The comment thread on my recent article titled “A Ghoulish Sense of Humor” blew up to over 1100 comments. As usual, when this happens, many of the comments are not substantive…i.e., they do not add anything to the discussion except anger and confrontation. Often, the anger is provoked by a few trolls who come here, not for a serious exchange of ideas, but just to raise hell and sabotage the discussion. Many of us (including yours truly) allow ourselves to be provoked into endless insult contests…which is exactly what the trolls are trying to do, of course. Occasionally, their antics become so outrageous that they are banned. But the general philosophy on this blog is that we should tolerate their antics, and allow them to demonstrate what fools they are. But when anger prevails, an objective observer would have a hard time distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys. That’s our fault, of course. We enable them with our angry responses.
I decided to quantify the problem by going through the comments and judging their merit…not the arguments themselves, but whether they are intended to contribute to worthwhile discussion, or are just garbage. But who decides what is garbage and what isn’t? Just because an idea is demonstrably wrong doesn’t mean it is not worth discussing. Refuting the error is definitely worthwhile.
So…what criteria did I use to decide? Ad hominem attacks are first on the list. Religious preaching, racism, and other forms of bigotry, are next. And finally, comments that are polite on their surface, but are clearly designed to provoke anger. We have several trolls who are very good at the latter. They can shut down good discussions with just a couple posts that trigger many of our regular commenters.
It would be nice if we could all just ignore this noise, but that does not seem to be how human nature works. So here is your scorecard, folks. I offer it without comment. Look at your numbers and decide if you want to improve them in the future.
And finally, a few caveats: This was a really tedious job, and it took a long time. As I worked on it, more comments came in, and occasionally Patheos would rearrange the ordering, and it was impossible to be sure I hadn’t missed some, or double-counted some. So I do not claim that the numbers are accurate, but I think they represent a large enough sample to make my point.
So what point am I trying to make? I think we need to find a way to limit the garbage in our comment threads. We do not want an echo chamber, but what we have is ridiculous, and many of you have noted that in your comments.
So, look at the numbers and tell us how you think we should deal with this.
|Another Male (pka Georgia Sam)||2||1|
|Cozmo the Magician||1||1|
|James A. North||2||2|
|Jim E Jones||11||10|