I’d say, all things considered, Ann Althouse runs my favorite blog. The former University of Wisconsin law prof who insists that she is “fiercely” non-partisan has a much broader range of topics on her eponymous site, many of them quirky, but she shadows ethics and legal ethics related stories that are Ethics Alarms fodder, and her commenters have become very similar in perspective to the commenters here. Her reactions to the Trump years and the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck were usually very similar to mine, so obviously she is fair, objective, and perceptive. I keep sending links her way even though she resolutely refused to give Ethics Alarms a link before she eliminated links entirely, and it appears her weird obsession with drawing cartoon rats has finally abated.
But this morning, the blogger announced that she was unhappy with her readers’ comments, which she lightly moderates, and ran a poll to get feedback as she apparently considers eliminating them altogether. I don’t know what Ann dings, but the comments I see only includes a few that Ethics Alarms wouldn’t post. The vast majority of readers polled voted for either her current moderation standards to remains as they are, or for her to moderate everything but block very little. (I voted with 14% for “Comments must go through moderation, and Althouse selects the most readable for publication.” None of the choices mirrored my approach, which is to moderate initial comments strictly and give leeway to veteran commenters while suspending or banning those who violate the Comment Policies.
Althouse is apparently upset with commenter criticism. In response to the comments on her poll, she responded in a series of comments (Althouse, unlike me, seldom enters the commenting ranks on her own posts):
What is it that you are getting from the comments? I have a vision for this blog, and if the commenters are doing something inconsistent with what I mean it to be, then what is my motivation to provide this place for you? I am forced to moderate because of spam and very destructive trolls. But aside from that, I am unhappy with commenters who jump right in and shit on the post and let it be known that they think I ought to have opened a discussion on the latest killing in the news. I do want to focus on what I do, but some things about comments and moderation break up the rhythm and the mood of my time, and I only have so much time. Everything I have to do takes away from something else I could do. I read and write and then I have to go in and moderate comments. Or I write and then I look to see what’s happening in the comments and people are just shitting on the post. Why should that be my life? It is all on me. If there’s something I would like but I can’t handle it, then it’s something I can’t have. No one else can bring me what I want. I have to admit it is unachievable…. I think comments are best when they flow in real time, which is why I have them the way they are now, but I cannot keep up with the after-the-fact moderation. People are just not respectful enough of my time, and it’s just plain depressing.
I am providing conversation starters, but I am dismayed by commenters who don’t pick up the cues and just burden the thread with off-point material, hack political remarks, statements about their own lack of interest, and so forth.
If you don’t know what my vision for the blog is after all these years, well, why not try to understand? And if you just don’t feel like understanding, because the comments section is your playground or your favorite place to shit, then why should my place remain open? I do this for the intrinsic value to me, and I only want comments if I enjoy having comments. Right now there is good and bad, but it is tipping toward bad, and I have to make some decisions. I have limited time. I am unhappy with the way right-wing commenters have squatted here and made it unpleasant for other people. I don’t want to spend my time maintaining a safe space for right-wingers. I’m not even a conservative. I’m just someone who wanted the full range of discussion, but this is not happening. This is a relatively small group of right-wingers bent on owning the space and excluding others. I am not here for that….I have liked being a place, but I am also a human being. Read this thread. Do you see love? I have loved blogging, and I need to love what I am doing or it makes no sense for me to spend my time this way. Everything that detracts from MY loving it is a negative that I want to eliminate. What is it to me that YOU love it if what you love is access to a space where you do things alongside me, taking advantage of me, but not increasing MY enjoyment of the place? I am facilitating conversation, but that’s not all I’m doing, and I may need to cut the comments section lose, for the sake of my own liberation. This conversation here this morning is helping me decide. I am very close to cutting myself free from this heavy load and walking on alone….
I’ll do whatever I feel like. Sometimes when you read, you then think your own thoughts. Reading gets you started. You don’t need the writer to sledgehammer every last thought that will arise. You don’t need commenters to spell out the points the blogger has already given you the power to think on your own.
Responding to a commenter who wrote, “Some of the commenters really are rude and condescending, like telling Althouse what she shouldn’t read, or that the SNL clip wasn’t funny and SNL hasn’t been funny since the Coneheads, or the music video sucked, or “I nevah read Twitter blah blah” etc. It’s like criticizing the meal when someone else is paying,” the bloggress responded, “Exactly.”
- Wow. And I thought I was arrogant!
- “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”—Harry Truman
- Althouse seems to be annoyed that most of her commenters are conservatives, and that this is somehow a negative reflection on her. This has happened, I believe, is because she has been objective, and the left end of the political spectrum has thoroughly disgraced itself and abandoned both reason and ethics in an ideological fever. Atlthouse found herself defending President Trump much the way I did, and neither of us liked him or could be considered “supporters.” as we saw on Ethics Alarms, progressives increasinlt wanted to argue from emotion, bias or media talking points, and became increasingly obstructive to rational and objective analysis. Finally, they ran away. One should not have had to be a conservative to see that how the AUC was treating the Trump Presidency was destructive and wrong–indeed, Althouse herself demonstrated that, which is one reason I admire her. But she seems to think having conservatives agree with her falsely impugns her character, or something. I suspect this comes of living in Madison, Wisconsin.
- She needs to change blogging platforms. WordPress, for all its faults, allows me to OK a commenter and then all future comments by that reader automatically gets through moderation. In ten years, very few commenters have forced me to withdraw the privilege.
- Now she’s worried about time? She was blogging multiple posts daily while she was a full-time law professor. I see most blogs peter out when the blogger gets tired, even terrific blogs, like Popehat. It’s a grind.
- [Added] Althouse’s greatest weakness as a cultural observer is her relative ignorance of popular culture, which she seems to be proud of. Other than pop music, I would rank her as unacceptably culturally ignorant of TV, movies, and sports. If she is going to be sensitive to criticism of her random comments on popular culture, she needs to either educate herself—and she has a lot of catching up to do—or stop writing about what she doesn’t understand.
- If killing comments allow Althouse to enjoy blogging more and save time she would rather devote elsewhere, then she should kill comments. Here, on Ethics Alarms, the post-post discussion of the ethics issues is indispensable: this project was envisioned as a colloquy.
Besides, the comments here are much better than what Ann gets.