In the past, I’ve defended a wide-open policy regarding blog comments. I’ve always let anyone post any on-topic comment they wanted. So, I’ve filtered out spam; but any vagrant who wanted to throw in his two cents, no matter what they were actually worth, I’d leave his comments up there, along with the constructive and supportive comments from regular visitors.
The reason for this policy is my belief in free speech. I believe that the best antidote to bad speech is more speech. On my political blog (if I ever revive that project), I will keep that wide-open policy, because that blog is about debate. Similarly, BeTheStory.com is about writing and being a writer, and what makes a “better” writer is a matter of opinion. So I will keep the same policy there as well. If you think my views on Twilight are narrow-minded and wrong-headed, you are free to say so. Just be aware that you will be wrong.
However, as I’ve reached out to new sources of blog visitors, this blog has collected several severe and useless comments, and I’ve rethought that comment policy, at least as pertains to this blog.
True, Noble, Right, and Pure
When I thought about what I really valued in a story, the kinds of stories I enjoy and the kinds of stories I strive to write, and when I reduced those values to a tag-line, I ended up with “Stories that Expand Your Life™.” And when I talk about “life-expanding stories,” I mean that they uplift, that they look at the best life has to offer us, that they offer hope. Or as St. Paul once wisely urged: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
I’d like this blog to exemplify that ideal. I’m not there yet. Sometimes, I try to be funny, and I fail miserably, turn out instead a grumpy old man. You may never see all the posts I shelf, which don’t make the cut because I simply have nothing good to say. Other times, I forget what my goal is and start harping on some passion or other, which is all well and good, but maybe not for this blog.
And there’s the rub. If someone thinks I’m an idiot and wants to say so publicly, I can’t stop him; nor do I really want to. Remember my belief in free speech. I have to admit, there’s a little bit of martyr complex mixed in there as well: I’m happy to take the brunt of nasty comments for the sake of the others who might actually agree with me– or at least agree with what I said. But comments and other content on this site, on my own blog, they set the tone for the site. Every community–inasmuch as a blog can be compared to a community–has social conventions that define its personality.
In my apartment complex, the rule is that you park one car to a space in the lots, and be careful not to block anyone else in. Recently, there has been a spate of new residents, who must think that it’s alright to temporarily block someone else in, at as long as you think they don’t need to get out right away. They all appear to be immigrants, probably moved here from a culture which has different social conventions to deal with similar situations of inconvenience. And now, where I live, the central office is getting complaints.
But people can integrate. When Robert Sapolsky studied baboon troops, at one point, half the males in one troop died from a disease brought by humans. These were the most agressive, alpha-male types in the troop, and only the females and nice guys remained. The culture of the troop changed. No longer was it acceptable to beat up on those lesser than you because you were upset or to assert your dominance. Rather, the baboons who got ahead in this society, they were the ones who established connections, groomed each other, were nice to women and children. And when adolescent males immigrated from other troops, as baboons do, they would behave baboonishly, as most baboons behave. And they would try to establish their place by tormenting others who were smaller than they. And they would need to be corrected. The troop leaders would let them know that “we don’t do that here.” And eventually they came around and adjusted to the troop culture.
I think I need to take the same tack. If you think I need to grow a pair, as one recent pseudonymous commenter did, or if you want to call me “DUMBASS,” as another (caps in original)… Well, far be it from me to try to stir a mind that is already mixed up and permanently set. Much less to attempt to reason with someone who is afraid to use his real name and has probably already left the premises. These comments add nothing to the discussion, except maybe stress. And increasing stress is the opposite of what this blog is about. So I think I need to make it clear that “we don’t do that here.” We don’t troll. We don’t call each other names. We correct each other humbly and with meekness. And if we have nothing constructive to say, we say nothing at all.
Therefore, from now on, abusive comments will be summarily deleted.
P.S. If you have any doubt as to whether this means you, it probably doesn’t. If you have the presence of mind to wonder, you’ve already passed the test.