Politics and Comment Threads: You Should Read

Allow me to put on my “community manager and mallet owner” hat for a second:

Guys, I’m getting to the point where I’m dreading posting just about anything here because there is a small class of commenters for whom everything is fertile ground for politics, and an additional, overlapping class of people for whom any discussion of politics is an excuse to go full, foaming firehose in response, with a third and again overlapping group of people who have a hard time having a discussion with people of non-parallel political views without implying, usually sooner than later, that all those who hold views not their own enjoy frottage with infant monkeys and regularly set fire to the infirm. And it’s August of 2011, which means it’s only going to get worse over the next sixteen months at least.

It is tiring to feel like have to be on my toes in every comment thread, waiting for some person, either unintentionally or because they just can’t help themselves, to drop some political point which gives other people excuses to vent bile-spurting and likely derailing responses, which require me to go in and wrench the thread back onto the rails. Or to put it even more bluntly, it’s fucked up that I more than occasionally don’t want to post on my own blog, because it means I have to commit to dealing with some of you and your goddamned political hobby horses. This isn’t a right or left thing, since there are people here on both sides of that spectrum that do this here. It’s a “not everything has to fucking be about politics” thing.

There are ways that I can deal with this. The first is simply to turn off commenting. Other folks have done it — Toby Buckell did it, and is very happy with the results — but I don’t want to do it, nor am I seriously considering it, since I think comments add value to the site; they do for me, at least, and I know they do for others, too. I could also just ban the people I find I have to police the most, but I don’t want to do that either, because as much as they occasionally irritate me, when they actually are on topic I’m happy to have them about and adding to the discussion.

So I’m going with a third option, which is to note how I’ll be dealing with this stuff moving forward, and offering guidelines for people to consider.

How I’m going to deal with this stuff:

1. On threads whose posts are not explicitly about politics, if someone’s comment goes political I’m going to be a lot quicker on the mallet. It doesn’t mean any mention of politics in a non-political thread will be malleted; it does mean that if in my opinion that political-oriented comment is not directly and immediately on point, and free of unrelated cheap shots at [insert politician you hate], I’m not going to hesitate to whack it down. I will feel free to be expansive in my definition of “not directly and immediately on point.”

2. When I’ve allowed a political point to stand in a non-politics thread, if a person responding to it blasts out a screed that is not in its majority directly and obviously related to the point raised, down comes the mallet. I’ll either edit out what I consider cruft, or just boot the whole thing and tell the commenter to try again, this time with less unrelated froth.

3. In any political-related comment, I’m going to be very quick to mallet if I sense the commenter is attacking another commenter and not what the commenter is saying. Because almost none of you are twelve anymore — you know what, scratch that, since my daughter is twelve and even she knows better than that. None of you are eleven any more.

So how to avoid the mallet?

1. Before posting political content in a non-political comment thread, ask yourself: “Is this political comment actually necessary? Or at least directly and immediately relevant?” If the answer is “no” — and it very well may be –go ahead and stop. If you’re not sure, probably the safest route is to err on the side of not making me have to do the work.

2. In responding to a political comment in a non-political thread, ask yourself: “Is my response compact, polite and to the point?” If it’s not, go ahead and stop. If you’re not sure, again, the safest route is to err on the side of not making me judge for you.

3. If at any point I tell you (and others) to drop the discussion and/or take it into e-mail, do it. I leave a little leeway for cross-posting, but not much.

4. Above all: Remember that everything does not have to fucking be about politics. If you are one of those people for whom everything does have to be about politics, consider a hobby. And if you can’t not post about politics, keep them to the threads that are about politics here. There are many; they are not difficult to find, nor will they be in the future.

There; I have spoken. If you have questions or comments, you know what to do.

155 Comments on “Politics and Comment Threads: You Should Read”

  1. I’d like to raise the issue of the clear vote fraud in Florida. The record clearly shows that the Tilden camp was robbed of a fair win by Hayes and this shall not stand sir! It shall not stand!

    Too soon?

  2. “If you are one of those people for whom everything does have to be about politics, consider a hobby.” — John Scalzi

    I’m just saying, it’s a great quote.

  3. So, can we make this about home ploitics because my cat is running for emperor of the house again and I’m not too sure about his angle.

  4. Also, there is this thing called WordPress, and anyone who wants it to be All Politics All The Time can, like, start their own blog! And if it is good enough many people will flock there and discuss politics too!

  5. “Above all: Remember that everything does not have to fucking be about politics.”

    Can we have that tattooed on the forehead of the internet please?

  6. I don’t think I have ever posted a political post in any forum but, had I done so, I hope I would have applied your rules.
    Because, really, your rules: Rule!

  7. No comments yet?! Hard to believe!

    I manage a political e-list and we recently were put on moderation by the leadership (with me involuntarily moderating!). I was amazed how civil the dialogue became when they realized someone was watching! I only disapproved one post, sending it back for resubmission without the personal attacks. He never sent it back in.

  8. I’m glad you’re not banning comments altogether – although I don’t post often, this is one of very few places where I do read comments, and that’s thanks in large part to the hard work you’ve done in moderating. So yeah, thanks for the hard work and glad you’re going to keep at it for the time being at least, because I can only imagine it can be quite the pain in the tookus.

  9. Also: I’m completely burned out on discussing politics at all, if only for the fact that it is a complete waste of your time.

    No one is changing anybody else’s mind, particularly these days, so it’s just a bunch of people shouting past each other, without the colorful costumes and rockin’ theme songs that make pro wrestling so entertaining.

  10. “Too soon?”

    I think we need to get well out in front – I’m going to get on my hobby horse and use someone else’s blog space as my whine box over the 2044 elections. The Gorlaxx Party is destroying what of America they did not already destroy during the invasion! Why don’t people see the Nanr’hashta Party is at least willing to pay lip service to human, slikan and sentient lizard rights and our welfare? Humanely killing those too weak to work and allowing five whole minutes of remembrance is much more humane.

    The Gorlaxx are the party and species of “screw humanity, we’ve got ours”.

  11. I miss the days of informed, intelligent, respectful debate. But I do like the Internet, and the two appear to be mutually exclusive. I’m torn.

    Also, I have a general policy when it comes to things online: when it stops being fun and starts feeling like an obligation, I stop doing it. This applies to games, fora, blogs… I don’t know if Sir Scalzi has the same rule or not, but if you like reading this blog, you might want to keep that in mind.

  12. #3: “My cat is running for emperor of the house again…”

    You mean to seriously suggest that his position as Supreme Emperor of All He Surveys was ever in doubt?! Do you not understand the cat/human dynamic? *We* serve *them*! They are always in charge! Have you learned nothing from your (however many) years of cat ownership?


  13. Merus – You are an idiot! The Gloraxx party is the only party that can get the job done correctly. If you put the Nanr’hasta party in control we will be overrun when the next Juotorian attack comes in the spring. The leaders of the Gloraxx party have always kept us safe. Or at least those of us who are willing to collaborate with them.

  14. “GYOB” is a great rejoinder in theory, but is never acknowledged in practice. The nicest ones ignore it, then stop posting altogether when they realize that you’re binning all of their comments.

    What about disemvowelment?

  15. It’s so tempting to be a smartass and make a political comment here.

    Instead, I’ll say that I agree that I’m tired of the Internet as a place where the same people rehash the same five arguments for infinity. I have nothing but respect for anyone who decides to treat posts that insert the poster’s pet argument the same way they treat spam. Or, more to the point, trolling. Because even when you very sincerely believe that it’s helpful to mention your favorite nugget of political truth, you KNOW it’s just going to turn into the same lengthy argument, with everyone saying the same things we said the last fifty times we had the same argument.

    Maybe we should create a central web listing of ‘arguments we’ve already had,’ and then, instead of having them again, we can just link to it.

  16. @Jennifer #16 Sure. But he still goes through the paces to give us a false sense of worth. But, after a while you start to have doubts. I mean there can only be so many accidental deaths.


  17. You know, this is such a typical reactionary knee-jerk reaction that you are known for, and I won’t stand for it anymore!

    Is trolling for mallets allowed, btw?

  18. Good for you. I volunteer to whack each and every person who starts whining about “censorship”. This is not a democracy, this is someone’s freaking blog, STFU.

  19. Jason @ 13: Heck, all you need for that is a good group of friends (or at least people who respect each other), a couple of bottles of wine and a comfy sitting area without a television. Not that you can’t have great discussions online, but the anonymity can create real problems. If you invite someone to your hour and they decide to be a troll, you just don’t invite them the next time.

    I definitely agree with the “stop when it feels like work” policy. The internet can be great for getting really in depth about a particular interest, but sometimes you look up and realize you’re devoting ten hours a day to discussions over yarn, and your whole afternoon is ruined by that jackhole who’s always trying to hijack every thread and turn it into a discussion of why people who crochet shouldn’t be allowed on a knitting site. That’s when it’s time to switch gears.

  20. Hmm – I’ve never been malleted (yet! Nor mulleted, thankfully), but I have been guilty of the occasional snide remark in the political threads. I agree that it can get out of control – I will say that the spittle-flecking vitriol spewing seems to be considerably more rare here than on other sites (coughSlashdotcough). At any rate, I suspect it will be handy to have a post that can be referenced when it does happen.

    Regarding the Gloraxx vs. Nanr’hasta dispute: It will all come to naught when the impeccably groomed yogurt-powered super-intelligent badgers rise up against all humanity (and slikantude and sentient lizardry). BEWARE THE MUSTELIDS.

  21. Thank you for not turning off the comments, John. I’m sure moderating the screeds has to be a headache sometimes but I do like getting a chance to read your responses to what people write because it lets us see a little deeper into your political thoughts and beliefs beyond the original post.

  22. I just scanned through the comments of the last post, and I didn’t see things getting out of hand. Is that because the offending comments are already deleted? Or do I need to recalibrate my view of acceptable political comments?

    There is a saying in poker that if you’ve spent an hour at the poker table and don’t know who the fish is – you are the fish.
    (in this sense, fish = political a$$hole, and i was posting politics in the last thread and don’t want to be the fish)

  23. But…bu…bu…but, Johhhnnn…

    (Actually, thank you. I’ve been bothered by this for the last week or so.)

  24. Matthew in Austin:

    The comments in the last post were not the motivating ones in this case, especially as the last post was one where I explicitly encouraged people to post on a political topic.

  25. One of the things I’ve always loved about Fandom Wank is that if the commments (at FW itself, not at the offsite thread it’s observing) start to turn even a little flame-y, people crowd out the flame-y thread with positivity – often in the form of dessert recipes.

    @benwithalink #18 – I’m not a fan of disemvowelling. I’ve never had it done to me, but I shudder when I see it, even if it is deserved. It feels rude, in a way that even a cutting rejoinder or a smack with the banhammer wouldn’t. It’s the moderative (moderatorial?) equivalent of “I know you are, but what am I?”

  26. I’m with Erin @ 6: Therre are threads that I stop reading, even though I find the base subject matter interesting and many of the comments thought-provoking, when the vitual spittle starts flying.

    I really appreciate you not turning off the comments: they are generally interesting and amusing, and add to my overall enjoyment of your blog. And I enjoy reading political comments, especially those that may express views that are different from mine, that are considered and well stated. There don’t seem to be a lot of places, physical or virtual, where people can go to hear thoughful discussion of the positions, but that sort of discussion is so valuable. I enjoy being able to read those comments that stick to discussion mode rather than veering off into namecalling, “nanny nanny boo boo” mode.

  27. Seems even-handed and appropriate, O Mighty Mallet Wielder.

    Does that mean we’re going to have to call you “Thor” now? ;-)

  28. So, I’m building an online course with a discussion component. While discussing the necessity of a moderator for the forums, I used the phrase “Mallet of Loving Correction.” The tech geeks loved it. Mind if I use it during the course?

  29. Gregg@35: I think it’s safe to assume that the Mallet of Loving Correction comes back to John’s hand when he throws it (with or without gauntlets of power), and that the number of hit dice of lightning damage it does is considerable. So, yes!

  30. “Is trolling for mallets allowed, btw?”

    I propose a Malleting of the Month award, given to the best-deserving mallet troll. Winner gets a t-shirt: “I Was Lovingly Malleted by John Scalzi”.

  31. RevMatt @38 – those are cool solutions.

    Allow me to recommend the most evil – hellbanned:
    A hellbanned user is invisible to all other users, but crucially, not himself. From their perspective, they are participating normally in the community but nobody ever responds to them. They can no longer disrupt the community because they are effectively a ghost. It’s a clever way of enforcing the “don’t feed the troll” rule in the community. When nothing they post ever gets a response, a hellbanned user is likely to get bored or frustrated and leave.

    That is just mean!

  32. Something to think of before posting (courtesy of Craig Ferguson, he of the very late night/early morning show)

    Does this Need to be Said.
    Does this need to be said by You.
    Does this need to be said by you Right Now.

    I’m using these three tenants right now in my life working as a temp, and they’re kinda helping me get through.

    You’re welcome. :)

  33. What about explicit threads about politics, that people derail to talk about watermelons?

    Will the watermelons be hit with the ban hammer?

  34. But in all seriousness, I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every from of tyranny over the mind of man.

  35. Regarding all the nonsense about the 2044 election – Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos!

  36. Hear, hear! I’ve always been impressed by the quality of political debate on the Whatever (at least compared to the web fora I moderate!). Probably because the posting population is smaller, there’s only one or two active threads at a time, posters can’t start their own threads about the Political Crisis of the Week, and you’re free-er with the mallet than we are with the banhammer (as moderators selected for the role by our fellow moderators and confirmed by the site owner, we have to be ever vigilant against the insidious creep of injustice into our rulings. This means we have a whole subforum devoted to moderation matters and a formal appeals process, and we spend a lot of time fielding complaints along the lines of “OMG I wasnt trolling” when the complainant clearly /was/, knows he was, and thinks we’re idiots who’ll forget he was. As an Imperator rather than a Janitor Scalzi’s word is final and he doesn’t have to bother with all that).

    So yeah, I *completely* understand where you’re coming from with the problem of the politically frothy-mouthed; the next year is going to be wearying for the hammer-wielding classes.

  37. Only someone who’s as fascist and stupid as the love child of Sarah Palin and Nancy Pelosi could have posted this inanity.

  38. @52: ….

    There isn’t a facepalm big enough. THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

  39. Okay, so “frottage” most decidedly does NOT mean what I assumed it did. And I think I am confused……

  40. So I can’t post something like:

    “(Insert name of politician who pisses me off the most) is an idiot. Discuss.” ?

  41. But I heard that some commie Democrat said that “Man is by nature a political animal” …

    I think her name was Aristotle Onassis, who slept with one of Marilyn Monroe’s boy toys???

  42. @Brian #51 – Um, you sing songs about solving mysteries with a racially-balanced team of junior detectives?

  43. I think we should conscript people who don’t want the job, but would try to do a good job anyway, into government. That would cut down on a lot of the vitriol in professional politics and provide less caustic role models for us amateurs. So, toward that end:

    SCALZI in 2016!

    Matthew in Austin@42: vBulletin forum software already includes that feature. They call it “Tachy goes to Coventry.” (I have no idea why.) The more generic term is a “global ignore.”

  44. I am a political beast. I visit a dozen or more politically oriented web sites daily and actively participate in two or three. Most, even when I agree with many of the commenters there are an open sewer. I was amazed at how civil the recent discussion of the debt ceiling debate here was. I you for that John. It started to veer toward ugly a couple of times and you jumped right in. I wish we could have more of that around the blogoverse.

    I don’t know how you find the time for it but I want to say thanks – to you but also to the 99% of us here that can behave. I only ‘discovered’ you (via one of those political web sites) a few months ago but you are a daily stop now. I’d hate to think we could screw this up.

  45. I like Contented Reader’s idea (#19) about posting arguments we’ve already had, but we could go one step further. Number them and save a lot of typing:

    “You Democrats! #112!”
    “All the republicans want to do is #46.”
    “Obama can #14.”
    “Boehner’s just #227.” (Though I would hope the actual number doesn’t get that high)

  46. This is why I don’t post comments in political threads, just because things just spiral out of control. I don’t mind a rational debate, hey I’m open to learning new things and expanding my horizons, but those kinds of debates seem few and far between, not only here, but elsewhere on the interwebs.

  47. TNC has an open thread once in a while to help people let off their steam. This helps them be a lot more relevant in other threads. In general, people who post a lot on scalzi.com are unlikely to have the time to spend on a lot of other sites. Maybe, if you let them cool off in one thread, they won’t have don’t this in others.

    No guarantees it works and there is no alternative to good moderation, but maybe it’ll help. What do you think?

  48. John,

    I find your stance on comments to be refreshing and direct. Since you have kept SFWA on the straight and narrow with no intransigent debt and as obtuse a collection of personalities totally under control and loving it, I hereby nominate John Scalzi for President of the USA, running in the SFWA Party!

    Time for “None of the Above” to win it!

  49. Excellent. Few things are more irritating (interwebs-wise) than the gratuitous insertion of political beliefs into an otherwise non-political discussion.

  50. BeVibe@45,

    FYI, “tenants” isn’t the correct word to use in that context. You wanted to use “tenets” instead.

    A tenant is someone who lives in a particular location; “The tenant complained to her landlord about the clogged sink.”

    A tenet is a principle or belief. “One of the tenets held by physicians, and included in the Hippocratic Oath, is ‘do no harm.'”

    And just for good measure, a Tennant is an actor probably best known for playing the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who. “Well, it’s complicated … it involves a pair of matching timey-wimey balls and a wad of chewing gum. The gum is the key part.” [Sorry for linking to TV Tropes and killing everyone’s afternoon.]

  51. If you are one of those people for whom everything does have to be about politics, consider a hobby.

    How about volunteering for the political candidate of your choice, or running for local office? You know, something productive.

  52. “If you are one of those people for whom everything does have to be about politics, consider a hobby.” — John Scalzi

    I concur with a couple of other folks here. That is a great quote, and I am sharing it (with full attribution, of course).

  53. All requests and warnings noted, Scalzi, and thank you, seriously, thank you, for what you do and for continuing to allow your readers to participate in it. Your blog is one of my happy places nearly every day.

  54. Dan @65

    I hereby nominate John Scalzi for President of the USA, running in the SFWA Party

    The Spiralist Free World association? You’re going in for Spiralism now? I… never mind…

  55. With all the crap I seen you have to put up with in these comment threads, I think that, were I Catholic, I’d nominate you for sainthood. Hmm… The Epistles St. John the Barefoot to the Whateverites… it does have a certain ring to it. ;-)

    Seriously though, thanks for all that you do to keep at least one corner of the Internet sane.

  56. @#19: “Maybe we should create a central web listing of ‘arguments we’ve already had,’ and then, instead of having them again, we can just link to it.”

    I think we already have and it’s called Newsvine.

  57. #67 Steve – Thanks. I actually do know the correct spelling, and sincerely appreciate the correction.

    I think I was thinking about Tennant #3 when I was typing my entry (having watched one of his Doctor episodes last night), which means the word I was going for (#2) got mashed-up in a timey-wimey way. :)

  58. Is trolling for mallets allowed, btw?

    ChrisB@21, Trolling for Mallets is the name of my Bowling for Soup cover band.

    John, as always, you rock. I don’t get to read the comments on Whatever posts that often, but when I do they are usually high-quality and low-noise. I believe your measured tolerance, vigilance and mallet-wielding guidance help keep the discussions focused and relatively BS free. I hope you never become so frustrated that you stop posting or turn off comments.

    That said, I think somebody should make a FEAR THE MALLET t-shirt for John. Heck, I’d buy one.

  59. “There; I have spoken. If you have questions or comments, you know what to do.”

    Email you? Send more Mac-related manpurses? Dammit man, be specific!!

  60. Ohhh – “Fear The Mallet” shirts for WorldCon! I’m torn though – “Beware the Mustelids” would also make for a great shirt. Perhaps front and back?

  61. #61 by Jean Claude Nninin
    There is an old joke about a construction crew catching heck for telling lewd jokes on the job so they number all their jokes so they can just shout “417” and everyone would remember that joke & laugh. New guy starts so they give him the book of jokes & he spends the night memorizing them. Next day he figures he can get in good with the guys so he says “81!” Nobody laughs. Later he tries “633!” Again, no laughs. Finally he remembers the funniest joke in the book and shouts out that number – dead silence. He asks the foreman whats wrong. The foreman responds, “Son, some people just can’t tell a joke.”

  62. I’d be happy to confine discussions to matters having to do, even peripherally, with your books. Ultimately a more interesting, certainly less tiresome (as you point out) topic.

  63. holy… (need a non f bomb word quick) farking dingo kidneys….

    I just clicked through the Toby Buckell link and found out I’ve been playing monopoly wrong all these years. Seriously???? You can buy property on auction rather than having to land on it??? Everyone has been playing it wrong for years…. thats just messed up.

  64. A somewhat political comment:

    Who wants to see Scalzi take on Nehemiah Scudder? John, given the opportunity, where does “The Sound of His Wings” fall on your wish list?

  65. Thank you. I love your respondents most of the time except during the politics-bashing.
    BTW, Predators v. the Iowa Debate? Bwahahahahahah. Thank you, I needed the laugh.

    There are times when I wish we were like the French and confined our campaigning to the
    last 30 days before the election….

  66. Let me add my vote to those saying thank you for having well moderated comments here and imploring you to keep them open. There are a very few places I can stand to read/contribute to the comments and Whatever is one of them.

    We should just remember in these circumstances that you really can’t change anyone’s mind. Especially not on the internet.

  67. Well said, Mr. S. Best of success with the new policy. Sorry I won’t get to see you next week. I had plans on being present for the slide show, but life intervened in just the perfect way to make that impossible.

    (As for the “Scalzi ’16” campaigners: it’ll never work. Why would he volunteer to leave a job/life he loves for a job/life he’d hate?)

    Bob P
    Sparks, NV

  68. yes, it can get ugly around here. Political discussion here is sort of like walking into a Apple store (which seems to be a emotional experience to some) and trying to tell people you like pc’s and why after you just passed by signs posted stating that pc’s suck. It is rather pointless, unless your find perverse joy in it all.

  69. Bob Portnell@87: (As for the “Scalzi ’16″ campaigners: it’ll never work. Why would he volunteer to leave a job/life he loves for a job/life he’d hate?)

    That’s why I propose we draft our government officials. I know John would never go willingly.

  70. @#16 Jennifer

    Heh. Cats are outside creatures and are best when allowed to do what they do best… terrorize the local fauna and flora. Inside cats are Napoleans in disguise and must be dissuaded from their delusions of grandeur. ;-)

  71. Waht Meg @10 said. I really love the comments on Whatever. I enjoy them almost as much as I do the post to which they are appended.

  72. Thank you, thank you for your moderation attempts. I get so sick of people who can’t express an opinion without launching into a diatribe about socialist democrats or fascist republicans or whatever political evil is about to destroy the world that sometimes I could just scream!

    Even though I am retired and have lots of free time, this is the only blog I read regularly, and the only one on which I ever leave a comment. I fully support your moderation of what is, after all, YOUR blog.

    May I suggest an addition to your rules? When any spittle-flicker accuses you of censorship, that person gets banned for life.

    Re #45: The problem with those three questions is that the political fanatics who that most need the mallet will always answer “Yes, damnit!!” to all three. They can serve as an excellent guideline to rational people of course.

  73. Mr. Scalzi, you are so mean. I bet if we came over to your living room, you wouldn’t even let us start ranting about our causes du jour. CENSORSHIP SO CRUEL WHAT ABOUT THE FIRST AMENDMENT JAMES MADISON DIED TO GIVE ME THE RIGHT TO FLAP MY JAWS ON YOUR BLERG

    I don’t know what your stance is on videogames, but if Athena enjoys them, let me recommend “Presidents vs. Aliens” as a fun history game. I learned things about Chester Alan Arthur I had not previously known!

  74. Kathryne @77 >> Beware the Mustelids on the front and Fear The Mallet on the back. Add a big Whatever! and I’m in for ten, heck maybe twenty!

  75. NO NO NO NO NO. Scalzi can, under no circumstances, be elected President in 2016. I have seen the future and it is BAD. Here’s how it goes.

    1) Scalzi wins the Presidency (under a campaign of “Jesus Christ, don’t give me this job. No, really, I don’t want it. PLEASE DO NOT VOTE FOR ME. Why… WHY did you vote for me?!”) by Americans impressed at how much he does not want the job.

    2) They’re not the only ones; thanks to Pres. Scalvi’s benevolent leadership we are visited by all manner of alien species, which have been waiting until we’re finally smart enough to elect someone like him…

    3) Which brings the other aliens. Namely, the Gorlaxx and the Nanr’hashta of Merus’ comment @ 12. Who spend the next 28 years contentedly engulfing our planet in flames and eating us.

    Thanks, John. Thanks a lot.

  76. Before this post I new not what the word “frottage” meant or even that it existed. Frottage Mallets is my next band name. I’M GOING TO ROCK OUT WITH MY…oh, bet that would have crossed a line.

  77. Was the Mallet of Loving Correction what caused Michele Bachmann to have that deranged look in the Newsweek photo?

  78. Julia S. @ #93:
    Mr. Scalzi, you are so mean. I bet if we came over to your living room, you wouldn’t even let us start ranting about our causes du jour.

    I find myself wondering how many interest ranters would find their manners PDQ if the objects of their spleen were within arm’s (or a clenched fist’s) length? Not that I’m saying our host is prone to a knee in the nads as a mode of meatspace discourse, but there have been times I’ve been sorely tempted…

  79. RE: #95: I suspect President Scalzi would do reasonably well. But President Scalvi? I shudder at the thought.

  80. Well thought out, John. It’s too bad that you have to resort to stricker measures, however. Now, if only I could apply these rules to my home, things would be peaceful there once again.

  81. i do hope that if this doesn’t work, you will turn off commenting before ceasing to write political posts. i really find your political comments marvellously even-handed and just downright sane, and i would miss them a great deal if you stopped posting them.

  82. Having read this blog (occasionally) since at least 2008, I’ve noticed that “normal” threads generate anywhere from 40 to 90 comments, while a political thread is guaranteed to get 150+ to 250+ comments, often in a single day. I don’t even have to read the article or the headline, if I am scanning down and I see comments over 150 for the last two or three days, I know 99% of the time it’s politics.

    A few years back I’d have been all-in for a politics rumble. As I approach 40 I find I am just fatigued by the whole thing. Especially the “team sports” mentality which stipulates that whatever “they” are for, “we” must necessarily be against. IMHO that’s a big reason why the USA as a whole is in such a pickle at the current time. Not enough people making common-sense choices or expecting common-sense from government. Also, not enough people willing to sacrifice or put aside “small” hobby-horse issues in order to come together on bigger, more immediate matters.

    Anyway, good luck, JS, as I suspect it will take a few weeks of “stern reminding” on your part to bring the troupe over to the new mode.

  83. I’ve been malleted once in a long career of commenting, for referring to Ann Coulter as a “skank”. Perhaps I stepped over the line; perhaps, in light of later events, not. But it’s amazing how harsh you can be within the limits of ordinary civility: “My honorable and learned colleague” can precede a lot of indictment.

  84. Being late to this thread I’d simply note that for those of you for whom everything is political there is something called, wait for it, POLITICS. Get out there and do the hard work of winning society. This is speaking as a person who spent eight years associated with GOP politics before deciding that there was no place for themselves in GOP politics; yes, I was crummy mercenary, so shoot me.

  85. I liked to see this set of rules adopted to all conversations in general, possibly as an amendment to the US constitution. 2/3rd majority vote should not be hard to come by.

  86. John,

    I’m still allowed to believe that my opponents know deep down that my side is the good side and that they simply delight in doing evil, right?

  87. RE: Contented Reader at #19:

    “Thank you for entering the comment section of Whatever blog. Your comments may be malletted for quality control.

    “To enter a political comment from the left, press one;
    “To enter a political comment from the right, press two;
    “To discuss local politics, press three;
    “To discuss global politics, press four;
    “To enter a comment guaranteed to garner reactions for purposes of satisfying your ego or self-esteem [trolling], press five;
    “To enter a comment soliciting attention from the Mallet of Loving Correction, to prove the moderator has read your comment, press six;
    “For more options, press nine.”

  88. I’m impressed that my (lame) attempt at trolling was essentially ignored by the community. Hmm. perhaps I was hellbanned. If so, twas just.

  89. To those who suggest that people who think everything is political should actually get involved in politics – most of them are, its part of what makes them believe everything is political.

    I don’t happen to think everything is political I do believe politics is the key to the health and well being of this country. I have worked for various campaigns over 50 years, every level from city council to President of the US. I have voted for candidates from at least 3 different parties, I attend the precinct caucuses (which if you really want to have an impact on your party you need to do) every two years – and for each of the major parties at one time or another. It used to be rewarding but recently so much of the country has gone insane and no longer connected to reality in any meaningful way. I’d still recommend it if you want to make a difference.

  90. Amen to your post John. You have been far too nice at times in withholding the mallet.

    Once some time back you asked “Greg” and myself to “take it to email.” Fair enough, I thought at the time; then it hit me, I had no clue what Greg’s email might be, or he mine. Is “take it to email” another way of saying, “oh, just be quiet,” or is there some mechanism of which I am unaware that two commentators on a Whatever thread can begin to exchange emails?

    Just curious.

  91. Not that you need my approval or anything, but I highly approve. Let’s hope people realize that they’re making more work for you if they don’t comply, and that if they like this blog they shouldn’t try to make more work for you. OTOH after a very clear statement like this, anyone who still habitually and inappropriately vomits out screeds probably deserves to be banned permanently, albeit, as you say, with regret for their on-topic comments.

    As a great lady we both know once remarked “I’m so sorry that weasels have eaten your brain. But they have, and you’re banned.”

    Gary Willis 113: There are various ways of describing an email address so that a human can figure out what it is, but which are still devilishly hard for a program to scrape. Of course, you may not want everyone here to HAVE your email, but that’s a separate question.

  92. Thanks, John. Thanks, Xopher. I just wanted to be sure I was not clueless, as I often am on matters hightech, about some aspect of “off-site” email communication between commentators that every one else here knew about. Nor would I want everyone to have my email address, as it would be a pain deleting unsolicited messages. Life is too busy to get into the mallet wielding business everytime I opened up my inbox.

  93. This is a very good post, Mr. Scalzi. I’m quite political and I often find myself engrossed in your political posts, but I rarely comment. I used to the one of the first ones into the fray, but now I find a personal rule works well – If I have nothing new or original to add, I’m just contributing to the noise and likely, the contention.

    Occasionally I’ll throw in something I feel no one has addressed or an idea I think might clarify.

  94. Gary Willis@118: Email addresses from free services like Hotmail, Yahoo, and others are great to give out when you think you may be inundated with spam. I use a Yahoo address as spam bait when a web site requires registration. You can list that address publicly, make contact with someone, and then exchange real addresses privately. You don’t need to mallet the spam. Most services either catch it and sequester it automatically, or purge it after 30 days or so.

  95. @#115, Never mind that John hit 3 for 3 with that post, including 3HRs / 3RBIs. Hell, I’m what is considered a bleeding heart liberal commie fag around here in my home state and even I thought all three in that column were spot on. :-p ;-)

  96. *Wistful Sigh

    Oh, when will people learn that if they just agree with me and do everything I say that the world would be a wonderful place?

  97. I was totally distracted by the mental image of a triple Venn diagram visually comparing/contrasting the overlapping groups and how they see others.

  98. Above all: Remember that everything does not have to fucking be about US politics.

    Just a wee correction, in the interests of those of us who happen (for whichever reason – be it accident of birth, voluntary choice, cosmic karma, or just sheer lack of interest) to live outside the United States of America, and therefore get just a weenshy bit tired of seeing the entire internet go up in a massive elephant/donkey flavoured conflagration for approximately two years out of every four.

    (Seriously, back on Usenet, it was the eternal September; these days, it’s becoming the eternal US election…)

  99. I think that Heinlein did have sufficient opinions about various types of governments. Usually we get what we deserve.

    As for the current situation in the US my opinion is that both parties are equally guilty and they are just fighting about a piece of meat while a forest fire is approaching.

  100. You could lay down the Mallet of Loving Correction and turn over topicality/civility policing to the Mallard of Loving Correction.

    But I guess that would be to duck your responsiblilities.

  101. Megpie71:

    “Just a wee correction”

    It’s not a correction, however, it’s an unnecessary narrowing. People taking the opportunity to barge into any discussion with their political hobby horses are tiresome wherever they are located.

  102. Sorry to hear it’s tiring to police these threads, but I gotta say–for me at least, the “corrections” are often the main draw, at least for the contentious topics.

    In those long (and long-winded) threads, my routine is to quickly scroll through looking only for the colored Scalzi posts. If one is particularly lethal or amusing I then scroll up to see what led to the poor sucker getting whacked. I suspect I’m not alone in that behavior. So I hope the new policy doesn’t lead to less malleting, but rather to more frequent, more scathing, and most of all, more splattery malleting.

  103. John @ 129:

    Have you considered placing the usual suspects’ posts into the moderation queue where they won’t be posted without your approval?

  104. This is why I just plain avoid most topics about politics and religion. I know my views aren’t popular (and John, I disagree with a lot of things you say…good thing I love your books!), so rather than get into an argument, I just stay away. ‘Taint worth the effort.

  105. I’m completely burned out on discussing politics at all, if only for the fact that it is a complete waste of your time.

    No one is changing anybody else’s mind, particularly these days, so it’s just a bunch of people shouting past each other, without the colorful costumes and rockin’ theme songs that make pro wrestling so entertaining.

    “Just give it up, man,” he said. “This is an American controversy. None one ever gives up or admits they’re wrong.. It just keeps going until it’s time for the next argument.”


  106. Kevin Williams:

    I generally use the moderation queue for when people consistently don’t listen. People here don’t generally have that problem. They listen once they’re told something.

  107. Thank goodness, perhaps this will wrench the comments back to Android vs. iPhone where they belong!

  108. Solution: Add a webboard to your site. You can ghetto-ize the politics there and keep the comments for your posts clean and pristine.

  109. I am sad that you need to use your time wielding a mallet. Thanks for all the hard work that goes into connecting with us all even though sometimes some dopes follow us in here.

  110. It MUST be tiresome to see over and over again how unreasonable and immature people can be – it’s tiresome to read it only occasionally! I think your approach is very fair. Bottom line, it’s YOUR blog and for those of us who just enjoy reading it, your “hammer” decisions will have little or no impact. The others can just grow up.

    Or not. And in that case, go elsewhere to vent. I highly recommend throwing large heavy objects at a wall or door – boots are good. They don’t break, make a lot of noise and the physical effort required to throw them hard, takes some of the spit and vinegar out of a person. Ahhh. very satisfying.

  111. Good! Yay! Well said. So many internet discussions are spoiled for me not only by rampantly vicious rudeness, but, yes, indeed, also by someone suddenly insisting that the problem with Scooby Doo as a cartoon series is the clearly [insert here: political position you despise] bias of the program, or that the person whose bad driving almost killed you on the highway today was undoubtedly a [insert political persuasion here], or that lasagna is not worth eating because it was invented by a chef who was [insert political persuasion here].

  112. TNH, “Some things I know about moderating conversations in virtual space:

    “…3. You own the space. You host the conversation. You don’t own the community. Respect their needs. For instance, if you’re going away for a while, don’t shut down your comment area. Give them an open thread to play with, so they’ll still be there when you get back.”

    In the interview the two of you did in March 2010, there doesn’t seem to be a mention of open threads, and I notice that such threads are not very common here. What do you think about open threads at Whatever?

  113. CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, (repeats for several minutes)

    If I want a political fix, I can think of a lot of places to get it. I for one will be pleased to hear the wind in the wake of the Mallet of Loving Correction, and humbled, embarrassed, and penitent if I ever earn it.

    About the cat who is seeking the emperorship, I have only this to say: resistance is futile.

  114. I also want to say thank you very much for leaving the comments open and taking the time to keep them civil and on topic. I feel that I’ve learned so much from the different things people have to say, and from your reminders when things start drifting in undesirable directions. This is actually the only blog where I read the comments consistently; there is a world of difference between what I see here and what I see elsewhere.

  115. In re OP: If I had a vote, I’d vote yes. Since I do not have, need, nor deserve one, I’ll say ‘thank you’ instead.

  116. Gary, Greg, and anyone else ever wanting to actually take it to email – another solution for disposable email address is an email redirect from dot.tk. It’s far easier to use than a standalone account.

  117. (Seriously, back on Usenet, it was the eternal September; these days, it’s becoming the eternal US election…)

    If you live outside the US, count yourself lucky. About a year and a half before the actual election we start getting the first trickle of political attack ads. It becomes a roaring flood with about 6 months left to go, and 90% of the ads on TV are political ads during the last month of the election.

    I’d love to see ONE candidate who remembered the old kindergarten lesson “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” and abided by it, focusing on their policies and plans. If I did, I’d be strongly encouraged to vote for them.

  118. Sorry, my previous comment was in response to Megpie@125; I didn’t quite grok the cite option for

    and didn’t check. Bad me!

  119. I actually do set fire to the infirm. But only if they ask me to, and by serving spicy food. To each his or her own, man.

  120. Hi!
    Very interesting name by the forum whatever.scalzi.com

    In my opinion, you on a false way.

    The possession of unlimited power will make a despot of almost any man.


  121. There can be only one of three possible outcomes from the upcoming presidential election:
    1. The same old story.
    2. A different version of the same old story.
    3. Ron Paul