I have, perhaps temporarily but certainly at least for the next year and change, disabled commenting, This is not because I don't value the comments that have already been left, none of which have been deleted - they've only been hidden, for the moment - but because as happens to too many all too often online, I've stumbled into a forum presided over by somebody who doesn't seem quite right in the head. When somebody goes into absolute hysterics over an issue so utterly stupid that I can't believe what I'm reading, and that somebody is a moderator, experience tells me to expect a wave of vilely abusive me-too responses, and I really don't need to have that kind of garbage littering my site.
I'll refrain from naming the group and its moderator, not because I feel that he deserves to be treated gently, but because I'd rather not give his efforts any more publicity than they have already enjoyed. I posted to his forum, ran into some people who agreed with what I had to say, some who disagreed, and in both cases I respected that and did what the moderator would fail to do - I responded in a civil manner. In the case of exactly two replies, however, the respondants did something that went beyond a mere difference of opinion. They responded in such a way as to mislead the reader about what the person they were responding to had said, "hearing what they wanted to hear, rather than what had been said", as I said in that discussion, a practice that no competent moderator of a group or forum will greet tolerantly.
As the saying goes, we may be entitled to our own opinions, but we most certainly are not entitled to our own facts. When one lies about what another has written, in a condescending and hostile tone no less, one is dealing in the realm of fact, not opinion, and one is trolling. One can not, as I pointed out there, dialogue with somebody doing that. The very attempt to do so historically leads to the breakdown of the discussion into an is so - is not contest that soon fills the space, exhausts the patience of the reader, who ends up too fatigued to keep track of it all, and eventually breaks down and starts taking what the trolls say others have said on faith. If such antics are allowed to continue, the honest participants eventually effectively lose control over their own words, being remembered as having said, not that which they can be seen to have said, in black and white, but what others have lied and claimed that they said. This scenario has played itself out time and time again, so often as to leave no doubt in the mind of any reasonable man as to its outcome, but the forum in question was not being run by a reasonable man.
In fact, I would scarcely credit him with being a man at all. The moderator - who one should be able to count on to be supportive of those dealing with trolls on his group, and this is maybe the most classic forum of trolling to be found - went into absolute hysterics over the fact that I engaged in a reasonable act of moderation on a thread on which the system allowed me to moderate responses. "Deleting other people's comments because of a divergence of opinion is not acceptable", he wrote, casually ignoring the fact that a good number of opinions that diverged radically from my own remained in place on the thread, not even being greeted with hostility, much less deletion. But facts were of little importance to this man, who seriously compared the moderation of obnoxious comments with the work of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. I wrote a correction of his misstatement of what had occured, got up, took a break to calm down so that my response would not degenerate into a flame in its own right, and wrote
"Oh, and speaking as a Jew, I'd have to say that I'm mildly annoyed by the casual reference to the Gestapo for reasons that are in no way related to Godwin's Law. Ahem. The offending parties in this case are exceedingly unlikely to actually be killed by my deletion of their messages, and if it should later be discovered that I happen to have them hanging from meathooks somewhere at this very moment or should be vivisecting them without anesthesia, well, that would be news to me, and probably news to them as well. Which, in case you've forgotten your history, is the sort of thing the Nazis used to do.
Shall we take the rhetoric down a notch?"
An even marginally decent, or at least sane man would have felt at least a little ashamed of his rhetorical excesses at this point, but this person just kept rolling along, actually having the chutzpah to complain about my victimisation of him, because I had objected to his exaggeration. In any group that one encounters, the man at the top, in the long run, will set the tone for what follows; I saw no sense in remaining part of that group and departed. That I did at 11:08 my time, bringing us to the present, aside from time taken to eat breakfast and write this.
I am not unaware of the fact that there is a movement to get comment moderation regarded as a form of censorious oppression. I would put this in the same category as the earlier demand for radical inclusiveness - as the product of the collected rantings of undesirable individuals who've made the horrifying discovery that others are capable of showing them the door, and that is what I'm doing right now - showing a group of undesirables the door. I note with some regret that I'll end up closing the door on a lot of other people in the process, but, sad to say, that is how life usually works. Maybe this will be temporary, but hysteria being what it is, I just don't know.
Addendum, June 8, 11:31 pm: For reasons I'll go into later, I've decided that my disabling of commenting on this site will have to be permanent. (Posted Jun 6, '08 at 11:18 AM)