Mailvox: Pro-privacy

Lowkey asks about anonymous commenting:

I was wondering if you had a response to Dennis Prager’s most recent column, given that you do host a poltical discussion blog that remains relatively civil without any way of identifying most of the participants.

The key word there being “relatively”, of course. I think Prager is wildly and utterly wrong in every way, as there is no reasonable way to enforce identities – I quite enjoy net registrations since I regard them as mandatory exercises in creative fiction – and I dislike how registration tends to significantly stifle debate. So, I think his idea is impractical, pointless and ultimately self-defeating.

I don’t mind the occasional drive-by commenter, as it’s easy enough to nuke comments from those who get out of hand, while even the craziest people occasionally have something positive to add to the conversation. Many bloggers have asked me why this blog gets more comments than blogs with 10x the readership and the answer is an easy one: I don’t play thought police.

The rules here are simple. Keep the vulgarity within reasonable norms, be civil to Spacebunny, don’t cross-comment and don’t evade direct questions posed to you. You can accuse me of whatever you want, but you’d better be able to back it up with evidence.

Too many bloggers buy into the idea that they are somehow responsible for whatever their commenters happen to write. I don’t, as it makes no sense. The spectrum here is too broad for me to possibly agree with everything that’s written, much less be responsible for it. Yes, sometimes there is ugliness and vapidness and downright idiocy, but there is also the occasional insight, wisdom and brilliance. I don’t think you can have the latter without risking the former.

Prager’s opinion may lie in the fact that he’s fundamentally a radio performer, not a writer. I suspect that he likes to talk at people somewhat more than he likes to engage with them. A writer, on the other hand, always absorbs more input than he produces output. And even morons can serve a purpose. While I find some of my critics personally annoying, I still appreciate them, as even the most irritating moron can help me refine my thinking or at least demonstrate how I may have to clarify things in order for it to make sense to the average, clueless individual.