This morning, for the first time in approaching three years of blogging, I deleted a comment.
I had made it an informal personal policy not to delete other people’s comments, and initially I allowed this one, albeit with an immediate rejoinder attached. On reflection, however, I decided that it did cross a line, and so that I should not allow it to remain on a site that bears my name as owner and editor.
This got me thinking about what my new general policy on comments should be. I think I am conceiving of this space as something like a seminar which I am convening. There is very wide latitude for discussion, but there is an expectation of a certain tone and focus. So, the new comments policy looks like this, as best as I can express it:
1. Any and all views are allowed, and indeed encouraged.
2. All viewpoints should be expressed with civility and courtesy. In particular, personal attacks are not permitted.
3. Comments should be on-topic. Hijacking a thread to promote your own view of – well, anything – is not permitted.
4. Could you leave some sort of a name? It makes conversation so much easier if we can write ‘As Jill said…’
There have been 677 comments posted on this site since it began; prior to yesterday, I don’t think there was a single one of them that offended against this policy as I am envisioning it. I sincerely hope that it will be another three years and more before I have to consider deleting a comment again.
['What about free speech?' is the inevitable cry at this point. I am a Baptist, and my religious forebears knew what it was to be imprisoned - and worse - for daring to express their views, but 'freedom of speech' is not the issue; the Lordship of Christ is; more on this in a forthcoming post. Even if we take the modern demand for 'freedom of speech' seriously, however, your right to free expression of your views does not entail that I have a responsibility to offer you a platform for that expression. You can say what you like - if you want to say it online you can go here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or lots of other places to create your very own platform to say it - and I will fight for your right to freedom of expression if it is ever threatened or denied. You have no right at all, however, to barge into my living room, or my lecture theatre, or my pulpit, or onto my blog, and demand that I allow you to say your piece there. Sorry.]
Moderation: the WordPress default seems to be that the first comment from any email address requires moderation; any future comments do not. This seems reasonable to me, and even if it didn’t I wouldn’t know how to change it!