A New Site Feature

A new feature to site users has just gone online. I write today to offer some of my thoughts and guidance about its use.


A Place For Quality Argument

From our inception, two editorial boards and many years ago, this site has been about sharing ideas. It has always been as much about a vibrant, diverse commenting culture as it has been about offering ideas and writing in our authors’ posts. This site has never been, and I hope never becomes, an echo chamber. Dissent, disagreement, and dispute are not only welcome but solicited.

We’ve had a handful of moments within the community’s history regarding particular individuals which became difficult to navigate and some of those incidents have left scars on our community. The wounds of those conflicts have driven smart, worthwhile members of our community away, and veterans of those experiences will, I’m confident, agree that we will be better off not repeating them.

The foundations of such conflicts remain present and are inevitably going to remain present as commenters interact over time. One of the many reasons we try to mix politics and culture in our posts is to offer up places where people who disagree on matters of public policy can find common ground with one another.

I came here first as a commenter, then as a writer, and now as an editor, precisely because I want this sort of environment. It’s not for everybody. There are a lot of other places you can go on the Internet. Here, we have chosen to create a place for quality argument. Something more than partisans shouting slogans at one another. Something robust, intellectually rigorous, productive, and most of all, civil.


Experiencing the Commenting Culture

Our commenting policy aims at this ethic. We want to encourage rather than discourage the exchange of ideas. So we don’t want people attacking one another, getting personal.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t be infuriated by someone who seems to be deliberately laboring to misunderstand the very clear, simple, and morally compelling point you’ve made eight times now. As long as that infuriation doesn’t descend into the level of insult, and remains at the level of a clash of ideas, it’s our much-considered position that we leave the dialogue be.

So, we police against personal attacks, and we police against the use of slurs and stereotypes that denigrate and exclude people who are likely to offer diverse points of view. But we don’t police against unpopular opinions, we don’t police against unfounded or even silly assertions, we don’t police against poorly-structured or logically fallacious arguments. That sort of thing, we leave to be burned out of the discourse in the crucible of vigorous dialogue on the merits of any particular subject, by those people who care enough about the subject to engage.

Nevertheless, a large number of commenters have expressed, to me and other editors, a desire for stronger editorial intervention, focused on this or that individual based on whatever wave of events is then underway.


“Ignore Commenter”

In a bow to that desire, and with an acknowledgement of thanks to former Technical Editor CK McLeod, who created this device, we offer a new feature.

A New Site FeatureIntroducing: the “Ignore Commenter” function. You, the individual user, can cause the site to not display comments on your computer from particular individuals. Other users will still see that comment, but you will not. So if there is one particular person who just plain drives you up the wall, you can hit a selective “mute” button and not have to read this person’s comments.

Next to a commenter’s name, you’ll now see a small gray box decorated with a small gray “x.” To mute the commenter, click on that and wait a few seconds. It will be replaced with a small green box, also decorated with an “x,” but the content of that commenter’s comments will not appear. This will hold true as you navigate from thread to thread, post to post; you will still see that the commenter has posted but will not need to read that person’s comments. To un-mute that commenter, click on the green box.

Now, when I come across someone expressing an opinion I disagree with, or going about expressing that opinion in a way that strikes me as less than optimally productive, my impulse is to engage rather than disengage. And this can be used as a tool to disengage. Using this tool as a disengagement from ideas you don’t like, from a perspective you don’t like or don’t fully understand, is something I discourage. Strongly. That’s contrary to our mission as a community of diverse thought, and it’s a big part of one of the fundamental problems we face — I speak of cultural Balkanization, polarization, sorting ourselves into self-affirming echo chambers, or whatever other phrase you want to use to describe it. The whole reason you should be coming to this site is to engage with people who think differently than you do.

We’re offering this feature because we trust you with its use. We trust that if you’re on the liberal side of the political spectrum, you won’t use it to mute everyone who expresses a conservative opinion. We trust that you will hesitate and engage, over time, with the people who spar against you. If you do use it, do so reluctantly and only after you’ve satisfied yourself that the person you’re muting (for yourself only) is not just someone who disagrees with you but someone who, if you’re asked to respond to again and again, will otherwise drive you away from participating in our community at all.


Flagging Comments Works

Most importantly, if you see a comment that you think is out of line, FLAG IT. When multiple people flag a comment, that tells us editors that something is going on. All of us editors have other things we do during the day and night. We have families, we have jobs, we have lives. But we’ve also all committed to keeping the torch of this place lit and working the way it ought to.

When the requisite number of flags on a particular comment are raised, we all get e-mail alerts and convene behind the scenes to discuss it and decide what to do. Sometimes we delete the comment entirely. Sometimes we redact or edit it, particularly if it’s only an individual word or phrase that is offensive. We do our damndest to not let our individual political opinions (which are diverse) interfere with our judgment about keeping the sort of civil but robust environment that we think is the hallmark of this place. Maybe you won’t always agree with our decisions. But understand that it works, and that we observe when flags get raised multiple times for the same person and we consider that too.

Flagging should be your first resort rather than ignoring a commenter altogether. Please. I have had, myself, the experience of vigoriously disagreeing with a particular commenter on subjects X, Y, and Z over the course of what feels like months of their making obnoxious remarks on those subjects, only to find that when the subject later shifts to A, B, and C, that same commenter expresses my own thoughts even better than I could, and on subjects D, E, and F, offers ideas that I hadn’t considered and found persuasive.

That’s why this site is valuable, and that’s why you should be reluctant to mute anyone. Too quickly-deploying the mute function will deprive you of that experience.


How And Why We Think You Should Use This Tool

In other words, if you’ve reached the point with Belinda Badbehavior that you’re saying, “Damnit, if those editors don’t ban her, I’m just not going to go back to the site anymore,” then rather than calling for Belinda to get banninated, you can “Ignore commenter” her. We hope that you won’t do this until you’ve already a) tried engaging with Belinda yourself to find out why she says the things she does, b) flagged comments by her for editorial review multiple times, and c) taken a break yourself to cool your temper and remind yourself that the real stakes of a random person on the internet disagreeing with you are astonishingly low.

Put more simply: if you’re at the point that you’re going to quit the site because of a particular commenter, that’s when you should hit the “mute this person” button.

There are many ways and reasons you might use this tool. Think a bit about why you come here and whether that’s existentially compatible with why you want to mute a particular person. When you do mute, think about un-muting again after you’ve had a chance to cool down from whatever it was that made you mute in the first place. You can “unmute” as easily as you can “mute.”

Our goal is keeping more people in dialogue over time. We hope this new feature contributes to your enjoyment of our online magazine and commenting community. Your feedback on how this experiment works for you in practice will be welcomed and given sober consideration.


Image by adactio A New Site Feature

Editor Emeritus
Home Page Public Email Twitter Facebook YouTube  

Pseudonymous. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Lives in Southern California (for now). Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. Homebrewer. Atheist. Likes: respectful and intelligent dialogue, good wine, the Green Bay Packers, and long romantic walks on the beach. Dislikes: mass-produced barley pop, magical thinking, ketchup, and insincere people. If you follow him on Twitter at @burtlikko you may be disappointed.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.

139 thoughts on “A New Site Feature

  1. Hmmmm….interesting. I don’t plan on using this but some people might like it. This could lead to some confusing threads where we can’t see the comments that other people are responding to. It’s certainly worth a shot.


    • Well, it’s kind of an experiment right now. If people like it, and if it seems to help our fires yield more light than heat, I’ll count it a successful one.

      I’ll be interested in hearing how people have chosen to use it (stopping short of named names because there’s no point in insulting people) and what their experiences are.


      • For my part, I’ve realized that there are three commenters that I have never once had a productive interaction with. When I have engaged with these people, I have always regretted doing so and felt that my frustration with them lead me to comment in an emotional way that I was not particularly proud of. So simply not seeing their comments is probably better for my own mental health and for the state of the discussion on this site.


        • That’s kind of where I am. If I use it–and I probably will, but may not–it will be just as much to police my own behavior as it is to distance myself from another’s ideas. While I’m the common denominator in my own interactions with everyone and therefore bear ultimate responsibility for my “emotional” responses, this tool might help me self-moderate.

          I can see the potential for abuse, especially because it’s not the obvious trolls (whose comments I find easy to skip over, ignore, or not take too seriously) that I would use the mute function for, if I do use it. The most likely abuse will be someone boldly declaring in the comments, “I didn’t respond to so-and-so because I muted them”….something likely to cause hurt feelings.

          I urge–and this is hortatory only–that people who do use it do their best to refrain from advertising that fact.


        • Don,
          I sincerely hope that I’m not one of those commenters. ;-)
          I hope, even when I do troll (which I have done once on this site, and admitted to at the time), to shed more light than anything else.


  2. I’ve never been a fan of such devices. I’m perfectly capable of separating the wheat from the chaff on my own, and the scroll wheel on my mouse serves as a very capable substitute for an ignore commenter button. Besides, even a stopped clock is right 2x a day, so I never want to miss those moments.


    • I was going to say exactly the same thing that just did, but I’m lazy, so I’ll just second him

      Personally I scroll through threads dominated by arguments (rather than people) that I find trollish, but I do look at the responses. If I think the response to the trollish argument makes an interesting, informative, or important point, I start paying attention and might jump in myself. Otherwise scroll, scroll, all the way I go.

      Surprising the number of times I do find nuggets i appreciate in those reaaaaaaaally long exchanges.


      • — I mean, I want the emails. I’d love if it didn’t send notifications for just the people I’ve blocked.

        I often follow the conversations via the email feature. Blocking someone here is less useful if I still see them there.


          • — Last time I tried to set up something like that, it would shitcan the whole thread, not just the single post.

            (Which, maybe I should learn how Google products work, cuz, you know.)


        • Btw, the more pervasive option you’re describing – where you can block offending parties from comment subscription emails – and also widgets, RSS feeds, and everywhere or most anywhere else – would of course be doable, but would, I believe, for all practical purposes have to be implemented as a registered-users privilege.

          That would also go for being able to block/mute across browsers, since Commenter Ignore Button is a cookie-based tool. didn’t mention it, but, if you switch browsers or clear your cookies frequently, you’ll have to block/mute over again after each switch/clear.


  3. I will use it. But it will be I interesting to see who uses it and who continues to engage in the kinds of conversations that they claim to hate. Some people like arguing with people who make ridiculous arguments, because it’s easier than engaging with the people making legitimately challenging arguments?.


  4. I’d rather it be thread specific rather than the whole site all the time in perpetuity. Sometimes there are rabbit holes I’m fine ignoring once I’ve seen the rabbit and the hole; other times hasenpfeffer sounds delish… I’d hate to miss all the rabbits all the time.

    Mute vs. Obliterate.


    • It won’t be in perpetuity. Also, you will see that comments have been left that you are muting, so whenever you’re ready you can just unmute. (It’s not one of those things where you’re going to *forget* to undo it).


      • Yeah, I see how it works now. I muted myself and it was glorious.

        Still not my favored approach, but then I’m probably not the intended audience; maybe a target, but not the audience.


  5. I am a big boy (46) and I wear big boy pants. If there is someone who comments that I find nonreadworthy I can pass them up on my ownself. But because they will occasionally post something more than worthy of reading, such is the universe, I want to be able to see and read that. I won’t if I have blocked them.
    Full Stop.

    My trajectory here is much the same as yours Burt, but the reason I came here was that it wasn’t an echo chamber. If I want that I can go to Glibertarians, LGM or RedState. Or even the cesspools of TalkingPointMemos or Breitbart. I come here to be challenged and threatened. To force myself to expand my thinking. An ignore button only allows ingroup thinking, it doesn’t force the breaking of bubbles.

    I am a fallen Democrat, finding a new home in the Libertarian party. I flirted briefly with the Republican, but they were not a party for me. And that is cool, as it takes all kinds to make a polity. What I wish for is my old party to pull its cabeza out of its culo and start looking at the polity they abandoned. They have lost a staggering amount of elections by not reading the lay lines of contemporary America. Ignore buttons are a sure sign along that path.


  6. Sorry to complain about this day one, but those x’s after the name is where I usually put my thumb to scroll the pages .(on android)

    I’m not going to be mutin’ folks, I’m good with everybody.


  7. I generally, am against rules. As far as I’m concerned, this is just “I want my echo chamber” bitching or “we must silence the nazis/fascists/insert various denigrations. If you can’t take the level of insult and discourse on this site, which is pretty damn low, then I wonder about you’re ability to function in the real word without constructing a perfect bubble in real life (Manhattan, DC, MD DC suburbs for example). Don’t laugh, I know people who have.

    I enjoy reading the comments people have complained about. Because the responders to those comments show the true measure and character of the responders.

    I would like to see a feature that allows people to see who has blocked your posts. So, for example, I would know that Saul has blocked me or such. Can that feature be implemented?


    • — The thing is, I won’t block you. I often disagree with you. Sometimes you say things I find utterly wrong headed and preposterous. But all the same, you come across as thoughtful.

      On the other hand, the forum has one member who posts little else but Muslim-baiting. We have at least one unabashed white nationalist, who is also transphobic as heck. There are a couple of incoherent ninnies who really hit my button sometimes, but from whom I learn little because they have little to offer. We have at least one fulminating “racist old uncle at the dinner party,” who says nothing your racist old uncle would not say.

      I don’t need to hear from those people. Honestly, they add nothing. This is not about an “echo chamber.” This is about putting on my headphones and playing music on the subway because I don’t want to hear the ranting street preacher tell me about hell. I already know what he thinks. It was stupid the first 3943904920934 times someone said that shit. He is loud, invasive, and cruel.

      It’s not an echo chamber. It’s signal versus noise.

      I would never in a million years block you, , or (not an exclusive list). You guys are smart.


    • I doubt I’ll be blocking anyone, and you’re certainly not a candidate, but I think you’re looking at this wrong. Blocking someone amounts to deciding in advance not to read their comments, and it’s no one’s business but mine which comments I read and which I skip.


  8. I have no intention of using this, but I can see the utility for. Personally, I just refuse to engage trollish behavior.


  9. I had my own greasemonkey version of this and have it in place when hitting the site from my home laptop — just a small number of people that I know will only generate a reactive response, and it’s easier not to be triggered in the first place. That’s more of a pain to manage, so this will be much nicer.

    The “we should be ready to engage with everyone” philosophy is nice in theory, but people tend to overestimate how open-minded they really are — we tend to challenge our own beliefs about as thoroughly as the average developer tests his/her own code. Absent any aggressive comment policing, I think the Mute functionality is a great idea for at least reducing the incidence of food fights. And really, while of course there have to be rules on how to comment, why would we be trying to control how people read them?


  10. Is there a confirmation or a way to review? I often read OT on a mobile device, and while scrolling quickly, I saw “Ignored” flash at the bottom of the screen.

    On that note, even if it didn’t take, is there a way to keep the buttons out of thumb real estate on the mobile friendly version?


  11. Having used the feature today, it’s pretty great. Scanning the comments sections is way faster and far more pleasant. Yes, yes, yes.


      • In context, this looks like a personal swipe at the commenter who started this thread. Please don’t do that. If you aren’t going to use the tool, fine. If you want to encourage others to not use the tool, also fine. Please don’t do so at the expense of someone who feels differently than you.


          • Yes, but this seems like a good place to clarify something that may have only gone implied in the OP, to everyone.

            The number of editors who have the attitude of “Now that we have this tool we can slack off on the unpleasant duty of enforcing the commenting policy” is zero. Personal attacks remain antithetical to our commenting culture.

            Prudent prognosticators will treat this as a permanent feature of the landscape here.


            • Isn’t the implementation of this feature itself a personal attack on everyone who feels compelled to use it? “If you simply cannot control your emotional response to other posters, click this button…”


                • From a social justice perspective this is almost too funny. It’s like, if you had asked me to predict who would bleat loudest over the fact I can press a button to easily ignore them — oh look, bigoted white dudes get first in line to complain.

                  The same dynamic went down over the BlockBot (and similar tools) on Twitter. The fact we could easily cut off the jerks drove the jerks bananas, which made the tool an even greater pleasure to use.

                  I owe no one my attention. The reality is, on any public forum there is going to be a peanut gallery, and I’ve never seen a moderation policy that can quite eliminate them, but not eliminate interesting people who I want to hear from. So, culled lists, either individually (as here) or collectively (as was needed in a larger space such as Twitter), are a fine thing. They make a forum far more pleasant to use.


                  • Well, I don’t think it’s really anything inherent to conservatism or bigotry — the fact is that a standard conservative at this site is always going to be a small minority and mostly in defense mode, so the only ones that will stay are those that are combative and not bothered by disagreement and insults. Whatever one thinks about how much it’s deserved, notme is swarmed by hostile responses pretty much every time he posts here, so from his point of view, people asking for a mute button for this site are going to seem soft and coddled.


                  • I’m not complaing, I’m laughing. It seems that some folks welcome this bc they simple can’t control themselves or can’t stand to hear much of anything that disturbs their delicate constitution.


  12. I feel like the 65-year-old at work all of a sudden. I can put up with more stuff knowing that I have options. But man, once things get tense, it’s going to be tempting to “walk”.


  13. So, @joe-sal

    I have been looking into it, and at present we are limited to three places: Where it currently is, right by the Quote button, or right underneath the Reply button. The latter two aren’t intuitive. I will try at some point to manually move it, but unfortunately that’s not as straightforward.


    • I don’t think it’s that big a deal, it’s just something that I want to be sure doesn’t “fail” silently, since it’s hard to tell if you accidently blocked Joe Random, or if he’s just on hiatus having a hernia fixed.


  14. Something I don’t get about this convo… if I’ve already been scrolling past certain commenters, having come to the conclusion — based on past behavior — that whatever they have to say isn’t worth my time or aggravation to read… why is it worse — some egregious slight against the principles of civil discourse — to simply automate that process?


    • “why is it worse — some egregious slight against the principles of civil discourse — to simply automate that process?”

      Because what it means is that, in the end, people cannot be trusted to act like adults. They must remove the triggers, rather than develop the mental tools to surpass them.


      • Perhaps. I can see your point, but it sounds a bit concern troll-ey to me.

        Maybe I just envision using the feature in a different way and for a different purpose than you’re assuming. I already refrain from involving myself in flame wars and I have no desire to insulate myself from opposing views. I probably disagree with 80% of what you write but I would never mask you out for that reason.

        No, the person I’m thinking of (and I’m fairly certain you know who I’m talking about) is simply uninteresting. His only purpose in being here appears to be to antagonize generic liberals with content-free ad hominem attacks while being scrupulously attentive to the formal commenting policy. There’s no value there; no ideas, no discussion or debate, just insults and talking points.


          • Since you brought it up, I wouldn’t block you personally because the times you do choose to engage you often make a contribution to the discussion, and could be one of the more valuable commenters around if you chose to do it more. Scrolling quickly past 9 out of 10 current posts is a price I’ll continue to pay for that.

            Much the same is true for a number of others. There arw no Franks from patheos here, and few approaching Guthrum.


          • Well, what I said was that your comment raised a point. It didn’t seem much like the point you were trying to make; what I found interesting was verging on an epistolary slip rather than the gist of your rhetorical maneuver.

            But that’s how it goes sometimes. Had I muted you, I’d have missed this interesting turn of phrase, and thus lost the opportunity to develop an idea of my own. That’s why I recommend judicious and temporary use of this tool. And with that said, we’ll be checking back in with you all in a few days to see what your experience has been.


  15. I was thinking about this very site when I created the tool, although I have even less time now than then actually to participate in comment threads in general.

    When I do have time and inclination to comment, I do know that there will be individuals here, as at any site, whose comments I’d rather not deal with at all. It’s not a matter of disagreeing with them politically. It’s a matter of finding their thought processes or modes of interaction chaotic, impolite, un-productive, dissonant, or annoying in some other way – to the point that whenever I’d see their names I’d skim past them, and, if I saw they were very active in a thread, I might very well skip the whole thing, life being too short and all. Because the function is so easy to switch on or off, I can check what dissonant commenters have to say if on that day they happen to be eliciting interesting responses. Maybe I’ll change my mind about them, maybe not. Nobody’s business but my own.

    For someone else, most likely at a different site, but including this one in years past, the tool might help those more sensitive to certain kinds of abuse or borderline abusive behavior to feel safer. For them, it would be especially uncomfortable if their decision to ignore were there for all to see. I could imagine other potential abuses, though I suppose I could also imagine situations where there might be benefit or fun in seeing who was ignoring whom (or keeping track of “most-ignored commenters,” and so on).

    I think the tool might also have helped certain other people continue at the site if one or two people who “just couldn’t quit them” had instead put them on ignore, at least for extended periods.

    Anyway, thanks for giving it a try, and I’ll be interested in any further feedback anyone, or almost anyone ;), might have to offer. Otherwise, please ignore safely and enjoy storming the castle.


  16. From a philosophical perspective, I look at it this way: It is important to engage with ideas. However, this does not mean one must invest in literally every idea. First, one can basically set aside ideas that are little more than rank bigotry. Likewise, some ideas are just old hat. They’ve had their play. Some people may still hold them, but I’ve long ago set them aside and there is little new to say. (For example, I don’t argue about short history creationism or flat earth or anti-vax.)

    But more, even if I’m willing to engage with ideas, that does not imply I must engage with all people. There is value in hearing uncomfortable ideas. There is far less value in engaging with jerks. Some people are just repetitive, argumentative, and filled with bad faith. One need not spend time on them. Sure, anyone might at some point or another say something worth hearing, but as I said to Damon, it’s signal versus noise. After all, I don’t have time to keep up with everything I might want to keep up with. Furthermore, there remains math I don’t know. I’ve never faced a shortage of things worth learning. There is an abundance, too much to ever see even a fraction of it all. Why spend time exploring the dismal thought patterns of {person}?

    Today I looked at the comments on a post. In one subthread I noticed about 2/3 of the messages were blocked. I felt such a relief.

    Note, I’m not blocking 2/3 of the people here, far far far less than that. But this subthread — the peanut gallery had gathered. The topic excited them. But now, it takes up little space on my screen and almost nothing of my attention. My eyes glaze right past, to find comments by people worth reading. I read those comments. It was really nice.

    This feature is great.


    • I just wanted to echo what Veronica said here — I’ve spent all these years reading this site daily because it’s full of smart people who disagree with me, and I value what I’ve learned from them forcing me to re-examine my own beliefs; for instance, I’ve come around to a much more libertarian view of things when it comes to “taste vs morality” issues than when I first found this place. And I was coming very close to quitting this place altogether because the comments were beginning to leave a bad taste in my mouth, and causing me to react in ways that…well, they were me at my worst, and while it certainly is on me to exercise self-control, ultimately this tool will help me immensely in that regard.


            • Which raises the question that the tool is intended to raise: If a troll trolls in a thread, but he is on ignore, has he really trolled?

              Nothing to do with present company, of course.

              One larger purpose of the tool is also to offer an incentive to shape up to trolls or borderline trolls or people who recognize that they are viewed as trolls. In a normal comment thread, they operate under the expectation of a captive audience or something like it, and the belief born of experience that volunteer commenting firefighters won’t be able to resist stamping on their burning paper bags of trollery, in order to protect the record or the people or whatever against the troll-threat. If the firefighters can reduce their stamping by some significant percentage, then the incentive to troll should be reduced somewhat proportionately already on that basis, while the source of troll-fuel should also be reduced.

              The effect may not be to prevent all troll-fires, but every commenting system will involve trade-offs.

              Or you can just use the tool as a way to focus on the comments on which you want to focus. That can be easier in conjunction with a full “suite” of commenting tools, including comment/commenter highlighting, comment up/down voting, and promotion of “extraordinary” comments.


              • Completely OT:

                I’ve missed seeing you around, MacLeod.
                I understand why you left, but still, it’s good to see you around.
                You bring a different view and a higher level of discourse to the discussion.
                Those two points are sorely on the wane.

                Again, good to see you.


              • I happen to like notme’s comments, whether I agree or not.
                They can be very funny at times.

                To his credit, notme has taken an undue proportion of abuse.
                To my memory, the overwhelming bulk of it, if not to exclusivity, come from those of a particular political persuasion.

                I see that as funny as well, because it shows that, when challenged, those of that type most often revert to other than coherent argument.
                It also shows how much they really buy into that particular political persuasion.
                It reminds me of a post I wrote about Tolerance a very long time ago, noting that those who preach Tolerance the loudest are often seemingly deaf to those words.

                It is a fact that it is most often persons of the Left who ‘unfriend’ people on FB due to differences in political tastes.


                • How remarkable it is that liberals dislike someone who devotes every other post to endorsing some bit of foulness because he thinks it will piss off liberals to do so.


                        • Of course you wouldn’t change your ideology, and of course you’d still post thing to challenge liberals.

                          Indeed, it would deny us the most obvious out, which is that you aren’t challenging us, you’re just trying to wind us up.

                          Not that I’d expect you to pay attention to my advice at this point. I wouldn’t take my advice at this point.


                          • Interesting underlying question here as to the relationship between “style,” or preferred mode of discussion, and ideology. They don’t always go together, at least as one might expect, but in American political life at the moment a brusque or even brutal verbal style and so-called nationalist populism do tend to do so. “Only out-of-touch coastal elites use multiple-syllable words, spell and punctuate carefully, and need sequences of full sentences to express themselves. Red-blooded Americans exclaim things in uppercase and don’t need to speak clearly since everyone who really matters already understands everything that really matters.”


                          • If you wind yourself up that’s a personal issue. I have no control over how you or anyone else reacts to what I post. Folks can always choose to have a safe space with the mute function.


                            • If you think you have no control over how people react to your posts, one wonders why you bother. You could randomly bash the keyboard with your butt, or for that matter refrain from posting entirely, and you think the effect would be the same.

                              It’s a funny way to challenge liberals, that’s for sure.


                              • You can show a liberal new ideas but you can’t make them think. I have no control over you or anyone else here. If you are that helpless how do you survive? If someone cuts you off in traffic do you assult them? If you can control yourself on the road then I expect you can control yourself here.


                                • You can show a liberal new ideas but you can’t make them think.

                                  Ideas like this have a strange way of disinclining liberals think about all the other new ideas you might present to them. For example, they might conclude that engaging in open-minded debate isn’t your goal.


                                  • “Ideas like this have a strange way of disinclining liberals think about all the other new ideas you might present to them. For example, they might conclude that engaging in open-minded debate isn’t your goal.”

                                    And that is why we should engage in measured, moderate outreach to Trump supporters and treat their concerns as legitimate issues worthy of reasonable discussion!

                                    Oh, what’s that? They’re a bunch of fucking racist homophobes so fuck ’em? Welp.


                                • I have no control over you or anyone else here.

                                  You said you have no control over how we react to your posts.

                                  So how do you choose what to put in them?

                                  After all, your whole position here is that their content will have no effect on how we react to them.


                                  • Yes, I said I have no control over your reaction or anyone else’s reaction. It’s true.

                                    The things I choose to post are chosen non-scientifically by the current events that interest me and possible other as news items of general interest. They might also support my ideology and challenge liberal beliefs.

                                    That being said, how you choose to react is still only up to you just as how you react to others. I won’t accept any responsibility for how you react. Unless you want to send me $20 which I think you should do.


                • Will H.: It is a fact that it is most often persons of the Left who ‘unfriend’ people on FB due to differences in political tastes.

                  I think there is a real problem with specifically leftwing intolerance, but there are many other possible explanations for that FB phenomenon, presuming its real.


                      • I recall some similar polling in 2013 that came to the opposite conclusion, that Republicans were more likely to distance themselves from people whose politics differed from their own. I can’t remember if it was Facebook or not, but it was the same general thrust.

                        Which is to say, it may not be a Republicans vs Democrats thing, but an In Power vs Out of Power thing. It makes some intuitive sense.

                        That being said, I remember those numbers being trotted out as proof. And it was used to scoff at the notion that “both sides do it” when it was like 51% of Republicans and 37% of Democrats and see it’s completely different.

                        Needless to say, the skepticism that greets this data was completely absent then. Except from the other side, passing along this quite freely. I mostly bring this up as an illustration that we should strive not to treat convenient and inconvenient results as differently as we do.


                        • I agree with your final point, but can’t say much more because I have no recollection of the 2013 stuff.

                          It wouldn’t shock me to learn that liberals were more likely to do the Facebook thing in general… just that I’m not sure we can extrapolate much from the 2016 election.


                        • note that in the linked article the disparity observed is much wider:

                          The study shows Democrats were almost three times more likely than Republicans (24% vs. 9%) to have unfriended someone after the election. A similar disparity turned up for self-identified liberals versus conservatives (28% vs. 8%). Meanwhile, only 9% of independents reportedly booted someone out of their online social circles because of politics.


                        • Or, if it’s really just 2016, an “I understand you liked Romney, but seriously? Trump?!?” issue. Hell, I have republican friends who distanced themselves from other republican friends over Trump-related splits.


                    • Says the writer:

                      There are a number of possible explanations for the different rates at which various groups unfriended others over politics.

                      One is that Democrats may be feeling despondent about the election, and are thus more inclined to block stories about Donald Trump or victorious conservatives. Another is that liberals and women may be more frequent targets of online trolls, leading them to block more often.

                      Ya think maybe? Gang-trolling attacks on outspoken liberals, especially women, were a constant feature of social media in 2016, and a far more likely explanation both directly and indirectly, in my estimation, for such a huge disparity between right and left, although the “losers fed up” explanation especially in this particular election might also carry some weight.

                      Relevant for the current discussion, which is also a meta-discussion: It was often said that Trump and his campaign were like the triumph of the comments section. People who said that did not mainly have the genteel discussion at OT in mind. They specifically had in mind the kind of non-discussion that the mute button is intended to help deter or deflect.


                  • Assuming that’s correct, it seems unclear what it really means…

                    It could be that there are more people on the left who are intent on creating a single-viewpoint bubble.

                    It could be that the people on the right with similar inclinations somehow don’t need to build one, because they already inhabit it, and just don’t end up ‘friending’ anyone they’d later find they disagree with.

                    And, of course, there’s the maxim about, if you meet an asshole, maybe they’re just an asshole. But if you meet three assholes in one day, maybe you’re the asshole. In light of which, do liberals block conservatives more because the liberals see asshole-ish behaviour everywhere? Or are they right, and there’s a large enough contingent of conservatives who like to behave like assholes toward liberals that they make a statistically significant difference?

                    Or, I suppose it would be negligent not to consider, was the poll just hopelessly flawed?


                      • “Hey, would you mind taking your shoes off when you come in?”

                        “Why, am I triggering you, snowflake? Are you feeling triggered? What about if I go walk through this mud puddle, then walk across your carpet? Does that trigger you?”

                        “Nah, I’m not triggered, but I’m kind of annoyed about the carpet. You can go home now.”

                        “See? You SJWs all hate free speech!”


                    • Two points, one hypothetical:
                      1) This is pre-Trump.

                      2) I think what it shows is that those of the Left tend extend caring toward Humanity conceptually, with a bit of difficulty doing so at the personal level.
                      Granted, that interpretation is colored by other experience.

                      I am open to other interpretations.


                      • “Caring” is different from “putting up with the behaviours of”.

                        Like, I want all people to live and be well, to enjoy the various rights and freedoms our society offers, and – since I’m a godless pinko – to have access to quality single-payer healthcare when and if they need it.

                        Lots of those people whose wellbeing I desire, I would still very much rather they enjoy their wellbeing at someone else’s dinner party.


                    • This election did seem to bring forth a kind of in your face right-wing reactionary “lol u triggered” hatefest. Myself, I split with two people because of this. One was an old martial arts instructor, military veteran, “gun enthusiast,” etc. He was a decent enough guy on the whole, but he was also the sort to hate “sissies” and thump his chest a lot. I just got tired of listening to him pontificate. Honestly, I don’t recall if he unfriended me or if I unfriended him. It doesn’t really matter.

                      I miss the person he was, back when I knew him and he had more of a gentle manner, before Trumpism caught on.

                      But then, was he always this person? I dunno. That’s a complicated question.

                      The second was my (former) brother-in-law, who decided Milo Y was just the coolest. Which blah. If you “fanboy” for a repulsive transphobe, you lose me as a friend. Is this an “echo chamber”? I don’t think so. To me it looks more like, if you’re an asshole, you’ll lose friends. So it goes.

                      I remain friends with his wife, my former sister-in-law. She’s lovely and kind.

                      I have a couple right-leaning “never Trump” types still in my friends list. They are smart and interesting. I like them. It’s like, they lean right-moderate, but they have a basic sense of decency that tells them that the “alt-right” is a cesspool.

                      Anyway, Trumpism is deeply ugly. It’s racist af, sexist to a preposterous degree, full of chest-thumping dipshits and wildly insecure ninnies. It’s the ill-informed and self-sabotaging “MAGA” set and the “OMG Hillary’s a crook” crowd, along with the smug upper-middle-class white people who just want a tax break and don’t really care about much else. Whatever. This is the live-action Brietbard comments section. There is nothing lost by avoiding these people.

                      Now, if this is the whole of conservationism, then so be it. If not, then don’t be that thing.

                      Honestly, once I decided to not tolerate open and unambiguous racism, sexism, or LGBTQ-hatred among my friends, I found I had few conservative-leaning friends. So it goes.


                • “To his credit, notme has taken an undue proportion of abuse.
                  To my memory, the overwhelming bulk of it, if not to exclusivity, come from those of a particular political persuasion.”

                  If Notme didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him… which usually we do.


                • Will H.,

                  It is a fact that it is most often persons of the Left who ‘unfriend’ people on FB due to differences in political tastes.

                  A lot of this depends on definitions. A Facebook “friend” can mean any of: a close personal friend since grade school; a sort of obligatory friending of a family member; a business associate; a guy from high school you haven’t seen or spoken to in decades; a friend of a friend you met somewhere once, etc. At one time I had a couple dozen people – complete strangers – on my list just to play Farmville. (I’m much better now, thanks for asking. :-P) Point being that friend status on Facebook may or may not be particularly significant in the first place and likewise for unfriending someone.

                  Example: My wife’s uncle sent me a friend request and I’m like sure, why not. Next thing I knew my feed is just being bombarded with all this fringey right-wing conspiratorial crap from Breitbart and Alex Jones et al. It wasn’t even so much the content or the political bent as it was just the sheer volume. He was this old retired guy with way too much time on his hands to play around on Facebook. I didn’t unfriend him but I did unfollow him just so my feed would return to something like normal.

                  There was another guy that I knew in high school that sent me a friend request and I’m like, okay, he was kind of a dick back then but people change so whatever. Now I have several conservatives on my friend list, as well as libertarians and even a couple theocratic monarchists. But this guy turned out to be a total racist, alt-right, POS. So when I plonked him was it over a difference in “political tastes” or was it because he was a total POS I didn’t want anything to do with?


                • Will H.: To his credit, notme has taken an undue proportion of abuse.
                  To my memory, the overwhelming bulk of it, if not to exclusivity, come from those of a particular political persuasion.

                  Is notme hate truly one-sided? If so, that speaks ill of conservative OT-ers, frankly. I’d have expected you to find him almost as annoying as we do.


  17. As someone who left the site at least partially because I was sick of the same two or three trolls clogging discussions with their bullshit, this isn’t enough to bring me back, and it probably wouldn’t have been enough to keep me from leaving.

    Because even if I can’t see the trolls, they’re still clogging the discussion because a bunch of people whose ideas and opinions I come here to read are still engaging with them and dragging down the whole conversation.


  18. Very glad to see it.

    I come here for the opportunity to have my negative prejudices and stereotypes about people with different viewpoints challenged, rather than confirmed.


  19. brings up a good point, which I’d like to quickly address…

    While the tool will obscure comments from people you designate, you’re still going to know they replied to something you said. It also doesn’t prevent you from having to read around the people you haven’t blocked who still choose to engage with that person. So while the tool is a nice option, I’ve participated in other sites that had this feature and in basically every case, knowing the person was leaving comments for me or clearly ticking off other people who I liked, made it too tempting to ignore. So…

    Cultivating the skill of ignoring someone takes some practice and it’s not always easy. But if you do, you’ll find that when you see certain names, even if they have responded directly to you, your eyes simply move right past them. As a bonus, when they eventually figure it out and remark about it, it’s roughly the same feeling you get when you and your ex both get invited to the same wedding and they show up alone but you bring a smoking-hot date that has too many drinks and wants to make out with you right in front of the ex. And sure, it seems immature when we talk about it out loud but you know you’re all secretly thinking, “That would be so badass.”

    Happy Friday folks. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.


  20. This feature isn’t for newbies or randos or lurkers. It’s for the regular commenters who have been here interacting daily for years.

    I’m sorry you still have issues with people leaving the site due to mistreatment from your regular commenters and I applaud the efforts to improve the experience here. But this seems like a half-measure. Sorry.


Comments are closed.