On courtesy and flame wars

One of the things that makes CSPT at least somewhat different from many — if not most — political blogs is our de facto, if not de jure, free speech policy. From the Comments and Registration policy:

We appreciate any comments you may have on the articles on Common Sense Political Thought, and encourage participation. We reserve the right to delete offensive comments, but do not define critical as offensive. Since 2005, I have censored exactly one non-spam comment, when someone tried to use this site to “out” a supposedly closeted homosexual politician; even there, I simply redacted the name of the politician. I have edited a few other comments, usually to insert paragraph breaks when the author did not include them and they were too difficult to read without them, and a couple of really bad spellling errors. :) But I don’t edit reader comment content in any other fashion.

Outright libel will be deleted, as will spam and spam links.

That’s actually a bit old: I’ve edited a few other comments since then, to address formatting problems and, on occasion, to insert youtube videos linked by the commenter.

Unlike sites from Pandagon to Patterico — both sites with significantly greater readership than CSPT — I have never banned anyone, and it is my intention never to do so. I do not wish to censor either comments or people, and, for that reason, I would rather waste the additional bandwidth (which hasn’t actually cost me any money yet!) to maintain comments which are off-topic or repetitive or even conspiracy-theorist stuff than to delete them.

However, we have developed something here that I really, really dislike, and something which has led to personal complaining e-mails to me, from more than one person and from both sides of the political spectrum: we have developed a flame war in many of the comments sections, in which partisans from both sides have said some rather unsavory things about each other. There have been things which could be considered threats, there has been profane language, and there have been characterizations of people which just shouldn’t be made. One of our formerly frequent main article authors has left us because of the personal nature of some of the opposed comments.

One thing is obvious: some of the authors and commenters here just flat don’t like, and don’t have respect for, some of the other authors and commenters. OK, that’s fine: people cannot be compelled to like or respect each other. But I would ask people here to be more courteous than they have been.

Winston Churchill was a great man for being able to insult someone else with cunning and humor.

Mr. Attlee is a very modest man. Indeed he has a lot to be modest about.

Now that is funny!

When I was a teenager — yes, I really was younger once — I used to read Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. Because of the Comics Code Authority, Sgt Fury couldn’t bawl out his men using the words a real sergeant would use. I do remember one line where he called someone a dad-blasted, chicken-scratchin’, flea-bitten, dog-leggin’, joy-ridin’, pickle-pickin’, pink-eyed son of a bob-tailed hyena. (Yeah, I just had to memorize that one!)

So, my request is this: if you absolutely have to insult someone, try to be creative and not profane about it. I want to throw some water on the flame wars going on in here.


  1. I really appreciate that you avoid banning commenters and that you give the latitude you do. With that, for the most part I’ve stopped commenting much because there seems to be far less interest in healthy debate and discussion, and more insistence about pushing a narrative, no matter how it’s challenged, and, about convincing others one is right. could this be gender thing as this is predominantly a male-commenting site??? Can this be attributed to alpha males/testosterone/dominance??

    I still carefully read all of the posts and comments (with accompanying eye rolls at some of the more ridiculous and absurd) because the posts are generally sharp and the commenters smart. It just takes a lot of energy to enter the fray.

    I do however draw the line at the nutty Truthers, though. Enough already. Please.

  2. OD, for my excuse I give you my heritage. I’m Irish, Indian (feather), Mexican and Nation of Texas (which is a blend of the aforementioned and others). That means I’m an angry drunk but too lazy to do anything about it. 😛

  3. JH, my comment re gender was tongue in cheek but some people, given their predisposition and/or inherited flaws, are simply unable to resist!

    ropelight – there’s a distinction????!!!

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