I spent a few hours this morning reading through all 1,500 comments posted in the three months since this blog went live. I am overwhelmed by the comments and commenters.
Before launching, I seriously debated whether to take the risk of allowing comments. I am now enormously gratified that I did so.
On the whole, the comments are intelligent, thoughtful, and respectful. I thank all who are contributing to an impassioned debate and elevating the level of discussion.
I made a tough decision this morning. For the first time, I banned a commenter from future posting. After three months, I am still a fledgling blogger, so this was a tough call for me.
Substantively, it was easy. This commenter had clearly and repeatedly violated item #2 of my comment policy (emphasis added)
Please refrain from personal attacks. Treat this as a discussion among friends. Debate vigorously, and play nicely, please. If necessary, I will moderate comments as needed to keep the discussion civil.
I worked in the United States Senate for 7+ years, and developed tremendous respect for the Senate’s rules of decorum in speaking on the Senate floor. Senators must always address the Chair, rather than speaking directly to each other. Ad hominem personal attacks are a violation of the Senate rules. Members from radically different ideological perspectives refer to each other as, “My good friend, the Senator from [State], even when they despise each other.” Over time, this artifice creates an environment of vigorous, impassioned, yet civil debate that focuses on policy questions. It infrequently descends into gutter attacks. I hope to create the same environment here, and will do what is necessary to enforce a polite discussion. If you’re a jerk, I’ll boot you. Permanently.
While going through the comments this morning, I redacted personal attacks and insults directed from one commenter to another, as well as most instances of gross vulgarity. While this commenter had posted almost 100 comments, many of which contributed significant substance, more than half of all violations were posted by this one commenter. I had posted multiple warnings about the tone and policy violations (and not just by him/her) over the past 10 days or so, warning that I would be banning those who violated my policy.
This person is now permanently banned from commenting on my blog. I tried to notify him directly in advance, but his email address bounced back.
What made this difficult is that his (her?) comments are intelligent and provocative. Aside from the tone and personal insults directed at other commenters, he contributed a challenging and different perspective to a vigorous debate on my health posts. I value highly that intellectual diversity, and am sorry to lose it going forward.
I want to reiterate item #1 of my comment policy:
I welcome, invite, and enjoy substantive comments from any ideological perspective. Please contribute to the discussion. I welcome those who disagree with me.
I think and hope that I can attract more commenters with his perspective on policy, which differs from my own. Had I not made this decision, I feared that I would soon lose and be unable to restore the environment of impassioned yet respectful debate that has otherwise been growing here.
Again, I thank all those others who are contributing to the debate here, and especially those who disagree with me.