Monday, April 09, 2007

A call for blogosphere civility?

Fuck that, no fuckin' way!

Following the Kathy Sierra fiasco (commenters leaving death threats at Sierra's blog, and featuring threatening photoshopped pictures of her on their own blogs, etc.), the New York Times is running an article today about civility in the blogosphere.

A few bloggers have suggested the establishment of a sliding scale of acceptable behaviour standards for blogs -- I guess it would be something like "no comments", to "no anonymous comments", to "no comments with profanity", etc. Blogs would be labeled per their comment policy so readers would know if they're in a "read-only" situation or a knock-down, drag-out free-for-all of cursing and vitriol; anyone breaking a blog's comment policy could be summarily deleted (and maybe get their asses banned) without cries of free speech denial.

But wouldn't such rules just make blogs that much more like "the Mainstream Media"? Blogs are interesting because of the "no-holds-barred" nature of both the writing and commenting, and their constant changes in tone. Rules for the comments would have to be duly reflected in the way the blog was written; a blogger who adopts a "no comments with profanity" policy is hardly in a position to use profanity themselves. (As long as I'm writing about politics and current events, this is obviously an untenable situation for me: no way can I can keep at least a little profanity from sneaking in. Oh, okay -- a lot.) I can understand a blog having a "philosophical guideline" that informs the reader of what it's about, but I think elevating this to a universal system of "blog standards" would just result in a lot of boring blogs.

Sierra's experience was a real drag, but it's certainly not unique. I've seen loads of comments, especially on feminist blogs and particularly when the post is about some hot-button issue like abortion, that are sexist hateful misogynist garbage. The same with gay blogs and hateful homophobic garbage. But the truth is that most of the commenters who shit forth with this kind of excrement are pathetic wimps with unresolved issues of their own, the kind of people least likely to actually make good on a threat. If I really felt a commenter had crossed the line, I'd call their ISP. If it persisted and I felt threatened, I'd call the cops. But really, just banning the cretin's ass would probably solve the problem. There's no need to police blogs with enforced standards of conduct -- there's a new sheriff in town, it's name is Comment Moderation.