Recently, J.K. Rowling joined a Change.org petition urging the bookseller Amazon to do more to prevent bullying in their comments section. I appreciate that we are moving past the word troll to the more proper, accurate word bullying. I believe that starting hence forward, I'm going to stop calling people trolls. That's an insufficient euphemism for what's going on.
I am hardly a famous person. I make no great money off the internet, I have one book and a few minor game features that I have distributed, and yet somehow I am worthy of quite a lot of abuse. I don't believe that this is because of what I write, or who I am. I don't believe it is because I am a bad person. I think it's because I am not cowed, and I have not stopped writing.
Most every blogger I followed five years ago is gone; those that are still around retain a presence on-line, like Tom Tomorrow, but have largely ceased to blog (Tomorrow usually only writes a line or two about his comix). The political bloggers have it the worst; and as they have stepped off, one by one, they have written that the main reason is the unbelievable beat-down that they face every day from people who do everything possible to bully them into silence. Most of them start with moderating comments. Eventually they get rid of comments altogether. Then, a year later, writing in a vacuum, they just stop.
I don't wish to get rid of my comments. There are some sharp, insightful people who write very human things on the comments section here; they are involved in what I'm writing, they have a great deal to add from their own experience, and I absolutely do not want any of these people to feel for a moment that they can't speak their minds to me. The comments, moderated as they are, stay.
But I am clearly moving forward into a position where I'm getting enough attention from the bullies to make them sense blood in the water. I would estimate that personal attacks against me, here and on other sites, have increased about 400% above what I received last year. That is telling. As my friend Carl says, I must be really, truly, getting under their skin. Given what I wrote Friday, they know they can get a rise out of me. That has been true. I was talking it out with my family over the weekend and three meaningful bits of perspective presented themselves.
The first, that I am still reading these comments. This is true. It is a train-wreck, it is compelling, and virtually everyone wants to read things about themselves that others write. There are a lot of positive comments out there that turn up on Reddit and other blogs, people trying out systems of mine or praising my maps on bulletin boards. But when I set out to go find out what may have been written about me recently, I get the bad with the good.
The second is that there is a LOT worse than what I'm getting. This is also true.
And third, perhaps I might consider having someone else moderate my comments for me. Someone who isn't a target.
I may someday have to employ the third. If I am able to sell the book, if I set up to promote it at conventions around the country, then the level of commentary might get beyond me. I might find there's too much to wade through, or that it is getting hard to parse. If this is what I am getting now, where does it go when I have something that is really popular?
For the present, I feel there is one thing I can do. I can intensify the moderation. Up until this point, I have been satisfied with restricting personal abuse and off-topic statements, as well as cutting down on those who write, "You won't print this, but ..."
I'm going to tighten that up, starting now.
Those who have never feared that I would remotely deny a comment have nothing to worry about. Gentle readers, you know who you are. But I am going to make some more specific rules about commenting, in the interest of retaining the higher level of discourse that has always been a part of this blog, while eliminating or at least reducing the lower discourse.
If the reader opens my page, and sets to read me, and in turn takes a mind to comment, then I presume the reader has an interest in my opinion. Otherwise, why have they read anything?
It does not follow, then, that because the reader has opened my blog in order to read my opinion, that I am automatically interested in theirs. There is great hay made of the fact that I only want to hear people who agree with me, or that I attack and abuse people for "just giving their opinion." This sort of statement is, naturally, meant to encourage guilt, to cause me to change my perspective and of course allow every reader to have free rein in commenting here.
I feel, given the climate of bullies that infests every comment section everywhere on the net, making the very circumstance of comments sections poisonous for everyone, that the real answer to such a guilt-making argument is to say, "Yes, that's true. If I don't agree with you, I'm really not interested in what you have to say."
The idea that anyone, anywhere in the world, should feel bad about wanting to recreate, hang, chat or otherwise interact with only those people they like is, in general principles, a bully's argument. It is an outsider's idea. It is the philosophy of a lonely outcast who has no homies, who resents that anyone is entitled to encircle themselves with friends and people of like mind, and who uses notions like 'free speech' or 'elitism' as weapons to promote their misguided ideal.
I do only want people of like mind around here. I want people experienced at speaking frankly, who prefer to be up front about their reasons for anything, who draw their arguments on sources or examples, rather than gut-instincts. I want the people who write here about their perceptions and thoughts to feel this is a comfortable, welcome house - and it always has been, for them. It's only an unwelcome house for the clodding fools who think their 'opinion' - and the fact that it is an 'opinion,' as though that alone and nothing else counts for everything - matters.
So here are my new comments rules.
1) Feel free to agree with me and expand on what I've written. Most every comment like this highlights the best parts of my post, adds things I never thought of, deliberates over the nuance of a particular ideal and straightens out my thinking. If you have a comment that does this, go straight to it.
2) Don't piggy-back on my blog and offer an alternative method for 'how you do it.' I am writing here about how I do it. Either address my method, or go write your idea on your blog, where you won't have the benefit of boring my readers, who aren't here to read YOU. Writing about your method in a vacuum is advertising. Go advertise in your space.
3) If you want to disagree with me, fine. Do so. I better see a source or a credibly prescient example from your personal experience, and that example better be specific, detailed and ungeneralized. It better be in the first three sentences, too, unless I know you. I'm not going to read four paragraphs of your opinion to see if it's more. I can waffle on, but you can't. This is my blog. I don't have to provide sources (though I do and I will, when it pleases me). I already have credibility, else you wouldn't be here. Unless I know you, YOU have no credibility at all. Make some good points and earn some. If all you have is opinion, save it. If I were interested in your opinion, I would be reading your blog.
4) If I get the tiniest, infinitesimal whiff of an insult, either to me or anyone else, then you're gone. If I see more than a lot, I won't just deny your recent comment, I will seek out and hunt down every other comment you have ever left on this blog in my good time and I will kill it. And I will never allow you to post here, no matter how reasonable you are. You can make another nick if you want, but I am guessing that if you can't contain yourself once, you won't in the future, no matter what you post as. I am through being patient.
Let's be clear. Your opinion, if it is only an opinion, carries no weight with me. And I am done with bullies. I don't want you here. No one wants you here. Up until now, I've been trying to deal with you as human beings. I've gotten angry with you, I've written paragraphs attempting to educate you, I've wasted my time on you. That stops. Now.
For everyone who is staying with this blog ... I am going to take strong steps to contain my anger. I'm going to decimate the comments section and stop writing rants that address something stupid someone has said. Anger is going to stop being my default. I may allow myself, occasionally, off the chain ... but this lately has been too much, too often, for the wrong reasons.
The bullying against me is going to step up. That's a fact of life. But I am going to stop it from having any effect on anyone reading this blog - including it's effect on me, second-hand.
Now let's raise the discourse and consider this subject managed. I would appreciate support - particularly from anyone who told me last week that I would be a happier person if I were not angry all the time.
Well, let's see if that's true.