≡ Menu

My thoughts on commenting

Don recently discussed commenters who annoy readers and the virtues of ignoring them. Here are my two cents.

As many of you know, I host the EconTalk podcasts. The comments there are generally thoughtful and polite even when negative. The main reason is that they are moderated. If you are rude or crude or off-topic your comment doesn’t get posted. If you persist, you get warned and then banned. The system works very well. It is also very time intensive for the moderator.

Neither Don nor I have the time to provide that service here. And I’m not sure we’d want to. But the bottom line is that we don’t have moderation. As a result, we get comments of highly varying quality. I’ve learned much from you out there and often enjoy reading your reactions.

What I don’t enjoy are the mud-slinging contests where you call each other names. I understand the urge. But I wish you wouldn’t indulge the urge. I think it’s not nice and it degrades the site. A recent first-time visitor remarked with some surprise at how boorish and uncivilized the comments are here. I’m sure it wasn’t a reference to all of the comments. Many of you have thoughtful insights and add much to the value of the blog. But boorish and uncivilized comments send a signal to the world that people who believe in freedom are boorish and uncivilized. It also reflects poorly on Don and me. Yes, there are thousands of readers who never comment. But what does it say about us that some of the ones who do comment, are not so nice?

So my preference is that people treat other readers with decency even when those others are wrong and indecent. I think that’s the right way to treat people you disagree with. Why stoop to their level? Yes, trolls are incredibly frustrating. Ignore them. When trolls go trolling here, I often try to jump in first with a comment of “Don’t feed the troll.” Please don’t. Non-trolls who hold different opinions from your own should be treated respectfully even if you do not respect them.

Here’s another way to see it. Most people already know how to belittle people who they disagree with. What is harder and more valuable is to respond thoughtfully or not at all when others say something that you see is stupid. Help the other readers including others who do not comment how to see the mistakes in someone else’s argument. Give them some intellectual ammunition. That’s the highest level of comment that many of you provide here. Let’s have more of that, please.