Since I moved this blog to FTB, I’ve received about 50 comments every day on average. Over the past few weeks it has been closer to 100 per day. Many of these comments are long and intricate, thoughtful and carefully expressed. Others not so much, but I welcome them all. As a general rule, I like comments.
What do I want to provide with this blog? As well as a platform for my own self-important warblings, I want to provide a place where people can debate gender issues from any starting position, relatively neutral territory, or no-(wo)man’s land between the trenches, if you prefer. As I say in my guidelines, this is not an ideological safe space for anyone.
As you’ve probably worked out by now, I am not averse to a full-blooded internet argument. People feel passionately about the topics I raise, and part of my role is to raise those passions. I offer strong opinions, and expect strong and rumbustious responses. If someone thinks I’m being a fucking idiot, I have no problem with them telling me that they think I am a fucking idiot. Occasionally I might even agree. If someone thinks my arguments are laughable, they are welcome to mock them. I expect people below the line to be subject to the same conditions.
The benefit of this policy is that my comment threads are full of passionate people arguing with each other, often at great length, exchanging opinions, examining the beliefs and opinions of others and, I hope, being forced to examine their own at times. That is what I want to happen here.
The downside of this policy is that my comment threads are full of passionate people calling each other fucking idiots, being otherwise rude and abrasive with each other each other and, inevitably, being hurt or offended at times. That is an inevitable consequence of the arrangement and is, within reason, a necessary price to pay.
Every so often I have someone requesting more heavy moderation on this site. Roughly half of those requests have come from people who don’t like hearing so much from MRAs, anti-feminists and fellow travellers, and want me to step in “with the aim of keeping out lies, insanity, childish behavior, spamming, trolling, threadjacking, harassment, threats, and other noxious actions that make it much harder to have a healthy grownup dialogue.”
The other half come from people broadly on the MRA side, who want me to step in to prevent ‘horrible bullying’ from pro-feminist posters and believe I “turn a blind eye to and excuse abusive behaviour when its targeting a politically incorrect person”
I take such requests seriously. I want people using the comments threads here to find this blog as interesting and engaging as I do. If people are being deterred from commenting by the atmosphere on the threads then that would concern me. On the other hand, I have deliberately created this beast, and I have to accept that it won’t be to everyone’s taste. No blog is.
If people think my moderation is unfair or biased, that concerns me too. Hand on heart, I have thought hard about these points and my conscience is clear. I don’t think I can be moderating unfairly, because with very, very few exceptions, I don’t moderate at all.
But while the space above the line here is mine, I think the space below is very largely yours. If there is a consensus that there should be a specific change of policy, I’m willing to oblige. However the only way we could reach some consensus would be if we had some agreed community standards that everyone is prepared to apply both to themselves and others.
One of the reasons I was reluctant to assent to recent moderation requests is that the people making the requests looked, to me, to be equally guilty of the very same offences they were complaining about.
I don’t think one can make sweeping generalisations about feminists or use ‘feminist’ as an insult, and then complain when people make sweeping generalisations about MRAs and use MRA as an insult. You cannot be disrespectful, contemptuous and accusatory to other commenters then complain about the lack of a friendly atmosphere. That seems to me the essence of fairness.
So, your turn. Would you like to see tighter moderation, bearing in mind that you will be held to those same standards yourself? What changes, if any, would you like me to introduce? If you’re a lurker but not a regular commenter, what would tempt you into participation?
The only absolute at my end is that I will not start deleting or banning on ideological grounds. This will not become an echo chamber.
Once this blog moves on, I will pin this thread somewhere prominent and leave it running as a place to bring across complaints, concerns or further discussion as the weeks and months go by. And of course, if you wish to raise an issue or make a complaint in confidence, you can email me any time.