Another Note on Commenting

by Don Boudreaux on October 24, 2011

in Cafe Conversation

Those of you of at least a certain age will remember the Ku Klux Klan’s insistence on marching in Skokie, Illinois.  As I recall, the vile ignoramuses who are the KKK were allowed to march, and some civil-rights and religious groups staged loud and angry counter-demonstrations.  My thinking at the time was that KKK morons are best left ignored.  It’s difficult, of course, to ignore such abject ignorance, prejudice, and deep hatred for civil society.  But it struck me that the attention that the KKK’s Skokie marches brought to the KKK made the KKK seem more significant than by all rights it should be made to seem.

As long as they are doing nothing but huffing and puffing and whooping and hollering, that – shall we say, ‘beknighted’ – group of fools deserves no attention.

Now I don’t know if ignoring the KKK would have served the larger public interest better than did the series of counter-demonstrations that drew unusual attention to these nitwits, but at least a strong case can be made that ignoring those asses would have been the better course.

Which brings me to the continuing complaints about some commentors here at the Cafe.  (Two more e-mails – both thoughtful – to this effect were in the e-mail that I opened this morning.)

I hasten to say, in all honesty, that I do not believe that even the most ridiculous commenters here at the Cafe are remotely morally akin to the KKK.  They are not.  But what some of these commenters have in common with the KKK’s Skokie marchers is a desire chiefly to be in-your-face – to scream out in frustrated disagreement, even anger, at people better informed and more tolerant than they are – to figuratively throw bombs into what is otherwise a civil conversation.

And while I understand also that the Cafe, being private, isn’t the same as the public places of Skokie, IL, I continue to believe that for us the best policy – the most civil policy – is not to bar or ban our own “protestors.”  It’s undeniable that many of these commenters are obnoxious, uninformed, verbal-bomb-tossing, and (yes) frequently laughably stupid buffoons who fancy themselves as making contributions to intelligent discussion when, in fact, all they do – as all the KKKers do – is to expose their abject lack of intelligence and their absurdly tunnelled world view.

So I plead again for everyone to ignore all comments that, according to the precepts of good judgment, evince only prejudice or profound ignorance.  Just pay no attention.  Correct factual errors that they might make.  But don’t give them the satisfaction of your thinking that their ignorance and prejudice in any way poses the slightest challenge to your intelligence and civility.

Time is precious commodity.  It must be allocated wisely, which is why I almost never bother to address logically incoherent assertions, ad hominem attacks, monuments to the post hoc fallacy, or grossly historically uninformed comments that so often appear here at the Cafe.  And your time, I’m certain, is at least as precious to you as my time is to me.

…..

One goal of the discussion here, in my view, is to expose especially young people to the economic way of thinking and to the precepts of classical liberalism.  Fortunately, no intelligent young person will take seriously the typical argument spat out by the angry hostile commenters here.  And I want, chiefly through our practice, to demonstrate to those young people that ‘arguments’ that are so over-the-top ludicrous can be ignored, that intellectual battles decided 200 years ago need not be ceaselessly re-fought simply because a handful of rear-guard devotees of antedeluvian nostrums cling religiously to their True Religion, and that our efforts are best directed to discussing live issues offered by people interested in discussion rather than in shouting for no purpose other than to say “You’re wrong because I think differently than you!”

These shouting commenters do the cause of economic education and genuine liberalism actual good by revealing the shallowness of their arguments and the often-comical twists that they perform in their efforts to argue with genuinely thoughtful people.

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{ 115 comments }

Brandoch Daha October 24, 2011 at 8:28 am

People should ignore flamebait, but they don’t. That’s not going to change. The people prone to respond to flamebait will respond to it, and the people disgusted by it will stop reading the comments entirely. Among the latter are the people who write the best comments.

If you allow flamebait to remain, the quality of your comment sections will degrade.

This experiment has been performed hundreds of times on the internet. It always turns out the same way. Unmoderated comment sections have a worse record than Communism. If your theory predicts otherwise, your theory is more obviously wrong than communism is.

Comments aren’t like markets or neighborhoods, because the people who “live there” have no investment to protect. They didn’t buy in, and they can leave at any time with zero cost. The only one with an investment to protect is you, and you are determined not to protect it.

I haven’t bothered reading all the way through any of your other recent comment-quality posts, because I already knew what you were going to to. I haven’t wasted my time reading the comments on them, because I already knew what I’d see there.

The key is to allow rational dissent. Righties tend to allow all dissent, including flamebait; lefties tend to forbid all dissent, which turns their comments into a boring circle jerk.

Like everybody else who has tried unmoderated comments, you will end up with a slum. Your comment section is already a waste of time. Even the ones who agree with you tend to be just mindless ideologues. Your response to this failure should be to try to figure out why your predictions are so wrong; instead, you’ve retreated into a Krugmanian mind-bunker.

Michael October 24, 2011 at 9:05 am

+1

Krishnan October 24, 2011 at 9:31 am

It is certainly possible for a few commenters to turn this blog into a “slum” as you seem to think it could become … we are a long way from that – there are many things that can be done way, way before that

I agree that we should let the people speak – how else would we know that what they have within is mush? And those that do agree with the posts? Yes, some of them are simple and do not add much to the discussion – but in a majority of cases I have seen, even the ones that agree contribute in a significant way to the points being made –

“Rational dissent”? I shudder to imagine what is “rational” to you – given your comments here. You have drawn conclusions that are plainly irrational – you know, I mean, YOU KNOW that Don and Russ do not want to protect their investment – their ideas, their writings – I mean YOU KNOW THAT TO BE A FACT … Wow. I mean, WOW.

carlsoane October 24, 2011 at 9:38 am

You do realize the irony of posting this comment don’t you?

erp October 24, 2011 at 11:31 am

What carlsoane said.

Stone Glasgow October 24, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Carl and Daha are a perfect example of why the comments section is the best part of this blog.

Brandoch Daha October 24, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Ohhh, yeah.

James Strong October 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm

The problem is that what is considered “rational dissent” and “irrational dissent” is actually a matter of opinion. I think protectionism is “irrational” and free trade is “rational” but know many who do not agree with me.

If Boudreaux or Roberts were to start banning commenters who they viewed as “irrational,” it could look like prejudice to others. It could completely backfire.

Brandoch Daha October 24, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Good point. I shouldn’t have used the word “rational”; it wasn’t what I meant to say. I should’ve said “calm”, “polite”, “considerate”, “civilized”, something like that. I certainly would not want to limit the range of acceptable views to what one person considers “rational”; that’s a circle jerk.

I’d suggest a policy of content-neutral enforcement of good manners, radically lenient about what views may be expressed: You can advocate cannibalism, racialism, pedophilia, just intonation, the goto statement — literally anything, as ill-informedly as you like, just as long as you do it in a calm and civilized manner.

At the margins, it’s still up to the hosts’ judgement. But so is the quality of their posts, and much else. It’s their blog. Their living room, if they choose to see it that way. Private property. If they want interesting comments and they prefer lively debate to ideological conformity (which they clearly do, even to a fault), they won’t abuse it.

If somebody’s merely out for a shouting match, warn him to mind his manners. If he won’t straighten out, show him the door.

Darren October 24, 2011 at 5:12 pm

the people disgusted by it will stop reading the comments entirely

Or they could learn to ignore comments made by those posters they aren’t in reading.

BillD October 24, 2011 at 8:44 am
jjoxman October 24, 2011 at 9:53 am

“I hate Illinois Nazis.” All-time classic.

Slappy McFee October 24, 2011 at 12:03 pm

It makes my day that I wasn’t the only one to think that.

jjoxman October 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Happy to help!

Russell Nelson October 25, 2011 at 1:58 am

I thought it too, immediately. Great musical. Plus they have a bit of footage shot in the electric coal train tunnels beneath Chi-town.

Dom October 24, 2011 at 8:44 am

It was the Nazi Party, not the KKK, that marched on Skokie. They purposely picked a largely Jewish neighborhood

Don Boudreaux October 24, 2011 at 8:46 am

Ah yes. You’re correct. Thanks.

Jon October 24, 2011 at 9:03 am

Actually, interesting little story in support of your position, Don:

A few months ago, my church ordained and installed our very first openly gay minister. Being in a fairly conservative town in New Hampshire, this caused no little clamor. During the ceremony, there were loud protests outside the church. But we ignored them. In fact, the next day the paper ran a story. The protesters were but a footnote. A casual, “by the way” mention in the last sentence of the article. By refusing to engage them, or even acknowledge them, we were able to keep the story about us and not about them.

Ike October 24, 2011 at 9:05 am

Don… I suppose I have been guilty in the past of “feeding the trolls,” but if my emails to you have told you anything about me it’s that I have an independent streak. I don’t like being told what to think by anyone. And I certainly don’t like people making bad pre-judgements about me based on my zip code.

I give the benefit of the doubt… And that means reaching out to those I believe to be in error, or those who seem to be missing the point I’m trying to articulate.

After a while, you reach the moment when you realize that certain people are just there for the heat, not the light. And they carry such a diametrically opposed value system that you can never agree anyway. (people with different value systems can be logical, and they can ignore their own internal logic.)

But I’m stubborn, and had to find out for myself.

Don Boudreaux October 24, 2011 at 9:13 am

Ike: Worry not. You continue to be a valued and favorite commenter here at the Cafe.

Ike October 24, 2011 at 11:53 am

Don’t worry… I’m not going anywhere.

lowcountryjoe October 24, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Like; +1

tw October 24, 2011 at 9:12 am

Well stated (as always). If you don’t currently teach a class on writing, you should!

vidyohs October 24, 2011 at 9:40 am

Just a random thought, Don, regarding comments on intellectual battles fought in the past being rejected “as being settled”. Neither you or I take that attitude towards the subject of man made global warming, or Keynsian economics. Where some consider them settled, we consider them very much still in play.

Just within the last month a team of researchers found viable evidence of something that moved faster than the speed of light. The speed of light has long been the accepted standard for the fastest speed anything can travel. Do we revisit the speed of light, or do we consider it settled?

I have been told by businessmen in turn-key businesses, sales mentors, and by highly regarded authors to “do not try to re-invent the wheel”, and for some reason my mind shuts down at that statement.

If someone had not tried to re-invent the wheel, it is unlikely we would have the axle, heavy duty high temp resistant grease, bearings, the pneumatic tire, the steel belted bias ply tire, the steel belted radial ply tire, all of which I contend were developed by people looking at old wisdom, wondering how it could be done better, and while not re-inventing, did wind up improving.

My brain working like it does, is why I also understand why so much of the Constitution was written using ambiguous words in certain phrases. Those words (keep, bear, arms for instance) were used because the founders understood that progress and development in all technology was inevitable and there was no way they could predict how and what would come. So, they used words that would encompass what ever came (Arms covers what ever weapon that can be used to defend or attack, from the past to the future.)

I’ll end with the question. What intellectual battles were settled in the past in such a way that they can not, or should not be revisited?

Fred October 24, 2011 at 9:54 am

What intellectual battles were settled in the past in such a way that they can not, or should not be revisited?

mercantilism vs free trade?

Daniel Kuehn October 24, 2011 at 10:36 am

But see – people who don’t really know much about mercantilism except what their Econ 101 professors tell them don’t realize that the major mercantilists were not against free trade, that the mercantilists had a lot of sophisticated monetary, macroeconomic, and trade theories that anticipated modern theories, and that many mercantilist ideas (although they were rough first cuts) definitely do deserve acknowledgement today.

I think one has a stronger case saying that “protectionism vs. free trade” is a settled point, but I don’t think one can say the same about the mercantilists. Vidyohs makes a good point – cordoning off discussion is very risky, and it’s too easy to do this when take oversimplified, processed, sanitized versions ideas. People should read Gerard Malynes or Thomas Mun (as well as Smith’s critiques of them) in the original. It’s fascinating stuff.

Fred October 24, 2011 at 10:58 am

I see no significant difference between mercantilism and protectionism.

They’re the same thing with a different sales pitch.

It’s like when the socialists started calling themselves liberals when socialist became a bad word, then started calling themselves progressives when liberal became a bad word.

Same thing, different sales pitch.

Daniel Kuehn October 24, 2011 at 11:13 am

OK, well many people who have read and commented on 16th, 17th, and 18th century economic thought for a living have disagreed with you, and given the smaller sampling of mercantilists that I’ve read I disagree with you.

Fred October 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Mercantilism and protectionism boil down to the same thing – erecting barriers to free trade for the benefit of the politically connected.

Daniel Kuehn October 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Fred – then how do you account for the fact that the most preeminent mercantilist – the guy that Smith spent the most time talking about – wrote a whole book arguing in favor of tearing down trade barriers?

You are drawing this equivalence because this is what people teach in Econ 101.

Sam Grove October 24, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Well, now I’m wondering if you two define mercantilism differently.

Fred October 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Probably.

Daniel Kuehn October 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Definitely.

Andrew_M_Garland October 24, 2011 at 7:59 pm

OK then, Fred and Daniel. I can say positiviely that I dislike mercanitilism, and I am in favor of mercanitilism, or the reverse.

Dan J October 25, 2011 at 2:37 am

More importantly, it seems that the two of you agree that freer trade is far more beneficial than protectionism? Assuming there is some benefits to protectionism.

vidyohs October 24, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Maybe it is yet to come.

I closed with that sentence written as it is because I was kind of hoping someone would take into consideration my consistent stance vis-a-vis the issue of socialism/communism Vs Capitalism, and have the belief and courage to hit me with the knowledge that I do believe that there is one intellectual battle that does not need to be revisited and that history, logic, rationale, and daily observational proof exists that it is to all non-broken brained people, a settled issue.

Any non-broken brained person can understand that there is no comparison of the freedom and benefits brought to people by Capitalism, as opposed to the misery and degeneration brought to people by socialism/communism. No need to go there in debate or in law.

Daniel Kuehn October 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm

The one thing I would say is that a certain degree of democratic socialism may be considered a reasonable trade-off for a wealthy, free society. I don’t think that’s a claim for socialism per se – it’s not a claim that socialized production is more efficient than market production, for example. It’s simply to say that if a wealthy, free country wants to give equal government health care to all its citizens, cognizant of the efficiency costs that that involves – there’s nothing inherently fallacious about that. I don’t support that particular case, but when you get wealthy you can make a few equality/efficiency tradeoffs.

Fred October 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Liberty and equality are mortal enemies.

It is a fallacy to claim to support both.

Sam Grove October 24, 2011 at 12:35 pm

It’s simply to say that if a wealthy, free country wants to give equal government health care to all its citizens, cognizant of the efficiency costs that that involves – there’s nothing inherently fallacious about that.

Except for the idea that “a country” can be cognizant.
Many people, many opinions.

That some may use democratic tools to override the wishes of others is seen as a boon only by those in a majority.

vidyohs October 24, 2011 at 12:43 pm

@ Sam

Bingo Sam!

:-)

Greg Webb October 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Well said, Sam!

Daniel Kuehn October 24, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Fred -
That’s nonsensical. We can fight for people to be equally free, after all. We can fight for people to have equal protection under the law – that’s not a position of enmity towards liberty.

Sam –
Your gotchas are getting old. If after all this time you can’t differentiate a colloquial use of a collective noun from a violation of methodological individualism, there’s no point in trying with you.

Fred October 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm

We can fight for people to be equally free, after all.

That’s not equality. Equal opportunity results in inequality.
Equality means equal outcomes, which is the opposite of liberty.

We can fight for people to have equal protection under the law

Equal protection under the law has been perverted into “I’m gonna sue you for the crime of saying ‘No’”

that’s not a position of enmity towards liberty.

Actually it is.

Greg Webb October 24, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Again, well said, Sam!

Greg Webb October 24, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Oops! That should have been, “Well said, Fred!”

kyle8 October 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm

On this I fundamentally agree. Government action in markets and in private life is a series of trade offs. You can be like some of the European nations, have a fair amount of personal freedom, have a limited amount of economic freedom. and produce a nice pleasant society.

But the trade off is really anemic growth, societal stratification, and a tendency to lurch form crises to crises as politicians spend more than can be repaid. Not to mention a partial stifling of the creative tendencies.

It is a matter of choice, MY problem is that the left wing never explains these choices clearly to the people, they tell obvious lies like saying that we will be more prosperous by spending huge amounts of money we do not have.

Methinks1776 October 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Danny, the problem isn’t the trade-off. It’s the way such a goal is executed. In chasing the stated effort to trade off some efficiency for more equality you end up with more inequality and more inefficiency. It’s not that a better system doesn’t exist, it’s just that politicians have goals other than maximizing equality and efficiency

Fred October 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Oops! That should have been, “Well said, Fred!”

Don’t you mean “Right Said Fred”?

;-)

James Strong October 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm

How do you define wealthy though? Those who lived in the 1850′s probably considered themselves “wealthy” compared to their ancestors, but us 2010′ers see those who lived in the 19th century as very poor.

Or let me put it this way: The bottom 10% of income earners have better private healthcare today than they would under a 1850′s social-healthcare system. The problem with sacrificing efficiency for equality in my humble opinion is that it plans against the future. Sacrificing that efficiency today is going to stifle innovation which makes society poorer in the long run.

James Strong October 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Errr I meant to say that the bottom 10% of income earners today might have worse healthcare than the top 10% of income earners, but that bottom 10% has way better healthcare today than the richest person in the planet in 1850.

Ken October 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm

James,

Your claim is still valid if you change “1850″ to “1950″.

Regards,
Ken

Dan J October 25, 2011 at 2:44 am

I think the claim of trying to use govt to impose ‘equality’ ands up being more of imposing restrictions on some and giving advantages or special privileges to others, in essence creating more inequality. All of this regardless of intent….. Intent, difficult to prove beyond what one says their intent is, I often think has anger, hatred, and deviance behind it.

g-dub October 25, 2011 at 2:17 pm

dk> If … you can’t differentiate a colloquial use of a collective noun from a violation of methodological individualism, there’s no point in trying with you.

Phrase things differently. It’s your fault. The abuse of phrase has been intended to mislead too many times, and it has existed for too long.

Sam Grove October 25, 2011 at 2:48 pm

It’s simply to say that if a wealthy, free country wants to give equal government health care to all its citizens, cognizant of the efficiency costs that that involves – there’s nothing inherently fallacious about that.

Your gotchas are getting old. If after all this time you can’t differentiate a colloquial use of a collective noun from a violation of methodological individualism, there’s no point in trying with you.

It’s a colloquial use that is fraught with peril.
Language can be a tool or a weapon

This “wealthy, free country wants to give equal government health care to all its citizens” for example is pure collectivist thinking. I wish you were cognizant of that.

and this “cognizant of the efficiency costs that that involves” to put it mildly, is highly theoretical.

Russell Nelson October 25, 2011 at 2:00 am

The problem is that mercantilists are live and well, and living amongst us.

Sam Grove October 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Improving the wheel is not the same as reinventing it.
Wheels have been made that are not round, but they require a special interface to work.
When it comes to wheels, round is where it’s at.

Sam Grove October 24, 2011 at 12:30 pm

That said, there are plenty of areas open to examination.

When people say, “don’t reinvent the wheel”, what they actually mean is they don’t want to invest any time on improving something.

Darren October 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm

A good reason to NOT spend time ‘improving’ something is that it does not need to be improved and there are other places resources can be directred toward more effectively.

vidyohs October 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm

“Improving the wheel is not the same as reinventing it.”

Well yes, Sam. Did anyone suggest any different? I know I suggested that improvements came because at different times, different people reacted to the “don’t re-invent the wheel” with the same attitude I do. It spurs the “why not try” reaction in some people, and there is the source of the improvements.

Dan J October 25, 2011 at 2:45 am

Reinvent the toilet…….

DPayne October 24, 2011 at 9:50 am

Mr. B, you are correct to condemn the rationale of, “You’re wrong because I think differently than you.” It is logically ludicrous and morally repugnant to believe that. However, I can say, with complete certainty, that you’re right when you think the same way as I.

Boom. Mind blown.

katy lavallee October 24, 2011 at 10:03 am

You could also employ a comment voting/rating system, so useful comments get upvoted. I’m not a wordpress developer, but a quick google search (http://goo.gl/T32Sz) shows there are options.

Tom October 25, 2011 at 8:44 am

The devil is in the details, but I think a comment rating system would be an improvement over the current system.

There needs to be a quick and easy way to ignore the trolls. Any comments with a low rating could automatically be hidden. Thus, reducing the temptation for anyone to feed the trolls.

Leonardo T. B. October 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm

THIS /\

richard October 24, 2011 at 10:17 am

I would just ban them.

;-)

Randy October 24, 2011 at 10:23 am

Its your blog, and a reasonable request. My apologies for my part in making you ask more than once.

Dan J October 25, 2011 at 2:54 am

I appreciate some retorts and anti-individual liberty comments. I appreciate some anti-capitalist and pro-huge govt (the right people can enact benevolence), because those ideas are often met in discussion, only not with the vile insults without conscience of having any credibility or character questioned.
The same arguments are often used or repeated, and the intelligent and fact based corrections of many here are useful in learning and great starting points for investigating further. But, by all means, the tired and repudiated comments are tiring to see again and again…. Even when it is me making incorrect statements. I appreciate being challenged to my thoughts. How else would I learn?

Dan J October 25, 2011 at 2:55 am

But, I don’t read Invisible hand and often skip George, a.k.a. Muirgeo.

Invisible Backhand October 24, 2011 at 10:48 am

Hear hear. Just yesterday I posted 4 relevant, cited counter examples to the thesis ( http://cafehayek.com/2011/10/horwitz-on-the-financial-crisis-and-recession.html#comments ) and I got back vitriol and laughably amateurish rhetoric in return.

But, responding to the insults ( and I do mean you, methinks1776 ) is the only compensation I get for helping neoliberals overcome their delusions. I do it for the fun, I’m not paid.

I mean, it’s comedy gold when you can shut down some _______’s praise of Liberal Fascism with a withering review from…mises.org!

Gil October 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm

It’s ad hominem when others do it.

Sam Grove October 24, 2011 at 12:40 pm

What was laughable was your implication that you presented opinions from unbiased authorities.

Two problems with that:
1 argument from authority.
2 the supposition that there are those that are unbiased.

Blog commenting can be fast and furious. Some people can take the time to read linked sources. Others don’t.

I suggest you consider the supposition that there is such a thing as an unbiased authority. particularly where politics is involved.

Invisible Backhand October 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm
Chris Bowyer October 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm

You’re confused, fella’. There’s nothing circular about saying you can’t present unbiased authorities as arguments because they’re not unbiased, and because you can’t make arguments only from authority. Read the comment again.

Invisible Backhand October 24, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I suggest you consider the supposition that there is such a thing as an unbiased authority.

…but then no authorities are unbiased, therefore I can’t present an unbiased authority.

(Psst…you should really update your website one of these years)

Sam Grove October 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm

The comment I referred to:

Invisible Backhand October 23, 2011 at 8:25 pm

OK is this guy biased?:

“MIT economics professor Simon Johnson…
——————-

Chris Bowyer October 25, 2011 at 8:43 am

Yeah, I figured you were making some pointless semantic argument. The first use of the word “unbiased” refers to what you were IMPLYING you were posting (hence the word “implication”), it was not his own description of what you posted. There are only two explanations for this sort of “misunderstanding,” and neither flatters you much, guy.

(Psst…it’s a placeholder and I have other sites to worry about. And I don’t know where you get “one of these years,” because it hasn’t been up very long.)

kyle8 October 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm

You hardly shut me down boy. I do not agree with the review, simple as that. By the way you ought to actually read Liberal Fascism, you might learn something.

Invisible Backhand October 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm

You can’t learn senility, you age into it.

Methinks1776 October 24, 2011 at 9:45 pm

So, you’re saying you’re very old.

Russell Nelson October 25, 2011 at 2:03 am

I’ve tried sending private emails to people to ask them not to reply to muirgeo, or Daniel Kuehn, or any of the other trolls here. It doesn’t work. For some reason, people seem unwilling to refuse an invitation to an argument with an idiot. The problem with arguing with an idiot is that you can’t win, BECAUSE THEY’RE AN IDIOT. Better not even to start.

Invisible Backhand October 25, 2011 at 10:46 am

@Russ, I went to your site and noticed lp.org is ripping off tux from the linux community. Why?

William Sjostrom October 24, 2011 at 11:00 am

It was the National Socialist Party of America, which is a break-away from the old American Nazi Party. They were, however, generally informally referred to as the Illinois Nazis. Their headquarters were in Marquette Park, about a mile from where I went to high school in the 1970s. They were widely regarded as comic. Kids at my high school who were hardly paragons of racial tolerance used to go over there and try to get the guards out front in the brown-shirt type uniforms to chase them. The guards were big guys, so the kids did not get caught, but it was a serious dare, because we were all pretty sure they would beat the hell out of anyone they caught. They may have been ridiculous, but they were scary too.

Miles Stevenson October 24, 2011 at 11:09 am

I have to admit that I am guilty of wasting my own time on those who are only interested in making trouble. I keep deluding myself into thinking that if I simply present my case in a gentle and respectful manner, the trouble-maker will drop his or her holy crusade long enough to listen. It never happens, yet I keep getting myself into those situations.

Case in point, trying to demonstrate the power of markets to the “skeptic” crowd, my “skeptic” opponent made the claim: “I have absolutely zero bias.” I don’t even know what to say to that. I’m just so stunned by the hubris in that statement, I’m at a loss on how to respond.

URL: http://www.skepticblog.org/2011/10/19/scratch-one-quack-doc/#comment-66454

Miles Stevenson October 24, 2011 at 11:11 am

I know that I just need to walk away from this conversation. Sometimes I don’t know why I find it so difficult to avoid “fighting the good fight.” And at the end of it all, I feel duped, as if I’d been the punchline in some kind of a joke.

Matt October 24, 2011 at 11:18 am

I actually appreciate dissenting opinions. I think one of the problems with internet comments is that people misconstrue the tone of comments, hearing them in their heads as much more hostile than they were meant to be.

Also, I strongly believe that any intellectual position worth it’s weight should be able to calmly, rationaly deal with the Devil’s Advocate. Dissentor’s comments should be able to be dealt with calm and ease. I’m sorry, but you should not have the same emotional visceral response to a Keynsian or a Global Warming advocate as you do to the KKK.

As someone who has and continues to come to blogs like these to learn more about economics and classical liberalism, I do not want to hear emotional responses or condescention to any countering beliefs. That’s being a cheerleader, not an intellectual.

Having said that, I am glad they do not ban people on the blog. Yes, some commenters slow down the conversation, but I do not trust Russ or Don (or anyone – it’s not personal) to make the distinction between someone being a jerk and someone making a valid counter-claim – at least not on the margin.

Miles Stevenson October 24, 2011 at 11:28 am

When I read this, I thought of Thomas Sowell in “A Conflict of Visions”. The unconstrained mind seeks to solve this problem by turning us all into calm, respectful, relaxed debaters. The constrained mind recognizes inherent flaws in mankind, seeks a trade-off, and advocates increasing the pool of comments in hopes that the quality discussions will outweigh the time-wasters.

vidyohs October 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm

But Matt:

“I’m sorry, but you should not have the same emotional visceral response to a Keynsian or a Global Warming advocate as you do to the KKK.”

You are working under a false understanding. It is not Don, vidyohs, or other reasonable people who reject Keynsian and man-made Global warming advocates with emotional or visceral reactions or responses, no no no, it is the Keynsian and man-made Global warming advocates that react that way and viciously attack us as being like the KKK or Nazis because we disagree and present history, logic, and (GW) science to support our beliefs.

The vicious emotional visceral hatred comes to us on a one-way street. Opposition alone is sufficient to draw the hated of the looney left. That it is rational opposition with data to back it up, just infuriates the looney left even more.

Matt October 24, 2011 at 12:49 pm

First, I was not calling you, Don or anyone else out. I was just trying to say that I would prefer to do without comments that have less to do with defending an intellectual position and more to do with forming an in-group and lowering the status of others.

For example, you claim that emotional visceral hatred is a one-way street and then in the next sentence you refer to the “hated of the looney left.” Why use that language?

Fred October 24, 2011 at 12:52 pm

I’m guessing that was a typo and he meant ‘hatred’, not ‘hated’.

vidyohs October 24, 2011 at 8:39 pm

You’re correct Fred, ’twas a typo, and the word should have been hatred.

vidyohs October 24, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Matt, I will once again explain the label “looney left”.

Tis really quite simple. In the past it was noted that insane people reacted to a full moon with even more active insane behavior, and the mildly insane were more easily identified because of that reaction to the full moon where without it they seemed near normal.. The moon is also known as Luna, so the vernacular for crazy people morphed into lunatics. Okay, we have arrived at lunatics as a description of insane people.

Now, the socialist/communist/regressives/illiberals/democraps among us want very much to establish an openly socialist government here in the USA.

History shows us that not once in the entire history of mankind has socialism ever done anything but produce instant misery, degeneration, and final dissolution of what ever group of people were stupid enough to try it. That is thousands of years of unbroken proof of failure.

One description of insanity is for someone to try something over and over and over and over, each time expecting different results.

Our current crop of regressives are by that definition insane, crazy, or in the vernacular lunatics. It is also in the vernacular that if one is a socialist/communist/illeiberal/regressive/democrap, then one is left wing…..left.

Couple the two vernaculars together and we have looney left.

Commit it to memory, there may be a pop quiz someday as you walk past a group of people waving signs saying “kill capitalism”.

Gil October 24, 2011 at 12:12 pm

“Dissenting opinions.” Yeah that sounds about right as to how Don’s self-appointed bulldogs view differing opinions.

Anotherphil October 24, 2011 at 2:52 pm

One of the resident trolls said “F— your mother, I did”. A few responses later, the troll repeated it.

Thats not a differing viewpoint, or a dissenting opinion. Its the product of belligerant and disordered mind. Removing it, and the author, would incur no risk of removing some paradigm shifting insight.

Russell Nelson October 25, 2011 at 2:05 am

Keynesians are evil people, because they *think* they are doing good, while they are actually doing evil. At least the KKK know that they’re doing evil things in the *name* of good.

Practice Ignorning this Comment October 24, 2011 at 11:33 am

F.A. Hayek believed that some government was necessary. Never did he say that government should be completely eliminated. The fact that Don and Russ named their site Cafe Hayek combined with Hayek’s support for government is proof that Don and Russ advocate for some government. Therefore Don and Russ are statists.

The fact that Don and Russ don’t call call themselves statists when they do indeed support the state means they are liars. Therefore you should ignore what Don and Russ say about commenting.

(Practice ignoring this comment).

Greg Webb October 24, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Should comments be ignored? I find the arguments appealing. But, I also don’t like factual inaccuracies. And, you stated one in your comment.

Libertarians do not oppose all government. Anarchists do. Statists, on the other hand, advocate for the government’s involvement in most economic and social activity. From my reading of their posts, I do not believe that you can accurately describe Don or Russ as statists. Rather, I think that they can be accurately described as libertarians.

I don’t think that Don or Russ object to reasonable conversations. I think that they object to the cursing and lack of civility that sometimes occurs among the commenters on this blog. But, they are right in saying that some of the most “in-your-face” comments should simply be ignored. I am guilty of feeding the trolls and will try to do a better job of ignoring those posts.

Russell Nelson October 25, 2011 at 2:05 am

Well THAT didn’t work very well, did it?

Dan J October 25, 2011 at 2:59 am

I ignored his comment…. Was there anything worth reading?

sandre October 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm

This is not a religious site. Don & Russ, from what I could gather, never have and never will be sheep who follow Hayek like he is God incarnate. They never claimed that all that Hayek ever said was God in his own words, or for that Hayek was never wrong. Just because I respect my parents doesn’t mean I’ll never have a disagreement with them.

Sérgio October 24, 2011 at 11:36 am

But of course, sometimes a troll is “someone who has a valid point which I cannot counter with rational arguments” or someone who has solid foundations that you can’t dismiss with a road to serfdom quote…

Russell Nelson October 25, 2011 at 2:08 am

No, never. Trolls never have valid points, because their POINT is to get people to express strong emotions. They are capable of emulating someone with a valid point, if that is what it takes to get somebody on their hook. Their opinions will quickly go southward (apologies, Ike) as they reel the sucker in.

Just Don’t Reply. All of the alternatives are ones that Russ and Don have chosen not to use. That means that it’s up to us. Don’t Reply.

Jim October 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm

This website continues to grow in popularity thanks to its authors, despite the caustic nature of its comment section.

The conflict in resolving the issue appears to between inclusiveness and undesirability of moderation, both of which I respect and value.

Consider that third party software can aid in this issue, while nurturing continued debate and blog popularity.

The two most popular WordPress alternatives are Intense Debate and Disqus. They both substitute for moderation; comment sorting, commenter and comment ratings. These facilities give preference to higher rated comments and tend to hide comments that readers’ deem inappropriate. No moderation is needed.

Perhaps most importantly, both comment systems provide email alerts to responses of comment threads so interested parties can efficiently follow their discussions. This is a HUGE advantage to readers who prefer to keep track of their thoughts over time and readily find and refer to them at a later date. It also demonstrably increase discussion rates and blog popularity. I am sure frequent commenters would thank you for it.

I see that Cafe Hayek used Disqus at one time (a custom Disqus css file is still loading). I had heard that due to Media Temple’s strange hardware configuration (and its over priced as well:) that some webmasters had difficulty implementing it. I am not sure that is still true, and certainly Disqus would provide help in this area for such a popular blog.

If load times were an issue, it is usually a conflict with cache settings and excluding the appropriate javascript. Most third party webmasters could fix this in 15 minutes, although i do not readily see that cache is used on this site so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Hope that helps.

gregworrel October 25, 2011 at 9:35 am

I liked disqus. It just disappeared one day. You may be right that it was a technical issue because I remember Don or Russ saying or implying that it was. I especially liked the email follow-ups. I don’t have time to read everything and when I comment I like to see any replies. I am not sure it had any impact on civility.

Curt Doolittle October 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm

RE: “… caustic comments section.”

Conflict is entertaining. And it’s more informative than agreement.

I can’t tell you how many organizations our agency has advised to intentionally create conflict in order to gain readers.

The television show “Survivor” tried one season consisting of an entire cast of well above average IQ’s.(Africa) It was a boring season. Conflict where the reader can feel dominant at any point will produce engagement. (The absurd success of Jeopardy.)

And it’s helpful to keep a few trolls and the comfortably incompetent from the opposite side around: they grant new participants a foil against which they can learn to argue.

Ban ad hominem’s. Ban link spammers. But if a silly person wants to argue something silly then all it does is help.

SaulOhio October 24, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Sometimes they simply make SUCH EASY TARGETS!

They accuse free market types of dogmatism and ignoring evidence, all the time repeating “arguments” that have been refuted many times in the past, every time they have presented them.

Blaming something like the financial crisis on the free market, when there is such a vast amount of evidence of regulation which basic theory says would cause the problem is just one example. When they respond to you by accusing you of ignoring evidence, its hard to not respond with accusations of psychological projection.

Russell Nelson October 25, 2011 at 2:09 am

Exactly, Saul. The point of trolling is to get responses. Best way to get a response is to post something so stupid that EVERYONE jumps to reply.

Sam October 24, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Doesn’t WordPress have an extension that would allow readers, not moderators, to hide the comments of certain other users? If I don’t care to see comments from a certain individual, I could just click a “hide comments from this user” button and presto, no more clutter. Seems like it would be a perfectly liberty-respecting way to solve the problem.

Seth October 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I think it’s instructive for folks — be it the authors or others– to point out ad hominem and other fallacy. It’d be nice to do that without slinging more back, but that’s just my opinion.

thales October 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Have you ever sat in a bar that is suddenly taken over by a crazed, belligerent drunk? The management of the bar must realize that it needs to maintain order, civility, cleanliness, and a pleasant ambience. It must take action to quell or eject those who refuse to maintain civility and appropriateness. If it does not, the bar will fail.

If it were up to me, I would establish some basic rules, insisting on polite, rational discourse.

All forms of insults, epithets, ad hominem attacks, screeching diatribes, etc., would subject the culprit to immediate and permanent banning.

Cryptic comments, off topic posts, rambling rants, deliberate misstatements, spam, lies, and any other posts that fail to contribute to a civil, rational discussion, would draw a warning or two, followed by banning for repeat offenses.

I like to be hospitable and friendly, but people who abuse a generous spirit of inquiry have no place in a civil discussion. If the proprietor fails to take action, I think the atmosphere will degenerate into bedlam.

Good luck and best regards.

Larry Sheldon October 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm

There are some blogs whose comments section I don’t even open.

I’m just saying……

jcpederson October 24, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Are you familiar with the Ricochet.com website? They identify themselves as center-right, and they allow people to read for free, but in order to comment, they charge a nominal monthly fee (I believe they peg it to the price of a grande latte at a Starbucks in Seattle).

I used to participate in a discussion forum at The Motley Fool, and they employed a different tool – selecting specific people to ignore. If you were logged into the site (a pain, I admit), you could select a person and choose not to see their posts in the future. Theirs would show as “ignored yap” or something.

Dan J October 25, 2011 at 3:02 am

antedeluvian- I am no scholar or intellectual of any sort…. So I have a new word to look up.

gregworrel October 25, 2011 at 9:39 am

Spell it right first–”antediluvian.” Before the flood (Noah’s). Antiquated.

Dan J October 26, 2011 at 2:12 am

I copied it and pasted it from Don’s post.

Paul Andrews October 26, 2011 at 2:06 am

The free-for-all policy is by far the best.

It demonstrates your strength.

I have been banned by pragcap.com (MMT) and Naked Cap (Statist), despite only civil and rational comments. I think this says a lot about those sites and their philosophies.

If you receive an ad-hominem attack in response to a civil, rational comment I consider that your point has been won.

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