Here are the rules as they regard posting in comment threads.
This is not a democracy. As Sylvester Stallone said in that classic of futuristic jurisprudence, Judge Dread, — “I am the law!” (actually, Stallone says something like “Huhhhyeeehamdelaaaaaw!” But you know where I’m going). This is to say that I reserve all rights to edit and delete posts as I see fit. I am the sole arbiter of what is acceptable and what is not. There is no appeal. If’n you don’t like it, don’t post. Conversely, by posting here, you accept I have the right to edit and delete posts at my whim.
I don’t typically expect I will take a strong editorial hand to the comments, because I expect that most people of reasonable intelligence will be able to voice strong opinions in a fairly coherent and polite manner, and if they don’t, then their wild sputtering may at least have some entertainment value. However, the things that will typically rate an editing or a deletion include:
Overused and unoriginal profanity,
Phobic comments based on a person’s particular race, sex, orientation, etc,
Complete lack of relation between your comment and the topic at hand,
Astoundingly poor grammar and spelling — yes, really,
Or if I just find you obnoxious beyond mere words.
In some threads, I may decide a particular argument between two posters has gone on long enough. When that happens, I will tell the combatants to take it into e-mail. I expect them to do so, and if they don’t any further postings on the topic in question will be cheerfully deleted. I may also from time to time close comment threads because I come to the conclusion that the particular topic has already been worried to the bone and it’s time for people to move on. When that happens, please go about your lives.
Typically speaking, so long as people refrain from performing any of the above deletable offenses, I’m not going to stop people from tearing into each other (or me) if that’s what they want to do, because it’s amusing to watch people try to find new and inventive ways of belittling each other. I mean, it’d be nice if people responded to each other in a positive sense, but I’ve been online for the better part of a decade, which is long enough to know that people probably won’t bother. There’s something about not having to worry about someone actually being in front of you and able to punch you in the face that brings out the, shall we say, less inhibited side of people’s typing urges.
Thereby, I’m not going to go out of my way to try to stop them. That takes up too much time. Just try to keep things amusing for the rest of us. I’ll let you know when you get tiresome.
[Update, 9/9/06]: One thing I’m finding increasingly annoying, particularly in political threads, are trolls who pop up, make a bad rhetorical argument, and then declare victory when I or others choose not to engage them and/or point out their bad arguments are not worth responding to. I’ll give people some leeway to turn their bad arguments into good ones, but if I think the snark isn’t going to go anywhere, I may ask the poster not to post in that thread any more, and if he (it’s almost always a he) does, I may delete further posts in that thread from that commenter. Honestly, if you’re going to make an argument, make a good one. Note that “bad” and “good” in this case relates to the structure of the argument — I’m not at all likely to ask people to stop commenting simply because they disagree with me. I like disagreements. I especially like them when they’re well-argued.
I do go through the comments frequently and try to respond on a regular basis — not to every post, but to a fair number. I really enjoy good debate, sharp wits, sincere questions and a fun back-and-forth, even (and sometimes especially) with people who do not share my viewpoints. If you’re smart, civil, and engaging, I’ll probably like you, even if you and I cancel each other out in the voting booth. So bring it on — tell me I’m wrong. I don’t mind. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Having said that, people who want to score points off of me with their astounding wit and withering comments should be aware of the following salient point:
I don’t care what you think of me.
I cannot emphasize this point enough. I honestly, truly and sincerely could not give a runny crap in a bucket about your opinion of who I am, how I live my life, what you think of my opinions, etc. That being the case, trying to flame me is really a waste of your time. At best, I’ll grade you on your performance, since I enjoy a good flame (be aware that I have high standards in this area). At worse I’ll simply ignore you.
The fact is — and no offense — you’re just words on a screen to me. Therefore, your opinion of me is nothing I’ll spend a lot of time worrying about. I’ve learned over time that nothing enrages a flamer more than a casual disregard of his opinion about one’s self, so there’s also the added attraction for me of watching such people fume when I take them rather less seriously than they take themselves. So, if you really want to amuse me this way, by all means go right ahead.
That’s it for now. Enjoy posting!