Comments policy, once again

By Phil Plait | December 30, 2007 12:20 pm

It seems that a couple of posts I’ve made in the past week dealing with political topics have really brought out the worst in some commenters. I deleted many comments or marked them as spam because they used bad language, were insulting, or were obvious trolls.

So I will repost my policy on comments. Maybe I should do this every week, since obviously as election time rolls around I’ll have to deal with people who simply cannot express themselves politely.

The commenting policy is posted below. Learn it. Love it. Listen to it, or you’ll be wasting your time commenting here.


I didn’t want to do this, I really didn’t, but my hand is forced.

For some reason, this past week, I have had to edit a comment every day because someone has used "bad" words in it. I like this blog to remain, if not kid-friendly, then young-adult friendly. That means getting it into schools and such, and that means I have to be a nanny.

So here is my policy for commenting here. It is neither complete nor unchangeable. But this will do for now.

1) Be polite.

That’s it. That’s my rule.

That should be easy, right? Don’t go attacking other people, don’t swear, don’t be a jerk.

I reserve the right to edit out strong language and such. I will also delete comments that go over the line, or try to sell a product, or because I feel like it. OK, I won’t do that last part. The point is, this is my blog, and if you are being a jerk in some way I will take action. That may sound rather vague. Too bad. There is no line in the sand that says Here be good, there be jerk.

Look, when you comment on a blog, it’s like you’re in that person’s house. Be polite. Flush the toilet when you’re done, or, better yet, don’t foul the place up in the first place.

Simple, right?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog

Comments (29)

  1. 1) Be polite.

    Screw you.

    (Hey, you set it up, Phil! :-P )

    .

  2. Christian X Burnham

    Maybe try putting a permanent link to your comment policy on the RHS of the blog-page.

  3. SLC

    I assume that most of these strongly worded comments came on the Ron Paul thread which was my observation. I hate to bring this to Dr. Plaits’ attention but Representative Paul brings out strong feelings both pro and con so that strongly worded comments are not unexpected. If Dr. Plait desires a namby pamby blog, I would suggest that he avoid controversial topics such as Representative Paul and stick to astronomy. By the way, if he thinks that Representative Paul brings out strongly worded comments, just post something about Israel and he will get comments that make the Paul comments look pretty tame.

  4. Is there a way to put a short “Policy Paragraph” in front of this “Leave a Reply” section that I’m currently typing in? That paragraph could point to a longer permanent page with the full text.

    jbs

  5. Tom

    Post on controversial topics, get controversial comments.

    Post on topics you’re emotional about and show that emotion, people will show emotion back.

    If only someone could have seen this coming…

  6. Michael Lonergan

    Sometimes you can attach a signature message to blogs, I’m a rookie at this so I’m just learning. Maybe someone with more experience can help.

  7. Jeez…. Next you’ll be telling us to put the seat up BEFORE we pee.

  8. bigjohn

    Coupla things: 1) I didn’t think Ron Paul had anything to do with this but since someone mentioned it I’d like to add that I was all for RP and even sent him some money until I found out that he has never read the Constitution. 2) Can I say ‘Oh. poopie!’?

  9. Mooney

    Funny thing about the “make a controversial post, expect controversial replies”…

    Phil seems to manage being controversial, confrontational, emotional, and firm in his stances without being a rude, insulting, foul-mouthed jerk about it all.

    Perhaps it’s too much to expect the commentators to be at least as controlled and conversational in their comments as the blogger is, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

  10. Stuart

    SLC, whilst I agree that controversial posts will encourage strongly worded comments, you are quite wrong to imply that sticking to astronomy will stop this type of response. Over the past four years my blog has kept strictly to astronomy topics and has still had a few strongly worded responses (or responses with bad language). Sometimes people just want to be abusive regardless of the subject matter.

  11. Mooney, you nailed it. That’s my point. I don’t mind if people are strongly emotional and make controversial points. In fact, >i>I encourage it. But only if it can be done politely. Make your point, but don’t call others names, don’t use bad language, and so on.

    I really cannot be any more clear on this.

  12. paul childs

    Well SLC cleared THAT up. It’s clearly your fault BA! Pointing out that Ron Paul’s views on science are, to put it politely, poorly informed, obviously calls for his supporters to post ‘controversial’ comments. The word controversial clearly being a common synonym for abusive, foul-mouthed and unflattering references to the BA’s politics, sexuality, family, apperance, and oh I don’t know, choice in neckties.

    One can only be glad that BA didn’t point out in reply that Ron Paul’s racist bona fides have been soundly endorsed by Bill White of the American National Socialist Workers Party (usually known as ‘Nazi’ party) because that wouldn’t be fair on BA’s part. True, but unfair:

    http://alternet.org/blogs/election08/71834/

  13. Nigel Depledge

    SLC said:
    ” I hate to bring this to Dr. Plaits’ attention but Representative Paul brings out strong feelings both pro and con so that strongly worded comments are not unexpected.”

    This is utter nonsense.

    If you (or anyone else) cannot express strong feelings without using foul or offensive or objectionable language, then it is up to you to learn a bit more about English. It is not up to Phil to avoid topics that might provoke a strong reaction.

    I would also refer you to this page:
    http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2007/07/15/politics-science-me-and-thee/

    It’s Phil’s blog, so it’s Phil’s rules. No-one is forcing anybody to read it.

  14. Dave Morton

    I think Godwin’s Law should apply too. Also anyone saying that this is an astronomy blog & shouldn’t discuss related topics should be laughed out of the discussion.

  15. Anonymous

    I dont normally comment on BAUT; though I am a regular contributor to Universe today.

    Phil, I was deeply offended by the follow-on antisemetic posts you allowed and nobody challenged, other than one poster who has withdrawn his membership.

    I have no problem with bitching about Bush but when one hears the barely disguised antisemetism creeping into the debate then you have failed in any political point you wanted to make because people like myself, a Jew in the scientific community; will just think you and your gang have some deep seated hatred towards Jews.

    That may not be the case but by allowing those comments to stand without challenge you encourage people to think the worst motives are involved.

    Politics has no place in science just as religion has no place in science. What goes on in the woirld may be very upsetting for you but to allow people to hijack a politcial conversation to make racist overtures is pretty deplorable.

    The US Israeli lobby is powerful though its not a secret society and is pretty open about the fact they are big supporters of Israel. Since WW2 Jews have made great efforts in whatever country they reside to make sure they have influence at the top political table. Do I have to explain the reasons for that? No I did not think so – we are all adults after all.

    Finally, I will remind you that Jews as a minority have contributed more to science and maths than any other minority or national group worldwide. A quick count of Nobels will confirm that fact. That means there are many Jews that are interested in sites such as BAUT and by allowing antisemetic slurs on your site you insult a reasonable proportion of your visitors.

  16. SLC

    RE Nigel Depledge

    Although I posted a number of comments on the Paul thread, I don’t believe that any of them could be considered strongly worded (unless, that is, Mr. Depledge considers referring to a commentor as a whackjob to be strongly worded). However, I quite agree that Dr. Plait has a perfect right to run his blog any way he wants. My only point is that Representative Paul is a man who generates strong emotions and commenting on him, either pro or con will bring out the worst in commentors. Unless Dr. Plait is planning to play policeman and keep a close watch on the threads, he can expect strongly worded comments if he posts on controversial topics. Considering that there were over 200 comments on the Paul thread, that seems like a rather time consuming activity. Or as Harry Truman once put it, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    Re Stuart

    I don’t believe that I have ever visited Mr. Stuarts’ blog so I can’t comment on the attitude of the commentators there. I must say that I find it hard to believe that commentors on an astronomy blog which only talks about astronomical topics would attract the type of controversy that a topic like Representative Paul or Israel does.

  17. BA — Understood. I apologize if I have been one of the transgressors. I’ll try to be careful about this in the future.

    -BPL

  18. Jens 'Spacejens' Rydholm

    Re: SLC

    Dr. Plait is apparently policing the comments, so I guess his stand is closer to “if you can’t take the heat, throw the hotheads out of your kitchen”.

    Re: …….. (everyone)

    I normally do not even read the comments around here, so I cannot comment on specifics (like the anonymous commenter before SLC did). However, I agree with Phil that there is absolutely no reason to be uncivil even if you disagree. There are other ways of arguing than by using insults and crude words.

    In fact, I tend to smile when I see people with opinions that I consider awful (for example, supporting creationism or suppressing science) lose their temper and prove themselves idiots to all who listen. To me, that just shows that they are socially incompetent as well.

  19. Gary Ansorge

    Anonymous:

    O Poo, I’m a jew, too(by genetics, not by choice,,,)

    For a tribe that has experienced so much suffering in their history, one would think a bit more compassion toward the disadvantaged (like the Palistinians) might be in vogue??? Or, maybe not,,,

    Strong emotion, like strong wine, must be indulged in small quantities.
    Moderation is still a virtue(except for DeadHeads,,,hee,hee!)

    Peace and keep up the good fight, Y’All,,,

    GAry 7

  20. Stuart

    OK, this is Stuart, but it’s a different Stuart to the Stuart that posted earlier. Now that we’ve cleared that up:

    One of my comments was deleted. Therefore, I know I’m one of the guys who got too heated and said something stupid. (Unlike some of you who are still unsure whether or not you offended.)

    The only way that I can regain my honour after disgracing myself so, is to commit sepp, err, I mean, apologise unreservedly to Dr Plait, and any and all of the other commenters that I offended. [hangs head in shame]

    I will now try to say something while being cool-headed, and minding my manners. However, I can’t promise that it won’t offend anyone. In fact, I know it will.

    To those who repeatedly claim that the comments here are a hot-bed of anti-Semitism: It’s possible that that some of the commenters here are, indeed, anti-Semitic, but I doubt it. Some of the comments may seem that way, if you’re easily offended, but try to read them with a more open mind.

    No, the Jewish community of the US does not control the US government. To say so would, in fact, reek of anti-Semitism.

    But I don’t think anyone actually made that claim here! What was implied was that the Jewish community has a disproportionate influence on US affairs. This claim is no more anti-Jewish than it is anti-Cuban to say that Cuban immigrants have a disproportionate influence in Florida politics. Nor is it anti-Christian to say that fundamentalist Christians have a hugely disproportionate influence on American domestic and foreign policy.

    Any one of these three claims may or may not be true. And it is true that many bigots will make such claims. But many non-bigots may make the same claims, if they feel the evidence warrants it.

    And as for the topic of Israel specifically: It is simply untrue, and maybe even outright dishonest, to keep claiming that any criticism of Israeli foreign policy is equivalent to anti-Semitic hate-speech.

    Once again, just because some bigots express their hatred by opposing Israel’s decisions, doesn’t mean that all who oppose it are bigots.

    One last example: My country, South Africa, was vilified for decades because of the repugnant policy of Apartheid. Our government was avowedly Christian at the time. Did opposition to apartheid equate to hatred of Christians? Of course not, to suppose so would be ludicrous!

    This seems to me such a simple exercise in logic that I am confounded that intelligent, educated people can’t see this. My only guess would be that emotion clouds their judgement.

    Or it could be like someone who has just had his house burgled, jumping at every creaking noise his house makes. Having suffered once, he’s become over-sensitive.

  21. Anonymous

    Gary,

    Jews are a pretty pluralistic bunch. I’m not religious myself and most genetic Jews i know in fact are not very religious.

    But it does not stop me from noticing antisemetic slurs which are often mixed up within the general foreign policy arguments. The claim that Israel drives US foreign policy such as Iraq is ridiculous and also is based on the old conpiracy myths propagated by antisemites.

    Bush and Cheney wanted to invade Iraq for various reasons that have nothing to do with Jews and Israel. The idea being pushed by some that the Jewish cabal has some sort of mind control over Bush is laughable. However it has an antisemetic root to it. The Nazis said the same thing in germany during the late 20′s. In that case the story was that the worldwide Jewry had sabotaged the post WW1 agreement and were now milking Germany for all their wealth.

    So when I see supposedly “liberal” individuals using the same scare tactics one has to wonder what they are up to.

    In fact I invite people to look at it from Israel’s point of view. Her close friendship with the US is as much a poisoned chalice. She is held out as the US sidekick and is hated by many Europeans now purely because the US supports her to such an extent. Arabs use the relationship to demean anything US as a Zionist plot and anything Jewish as US Necon plot.

    Stuart,

    “What was implied was that the Jewish community has a disproportionate influence on US affairs. This claim is no more anti-Jewish than it is anti-Cuban to say that Cuban immigrants have a disproportionate influence in Florida politics. Nor is it anti-Christian to say that fundamentalist Christians have a hugely disproportionate influence on American domestic and foreign policy.”

    The Jews are a disproportionate bunch. They happen to be more successful than other minorities. Thats the same all over the world and unfortunately drives much of antisemetism. But whats happening here is people are using the Israeli lobby to score petty politcial points about Bush and Cheney. Thats just cheap propagandising and using the old jewish conspiracy slur as a seed in order to reveal a supposed “conspiracy”.

    There is no historical worldwide tradition of discrminating against Christians and Cuban exiles in Florida, as there is with jews throughout history. I don’t think thats an accurate analogy.

  22. Seneca

    Yay Phil. How could there be a simpler set of guidelines for wide-open discussion?

    Civil debate is possible among people who differ in opinion. It is required of us if we are to benefit from sharing one another’s experiences and moving forward together.

    Those who have succumbed to arrogance will be constantly tempted to insult and belittle those with whom they disagree. Those who fear seeing their position defeated in a free exchange of ideas will try to sidetrack or even derail the discussion with red herrings. Those who have become so thoroughly demoralized that they have no hope will attempt to stir up personal animosities among those who do still care enough to struggle on the plane of ideas.

    Respect one another, and keep the tone civil. Sounds good to me.

  23. Stuart posts:

    [[What was implied was that the Jewish community has a disproportionate influence on US affairs. ]]

    You forgot to mention how they own the banks and the businesses.

  24. Oy.

    Dr. Phil did a great job with one rule. Focus on issues and not on personalities. It’s that simple.

  25. James Schend

    Wouldn’t a simpler solution be to keep this blog as an astronomy blog, and then create a new blog for your political/non astronomy posts? That’s the usual recommendation for problems like these.

  26. Mooney

    re: James Schendon
    “Wouldn’t a simpler solution be to keep this blog as an astronomy blog, and then create a new blog for your political/non astronomy posts? That’s the usual recommendation for problems like these.”

    How is that simpler than simply asking commentators to not be rude?

  27. Anonymous

    Barton,

    “You forgot to mention how they own the banks and the businesses.”

    Ya jews are relatively successful and no doubt hold a much higher proportion of wealth than non-Jews.

    So whats the problem? Maybe others should try to emulate Jewish success instead of looking at ways of handicapping them.

    Arguably the smartest phycist in human history is a jew. I dont hear anyone saying Jews hold too many top physics/maths positions.

    Funny how Jews are blamed for their wealth or political influence, but not for their great services to science and the arts.

    That contrast shows just how insane the Jew-baiters really are.

  28. Anonymous writes:

    [[“You forgot to mention how they own the banks and the businesses.”

    Ya jews are relatively successful and no doubt hold a much higher proportion of wealth than non-Jews. ]]

    I was being sarcastic…

  29. Anonymous

    With a name like Levenson I did wonder :-) That sounds like a Levi from Scandanavia – only kidding :-)

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