As most of y’all know, I have a double standard in trying to foster civility on this blog — I allow people who use their real names on their comments greater leeway in their comments. Although there are things that go too far even to allow named commenters to say.
The overall goal is to create a welcoming space where we can have lively discussions of public affairs, without the ad hominem attacks that discourage many thoughtful people from participating in blogs.
Several of my real-name commenters complained that I wasn’t being strict enough with the anonymous folks — allowing them to bait everyone and get discussions off course. I’ll accept service on that. (My only defense, or explanation, is that in deleting all the way worse comments from those same anonymous folks, I sort of get desensitized, so that something that seems over the boundaries to you seems mild by comparison to me. Also, all those years of getting nasty comments aimed at me via mail, phone and other means sort of built up my calluses to where it’s a little harder to offend me than it is many other folks.)
Michael Rodgers suggested a new standard:
If you wish to continue to have anonymous commenters, I suggest you actually implement your policy by requiring the following two things from every anonymous commenter:
(1) Every comment must be on topic.
(2) No comment may be about other people’s personal or professional life, except if such comment is respectful and on point.
That sounded worth trying to me. (But I should add, Michael, that in a perfect world I wouldn’t allow anonymity at all, but I reluctantly concluded years ago that I’d be eliminating a lot of thoughtful, good-faith commenters if I didn’t.)
Then, Kathryn Fenner added a codicil:
How about no personal remarks of any kind towards identified people by unidentified people? Seems fair to me.
So I’ve decided to try those suggestions, and see how it works out.
Everyone should consider this their official notice. I realize that not everyone will see it, as people engage the blog different ways. But for a time, I will also email anyone who inadvertently runs afoul of the new policy — assuming I have a valid email address for that person.
Yours in fostering constructive conversations…