This week, we implemented new Community Guidelines intended to foster more intelligent and thoughtful discussion at TheNation.com. The new policy generated great responses from Nation readers (and some writers) eager to delve into the threads, but turned off by some of the trolling we’ve experienced lately.
We’ve implemented new guidelines because we want to host more discussion and debate in our comment threads. We think the best way to do that is to create a space where those turned off by name-calling and vitriol will feel comfortable participating. While heated disagreement and righteous anger (we understand that there’s a lot to be angry about) are welcome, we feel that just about any point can be made with a reasonable degree of civility. Trolls are boring. Ultimately, we want comment threads that are smart and interesting. Judging by the responses we received, our readers do, too.
Below are some of our favorite responses to our new policy from the website, Facebook and Twitter, along with a few other great comments from the week. Be sure to to use the comment threads below to add your own two cents.
@AmandaMarcotte:This is an excellent comment policy, and if all online magazines used it, I think things would be better.
Fuzzydice: Thank goodness. And before someone goes off the deep end about censorship, bear in mind that The Nation is not a government or government agency.
Katijah: Excellent. I’d actually stopped reading the comments here (though The Nation is one of my staples) because many of them were so ridiculous. It would be great if you could be like the New York Times, where sometimes the comments make for even better reading than the articles. I know many of your readers are extremely smart and articulate, but the comments sure haven’t reflected that.
D.D. Guttenplan: Thank you Nationistas. I’m sure there will be plenty of arguments in the comments—I look forward to wading in myself. Like katijah, I’ve been put off by the uncivil tone—and the way crackpot shouting has sometimes overwhelmed debate.
Stephen_Carver1: Saw the new guidelines on Facebook. Yay! Now, please let the conversations flow, even with those who disagree. If The Nation blogs just become about people who agree, it’ll get boring. But let’s keep it respectful folks.
Jedi_mindtrick: Sounds good at the outset. Here’s hoping the implementation is effective and agreeable to the vast majority of the readership.
P.S. I still have to wonder why a moderator action of "hiding comments"—viewable with a mouse-click—might not be employed so readers can judge the content for themselves, and I think it would also be beneficial to see the name of the moderator and the action taken show up on the screen in the interest of a minimal degree of openness.
David Harley: Being far more of a libertarian and far further to the left than most of the owners of American liberal talkboards, I have "suffered" all sorts of attacks and censorship.
It is not worth complaining. One can either tailor one’s comments to the audience, a normal rhetorical practice, or one can speak one’s mind, regardless of one’s political position. Complaining about being censored is completely stupid. FreeRepublic.com used to regularly censor anti-Bush conservatives.
If someone owns the website or controls the talkboard, be it liberal or conservative, there will always be people whose interventions are unwelcome, whether they are civil or not. Tolerant talkboards such as the NY Times, The Independent (London), and eventually The Guardian (London) have been closed down by American fanatics (of various sorts) mouthing off, especially about the Israel/Palestinian conflict.
Not only do talkboard owners have legal liabilities, they also have a relationship with the more civil users of their board. If the exercise of their responsibilities is seen as censorship, they have to live with that or close down.
In my experience, right-wing talkboards are far, far more intolerant than left-wing ones. Civil and thoughtful conservatives are tolerated on left-wing sites. They are not tolerated on right-wing sites.
DFW: Amen to this move. Comments where anyone who is not a die-hard rightist is a "liberal," and anyone who approves of a move Obama makes is a "socialist," and Obama himself is a Kenyan Muslim—these are just regurgitations of lines heard on Fox "News" or National Hate Radio. They are not only offensive (to anyone’s intelligence) and inaccurate. Worse yet, they are BOOOOORING.
Some other great comments:
Jessdrkn: Here’s the thing: when you read/hear "student" you think young. What about the invisible students, the non-traditional learners who return to school later in life? They have a lot more financial pressure considering many run their own households, but they seem to be ignored.
I found this in a 2010 USA Today story on non-traditional students:
"Three-fourths of today’s students no longer fit that traditional model. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, about half of today’s students are financially independent; 49% are enrolled part-time; 38% work full time; 27% have dependents of their own. Almost half — 12 million — attend two-year community colleges rather than four-year schools."
Student loan debt is such a waste. The high cost of education not only oppresses the future earnings of the young and older student, but it discourages outside skill enhancement for those who want to further a career. Student loan debt is a waste of mental energy on those who carry it and a drain on personal finances, especially in today’s job market. The drain is more acute when personal finances include raising children, commuting to a job and fighting off home foreclosure.
I don’t know why we all can’t unite to remove this barrier to social advancement in this country. It’s just astounding how inefficient this system has become.
In response to The Editors’ “End Student Debt!” May 2, 2012
concernedazvoter: I was a veteran teacher, 20 years at the same Title 1 public school in Phoenix, Arizona. I am NOT against evaluations of my instructional delivery. I am against using a single shot test at the end of the year as the sole measure of my instruction. Student growth year to year is a key component. In my last class of 33 students, I had 7 students with special needs. As I am also certified in special needs, I was happy to have them and differentiate their instruction to meet their needs. I am NOT happy that they have to take a grade level assessment when these students are clearly FAR below the expected grade level for many reasons. I had 2 students with severe behavioral needs show up 2 weeks before the standardized testing week. I had students taking tests that had no home to go to, or food to eat. Yes, these children deserve the best education and have every opportunity to succeed. However, these are all mitigating factors when taking a test. I could write volumes, but I won’t. I know for a fact that my colleagues want to do their job well, most of them anyway. But we are fighting the tide of "lack of." Lack of support from: administrators whose bottom line is a number on a page; parental involvement; political support and yes, sometimes public support. I know that teaching isn’t all about the money. After 20 years I figured that out. I love what I do and keep current with my professional development. But the lack of respect for what I and my brothers and sisters have to face every day is appalling. We really aren’t the scourge of society. I write that I was a veteran teacher in Arizona. I left to teach overseas. I want to come back one day, I really do.
In response to Dana Goldstein’s “What Teachers Want.” April 25, 2012