The weeder is supremely needed if the Garden of the Muses is to persist as a garden. - Ezra Pound
Some people seem completely unable to grasp that the public and private spheres are different things, and that what is permissible in one might be wholly inappropriate in the other. As in so many other cases, the Spinach Analogy applies here: though I find spinach revolting and would never cook or eat it, I would oppose any law to ban others from enjoying it. It is wrong for a government or other powerful entity (e.g. a university) to ban free speech, but that doesn’t mean that I or any other individual have to allow books, movies, television shows or even topics of conversation we find offensive in our own homes. It is not censorship to say “I won’t allow such-and-such in a space I control”; it only becomes censorship when some powerful entity tries to prevent anyone from accessing that material in their own spaces. For me to refuse certain comments on this blog isn’t censorship, because I cannot stop (and wouldn’t if I could) the would-be commenter from posting elsewhere, or my readers from reading things that repulse me. In other words, please feel free to insult me or criticize me anywhere on the internet you like, but you’re a moron if you think I’m going to give you the space and audience with which to do it; you can dig holes and strew rubbish in your own yard, but not mine.
That having been said, anyone who’s been reading me for a while knows that I actually don’t refuse very many non-spam comments; on average it rarely rises above one per month. However, as my blog has become more popular the number seems to be increasing, and since April has been closer to one per week. I honestly don’t want to block anyone, but as Pound pointed out weeds must be weeded. So even though I covered this topic already in “House Rules” (conveniently linked in “A Few References” at right) I thought I’d elaborate a bit for the few who still don’t get it. I don’t believe for one moment this will actually have any effect on such people because they tend to blunder obliviously through life with all the civilized concern and preternatural grace of the idiomatic male bovine in a porcelain emporium; however, it may amuse the rest of you.
First, let’s synopsize the house rules:
1) This is my blog and I am the only authority on what goes into it.
2) Anyone who introduces himself for the first time with an insulting, dishonest or trollish post will not ever make it to the board unless I choose to feature and ridicule it.
3) Remember Brandy’s mantra: “I will behave on Maggie’s blog, I will behave on Maggie’s blog, I will behave on Maggie’s blog…”
4) Organic thread-wandering is welcome and enriches the site; repeatedly hijacking threads to promote an agenda which has nothing to do with mine is incredibly rude. The phrase “get your own blog” comes to mind.
5) Everyone’s long-winded sometimes, but if most of your replies are longer than the column to which they’re attached, you might consider the advice in #4.
If your comments always appear soon after you submit them (possibly a bit longer if you include a bunch of links because WordPress automatically shunts those to moderation), you probably have nothing to worry about. If some of your comments appear but others never do, it means I have you on permanent moderation so you might want to contemplate which of these rules you’re breaking. But if you’re a new poster who can’t quite comprehend rule #2 above, here’s a handy-dandy lesson in how to make absolutely sure none of your comments ever see the light of day.
Preach at me.
This is the most certain strategy, hands down. I don’t just mean religious preaching (like the guy who recently tried to attach SEVEN column-length comments about the Whore of Babylon to my “Harlots of the Bible” post); any dogmatic, absolutist screed relying entirely on appeal to authority will do (including excerpts from the “philosophy” of any of the women who are quoted in my column of one year ago today). This technique is especially effective if it incorporates the second method:
Insult me in a trite, tinned and/or completely inapplicable manner.
As regular readers already know, I actually don’t mind insults as long as they’re interesting, fresh and (above all) true. My all-time favorite comment anyone ever made about me was an insult: “She definitely won’t use two words where six will do.” Another favorite: “Sometimes she sounds like a teenage Rand on pot.” But there’s a good chance your comment is headed straight for the bin if you tell me I’m going to Hell, or call me “immature”, “stupid” or (best of all) “pseudo-intellectual”, or state that I “always” commit such-and-such logical fallacy that I actually never commit. Which brings us to…
Demonstrate that you’ve never actually read my blog, and you’re just here to troll.
The most common means of implementing this technique is to state that I don’t allow criticism or that all of my readers are sycophants who never disagree with me; this is particularly egregious because I doubt one could scan three comment threads at random without encountering an example of a reader disagreeing with me, sometimes quite vociferously. Another good one is misstating my positions in a way that indicates total ignorance rather than simple misunderstanding, such as ascribing “-isms” to me that are completely belied by my repeatedly stated beliefs (such as calling me “racist” or “anti-trans”); the best version of this is claiming I’m “homophobic” or “whorephobic” even though I am in fact a bisexual whore. That also borders on the next tactic:
Call me a liar or otherwise impugn my moral character.
You can disagree with me all day, tell me you think I’m wrong, produce facts that prove me wrong, or even say that you don’t think I’ve thought whatever-it-is out. And it’s a given that some people may have personal objections to my stated moral positions (such as the principle that harlotry is a positive social good or the idea that people have the absolute right to own and control their own bodies). But if you’re going to claim that I don’t actually believe what I say I believe, or that I’ve somehow misrepresented the facts to promote a nefarious agenda, I refuse to give you more time than it takes to click “trash” because it’s impossible to prove a negative. Claims that events as I’ve reported them (or my reactions to those events) are deliberately falsified fall into this category, but claims that the falsification is unintentional fall into the next:
Tell me I’m wrong about my own experiences.
Anyone who seriously proposes that a complete stranger is more qualified to interpret my own experiences than I am, or who insists that I’m a victim of “patriarchal brainwashing” or “false consciousness”, or that I just don’t remember things that must have happened to me – and all on the basis of something she read on a website or learned in her “womyn’s studies” class – needs professional help, and soon. But since I’m not qualified to give that (and it’s highly doubtful that such a person would accept it from me anyhow), the kindest thing I can do is to refuse to humor her delusions. Some examples of this are cloaked in the last method:
Pretend to be more knowledgeable in my subject than I am without offering any proof whatsoever.
Really, this brings us around to the first one again, except that the appeal to authority is either personal (“I’ve worked with hundreds of human trafficking victims”) or diffuse (“Everybody knows that…”) and completely unsupported by any kind of evidence, study, professional consensus or even experience of any sex worker I’ve ever talked to. This one is particularly offensive when combined with either of the two previous tactics: “No, you’re wrong/lying: NO woman enters sex work voluntarily, there’s ALWAYS some kind of coercion or emotional/mental issue. I don’t have to prove it because it’s obvious.”
If some of y’all still aren’t convinced that blocking any comments is right, consider what my comment threads would eventually look like if the above tactics became common here.