Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Suspension of Comments by National Catholic Reporter: An Update

My posting Monday noting that National Catholic Reporter had suspended comments due to a proliferation of "vile and demeaning" discourse at some threads at the NCR site has now had over 1,000 reads. Due to the fact that the posting was widely read, I think it's important that I now take note of an update that Dennis Coday posted yesterday at the NCR site.

He notes that some folks have circulated information that NCR comments have been closed down completely. As the initial announcement stated, they've been suspended pending an evaluation process by NCR staff members regarding how to re-open the commenting system in a way that will allow commenting that is respectful to NCR writers and readers, and to the subjects addressed by NCR stories.

In addition, Dennis Coday states that some folks have also indicated that NCR suspended its comments due to "irreverent discourse." As he points out, his initial statement about the suspension clearly said that the reason for the suspension was a proliferation of comments that were "malicious," "abusive," and "vile."

There has been good discussion here at Bilgrimage about the NCR suspension of comments. As a number of you have pointed out, it's a shame that the comments threads of a site like NCR have to be suspended due to the kind of ugly comments that had begun to plaster the site. A number of you have noted that the suspension of respectful conversation plays into the hands of folks who'd like to shut down conversation altogether--and so you hope (as I do, too), that NCR will soon have its comments system up and running again, with policies and procedures that make it harder for the vile and demeaning discourse to proliferate on threads at the site.

A related issue: a number of you have noted (and you're absolutely correct) that after the NCR threads were suspended (temporarily) and some commenters who were regular contributors to NCR discussions migrated to this site to continue discussion, some other hidden lurkers appear to have made the migration along with them, and have begun voting down many comments that contributors make to these threads. As far as I'm concerned, the down-voting is merely an annoyance. Ultimately, it illustrates the futility of those who have no other way of trying to torpedo conversations--since they know that if they try to spread ugly discourse freely at this site, they'll certainly be challenged and, if they refuse to cease the hate speech once they've been called out about it, they'll be banned.

But I do want you all to know I've taken note of your concern about the distracting and immature down-voting of comments by lurkers whose identities are concealed as they snipe at and taunt people by way of the voting system. I've contacted Disqus to see if I can temporarily suspend the voting system at this blog, as a way of dealing with the problem. I'll let you know what I discover when Disqus responds to me about this.

Meanwhile, perhaps we can all send some warm and healing thoughts to the poor down-voting individuals who have to be suffering as they're forced to slog through discourse here that is obviously distasteful to them. What a cross their apostolate of monitoring the free, respectful exchanges at Catholic blog sites, and seeking to shut those exchanges down, has to be, since it requires them on a daily basis to read so much theology and so much open sharing of opinion by fellow Catholics whose opinions they do not intend to respect!

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