“Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance.” Thus begins the comment instruction for a finance blog, The Big Picture. (Hat tip to to Poynter’s Steve Myers, who wrote about The Big Picture comment instructions.) Since I moderate comments every morning (and often multiple times during the day), I really like these instructions:
“Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.” (The Big Picture)
Moderation means going through the comments submitted and deleting the frequent spam/advertising (buyviagrahere.com) and the less-frequent comments that fall outside our fairly liberal guidelines. In addition to banning spam and advertising, we exclude comments that are overtly racist, probably libelous, or personal attacks of the “I know him personally and he is a crook/liar/shoplifter/child abuser” variety.
The goal of our comment section is some kind of response to the article. “What a load of horse shit,” for example, doesn’t really respond to whatever the article said and is not a contribution to civil dialogue. “Lying pieces of scum” is also not going to make the cut. “X is yummy and a good kisser!” may or may not be true, but doesn’t contribute to discussion of a political campaign. And so on.
Reading the comments makes it clear we print a lot of comments that we disagree with. We do so in the interest of fostering dialogue and civic engagement. I’m not sure this always works. At times, comments seem downright nasty, not civil at all.
Over the years, we’ve struggled with the question of what rules to enforce (or not enforce) in the comment section. The Big Picture‘s rules are tempting, but we’ll still keep working with our own.