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Discussion About the Discussion

by Scott Brodbeck June 29, 2010 at 8:10 am 1,360 21 Comments

Let’s step back and take a quick breather. The past several days have gotten a little crazy on the comment sections. While I appreciate a vigorous discussion of the day’s stories, I think we need to be clear about what is and is not appropriate conduct here.

Here’s what is appropriate: Discussion of the article. Passionately arguing a relevant point. Criticizing companies, government entities or other organizations.

Here’s what’s not appropriate: Name calling. Personal attacks. Racist, homophobic, or other hate speech. Saying, without clear evidence, that someone is “cheating” in a contest. Political discussions not related to the article.

At least 95% of what has been posted to the site is perfectly appropriate. To those who have been commenting respectfully and driving the discussion — thank you. I hope you keep it up.

However, as someone who hoped this site would be a venue for a smart but respectful debate of community issues, it has been distressing to see a few inappropriate comments poisoning otherwise enlightening discussions.

Here’s a message one anonymous tipster sent to us today:

Be nice if you cleaned up the discussion on the Flatbread article. Referring to people as “dumb libs”, “hipster d-bags” isn’t appropriate. Some people may need to be taught to disagree without name calling, and objectifying others. The demeaning nature of the discussion makes me very happy I don’t live in Arlington. I appears that in general you are not very nice people.

I agree with this person’s point about name calling, but I want to prove them wrong about Arlington. So here’s what we’re going to do:

  • We will press the delete button on any comment that falls under the “not appropriate” category.
  • We will issue a warning to anybody who violates the rules more than once.
  • If that warning is ignored, we will add you to the comment moderation list — meaning we’ll have to approve your comments before they are posted to the site.
  • Also, any racist or otherwise hateful speech will be rewarded with an automatic trip to comment moderation land.
  • If someone is really persistent with inappropriate comments, they will be banned.

Already, one commenter has been added to the moderation list.

To be sure, we don’t want to restrict your free speech. In fact, we like to see opposing viewpoints and the occasional crackpot theory. However, we have clearly reached a point where it’s necessary to step up enforcement of existing rules to make sure that ARLnow.com remains a place where everyone can feel free to join in on debates and make meaningful contributions to discussions.

  • Let’s Be Free

    A lot of words that hurt people’s feelings and make them upset, unfortunately, have more than a germ of truth to them. Things said that are not true are readily defended.

    My mother used to have me say,

    “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

    Again, and again, and again.

    In this PC world that we live in, it’s not even considered appropriate to debate anymore. We can only have “conversations”. What a crock, what a bunch of baloney. It’s an Orewellian swing.

    Since Arlington Now is crossing the divide into the PC camp, CYA, bye, bye. Enjoy the echos.

  • Mike

    Welcome to the wonderful world of moderating. I wish you all the luck ArlNow.

  • Tom

    Some moderation is always needed when there is an open and mostly anonymous forum. But, it is a fine line. I hope you will err to more expressive freedom rather than the opposite. The thing that bothers me more than the isolated colorful language or expression is the repetition of same over and over and over…

  • Skeptical

    Thanks for this. I’ve quite enjoyed following the respectful differences of opinion that this site has made possible about local issues. In some cases the conversation has brought information to light that I was glad to have, regardless of whether I agreed with the person(s) who posted it.

    The name calling and repetitive ax-grinding has done nothing but make me log off the site.

    I’m sorry, but that “sticks and stones” chant has been misused for decades, and I guess always will be, as a feeble self-vindication by people who enjoy calling names and generally clouding the air with verbal abuse. You can tell people why you think they are wrong about an issue without calling them this or that kind of -tard, or making overblown accusations that they are socialist, racist or whatever flavor of villain you prefer. In fact, if you can’t make an argument without these dreary refrains, you don’t have an argument.

    • EFC Supporter

      This time I wholeheartedly agree with Skeptical. While we sparred in our discussion of the EFC development plan, it was done in a way that was generally respectful. The flamers add nothing to the discussion of community issues and just turn people off. Many of the comments and discussions on Arlnow have been interesting and illuminating and Arlnow’s coverage and discussion is a breath of fresh air.
      Keep up the good work!

      • Skeptical

        Yes. The kind of conversation we had is exactly what a site like this is for.

        And sometimes the chronic flamers have mentioned a fact or consideration that deserved attention and I’ve missed it, because I get into the habit of skipping over posts by people who fume and flame with every comment they make.

  • alex

    I fully support this move – it’s not unreasonable to expect folks to debate and discuss issues without name calling and nastiness.

  • KateKirk

    Comments are opinions. We don’t all share the same ones, nor do all of us know all the facts or context before we post them. Someone’s different opinion doesn’t mean yours is wrong, or that they think you are a [blankety-blank] for having it. So none of us need to personally attack someone for having an opinion that differs from ours.

    Don’t let the anonymity of online posting make us forget the restraint, respect and common courtesy we’d show other people face-to-face(assuming we do) and then no one will have to worry about comment moderation somehow restricting an enthusiastic discussion of Arlington issues that clearly raise people’s passions.

  • Peter

    How long until someone from the Arlington County Attorney’s office or Police Dept subpoena you?

  • South Walter Reed

    Fully support this policy. Keep up the good work.

  • JR

    i support your policy. if people don’t know how to communication effectively – they don’t need to do it in public. it just like cussing… if you want to do it in the privacy of your own home, go for it… but i don’t need to hear you talk like that on the street.

    • Mike

      I’ll talk how I please in public, cussing or no. That being said ArlNow.com is private property so the owner can do whatever he damned well wants too.

      • JR

        well – foul language is actually a crime in many locales.. so we’ll see how that goes for you.

        • Mike

          I’d be curious to know where such locales are. In NY there is this moronic trend of people taking their kids to bars and then they have the nerve to tell people to watch their language.

          Lady, I’m just helping your brat expand his vocabulary.

          • JR

            ah – every state has obscenity laws… here’s Virginia’s

            The state of Virginia’s obscenity statute defines obscenity as:

            “… that which, considered as a whole, has as its dominant theme or purpose an appeal to the prurient interest in sex, that is, a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, excretory functions or products thereof or sadomasochistic abuse, and which goes substantially beyond customary limits of candor in description or representation of such matters and which, taken as a whole, does not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

          • Mike

            Not to belabor the point, but using George Carlin’s 7 words does not equate to a prurient interest in sex. For example, if it is used in a political context of something like “The CB can go (blank) themselves” shouted outside of the county offices.

          • JR

            dude – you just can’t admit you were wrong. get over it. not everyone can be right all the time. 🙂

          • Mike

            Why should I admit I’m wrong when I’m right?

            Profanity is not the same thing as obscenity. Since you seem to know how to use a search engine, why don’t you ed-ju-ma-cate yourself???

  • Dan

    Thanks, unmoderated anonymous discussions on the ‘net always degenerate to a point that makes the comments written on the walls of public toilettes seem to be profound by comparison.

  • Why do you hate freedom? 🙂

  • MB

    A belated thanks for this.

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