A number of comment threads in this blog have been getting very heated, to the point of being ugly and unpleasant. So I want to remind everyone of my comment policy, and review some of its key components.
Please note that this comment policy applies to EVERYONE. Whether I agree with you or not; whether you’re defending me or not. It doesn’t matter. I have banned people who were defending me passionately, because they did so in ways that consistently violated my comment policy. (If you’re wondering, “Hm, is she talking about me?” — chances are good that yes, I am.)
And I want to remind everyone of a key component of this policy:
In comment threads in this blog, I encourage lively dissension and debate. I do not, however, accept personal insults aimed at other commenters. I am fine with vigorous and even snarky critiques of ideas and behavior — but when that crosses the line into personal insults, I stop being fine. “That’s a stupid idea” is okay (I’d personally prefer it if you worded it differently, and if your critiques of ideas consistently takes that tone I might ask you to dial it back, but just by itself it won’t get you banned). “You’re stupid” is not okay.
UPDATE: Actually — I’m going to amend this. I’d personally MUCH prefer it if you don’t use personally insulting rhetoric aimed at ideas. I’m not going to absolutely rule it out — yet — but I’m going to VERY STRONGLY request that you not do it. If someone is being infuriating, please take the high road. Be the bigger person. Find the pleasures of skillfully disemboweling someone with icy politeness. And do not play the “But they said it first!” game. Do not assume that, because someone else was insulting first, therefore it’s okay for you to be insulting back. Do not escalate things. Dial things back.
I also draw a distinction between criticism of public figures and criticism of other commenters in this blog. If you want to call Rick Warren a bigot or Richard Dawkins a fascist, Ted Haggard a hypocrite or Christopher Hitchens 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, as it tends to shed more heat than light; but I’ve been known to indulge in it myself, so I’m not going to insist that other people consistently hold themselves to a higher standard. Excessive use of it may result in consequences. Occasional use of it is cool.)
But if Warren or Dawkins or Haggard or Hitchens were to show up in this blog and start commenting, I would ask people to stop that sort of language immediately. When you talk about public figures, think of yourself as an op-ed writer. When you talk about other commenters in this blog, think of yourself as a guest in my home, engaging in conversation with other guests. If you can’t be civil, then take it outside.
Again: There’s a difference between criticizing ideas and actions and insulting people. When you make comments in this blog, please draw that distinction. Lively debate is fine, but keep it respectful. 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. If you prefer a more aggressive style of online conversation, there are other blogs where that’s considered standard and indeed desirable. This isn’t one of them. This is not, for instance, Pharyngula. I love that Pharyngula is Pharyngula — I have big fun over there, and I think it has a hugely valuable place in our community. But I also think there’s value in having a place where people can get their ideas vigorously critiqued without getting a faceful of venom. I want this blog to be one of them. Please respect that.
Please note, also, that not respecting my right to have a comment policy and to moderate my own blog is, itself, a violation of the comment policy. If you want to question or discuss or critique details of the policy, I certainly welcome that. But please respect my basic right to moderate my own blog, and to try to maintain a certain tone in it.
And if you can’t respect this comment policy — please go visit another blog instead.