Duncan Black, who writes under the nom-de-plume "Atrios," once remarked on a subject he didn't understand: "Our discourse is so stupid."
That quip has made me smile for almost two years, and I enjoy linking to it -- not least because he was commenting on a project near and dear to Joel Mathis and me. Black was wrong about the particulars, but the line nicely encapsulated just about every cliché you've read about blogging and bloggers. Hence, "Atrios was right," even though he wasn't.
Lately though, it occurs to me that Black's observation accurately describes some of the comments here on Infinite Monkeys.
We never set out to have this blog be anything other than a place for this eclectic and changing group of people to spout off on any subject they like, whenever they like. I've always blanched at the idea that Infinite Monkeys is just another "libertarian/conservative" blog. The description is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't go nearly far enough. Our political outlook is broader and our interests are more varied.
When it comes to comments, we've always encouraged discussion and we never wanted to establish any onerous rules. I've been a moderator before -- I was paid to do it. I'm not paid to moderate this site. I don't want to moderate it. In general, we prefer to give people plenty of rope with which to hang themselves and we're not inclined to ban commenters. We're not Little Green Footballs here. (Would that we had the traffic!)
Yet I've closed two comment threads and deleted one comment within the past hour today. I may be wrong, but I don't think I've ever deleted a comment that wasn't spam. Maybe once before, but it's not like I keep track.
So, here's the deal: We're not going to countenance loose charges of treason in the comments. If I see stuff like that again, it's getting deleted. If a commenter insists on leveling that charge, that commenter is going to be banned.
I'm also getting bored with the lazy ad hominem arguments and personal attacks in the comments. If you don't know the difference, read this. And if you have any doubts about whether your comment includes an ad hominem or personal attack, do us all a favor: Don't post it.
Finally, I'm going to be a lot more... well, liberal about invoking what will be known henceforth as The Atrios Rule. If the discourse becomes too stupid, I'm going to close down the comments on the post.
Don't worry, you'll still have ample opportunity to make monkeys of yourselves. Lord knows, we do it every day. But we're going to keep the poo-flinging to a minimum.
Thanks for reading.