An open and vigorous discourse: Commenters welcome!

Every now and then, I find something truly bizarre written about me in some corner of the online universe. I am almost always able to keep myself from responding…and when I’m tempted to engage, I usually scribble something down and then file it away in my “better left unsaid” folder.

One thing I do take incredibly seriously and feel the need to clarify is my position on open discourse and vigorous commentary. I’m all in favor of it. I think I have about as liberal a commenting policy as is possible to have: People can say whatever they want about me and can make claims that have no bearing in fact. (Check out any the comments here or here or here for examples.) The one thing I try not to allow is gratuitous attacks on other people. (Perhaps ironically, I have only ever removed comments that attacked my critics.)

That’s why it’s so odd that an anti-vaccine blog recently claimed that when confronted with comments I didn’t like on this post, I “clos[ed] the blog and removed the link from my homepage.” There are a couple of reasons that makes absolutely no sense:

1. There is no “homepage” on my PLoS Blog. When you arrive here, you’re greeted with a bunch of entries, listed in reverse chronological order. At the end of the page is a link that says “Older posts.”

2. The post in which the offending comment is supposed to have appeared details how Fox News was the first (and virtually only) news outlet that bit at the latest anti-vaccine manufactroversy — and it is still on the first page of the blog.

3. Neither my PLoS blog nor the iteration of this blog that ran on my own website has ever been “closed.” I turned off comments on one post after they reached triple digits and consisted entirely of people (virtually) shouting at each. At PLoS, I’ve instituted an across-the-board policy of automatically closing comments on posts more than 14 days old; in my experience, any valuable points that are going to be made have been made by that point.

I know the reality of the situation won’t intrude on the perception of those folks convinced I’m a drug-addled pharma-shill in league with government oligarchs and deviant doctors…but I did want to clarify those points for the rest of you.

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3 Responses to An open and vigorous discourse: Commenters welcome!

  1. René Najera says:

    I guess I could go with the relativistic view that, since you don’t censor only opposing comments (like a certain other blog does), then you’re moderation of comments is quite sensible. At the same time, some of us use “insolence” and maybe even ridicule to get a point across. Because, Seth, some of the stances from the people who oppose the use of evidence and science in medical decisions are just that, ridiculous. There’s no getting around that.

    That said, I consider myself a grown-up. If you moderate my comment(s), I just move on to the next thing on my to-do list for the day. I don’t take it personal. I don’t whine about it, and that is true of all blogs where I may comment. Don’t like what I had to say? No problem. The only one person who should be okay with what I think is myself (and maybe my mother).

    Carry on the good work.

  2. Liz Ditz says:

    Just to relieve the boredom (I’m still pretty much bed-bound), one day I took a screenshot of every comment allowed to be posted at a certain blog purporting to be about autism, but is almost 100% antivaccine, with a very….vigorous comment moderation policy. The screenshots were all from one post.

    I have records of 28 comments being posted, and my two comments that were awaiting moderator’s approval — they never were posted.

    Only seven comments now remain. Not only does the comment moderator refuse to allow some comments to be posted, the moderator pulls comments after the fact.

    So I think there’s an assumption being illustrated here — that allblogs restrict points of view.

  3. How says:

    OT: Seth, you might want to check RSS subscribe link for this blog. I get directed to a page full of code. I was, thankfully, able to subscribe by doing a search in Google Reader.

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