Comment Policy

art by me

Cartoon image of a nerdy non-muscular version of Blake’s Red Dragon, holding a giant gavel.

If I catch a whiff that you are affiliated with the internet’s sundry hate mobs – goobergate, tha swinepit, men’s gripes activists, whatever – I’m blocking you. You have plenty of places to talk shit about us, you don’t get to do it here. Actually, if you’re conservative at all, I just really don’t need to hear your opinion about fucking anything. The difference between social conservatives and fiscal conservatives is whether they want to kill the gays or kill the poor, so even if we’re in agreement about the subject at hand? Not interested. I’d rather have no comments at all than a conservative anywhere near me.

Seriously, I’m annoyed enough that the average jackass I’m sitting next to on the bus is one change of conversation away from saying something racist, misogynistic, or transphobic, I don’t need it here. I’m treating this blog like I treat my house. If you aren’t family or progressive, you’re not welcome. Other people on FtB and even The Orbit might be more accommodating, in the spirit of debate or whatever.

I am open to criticism. I realize I am not the best or most thoughtful writer around here. But that criticism has to be from a progressive position or it isn’t worth my time, because regressives are wrong about fucking EVERYTHING, except whatever crumbs they snatch from the nice people table. There are other places for you to go. Find them. And talk shit about me from sunrise to sunset there if you want to. Follow your joy.

I don’t have a specific policy about ableism yet. I know even for proper lefties that is a hard thing to shake out of your language, so I’ll tolerate a slip up or two. If you’re using “stupid,” “insane,” or any synonyms thereof, please don’t. I might have to block you. At this point I’m allowing intent to count for something despite its lack of magic, but I might have to get more strict. We’ll see.

Lastly, as much as this may seem at odds with the fire I just spit, I’d like things to be less punchy here in the comments than on Pharyngula. If you’ve got something negative to say about someone who is present / commenting, try to make it about their ideas rather than the individual. Example: “I disagree with what you said” rather than “You are crap / fake / whatever.” If it’s about someone who is not present, less of a problem.

I just don’t want people having a personal row here. For my part, I’m trying to be less ragey here than I have been. Blocking fuckos is a first step towards that serenity.

I’m turning off nested comments. I just realized how much of a mess they can become. If you want to respond to a specific comment, at the top mention the user name and post number. Do include both because if someone’s comments need to be deleted, what you mean may become misinterpreted.

I did receive one comment on this article that seemed likely to be trollfoolery, but wasn’t completely clear. It’ll hang in moderation unless the person in question decides to follow up in some way. –They did and it’s approved. Leaving this note here to explain how I’ll handle similar situations if I see them.


  1. dianne says

    I agree with the principle and, yes, there is a “but” coming. Specifically, but I have never figured out how to describe an act that is severely regrettable and which the person committing the act should have known better than to do without resorting to words like “stupid”. Do you have suggestions on how to complete, say, the following sentence: “I voted for Trump in Reno, just to watch him lie. I now regret that decision and think I was being…” All the ways I can think of to end the sentence end up being slurs of some sort and I’d really like to get myself out of that habit, to say nothing of wanting to avoid getting banned here.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    As an engineer, if I’m required to police my language I tend to use “suboptimal”. For example:

    “Hmm. Your understanding of this subject is… suboptimal.” They hear “Your understanding is just short of perfect.” Informed spectators (e.g. other engineers) hear something rather different, and may inhale sharply over their teeth. Nobody is offended, even one person should be.

  3. dianne says

    Erm…I’m pretty sure ninny has gendered implications and I have a vague idea that nincompoop’s origins are ableist. Or am I wrong? I don’t have anything on blockhead. What about ” I regret voting for Trump. It was a sushi for brains decision”? Or What a bitbrain thing to do”?

  4. says

    Abhorrent. Reprehensible. Inept. Ignorant. Deluded. Misanthropic. Incompetent. Repugnant. Facile. Decrepit. Self-flaggelating. Base. Vile. Nihilistic. Disaffected. Corposant.

    Oh, wait, that last one doesn’t work….

  5. Surly Misanthrope says

    I should clarify, I’m not saying you should think a certain way, but that the article might give you some ideas on how to approach finding that alternate phrase you are looking for.

  6. Mary Jane Rauhtencrauch says

    My friend Rick C. Was curious about one aspect of your comment policy. He would ask himself, but his internet got shut off, he is crashing on my couch, and I’m on the only computer in the house with internet.

    So you allow honest and frank discussions of sexuality and polyamory in your comment section? This would include honest discussions of girlfriends, sex acts, and fetishes. There may also b be discussions of ETHICAL ways to meet new lover’s in the bars at conferences. Keep in mind. All of Rick’s comments come from the perspective of a feminist, ethically polyamorous, humanist, atheist, philosopher.

    The reason we are asking this is because there were issues with a prior FTB blogger about this (that blogger has since left after being called out on her transphobia). Rick and I don’t want to cause any issues or offense again.

    We look forward to reading and commenting here if you are ok with that,

  7. Garner Ellerbee says

    @Yabby, comment #2

    As a disabled person with severe Crohn’s disease that periodically loses all bowel control, I find “nincompoop” to be extremely hurtful, offensive, and ableist. Please do not use that term. It is not “better”.

  8. Great American Satan says

    dianne @1 – Surly’s comment @2 links to a post that has some thoughts on the matter which could be a good starting place. Also see this internet famous article on the subject. Like I said, I’m not expecting perfection, but if I’m getting too many slip ups, I’ll have to revisit the issue.

    Tabby @3 – Take note of Garner @9, dianne@5. Dianne, in a cursory google search I couldn’t find anything about the gendered aspect of ninny, but it feels true? For everyone it’s good to think about what you’re trying to say and any connotations of words that feel true, but aren’t necessarily in the dictionary.

    dianne @5 – Maybe you should start from this sentiment in the first sentence at Surly’s link:

    It is inherently ableist to attack a persons intelligence.”

    This is true in self-deprecation like your examples. Calling yourself stupid causes splash damage because it’s reinforcing the idea that a lack of intelligence is bad.

    Think about people who have always been insulted for being less intelligent and how you would not want to hurt them, and it will help you make those decisions.

    leftover @6 – Deluded might work but delusional gets close to describing a symptom of mental disability, decrepit would actually go into physical ableism and possible ageism. I’m pretty nihilistic but I’m OK with someone using that word if it fits.

    Mary Jane @7 – I doubt those subjects will come up much here, so you’ll probably be fine. Regarding your name, that’s the second time I’ve seen a Full Metal Jacket reference in my comment sections already. Wacky.

    anat@10 – Thoughtless can be questionable but probably depends on how you use it. Right now I’m neutral to it. The second one is great, the last one as a phrase is another synonym for “insane” so it doesn’t work.

    To all, I know this can be tricky. Like I said, not expecting things to be perfect. I’d just like to have fewer problems with this than some other comment sections in the atheo-skepti-sphere if I can manage it.

  9. CJ Parker says

    “Thoughtless” is definitely one that should be avoided. Extremely dehumanizing to the comatose/brain dead. The Terry Schiavos of the world already have their humanity taken away by awful conservative theocrats in govermrnt who strip them of their personal autonpmy. We really should be avoiding language that reinforces these awful injustices.

  10. dianne says

    GAS@11: I have never heard any male gendered person called a “ninny”. Possibly there is some local variation in how the term is used?

    I think I get your point about implying intelligent=good, but I’m looking for something that implies “I (or you or Sam Harris or whoever) made a really bad decision or showed really bad judgement in this thing, what was I (you/Sam Harris/etc) thinking?” without being that wordy. It’s not about intelligence (i.e. ability to intake and synthesize information) really since intelligence versus judgement is pretty much a scatter plot, but it is an issue of…wisdom? That’s not quite right but maybe it’s useful for furthering the discussion?

    Then there’s the whole issue of whether and how to try to “reclaim” certain words or concepts. Because sometimes it is necessary to use negative terms to describe one’s own experiences with various mental illness. (And that sentence sure was in passive voice, wasn’t it?) Maybe that’s beyond the scope of this post anyway.

  11. says

    Great American Satan @11, sorry, but I’m not entirely sure that Garner @9 is serious. I try very hard not to be ableist and tend to have no patience with people who try to defend their use of ableist words, but “nincompoop” has nothing to do with bowel movements. It has about as much to do with feces as “niggardly” has to do with racism. The wording in their comments shouts “troll” to me, because having “poop” as part of a word is the sort of thing a troll would use to make a comment about “losing all bowel control”.

    Then there is the only other comment by Garner Ellerbee I can find on the blog network –

    The only argument I can see against the word is from its Latin origin – non compos mentis (“not of sound mind”), but it’s archaic enough that I don’t know how much of a history is has of being used against people with mental illness.

  12. Surly Misanthrope says

    Dianne @12

    1. I /think/ fool works for this context. As I think of it, foolishness is the opposite of wisdom. Maybe.

    2. I grew up on the west coast of the US in large metropolitan areas. I don’t recall specifically hearing “ninny” being attributed to a male-gendered individual, but I’ve also never perceived a gendered connotation (any which way) with it either.

    3. “Taking it back” just feels impossible.

  13. dianne says

    Surly @15: If an insult is used exclusively for one gender then it’s a gendered insult, whatever its meaning or original connotation.

  14. Surly Misanthrope says

    Dianne @16.

    That’s my poorly worded point. If I had heard it used exclusively for one gender, I would have presumably developed that perception of its … um … gendering(?).

    I don’t have a specific memory of it being applied to a man, but I’m left with the impression that I probably did and on more than one occasion, as that is the only way to explain my perception of the word as non-gendered.

  15. Great American Satan says

    dianne @12- I don’t have time to put a lot of thought into that at the moment, but it sounds like you’re thinking is on the right track and you can probably come up with something if you stick with it. And maybe some other people’s comments can be helpful. On your second point there, yes, beyond the scope of this post, and definitely a discussion worth having elsewhen.

    Tabby @13- That comment on Carrier definitely looked more trollish. Nincompoop is suitably archaic and silly-sounding that it’s probably 99% fine, though niggardly sounds way too bad to modern ears regardless of etymology, and non compos mentis is understood to mean mentally impaired by enough folks it should probably be avoided. I’ve heard it on Law & Order. As to the supposed physically ableist aspect of nincompoop per our probable troll, I’d toss it if more people with those type of problems confirm it bothers them, again, regardless of word origin.

    dianne @14- In a sense, yes.

    Surly & dianne @16 @17- I’ve had the impression ninny would be used in similar context to and might even be short for nincompoop, have some memory of both being used on Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in the day. Another thing to watch out for tho: association with the nasty racist “pickaninny.”

  16. CJ Parker says

    Hi. I noticed that you didn’t approve my comment, so I guess you think I’m a troll???????, I am serious, it is not cool to use the term “thoughtless”. It is making fun of someone by saying that they are sho inferior that they can’t even perform an action that should be involuntary. That is ableist as fuck. There are people in tragic medical circumstances where their brains are incapable of thinking. I can’t imagine you would support someone using “brain-dead” as a perjorative insult against somebody. How is using “thoughtless” any different? A similar situation happened a couple of years ago when the blogger Grimalkin Called outother bloggers for the ableist insults about being too stupid to breathe.
    I still don’t read skepchick after they kicked out Grimalkin. I know that nobody hear means any harm but the mistreatment of comatose people by religious conservatives is a real probKen. They forced Terry Schiavo onto life support against her wished, and there was an even worse case in Texas where they made a comatose woman stay on life support against her wished and serve as an unwilling baby incubator. I don’t think the other commenter had bad intent but that word has very harmful effects.

  17. Great American Satan says

    It was something about the phrasing, made me wonder if you agreed with your own point, hard to put a finger on. But this followup is clear enough. I didn’t think about “thoughtless” as similar to “brain dead.” Reasonable comment! Approved.

  18. Onamission5 says

    @Dianne #1:

    Some suggestions, “I was being…”


    I think these terms are pretty much free of ableist connotations?

  19. chigau (違う) says

    Who here is old enough to remember Archie Bunker?
    Would “Meathead” work?

  20. says

    I’ll hide this here, rather than sound smug and self-righteous by posting first in the other item, “Taking the Ableism Challenge”….

    I try (though sometimes fail) to avoid ableist words, but even moreso, several years ago (5? 6?) I consciously chose to drop all use of profanities online, primarily for two reasons:

    1) Emotion – Profanity (sometimes) conveys more emotion in my tone or causes a stronger emotional response in others than the intent in the words. Avoiding them usually (though not always) makes people respond less angrily, and it makes apologies easier given and accepted in both directions, or sometimes not even necessary.

    2) Dishonest argument – There are plenty of people (e.g. the hypocritical religious) who spew insults, threats and profanity, yet will then whine, “You’re using foul language! I don’t have to talk to you!” as a cowardly way of avoiding argument. Not using it takes away one dishonest tactic.

    In “TtAC” you advocate not using words like “crazy”, and in this thread you agreed with using accurate descriptives. What about a word like sociopathic? As an example, there have been several individuals (now it seems only one anymore) with a history of advocating discrimination against muslims and indiscriminate bombing certain countries. Do a search on the main page for any blog posts including the word “Israel” and they can easily be identified. One of them posted just this week on another’s FtB page.

  21. silverfeather says

    diane @1
    I am so, so late to the party here, but to answer your sentence “I voted for Trump in Reno, just to watch him lie. I now regret that decision and think I was being…”
    I would go with “…selfish and unkind, and I was wrong.”

    I would then follow that up with a five part apology to my fellow human beings and possibly a month long drinking binge to try to wipe the memory of voting for TRUMP (ugggghhh) completely out of my brain.

  22. Great American Satan says

    Thanks for additional suggestions, people.

    leftover @25 – Interesting thoughts on profanity. Fortunately for me, I don’t have one of those issues because I don’t bother debating anything with religious folks. I’m more the preach-to-the-choir type. Then again, on rare occasion it comes up in meatspace, and that sucks.

    On the subject of “sociopathic,” I have been known to use it the same way but I consciously avoid doing so in my writing. My estranged sister has Antisocial PD / “sociopathy” and bad history, but I have the feeling with better circumstances she could and maybe can get on OK in society. If there’s someone with issues like hers that could be offended by being lumped in with the advocates of violence, I’d rather not do them wrong.

    I don’t know a lot about the subject, but it’s my understanding that it used to be an accepted clinical term, but no longer is. That might make it tempting to use in a vernacular way, but it still kinda sounds like armchair diagnosis, which isn’t good.

    When Lux said this…

    I think it’s important to introspect on why terms like ‘crazy’ and ‘delusional’ create such a visceral response in ourselves. It’s because there is a long-standing stigma against neurodivergence, and an all-too-common dehumanization of people who live with those afflictions. These terms create the same effect in our brain as cursing, at least in my experience.

    …it reminded me of how it feels when I call the cruel “sociopaths.” It’s might not be the best thing to say, but it feels satisfying in the mouth, doesn’t it? Suitably angry, at least colloquially correct. But I’m still avoiding it.

  23. says

    GAS (#27) –

    I’ve seen dishonest argument and tone policing by a number of well known atheists (no names), not just the religious. Anyone is capable of being a hypocrite.

    I have used sociopath only to describe those who advocate things like bombing civilians, torture, mass murder, invasions of other countries, assassination, etc. (e.g. Sam Harris, who I will name). There are some commenters on FtB who have said similar things, though not as many as in the past.

  24. Great American Satan says

    left0 @28- On the first point, true that. On the second, if that works for you in most places it’s fine. I’d just prefer it not be used here for the reasons indicated. Yeah, there’s a lot of creepy going around these days, even on FtB.

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