Our traffic has yet to subside to its normal levels, “normal” being what it was before the horrible events in Oslo on July 22. However, the numbers have abated to the point that Dymphna and I are once again willing to allow comments.
For the time being comments will be moderated — that is, they will require approval in advance by the blog’s owners. We have decided to do this based on the level of vitriol in some of the comments we have received in our email. It is the tenor of those messages which prompted us to resort to moderating public debate on our blog.
Thus we have settled on a revised set of guidelines. As our long-time readers and commenters know well, there are four general categories of rules; these remain in force. That is, comments must still be civil, temperate, on-topic, and show decorum. In the interests of clarity for newcomers to our comments section, the definitions of those terms have been tightened and clarified.
Below is a brief “reference-card” explanation of our expectations:
|1. Civil:||No name calling, insults, slurs, denigration of another’s intelligence, etc. are allowed. Valid arguments rely on reason rather than feeling. Characteristics of unacceptable responses include, but are not limited to: hostility of tone, reliance on insinuation, the employment of heavy sarcasm, condescension, or hectoring. The determination of the presence of any of these traits in a comment is at the sole discretion of this blog’s owners, as is the presence of logical fallacies.|
|2. Temperate:||No exhortations to commit violence, foment insurrection, start a revolution, etc. are allowed. Also impermissible are expressions of approval over the suffering or death of individuals or groups.|
|3. On-topic:||The news feed provides the sole venue for off-topic comments (obviously, no news items are off-topic in the news feed).|
|4. Decorum:||Parents of homeschoolers allow their older children to come here to further their education, and have requested that we maintain a PG-13 environment. Argue without resorting to foul language or explicit descriptions. Asterisks are not an acceptable way of making bad language palatable. If you cannot make your point without using profanity, obscenity, or scatology, do not post it here.|
The most important thing to remember about the rules is this: The determination of whether any comment is in compliance is at the sole discretion of this blog’s owners.
This may seem unfair, but there is a good reason for the tightening of our standards. We are now under close scrutiny by hostile observers who are eager to find a pretext for shutting this blog down.
The consequences of a mistake are different for commenters than they are for the blog’s owners. You, the irritated commenter, may suffer the inconvenience of having your comment fail to appear here and be forced to post it at another site, or have it go unread.
We, on the other hand, face the possible closure of Gates of Vienna if the language appearing on our site is inappropriate. When our choice is between irritating a would-be commenter or having our blog closed, it’s no contest.
Requiring blog comments to obey well-defined rules does not infringe on the free speech of commenters. To assert that we are “suppressing free speech” is a categorical error. Gates of Vienna is a private forum; it is not, and never will be, a public space. Anyone who disagrees with our limits is free to set up his own blog where he may hold forth to his heart’s content, applying his own rules to his commenters — or applying none at all. That indeed is where your liberty lies.
We have never permitted absolute freedom of expression within our forum, though learning this limit has come harder for some than for others. Our goal remains what it always was: to provide a space in which open and reasoned discussion may take place within clearly-defined parameters. Experience has proved that reasoned discussion is all but impossible without clear rules of discourse. Without the structure provided by our rules, what begins as unfettered “freedom” invariably ends as a free-for-all.
Not too many decades ago the standards outlined above would have been taken for granted and would not need to be made explicit. But we live in a degraded age. Common civility is no longer generally practiced. Rules of behavior, when they are acknowledged at all, are held in derision.
Resisting the tide of post-modernity may be difficult, but we will attempt it anyway.
Because of my workload Dymphna will be in charge of moderating the comments. Since her health doesn’t permit long sessions in front of the computer, there will be delays.
There will also be times when no comments appear at all. As we visit family and friends, or travel, no one will be available to “take your comment”. Given the mess we’ve been handed, this is the best we can do for the moment.