Here’s the comment policy for my blog. For the most part, violators will get at least one warning. Repeat violations, and some first-time violations, will result in comments being edited, disemvowelled, or deleted, and may result in commenters being banned.
1: No bigotry or hate speech. I do not tolerate bigotry or hate speech in my blog. This includes ableist language: please read the Ableism Challenge for more info. Yes, people have a First Amendment right to express these ideas. People do not have a First Amendment right to express them in my blog. (See #12 below for more on this principle.)
2: Be respectful of other commenters in this blog. No personal insults; no namecalling; no flame wars.
I encourage lively dissension and debate here, and I’m fine with vigorous and even snarky critiques of ideas and behavior. I do not, however, accept personal insults aimed at other commenters. “That’s a terrible idea” is okay: if your critiques consistently take that tone I might ask you to dial it back, but just by itself it won’t get you banned. “You’re a terrible person” is not okay.
Think of yourself as a guest in my home, talking with other guests. Listen to each other. Cut each other slack. Don’t leap immediately to the worst possible interpretation of what somebody is saying, and don’t treat each other like enemies. And if you can’t be civil, take it outside. There are other blogs where more aggressive conversational styles are standard and indeed desirable. This isn’t one of them.
When it comes to axes of marginalization, I do cut more slack about this to marginalized people criticizing privileged people. I get that civility policing is a form of derailing, and I don’t want to do it. But I don’t cut infinite slack. People’s right to moderate their own spaces is also a social justice issue — especially for women.
(Note: I draw a distinction between criticism of public figures and criticism of other commenters. If you want to call Rick Warren a bigot or Richard Dawkins a fascist, Ted Haggard a hypocrite or Sam Harris a fucking asshole, that’s more or less okay: I prefer that people keep that sort of rhetoric to a minimum even about public figures, and excessive use may result in consequences, but occasional use is okay. But if Warren or Dawkins or Haggard or Harris were to show up in this blog and start commenting, I would ask people to stop that sort of language immediately.)
3: No trolling. I am defining “trolling” as “deliberate attempts to pick fights or get a reaction.” Disagreements and debates are fine; trying to stir up shit and get people mad for your own entertainment is not. I expect people to comment here in a good faith effort to express a sincere view. If you’re just poking people with a stick to get them riled up or to “try to get them to think,” your comments are not welcome.
4: No comment hogging or hijacking of comment threads. When I moderate, I don’t just watch for things being said in individual comments. I also watch for patterns. And one of the patterns I watch for is comment hogging: excessive commenting by one person, to the point where they’re dominating one or more conversations. If you’re essentially using this blog as if it were your own, start your own blog: if you already have a blog, post there. And posting extremely long comments is a form of comment hogging/ hijacking. I haven’t yet put a hard limit on comments, but if your comment is very long, please write it as a post in your own blog instead, and post a summary and a link in the comments here.
5: No repeated attempts to bring up the same topic again and again. I get that a certain amount of topic drift does happen, and I’m usually okay with it. But bringing up the same topic again and again is not okay — especially if it’s a topic that’s irrelevant to the post, and double especially if it’s proven fruitless and poisonous in the past.
6: No religious proselytizing. I accept, and indeed encourage, comments here from religious believers who disagree with my atheism. But if you’re only going to spout your beliefs without being willing to engage in discussion and debate, your comments are not welcome. If you say that all non-believers will burn in hell, and other commenters ask you what evidence you have to support your assertion, and all you do is repeat your opinion without answering questions or engaging in conversation — that’s proselytizing, and it will get you banned.
7: Keep nitpicking to a bare minimum. A little nitpicking can be informative and entertaining, and if I misspell or misuse a word or phrase I want to know. But I hate, hate, hate it when a comment fixates on one word or sentence, while ignoring the clear intent of the rest of the post or comment. It’s a form of derailing and trolling. Don’t do it.
8: No advertising in the comments. Duh. Comments with obvious commercial content will be deleted and marked as spam, with the commenters banned. If you want to mention a book or blog or movie or something, it’s okay if it’s relevant to the discussion — but keep it relevant, and keep it to a minimum.
9: Do not behave atrociously in other blogs. If you are barely walking the line of acceptable behavior in this blog — but you have a pattern of foul, demeaning, sexist/ racist/ etc., insulting, violently threatening, or otherwise reprehensible behavior in other blogs — you will be banned from this one, with no second chance, and no warning.
10. Don’t be an asshole. If you are barely walking the line of acceptable behavior in this blog, but you are consistently being unpleasant, nasty, snide, sarcastic, nitpicky, assuming the worst possible intentions, or otherwise just generally being an asshole — towards other commenters, or towards me — you will be banned from this blog. If I’m feeling generous, I’ll give you a warning first, but I make no promises in that regard. If the entire tone of a conversation is going south, and it’s clear to me that you’re the one making it go south, you’re gone.
11: The usual legal stuff. No copyright violations, no threats, no incitement to violence, no slander.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly:
12: Respect my right to moderate my blog. If I’m asking commenters to dial down the hostility, dial it down. If I’ve asked you to stop using certain language, stop it. If I’ve had to shut down a comment thread, don’t try to revive the thread elsewhere. If I’ve made a specific comment policy for a specific post, follow it. And for the sweet love of Loki and all the gods in Valhalla, do not start an argument about how the very act of moderating a blog is a violation of free speech.
There’s a very important basic principle at work here: This is my blog. Mine, mine, mine. I am not obligated to give you my time or my space, and I have the right to moderate comments here in any way I like. As it happens, I generally moderate this blog with a fairly light touch: I don’t delete comments or ban commenters simply because I don’t agree with them. But if I chose to ban all commenters whose names end in the letter W, or to delete all comments that post at 1:13 in the afternoon on any 17th of the month, I would be within my rights, and it would not be censorship. This is my free speech area, where I’m free to say whatever I want and to moderate in any way I see fit. If I were a newspaper publisher, I’d have the right to decide which letters to the editor I did and didn’t publish. Think of comments here as letters to the editor: I have the right to decide which letters get published in my newspaper, and which ones don’t. Or think of it this way: Commenters in this blog are guests in my home. And I have the right to decide who I let into my home.
If you think the specifics of my moderation are unfair or inconsistent, email me and let me know. But don’t treat the very fact that I moderate my blog as censorship or a violation of your rights. It’ll result in a warning at best and immediate banning at worst. I have no time to repeat this argument, and no fucks to give. If you don’t like my comment policy, visit other blogs or start your own.
That’s everything for now. If you have questions or feedback, please let me know. Thanks, and enjoy the blog!