Several people have expressed disgust at alphie and have asked me to ban him. As of right now, I don’t plan to do so.
alphie is reminiscent of actus, another commenter whose name began with a, was typed in all lower case, and tended towards drive-by commentary. I don’t think they are the same (and actus hasn’t posted here since January), but they are similar. People often asked me to ban actus. I never did.
alphie is more of a kick-sand-in-your-face jerk than actus. But actus made some decent points from time to time, and so does alphie. Let me quote steve, a valued commenter to whom I have considered giving posting privileges (if he’d want them):
I’m not grasping how this is “hijacking the thread”:
And the commentors who think TNR is staying silent to prevent any more punishment coming Beauchamp’s way, Paul?
Let’s wait until he’s discharged from the Army and out of harm’s way and see what he says.
Comment by alphie — 10/24/2007 @ 7:29 pm
Are we expected to believe that the guys who lied about Rusty Tillman’s death are above spinning this story, nk?
Comment by alphie — 10/24/2007 @ 8:06 pm
All it would take is for one of the Army guys to suggest to Beauchamp that he gets to spend the rest of his tour driving an unarmored mobile IED detector around Baghdad unless he shuts up, right.
Comment by alphie — 10/24/2007 @ 8:20 pm
The argument Beauchamp was coerced is all that stands between TNR and its complete humiliation. That aspect *should* be articulated and brought forward. Alphie is needling and inclined to quarrel. Is he the only one with those qualities?
I agree with steve and alphie to this extent: as I said in this comment, “It should be allowed for someone to raise the possibility that Beauchamp is being pressured by the military.” Unlike many of you, I don’t think that is a ridiculous possibility to be automatically discounted. I think it’s legitimate for someone to raise it and debate it. alphie does so in an extraordinarily irritating way — but, as steve notes, he is not the only person around who is irritating or spoiling for an argument.
I have seen a lot of blogs become echo chambers, on both sides. I don’t want to see that happen here. I am willing to go to great lengths to see that it doesn’t happen — including alienating long-time commenters. Yes, I am willing to ban people or restrict conversation in limited circumstances, but I prefer to err on the side of greater expression.
Does this mean that there is no line that can be crossed? Not at all. It’s hard to formulate a clear policy, but I’ll give you a couple of recent examples where I have banned people or deleted their comments. Hopefully it will give you an idea where I draw the line.
Weeks ago, I banned m.croche — who had commented here for years — after he left this comment:
Edwards spent his own money – of which he has plenty – as he saw fit. No one was harmed.
As opposed to the smart decisions of the genius who decided to fly his family (including two small children) on a cut-rate airline during one of the busiest times of the holiday season, with predictably disastrous results. Now that’s dumb.
“P.S. Never, ever fly AirTran. I know, I know; you get what you pay for. Spare me the recriminations. We feel bad enough as it is.”
That was it. m.croche will never comment here again.
I tolerated croche for years, even though every single comment he ever posted made one point: Patterico is a bad guy. The reason I tolerated his comments is because they were generally expressed in terms of my opinions: “Patterico is a bad guy because he argues x.” He always phrased the comments as a personal attack on me, but generally, he made a substantive point in there somewhere.
But when he chose to simply call me stupid — in a way that implied I had been neglectful to my children — he revoked his own commenting privileges.
Similarly, I posted about Radley Balko the other day. I disabled comments on the post, because I knew the comments I’d see if I enabled comments, and the point of view articulated therein had already been beaten to death on this blog. Yes, yes, I know: I supposedly declared Kathryn Johnston the Queen of All Evil, and canonized her killers as the Sainted Law Enforcement Agents who could not possibly have done anything wrong. (That’s bullshit, but I’m sick of the argument.) We’ve had that debate so many times that we’re all tired of it. Regardless, I invited people who couldn’t possibly restrain themselves to leave comments to that effect on one of the old threads. Because of my “Recent Comments” feature, any such comment would have been picked up anyway.
But still, an anonymous prick currently calling himself “Dude” (previously “King Christian X,” “Tefnut,” and any number of other aliases — which alone justifies banning) insisted on leaving a comment on a completely unrelated thread, crying huge tears at his inability to criticize me on the Balko post. His comment, which was 100% inappropriate to the post in question, was deleted without a second thought.
So I’m open to banning people and deleting comments, in appropriate situations. But quite frankly, my tendency is towards openness. And I really, really don’t want this blog to be an echo chamber.
This means I am willing to alienate people I otherwise respect, if they can’t deal with someone having the ability to comment who is both a) liberal and b) annoying. It’s a large price to pay — but it’s a price I’m willing to pay for a principle: that of having an open forum where people who aren’t deliberately insulting, and who are honest in their commenting practices, can express any opinion they like — even in an annoying and argumentative manner.
It’s not easy to draw that line, and alphie may cross it. But I hope this explains a bit better why I am reluctant to ban him.
And if he bothers you so much, then for God’s sake, just ignore him.