Closing the blog comment facility

Apparently, somebody has called someone they didn’t agree with a “libtard” in a comment thread. This hasn’t gone down very well, and there have been (further) requests to close this blog’s comment facility, which are seemingly redolent of ‘Fight Club’ (the Rev’d Kate Harrison goes further: her problem isn’t just the comment threads, but the whole blog):

Kate Harrison blog tweet

And so, once again, we come to the consideration of whether it is wrong to judge a blog by the comments it attracts.

If you haven’t read that linked post, please do so.

The thing is..

..these complaints only ever seem to come from self-identifying left-wing / liberal / “rabid inclusivists” who believe, as the Rev’d Kate Harrison appears to, that even all reasoned doctrinal opinion or orthodox theological exposition expressed on this blog is basically ‘far-right’, ‘xenophobic’, ‘homophobic’, ‘fascist’, ‘bigoted’, etc., etc., etc.

Is there really no longer any place in the Church of England for conservatives or traditionalists? Does all moral orthodoxy now just distil to ‘hate’? As Brendan O’Neill observed, just because you disagree with someone, it doesn’t make them a ‘fascist’:

Brendan O'Neill - Fascism

Quite so. It would, however, help a great deal if regular communicants and visiting contributors wouldn’t call each other ‘libtard’ or suchlike. Insults ad hominem don’t persuade, advance argument, or foster fraternal accord, so please don’t. If you persist in doing so, the only solution will be to close the blog comment threads altogether, simply because there aren’t enough hours in the day to sift every comment for what somebody somewhere will deem to be offensive.

  • betteroffoutofit

    Golly Gumdrops, Your Grace (and I hope nobody finds that expression ‘offensive’).
    As it is, I had to look up the word that’s causing all the fuss; for the life of me I have no idea why the hyper-sensitive sinistrals are worried. I guess all they really understand is stuff that I would deem “obscene” – but that they think is absolutely free and delightful.

    So all that leaves for the likes of me is … no space for thought.

    • Intonsus

      How dare you use such an expression: offensive to those with skin of a darker hue (not sure what is the correct accepted descriptive this week), and offensive to those with sugar-induced-through-over-indulgence hyperbarosity!

      • betteroffoutofit

        But my Golly was beautifuller than you!!!!
        Though I’m sorry you remind me of how those jellies vicitmised my caninicals.

        Anyway — pleeze, Officeu, make sure my cell is well-padded

  • len

    Those who profess to be ‘liberals’ will not tolerate any views which oppose their own.

    Conform to our version of christianity or we will close you down?.
    This is the threat apparently?.
    Well, Christians have brothers and sisters in Christ being tortured and beheaded for this faith.
    So this threat of closure is milder that IS but of the same intention.
    Banned for speaking the Truth .Well do it!.I would rather go than conform to Political Correct Christianity!!!.

  • Inspector General

    Kate Harrison must be a very silly thing then, Cranmer. Now, repeat regularly, “she is not the boss of me”

  • What one observes these days is the prevalence of hate speech speech.
    This is a delightful way of carrying on discussions. Anyone the liberals hate is called a hater, and anything written or said that they hate is called hate speech. It saves them actually having to think about arguments.

  • Martin

    Someone somewhere will consider anything offensive.

  • Dominic Stockford

    ‘Libtard’, what a fantastic invention of the human mind that word is. Its a pity there’s so many out there…….. 🙂

  • Arden Forester

    I think all should realise and understand that what defiles a man, and a woman also, is not what he or she eats but what is said. That defileth a man. Now I am perfectly happy for Kate Harrison and those of her persuasion to denounce my beliefs, see me as backward…whatever. What I hope I won’t do is denigrate HER beliefs or cause her stress. However, I believe I am entitled to express opinions about her claims and desire to alter traditional doctrine.

    Yes, this blog contains angsty men commenting but it also includes men troubled by the ways of the World, trying to come to terms with change. So let the comments continue. In the end we will all be known as we are known.

  • Chefofsinners

    Well, for once it wasn’t me who caused the offence, and for that I can only apologise.
    I suspect we are heading for a Libtard-Labtard pact as the prigressives spiral into insignificance. Hark! What whistling sound steals upon the rapture ear…? ‘Tis the poll ratings of the left plummeting… No wonder they’re a bit touchy.

    • Anton

      Tu est plus tard.

  • jaundicedi

    Such sensitivity about what one may be called, exposes an underlying insecurity in their own beliefs, arguments and values. If these were firm, the assault should be welcomed in order for the martyr to bear witness. I fear I am reduced to using the offensive but accurate term “snowflake” to describe Rev Kate and her ilk.

  • Andrew Holt

    Please, what is a libtard?

    • Chefofsinners

      Combination of ‘liberal’ and ‘retard’.

  • Sybaseguru

    My preference is for the term “fascist liberal” to differentiate them from true liberals who accept that others may not agree with them but would defend their right to disagree. It also has a nice paradoxical ring to it.

  • Step11Recovery

    Copy of email I sent to His Grace – posted here at his suggestion:

    Your Grace,

    I have just seen your piece discussing the possible closing of the comment facility. I believe this would be a great shame, for I know your blog, and the associated comments do the Lord’s work. I say this with certainty – your ‘official’ essays and the consequent discussions have been instrumental in bringing me from a vague, feel-good deism to a genuine faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.

    To be sure, plenty of the comments, sadly possibly a majority, are callous, self-serving, fiercely judgemental and often brutally unkind. Many are prurient in the extreme. But there is a continuing seam of genuine wisdom, discussions that illuminate and explain, and real Christian love.

    I find almost all the comments useful, wicked and virtuous alike. The first to illustrate the all too attractive peril of posting comments that glorify the writer rather than Christ and the second, well they speak for themselves.

    So, humbly, please keep the comments – your website would be much the poorer without them.

    Yours in fellowship,

    • magnolia

      I have to confess that I am confused by the assertion that “many are prurient in the extreme”.

      Prurient: “having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters, especially the sexual activity of others.”

      What is “excessive” is the question? One or two commenters might appear a little over-exercised by such matters, but as a microcosm of society actually the blog comments probably include far fewer who are obsessed by that subject matter than society in general.

      The greater difference is that few here consider the permissive society something to be celebrated nor taken for granted as how thing have to be.
      That might relate to the older on average age group insofar as many can remember when there were general societal ideals undisputed by the vast majority, and rue that that is no longer the case, and the massive damage and quantity of victims that has created. It grieves them, sometimes deeply, to see it.

      They are largely motivated by kindness, and desire for a good society.

      • Step11Recovery

        Fair comment – I was wrong to say ‘many’. But substitute ‘occasionally some’ and I would stand by my statement. We are enjoying a relatively benign period at the moment.

        I agree with your point about the broader public obsession with sex and sexual activity. Aside from the obvious ethical issues, it is a fascination that leaves me baffled.

        • magnolia

          We are in agreement then! I would also add that people’s remarks to trolls who come on to insult and provoke are generally not as polite as others, and that to some extent this is well and fair, though it is better to put them on “ignore” and not get drawn in!

          i would also add the caveat that there is lots of humour, irony, satire, writing “in character” and also “in jokes” which might be misinterpretable unless one is familiar with the different characters involved. Something we probably need to watch, and explain from time to time!

          Any board like this will have the odd temporarily – or more permanently- disgruntled, tired, ill, depressed or extremist person posting, and possibly we have all been at least one of those at times; I have! But it is better to debate them (or soothe them!) than close the comments down.

  • Given that you are using Disqus for comments, you could stiffen up the “bad words” filter a bit. Including the most common ad hominems along with the usual crop of profanities might help to improve the atmosphere.

    • Bless you, but the filter is on and already engaged quite comprehensively. The problem is that so many common ad hominems and profanities may be used perfectly reasonably (and some form parts of larger words with no etymological link). If you have suggestions, please make them.

      • Does it include words like ‘libtard’, ‘fascist’ or ‘homophobe’ for example, though?

        • And clearly not, because that comment didn’t get flagged.

          • Sorry, His Grace thought you were trying to be helpful. Apologies

          • It is intended to be helpful. There’s no reason why those words can’t be included. They are not substrings of inoffensive words, and they are almost never used non-pejoratively. So filtering them out early seems entirely reasonable. Other, similar words can be added as necessary.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Why? Although ‘libtard’ has never been levelled at me I’m not so pathetic that I can’t laugh at someone else’s folly if they did choose to call me something a ‘bit nasty’, if it really is. I’ve smiled many times at ‘homophobe’ and ‘fascist’ directed either at my or my comments. Why does everyone seek to be offended? It’s the users problem if they choose to use unpleasant words about me. And, I can always block them if I want to. Job done.

          • The ain issue I have with the words I quoted is that they are used unthinkingly, and usually inaccurately. Most people described as “fascist” by their opponents are not, in fact, fascist, and most of those described as homophobes are not homophobic. And “libtard” is just a meaningless playground insult.

            I have no problems with a well-crafted and apposite insult, and where strong language accurately describes its subject then it can be validly used. But lazy and thoughless deployment of cliched insults is not conducive to constructive debate.

            Filtering out such terms, if nothing else, does at least force their users to think about what they are saying. And if they can’t come up with a more original and intelligent contribution then, well, that’s their loss, and nobody else’s.

          • Anton

            But why should “lazy and thoughtless deployment of cliched insults” be subject to censorship?

          • I’d actually include “censorship” in my flagged words list as well, because anyone using it to complain about the words list clearly doesn’t understand what it means and is, therefore, guilty of lazy and thoughtless deployment of cliched insults. 🙂

          • Anton

            In that case Mark, I *** ***** ******** **** ***!

    • Inspector General

      When is ad hominem not.

      This man regularly has his comments on BBC’s online whatever regularly deleted because he refers to Sturgeon, who heads up an overtly National Socialist party north of the border as ‘Eva Broon’. Yet others who refer to her as that proto dwarf wee Jimmy Krankie are not so troubled. And unlike Jimmy, Sturgeon is no laughing matter…

  • Maalaistollo

    Surely there are ways round these filters. For instance, I’m indebted to a commenter on the Mail for the information that Tim Farron is an anagram of two words, the first of which is ‘Minor’. If the reader is left to work out the other word, isn’t that a way of getting an ad hominem comment through?

    • Anton

      Raft, of course.

    • JohnInCambridge

      Ooh, is this one of those quizz things which, if I solve it, I’m super intelligent? Yawn, I knew that already.