So I’ve gotten more aggressive in moderating and deleting comments here. A few times this has been because of people posting massive blocks of text that have essentially nothing to do with the content of the post I put up. (It’s free to start your own blog, fellas.) But mostly this stems from people telling me what I believe, and arguing with that belief that they claim I believe, rather than the things I actually do believe. And this practice often goes so far as to involve me literally saying “I don’t believe that” and people saying “yes you do.”
They’re arguing, in other words, with that other Freddie. This Freddie thinks that there are rhetorical, political, and moral problems with how we currently talk about privilege and inequality; that other Freddie doesn’t care about privilege and inequality or actively supports them. This Freddie thinks that affirmative consent laws are a mistake that could end up having unintended consequences that could actually make sexual assault harder to prosecute; that other Freddie doesn’t think rape is a problem or that rape culture is real. This Freddie thinks that pop culture enthusiasts have actually become the aggressors in the culture wars and that their own constant invocation of cultural elitism is the only place where that elitism survives; that other Freddie wants to burn your comic books. That other Freddie is a jerk, and I’m tired of defending myself by disassociating myself with him. So I’m adopting a policy of deleting comments that claim that I hold views I don’t hold.
This has, predictably, led to accusations of censorship. We could have a conversation about what censorship is and what it isn’t, if you’d like. If you think I’m someone who is unwilling to countenance criticism, even relentlessly personal criticism… that’s interesting. If I don’t think that claim is defensible, considering the stuff that is still in my comments right now. But either way: if you say I think something that I don’t think and haven’t said, your comment gets deleted. Life is just too short. So here are the rules:
You think that something I do believe should lead necessarily to a bad conclusion that I haven’t considered? Fair game.
You think that something I do believe contradicts something else that I do believe and I should think it over? Fair game.
If it’s a questionable case, I’ll tell you that I don’t believe what you think I believe and we can go from there.
If I clearly didn’t say anything implying Argument X, and you show up and say, “you believe X,” then I delete your comment, every time. I come right out and say, “I don’t believe X,” and you show up and say “You believe X,” then I delete your comment and you get banned, every time. You’ll survive; it’s not like this blog is a big deal or that commenting here is any great privilege.
Now, it’s my recent experience that this has become something of a plague in online conversation — people constantly having their views misrepresented and having to defend themselves against what they didn’t say and don’t believe rather than having productive arguments about what they did say and do believe. But I don’t want to write some sort of phony trend piece, so I’m just saying that this has been happening here a lot lately, and I’m tired of it, so I’m putting a stop to it.
If you and I are having an argument about what you believe, you win that argument by default, because you are you and I am not. If you and I are having an argument about what I believe, I win that argument by default, because I am me and you are not. That’s the only way argument can work. We’ve gotta get back to that simple principle.