I hate rules and generally think they’re made to be broken. My comment policy, therefore, won’t be much of a policy at all — just a few general guidelines that I trust you readers will do your level best to observe.
Because I’ll refrain from defining the boundaries too precisely, each of you will have the privilege of interpreting them for him- or herself. As long you give the impression of trying, I’ll look indulgently on those posts where you’ve interpreted the guidelines differently than I’d have done. If, on the other hand, you seem simply to be winging it, I willl make sure your post never makes it through the filter. If you come off like a problem child, I’ll ban you.
The ban will be my sole disciplinary tool. If I were the type to lecture or put people in time out, I’d have had kids by now.
Profanity: I’m a big fan of Billingsgate — in moderation. By my estimation, I use two or three cuswords every five pieces. Since a piece of mine typically runs some 1,100 words that’s a dirty-word-to-clean-word ratio of about 3/5,500. I don’t expect you to be quite so fastidious, but do consider that not all of my readers are as edgy as you and I are.
Here are some words and uses I will break my own policy against policies by forbidding absolutely:
The c-word. Unless you and I have exchanged Facebook PMs, this is one word you’ll never have seen me write. It’s too crass even for e-mails. You don’t get to use it, either, not even in reference to someone who, in your judgment, has earned it, like a Democrat or a moderate Republican.
Racial epithets. Sorry, Mel Gibson. You’ll have to settle for hoping I’ll get raped by a pack of African Americans.
Non-literal, pejorative uses of “gay” and “retarded.” To tell you the truth, I feel like a bit of a PC Nazi for blacklisting these, but whatever. Some of my loyalest readers are gay; a few, I suspect, are retarded. They deserve to feel at home.
Anti-gay slurs. If you find the word “gay” too affirming, fine — use “homosexual” or “same-sex attracted.” It’ll be like calling Muhammad Ali “Cassius Clay.” If you insist, you may use “sodomite,” but be warned: you’ll sound prissier than hell. And do try to spell it better than the Marquess of Queensberry did.
Threats of violence against me or anyone else in the thread.
Threats of violence against any public figure. This includes violent fantasies, e.g. “I hope some patriotic American blows Obama’s head off,” “I hope the entire LCWR gets eaten by docile and orthodox piranhas.”
Profanity in directed speech. “What a shitty comments policy” is fine; “You, sir, are a shithead” is not.
“This is the worst blog I’ve ever read…” Bullshit. I can point you toward 50 blogs that are every bit as bad.
Beyond that, have fun, but bear in mind:
I have a thin skin and a despotic nature. If you want to hurt my feelings or ruin my day, you may well be able to do so. But if you give too much offense, I may just decide to ban you out of spite. If you think that’s a small price to pay for puncturing the ego of a very minor blogger, go for it.
Sarcasm makes you sound like Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.
I don’t debate my readers. Clarify? Sure. Banter? You bet. Flirt? Like a house on fire. But all that’s fun. Re-arguing a point I’ve just spent 900-2,000 words arguing is work. Making a habit of it would effectively reduce my hourly wage to nothing, which would make me hopping mad.
Give me a chance to grow on you. Chances are, I’ll write some things that will strike you as wrongheaded or even downright dangerous. Don’t add me to the enemies list right away, though. Sooner or later, you’ll probably find me taking your side. About half the things Elizabeth Scalia writes make me swallow my tongue. The other half make me swoon. That’s a good enough ratio for Lizzie to to retain me as a fan (although she certainly helped her case by plucking me from the reeds and giving me this blog).
I am highly receptive to flattery. Kissing my ass just a little bit every now and then will win you a lifelong friend, if not a slave.
I wear two hats: my pundit-and-cultural-critic hat, and my personal essayist hat. If I’m writing about a current event of general importance, feel free to take a hatchet to me; that’s what I’m here for. But if I’m writing in a confessional tone about my own life, dial it back a notch. You don’t have to pat me on the head, just don’t whack me with anything heavier than a Wiffle Ball bat.
Damn it, Jim, I’m a blogger, not a book agent. If you have some work you’d like me to review or promote, you’re welcome to ask, so long as you bear in mind I consider it a favor and not part of my job. Last fall, an author contacted me and asked me to review her self-published memoir. When I turned her down, she became argumentative. Her attitude reduced my interest in her career from slight to zero.
Let’s be friends! If you like my writing, look me up on social media. One of the few consolations of having a small readership is being able to get to know those readers personally. About 100 readers have friended me on Facebook, and some have become as close as the medium permits. My status updates are a hoot, if I do say so myself.