Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Comment censorship and comment policies II: Jotamar’s comment policy

with 3 comments

I recently encountered a comment policye that I found highly dangerous (I have, I stress, not made observations of how it is actually applied. The general attitude, which is representative for many blogs, is my target. It may be beneficial too consider this a discussion based on the policy, rather than a discussion of the policy.)

A few quotes (retrieved 2010-07-27) with my analysis:

If you come to my blog and post a comment that does not engage with my post, or with the comment thread in general, I will consider you a troll.

This is a misrepresentation of what a troll is (in short someone who is deliberately out to provoke a fight or otherwise disturb the discussion)—as the recurring reader will know, use of a word with strong negative connotations (arising from a very specific meaning) in a much wider meaning is one of my pet peeves—be the misuse out of ignorance, carelessness, or deliberation.

Further, the applied standards are extremely arbitrary and vulnerable to misunderstandings, with the implication that even constructive and “good faith” comments can fall victim.

Notably, while I have not myself been censored on this blog during my one (?) involvement, both my intentions and what I said was misunderstoode in a highly annoying and mutually time-consuming manner.

After [what amounts to a first warning], I may delete your comments or disemvowel them, depending on my mood.

Deleting comments is one thing, disemvowelling (.g. smthng lk ths) is another matter entirely: Other peoples words should not be distorted unless it is manifestly clear that a distortion has taken place (e.g. by a marker like “[Admin: …]”. Notably, there are a few people out there (usually considered idiots by others), who deliberately disemvowel their own texts, and the commenter might be taken for one of them.

If you write a condescending comment – especially if you start with a condescending phrase – or if you mansplain (or equivalent) at me, I will probably treat you as a troll.

Condescension too is highly subjective, and many are over-sensitive to it or imagine it where it is not present. This tends to apply in particular to people who use the word “mansplain”: There are two main situations in which I have seen this word used:

  1. A man tries to explain more-or-less anything to a woman who is also a men-are-out-to-get-us feminist; in particular, when she actually is wrong in the underlying issue.

  2. A man tries to explain something to a woman who is also stupid or highly uninformed, and his dumbing-down is interpreted as “You talk to me like that because I am woman!”, instead of the correct “You talk to me like that because I am stupid/uninformed!”. Notably, the amount of dumbing down need not even be so large that an independent observer would consider it condescending, but rather an attempt to be helpful. (When push comes to shove, Einstein would have discussed physics with a layman in a very different manner than with another Nobel-Prize winning physicist—this is in the best interest of all parties, and not in anyway disrespectful or condescending.)

    Corollary: If you constantly find that other people are condescending towards you, the reason might actually rest with you, not them.

As an additional complication, some incorrectly interpret a factual way of writing as condescending, which can be a major obstacle to a fair discussion when combined with a “no condescension” rule. Similarly, even statements that correctly point out that a particular belief is wrong or naive are often taken as condescending. (Depending on the details, this need not be incorrect; however, there is a world of difference between e.g. “That it is common beginner’s error, which does not consider that X.”, even when condescending, and “Do not trouble your pretty little head with that. We do not want it to over-heat, do we?”—there is condescension and there is condescension.)

Finally, it is important to bear in mind that we are all imperfect: Should someone, when faced with an unusual amount of stupidity, eventually become condescending, then that is something very different from someone who is constantly condescending to everyone he meets.

Language which is offensive because it is ableist [presumably, referring to having or not having certain abilities, e.g. sight], sexist, misogynistic, racist, homophobic or anything else of that calibre is not acceptable.

Again, a much too subjective criterion—and one that is very, very often abused to exclude those who dissent in opinion, or that is over-extended in an inappropriate manner. (Cf. e.g. Hypocritical media or Abuse of “racism” (and issues relating to racism).)

If you think this policy is unfair, you are more than welcome to go and comment on some other blog.

While this may seem reasonable at a first glance, this attitude can also be dangerous—in particular, when the censorship starts during a discussion, when one debater’s opinions are left misstated, misrepresented, or when others attacks or arguments are left unanswered. An additional danger is that a good faith post which has cost the author a non-trivial amount of time, e.g. to dig up a few references, is not published.


Written by michaeleriksson

July 27, 2010 at 9:51 pm

3 Responses

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  1. “Highly dangerous”? For whom? For your feelings? Are you in fear that if your comment is deleted, then she will have emasculated you somehow?

    I have read her blog and your responses, and although your comment was “in good faith”, she makes it clear that she misprinted, and that the whole “strawman” argument you keep throwing at her, is exactly what she is comment about THEM. It seems you are one in misunderstanding.

    It is her blog, and she can apply any policy of editing she desires. It would be different if she was working for a newspaper or ezine or some other collaborative blog endeavor. But her blog, is her voice, and if it offends – then don’t read. And if you don;t like how she treated your comments, if YOU decide to spend a lot of time responding to her, don;t whine about it. It was your choice to do so, instead of “walking away”.

    Then you come to my blog to complain. All of it is CLEAR examples of mansplaining. Get a pair.


    August 16, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    • It is dangerous because it can distort the the possibility of fair debate, of differing opinions to be heard on an equal footing and credited based actual arguments, etc. This is explored to various degrees elsewhere. My feelings are irrelevant to the topic, and I would welcome it, if you did not try to make this a personal issue: If you have arguments, I am willing to hear them; if you do not, then you, by your own reasoning, are free not to visit.

      As for her (assuming that you mean Jotamar) blog, you misrepresent what happened:

      I immediately acknowledged and accepted her claim of an innocent mistake. Any further references to strawmanning serve to explain why I wrote my first comment. I make no further claims that she would be strawmanning, and the length of the discussion is due to issues that arose independently—mostly based on her misunderstanding of my statements and intentions.

      She can apply any policy she likes—but that does not mean that she is ethically and pragmatically right in doing so. The point of the article series you are commenting on is largely that there are negative side-effects of being too restrictive. I note that, by the same reasoning that you apply, I am free to write blog entries about, e.g., what I see as problematic comment policies.

      Finally, I have not complained on your blog—-I have written one comment making a factual statement concerning my impressions (explicitly qualified as my impressions), which happened to disagree with your post. You, not I, immediately went down the road of personal attacks. I note that, while my comment policy is very tolerant, I do reserve the right to block comments containing personal attacks.


      August 17, 2010 at 12:28 am

  2. And yes, I did not edit my comment as thoroughly as I wold have liked. Ah well.


    August 16, 2010 at 11:46 pm

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