Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Forum Vote on Trolls and Flamers

I've always been extremely reluctant to ban and censor, and very much believe in free speech. At the same time I believe just as strongly that the speech which is free (as a matter of quality, not "rights" or abstract principls) ought to have content, and to convey charity.

Lately, several folks have taken it upon themselves to come onto this blog with axes to grind, eager to launch potshots. And (most importantly for this discussion) that is all they do: there is no attempt at sustained, back-and-forth discussion, with an attitude of open-mindedness or the slightest benefit of the doubt given to other points of view. The same people are presently engaging in entire threads on other forums designed to mock and ridicule and put me down (along with apologists, which seems to be a fashionable thing these days: at least in certain circles). I'm sure it's boring to everyone, and it does no one any good (including the people who do it).

My own position on the matter remains what it has always been. As stated in my introductory Thoughts on Amiable and Constructive Dialogue post (on the sidebar):
I would advise all participants here to simply ignore posts where a person obviously wants to primarily insult and run down others personally, or to grind axes . . . Many such people simply want to get a rise out of others and to bait and goad them. That is defeated by ignoring the bait. If they don't get what they came to get, eventually they'll disappear (because they are deprived of the thrill and charge that motivates them to act in this fashion), and the quality of the blog threads will thereby be improved. Try it; it works almost every time.

There are certain types of posts I am not interested in at all, and I will not reply to them, with rare exceptions. These are: . . . 3) "know-it-alls" and anyone with an axe to grind, who is uncharitable and hostile, or who has a "machismo," "bulldog" or "verbal bully" mentality, or who wants to lecture and not dialogue. That could include certain people from any belief-system, folks who fall on any and all points of the so-called "conservative" and "liberal" continuum, or people who just don't care for me or someone else personally for some reason or other.
So my view is based on the philosophy of largely ignoring the troll and baiter and flamer. It's rather simple psychology, really. Sometimes (as you well know) I can't resist pointing out a fact or doing some of my trademark satirical humor (which is a major way I deal with nonsense and foolishness), but by and large I will refuse to engage in what St. Paul calls a "stupid controversy" (because that is what he himself urged upon Christians). You've seen me do that with the recent spate. I no longer attempt dialogue with anti-Catholics, etc.

I did put up the Top Ten Reasons post as a humorous act but at-bottom (as with all satirical / sarcastic material done properly) quite serious protest against the frequent sad descent of Internet ethics into the sewer. That's how I deal with it, personally, as I can't for the life of me figure out why the people who communicate in this fashion cannot see that it is blatantly contrary to biblical teaching. I don't think I'll ever figure that out, but obviously it is a huge problem, which is why the Bible deals so frequently with the problem of evil speaking, as just one manifestation of the larger problem of human sin, and propensity to sin (concupiscence).

Nevertheless, as this is a group venue, and I want input from my readers (especially regulars), I am willing to put this situation to a vote. A simple majority in favor of ridding this blog of these types by banning them would mean that the trollers would be promptly banned. They would have one more chance to try to engage in real discussion if they wish, but if they start in on the nonsense, they're out of here (i.e., if a majority of my readers want them to be). Or if you prefer to let these people talk, and either ignore them (my strategy) or deal with them in some other way, then your vote would be "NO".

YES = banning the trolls and flamers
NO = letting them stay

For now, the problem is relatively slight, but bad enough for me to think it is necessary to vote on it. Preferably, if you vote, put something about how long you have been coming here, etc., so we can have some idea about who you are, and that you are a legitimate regular visitor. Just a brief statement will do. You could have been here just a little while, but if you like what you see on my blog, you are most welcome to vote and participate. We want to prevent anonymous trollers coming in to influence the vote. The closer the vote is, I may ask for further information from some people I don't recognize. If it isn't close at all, that won't matter.

Please vote! I want to hear your opinion.

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