A few times a year I receive complaints, often delivered with a quizzical air but sometimes with vitriol, that I must be some kind of hypocrite because my personal Weblog does not allow comments. In fact, according to a source who knows about these things, this Weblog is one of the few personal uses of WordPress in existence that does not use comments – and it may be the only such case that could even vaguely be considered prominent.

If I am indeed some kind of hypocrite for turning off comments, I am the kind of hypocrite who has feelings he needs to protect. I write critical posts, and leave critical comments on other sites, but I try very hard indeed never to engage in any kind of personal defamation. Again, fact-check my arse: Please check the hundreds of comments on dozens of blogs over the years, dating back to the very dawn of blogging, and try to find a case where I am personally abusive in any way. I may be unsparingly critical about a certain topic or people’s actions, but not about them. You may not like my tone in those comments, just as you may not like my tone here, but that is merely your opinion.

For reasons known only to themselves and their mental-health practitioners, many of my opponents are not content to critique my work, even unsparingly and/or in an unpleasant tone, but they gild a rotten lily by defaming me personally. As almost none of these commenters have met me, many of them use psudonyms or write anonymously, and I haven’t caused them actual harm, such a response is excessive to say the least. It is also remarkably effective. These commenters achieve their goal of hurting me.

But do you know what’s worse? What’s worse is peevish and immature site owners who leave those comments up. Any rational comment policy would preclude such comments. And if comments of the kind I occasionally make – the ones that criticize your work – are deemed out of place, then where the hell do those other comments fit in? If you’re going to use the home metaphor – “I wouldn’t let you waltz into my home and talk like that” – when the topic is the actual work, why do you allow it when the intent is to personally defame me?

My theory is as follows: Because you agree with the comments or, even if you don’t, you agree that I have something coming to me and comments like those are a good place to start. You may dress up that sentiment in the lipstick and eyeliner of “permitting community discussion,” but there’s always a list of people to whom you would never permit such comments to be directed, and my question is, why isn’t everyone on it? Why am I not?

You shouldn’t need to be asked to delete such comments if you wish to make any claim to responsibility and maturity. If you receive a request to delete such comments, you should heed it, unless you want everyone to think you have a grudge and are happy to demonstrate your viciousness in an infinitely replicable written medium.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.07.12 12:10. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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First of all, I quit. If you must proceed:

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