Blog Comments vs. Discussion Forums

After following some of the very heated “threads” of comments on Lucinda Marshall‘s recent posts have prompted me to write this special post about the use of weblog comments. To date, I have already warned two users to cease using what I perceived to be abusive language, and I have deleted one comment posting, which was explicitly abusive. I also recently banned a user who was abusively harassing fellow blogger Paul Street.

I am not sure if people noticed, but when I designed the comment system, I intentionally made it not-so-conducive to dialog. ZNet has provided also provides an excellent, elaborate forums system. We are regularly told it is by far the best on the radical left. Thoughtfulness, civility and extremely challenging debate are its hallmarks, and it has been that way for more than 11 years now. People who want to engage in civil debates would do well to become ZNet Sustainers (if you aren’t already) at a comfortable monthly rate to help support the extremely expensive resources we’re all using so regularly, and then have at it in a the moderated format of the ZNet Forums. Besides, the forums are technologicially FAR more conducive to discussion than any blog comments system I’ve ever seen — especially this one.

Just to be clear, there is a lot of “borderline” activity in recent weblog comments, especially on the topics of gender/sexism/feminism and pornography. I am evaluating comments to make sure ideas are protected so long as they are not presented in an abusive fashion. But I can say right now that I know for a fact some women do not feel comfortable posting their ideas in the comments area because they are afraid they will be personally (verbally) attacked in a vicious manner. I cannot say I blame them, even though so far I don’t think there has been a concerted attack, that I have seen.

This is a final warning for anyone using intimidation in the blog comments area. I will not hesitate to delete comments and possibly ban users if abusive or threatening postures are taken in comments. A lot of people work very hard to keep ZNet going, and we don’t do it so that just anybody can come along and use our facilities as a forum for oppressive ideas. And while it is sometimes healthy to let people make total idiots of themselves in order to get bad ideas into the open and then decimate those ideas with tactful argument, if the presentation of dissenting opinions is done in a manner that intimidates others, then in the interest of open speech, those doing the intimidating lose their prerogative to make use of our facilities.

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