Once upon a time, back when I was just starting out in blogging, I had the fanciful notion that everyone could be moved by reason and substantiated argument regardless his/her political persuasion, and that a blog – considering blogs are created to address a shortcoming we perceive in other popular media – should be able to tolerate dissent.
I haven’t completely changed my mind about that, but I have learned a few lessons since 2010. There were a few visitors to the previous incarnation of this blog who are evidently fonder of arguing than they are of the topic at hand, and who offer a dissenting opinion with no other goal in mind than continuing an argument until their opposite number is speechless with fury – not at the brilliance of their debating skills, but at their constant deflections and the ridiculously one-sided references they cite to back themselves up. For example, if you wanted to argue that Picasso’s work was all distorted childlike rubbish, and cited as a reference published work by a critic who not only is on record as despising Picasso’s work, but who is also an art dealer who never stocks any of Picasso’s work, that might be considered deliberately inflammatory behavior and reliance on heavily-biased sources. Another technique which characterizes this sort of commenter is rejection out of hand of all your rebuttal sources as ‘well-known sources of disinformation’, just because those of a certain political persuasion consistently think so. That’s not evidence, especially when a variety of sources supports the view of the protagonist.
That’s not the best example, because art is subjective and speaks to different people in different ways. You might actually be able to defend the position that Picasso’s work is rubbish. But I think you’re all bright enough to understand what I meant.
Although I do not flatter myself as to the political impact of this blog, there are also those who want to derail the conversation because they are politically opposed to the views of other commenters. That’s fine, so long as you can present a reasoned argument backed up by credible sources. If it becomes apparent you cannot do that, but are persisting with the discredited argument simply to infuriate others and interrupt the conversation, into the trash go your comments.
There is also a very narrow category of individuals who are simply abrasive and self-promoting ignoramuses who will not go away, and make use of an anonymizer and aliases to randomize their identity so as to avoid a directed ban. These people contribute little to the discussion and are only interested in promoting their own work. That’s quite a lot of words to describe what is, so far, only one person. But the comments registered by that person and any new ones who crop up will likewise be sent to the spam bin.
And, finally, you do not have to remain on topic. The post is only a conversation-opener; if things drift in a different direction after that, then that’s the way it goes. Don’t be afraid to jump in with relevant breaking news. Those who want to jump in with breaking news about painting my house or selling me generic erectile-dysfunction supplements already get mostly filtered out by the spam filter. Speaking of that, sometimes legitimate comments end up in the spam filter, through no action by me. Often it is because they are very long or contain a lot of links. If your comment does not appear immediately, please do not call me names. I’ll check the spam filter every now and again, and if there seems to be no reason for it not to be seen, I’ll approve it.