Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer

Bad Manners, Bad Politics

Filed By Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer | April 12, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Politics
Tags: civil discourse, comments policy, Joe Jervis, Joe.My.God, Polish President Lech Kaczynski, productive discussions

Before I get to the issue at hand, which has to do with the death of Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, 15598582.jpgI want to say that I feel some compunction about my tenure here at TBP starting on such a contentious note.

A therapist I used to see years ago told me I was a dyed-in-the-wool conflict avoider, which seemed like a pretty accurate statement. I do much prefer for everyone to get along. That therapist would be amused, I think, reading the comments on my first two posts here.

Though a handful of those comments were uncomfortably personal, I can't say I haven't enjoyed the lively debate. For me, that's what blogging is all about. The conversation. Still, in the interest of balance, I had vowed -- I really had -- that my next post would be about puppies or rainbows. I want to be liked as much as the next guy.

But -- you knew there was a "but" coming, didn't you? -- when I read the string of comments to this obituary of President Lech Kaczynski of Poland on JoeMyGod.com yesterday, my first thought was, "This is disgusting -- I have to blog about this!" My second thought was, "I can't! -- not only am I going to piss a lot of people off because they'll think I'm siding with a homophobic politician, I've already been called out once for criticizing the very popular gay blogger.

One of the reasons I blog is because it's stimulating and edifying and important for us to talk about this stuff among ourselves, to throw these topics around, to examine how we carry out the project of queer activism. It helps us pinpoint our intentions, agree upon tactics and tone, and clarify our arguments; it energizes us. I blog because I care.

So as much as I wanted, I couldn't let this pass. In the end, I decided I could not, even in the interest of being liked, not call this out.

The post itself was fairly neutral. (To reduce Kaczynski's life to his views about homosexuality struck me as tacky at first glance, considering the occasion, but I'll accept that to most of Joe's readers, the fact that he was a nasty homophobe is probably the only interesting aspect of his career.) It's in the comments that things get ugly. There are dozens, but here's a sample:

This is definitely one of those rare moments when you hear that someone dies and you go "Alright!"
...
So Jehovah must hate homophobes and Catholics. I hope it hurt.
...
Do you think we could get Benedict and the whole college of cardinals on a plane soon? (smiley-face emoticon)
...
DING DONG THE CUNT IS DEAD, WHICH OLD CUNT?
THE POLISH CUNT!, DING DONG THE POLISH CUNT IS DEAD.

Expressing glee upon the death of a public figure (in an accident that killed 97 people, no less), no matter how homophobic he was, does no good. It's gruesome. It turned my stomach. It made me sad and angry. Not only is it in outrageously bad taste, it is petty, cruel, juvenile, and far beneath anyone who is serious about the movement to improve the lives of sexual minorities. It is bad manners, and it is bad politics.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of my favorite bloggers, has a loosely-defined but strictly enforced comments policy, which I think makes for lively, informative, often persuasive debate - much like what happens here at TBP where the comments are also moderated. The rhetoric can get heated, but you always know there's worse stuff being diverted to the trash before the rest of us see it. Ninety percent of the comments to JoeMyGod's post about President Kaczynski should have gone straight to the trash bin.

The comments quoted above are not unique on JoeMyGod. Such orgies of hate are business as usual when bloggers post about homophobic officials or religious leaders. So I can't imagine that the comments are moderated in any way.

Are bloggers responsible for comments? I would like to argue that they are.

If one of the purposes of a blog directed to an LGBT audience is to create a space for a conversation to occur (and if that's not one of the purposes of such a blog, why allow comments at all?), then I think the blogger has a responsibility not only to provoke discussion but to make some effort to ensure that the discussion is, if not civil, then at the very least productive.

I call on bloggers who don't moderate their comments section to tell us what purpose it serves to allow -- and, I would argue, encourage by their absence of editorial guidance -- such a debased dialogue to happen on their site.

Okay that's all for now. If you need me I'll be under my desk for a day or two.


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Since I missed your first two posts I will use this one to say welcome to Bilerico. Hiding under the desk is so gauche, I am sure Bil has a bomb shelter around there somewhere.

I agree with you, it is bad form and bad manners to speak ill of the dead in such a way. I am saddend by the news of so many deaths, and also that the poor man will not be around to learn the error of hating. Not that many people do learn it in their lifetimes, but we can always hope.

Not a fan of J.M.G.

Now you know how trans people feel when, virtually any post relating to trans issues on Queerty, J.M.G., Towleroad and to a slightly lesser extent, After Elton, is met with a long threads of automatic transphobic comments and invective.

Bullshit. There is one anti-trans bigot who is a regular reader/commenter, and he always gets criticized for it, especially by me.

But generally JoeMyGod is far more interesting and down to earth than the whiny, PC, postmodernist nonsense that I have seen featured here.

While I agree it's bad manners to speak ill of the dead in a general sense, I can't say I agree with this, especially with regard to Lech Kaczynski himself (I'm not counting the other 96 people here; just Kaczynski).

I don't think that a dead person is somehow deserving of extra respect or immune from criticism for his actions in life simply because he was a public figure, even an elected official. A person who lived an evil life isn't automatically entitled to deferential treatment just because he was an important person.

To be sure, a lot of the comments on JMG were tacky and bothersome to read, and that's not even including the awful Polish jokes. But Kaczynski wasn't just some guy who scared voters about gay marriage in a cynical ploy to get himself elected; he was an active and vocal anti-gay bigot who banned gays from demonstrating as mayor of Warsaw. That tells me that he would do a lot more if he could get away with it.

So pardon me if I'm disinclined to take my hat off to Kaczynski. Frankly, I think his death is a deliverance, just as I thought about the deaths of Jerry Falwell and Jesse Helms. I can only hope his successor is someone less vicious than he was.

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | April 12, 2010 2:47 PM

I second that emotion. Alaric's examples of others whose deaths should cause no self-respecting LGBT person to mourn are perfect.

While you denounce those who disagree with you as "juvenile," I submit the adjective far better applies to anyone who would also speak of things as being "petty," "tacky," "outrageously bad manners," and "bad taste" as if he were talking about failing to thank Grandma for the socks she sent for Xmas or wearing a paisley top over a plaid skirt in the same breath as our fight for our lives, LITERALLY as well as figuratively.

LGBTs being killed simply because they are LGBT is outrageous. LGBTs being driven to kill themselves is even more outrageous. And Kaczynski would applaud both.

A century ago, US LGBTs were sometimes put in mental hospitals, sometimes lobotomized, and GBs imprisoned for life for being themselves. It's now 86 years after the first US gay rights group was crushed by police, its founders jailed and fired, 68 years after the first ban on gays in the military, 55 years after the first US lesbian org was founded, 46 years after the first gay protest in the US [against the military ban], 45 years after the first gay protests at the White House, State Department, & Pentagon, 44 years after Ts rioted at Compton’s Cafeteria, 41 years after LGBTs rioted at Stonewall, 35 years after the first gay servicemember outed himself to fight the ban and the first federal gay jobs bill was introduced, 33 years since Robert Hillsborough was stabbed to death by men shouting "faggot,” 32 years since Harvey Milk was assassinated, 29 years since the deaths by AIDS of 25 MILLION people could be traced to the Reagan Administration ignoring the disease because its victims were thought to be only gays, 22 years since Rebecca Wright & her partner Claudia Brenner were murdered, , 18 years since gay sailor Allen Schindler’s mutilated body could only be identified by a tattoo on his arm, 17 years since Brandon Teena was raped & murdered for being Trans, 15 years since Scott Amedure was murdered for telling another man he had a crush on him on the “Jenny Jones Show,” 12 years since Matthew Shepard was murdered for being gay, 11 years since Barry Winchell was beaten to death simply because his killer wrongly thought he was gay, 9 years since gay partners had to fight for the survivor benefits straight 9/11 widows & widowers got instantly, 8 years since Gwen Araujo was murdered for being Trans, 6 years since 18 states banned marriage equality in one year, five years since the DADT repeal bill was introduced....

Of course, I could go on and on, and I left out many other victims of the mindset of people like Kaczynski and Falwell Helms and we know about, and COUNTLESS others we never will. I left out many gay rights bills that never passed or out of committee.

And you’re sickened by "bad manners"?

Is the remedy for bad speech to limit speech -- or to provide the room for more speech that demonstrates how bad it is?

With you on this: "If one of the purposes of a blog directed to an LGBT audience is to create a space for a conversation to occur (and if that's not one of the purposes of such a blog, why allow comments at all?), then I think the blogger has a responsibility not only to provoke discussion but to make some effort to ensure that the discussion is, if not civil, then at the very least productive."

I've spoken to folks at TBP about this - I think the conversations here used to be more productive, and there was a certain kind of self-correcting mechanism that fell into place when commenters themselves took on the responsibility of shutting down. But as the site has become more popular, it has attracted the usual loose cannons of the blogosphere, people who spend their entire lives on comment threads, often but not always anonymously, hurling vile comments and bile at readers and who are looking for some sense of validation that they're not getting in real life. You and I have already experienced the same at the hands of people showing up here already - there's some or no irony in that, I'm not sure.

And then there are those who mistake blog commenting as activism, but that's just a sad story for another day.

The point being: I don't think a popular blog like this one or JMG is ever going to be the site for civil discussion on every blog unless someone takes on the full-time (and hopefully paid) job of reading and moderating every single comment in the style of a debate moderator. You're likely to find more nuanced and insightful discussion on blogs with less traffic but more of a boutique feel.

An example: I once posted a critique of hate crimes legislation on TBP and the discussion, while occasionally useful, became the usual, "You must want to kill us all because you don't support hate crimes legislation."

http://www.bilerico.com/2009/02/loving_hate_why_hate_crimes_legislation.php

But it got picked up by Racialicious, http://www.racialicious.com/2009/11/24/why-hate-crimes-legislation-is-a-terrible-idea-a-reminder/

Granted that my not being part of the conversation was one key difference, but I was intrigued by how the conversation went on at Racialicious in a more considered manner. In part, HCL affects a people of colour community very different - the key audience for this blog. And in part because people there are actually there to engage with a smaller group of like-minded folks. There are still some of those conversations to be had on TBP, but its popularity means that there are specific people who make it their life's work to try to derail productive conversations. I still think blog conversations can be really good and interesting, and I think Alex, Bil, and Jerame are to be commended for doing the job they do given the thousands of e-mails and comments they deal with everyday. But I don't know what to do about ensuring that blog conversations without having someone monitor them much more intensely.

As for the issue of the Polish President, it's no surprise that gay blogs and their commenters should be so utterly apolitical in their response. "Gay" overrides everything in their summation, political discussions be damned. I'm not one for uncritical valorisations of the dead (and I don't think you're asking for that either, and Kaczynski was definitely no hero for a lot of people, not just gays), but I long ago stopped wishing for sane and nuanced discussions of world politics in the gay blogosphere where people's only questions are: "Did they support gay marriage?" In that gay blogs are as hopelessly provincial as the "rednecks" they're so fond of reviling.

I'm going to check out the comments policy on the Coates. And then, perhaps, I'll join you under the table.

HELP WANTED

POSITION: JoeMyGod Comment Moderator

JOB DESCRIPTION: Applicant must be a proficient multitasker and able to evaluate up to several hundred comments per hour with foreknowledge of bitter internecine feuds among thousands of individual regular commenters. Applicant must also possess a vast knowledge of the rapidly evolving acceptable terms, expressions, and descriptions of the LGBTQQAIAXYZ community with the understanding that there are at least 17 differing lists of said acceptable terms published by warring sects of the Gay Politically Correct Thought Police. Errant approval of any unallowed words may result in applicant's evisceration by the Gay Mafia, regardless of applicant's intent or history of work on behalf of the above-mentioned community.

COMPENSATION: The position is full-time and unpaid.

Cute. But unfortunately this doesn't address any of the issues I raise in my post.

It's precisely to your point. Even I were willing to stifle the immediacy of commenting that has made JMG the most vibrant discussion community in LGBT blogland (and I am not), the task of reading, evaluating, and approving/not approving tens of thousands of comments per month would require at *least* one full-time employee. And one who never sleeps, because I'd insist on a far, far more rapid response than that one that saw my first comment on this post go up four hours after I made it. No offense, Bil! ;) But that's a second moot issue too, because I'm not about to surrender that kind of editorial control to anybody else.

But fortunately, the impossibility of a real-time moderation of JMG dovetails nicely with my adamant opinion that it should not be attempted. I'm not about to start censoring my readers because some hectoring pissy pants doesn't like what some gay people have to say. The Gays are not a monolithic people, some are rude, some are assholes, some make trouble just to get a reaction. Ahem. If you think this means JMG isn't a "safe space" or whatever the crunchy granola term of the day is, there are a jillion other blogs on your blogroll.

I agree with Joe actually.

One of the most tedious and wearisome tasks of running TBP is the constant need for comment moderation. There's always some jerk running around showing their ass and begging for attention.

I've considered going moderation free like Joe's site is just to reduce the sheer amount of workload on the Editorial team. We really rely on the community to police the comments section and report spam/outrageous comments since we can't possibly read each one.

Joe's site gets a lot more comments than TBP does. I can't imagine trying to write and run JMG as a solo gig and moderate all the comments. I'd go nuts. Hell, there's been plenty of comment threads here on TBP that you couldn't pay me enough to step into - either as a moderator or a commenter.

That said, I'll admit that while Joe is my favorite LGBT blog (and the first I check each morning), I rarely read the comments on his posts. His readers to tend to be a rowdier bunch and they've created their own community there. It's not for me to judge or condemn; I just don't read the comments section.

Are bloggers responsible for their comments section? To some extent, yes. But it's not realistic to expect us to sit around waiting on comments to be submitted so we can see whether or not it meets our arbitrary specifications either.

As Joe points out above, I was working most of the morning and not checking the site for comments. It can be hours before a comment is approved (although registered users' comments are automatically published) if it needs to be moderated first. Our highest priority isn't to get the thoughts of readers who are too lazy to sign up for an account published on our site. It's just not.

So, Joe - when you get all your applications sorted and made your final decision on your new Comment Moderator, please forward me the contact information for the applicants you pass over. We really need some help here too.

Bil,
I'm glad you wrote this. I often think we ought to stop moderating comments.

Most everyone knows of my respect for Joe, so my coming to his defense at this point would be insignificant. I do want to say that the contributor who wrote this post is not someone I read. My inspection of his post came only after I received a few emails telling me that my initial suspicions about him were being confirmed. For better or worse we continue to give him enough rope.

If Bilerico is known for anything , it is its attempt to keep to a high road. Some folks have no traction on that road and get nose bleeds at that altitude.

Father Tony, your attempts to turn this into some kind of behind-the-scenes cloak and dagger drama are bizarre and hilarious. "My inspection of his post came only after I received a few emails telling me that my initial suspicions about him were being confirmed." Seriously, Miss Marple? Please tell me you're being satirical.

Even I were willing to stifle the immediacy of commenting that has made JMG the most vibrant discussion community in LGBT blogland (and I am not), the task of reading, evaluating, and approving/not approving tens of thousands of comments per month would require at *least* one full-time employee.
I'm particularly intrigued by your inclusion of the T in LGBT. I was under the impression that confronting transphobia was not on you list to do.
I'm not about to start censoring my readers because some hectoring pissy pants doesn't like what some gay people have to say. The Gays are not a monolithic people, some are rude, some are assholes, some make trouble just to get a reaction. Ahem. If you think this means JMG isn't a "safe space" or whatever the crunchy granola term of the day is, there are a jillion other blogs on your blogroll.
So now its a gay blog? Make up your mind, because when you advertise yourself as an LGBT blog and post trans-related items, it leads most people to the impression that you support trans people. Yet you euphamize transphobic comments as "rude" and assholish and fail to confront them for what they are. If homophobic comments were posted repeatedly by a community member, would you ban them? If a regular commentor posted racist talk, would you let it stay? Where do you draw the line between rudeness and hatefulness?

I don't have an answer to the moderate/don't moderate question. I'll take Bil and Joe's word that it's too huge a task to contemplate. I think the solution might be a matter less of censoring certain comments and commenters than of creating a climate that encourages adult behavior and discourages threats, personal insults, and name-calling. (I've mentioned Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog as an example.)

If Joe doesn't want to moderate his comments, that's his decision to make, but that doesn't let him off the hook. Even if he doesn't moderate or even read his comments, it's not as if the comments are something that happens separately from his writing and that he has no influence over. He encourages and enjoys the nastiness that happens in his comments. Here's a great example from just a couple days ago:
http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2010/04/caption-this_11.html

I'm learning a lot here. It's interesting how easy it is to tap into any of several long-running queer blog fights: the "should we care about what the straight people think about us" fight, or the "gay men are transphobic" fight, or the "everybody is jealous of Joe Jervis" fight. And pretty soon it feels like nobody even read your post, they're just picking up where they left off last time they were fighting about whatever it is they were fighting about.

Just to be clear about what I am arguing for, as distinct from all these other longstanding squabbles: I am not calling for a "safe space." I don't even know what that would be. I can't imagine trying to make the internet a safe space. I'm very much in favor of rowdiness and even downright rudeness if there's some intelligence behind it. But I think we would do better to ratchet down the name-calling, resist answering the bigots' childish insults with more childish insults. Of course, sometimes we vent, but I don't think it serves the cause to provoke and encourage and delight in that kind of rhetoric.

Chitown Kev | April 13, 2010 1:46 PM

But why are you singling Joe Jervis out when there are other LGBT blogs that are much, much worse?

I'm sorry, now it does look as if in singling out JMG's blog not once but twice this has taken the nature of a personal vendetta; I don't know how else to interpret.

Perhaps if you wrote this about gay male blogs in general, you'd make your point better. This appears to be very personal.

You're conflict averse? Really?

Because ALL 3 of your posts here have been expressly attacking gay bloggers or gay orgs. 100% record on attacking gay orgs and bloggers - and usually for not playing nice with the homophobes.

So are you conflict averse? Or just averse to GBLT folks nbot being sufficiently nice to the oppressor?


Now personally, i think the comments about Poland's president are tacky, if somewhat understandable, still rather uncalled for, which is why I've largely remained silent on the subject.

However, it lacks impact coming from you given your past record

[gingerly poking head out from under table]

Here's Steve, writing about the JMG blog:

"The post itself was fairly neutral. (To reduce Kaczynski's life to his views about homosexuality struck me as tacky at first glance, considering the occasion, but I'll accept that to most of Joe's readers, the fact that he was a nasty homophobe is probably the only interesting aspect of his career.)"

Here are your words, Sparky, on the same topic:

"Now personally, i think the comments about Poland's president are tacky, if somewhat understandable, still rather uncalled for, which is why I've largely remained silent on the subject."

If anything, Sparky, you're more critical of JMG than Steve is. Are you saying that Steve can't be critical of JMG simply because he's also a blogger? In some ways, you're making Steve's point for him. Is a critique of another blogger automatically an attack? Is there no place for bloggers to critique each other, even in the mildest of terms? And if so, please do something about all the bloggers who've been slamming me on their websites.

Sadly, it appears that we're all reconciled to the idea that the comment threads can be free-for-alls rife with contradictory statements that need not be addressed or corrected. But bloggers are held to different standards (although, from the look of the vast amounts of junk in the blogosphere, those standards vary widely).

[goes back under table]

No, I'm saying that Steve portraying himself as conflict averse, when attacking other blogs and gay orgs seems to be all he does, is, well, not honest.

And that is the problem. The source is some of the problem because I no longer trust whether Steve is calling out a gay org or blogger because he found what was said out of line - or because he's taking another opportunity to lash out or demand people play nice with homophobic enemies.

I said the comments were tacky and uncalled for - and I believe that. But I ALSO say they're understandable - because the raging homophobia the man espoused is a source of no small amount of rage, outrage, offence and pain - to say nothing of the fact that him legitimising such hatred from a position of power caused untold of damage to GBLT people in Poland and further afield.

Yes, etiquette would request a more measured response - but the man WAS a raging homophobe and a virulent enemy of GBLT people.

I agree.

If Kacynski had treated Jews or racial minorities with the same contempt with which he treated gay people, I don't think a lot of people would say it was "tacky" to feel a bit relieved or even to regard it as justice that he was gone.

I don't condone using occasions such as this as an excuse to make ethnic slurs about Polish people or to engage in thoughtless, crude humor, but if we're going to behave as though this man deserves respect just for being a dead politician, despite the harm he caused to GLBT people and the venomous hatred that motivated it, then either we're not being honest with ourselves or we have a lot more respect for our enemies than we do for ourselves.

I don't recall reading Steve's other posts, but I didn't see this post as attacking JMG. He was pointing out the tackiness of commenters, and you seem to agree with him on this point. So Sparky, Yasmin has it right, you make Steve's point.

I don't believe anyone gets a deferral from criticism because they are dead, but the criticism should be just that...not rejoicing over the death. If we wish ill upon others, then we are no better than they.

It's fine to criticize the guy and his record when it concerns LBGT issues, but it's not OK to be jubilant that someone has died a violent death.

While I think Steven somewhat has a point about the Polish President's death (although I was lead to understand Steven was totally for freedom of expression no matter what??), how about this example from today's Queerty: http://www.queerty.com/is-this-the-testiomy-that-will-put-dwayne-johnsons-prison-officer-attacker-behind-bars-20100412/

They have an article about a trans woman who was beaten by cops because she wouldn't answer to her male birth name (in addition to a large number of homophobic taunts) and was murdered execution style 9 months later... and how does Queerty report on the story of the sadistic cop's trial... by referring to the late victim by her male birthname a number of times (including the headline).

This is baiting behavior. Trying to be offensive for the sake of it.

I agree, ethnic slurs aren't cool, but neither is dissing a dead trans person because you know you can.

If you read anything from any of JMG's comment posts, he said every commenter is responsible with what they said... If you don't like it, don't go there... I usually don't say awful things but most of the commenters make you think... And are very intelligent people, some who don't know when to stop commenting with bad manners, but Joe cannot moderate for everyone. And from what I've seen most bilerico commenters are lily white boys who only like their kind and is quite transphobic themselves...

Scott in Philly | April 12, 2010 6:04 PM

If you read anything from any of JMG's comment posts, he said every commenter is responsible with what they said... If you don't like it, don't go there... I usually don't say awful things but most of the commenters make you think... And are very intelligent people, some who don't know when to stop commenting with bad manners, but Joe cannot moderate for everyone. And from what I've seen most bilerico commenters are lily white boys who only like their kind and is quite transphobic themselves...

Jealous much?

JMG is infinately more informed, interesting, and lively than this morgue of a blog.

If you don't like it...Don't go there.

Moderation is censorship.

JoeMyGod is one of the best daily blogs out there and by allowing people to post what they will, he performs a public service.

Most of the readers know what to expect when they post or read the comments, not every one is thin skinned, nor drinks tea with their pinkies out.

This reminds me of the faux Republican outrage when the tea baggers complain about what is posted in comments on DailyKos, as if that represented Kos' POV.

Get real.

I think this just goes to show that nothing - and no one - is black and white. Kaczynski was apparently a fierce anti-communist during the Cold War, and helped lead Poland when it finally gained independence. He also hated gay people. No one can really be labelled "all good" or "all bad."

Also, LOL at the JMG cheerleading brigade rolling up in here. READY? OK!

Well, as someone who is generally seen as conflict encouraging, lol...

You are right. People should be thinking aboutthe fact that this man was one of the major people helping to establish freedom in Poland, which lived under a hugely oppressive regime.

There is the point that the deaths occurred en route to a storied forest where thousands of Polish POW's were murdered and the whole thing was part of an effort to heal a deep rift between Russia and Poland.

There's the point that he's a hero to many Poles because he's stood up and out for them -- he's an activist, a social justice activist, and he's well spoken and active.

He was not a terrible person. He was, however, a terrible person to LGBT+ folks (as a whole, which, culturally speaking, means pretty much anyone who isn't cis and straight as one singular monolithic body, not four distinct ones as they didn't make a distinction).

And people vent their anger at such things, their resentment. The fact is, he was personally involved in making the lives of LGBT folks more difficult by far higher degrees than politicians here have done thus far (and not for a lack of trying).

And LGBT+ folks do not have the luxury of looking at things through a lens free of that, since they so often suffer discrimination and abuse due to it.

They don't have that privilege (if ya don't mind me pointing you to one of my recent posts).

Lastly, on the subject of a blog owner being responsible for the comments on their site.

Yes and no.

On my blog, I do not have a posted comments policy. The unspoken one is basically don't piss me off. And I'll allow people who disagree with me, even vehemently, to post on it freely. I will not tolerate certain things -- misgendering. But generally I don't really give a damn as long as it isn't merely an excuse to excoriate me, personally.

Here, that some basic idea applies for me -- and I do get involved in my comment threads. Especially when some of the people that Yasmin notes show up and start pulling the whole derailing thing by making it about me instead of what I'm writing about.

And I don't shy away from expressing my thoughts directly. Verbosely, granted.

However...

I have a few questions.

Is removing a comment posted by someone censorship?

Is stopping people from being assholes by banning them censorship?

Is telling someone they cannot post comments like the one's you cited censorship?

Are people who comment responsible for their words and comments -- especially ones that lack empathy, or are racist, or are sexist, or are ableist (such as the typical "they are nutjobs or crazy psychos or" etc.), or are homophobic, or transphobic, and so on?

And, if those things *are* censorship, then why are they such?

WorldOJeff | April 12, 2010 6:50 PM

Ah, so your personal vendetta against Joe Jervis continues. How surprised I am.

Perhaps I would have the slightest shred of respect for you if you had noted the large number of comments which had shown respect for those who were lost in the crash, but of course that wouldn't assist you in advancing your anti-Joe agenda.

So you conclude by crawling under your desk. STAY THERE. You have nothing worthy to say.

I'm at a loss to find anything in anything I've written that could be construed as a personal vendetta against Joe Jervis. I have not, for instance, ever called him a hectoring prissy pants or insinuated that he writes just to get attention. I have problems with his journalistic ethics, but I don't know him personally.

But, because you brought it up, I went back and counted the number of respectful comments to Joe's post. I wanted to make sure I wasn't exaggerating. I said in my original post that 90% of the comments were hateful garbage. As of this moment, 15 out of 119 comments expressed some level of respect for the dead, which comes to 12.6%, making it 87.5% trash.

I apologize for my error in estimation.

Juston Thouron Juston Thouron | April 12, 2010 7:44 PM

Well we know this about you Steve: You're a regular reader of JMG. And you are disappointed that Joe didn't link to you from his blog.

Care to respond to any of my legitimate criticisms of how you handled your(above mentioned) prior post about JMG?

I guess you could call me a regular reader of JMG. I used to read every day -- it's more sporadic now.

But I don't know what you're referring to when you say I'm disappointed he didn't link to me. Link to what?

As far as your "legitimate criticisms," they didn't make sense to me then, and they still don't. Your effort to cast this discussion in personal terms is distracting.

Juston Thouron Juston Thouron | April 12, 2010 7:56 PM

Uh Huh .... exactly what I thought you'd say.

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | April 12, 2010 8:31 PM

"hateful garbage," Steven, as opposed to "loving garbage"???

"Respect for the dead"??? Good luck with that. I'm more concerned about respect for the living, and those who don't have enough respect for themselves to demand it from others. Apparently your therapist failed to teach you that, "it's not the earth the meek inherit, it's the dirt."

Demand a refund. With interest.

I think JMG made a highly relevant point, which is that moderating comments, particularly at a site with as much traffic as his, is a time-consuming and tiring task. What a comment moderation policy should be and what violates that policy takes a lot of discussion and input. Pam's House Blend and the Bilerico project have had several incidents that required more discussion on comment moderation and acceptable content for the sites. And both sites have more than one person running the show.

I check Racialicious every day and the mods are quick to check someone who's veering the conversation in an unproductive direction. It works in the site's favor, but the mods have mentioned how the draining it can be.

I sometimes find comment threads insufferable on JMG, but it's also part of the appeal of the site. As I recall, Joe's general policy is to let the commenters handle the jackasses, which I think is fine, although transphobia frequently goes unchallenged.

Holy Mary Mother of Bull Hockey - I've been a regular reader of JMG for about six? years now - and yes - sometimes the comments and commenters are idiotic, insensitive, and trite. So I don't read that string. Sometimes they are thought provoking, sweet, and funny.
I read those strings. I read some of the content on Bilerico - but tend to skip over the inane. I am very careful not to use any vulgar expressions in my own comments, so I often come across as "prissy" when compared to the heat of the loam of Ms. Lynette and other JMG regulars - but dude - you come across as not just prissy but hectoring and that does not make me want to spend time with you. Puce is not a good shade on a writer, and your envy is showing.

Scott in Philly | April 13, 2010 12:43 AM

I agree and I no longer read Bilerico... Stephen, you are just riding off jmg's success at traffic, but you'll never be as interesting... Plus if Joe was that transphobic, he wouldn't like rupauls drag race or put things up about things he knows will start a discussion... No matter how far the comments veer, usually the community will know to curtail the idiots...

As far as the polish pres? Mixed bag when it comes to hateful things he'd done and said... It's humanity to say and think what you want... Some just have less classy ways of saying it.

Ok, I'm going to be annoying and pop in again.

First off, intimations about Steven's personal motivations -- inclusive of the allegations of a vendetta -- are off topic and not germane to the substance of his post, where JMG was simply an example used to substantiate the points he's making regarding a wider commentary.

His reasons are his reasons. His thoughts are his thoughts. The one's he shared with us, here, are about a wider concern than just JMG in particular.

All sites have trollish sorts -- the relative handful of people who are there just to upset other people and often think they are just expressing their opinions when in fact they are spreading anger and hate throughout the blog.

Steven is not me. I have no problems getting down and dirty and running off and letting people derail stuff because inevitably it gives me the ability to make them look like idiots.

When you start talking about someone else's motivations and personal lives, you aren't talking about the subject, you are talking about them.

And they aren't the subject, and you will be functioning off guesses that are inevitably going to be wrong and therefore make you look like a liar.

It's foolish and irrelevant.


WorldOJeff | April 12, 2010 8:31 PM

So Steven can attack Joe Jervis directly (two columns now out of three he has submitted, for a 66% ratio of attacks to total submissions), but for anyone to notice and call him on it is off topic?

BULLSHIT on him and BULLSHIT on you. Did you come from Dick Cheney;s staff? Are you next going to question my patriotism? The motivation of the columnist is and always will be germane to the topic at hand.

Clearly Steven is attempting to build a name for himself by attacking Joe Jervis. He may succeed, but the name he is earning should not be said in polite company.

Now see, that's derailing.

Now you are making it about me.

Why is it bullshit?

Why is the motivation germane?

How, precisely, did he attack Joe Jervis directly?

What makes you think I may have, at some point in time, worked for Dick Cheney?

What makes you think I would question your patriotism?

How is the motivation of the columnist *always* germane to the topic at hand?

How do you know what that motivation is?

How will you prove what that motivation is?

In what was does circumstantial and anecdotal statements constitute evidence?

A few points:

1. There is nothing wrong in reducing Kaczynski's life to his views on homosexuality when making a comment. We are all on Bilerico or JMG because we are members of the LGBT community in some respect. We do not really care about Kaczynski's views on soybean tariffs with Russia, no matter how enlightened they may have been.

2. Kaczynski has made a career of bashing gays in really nasty fashion. He was horrible to gays in all his public life, especially as Mayor of Warsaw and as President.

3. He has an identical twin (a former Prime Minister of Poland) who is single, and largely rumored to be gay. As an identical twin myself, I have read hundreds of articles on gay twins, and I think it must be exceedingly rare for identical twins not to be both gay, if one is in fact gay. I have long wondered if President Kacyynski was acing out his homophobia so strongly and so vehemently for so many years because of his own possible problems of staying in the closet. His policies and speeches have long persecuted gays in Poland, and wherever his words were published.

4. Of course, I also occasionally cringe when I read some comments on any blog. But really, these comments are more akin to what one might expect to hear from the proverbial New York City cab driver (who no longer exists), and no one mistakes comments as learned research in a doctoral thesis footnote.

5. I venture to say that most people come to these blogs because of their identification with the LGBT community or communities and its struggles, for news, and for entertainment, and they pop in and out of the blogs whenever a free moment at work opens to do so. People are giving visceral responses to issues or people, and not measured words after long meditation on the subject.

I generally agree that I would love to see more civility in all aspects of life. Someone once said that the internet is like a giant bathroom wall that the whole world writes on. Like the bathroom walls at my university, some of the words were profound, others vile or racist. All an interesting slice of what is actually in people's heads.

I look forward to your future posts.

Well, Steven, if nothing else, I know how ya feel :D

To the point of certain other things, though, Joe's approach is workable -- and I certainly don't find any faults in it save that I agree that transphobic comments are not effectively policed there, and there's a strong contingent of people who feel that T should be separate from LGB (which is a ciscentric and transphobic *idea* in and of itself).

But that's the *comments* at JMG. THe stories themselves are actually pretty good, and Joe himself obviously puts effort into representing the diversity there.

When one goes unmoderated, the price for such is that kind of wild feel. Since it's a blog frequented primarly by LGBT folks, and very little by the haters, it's actually going to reflect internal issues in the community.

Were it open even more -- a place where our opponents gather as well, the conflict would be multiple times greater -- akin to a site called Topix.net, which is in many respects worse than some old newsgroups were (for those few oldsters who remember that).

I also will, again, note that "PC" was a term developed by sexist people to criticize others who sought find a more courteous expression and language.

People who have a problem with "PC" are literally saying they have a problem with being nice to people.

Some folks do. Sad as it sounds, some folks just gotta jerks. It's what gives their lives meaning. And harping about "PC" is just one more way of justifying their rudeness.

I love the reaction in the comments here to Steven's post: WAAAAAAAAAA! I can't believe anyone would take what I said seriously!! That's so unfair!!! BOO HOO!

I wouldn't say it's Joe's fault, Steven, but I agree that those comments are pretty nasty. Some of those comments are as bad as the Freeper comments Pam pulls to make fun of how crazy the fundies are.

If some of the people here could turn off the tears for a second, maybe we could talk about what free speech and being responsible for your own words means instead of just throwing around those phrases like they should end the discussion. They don't - they lengthen and complicate it.

If you're saying the response to bad speech is more speech - fine, that's what Steven's post is: more speech.

If you say that people should be responsible for their own words: fine, but people on the outside aren't going to be so nuanced and say "Oh, well that's just those gay people's opinion, not every gay person's opinion." It reflects on all of us.

If you say it's impossible to moderate, I'd agree with that. We barely moderate here, as Yasmin pointed out. Maybe a comment or two a week get deleted, and our traffic isn't too different from JMG's (and I'm not saying our comment section is better - we have issues of our own, just not this particular one). It's more abstract than deleting a comment or two and is about how people feed off each other in a certain environment and what behavior seems appropriate for an occasion.

I'm not in favor of JMG moderating and don't much care about how he chooses to moderate comments on his own site. But can we turn off the waterworks for a second and talk about this? It's not off-limits to criticize the LGBT community. It shouldn't be - it's a sign of our own maturity as a movement and a community to be able to discuss what we're doing instead of just pointing to all the bad things other people are doing to us all the time. We aren't always the victim, and I don't see much that's productive in pretending we are.

Chitown Kev | April 13, 2010 9:12 AM

As one of the JMG "Not Ready For Prime Time Players" I feel the need to comment.

A few weeks ago, JMG posted a thread on the horrid Bishop Harry Jackson, whom I don't like for many reason. I made a comment where I think I called him something like the "Bishop of High Coonery."

http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2010/03/bishop-harry-jackson-appears-on-cbn-to.html

As you can see, there were a few commenters that felt that the comment should be deleted; I left it to Joe's discretion.

Point being, JMG is moderated to an extent and it's the commenters that do the moderationg. Very often, racist trolls (gay and anti-gay) have made comments there and it's the white gay men that criticize the comment.

This happens far more frequently at JMG than at the other major gay blogs.

In fact one of the reasons that I enjoy JMG is that the commenters do moderate the comments to an extent.

And, I'm sorry, I don't necessarily see any blog (gay or otherwise) as necessarily a "safe space" nor do I necessarily want it to be.

I am a regular reader of JMG, so you know my bias. But whenever I read posts about comments being uncivil, my reaction is to sing "kumbaya, my lord, kumbaya," in the most sarcastic manner possible, and think, "oh, look, another priss pot who wants to have to same argument about tone that was made when all there was were just usenet user groups" (I am that old). How original.

I like unmoderated comments better than censorship, and I don't believe in respect just because you are dead.

Kaczynski was a right wing pig in life, enemy of the gays, and no friend of the jews. Just because he is dead doesn't mean that I will now not say what I said when he was alive. If you think this this comment is disrespectful, then perhaps you should stay under your desk; the world is far too uncouth for your obvious delicate sensibilities.

BTW, Cheslick-DeMeyer's statment that he is not confrontational is pure projection. That is what he is exactly, but fails to realize.