, 2004 12:08 AM

MJT,

I suggest no one use that formulation against someone unless it truly applies

How will you know when it applies? Do you think that those who are disloyal will announce it as a pre-amble to all their comments? There are Americans who are disloyal and hate their own country. You know it and they know it. They depend on the presumption of loyalty granted by people like you to cloak the message they want to convey.

I will judge a person's loyalty based on the policy positions they advocate. If the positions a person advocates are consistent with those espoused by ANSWER, I will judge that person's loyalty accordingly.

The greatest threat to people who want to cloak their disloyalty to convey their seditious message is to have their loyalty challenged. The reason Michael Turner wants me banned is because I am right about his loyalty, not because I am wrong.

I won't back down from challenging people's loyalty if their policy positions call their loyalty into question. If you feel that exceeds the threshold of your speech code, then ban me.

But before you do so, I have one question I think you should ask yourself. Are their disloyal Americans who depend on the presumption of their loyalty to get their message out? If you answer "yes" to this question, then my viewpoint is legitimate and needs to be represented. If you answer "no" to this question, then my viewpoint is illegitimate and serves no purpose.

But make no mistake, if you ban me you are banning a viewpoint and a set of ideas that would not otherwise be represented. And you would be banning me because the ideas I represent make you uncomfortable not because the ideas I represent are wrong or the way I convey them uncivil.

Posted by: HA at May 23, 2004 04:03 AM

I suggested this compromise many months ago. HA should just argue "Your position commits you to holding that X, but X is a treasonous point of view. So, why don't you disavow your position?"

Libertarians have used this argument form with me. They say, "You support taxation for the sake of a welfare safety net, but that commits you to holding that I should have my money taken by the state and given to someone else, that this should be done at gunpoint, or even deadly force, if necessary, when I refuse to pay my the tax. But clearly that's immoral, so why don't you disavow your support for welfare?" The libertarian thus nails me. In my case, I bite the bullet and reply, "Why, yes, I do believe that you should be shot if you use deadly force while resisting arrest by police come to arrest you for your choice to commit tax evasion over the welfare issue." But I digress. The point is that the libertarian uses this argument form in a forum in which calling me a "murderous fucking authoritarian asshole" is frowned upon.

What HA gives up: There's something unsatisfying, even disingenuous, about having to beat around the bush when speaking to someone whom one believes to be treasonous. What HA and the blog gain: HA doesn't get banned.

Posted by: Jim at May 23, 2004 05:52 AM

In line with the previous comments, PLEASE be very careful when considering the ban of anyone for the reason that they are perhaps, in the heat of the moment,questioning someone's patriotism.
It is NOT pleasant to say it BUT it seems increasingly clear, that there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

ARE WE AT WAR WITH ISLAMIC NUTBARS ?
IF YES, CAN WE AFFORD TO LOSE ?

I very regretfully have become convinced that we are in a WAR to the end, and that failure is not a viable option if our values are to be preserved.I have also become certain that a segment of the population does not accept these beliefs to be true,and that a further small portion of the population does not care if they are true because it is consumed by dislike for AMERICA and American power.
Under these conditions, it is not very un-reasonable to point out, in perhaps strong language, that some views are at best seditious and perhaps even treasonous.The reasons why we avoid doing this are not based in some objective truth but because 'witch hunts' seem to always turn up many more witches than one would have though possible.However IF we are at war,I have ,for example,some serious issues with Mike(lets hear it for the Iraqi 'insurgents'gallantly fighting off our storm troopers)Moore.I would have no problem saying in a post that he is GIVING AID AND COMFORT TO THE ENEMY. Is that a banning offense or merely a reasonable interpretation of reality?
MAYBE what has to be done is to make MORE noise about this type of behaviour and call it for what it is.
Not politically correct perhaps -----
but perhaps correct politically.

Posted by: doug at May 23, 2004 06:54 AM

HA,

I think your position is abstractly legitimate, but you're way too trigger happy with it. You frequently smear the Democratic Party in general as treasonous. It drives people out of my comments section and I get a lot of complaints. I don't want people driven out of my comments section, and I'm tired of listening to complaints about it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 23, 2004 09:52 AM

Ill bet HA's comments bring in and retain more readers and lurkers for you. If HA is ever banned at least give him a chance to let his fans know where he is going so we can go there and read his posts.

By the way, many on the left have put themselves in a position where if the United States succeeds in Iraq, then the left is screwed. Some may say this is a treasonous position to be in.

Thanks.

Posted by: mnm at May 23, 2004 10:11 AM

I'm going to say this one more time only.

Unless someone comes in here and gives a big hooray for terrorism, and Michael Moore did with his "revolution" and "new minutemen" nonsense, do not accuse my other commenters of treason. Especially not just for being an anti-war liberal. I'm not putting up with this crap any more. Period. Don't argue with me about it. I have other things to do today. Thank you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 23, 2004 10:49 AM

Once again, I apologize for being such a hard-ass about this. I'm only asking for reasonable comments in here, and I don't think that's too much to ask. Look at the comments on Atrios and LGF if you want to know what happens without limits. Moderate civil discussion is impossible at those sites. I'd rather shut my comments down completely.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 23, 2004 12:20 PM

You'll get no argument from me, MJT. You have good judgment.

Posted by: Jim at May 23, 2004 03:37 PM

At least you get comments.

Look, I don't blame you for trying to 'clean house' as someone put it, but it may not work. Others have tried before you. What usually happens is that policing takes so much time and energy that eventually the policer makes one of two decisions: either they shut down or they leave it alone and let it do whatever it's going to do without worrying about it (apparently Atrios' approach).

Somebody once said that the middle of the road is the most dangerous place to be--you get hit from both directions. The diceyness of BBS' and Comment boards is a direct reflection of how polarized our society is. David Neiwert has written in the past about how he can't even talk to his right-wing friends any more, not even about stuff like birthdays and family news. HA feels like everybody who disagrees with him is potentially a traitor, and caliber feels like everybody who disagrees with him is potentially a fascist. These feelings are deeply and genuinely held by both, and color everything they write. To deny them is, in some sense, to deny the whole purpose of having a comments section in the first place.

Maybe policing will work for you. I hope it does. Most of the posters here seem reasonable enough apart from the animosity that builds up in any diverse community small enough to be familiar with all the other members' flaws and foibles--and to be irritated by them. It can descend into chaos pretty quick--witness your average family gathering at Thanksgiving.

But if it doesn't, both the other options are legitimate. Let it be what it is and ignore the complaints, or shut it down and concentrate on writing better posts. 'Comments" are going the way of the dodo because of the persistance of trolls, anyway; they'll be quaint history in a few years.

IAC, I'm with Scott: I must admit I come here to read Michael's post, not listen to the carry on in comments. Blogs belong to the writers, and if the Comments take time away from writing, dump 'em and don't look back would be my advice. I don't come here to read HA or caliber. They're extras--maybe moving, maybe energizing, maybe annoying, maybe silly, but in the end, definitely irrelevant. I'd rather lose them than you.

Posted by: Mick at May 23, 2004 03:43 PM

Mick,

Yes, at least I have comments. I've been working on my house today and thinking about this problem. I don't want to come across as ungrateful that I have comments in the first place. I really do enjoy the comments for the most part. I'm trying to save them because I learn a lot from the back-and-forth and I really do enjoy the fact that my writing gets feedback from real people. I get more feedback from a blog post than from any of my published articles, and it helps that the feedback I get here is from the same regular people, people I sometimes feel like I know in the real world.

My head-cracking attitude is directed at small minority, and I would far prefer that small minority to moderate their tone. With the exception of the German neo-Nazi and the Serbian fascist sympathizer mentioned in the original post above, I hate kicking people out of here. Really, I do.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 23, 2004 03:58 PM

Good idea, Michael.
One reason many, like me, like your site has been the relatively good, lively, and diverse views in the comments. AND the fact that you read, and respond to good ones (usually not mine. sigh.)

They've been degrading; but I'm doubtful it's possible to return to "as good as last year" -- before you were so popular.

Congrats on the popularity, your clear, strong writing deserves it. And the comment problems. It's good you see the problem; I truly wish you success at keeping up quality AND openess.

Posted by: Tom Grey at May 24, 2004 12:33 AM

Here's another suggestion, following Donald Sensing: limit the size of comments (I think his 250 is too small though).
Not sure you have such comment control.

You were right to boot those you've banned, as far as I can stand reading. I can barely go to Atrios or Kevin Drum's comments.

Though there is a feeling I have that those who hate capitalism, and the rich, support strange, interesting, though rationally wrong, positions.

Posted by: Tom Grey at May 24, 2004 12:49 AM

MJT,

My position is more than "abstractly" legitimate. You have no problem questioning the motivation or allegiance of someone like Michael Moore, but then shouldn't you also question Wesley Clark's motivations because of his association with Moore? Even Benedict Arnold was a hero and a patriot before he was a traitor.

There are millions of people in this country who are buying Michael Moore's books or support groups like ANSWER. Do you think that none of these people end up in your comment section? Your speech code is saying that someone's motivation or loyalty shouldn't be questioned on your blog.

But do you really think that all of those who are disloyal will announce that America is an evil, racist, sexist, greedy, theocratic, fascist, oil-hungry empire that must be put under UN control because it is the greatest threat to world peace besides Israel? I'm not exaggerating a great deal to suggest that this is what kids get taught in college these days.

If someone doesn't like my opinion, that's fine. If they say I'm a "fascist fuckwit", that's fine too. If that is how someone feels, let them rebut my arguments and let people make up their own minds. But I think it is intellectual cowardice to run whining to you if they are aggressivley challenged. If the people who are complaining to you are afraid to have their positions and motivations challenged, that SHOULD be their problem, not yours and not mine. Your blog isn't suffering from too few comments.

If you decide to ban me, it is because of my opinion that people's loyalty should be open to question, and your opposing opinion that their loyalty should be presumed. You would be banning me for stating opinions that you disagree with and make you uncomfortable. You may try to rationalize it, but that is what this boils down to.

For a very brief window of time I’ll be open to changing my mind.

Did you mean this when you said it?

Posted by: HA at May 24, 2004 04:42 AM

A great litmus test for detecting a demogogue is when you concede a point in one of these forums to someone you disagree with. Sometimes it refines the debate and narrows the focus of where people disagree. Too often such concession are perceived as intellectual weakness and an opportunity to pile on. Unfortuately not enough people understand the gravity of the discussions we are debating, the implications of getting our foreign policy wrong, and the need to acheive broadbased concensus. They certainly don't know how to make a case of moral suasion. They are too willing to sacrifice needed exchange on serious subjects for personal vanity and debating points.

The world is a complex place. Our role as the only super power and role model for other emerging democracies makes it even more complex. I don't think our involvement in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or Iraq can be easily dismissed or summed up in a handfull of cheap troll-bytes. When I see them, I ignore their childish rants. If I see to many of them, I tune out completely. They are really no different from the techniques used by my adolescent teenage daughters when they want to push parental buttons.

The reason I come to this web site is that it is a place of clear thinking: of people who love this country, truly believe that it has to be exceptional, and are arguing about how to make it happen. If the arguement is constructive, it is interesting. If it degenerates into childish name calling it is a turn-off. (Btw, once in this forum I resorted to such. It was a bad day and I washed my mouth out with soap and apologized.) What I am looking for is a road map to getting broad based concensus in this country. Look around at the blogosphere and it reflects where we are as a society: deeply polorized and untrusting as a country. We are in much much worse shape than we were in Vietnam. IMHO, the next 9/11 will not provoke unity but huge civil unrest. This is one of the few forums where people of different stripes get a chance to talk things over. It is a reflection of MJTs centrist leanings and his dedication to classic liberal ideology.

Posted by: bob at May 24, 2004 07:47 AM

HA,

You are too quick to denounce someone as disloyal. That's the problem, not that I think there are no disloyal people. It's offensive and I get complaints about it. I've been on the left my whole life, and I understand that what looks like disloyalty to some actually isn't. But I'm also smart enough to know that sometimes the shoe fits. It depends. I'm asking you to be more careful. I don't want to kick you or anyone else out of here, but excessive Coulterism (for lack of a better word) really is trollish behavior. The reason I haven't kicked you out is because I find that you're at least somewhat responsive to what I say, unlike some others who seems to have cement in their heads.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 24, 2004 09:28 AM

I am a casual reader of MJT and comments therin. I was led here today by a link from Roger L. Simon’s blog comment’s concerning the individual who was banned above, and who promptly showed up on Roger’s comments. I too, value comments. I especially value ‘threads’ that bring out incisive and ‘challenging to the mind’ dialog, such as found here and at RLS’s blog. As another of those ‘whom the left failed’ people I suppose I do find it reassuring to read the thoughts of those on the same journey, but, that doesn’t mean that that is all I want to read. I pretty much agree with MJT’s new policy. I also feel that HA and MJT make good points in their respective arguments. I think it comes down to the fact that it is MJT’s blog and he can run it as he sees fit.
I do feel I must defend the LGF blog concerning the comment MJT made above about comments there being ‘out of control’. Yes, there are ‘fruitcakes’ on both ends of the spectrum in LGF’s comments, but I believe this is overcome by the ‘fact’ based comments that ensue from the articles that are posted. There are many thoughtful and intelligent folks who comment there. LGF posts news and articles that are greatly relevant for recognizing the war that we are engaged in. Check out Bill Whittle’s latest for a much better explanation of why LGF is valuable.

Posted by: mudmarine at May 24, 2004 11:19 AM

It is sad when people who have the freedom to read, or not read posts, refuse to accept personal responsibility and scroll past the offending posts. Calibur's posts can be annoying from time to time, but he always posts as 'calibur'. His writing style is easily identifiable and with flat comments, such as we have here, it's not extra work to scroll past his comments.

However, MJ, its your blog, do as you will with it. I'm just sorry that your readers aren't able to take care of themselves and are requiring you to babysit all of us.

But, what the heck do I know?

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at May 24, 2004 11:27 AM

"It is sad when people who have the freedom to read, or not read posts, refuse to accept personal responsibility and scroll past the offending posts."

Dear Tosk,

Don't elevate the weeding out of trolls to the likes of a Greek tragedy. When people have to be skipped over because they have nothing to say except "look-at-me" histrionics, little is lost if they are finally told to excuse themselves and leave the table .

Posted by: bob at May 24, 2004 02:25 PM

Bob,

Anytime individuals choose someone else interevening over taking personal responsibility, I feel that it is on par with a greek tragedy.

If Calibur added nothing to the conversations, then people could have taken personal responsibility and ignored the posts. If they added nothing there was no reason to respond. However, people did respond, because this is the internet, a place where every troll lives because it gets fed, and every troll gets fed because people can't resist responding. A troll knows how to push buttons, woe to those who can't protect their buttons a bit better.

Posted by: Ratatosk at May 24, 2004 02:36 PM

MJT:

Ban away! I drop in from time to time to read REASONABLE ideas from a variety of political viewpoints and backgrounds. All the sniping, flaming, and off-topic cliquish chatter detracts from your thoughtful posts and discussions. I think of your new policy as an added SERVICE--now you're an EDITOR as well as a WRITER. Thanks.

Posted by: slimedog at May 24, 2004 02:44 PM

Ratatosk,

In a perfect world you're right. In the real world, trolls degrade threads. I had to make a call.

Mudmarine,

I agree that LGF is valuable. I check it regularly. But I've learned to steer clear of the comments.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 24, 2004 02:48 PM

Tosk,

You sound like a nice guy, but I mean really:

"Anytime individuals choose someone else interevening over taking personal responsibility, I feel that it is on par with a greek tragedy."

Pass me the Kleenex. Forget Mr. Calibur, lets just abstract this arguement to garden-variety trolls who, by definition, want to inflame or deflect rational debate, and by definition offer little or no critical thinking. Explain to me what precisely is the value of putting up with such characters? It's not as if being on the Internet we are likely to forget that they exist or that they are remotely close to becoming an endangered species.

Basically what you are saying is that it is the duty of a forum participant to remain passive and not respond to a troll, no matter how outrageous or disgusting their assertions might be.
You are also saying that by reacting to them you are somehow worse or on par with their actions.

Being passive about inflammatory statements or behavour is always a bad idea.

Posted by: bob at May 24, 2004 03:33 PM

You know, if someone took a huge, steaming dump in my front yard in front of me and my family, I'd exercise my personal responsibility to myself and my family to remove the bastard and never let him near my yard again.

I would not step around his crap and tell everyone to ignore him when he does it.

Posted by: Sortelli at May 24, 2004 04:20 PM

Last word I will post on this thread no matter what as I know that MJT is VERY busy and that this blog is a labour of love not a penance.
Ban away ----- If I ever get myself banned from a reasonable site such as this, it will indicate that I may need to review my overall position and perhaps seek professional help.
That said --- I not only frequent LGF BUT also am a BIG fan of the Comments as well.EXCEPT for the infrequent and disquieting rants from the far somewhere, the comments are filled with some great analysis and some creative graveyard humour.
This site is a personal favourite for the same reasons.Thank you for trying to keep it that way.

Posted by: doug at May 24, 2004 04:40 PM

All the sniping, flaming, and off-topic cliquish chatter detracts from your thoughtful posts and discussions.

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's that last bit (at least the off-topic part) that gets closer to some of the trolling here and elsewhere. Actually, I think it's a combination of off-topic-ness and willful obliviousness that makes a serious troll.

Some people are trying to discuss the topic at hand, and there's always at least one troll who has to pop up with some pre-written point on another topic that gets fed in, regardless of what it's supposedly "responding" to, completely disrupting everything when people respond. That's why one person can use strong language and not be banned as a troll, and another can use mild language and sitll get tossed.

I went back and re-read Calibur's final posts, and I think this is what did it. I mean, look at that last post. Roger Simon's talking about the power of speech, and Calibar says --included in that are the american rightwingers who were sympathetic with European fascism for many years until the early 1940s and thereafter in great denial about the atrocities committed by many of America's closest allies around the world. amazing indeed.

Whatta maroon. Reminds of of Robert McClelland, super-troll (is he banned here yet?) - no matter what the subject, Robert pops up "you right whingers sure are stupid" or some such, demonstrating what happens when a broker record gets ahold of a keyboard.

Posted by: jeremy at May 24, 2004 07:47 PM

Jeremy: Reminds of of Robert McClelland, super-troll (is he banned here yet?)

No, but my finger is on the trigger. Give him a day or two and he's out, I almost guarantee it.

You're right, too, about what finally did for me with Calibar.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 24, 2004 08:02 PM

MJT,

You are too quick to denounce someone as disloyal. That's the problem, not that I think there are no disloyal people. It's offensive and I get complaints about it.

And I think you are too slow. Not that you don't do your fair share of denouncing. That is what attracted me to your blog in the first place. I respected the fact that a man of the left was willing to denounce the extremism of the left. I respected this because you stood up and spoke your mind when people like Oliver Willis and the rest of his ilk were denouncing you for being a heretic, questioning your liberal credentials and accusing you of doing Karl Rove's dirty work. The fundamental difference between you and me is our views on the extent to which the radical left has penetrated the mainstream.

You still seem to believe that the extreme left is confined to a marginal fringe. I believe that the extreme left has grown to the extent that it has taken over the Democratic party. John Kerry is practically a Founding Father of the extreme left and he is their nominee for President. He is the extreme left's George Washington. For this and many other reasons, I believe the Democratic party has become systemically intellectually and morally corrupt. That is what I believe. It isn't schtick.

Given that this is what I believe, I won't hold my tongue. I will continue to denounce the Democratic party. And I will continue to denounce those who advocate policies that are consistent with the radical left that has hijacked the Democratic party. And I will do so with the harshest rhetoric. I also think patriotic Democrats who don't want their party hijacked by radicals need to do the same thing, as Zell Miller has already done. The views of the extreme left have become dominant in all our opinion forming organizations from the public school system, to universities, the establishment media, Hollywood and, yes, the Democratic party. We have reached the point where real dissent comes from the right, not the left, and the left wants to crush that dissent. That is why you've been denounced as a heretic, and your views as schtick.

If that is unacceptable to you, so be it. I don't see any point in participating if I can't speak my mind freely. If you are going to ban me, then do it. If you are not going to ban me, then state so explicitly because I am growing tired of wondering if the next comment I make is going to be the one that crosses some ambiguous and arbitrary line.

But I think it would be hypocritical of you to do so and it would be a betrayal of your liberal values even if you don't recognize it. You are rightfully very tolerant of legitimate dissent because you don't want to see it crushed under the weight of denunciations. But I think the pendulum has swung too far and we have become so tolerant that those who are seditious, treasonous or merely ambitious have become mainstream and are hiding behind the concept of dissent. The left used to criticize the right for the "my country right or wrong" mentality. But now the left has brought us a "my PARTY right or wrong" mentality and banning me would inadvertantly serve that cause. You have no trouble tolerating criticism of our country or our military as legitimate dissent. Why do you have such a hard time tolerating criticism of the Democrats as legitimate dissent? You are about as open-minded as anybody on the left, but you still have a reactionary streak.

Finally, I wasn't going to comment on you banning calibar because given that I've been warned several times, it would appear self-serving. But calibar didn't say anything that wasn't said by any number of commenters from the left. The only difference between calibar and them is that he did it so much more prolifically. If he had posted from 10 different IP addresses and 10 different names using 10 different style formats, he would have been indistinguishable from half the people who participate here. So I don't see what real purpose banning him serves other than to save some bandwidth. As Tosk pointed out, it was easy enough to skip over his comments. I know I did. But that is not what really bugs me about you banning him. What bugs me is that after banning him from here, you went over to Roger Simon's blog and encouraged Roger to ban him also. I thought that was a cheap stunt. Roger is a grown-up and I am sure he doesn't need your help policing his blog. Maybe seeing him get banned by Roger helped you overcome whatever remorse you may have been feeling about banning him from here. If you decide to ban me and I head over to Roger's blog, are you doing to try to get me banned from there also? Are you going to start a blacklist?

Posted by: HA at May 25, 2004 04:17 AM

I'm not going to argue with you about this, HA. Roger is a personal friend of mine. I tried to save him a headache.

As for bashing the Democrats, please continue to do so. Just remember that most of them are decent people who aren't traitors, and many of them post in my comments section. I'd rather them not be driven away by Coulter-style attacks. I do not want a right-wing echo chamber in here, especially since I'm not even a right-winger myself.

As for banning you or not, I'd really rather not. I'd just like you to keep your cool and not denounce everyone who is anti-war as a traitor. If you can't handle that then you should probably not post here. But as of this moment there is no block on your IP address.

I know this request is annoying, but understand that more people will listen to you if you follow my advice. It will be good for everyone in here, including yourself.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2004 07:01 PM

MJT,

I'd just like you to keep your cool and not denounce everyone who is anti-war as a traitor.

That's not what I do. That's what my critics say I do, but that is not what I do. If you believe that is what I do, then you don't read my posts closely enough. If I condemn somebody, it is because of the REASONS they oppose the war. And I make an effort to try to understand someone's motivations before I charge them with disloyalty. As an example, I'll point to the exchange I was having with Violet until you scared her off:

http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/000314.html

Most people who oppose the war do so either out of disloyalty, partisanship, ignorance, or some combination of these factors. There are certain positions that set off red flags for me, the biggest of all is anybody who says we should give more control to the UN. Other positions that set off red flags are the arguments along the lines that we are doing it for oooiiiiillllll or we don't have moral authority to invade Iraq because we orchestrated a coup in Chile in 1973. I will condemn anybody for disloyalty who spews Chomsky/KGB inspired transnational socialist bullshit.

If you can't handle that then you should probably not post here.

Alright. I'm done here. You know my beliefs and my style and you have plenty of examples of my writing to determine if these meet your speech code. You haven't banned me so far and I fail to see what you and your blog gain by continuing to hold the threat of banning over my head. And I'm fed up with it.

I'm gonna go hang out at Roger Simon's blog. At least until he gets sick of me too. I hope you will refrain from any impulse you may have to encourage him to ban me.

Posted by: HA at May 26, 2004 03:50 AM

I'm kinda new here, but it seems that someone's confusing a comment board run by an individual on his own time and paying the bandwidth charges from his own pocket or from the incidental gifts of his friends with a street corner in San Francisco.

This is a comment board. It's fairly unregulated, but it belongs to MJT. You don't like his policies, feel free NOT to post. Feel free NOT to hang around. And perhaps, even, feel free to START YOUR OWN BLOG.

It's very, very hard to cultivate a blog. In the initial period, you have trouble attracting readers and comments. The volume of writing required may take more time than you can spare. The writing may be simply an echo chamber.

After you've attracted an audience, AND if you allow comments, THEN you must perform some policing of the comments, because there is this fraction of looncakes out there attached to keyboards. Nothing but good manners and commen sense keeps people from posting the most egregious and outrageous nonsense. Thankfully, most people have commen sense and good manners - but some don't, and we can't simply ignore them or avoid them, because the board is wide open. (In social gatherings, we can leave; on the Internet, we can't leave or we lose our audience completely.)

A few people seem to feel that a comment board entitles them to post freely and copiously, and to post offensive or over-the-top comments. MJT is performing the polite equivalent of Shut the Face Up. He has been FAR more polite and patient than his abusive posters have deserved - but he seems to have been shown good manners by most and he is returning the favor.

Sorry for the long post, Michael. Well, kind of. Do what it takes to police your board. It's yours, and it has your name on it - and the looncakes, unfortunately, can really drag the entire board down.

From a fan.

Posted by: steve miller at May 29, 2004 07:41 AM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn