Between my two blogs, I've accumulated about two million page views over the years. That's a lot.
With all of this activity, only a few people have been persistent obnoxious commenters. Most blog visitors understand that leaving a comment on a blog post is a privilege, not a right.
They respect the purpose of a blog, are appropriately courteous to other commenters, and don't abuse the complimentary free speech offered to them (meaning, I pay money, and put quite a bit of time, into maintaining this blog so that visitors can freely share ideas).
It's a quandary when some commenter acts like a jerk. Many, if not most, blogs face this problem at some point. Some bloggers moderate comments, not posting them until they've been reviewed.
I've been reluctant to do that, because it interferes with the free flow of communication. Plus, when I visit a blog, I like to see my comment posted immediately -- and I assume most other people feel the same way.
However, it also concerns me when people get bothered by an obnoxious commenter. Often I'm not able to delete unacceptable comments immediately. So they may stay up a while, hate-filled, profane, and insulting as they may be.
Recently Obnoxious Commenter #1 has been Ashy Heller of Cape Town, South Africa, who posts under other names, such as Joshilan. He is a long-time initiate of Radha Soami Satsang Beas, and apparently feels that he is honoring his guru (who I assume is Charan Singh) with his often obscene "defenses" of Sant Mat principles.
I believe in free speech. But not in unfettered hate speech. So I'm curious about how other people would prefer to handle comment abusers like Ashy Heller. Here's my suggestion (if you don't agree, leave a comment with your own ideas):
Ignore him, if you come across a comment that hasn't been deleted yet. I'd rather preserve free commenting speech for other blog visitors, than control Ashy's rants 100% by moderating all comments.
As I've noted before, my feeling is that when someone spews hate-filled language and insults, they are censoring themselves -- because no one takes them seriously. What people like Ashy want is to be noticed, and unfortunately I'm having to do just that at the moment in talking about my commenting quandary.
But if people don't respond to Ashy's rants -- or those of anyone else who spews non-sensical garbage rather than engaging in forthright discussion -- this is the most appropriate reaction to inappropriate behavior.
Anyway, I'm with those who like open courteous discussion of interesting subjects. I'll keep on doing my best to keep habitual obnoxious commenters from using this blog as their soapbox.
If you come across comments you don't like, there's a simple solution: ignore them. Then light a candle of considered discourse rather than cursing the ranting darkness. That's how I see things, at least.
Well I quite agree with your strategy. I think you have the right idea, the best solution. I like your idea.
Which is to simply ignore the crappy posters and their crappy comments. Don't be tempted to give them any attention or response.
And then, you can delete the offending comments later, if and when you deem that to be necessary.
Posted by: tAo | April 29, 2009 at 10:48 PM
I agree. I prefer to have the opportunity to read all comments, hate filled or otherwise. In any hate filled rant, I do my best to ignore the hate and just try to focus on the content of the criticism, in the hope that there is actually a point to it all.
One option you might consider to deter hate filled anti-ex-satsangi posters is to put up pictures of scantily clad women. This should deter fundamentalists from accessing the site for fear of breaching the 'sexual misconduct' vow. It would also have the added benefit of attracting more ex-satsangis.
Posted by: Smack | April 29, 2009 at 10:49 PM
Smack, keep those creative ideas coming. To avoid a charge that this blog is sexist, I need to amend your suggestion to say that if we ever get a habitually obnoxious female commenter (much less common than the male variety) I would need to have some scantily clad pictures of men also.
Oh, just remembered -- I've already got such a post!
Posted by: Brian | April 29, 2009 at 11:00 PM
I also agree. In fact, I don't even see the need to delete such rants unless someone out and out threatens someone else. All a rant does is expose what an SOB the person truly is. When you understand that fact, it's so much easier to ignore them.
Posted by: The Rambling Taoist | April 29, 2009 at 11:27 PM
Ranting which overwhelms a Post and interesting interactive Comments should not be aired. What would the object be of posting or commenting then if it's all swamped by someone's irrational anger.
The ranter may in fact be an obssesive compulsive personality. He may also have a completely different personal agenda, for instance his wife and sons and daughters may have come across your blog site and be questioning all that they have had to live with under the ranter's beliefs and the rationale that comes with them. He may be fighting not against you for instance but against losing power in his family.
Maybe as a previous commentor posted, he may be deeply afraid that some-one mentally vulnerable who is close to him may become completely unhinged if they move on. He may not wish to realise that by following their own paths they will free themselves. If he is ranting under various names and from various computers, a whole group of people may be involved whom he has to impress and infact he may not even read what you are posting, but just come in with the purpose of disrupting and dominating.
It would maybe kinder to the ranter to censor him and give him a rest from his expressed anger. He may then try to handle his problems differently at the root directly.
Posted by: Catherine | April 30, 2009 at 12:59 AM
i understand unfettered free speech is potentially a problem for you and the blog, so its ultimately your choice.
i'd let it ride, but then am probably biased towards ashy.
i think your previous point is correct, which is that heated debate is fine so long as it pertains to the topic, when a post becomes entirely personal, filled with profanity and slander, then there is little point.
However if you are going to censor, it needs to be applied fairly and consistently to both sides, not just those you happen to side with.
Ultimately its your site tho and you must do as you see fit.
Posted by: George | April 30, 2009 at 02:15 AM
I once knew an Ashy Heller in Cape Town, ex Jo'burg.
He was a sweet loving guy.
Destroyed by fundamentalist Beas bigotry.
Posted by: Juan Cruz | April 30, 2009 at 05:26 AM
It's a dilemma and I don't know a good solution to it. I agree with what you said and your thinking on it. In my blog, I did go to comment moderation which isn't as good for all the reasons you mention. I had gotten such ugly comments though and as you said not just disagreements but insulting and profane, not relating to the issue often, usually aimed at insulting my readers more than me even. I could delete them but they would have been there spewing their hate energy, and sometimes a few others would have read them; so for now, because I am writing still political posts fairly often, I just gave up and put up the moderation. I feel more relaxed and I get less of them as once the trolls know their words won't make it past me (and I only read to the first sentence where they get disgusting-- which often is the first sentence).
When I read a comment somewhere else that is ugly, I do skip over them, but it just bothered me that they would be so hate-filled on my own blog. In a political type of post, a lot of them are trolls and they just want to stir others up, spew their hate like their masters people like Michael Savage. It clearly makes them happy to behave that way but it didn't make me happy that they got a forum even if only a brief one. It's too bad as the best is what you said-- letting comments flow freely but not when they insult everybody who disagrees with them without getting to the point-- and they rarely get to the point.
Posted by: Rain | April 30, 2009 at 07:11 AM
George, if Ashy starts to leave some cogent comments, I'll be pleased to leave them up. I was at a Starbucks yesterday when I came across his latest series -- was in a rush to get going on grocery shopping and ended up deleting them entirely rather than marking them as spam (which puts them in a TypePad folder where they don't appear on a blog but still can be read).
So I don't know if he said anything reasonable this time around. Based on the excerpts in tAo's comment, it looked like more of the same. But, hey, I'm an optimist: if Ashy decides to start discussing rather than ranting, he'll find that his comments will be left up.
I appreciate your "it's your blog, so do what you see fit" sentiments. As a long-time blogger, naturally I'm well aware of how much time and effort it takes to maintain a blog. I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it, of course. But visitors to any blog should keep in mind that they are guests in a cyberspace "house" that requires quite a bit of upkeep.
If I'm asked to take my shoes off before I enter a living room, I do so. The host sets the rules. If I don't like them, I don't have to go into the house. Just as it would be impolite and discourteous to tramp onto white carpet with muddy boots, so also is it to keep on posting "dirty" comments when you've been asked repeatedly to clean up your act.
Regarding treating everybody equally, yes, you have a point. But Ashy is in a class by himself, for sure. Obnoxious Commenter #1, like I said. I make a distinction between irritating profanity and insults which are episodic, versus continuous. Also, between over-passionately defending a point, versus attacking the whole notion of point-making (as in, "Brian, you #$%!&*, you should take this blog and shove it up your [email protected]#$%&" (a typical Ashy comment).
Posted by: Brian | April 30, 2009 at 08:22 AM
Rain, thanks for sharing your approach to handling obnoxious commenters. I can understand why you've gone to moderated comments. It is easier for the blogger. Like you said, a blogger can relax and not worry that some profane, hate-filled rant is dirtying up his or her blog.
The downside, though, is the potential time lag between the time a comment is submitted and when it is approved/posted. Like you, I have a lot going on in my life besides blogging. So there would be times when I wouldn't approve a comment(s) for quite a few hours. This would make it impossible, or at least very difficult, for visitors to have a comment dialogue, something I enjoy (when the conversation is about an interesting topic, rather than personal attacks).
Posted by: Brian | April 30, 2009 at 08:29 AM
yes i too hope ashy engages more, but he's a fiery one no doubt, LOL.
Your analogy holds true enough and respect should be maintained, it is your time and money.
However its also my time taken to read your blog. To be frank, there are alot of blogs out there, i do like this one, but if its too censored for my liking i will simply go elsewhere. Likewise if you feel i'm being to controversial, please feel free to ban me since i have no intention of sowing discord. i promise you one thing i wont email you with hate mail.
This is afterall an open forum and as a result you will get a range of comments, but yes i do hope ashy engages since i like to read the discussions between you guys.
Posted by: George | April 30, 2009 at 09:27 AM
Sorry to go off-topic... but I thought you should know about a technological advancement that will settle once and for all the debates over who's got the biggest spiritual attainment. Please see:
Posted by: Stuart | April 30, 2009 at 11:54 AM
I have recently discovered this blog and I have enjoyed it very much. This being the first time I make a comment here.
My own blog doesnt have alot of interaction unfortunately but I am also the admin of a internet forum and I have dealt with numerous troll posters or just plain annoying ones.
Now a forum is hardly the same as a blog but the best thing is alwasy to ignore stupid posters. The one problem though is that many of them are quite good at drawing attention to themselves and make others so angry that they feel they have to answer. And then the fight is on and it destroys alot for everyone else.
I am usually very humble in my approach and give warnings or try to lead them on the right track (even though opinions are rarely censored they need to be able to intelligently or politely say them). If nothing works I ban them. On a blog I guess manual accepting the comments is one way and another being to delete everything that is not wanted. adly it requires more work but some people just dont get the hint, or they actually like messing up other peoples lives.
Sad but true....
Posted by: TheInsane | May 01, 2009 at 06:42 AM
"I am usually very humble in my approach and give warnings or try to lead them on the right track (even though opinions are rarely censored they need to be able to intelligently or politely say them). If nothing works I ban them. On a blog I guess manual accepting the comments is one way and another being to delete everything that is not wanted. adly it requires more work but some people just dont get the hint, or they actually like messing up other peoples lives."
---Well thought out statement. I like this.
Posted by: Roger | May 01, 2009 at 08:00 AM
I moderate comments. I've never deleted one yet, but I want to read it before it's posted. If it's a problem, oh well. I wish more people would comment. Non comments make me wonder if I'm utterly boring.
Posted by: turtle__dove | May 06, 2009 at 09:19 PM
Funny how people are against Ashy's diatribe's, but nobody seems to mind it when tAO's insults, foul-language and generally offensive comments hit a nerve with most people. Is this bias?
Posted by: Unbiassed | May 23, 2009 at 02:42 PM
Unbiased, for me the difference is that tAo supports the purpose of this blog. Ashy doesn't. So Ashy's rantings are aimed at undermining churchlessness, while tAo's, by and large, are aimed at debating some discussion point.
As noted before, if you're a vegetarian, it shouldn't surprise you that going on the American Cattlemen's Association web site and lecturing the discussants there about how they should give up raising animals for food isn't going to make you popular (to say the least).
But debating the best winter feed, even profanely, that will be within the bounds of propriety for most cattlemen.
Similarly, I'm pretty intolerant of those who challenge the purpose of this blog. If they don't like it, they should go somewhere else. It's called Church of the Churchless. If you're all churched up, why would you want to congregate with the churchless?
Posted by: Brian | May 23, 2009 at 02:54 PM
Again, I don't agree. Intelligent and structured debate obviates the need to hurl insults, use foul language and generally trash the other person's perspective. It's a 'manner and form' debate, and I'm heavily against tAo's manner.
I happen to subscribe to many of the notions that underpin the Churchless school of thought, but I am jarred each time I read tAo's profanity, his total lack of respect for opinion other than his own, and his pressing need to taint his self-evident intelligence and clarity of thought by randomly ridiculing non-conforming contributors.
What hurts even more Brian, is that as an RSSB initiate for over 15 years, who is also undergoing a rude awakening on the path, I find it amazing that you of all people would countenance such behaviour, defend it as you have just done, and in so doing, set an example patently unworthy of an author of your calibre.
Posted by: Unbiassed | May 24, 2009 at 09:24 AM
Unbiased, on the bell curve of blogging comment controlling, I'm on the "let it be" side of things. I don't moderate comments (approve them before they're posted). I only delete comments when they are regular spam (people trying to sell stuff, often sneakily) or religious spam (someone preaching a fundamentalist dogma, or challenging the whole notion of a churchless blog in an annoying manner).
I have never countenanced profanity and rudeness in comments. I have never defended this, contrary to what you said. By and large, I figure that people who visit this blog are adults who can handle comments that might be a bit rough around the edges. I'm not out to force a certain commenting style on people, though if attacks get too personal I've been known to delete some comments.
Like I said, extreme language in the defense of some point in the heat of a discussion battle is more justified than profane, insulting ranting that aims to shut down discussion entirely.
Further, I look at the whole context in forming an opinion about someone, or their comments. Some commenters here have a long history of commenting. I've communicated with some privately, via emails. I feel like I know them fairly well, even though we've never met outside of cyberspace.
So that enters into how I feel when I see someone getting profanely passionate in a comment. If I know where this person is coming from, to use a nice 60's term, I'll be inclined to get them more slack -- compared to someone who I know is out to defend a religious point of view and doesn't like the whole idea of a Church of the Churchless.
Posted by: Brian | May 24, 2009 at 09:50 AM
Going to put my foot in here as per usual.
Unbiassed makes an excellent point concerning intelligent debate.
However imo both Ashy and tAo have a tremendous amount to contribute, I really enjoy both of their comments tremendously, more so when engaging the issue. Also, i believe both are actually very decent chaps who perhaps have a fairly forthright fiery opinionated side and i like that too.
Pity our egos get in the way at times.
It is Brian blog tho, and its real power imo is when all viewpoints are forthcoming, but i think points do need to be made.
Posted by: George | May 24, 2009 at 10:25 AM
Like I said, it's a debate about manner, not about form. Without a doubt tAo's contribution, once you sift through all the venom he insists on spitting, is clearly valuable for being consistently one-pointed and surgically incisive.
However, my point is that that value is undermined by all the unnecessary venom and as one poster hilariously put it, his predictable tendency to 'foam at the mouth'. I just find it unbearable sometimes and moreso because it is tolerated and defended by Brian in deference to similarly-valuable posters like Ashy. And for what reason? Because tAo is on-side and others aren't?? Gimme a break!
Posted by: Unbiassed | May 24, 2009 at 11:18 AM
Whoa, hold everything, I take it all back! I just had a chance to read the "I Hate the Churchless" blog and saw exactly what Brian was complaining about when he decided to censor Ashy.
I think tAo you have more than met your match here! I always thought you were off the rails when it came to offensive rhetoric, but this Ashy guy is on a whole new level. His insults and profanity are so totally outrageous that I found myself laughing uncontrollably the whole time.
Long live free speech and the power of individual expression...
Posted by: Unbiassed | May 24, 2009 at 11:42 AM
"Long live free speech and the power of individual expression..."
---I need to learn more about this "power" of individual expression.
---What would be an example of "individual" expression?
---To be truly individual, then should it be absolutely, one of a kind? Maybe not.
---Whatever is or is not. I want some of that power. Is this power objective or subjective?
Posted by: Roger | May 24, 2009 at 12:46 PM