Here are some rules for this blog. They may differ somewhat from the standards on other blogs, both on ajc.com and otherwise. If other rules become necessary, I will add them. I will not be able to enforce these rules 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for obvious reasons. But I will enforce them, including through regular periods of comment moderation when necessary. (Note: These rules have been modified to incorporate the ones from this list of July 2012.)
1. A variety of four-letter words and racial, ethnic and other slurs are not allowed. If you wonder whether a particular word is allowed, don’t use it. I will remove comments that include abbreviations or variations on the spelling of certain words (e.g., f@ck) at my discretion. Repeat offenders are subject to moderation or a ban.
2. No name-calling. This rule applies chiefly to other commenters. I will have very high tolerance when the subject is a public figure (e.g., President Obama or Gov. Deal) or me — though I reserve the right to take down comments that include gratuitous name-calling about anyone. I will also have high tolerance for labels (e.g., socialist, fascist, wingnut) regardless of political orientation, if only because they reveal weakness on the labeler’s part. But again, there is a line. If you think you might be crossing it then you probably are. And remember, there is no obligation to respond to someone else’s childishness.
This is a rule that I regret having to make, but experience has proven that the blog won’t operate properly without it. People who come onto the blog with personal attacks and little to nothing of substance to say will be subject to a permanent ban.
3. Similar to No. 2, but different: No unfounded criminal accusations about anyone, public figure or otherwise. You can call the president (Obama, Bush or any other one) a liar, or make some other sufficiently vague charge. But nothing specific about any specific person. There will be no tolerance for this. If you think you have evidence of such a crime, call the police (or a reporter…) but don’t post it here.
Along these lines, I have a decreasing amount of patience for posters who deliberately and consistently misrepresent my or others’ comments, or writings/statements from other sources. If you can’t make your argument without resorting to this kind of deception, you may find your comments going through moderation before they’re posted.
4. Anyone who refers to another commenter by anything other than the handle the latter uses will be subject to a ban of at least one week. This may sound like an extraordinary measure, but it is the source of many commenter fights. A shortened version of the handle may be acceptable, but only if there is no obvious intent to insult. As I will be the sole judge of that intent, I recommend you err on the side of not being too cute. The ban will also be applied to anyone who refers to commenters by previous handles they used.
5. Anyone who steals another person’s handle will be banned indefinitely.
6. Any comment that is plainly irrelevant to the discussion will be subject to removal. More specifically: Any comment that refers to discussions on another AJC blog’s comments thread will be subject to removal. These comments only serve to distract from the discussion on this blog and to start fights among commenters. If you have something to say in another blog’s discussion, say it there. If you have been banned from that blog, my blog is not a place for you to air your grievances, or a mirror site for you to try to participate in it anyway.
7. No cutting and pasting lengthy tracts of text from other publications. You can quote a couple of paragraphs as long as you cite the source, but do not paste the entire text into a comment. It not only makes the blog a difficult read; it’s also a potential copyright violation. Feel free to include links to any articles you find interesting (but note that any comment with more than one link will be held for moderation as part of our spam filter). Along these lines, if you have very lengthy (i.e. more than 150 words or so) thoughts of your own to share, please break them up into a couple of comments…it’s easier for everyone trying to read the blog, and people will be more likely to read what you have to say.
8. Commenters who violate any posted rule for this blog will be subject to temporary or permanent bans, or indefinite moderation. These and other penalties for inappropriate commenting not mentioned here also will be issued at my discretion.
My preference would be for these standards to be self-enforcing, for readers to call out any violators. I do not, however, want this to become a tactic for discouraging particular people — the equivalent of nuisance lawsuits. Should you feel it necessary to bring a comment to my attention, please do so by emailing me.
I will try to refrain from taking down comments or banning people from commenting on this blog, but I have and will do so if necessary. My goal and responsibility is to make sure the blog is a public forum, not a place for one or two people to monopolize space and thereby dissuade other people from participating.
I’m open to hearing your concerns or suggestions about these rules and the blog generally.
Updated and revised Feb. 8, 2011
Updated and revised again July 25, 2012