Now that’s ironic. Like so many other publications and websites that prefer one-way communications of ideas, the official publication of the American Bar Association has announced that it will no longer allow readers to comment on its content. Yes, a profession that is all about rights and advocacy finds advocacy in response to legal opinion and analysis too inconvenient to deal with, and its readers free expression of ideas too burdensome to countenance.
The ABA Journal’s announcement was filled with disingenuous statements and half truths as bullet-pointed reasons for the move:
- “The tone of the comments has become rancorous and uncivil, with substantive commentary being drowned out by partisanship and namecalling that violate the ABA Code of Conduct.”
Wait: how does “partisanship and namecalling” in the comment section of a website “violate the ABA Code of Conduct?”
What an embarrassing claim: the ABA doesn’t understand its own Model Rules! The word “partisanship” doesn’t appear anywhere in the rules, and the argument is hilarious anyway, since the ABA itself, an allegedly non-partisan non-profit, is extremely partisan, as a brief perusal of the various public positions it has taken on matters that really should be none of their business would make obvious. (Guess which party! Come on, guess!) Extreme namecalling under certain circumstances during the practice of law may occasionally involve a sanctionable ethics breach for lawyers, but not for non-lawyers, retired lawyers and many other readers. The larger problem is this: the ABA Rules are just guidelines. They don’t officially apply to anybody, not even to ABA members. You can’t literally “violate” them, like they are rules or laws.
- “Our existing commenting system is vulnerable to trolls.”
Then fix your system, but only after defining “trolls.” It is often a lawyer’s job to make trouble, stir the pot, and create productive friction.
- “Moderating the comments has become an unsustainable burden on our staff.”
I guess the ABA Journal is incapable of running a website, then. Moderating comments, which as far as I can determine involves fewer comments per article than the typical Ethics Alarms post, cannot possibly be that difficult or time-consuming. It’s a staff-member, and not a highly paid one. This sounds like cover for a financial decision.
- “We have fielded a number of complaints from members about individual comments and the tone of the comments as a whole.””
Oh! Complaints! Well, we all know how much lawyers hate complaints! (Who wrote this?)
- “With our large social media presence, there are a number of platforms for readers to engage with and discuss our journalism.”
“Now, you folks can’t eat here, but there are some real nice places down the road a piece…”
I would write a searing comment about this, but the ABA Journal won’t allow it…