Banned CommentsToday, we did something that feels terribly wrong, but for good reason: we suspended the comment privileges of someone on the Dew for violating our published rules of civility.

Free speech and the right to disagree are held sacred here. So are honesty, transparency and civility. The commenter was warned numerous times, and for whatever reasons, refused to comply or even respond to our requests for dialog. In almost two years, we have never banned anyone else. You may have known him as “Bob Tetley,” “Francois Lipton,” or the most recent incarnation of  “Brenden.”

We allow commenters to use an alias to protect their privacy, but we require a valid email address, which remains hidden. Without a valid email, we have no way of determining whether the commenter is an individual or represents a group submitting spam comments to disrupt the conversation. For months we have put up with the excessively long comments, race baiting, duplicate content, off-topic messages, false claims and personal attacks. Ultimately, it was the deceit that forced the decision.

Your comment is invited. This is your community.

  1. When a person is being abusive, it is appropriate for authority to step in and call a halt. That’s because abusers aim to injure. So, a target of abuse engaging in self-defense not only risks additional injury but provides evidence to the abuser, and anyone else that’s paying attention, that he’s hit the mark. It’s the latter, IMHO, that’s particularly to be avoided because being an impotent witness to abuse is intimidating.

  2. Frank Povah

    In the US as in Australia, it seems that those who demand their right of Free Speech and decry Political Correctness do so because they like to use them both as barricades from behind which they can launch the twin missiles of abuse and just plain rudeness.

    I am torn, I must admit, and of course I’ll never know what was the last straw Brenden added to the load already carried by this particular camel but, like Monica, when comment becomes malicious then calling a halt is justified.

  3. Anyone who has ever monitored a site for comments has booted people off. It used to bother me. At first I tried to explain to someone why they were being kicked off and all I got for my efforts was an argument and when I tried to reach out and explain I got scorn. Now I just kick them off and don’t bother trying to get dialog going.

    It particularly bothers me when someone is killed in an accident or dies an untimely death and the poster decides to capitalize on that particular story to vent about the police, the roads, the hospital, or why God is not a merciful God.

    Feel free to boot folks and don’t lose a minute of sleep over it!

  4. Darby Britto

    I enjoy a good debate. I enjoy hearing different points of view. I like having my thinking challenged. I do not like being treated without respect. When you can’t play fair, it is time to get kicked out of the sandbox. Well done!

  5. Alex Kearns

    I applaud both your hesitation to ban the commenter and your decision to do so. The immature, disruptive, petty and ignorant have the ability (if allowed free reign) to lower the tone of discourse and befoul the entire venture for, too often, they are motivated solely by the need to harass others. While disparate views are welcome, base comments serve no purpose and only dissuade others from engaging in open dialogue.

  6. After I first read this, this morning, I waited to see if there were any defenders of free speech. So far not one. All support the first amendment, just not for everyone as long as we have “good reason”. If we denied everyone speech because they were abusive, long winded or repetitive we would have to get rid of all of the talking heads on television and radio and most of the population. I may not like their tone but they do have a right to their opinion. I don’t like the church members who demonstrate at the funerals of military men and women that have died in service to our country but the supreme court upheld their right to do so. I don’t know Brenden nor do I care whether he is allowed to comment on this blog but I am concerned about principle here. If you don’t agree with someone’s view and you think they are lowering the tone then just ignore them. Is it not hypocrisy to defend free speech and defend censorship at the same time? You can’t have it both ways. It is your blog to do with as you wish; I just wish you had made a different choice. If you don’t like long comments then you can limit the number of characters.

    Brenden is the winner here for revealing everyone’s true colors.

    1. Lee Leslie

      Dave – In support of free speech, we have not removed the comments posted under these aliases.
      The original “Brenden” who posted up until the day health care reform was passed in the House, does not appear to be the same as the new “Brenden,” and we requested confirmation of the email address. We were seeking assurance and disclosure as to whether this commenter was doing so as an individual or was being paid to represent of a corporation or group. We offered anonymity and were as ignored. Further, this commenter had used two other aliases on our site – one was identified by our filters (a national database) as a frequent spammer; the other, was one who had been making personal attacks on writers, etc. All to say, we invite free speech, but free speech comes with some responsibilities. That, and when you are a guest in our house, you should display good manners, or not expect to be invited back.

    2. First of all, the Constitution is addressed to the behavior of our agents of government, who are prohibited from infringing speech, the press and establishments of religion. Mostly, since the enumeration of prohibitions is out of sync with the rest of the document, these prohibitions were likely included because it is better for the agents of government to know who’s upset with them than not. Secret cabals are a threat to good order and the welfare of the whole.
      That said, the standard of behavior that’s set for our agents of government in no way applies to individuals of private corporate enterprise. Which is, of course, why agents of government, chafing under the prohibitions, keep trying to suborn private corporations to do their dirty work for them.
      In this instance, we might do well to recall the parable of the householder who brought in strangers from the highways and byways to serve as guests at his daughter’s wedding. One who refused to don the proper wedding garb was summarily thrown out. Guests are not entitled to be rude.

      1. Gosh, Monica, we agree on something. 8-)

  7. Well said Farmer Dave and Frank you came close but not quite an American yet. For the rest I repete my statement that you will not ever be accused of verbal impotence.

  8. You did a responsible thing. Lose no sleep over it. Sounds to me as if he abused his free speech privilige and now must suffer the consequences.

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