A Kind of Policy on Comments at The Kindling
Yesterday I was configuring the settings for comments. The Kindling, at least initially, will be using a service called Disqus to manage the comments on the site. That may change. The important thing is not the tool.
The important thing is the purpose — the why.
Why have comments? Why allow comments? They often get nasty on the internet. People, especially when commenting anonymously, get intemperate, unjust, and uncharitable in what they write.
But the abuse of a thing does not negate its proper use. And the proper use of comments is to foster and to further a civil discussion of the subject written about in the post.
Civil discussion is difficult to conduct and to maintain. But a difficult good — a bonum arduum — is the object of that virtue called hope. And I have hope that a group of good-willed Catholics and their good-willed readers (whether Catholic or not) can carry on civil discussions in the comment boxes.
What of the ill-willed readers and commenters? What of the trolls?
As the Administrator of the site, I view myself as a host: I'm responsible for a space in which people share what's on their mind and others respond to what's been shared. The responses may be intensely critical and argumentative. That's fine.
But the moment the response breaks into abusiveness or foulness, the response is not fine. It will be excluded. And if it's habitual, the commenter will not be permitted to return for additional comment. Excluding foulness and abuse, while maintaining a forum for robust and often heated civil discussion, is the right and duty of the Administrator as host.
Personally, I fear no foulness or abusiveness from any contributor to The Kindling. Why? The Jubilee — the in-person party to be held every 6 months — is a built-in means for overcoming the tendency toward conversational viciousness that seems to stem from the anonymity and rapidity of the internet.
In other words, it's less likely that anyone will write something nasty if that person knows that he or she will see the recipient of the nastiness in a few months' time. I don't say that it's infallible; only that it's likely to work in the majority of cases. And again: I have nothing to fear from the contributors. They are friends and friends of friends.
If there are to be foul and abusive comments, I anticipate that they will come from the outside: from Mordor, where the shadows lie. But the men and women of Gondor stand ready to resist the foulness of the trolls, and to fight fairly for fellowship and good order on the internet.
There's a host of good men and women at The Kindling who will help maintain the high standards of civil conversation.
On the same day that I published this, I decided to abandon Disqus as a comment system and to stick with Squarespace's native comment system.
I should also add a comment policy that's in my head and that I failed to express clearly:
Writers at The Kindling are completely free to ignore comments on their posts. They are under no obligation to respond.