A Facebook friend visited my blog the other day and remarked:
There was some really nasty stuff in your comments there. Seems you have a following. Where are they coming from?
My general policy is to publish comments that are critical of my own viewpoints. After all, a blog should be a place of discussion. Nearly 9,000 comments have been left on this blog over the years (on just over 3300 posts) and most of them have been critical.
You can't say with any honesty that I don't let the other side have their say.
What I don't tolerate are comments that are simply personal attacks or that are racist, sexist or homophobic in nature and I've had to delete hundreds of those (in addition to the over 9,000 that I've approved). I've also had to ban a hand full of people from this site for continually sending in vile and hateful comments about women, gays and African-Americans. Of course, they almost always sent those comments in anonymously.
How people intact with my blog has changed dramatically in recent years. Most of the comments on my posts are now actually left on Facebook - either on my personal page or on other pages where people share my posts - or on different social networking sites like Twitter. Social networking really didn't exist when I started this blog in 2003. (You can also now become a "fan" of this page on Facebook - something very new - by clicking on the "like" button in the upper left hand corner and then posts will appear on your Facebook feed.) It's a new world.
To cut down on the number of anonymous comments being left of this site I've changed the settings so that you now have to sign in with your Typepad, Facebook, Twitter, Goggle, or another similar account to leave a comment. I take responsibility for every word that I say and others who comment here should as well. I hope this change fosters better discussion. People tend to act more appropriately when they can't hide behind a mask.
Of course, I'll continue to moderate comments and will delete any that come in that are truly offensive. What I suspect, however, is that fewer comments will be left here because many of the people leaving comments won't want to take personal responsibility for their words. After all, would you want it known that you defended racism in the Tea Party or openly questioned the president's citizenship? No, people like that tend to hide behind masks or under hoods.
Having said all that, I again don't mind at all comments that are critical in nature. Debate and dialog can be very healthy and good in a democratic society.