a little while ago, in a discussion thread concerning some content I lifted from some other blog, someone left an anonymous comment about the author of that other blog that was about 80% vicious invective (much of which was empirically false) and about 20% actual content. The person who was the topic of this comment wrote to me to ask why we would approve a comment like that, when it was so obviously a personal smear and made such a negligible contribution to the debate.
I told this person that I published the comment mostly because of the 20% of it that I thought was worthwhile. I also said that I think that sunlight is the best disinfectant. I think that there is a huge value in letting the dickheads have their say. I think there is no value at all in maintaining a public illusion that there are no dickheads, and I think there is a tremendous value in allowing the dickheads themselves to demonstrate once and for all that they have nothing of value to contribute to the discussion.
I still think that at the time, that was the right policy, although there were certain things I was not in love with about it, even then. While it seems to me that at that time the advantages involved with demonstrating the existence of sexism and racism in the profession and the demolition of these sexist and racist views outweighed the disadvantages, I never liked publishing those comments, and I never liked the idea that this blog was a place where a person could come to express those views.
Since that time, my views about the value of these comments and the role this blog should play in publicizing these issues have changed. A primary reason is that the What It's Like blog has come along and provides far more compelling evidence of the existence of sexism in our profession than the small number of douchey anonymous comments left here could ever hope to be. A secondary reason is that dickheads have a way of taking the fun out of things. I would rather have a more fun blog with a more restrictive comments policy than a less fun blog with a less restrictive comments policy.
As a result, my comment-approval philosophy has changed. I will not approve douchey comments. I will not approve trollish or needlessly quarrelsome comments. I will not approve comments that make unfounded claims about how easy it is to be a woman in philosophy, or how hard it is to be a white man in philosophy. I will not approve comments that, in my judgement, do not meaningfully add to the discussion or move it forward. I will not approve comments whose purpose is for some anonymous dickhead to piss on other people's good time.
Unless it's funny. Funny comments will get more leeway.
I will try not to be as heavy-handed as the moderators at some other blogs. I will allow people to be mean to each other, as long as they are mean in a way that is on topic and advances the discussion. I will not shut down comments overnight to give people a chance to cool off. But I am going to keep the assholes on a shorter leash.