Sunday, December 27, 2009

Allowing Coments: To Let, or Not To Let; That Is the Question

When I first started this blog some seven weeks ago, I struggled with the question, "Should I allow feedback in the form of reader commentary -- or not?"

For those who might not routinely read readers' comments sometimes allowed at blogs, news stories, columns, etc., let me explain.

Sometimes, I learn as much or more from what readers say about a particular topic than I did from the original story. But much more often, discussion threads -- the string of comments following a story -- are overwhelmed by people who fall into one, several, or -- may the gods help us -- all these catagories (in no particular order):

     (1.) Unwilling or unable to use logic.
     (2.) Unwilling or unable even to entertain another reader's logic.
     (3.) Has a particular agenda to push -- and does so even when it has nothing to do with the story.
     (4.) Is rude to another reader or other readers, resorting to name-calling and the like.
     (5.) Is rude to or about third parties.
     (6.) Refuses to stay on-topic -- i.e., to talk about the story at hand.
     (7.) Posts an commercial advertisement. ("Make YOUR boobs bigger today!")

Well, you get the idea.

Some topics seem to lend themselves to these sorts of abuses than others. Here's a partial list of examples of such topics:

- Where was President Obama born?
- Is President Obama an American citizen?
- What is President Obama's religion?
- "Renditions": are they legal or illegal?
- Who's responsible for the exploding U.S. national debt?
- What should our view of China be, and what should our relationship with it be?
- What is the nature of Islam?
- What should we do about illegal immigration in the U.S.? (Works with other countries, too.)
- Should we have public health care?
- What is the nature of climate change?
- What should the goals of our [U.S.] space program be?

Anyone who hasn't been isolated deep in a cave the past year or two will be at least somewhat aware that discussions centered on these topics (and any that equally excite passions and debate) often get out of control and become the verbal equivalent of what military folks call "total war": completely destroy "the enemy, by any means possible, with no quarter shown."

Perhaps my own personal most "unfavorite" approach is when someone simply refuses to use reason in his argument, or refuses to acknowledge the reason in another person's argument, or, worse still, both. I remember one time I spent about a week gathering a ton of data, including links to the sources (which were from all over the world and included public and private organizations) to refute another reader's completely illogical assertions on a certain topic. After I posted it, the person whose argument I was refuting responded something like this: "I'm not going to bother looking at all that junk. Obviously, you agree with them -- and if they support you, then they're fools, liars, or both."

Back to my conundrum: Should I allow comments -- or should I not?

My natural inclinations are biased towards free speech, despite the concerns I have about some people abusing that freedom, people who apparently don't grasp the plot when it comes to understanding that with freedom come responsibilities.

Therefore, I'm going to open up *this* entry -- only, for now -- and ask, "What do you think? Should I open all my blog entries to feedback and cross-discussion between and among readers?"

I've not advertised this blog at all, so I may not get a single reply. Will just have to wait and see.

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