I want to issue an apology and a goodbye to many frequent commenters, who I consider my intellectual mentors. Comments are now turned off on the blog. Many will see this as a cowardly move, as censorship, and so on. It is precisely these kinds of irrational reactions that I am no longer tolerating. (I predict Facebook commenters will have a field day as they usually do) As someone with too much to read and write, on already very difficult topics, I cannot keep having to clarify views that I’m usually putting in the clearest way I can.
It is difficult to overlook the role that blog comments play in all this. Having a blog and building a large community of readers can destroy a person’s intellectual integrity—as appears to have happened in the case of PZ Myers. Many people who read his blog come away convinced that I am a racist who advocates the widespread use of torture and a nuclear first strike against the entire Muslim world. The most despicable claims about me appear in the comment thread, of course, but Myers is responsible for publishing them. And so I hold him responsible for circulating and amplifying some of the worst distortions of my views found on the Internet.
Incidentally, readers often ask why I haven’t enabled comments on my own blog, since they build a sense of community and generate traffic. Needless to say, I know that I have many smart and knowledgeable readers who have valuable insights to share on any topic I’m likely to touch. My reasons for not enabling comments are essentially the same as those given by Seth Godin on his blog. You can read his justification here. I also can’t spare the time to read hundreds of comments in an effort to determine whether they would contribute, however subtly, to the problem of noise and defamation that has now sucked me into its vortex. This is not to say that I don’t care what my readers think. As you can see, I do. And I do my best to read your emails. But generally speaking, I’m at the limits of my bandwidth and have to draw the line somewhere.
I’ve been getting a little exasperated lately — Pharyngula is a relatively lawless place, which is good for getting combative, aggressive discussions going, but not so good when discussions spin off into frustratingly ingrown fussing and howling and pointless boundary-pushing. This is my party, I’ll have you know, and there have been way too many times when I have not been enjoying it. So I’m changing a few things. There will be new rules. There will be new means of enforcement.
Have I mentioned lately how much I appreciate you thoughtful, considerate bastards for never causing me these sorts of headaches?