Ethics Dunce: Conservative Website “The American Thinker”


It’s not just progressives who shut down dissent.

The American Thinker, a conservative website that Ethics Alarms has referenced from time to time, announced that it is shutting down its comments section, a move quite a few political sites have taken in recent years. Then, the next day, it published a jaw-dropping justification (or something) that justified nothing. I’m posting the whole, awful, self-indicting thing, and interjecting my comments as it proceeds:

Yesterday, we announced that we are closing comments at American Thinker.  We immediately received a couple of hundred very unhappy, angry, and sometimes insulting emails about that decision.  Without divulging why we made that decision, here are a few points to ponder.

Without divulging why? What’s the big secret? Why the tease? Why write this whatever it is and not explain the reasoning for cutting off debate and feedback?

First, 90% of the assumptions in the emails were wrong.  This meant that a lot of people were theorizing in advance of their data.  America is currently deeply destabilized, and things are happening that most people can’t imagine.  Sometimes, those things hit close to home.

I don’t know what this is supposed to mean either. What is The American Thinker saying? That its posts are unclear? That its readers are idiots? That those who disagree with its authors are too biased and emotional for their opinions to count? These would be important questions to answer on the site if anyone could ask them…

Second, it’s lovely that many of you came here for the conversation in the comments.  To have the comments abruptly turned off was the equivalent of our breaking up your party, the great party at which all the guests were interesting and delightful.  We appreciate what an unpleasant shock and disappointment that was, and we hate to be the mean parent who broke up the party, but, again, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

What incredible, insulting, condescending crap! Why would anyone continue to read a website, blog or a relative’s emails that addressed him or her like this? If I didn’t smell an Ethics Dunce turd, I wouldn’t have finished reading myself, and I seldom read The American Thinker. I certainly won’t after this.

Third, this site is a labor of love for everyone involved, especially for its founder, Thomas Lifson.  If you imagine that he would ever authorize such a difficult decision when there were other choices to be made, well, you don’t know Thomas.  All of us who work here agree that the choice was binary: shut down the comments or shut down the site.  Or to use an analogy, amputate the limb or watch the patient die.  Looked at from that perspective, there really was no choice.

It won’t make the Ethics Alarms list because its so stupid that nobody uses it, but “It’s a labor of love” is silly rationalization for doing something that people find hurtful, inconvenient or offensive. As for the rest: you can’t say “we had to do it” without explaining why. It sounds like a lie (as in “horse shit”) to me; why would any website have to shut down comments or “die”? How about responsible moderating? Can we say “moderate”? Sure we can!

Fourth, we know that many of you have interesting opinions and amazing funds of knowledge.  The beauty of American Thinker, the thing that makes it unique, is that we’re not a newspaper with a stable of journalists we can call on.  Instead, we rely on voluntary submissions from people who want a reputable conservative platform.  If you want to make your opinion known, consider submitting an essay.  Our guidelines are here.

That’s changing the subject. A full essay isn’t a substitute for a comment: who are the editors kidding?

Fifth, if you’re really exploding with things to say, or you’re unable for whatever reason to get your articles published at American Thinker, maybe you’re the right person to start a blog.  With social media platforms excluding conservatives, the clock is turning back to a time when conservative content was on blogs — remember the Army of Pajama-Clad Davids?  Maybe this is your time.

Can you believe this? Or, write a book! Have you considered traveling to London and going to Speaker’s Corner! How about writing a play? The issue is not what other ways someone can express an opinion other than commenting on an American Thinker article, the issue is why the hell can’t readers comment on American Thinker articles?

Sixth, going into the future, American Thinker remains what it’s always been: a forum for conservative thinkers who want to contribute to the national conversation by offering information and ideas consistent with American principles: the Constitution, individual liberty, the free market, and the rule of law.

Finally, this noxious disgrace of a post ends with Rationalization #64, Yoo’s Excuse, or “It isn’t what it is!” The definition of forum is “a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.” If the site is banning all comments, it isn’t a forum, no matter how many times it insists it is.

Ethics Alarms is a forum. The American Thinker has revealed itself as cowardly, double-talking, arrogant, and an untrustworthy fraud.

4 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Conservative Website “The American Thinker”

  1. It’s interesting. Ten or so years ago, being able to comment on articles or blogs was relatively rare. It was actually a big part of my final communications project: Web 2.0 was a term coined in 1999 to describe where the coiner, Darcy DiNucci, thought the web was eventually going to go; From Web 1.0, which was more of an information dump, to Web 2.0 which was more participatory.

    In 1.0, the idea was that you had webpages hosted by individuals, with basically no user input; not only was there not any comment sections, but the companies wouldn’t have social media or alternative ways of interaction, half the time there wasn’t even a “contact us” tab with a phone number or address. That wasn’t ideal because webpage operators didn’t know what their customers thought; revenue for a lot of those pages was generated by adds along the sides (nothing like what we have now), and there were trackers for metrics like site traffic, but they couldn’t tell why pages were being viewed, by whom, or what they thought of it. Having user interaction methods allowed savvy operators to get a leg up on their competition by conforming more to their audiences tastes. This only works if 1) Your audience is honest with you. And 2) The “audience” you’re interacting with is actually your audience, as opposed to noise operators or hate-followers.

    Now, we’re on the edge of web 3.0, which is also being called the “Semantic” web. Direct response and interaction with users will not be necessary because AI will be able to determine what your browsing habits are, what you’re more likely to want to consume, and what is more likely to draw your eye than the relative voodoo of attempting to individually parse hundreds of interactions. Because comment sections will no longer provide a competitive edge to hosts, while leaving pages open to criticism based on the “toxicity” of their comment sections, you will start to see pages do away with comment sections, allowing those discussions to happen on platforms like Twitter.

  2. I don’t think it’s worth the effort/expense required to moderate comments when you’re at risk of de-platforming. In addition, the website publisher (Lifson) published a retraction of all criticisms of Dominion Voting Systems after being threatened by lawyers. There appears to be huge $$$ behind the election fraud and cover-up.

    AT did the smart thing. Remove comments (for the time being) and issue an obviously forced “apology” to the lawfare hostage-takers.

  3. Reading between the lines, it sounds like The American Thinker is trying to dodge what happened to Parler: getting completely frozen out by other entities with an anti-conservative mindset and the power to make a conservative platform disappear from the face of the Earth.

    I share Jack’s frustration with AT’s “justification (or something) that justified nothing” but I’m willing to wager that the real, honest answer is that there is some compelling reason preventing them from being open and candid about it, like some sort of ongoing legal action that they can’t discuss.

    Of course, all speculation on my part.


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