Thursday 4 February 2016

Don't debate the dishonest - Maxims for bloggers

Don't publish comments from, or debate with, the dishonest (and where somebody is dishonest is a thing you will need to judge for yourself).

The dishonest have an agenda, a reason for commenting - and they are using your blog to propagate it.

What is the point of a traditional Christian blog publishing comments that seeks to undermine and subvert its blog posts? What is the point of overwhelming the Christian blog posts with following comments that are anti-Christian - and pro some secular agenda that is nearly always secular Left, nearly always pro-sexual revolution?

That would be taking one step forward and two steps back.

You may believe that you are publishing comments to refute them - but that may not be how the exchange appears.

When a commenter is dishonest, and when his aim is destructive, he has a massive advantage in debate - He can raise problems and doubts more simply and easily than they can be dealt-with; he can ask questions faster than you can answer them (a short and easily-understood question often needs a long and involved answer that is difficult to follow and needs concentration to follow - hence your answer will - often - not be followed).

When a commenter is parroting mainstream mass media opinion, he also has the advantage that his view is backed-up by what people (usually unconsciously) regard as 'evidence' (i.e. 1001 things they have heard, seen or read, somewhere - they aren't sure where - and sort-of accept as presumably valid).

A dishonest and subversive commenter can destroy certainty, belief and hope much more readily than you can patch-them-up.

Don't give them space and airplay, don't give them attention, don't waste your time on them. It will do more harm than good.


Valkea said...

If I understood you correctly, you in essence said that precious values and information are vulnerable, and easily subverted by plausible sounding rationalizations, thus that kind of commenting is not free speech or giving a fair hearing, it is just drowning the free speech of the speaker. Hence free speech must be protected, or else it will not exist.

Because free debate and hearing the opponents views are important too, perhaps there should be politically fairly neutral free speech forums, where polite discussion of any topic is allowed? Neutrality is of course impossible, and the sites will curve to one side or the other and perhaps crowding out the other side, but we have to still try regularly.

The same sentence could be healing or subversive in different context. "In this universe man has mandates of ant" could be the first step in the journey to healing among crowd of people, who are on average too ego-centric and might incline to some extent toward narcissistic features. On the other hand, if that sentence is used among humble Christians, it is subversive.

Bruce Charlton said...

@V - I think so probably - but I find the concept of 'free speech' incoherent and unworkable and very subversible - much like the concept of Human Rights.

Rich said...

Very good advice and thank you for keeping the comments section around here so tidy. It is a joy and keeps me coming back.

Leo said...


You are spot on in saying that internet comments should be heavily screened so as to not allow the purpose of a blog to be subverted. The dangers of unedited comments are multiple. The volume of comments from critics can drown out the intended message (blog swarming). The comments can degenerate into name calling. The thread can be taken in irrelevant directions, purposely or accidentally.

On the other hand, it can be useful to solicit critical, but civil, comments if you are looking to explore a topic for new viewpoints, especially on a subject where the issue is an open question in your mind. Debate can be a useful exercise. The internet, however, is not conducive to fair debate. Most forums are not.

It can also be useful to take apart a few critical comments. I know of one blog where comments are not allowed, but where an occasional “letter from a reader” is presented and then refuted. This is useful if the purpose of a blog is to educate readers on how to handle opposing arguments.

The First Amendment is good and valuable, but any good idea can be subverted, and, in our current environment, will be. The Berkeley Free Speech movement morphed over the years from its original sorry focus (promoting swear words) to something even worse, leftist-mandated speech codes.