Ann Althouse has a new comments policy, arising out of a blog fight between her and Jeff Goldstein. (The details of the blog fight are in the extended entry of this post, which quotes their comments back and forth and provides links to the comments and relevant thread. If you want the background first, skip to the extended entry, read the blogfight, and come back here.) The blogfight is interesting in the way that the aftermath of a train wreck is interesting, but my focus here is is the comment policy, announced in this post:
I’m not going to accept repetitious arguments, abusive language, and overblown accusations — which seem to have become the style in the last few days. This is my place. I like debate and am ready to read criticism, but what has been going on lately has crossed the line, and I’m adopting a new, more activist form of supervision.
I will delete comments that offend my standards, and I will turn off comments on posts where the conversation is played out to the point where it is attracting too many deletable posts. You’re welcome to practice your free speech on your own blogs. I intend to keep a civil dialogue on mine.
There is little objectionable about that in principle. But any comment policy is only as good as its implementation. You can see Althouse’s new policy in action in comments to another post of hers titled Fending off rabid attack poodles. You should read all of the comments in the thread for the full context, but I’ll pick out the parts that grabbed my attention.
The first thing that jumped out at me was that Althouse deleted a post that she believed was critical of her, but republished its contents once she learned that it was critical of others. This comment by tiggeril was deleted by Prof. Althouse. In a subsequent comment, tiggeril explained: “That wasn’t aimed at you, Ann!” Althouse then left this comment, republishing what tiggeril had said:
Sorry, Tigeril. You wrote:
“Jesus. I found more reasoned debate in my college classes. Why the hell do people take the internet so seriously?
“The ‘blogosphere’ died when the authors’ egos became more important than what they were writing about.”
I did take that personally, so I’m glad to hear it’s not about me. It’s been a long week!
Why would a comment become more acceptable based upon who it criticized?
There may be a partial answer to that question in this comment by Althouse, left just after tiggeril’s deleted comment, in which Althouse explains to Bill from INDC Journal that her readers don’t want to read repeated criticism of her:
Bill: This is my place, with my standards. It’s for me to push the envelope here, not you. You’re a guest, and you need to act like one, for the sake of the other readers, who are people who have a special interest in reading me, not you. If my blogging is as bad as you seem to think, my readers will go away. You’re coming here to talk to the people who haven’t gone away. Do you seriously think they want to hear you repeatedly say how terrible I am? At the very least, it’s boring!
To the contrary, I have found all of this very interesting.
I’m citing this material largely without commentary. I want to let the quotes and links speak for themselves. I hasten to add that any blogger has the absolute right to monitor their comments in any way they see fit. But, of course, that right does not make them immune from criticism for how they conduct those policies.
More from Goldstein and John Cole.
And in the extended entry, the blogfight that started it all: