Wednesday, December 08, 2021

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Blog Closed to Comments

 by Michael C. Dorf

From its inception, DoL has received occasional obnoxious comments. For a while, the comments section was even overwhelmed by spam from "spellcasters." Nonetheless, for nearly all of the now more than 15 years this blog has been in existence, we have received mostly thoughtful engaging comments. Often they disagreed with either the main point or a supporting point that I or one of my co-bloggers made in the original post, but they usually did so respectfully. Some combination of shaming, ignoring, and appealing to commenters' better angels sufficed to rein in those commenters who were sometimes less respectful.

Alas, of late we have been flooded by contributions from refractory pseudonymous and anonymous commenters mixing some combination of gross mischaracterization or misunderstanding of the main post, insult, and meandering long-windedness about tangents that bear little or no recognizable connection to the main post. Sometimes one finds the hint of a legitimate objection, criticism, or point somewhere amidst the vitriol, but it usually requires effort to locate. Most of these comments have come from what we might deem the Trumpified right (in both style and, when there is any, substance), although occasionally they come from the left or even from somewhere wholly outside any identifiable place on even a multidimensional political spectrum.

It is not worth my time or the time of my co-bloggers to take seriously whatever kernels of legitimate criticism or commentary emanate from the pseudonymous and anonymous commenters. Nor do I wish to continue to offer them a platform for what is little more than graffiti defacing my blog. I have no power to stop the now-erstwhile commenters from ranting to their friends on Facebook, Parler, or wherever else they exist in cyberspace, and even if I did, I wouldn't exercise it, because I believe in free speech. Henceforth, however, Dorf on Law will not have a comments section.

I reached this decision reluctantly, because we continue to receive thoughtful comments (both supportive and critical) from various other readers, but without active moderation of the sort I don't want to undertake, I cannot block individual trolls. The comments section has become what economists call a "market for lemons."

Going forward, I encourage those readers who want to engage respectfully to subscribe to the Facebook page for the blog, where you can post comments of any length, and/or to subscribe to my Twitter feed, as well as those of Profs Buchanan, Colb, Segall, Tokson, and other occasional bloggers. I post links to all blog posts on both the FB page and my own Twitter feed. Not that I need to say it, but I reserve the right to block particular abusers on these other platforms.