Some people are very, very upset at my commenting policy. I’ll address a few of their protests.
NoelPlum99 has written a complaint of negligible consistency. He claims that there are no dissenters on this blog because I have “banned them all!” He claims to have evidence, or an argument, or something, and here it is (he’s quoting me, by the way):
But let me say a little more here, because there is so much more that could be said:
Why aren’t 50% of my commenters creationists, just like the American population?
Or how about, why aren’t ANY of your regular dissenters creationists on the anti-creationism blogs you make? When I regularly made anti-creationism videos I had regular creationist commentors. I welcomed their involvement, it made the comments a discussion rather than an endless list of self-affirmatory chirping.
Why aren’t 90% of them Christians?
Why aren’t ANY of them Christians?
Why aren’t a third of them Republicans?
What aren’t ANY of them Republicans?
This is a little game called “let’s ignore reality.” How about looking at that last thread where I discussed the comedy stylings of NoelPlum99? It’s currently up around 1200 comments. Are we to assume that that is 1200 comments from people cheering me on fulsomely? Or is it just possible that maybe, instead, people are disagreeing with my position? Go ahead, look. I can pretty much guarantee that any thread here with more than a few dozen comments is fueled by lots of angry contentiousness. No dissenters? Blatant nonsense.
Now look at that list. This is a liberal, atheist blog, so most of the commenters here are self-selected; that’s why they’re here, and that’s why this group is enriched for a particular population…not because I banned every outsider, a ludicrous proposition. NoelPlum99 claims that they’re not here because I’ve banned them all; is he really trying to imply I’ve got some kind of blanket ban on people who go to church on Sunday and who voted for Romney? How did I accomplish that?
But here’s the kicker: NoelPlum99’s first comment on Pharyngula led to people calling him mean names.
Perhaps you should have a look at what I think was about the first exchange I had on Pharyngula:
I have to ask: who was the party addressing arguments here and who were the parties simply slinging as much shit as didn’t run through their crooked fingers?
Holy fuck. A youtuber is complaining that there’s too much shit-flinging in a comment thread. I think we’re done here.
The second example of a meddling desire to control commenting here comes in a video from C0nc0rdance. It’s somewhat interesting that these disagreements come from known youtube personalities who really want blogs to be just like the youtube free-for-all, apparently. It’s also really amusing that they always complain about how rude and mean and nasty Pharyngula commenters are…while completely blind to the rudeness and meanness and nastiness in their own channel. Look at the comments on C0nc0rdance’s video, for example, to see a lot of shit being slung my way (but that’s OK! As long as it is an approved target, C0nc0rdance won’t object. It’s only bad if his side gets criticized).
But what I find most appalling in C0nc0rdance’s video is the blatant quote-mining and distortion. For example, he claims that I assume that “anyone coming to Pharyngula with a dissenting opinion is looking for a fight” and that all of my critics are like angry drunks.
That is a lie. An outright quote-mine and complete misrepresentation of what I said. What I did do was make an analogy to my role as being something like a bouncer at a bar, whose job it is to throw out the abusive troublemakers. That is rather different from claiming that everyone with a dissenting opinion is an abusive troublemaker. But that distinction does not matter to C0nc0rdance, I guess.
Then he goes through a list and tries to argue that I have unfairly banned people. Most ironically, this is a list he gets from my Dungeon page; one of the things I do here is keep a list of every single person who gets banned here, always with a short snarky comment and often a link to the offending post. It’s called transparency, C0nc0rdance; ever heard of it? It makes it easy to see what sorts of things get you banned, in addition to my commenting rules, you can see actual, empirical data on what kinds of things get you axed from the site. It turns out that being a Republican or being a Christian (other than the godbotting kind who does nothing but flood the comments with Bible quotes) aren’t represented there.
But of course, what it also means is that anyone can come along and see that one short comment and link and claim that so-and-so didn’t deserve to be banned! Look how unjust Myers is!
His case study is Michael Hawkins, a skeptic. C0nc0rdance is aghast; he notes that:
In two years, PZ went from praising Michael Hawkins for his courage in standing up to homeopathy…to banning him permanently for “being a douchecanoe”
Yes. Two years. Almost from the beginning of his interactions here, Hawkins was a carping jerk, yet somehow he managed to continue dissenting here regularly for all of those years before he finally convinced me he was too stupid and oblivious to allow him to continue. This is of course an excellent example of my notorious hair-trigger banning of all disagreement.
Not shown, though, are his whining emails to me. Yes, I praised his work fighting a quack in Maine; why wouldn’t I? What you don’t see is that after I put four posts on my blog on the Maloney issue, Hawkins would write to me complaining that I wasn’t doing enough, that I must not like him, that I was allowing my personal distaste for the guy interfere with the importance of his cause (there was no personal distaste until he started demanding my attention!) And from that point on, he came onto Pharyngula with a chip on his shoulder and was persistently obnoxious.
For example, here is Hawkins’ very first comment (aside from some test comments) on Pharyngula after I made the move to Freethoughtblogs.
I hate to feed the troll (PZ), but the fact is Watson and (more so) those who spread her video and story are the ones who made this all a big deal. Anyone who says otherwise is either a moron or liar. Take your pick.
By the way, you don’t get to damn Christians for projecting, PZ, when you did the exact same thing in this very post when you went out of your way to use “shrill”.
That was in September 2011. He wasn’t banned until four months later, after he’d piled up an impressive record of belligerance and antagonism. And note the source of his ire: that Rebecca Watson had said, “Guys, don’t do that” in a youtube video. You want to really piss off the regulars here? Take that attitude. It’s one of the most annoying things anyone can say here, and yet, notice, it didn’t get him banned.
He became notorious here as a tone troll: the substance of a complaint didn’t matter, what was horrible was being so irritating as to make a complaint in the first place (we note the irony that he was actually hoist by that petard eventually). He had a reputation as someone who demanded irrelevancies, like the time he told me to go “craft a few hundred words” and publish them in my local paper, rather than writing blog entries (there’s a theme here, too, of people ordering me to run my blog or my life in the particular way they prefer).
The final straw was his privileged, oblivious pomposity. Hawkins, the fellow who got terribly irate that a driving range made him buy their golf balls, then waxed indignant that poor people might use food stamps to buy lobster in Maine. It was classic privileged meddling. Subsidize my golfing hobby, but no, no, no, don’t let those poor people enjoy a good meal!
At that point he was toast. Again, it’s not that he disagreed with me — there are plenty of people bickering on that thread, and some making the same claim that these youtubers do, that I’ve violated FREE SPEECH by kicking him out — but because a persistently sanctimonious asshole wore out his welcome at last.
And that’s C0nc0rdance’s Big Lie: that I don’t tolerate any disagreement, that I’m quick to pull the trigger, that no dissenters can get a word in edgewise here. If you actually look at the record honestly, you cannot come to that conclusion…but it’s now the party line for people like NoelPlum99 (168 dissenting comments here) and C0nc0rdance (12 dissenting comments).
C0nc0rdance closes with the horrifying statistic that there are 105 entries in the dungeon file. Oh, no! A big number! Let’s terrify the children with it!
Perspective: that’s the number of permanently (there were a few others who were released) banned individuals accumulated over ten years of blogging. I get between 15,000 and 20,000 comments per month, and have banned less than one person per month.
You want to argue that my commenting policy is just too brutal? The facts say you’re wrong.
If you want to argue that my commenters are a ferocious bunch who don’t treat people with different views kindly, that’s a fair cop. Shall I start banning the regulars? Because it seems to me that these critics are hypocrites arguing out of both sides of their mouth, that it’s horrible that I block and ban trolls, but if they get to define who gets banned, well then, that’s OK!