A vaguely passive-aggressive post on commenters

by Chris Bertram on November 22, 2009

Ten types of commenter, of which the last are the rarest.

  1. The commenter who has not read the post properly, decides they know what it says anyway, and fires off a series of disgusted observations.

  2. Commenter who applies the most uncharitable possible interpretation to the post, and goes straight into rant mode.

  3. The commenter who takes the opportunity to make some sarcastic remarks highlighting his (99% of cases are male) own superior scholarship/intelligence and damning the CT author. “If only Chris has read the second treatise of Heinrich von Pumpkin in the original German, he’d be aware ….”

  4. The commenter who uses every comment as a peg on which to hang his (yes, “his”) own obsessions about, e.g. analytical philosophy, populism, Palestine, etc

  5. The commenter who simply wants to make nasty personal remarks about the CT author, often about female members of the collective, often using an alias.

  6. The commenter with a sense of grievance against CT following their treatment in some comment thread back in 2004.

  7. The commenter who notices that a CT author said P in 2005 and not-P in 2008, and who gives every impression of compiling an archive of such contradictions.

  8. The commenter who has posted in the thread in error, and angrily denounces literary theory in a discussion of Irish cuisine.

  9. The spambot.

  10. The commenter who reads what we write, tries to have a conversation, is occasionally appreciative, points out mistakes helpfully rather than as “gotchas”, brings their own knowledge to the table.



bend 11.22.09 at 12:15 pm

why i generally stick to lurking


Aosher 11.22.09 at 12:19 pm



Leinad 11.22.09 at 12:30 pm

This will end well.


alex 11.22.09 at 12:50 pm

One is tempted to say “ah, diddums”, but that would be ever-so unhelpful, wouldn’t it?


novakant 11.22.09 at 12:51 pm



William Burns 11.22.09 at 1:04 pm

This post should be retitled “an explicitly active-aggressive post on commenters.” Nothing vague or passive about it.


Chris Dornan 11.22.09 at 1:12 pm

I am sorry you think so poorly of us.


ejh 11.22.09 at 1:22 pm

I think that the comments on CT are really quite good, especially by the standards of the genre. If this were not so, I would read this blog less.


belle le triste 11.22.09 at 1:23 pm

I must be at 11, Spinal Tap style.


Chris Dornan 11.22.09 at 1:24 pm

I didn’t want to indulge the article too much but there is one point that might better illustrate how ill-advised it is. I was struck by the carelessness in writing point 4, some of those categories being tied to people. If the article is some kind of ironical parody of the subject it is treating then I think it goes a little too far.


Wesley Osam 11.22.09 at 1:31 pm

11. The commenter whose post is nothing more than a variation on “me too.”

12. The commenter who is actually interested in advertising his or her own book/blog/whatever. (This is a variation on #4. One of these people shows up in the comment threads at my local newspaper’s website; he makes a brief comment which invariably ends with the information that we can read his complete views on his blog.)

13. The commenter who may well be saying something interesting, but you’ll never know because his or her comment is unreadable due to a poor grasp of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, paragraphing, or sentence structure.

14. The commenter who tries to have a conversation and bring his or her own knowledge to the table but who just isn’t particularly interesting. I’m afraid I fall into this category more often than not.


marcel 11.22.09 at 1:32 pm


You are being far too modest. IIRC you covered this thoroughly in QJC (2002).


P O'Neill 11.22.09 at 1:42 pm

If only Chris has read the second treatise of Heinrich von Pumpkin in the original German

It’s van Pumpkin, and it was in Flemish.


David 11.22.09 at 1:55 pm

What about the drunk ones?


Number 4 11.22.09 at 1:57 pm

I have retired, andfuture CT comment threads should be, as this one is, on topic and extremely interesting.


navarro 11.22.09 at 2:15 pm

i don’t understand your strange aversion to irish folk tunes. a steady diet of anything can make one sickly, to be sure, but your frequent and constant fulminations against the simple melodies and high pathos of the genre are unseemly and, ultimately, tiresome.


kid bitzer 11.22.09 at 2:16 pm

doesn’t this go under the earlier discussion of “how to write a post to generate more than 100 comments”?


UNRR 11.22.09 at 2:17 pm

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 11/22/2009, at The Unreligious Right


roger 11.22.09 at 2:42 pm

Chris could be a little more grateful – CT could have Matt Yglesias’ commenters!
It is an interesting question, little asked: who has the best comments threads? My vote would be for Mark Thoma’s blog. I love the commenters there.


Harry 11.22.09 at 2:43 pm

I recognise all the types described, but I would say that type 10 is remarkably common– at least, that remarkably large numbers of comments come from type-10 commenters. Compare with the rest of life.


Es-tonea-pesta 11.22.09 at 2:45 pm

“Mrs Tilton” is male?


Memmetaal's Favorite Son 11.22.09 at 2:49 pm

@13: Once again the legitimate claims of West Frisian are obscured by Flemish cultural imperialism. Von Pumpkin spent his formative drunken weekends in Bolsward, as I’ve exhaustively documented at my blog.

Of course, the feminazis of CT will delete this post just as they did that time in 2004.


Salient 11.22.09 at 2:56 pm

God, ouch.

Alright, goodbye.


tom s. 11.22.09 at 2:58 pm

Sorry, but it’s “ah diddums” from me too.

Any blog that gets enough commenters to classify into ten types is fortunate.


Matt 11.22.09 at 2:59 pm

P O’Neil beat me to the joke I wanted to make. Probably better he did, as his version was funnier. More seriously, though, I’d be interested in hearing from Chris about whether he thinks there are non-specialist blogs w/o highly moderated comments that do much better than CT. I don’t know of any, if many. There are obviously some problems (and problem cases) here, but it seems much better than average. The comments are, to my mind, usually net positives while on most blogs the opposite is true. I do think that at least one important category was left out: Comments awaiting moderation for having mentioned soc1al1sm. Surely that’s as common as some of 1-10 above!


Matt 11.22.09 at 3:00 pm

Of course now my comment saying that “comments awaiting moderation” should be a category is in turn waiting moderation, despite my best attempts to avoid it!


Phillip Hallam-Baker 11.22.09 at 3:24 pm

In the old days, the response to a post of this kind would be ‘welcome to USENET’.


MikeAdamson 11.22.09 at 3:28 pm

“The Brehon Laws while honouring cooks stated that the cook cannot be held responsible for a person getting scalded when he is serving food from a cauldron if he shouts out in a loud voice a warning to those a round him.”

Danaher, K (1992). Fires, Fireplaces and Cooking Biatas Dublin


Salient 11.22.09 at 3:29 pm

…I’m sorry. It occurs to me that my expression of the hurt experienced upon reading this post actually qualifies under #2 above. It was not my intention to exacerbate or provoke.

It was my intention to say: “The CT comments community is one of many communities, online and offline, to which it has been a pleasure and privilege for me to belong. I second Chis Dornan’s comment to the effect that I am sorry to have perhaps contributed, I promise you inadvertently, to the nontrivial disappointments you have experienced as a CT author. It was my understanding that largely all of us, within reasonable constraints but including the pesky and irritable among us, were reasonably warmly welcomed and appreciated here, despite being occasionally irksome, and that in the main our collective presence was very much enjoyed by the CT authors, including you. I am deeply saddened to learn that there exists this strong a discrepancy between the sense of community I have felt during my time commenting here and the sense of community you have experienced as a CT author, and will be sure to be attentive to the expectations you’ve set forth should I contemplate commenting on your future posts.”

It was hard to say these things right the first time because it felt a bit numb and struck to read this post, exactly as I would if the host of a largely pleasant large community get-together I was attending suddenly stepped forth to announce that he was sick of so many of us behaving like wankers. Even those who are not in the host’s mind at the time of that comment are given pause: it is natural to wonder, “so… does this mean I should leave? To what extent have I been an irritant?”

Anyhow, I hope you don’t let frustrations stemming from CT ruin the rest of your week-end!


Crazy eyes killer 11.22.09 at 3:42 pm

I really feel sorry for academic bloggers who lack the control they enjoy in the classroom.


JoB 11.22.09 at 3:45 pm

13- there’s no such thing as the “Flemish language”, we speak Dutch (albeit in generally more eloquent ways than the people that are actually from Holland).


Michael Drake 11.22.09 at 3:59 pm

Flemish: 1. Belgian Dutch (Nl-Belgisch-Nederlands.ogg Belgisch-Nederlands (help·info)), the national variety of the Dutch language as spoken in Belgium,[2][3][4] be it standard (as used in schools, government and the media)[5] or informal (as used in daily speech, “tussentaal “)”

(Commenter type 11: May or may not have read the post, but seizes on a niggling side issue in the comments. (Yes, I qualify.))


The Raven 11.22.09 at 4:15 pm



Aulus Gellius 11.22.09 at 4:19 pm

A challenge: write a single comment (ideally in another post than this one) that falls simultaneously into all 10 categories. Go!

Myself, I’m disappointed to find that, by the most generous interpretation, all the comments I’ve ever made here can be included in no more than 5 of the categories (1, 2, 3, 4, and sometimes 10 by accident). Must work harder! And possibly become a spambot!


JoB 11.22.09 at 4:24 pm

30- I was first on 11 and “Is a variety of a language a language.” And anyway, wikipedia galore, I’m Flemish but I speak Dutch. Or don’t Americans speak English?


Delicious Pundit 11.22.09 at 4:26 pm

Wow, somebody had a big bowl of Diva Flakes this morning! I imagine CB’s next move is to make like Miles Davis and blog with his back to the audience.

Personally, I really enjoy the commenters here, even, or especially, when I realize that I’m far too maleducated to understand what’s being talked about. (Though I imagine it’s easier for me than for a proprietor to bail on a thread that’s getting ranty.)


lemuel pitkin 11.22.09 at 4:33 pm

I’ve always found the comments section here to be by far the best of any blog I read. Certainly CT would be far less interesting without it. What blog do you think does better? Making Light? Unfogged maybe?

On can’t help feeling that some of these problems are just the flip side of the fact that a blog like this involves successful academics talking as equals to people from very different backgrounds, with different priors.


Dave Maier 11.22.09 at 4:56 pm

As a type #4, I can see why our comments can be disappointing to the author, but as a reader, I find that such comments (depending of course on who they’re by, and what their deal is) are why I keep coming by (plus the posts themselves of course). As I see it, a comment thread isn’t a single conversation — it’s more like a party, where people clump together talking about different things, and you walk around and join in whenever you like.

I liked Michael Drake’s type 11 too, but I’m not sure I qualify for that, as I always read the post before seizing on a niggling side issue in the comments.


Glen Tomkins 11.22.09 at 5:20 pm

If it’s any consolation, good patients are even rarer than one in ten. But, you know, if they all already understood that they need to take responsibility for their own treatment, then I could probably be replaced very efficiently by a search engine that asked the Cochrane Collaboration which pill to prescribe. It’s one of those Fable of the Bees things, in that individual failings are the basis of society.


Jacob Christensen 11.22.09 at 5:28 pm

There is such a thing as Irish cuisine? I have always thought the Irish lived on a steady diet of Guinness and whiskey.


Ted Lemon 11.22.09 at 5:43 pm

What you don’t realize is that what you say is always so correct and complete that there is nothing to add, so of course we pontificate on topics of interest to us using your post as a springboard. You should try to make more mistakes and omissions.


tom s. 11.22.09 at 5:49 pm

CB – if you want a break from commenters, I’m sure many of us would welcome you as guest-poster on our blogs (with no announcement on CT of course). I’ll be the first to make the offer.


Zeno 11.22.09 at 6:10 pm

I’m chuckling and laughing while reading these comments, but if you want my full opinion you need to visit my blog, which is not written in Flemish (or Dutch, either).


D 11.22.09 at 6:26 pm

Chris –



Jacob Christensen 11.22.09 at 6:27 pm

That said, does anybody know of a study of the impact of Dutch cuisine on literary theory? In Fle … (ducks) … Dutch if need be.

(Oh god, I’m in Unfogged mode today…)


lemuel pitkin 11.22.09 at 6:31 pm

Tom S.-

Thanks for reminding me I haven’t looked at Whimsley for a while. Good, good stuff! That post on the Netflix recommendation algorithm is fascinating. Fun fact from the post: of all widely-viewed Netflix movies, the ones with the most easily predicted ratings are, by a wide margin, the second two Lord of the Rings movies.


Hortense 11.22.09 at 6:32 pm

@ Aulus Gellius –

That Crooked Timber, a supposedly “philosophical” “blog,” posits such drivel about post-communism (the most significant development in the history of the world) is frankly appalling. No expert in the field can find two things wrong with post-communism, much less the nine enumerated here.

Clearly, Mr. or Ms. Chris Bertram, who hides his or her gender behind a deliberately androgynous name, is a clueless fakir unfamiliar with seminal works in the field, like those of University of Lund Professor Fiona Björling, who, in “From Nostalgia to Subversion: Different Modes in the Visual Documentation of Post-communist Russia,” identifies the cultural lacunae that wrap their acephalous arms around the anecdata of reality.

And let us not even mention the hypocrisy of Bertram, who, back in 2004, excoriated me for defending the legalization of prostitution, then in 2005 jumped on the “Whores! Hooray!” bandwagon, and who then, in 2008, dipped the shrimp of pimpage in the batter of stupid, stir-fried it up in the oil of obliviousness, and denounced Belle du Jour for seeking to monetize her experiences by writing books, instead of sticking to blow jobs.

I leave you with this thought, so eloquently expressed by Laurence Tenney:

“It might intrigue you to learn [assuming, presumptuously I fear, that you don’t already know it] that the ancient Hebrew word generally translated by certain blue-nosed XIXth Century clerics as “temple prostitute” was “qadeshah,” plural “qadeshot.” The “q” stands for a throaty glottal-stop consonant not used in Standard English, similar to the sound New Englanders use in the middle of the word “bottle.”

But I digress. I find that I digress more the older I get. Why is it that the word “Alzheimer’s” leaps so trippingly to the tongue?

Anyhoo, “Qadeshah,” by derivation, should be more properly translated as “holy one.” “

Slightly off topic: get your performance-enhancing drug that starts with a “c”and ends with an “s” here!


Eli Rabett 11.22.09 at 7:00 pm

Of the ten types of posters, of whom the last are the rarest. . .

1. The victim bullies, who accuse the commenters of being nasty to them

2. The editors, who edit comments to distort their meaning and turn them into friskings.

10. The poster who reads the comments, tries to have a conversation, is occasionally appreciative, points out mistakes accepts correction helpfully rather than behaving as a godlike being and modifies her opinions in the course of the discussion

3-9 are at the discretion of the reader


JoB 11.22.09 at 7:10 pm

41/43. Do the Danes speak Scandinavian? Do the Scots speak Scottish? Do Brusselians speak Belgian? People from Liège Walloon? Les gens de Lille Flamand?


bianca steele 11.22.09 at 7:56 pm

@25 Unfortunately long since replaced by Gnostics on every topic and accusations of illiteracy.


chris y 11.22.09 at 8:06 pm

Do the Scots speak Scottish?

Careful there, JoB. A lot of Scots are very sensitive about Scots (the system of oral and literary communication) being a language rather than a dialect, similar to but differing from English. In Northern Ireland, Ulster Scots is, I believe, an official language of sorts.


john c. halasz 11.22.09 at 8:15 pm


A language is just a dialect with a navy. What language does the Belgian navy speak?


alex 11.22.09 at 8:34 pm

@49 – indeed it is, and very difficult for an Englishman to look at without laughing. The official magazine of its ‘Agency’ is called Oot an Aboot, but tragically appears to be written in standard English, rather defeating its own purpose:

The Ulster Scots Society, OTOH, does at least keep some of its webpages in the ‘leid’:
“Tha Societie’s ettlin at soartin tha stannin o tha leid eftèr monie a lang day o bak-gaein an ïll-wïll, an it’s aye threapin fur it tae hae fïttin kennin frae govermenn, baith in buik-lear an oweraa.”


Doctor Slack 11.22.09 at 9:12 pm

@ejh: “I think that the comments on CT are really quite good, especially by the standards of the genre.”

Conversely, I think the comments on CT are an absolute wasteland seven times out of ten. They’re the reason I don’t read this blog as much as I otherwise would.

(Much as I hate being “the commenter who comments to complaint about the quality of the comments.”)


tom s. 11.22.09 at 9:59 pm

@lemuel – aw shucks. Thanks.

@Doctor Slack – On CT, I end up reading at least some of the comments for most posts, so they do add to the site for me. On blogs where the comments do annoy me, (Marginal Revolution, I’m looking at you) I find it easy to just stop reading at the end of the post so the comments, now I know what to expect, don’t really detract. Similarly YouTube, of course. So I find the idea of comments actively detracting from the value of a site odd.


Timothy Scriven 11.22.09 at 10:00 pm

I fear that I am falling into a very obvious trap and becoming one of 1-9. But it’s bit mean and yes, passive aggressive, isn’t it? Are commentors here really that bad? I would have thought that the majority are 10’s and the rest are 1-9’s. I’m more of a lurker than a poster and I typically find the comment threads often as enlightening as the posts themselves, they are part of the reason I love CT so much.


Alex 11.22.09 at 10:37 pm

11. The commenter who goes unnoticed or ignored, and thus misses out on the chance to be formulated as one of the stereotypical breeds of commenters.


John Quiggin 11.22.09 at 10:38 pm

I think Chris has confounded comments and commenters in his numerical ranking.

Type 10 is, I’m pretty sure, the modal type for CT commenters. I can think of lots who make useful and friendly comments from time to time, as against maybe half a dozen for most of Types 1-9.

On the other hand, Type 4 is almost certainly the modal comment, followed by 3 and 2. When you are on the receiving end, as Chris and I have been, it’s hard to remember the non-voluble majority among commenters, not to mention the silent majority of readers (deprecated as ‘lurkers’ in some circles, but not by me). And while I don’t get many Type 5’s here, I get plenty at my own blog, and you tend either to withdraw or respond in kind.


Doctor Slack 11.22.09 at 10:46 pm

@tom: “I find the idea of comments actively detracting from the value of a site odd.”

I think the difference for me is that, if I’m watching a clip of, say, a hockey fight or a Hindi movie on Youtube, I’m there primarily for the content and could care less about the “discussion” or lack thereof. On a blog like CT, however, the posts are often explicitly framed and constructed as jumping-off points for discussion, so it’s more of a drawback.


Grant 11.22.09 at 10:58 pm

Th cmmntr wh hs smthng vr imprtnt t cntrbt t th dscssn, bt whs cmmnt hs bn rndrd nntllgbl b th whm f th mdrtr.


lemuel pitkin 11.22.09 at 11:07 pm

I think the comments on CT are an absolute wasteland seven times out of ten.

So, what blogs do you think have better comments? And how do they manage it?

(Not rhetorical questions.)


bianca steele 11.22.09 at 11:09 pm

I’ve known a decent number of female #4’s fwiw, a pretty large number of female #3’s, and admittedly few female #2’s (but many female meta-2’s, accusing others of same).


James Conran 11.22.09 at 11:21 pm

Surely Chris wouldn’t be surprised if CT readers took this post as something of an insult, or at the very least rather insensitive?

As others have said, the comments here are a huge poitive for the site. By the low, low standards of the internet you are collectively very lucky. Perhaps JQ is right about the comment/commenter distinction and about some contributors being targeted for bad comments. But this could have been rather more adroitly done. Unless you actually wanted to insult your reader-commenters that is, which I’m guessing you didn’t.


lemuel pitkin 11.22.09 at 11:33 pm

It would be interesting to apply this schema to some actual CT comments.

Chris B.’s previous post is here. Here’s how the first 40 comments look to me:

10, 1, 10, 10, CB himself, 10, ?, 10, 10, CB, ?, ? , 10, 10, 10, CB, 10, 10, CB, 10, 10, 10, 10, ?, 3/4 (a woman, BTW), 10, 10, 10, CB, 10, 10, 10, ?, 10, 10 (me), 10, 10, 10, ?, 10, 10.

Chris, how would you break them down?


lemuel pitkin 11.22.09 at 11:35 pm


LFC 11.23.09 at 12:16 am

I’m glad when one of my posts at my blog gets any comments, no matter their character (except for obvious spam, e.g., “buy this wonderful X”).


politicalfootball 11.23.09 at 12:18 am

Blogs whose posters participate in the comments invariably have better comment sections. I think Crooked Timber is well above average in its comments section, probably for this reason. I certainly don’t share the hostility that posters here have toward the commenters.

For example, were I the proprietor of a blog, I’d be extremely flattered by type 7, and the type 4’s here are often well worth reading.


Sam Centipedro 11.23.09 at 12:42 am

Off-topic, but what do you guys think about the Thierry Henry handball incident?


Sam Centipedro 11.23.09 at 12:43 am

Oh yes, there’s another category: the commenter who posts something completely irrelevant to the main topics of the thread.


Donald Johnson 11.23.09 at 1:20 am

Frequently the comments here are more interesting than the post. Not always, but it’s not rare by any means. I don’t say this as someone deluded enough to think my own comments are of this caliber–I’m talking about others. (I mostly lurk here anyway). There are a lot of 10’s posting here. Also a fair number of the other types, but even then, type 4’s can often say things that are very interesting. Types 1-3 and types 5-9 are, admittedly, quite annoying. (I’ve been type 1 at some blogs, though not here, AFAIK.)

Anyway, what prompted this rant? I haven’t been lurking lately–there must have been a real stinker of a thread to elicit this response.


Nabakov 11.23.09 at 1:22 am

And what about a category for commentors who just make smart-arsed self-referential comments like this one?


lxm 11.23.09 at 1:24 am

Those damn 10s are going to ruin it for everyone. And what’s with this serif font anyway. Can barely read it; just clogs up the visual space. And ‘vaguely’ is the wrong word.


Doctor Slack 11.23.09 at 1:26 am

“So, what blogs do you think have better comments? And how do they manage it?”

Well… comparing blogs can be a bit apples and oranges. An audience with a strong common interest, a well-established blog style or “culture” (often the product of the blog’s having been founded by a strong personality), or active and consistent moderating, or all three will tend to have better comments sections (those are advantages common in one way or another to blogs I read more frequently — Making Light, BookNinja, whatever Ebert’s film blog is called, Kung Fu Monkey, Antagony & Ecstasy, Digby’s Hullabaloo… Unfogged is another example, I guess, although it’s more of a glorified collective LiveJournal these days so maybe not a relevant one). It could be CT suffers from the lack of these advantages.


less is more 11.23.09 at 1:28 am

Wow, this writer really needs to go see the comments on some other blogs. I probably read somewhere between 30 and 70 fresh blogs a day. Probably read comments on maybe ten to twelve.

I can assure you that Crooked Timber has some of the best commentators that are out there.

Also, the subject matter is so far above the trolls current heads that they can’t really stir things up. They will get here eventually.

About 4 years ago, I realized that almost all of the trolls found spellcheck within about three months.

About two years ago a lot of the trolls were able to write readable sentences and construct a paragraph.

The other day, I found a concern troll on a liberal blog giving instructions on how to write in English to another troll, literally correcting word by word what the other had written. Hmmm, how about a PhD in Literature who is whoring for the Homeland Security Gang?

I have no doubt that the Homeland Security boys are taking advantage of the economy to hire the English majors from the Ivy League and the ones who were in debate clubs.

Unfortunately the improvements take away the pleasure of finding a real honest to God, rag chewing, dog biting nitwit on the loose with a computer especially the ones where I checked ” let me know of follow ups” and I get a three page reply to a throw away sentence two months before. My favorite was the person who sent me the family tree for Pat Nixon after I said Pat’s mother was a whore in Ely, NV. I mean clinically insane just barely covers me. What in hell does a family tree have to do with prostitution?


Substance McGravitas 11.23.09 at 1:41 am

Nabakov 11.23.09 at 1:22 am
And what about a category for commentors who just make smart-arsed self-referential comments like this one?

And how about their nitpickers?


John Holbo 11.23.09 at 1:41 am

I feel there is a need for a slight variation on 1. “The commenter who has not read the post properly, decides they know what it says anyway, and fires off a series of disgusted observations.”

There is also the commenter who has not read the post properly and urgently intervenes to make sure that people appreciate that what they should know is … something that the post in fact quite clearly states. (But perhaps I’m slicing too fine.)


Doctor Slack 11.23.09 at 2:00 am

Wow, that last comment of mine sort of looks insulting to multiple parties. To clarify, when I say “founded by a strong personality” I mean a single strong personality whose style dominates the blog; I’m not accusing the CT bloggers of having weak personalities, it’s just that it’s a collective enterprise combining many different styles and approaches. And the LiveJournal crack about Unfogged wasn’t meant maliciously, it can be fine to have more of a focus on the quotidian, as it were.


Wax Banks 11.23.09 at 2:28 am

Shorter Chris B., first attempt:

“Why don’t we attract the kind of readers we deserrrrrve?


A. Portugal 11.23.09 at 4:10 am

This post has actually spurred me to make my first comment. I check this blog almost everyday and have done so for years, and 90% of the reason why is because of the commentators here. If it wasn’t for them, I would not bother to read the blog. So let me take this opportunity to thank the community for providing me with so much entertainment t and thought provoking insight throughout the years.


Sebastian 11.23.09 at 4:19 am

I wonder if that’s a first.
While I have seen bloggers call individual commenters morons (though even that is rare), calling more than 90% of your commenters morons (or arrogant bastards or whatever) must be pretty unique in the world of blogging.
There is a parallel in theater though, so maybe this version of “offending the audience” is part of second generation blogging?


nona mouse 11.23.09 at 4:19 am

You forgot the commenter who attacks other commenters.

This post is reassuring, actually. I am often confused by the comments here and–I guess this is a sign of humility or insecurity or something–I think I must not be getting the post because the comments say things that don’t make sense to me, given what the post said. (At Unfogged often only the first comment or two bears a relationship to the post. But that’s not the scene here.)


Tom West 11.23.09 at 5:17 am

While I’ve pretty much given up commenting at CT after having a piano dropped on me, I have to say that I’ll be very sad, Salient, if you disappear. They may not have been appreciated by the CT posters (apparently), but they have always been appreciated by me (and I suspect other commenters), especially when I disagreed with them :-).

Perhaps the software could have a a flag for each of the individuals posters: “open comments”, “no comments” and “no comments that disagree with the original post”.


Doug M. 11.23.09 at 6:22 am

“On the other hand, Type 4 is almost certainly the modal comment, followed by 3 and 2. ”

John, no offense, but brief scanning of the last few threads by you and Chris suggests that is not in fact the case. Really — pick one at random and go look.

I would respectfully suggest that a minority of comments — the classic few bad apples, if you like — are disproportionately coloring your perception.

Doug M.


Doug M. 11.23.09 at 6:41 am

As for Chris, I’d agree with the commenter who noted that there’s nothing vague about the passive aggression here.

In all seriousness, if you’re that unhappy with your commentariat, why are you still blogging?

Doug M.


John Quiggin 11.23.09 at 7:06 am

@83 Doug, you may be right. Certainly, I have nothing much to complain about in the last few (a bit of Type 3, but I guess I deserve that for opining on subjects on which I’m not an expert), but there are some mammoth threads that, at least in my memory, consist almost entirely of 2s, 3s and 4s.

Maybe memory is playing tricks on me. If so, please remember that blogging is a lot of work, and the emotional energy involved in dealing with nasty comments is substantial, certainly enough to produce a jaundiced view of the whole enterprise on bad days.


Doug 11.23.09 at 7:39 am

11. The commenter who quotes Teresa Nielsen Hayden thusly, “Another important rule: You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them. There are others like them prowling the net, looking for just that kind of situation. More of them will turn up, and they’ll encourage each other to behave more and more outrageously. Kill them quickly and have no regrets.”

And thusly, “It takes rather more moderation than that to create a complex, nuanced, civil discourse. If you want that to happen, you have to give of yourself. Providing the space but not tending the conversation is like expecting that your front yard will automatically turn itself into a garden.”

And provides the link.

But otherwise agrees with his co-blogger, Doug M.


Chris Bertram 11.23.09 at 8:01 am

I’m amazed by those of you who are _personally offended_. I’d have thought you’d realize that I think of _you_ as a 10 and that it was _those other people_ I was writing about. Seriously though, the “1 in 10 is a 10” claim is just a rhetorical artficact of listing 10 types, and wasn’t intended as a bit of serious statistics. Lots of you are lovely, honestly, and I note (after inspection) that the most recent post where the comments really annoyed me has more 10s and fewer 3s and 4s than I remembered.

(By way of compensation to the truly offended, I’m willing to offer a year’s annual subscription to Crooked Timber, completely free of charge.)


Doctor Slack 11.23.09 at 8:20 am

“Lots of you are lovely, honestly”

Why, thank you, I just got a haircut.

(The rest of you non-tens can screw yourselves. I’m in like Flynn.)


alex 11.23.09 at 8:29 am

Hey, if we could screw ourselves, d’ya think we’d be wasting our time here?


annoyed 11.23.09 at 8:34 am

I can’t tell if or how much you (Chris B.) is joking here, but you sound like a jerk.

I’m going back to not commenting now.


JoB 11.23.09 at 8:57 am

51/52/53- getting back on topic. Sensitivities: yep – there are Flemish people proud to speak Flemish (they tend to be boring and they don’t understand me when I go full out in my Germanic sounding dialect or start to talk as my kids talk, they also tend to have beards with no moustaches, a substandard bodily hygiene and kids with fear installed in their eyes as a sort of permanent resident). The Belgian Navy is trilingual: French (& not Walloon, even if they’re allowed to say ‘nonante’ and ‘septante’), German – usually used only for the beginning and ending of speeches and much amusing to the children – and, yes, Dutch (‘Ge zijt zot zekers as ge dacht da wijlie hier koeterwaals spraakten.’ &, yes, I apologize to the scottish and will refrain from misspelling Brown as McBrown.

And if I would inadvertantly say McBrown I would apologize for it after being aware of it.

And I would do thusly as well:

I’msorry to have said McBrown where I should have said Brown. I’m really sorry – consider me humbled


bad Jim 11.23.09 at 9:02 am

I’m perturbed, even though I’m not the least bit phlegmish.


John Personna 11.23.09 at 10:56 am

I’ve always thought that “bloggers pontificate and commenters(*) sub-pontificate”

* – the correct “commentators” seems outdated.


ogmb 11.23.09 at 11:51 am

11. Hitler.


harry b 11.23.09 at 1:00 pm

A friend (American, and Marxist) once said to me, about Thought for the Day, that about 1 in 3 seemed to be genuinely thoughtful, and that 1 in 3 was, by any standards, and astoundingly good hit rate. I’m inclined to agree with John Q’s diagnosis of this.

Salient, if you stop commenting here, I’ll stop posting.


Salient 11.23.09 at 1:08 pm

I’m amazed by those of you who are personally offended.

I can’t speak for others but wouldn’t say I felt offended, not in the least. Stunned and shaken, yes, most prominently in the first moment after reading, and this is perhaps because CT is my Sunday morning with coffee blog, the first engagement with thoughtfulness I experience on that day.

And after that bit of shock… was just feeling (1) very human-sympathetically saddened to see someone, whose contributions to CT I consistently greatly appreciate, feeling so frustrated at the whole enterprise of blogging and interacting with commenters, and (2) bad Jim’s word “perturbed” is pretty accurate — vaguely concerned that my occasionally rather peskily off-topic comments (and my unfortunate tendency to Americocentrism) had occasionally contributed at various times to what bothered you, and (3) I guess maybe a little inexplicably worried on behalf of various folks in the community, knowing that several sensitive types like myself would feel pensive and peevish in response to the post despite very likely not being any of the folks in your cognizant consideration during the writing of this.

24 hours out, this post reminds me of the time I chided my high school classroom and took a moment to look around, and noticed the students whose faces most clearly expressed vague regret and peevishness and the self-uncertainty that follows receptive receipt of chiding were those students who were actually the best and most studious and most wonderful to work with among the population. The handful who I really needed to be receptively responsive to my chiding just ignored it. :-/

Thanks for the response and clarification, the second sentence of which was at least as fun to read as this gem from OpenLeft, though along a different vein. And Doug at 86 brings a good point: no one can fault you for being an active practitioner of banhammerology! :-)


Salient 11.23.09 at 1:22 pm

OK, with some greater attentiveness to 10-ing, back to my usual innocent inadvertent peskiness. Blame JoB for dropping something irresistible to respond to:

Or don’t Americans speak English?

Nah. Not according to Don DeLillo, at least. For those who don’t feel like clicking through, here’s the opening line of Underworld:

“He speaks in your voice, American, and there’s a shine in his eye that’s halfway hopeful.”

The ambiguity (as to whether American refers to the “voice” or to the reader and as to whether “American” is meant to reinforce and explicitly clarify the reader’s implicit assumption that their is identified as American, or instead suggests an inflection or deviation from that voice) is never exactly resolved, but if pressed I’d say Underworld is about exploring what a uniquely American “voice” would be and sensitively exploring how this is entwined with what and how we (we Americans) speak, our language: in the scene following we have an American crowd pestering an American entertainer to repeat popular lines from his show, as a kind of background hum behind the action that takes place.


engels 11.23.09 at 1:31 pm

14. The commenter who responds to every argument with a form of more-or-less all-encompassing scepticism. Eg. a post on the morality keeping Doctors’ appointments brings forth the response that all morality is just rationalisations of self-interest. A post on a great concert attended elicits the argument that all taste is subjective. A post about what you did last Friday sparks declarations about how There Is Not Truth about what happened in the past.


novakant 11.23.09 at 2:00 pm

#30 sums it up pretty well. But what makes the post really hilarious is the fact that quite a few CT authors comment all the time (much more so than in other blogs I know) and therefore have to count as commenters, in which case they fully qualify for CBs classification system and unless CB seriously wanted to claim that all their comments are of type 10, which would be rather hard to maintain in the face of empirical evidence, his post actually should be taken as proof of his ability for self-criticism.


JoB 11.23.09 at 2:05 pm

96- I feel blamed but not guilty enough to refrain from retorting: I do speak Dutch in a rather Flemish way so my offence was not personal when I took it at some careless way of referring to my language (and before that: my most famous compatriot).

(& thanks for coming on topic again in between all of this nonsense on behaviour good and bad)


kid bitzer 11.23.09 at 2:15 pm

…and we’ve reached comment # 100 , as i predicted we would, back at #17.

mission accomplished!


Scott Martens 11.23.09 at 2:21 pm

I speak Dutch in a Flemish way, French in a Canadian way, and German in a Ukrainian way, so I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. And as a non-native Belgian and a card-carrying linguist (aiming for both #3 and #4 on Chris’ list, and being far enough topic to merit consideration for #1), allow me to definitively pronounce:

There is such a thing as the Flemish language, where “the” is taken to mean “at least four”. And Walloons speak Dutch, if they’ve learned it, like the Royal Family. Belgian Moroccans speak Dutch. Eastern European Belgians speak Dutch. Flemings only speak Dutch when reading the news, pontificating in lecture halls, or bitching at a non-Flemings for not learning proper Dutch.


Bill Free 11.23.09 at 2:37 pm

I have trouble believing that of the ten types, only one possesses the qualities one desires in a blog commenter. No wonder this is hard.


JoB 11.23.09 at 2:39 pm

There is such a thing as Flemish dialects, yes. And I’m sorry for your over-exposure to my native co-Flemings’ overzealousness. But, joking aside, it is not unhelpful to realize that these ‘Flemings’ could only get higher education in Dutch from the 60’s onwards.

And you shouldn’t despair – the dialects are almost extinct for an emerging language of verkavelingsvlaams. Before you know it you can get by with Afrikaner here.


engels 11.23.09 at 2:40 pm

15. Commenters whose main interests are broken links, the appearance of the website in the beta of version of the Opera browser, etc.
16. Commenters who confine their comments to chastising others for violations of online etiquette.
17. Commenters who begin their comments with the phrase ‘late to the party’…
18. Commenters who, for reasons I shall never be able to fathom, refuse to use capital letters.
19. Commenters who want to use random anonymous strangers as a proxy to continue the emotional confrontation they have been having for the last fifteen years with hippies, Communists, authority figures, their father, grandmother, etc and this time WIN.
20. Commenters who want everyone to be nice to each other and by so doing reach a reasonable consensus.


Jacob Christensen 11.23.09 at 3:08 pm

It took 93 comments to get to Hitler? Where’s Goebbels when you need him?

@49: According to my Scandinavian friends, Danish is not a language but a collection of unarticulated unintelligible sounds. Alternatively, Danish and (modern) Norwegian is the same language. The Swedes are the deviants. I am not sure about the implications any of this has for posthocmodern literary theory.


Henry 11.23.09 at 3:12 pm

I think (and I don’t think that it is that far off the mark, after six or more years of this), of CT’s comments sections as having bec0me like an extended family reunion. With all the bad stuff that goes along with that – oh gawd; Uncle Montgomery is telling his pet anecdote about the pilchards _again_ – but with a fair amount of the good stuff too. I’ve learned quite a bit from CT commenters over the years. That said, I do think, like TNH, that it is a good thing to ban genuine trolls summarily, and to engage in some very limited weeding of comments that drag down debate. But that’s a topic for another thread.


chris y 11.23.09 at 3:32 pm

Alternatively, Danish and (modern) Norwegian is the same language

I suspect that English speakers tend to assume that all languages are as isolated as their own (pace Scots), probably because if they speak anything else at all, it’s usually French or Hochdeutsch, which are fairly isolated themselves. But I doubt if that’s a general rule. It may well be that Danish and Norwegian are mutually intelligible if spoken carefully (my father, who spoke a little Norwegian, was able to make a few remarks at his wedding for the benefit of his Danish in-laws on the basis of a couple of weeks’ study), but that doesn’t stop them being separate languages – most languages are on a continuum, and where they aren’t it’s only because the intervening dialects have died out.


Hal 11.23.09 at 3:34 pm

Then let the owner of the blog wipe out all comments except type 10. That should improve things a lot.


novakant 11.23.09 at 3:34 pm

Word! Group Hug?


Salient 11.23.09 at 3:36 pm

Commenters who, for reasons I shall never be able to fathom, refuse to use capital letters.

I used to think all lowercase was easier and faster to read, for folks generally, and therefore used capitals sparingly — but apparently the usual capitalization scheme really is better for readability (the paper most frequently cited in what I’ve read is “The legibility and readability of a visual display unit at threshold,” Paul Kember & David Varley in the 80s, but I haven’t read the article itself; my interest in such things was strictly best-practices-oriented as it stemmed from working in website design and at the time I didn’t care to read the underlying theory).

There’s probably plenty of updated research that accommodates folks who read twitters and text-messages and finds the readability of all lowercase has moved in an amenable direction, but it’s been years since I’ve looked into it (there has to be a type of commenter who insists on trying to be helpful despite the minimal familiarity at their disposal.)

I am however skeptical of your commitment to readability, because your numbered points are not aligned properly and are unreadable in Chrome, which is clearly a violation of online etiquette, which in turn conclusively proves you are a Communist, and therefore a fellow comrade, Q.E.D.


JoB 11.23.09 at 3:49 pm

Henry@106 – would you mind very much to give Herman his ‘Van’ back in your earlier post, it really is a violation of etiquette (like playing the ball with the hand knowingly & refusing to admit it, on top of everything else)


engels 11.23.09 at 3:53 pm

the paper most frequently cited in what I’ve read is “The legibility and readability of a visual display unit at threshold,” Paul Kember & David Varley in the 80s

evidently “salient” is unaware of von humperdinck’s devastating rejoinder in the proceedings of the slovenian philological society…


Jacob Christensen 11.23.09 at 4:03 pm

@106: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dano-Norwegian and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koin%C3%A9_language

A word of advice, though: You should be really really careful when discussing this with a Norwegian. Note the difference between the link and the name of the article in the first case, btw.

Norway, needless to say, has its own navy.

Flemming (sic) is not uncommon as a given name in Denmark, while were at it.


Jason 11.23.09 at 4:13 pm

I only had time to read 4/10ths of this post, but to say that all the commenters here are bad is unfair and disgusting. Read your Rawls much?


JoB 11.23.09 at 4:20 pm

Shorter Jacob: no ‘Von’ in ‘Van Rompuy’, although the Flemish sometimes do have the tendency to behave like lemmings.


JoB 11.23.09 at 4:22 pm

Thanks Henry, I will now stand down & cease annoying everybody.


bianca steele 11.23.09 at 4:31 pm

When there is an increasingly obvious difference between what the bloggers are talking about and what the commenters are talking about (as I’ve seen happen elsewhere, not at CT), I start to feel uncomfortable, unless the original poster seemed to have been trying to start a discussion. Commercial bloggers seem to feel that putting up with comments are a cost of doing business, a kind of stupid thing they have to put up with, no more their job than it’s the op-ed columnist’s job to read the open readers’ comments. But CT and academic blogs generally get an entirely different group of commenters.


kid bitzer 11.23.09 at 4:37 pm

engels @104–

“18. Commenters who, for reasons I shall never be able to fathom, refuse to use capital letters.”

yeah, what the hell is with that?
some of them won’t even capitalize their own proper names.


chris y 11.23.09 at 4:38 pm

Flemming (sic) is not uncommon as a given name in Denmark, while were at it.

Pretty common in Britain too. Flemish immigrants dominated English industry in the Middle Ages.

Your links don’t actually seem to be arguing that BokmÃ¥l isn’t a language, merely that it’s a rather new and artificial one, and similar to its neighbours, as you’ld expect. If you really want to see two bald languages fighting over a comb, you could do worse than try Valencià and Català: first one to build a frigate wins.


roac 11.23.09 at 4:41 pm

A couple of data points regarding Scandinavian languages which I have always found interesting:

(1) In one of the Sjöwall and Wahlöö detective novels there is an anecdote about a Swedish policeman and a Danish colleague who had operated for years on the theory that the two languages were mutually intelligible. Finally they gave up and started talking English. They discovered that, whereas each had regarded the other as a good friend, once they began to understand each other friendship was replaced by mutual dislike.

(2) One of A.J. Liebling’s war pieces for the New Yorker was about crossing the Atlantic in a Norwegian tanker. Every night after dinner, all the officers who were off duty gathered in the wardroom, tuned in a Swedish radio station, and enjoyed half an hour of hearty laughter — the mere sound of spoken Swedish being regarded as hilarious.


Substance McGravitas 11.23.09 at 4:42 pm


lemuel pitkin 11.23.09 at 4:43 pm

The thing about capital letters is, as Salient says, they make comprehension easier for the reader. So the decision not to use them is a decision to make people do extra work to read your comments, which seems hard to justify. (Not capitalizing your name is, of course, fine.)

Not nearly as bad as the people who refuse to put spaces between their paragraphs, tho — that’s practically a self-disemvowelling.


Henri Vieuxtemps 11.23.09 at 4:49 pm

What a shame, 120 comments and no one suggested the obvious solution. The bloggers should take a cue from Bertold Brecht: abolish this lousy readership and get a whole new lot.


kid bitzer 11.23.09 at 4:53 pm

ah yes–i seem to recall some brit saying “the name is fleming; ian fleming”.


MQ 11.23.09 at 5:21 pm

Type 1 and 2 = so critical that they clearly could not have understood the brilliance of my original post.

I always view the posters as hosts at a party, they roll out the conversational ball and then should divorce their egos from what occurs when the commenters start playing soccer with it. But perhaps I would have a different view if I maintained my own blog.


Doug 11.23.09 at 6:08 pm

Just noting that a near-quorum of active from my own blog has commented on this thread.


Doug 11.23.09 at 6:09 pm

active writers


marcel 11.23.09 at 6:21 pm

Salient said: I can’t speak for others but wouldn’t say I felt offended, not in the least. Stunned and shaken, yes,

Speaking of I am not so much shaken as stirred by this post.


marcel 11.23.09 at 6:24 pm

Oops, s/b: Speaking of Fleming, I am not so much shaken as stirred by this post.


novakant 11.23.09 at 6:27 pm

yeah, what the hell is with that?

simple: they’re former RAF members (no, not the air force).


Jacob Christensen 11.23.09 at 6:44 pm

@125: Does this mean that we can look forward to a blog merger in the near future. A Fistful of Timber? Crooked Euros?? (Hm. On second thought the latter sounds more like something out of the Daily Mail. I suspect that a name consultant may be needed here)

@119: If you know spoken Norwegian – just saying “I’m so depressed” in Norwegian will leave any group of Swedes rolling on the floor laughing.

@118: A least the weather is nicer in either place than in Bergen. But I could imagine the competition turning ugly at some point. And as said: Norway has a navy and consequently Norwegian is a language. Whether BokmÃ¥l and Nynorsk should be seen as separate languages … oh god, I see 200+ comments from angry Norwegians coming up…

Oh, and in Danish “a Fleming” is “en flamlænder”, but “Flanders” is called “Flandern”.


alex 11.23.09 at 6:45 pm

Because if they were pilots, they would have told you…


Stuart 11.23.09 at 7:01 pm

I seem to have a very different view of the comments around here to CB at least, maybe it is coloured by the fact I also regularly read/contribute at places like Fark.com’s politics threads, so it is hard to see anything that occurs in comments here as anything other than trivial when you have places like that to compare it with.


Stuart 11.23.09 at 7:04 pm

Also I guess is that I would think a post like this is generally counterproductive – it tends to push marginal and controversial (i.e. interesting) posters away from a site, and it rewards the real trolls with a declaration that they are getting inside your head and achieving their aims (i.e. being annoying).


MG 11.23.09 at 7:23 pm

I think there are 10 types of writers at Crooked Timber:

1. Those who count in binary
0. Those who don’t

Ha ha! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.


ScentOfViolets 11.23.09 at 7:33 pm

Hopefully I’ll come across as a 10 when I make a comment about 7: This sticks out like a sore thumb as being a type of argument rather than a type of commenter. Surely(I don’t look at this site every day) very few people have this as their stock in trade reply.

More than that, number seven is not just a type of argument, but a valid type of argument. At the very least, pointing out someone who said deficits don’t matter in 2003 when talking about the costs of a military occupation, but who now says deficits matter very much when it comes to stimulus spending indicates just how seriously that particular argument from that particular person should be taken, yes?


David 11.23.09 at 7:38 pm

I have read the post in its entirety and actually skimmed the comments and I still fail to see what any of this has to do with the price of tea in China. Too subtle for me, I guess.


kharris 11.23.09 at 7:59 pm

Chris, you ignorant slut! You should be overjoyed that we bother to mistake your comments on literary theory for Irish cuisine. Sheesh, what a maroon!


kharris 11.23.09 at 8:04 pm

By the way, anybody want to make odds on whether we have just seen the birth of a new numeric nomenclature for commenters slanging each other in comments?

“You no good, stinking piece of 4!.”

“You wouldn’t know a 4 if it bit you. You’ve been 6 since last July. ”

“I knew 10. 10 was a friend of mine. You, sir, are no 10.”


roac 11.23.09 at 8:16 pm

@119: If you know spoken Norwegian – just saying “I’m so depressed” in Norwegian will leave any group of Swedes rolling on the floor laughing.

I don’t know spoken anything (though I can read Icelandic after a fashion, having learned Old Norse). My only firsthand experience with anyone Scandanavian was an elderly female relative by marriage who came to the US in middle life, and while her English was funny it was also entirely delightful to hear. She was the sweetest, kindest, cleanest old lady imaginable — both to look at and listen to, she was like a very expensive and tasteful music box.

(Another datum from Sjöwall and Wahlöö is a murder victim who is said to have spoken Swedish with a comic American accent. Anita Ekberg is given as the type specimen. )


roac 11.23.09 at 8:17 pm

I seem to have left out the fact that Sweden was where Aunt Ida was from.


sg 11.23.09 at 8:30 pm

roac at 119, it’s funny you give that anecdote about norwegian sailors – I know a swedish woman who makes exactly the same claim about Norwegian. She refuses to speak it because she feels like she could never be taken seriously ; even reporting the horrible death of her grandfather would sound like she was clowning around.

I wonder if they argue about where the Swedish chef is really from?


Henri Vieuxtemps 11.23.09 at 8:56 pm

Remember this: – …bole or areosol? – Neither. It’s for my armpits.


Jacob Christensen 11.23.09 at 9:15 pm

@141 Dalarna. In Sweden. And Dalecarlian is one weird dialect. (no, I’m not thinking of ælvdalskan which is even stranger)


sg 11.23.09 at 9:35 pm

cool! So if the Swedish chef came from Dalarna, would he think that everyone else in Sweden and Norway sounds silly; while everyone from those countries would be united in thinking he sounded silly?


Alf Tupper 11.23.09 at 10:25 pm

This is just typical CT shite. I’d bet you’ve never even driven an Aston Martin and so how would you know? Huh?

And the Palestinians can piss off too.


John Quiggin 11.23.09 at 10:27 pm

#aleph-null Whatever collective craziness it is that invariably manages, by comment 100, to divert a perfectly sensible skit about blog commenters into a documentary about elk, conducted in multiple dialects of Swedish.


novakant 11.23.09 at 10:31 pm

Since you all seem to be into Scandinavian stuff, check this out the next time you’re in London:



roac 11.23.09 at 10:35 pm

A Mööse once bit mi sister . . .


Questioner 11.23.09 at 10:48 pm

I should think commenter-type 7 would be very useful to you!


john c. halasz 11.23.09 at 11:28 pm


Actually, I don’t get your point, other than the vague imputation that I’m an irritating commenter, which is likely generally true and I can live with that. But I checked out the thread, and that comment was paragraphed reasonably and generally apposite and responsive to the topic of the thread.

BTW Holbo ended up promising in that thread to lay out a “positive” account of his conception of realism, which I’d since forgotten about, together with the rest of the thread. But I don’t recall have seen such a post anywhere. Did I just miss it?


Martin Bento 11.23.09 at 11:31 pm

OK, Chris, what is it? Is there some recent comments thread that didn’t go the way you like? You hint so in comment 87, and I suspect that is what really birthed this thread. If so, why don’t you spell it out, instead of lashing out at the world?


Witt 11.23.09 at 11:50 pm

One point I haven’t seen made in this thread is that bloggers can end up dealing with a disproportionate amount of ugly comments if they moderate. If the blogger is deleting a lot of nasty, vicious, bigoted stuff in moderation that the (other) commenters never get to see, that has to affect their perceptions of the comment stew.

As a reader and commenter I’m very appreciative of bloggers who call out boundary violations and explain why/what they did. I may not always agree with where they draw the lines (hello, Obsidian Wings), but it’s immensely reassuring to have the people in charge be willing to say quietly, “That’s not OK here.” It’s the difference between talking with a group who go politely silent or chuckle at a sexist remark, and a group that has at least one member who will say “Hey, that’s not cool.”


Substance McGravitas 11.24.09 at 12:49 am

Actually, I don’t get your point, other than the vague imputation that I’m an irritating commenter, which is likely generally true and I can live with that.

Don’t worry about it: it just made a very funny screenshot when combined with Firefox’s RSS.


Maria 11.24.09 at 1:19 am

Late to this thread but I can confirm I get an abundance of comments of types 1, 2, 3 and 5. Especially 5 which can be very wearying. And yes, it is a guy thing.

Chris’s post is valuable, not least because it shows the discrepancy in the experience of the CT writer and the average, decent commenter. It’s a different world when this crap is coming directly for you, as opposed to just being slightly annoying comment pollution in an otherwise interesting thread.

A couple of people have commented that CT is ‘lucky’ that our commenters aren’t like what you find on some other blogs. That’s not luck. It’s a lot of hard work and brass balls kicking out trolls who are forever threatening retribution of one kind or another. (And I can give credit for that work since I don’t actually do a lot of it myself.)


zhaz 11.24.09 at 1:45 am

This is a rather silly post. What does the writer assume – that commenters who fall into his/her’s 1 to 10 list are going to pull up their socks and straighten their underwear – very unlikely. It comes off as an exercise in pointless grandstanding.

Truth is, it is most often the comment threads in here that make the best reading. The main posts have become increasingly pedantic and boring.

So what if comments don’t meet someone or other’s correctness criteria. Aside from understandable constraints on the more egregious forms of targeting, effing and blinding etc… requirements for comment-thread-correctness are almost always a way of shutting down criticism in an effort to feather-bed the comfort zone of thin skinned types – a few of them with ivory tower complexes.

How about a 1 to 10 nitpicking exercise on the contributors who post in here? Not that it would make any difference.

Crazy eyes killer’s sarcasm (#30) made me laugh… right on.


iWonder? 11.24.09 at 3:04 am

…..it is just a sing along

What would you do if i sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?

To A vaguely passive-aggressive post on commenters, by the “out of the crooked timber”, not sure if i might pass this way again, none the less, a wonderful read, delightful comments. Daddy sings base, Momma sings tenor, and the rest of us, just join right in…….


harold 11.24.09 at 5:11 am

Well, I can remember having a little disagreement with C. Bertram about vox populi vox dei and/or the use of the word “populist”, which apparently has a different connotation on the other side of the pond. I am U.S. citizen.

But I ought to also say that I very much admire him and consider him an excellent writer, ever since I happened to read a book he wrote about a subject I was interested in, as well as exceptionally thoughtful and conscientious person who really knows his stuff (as far as I can tell, and as far as I can tell, a lot of other people don’t seem to).

On the other hand we non-academics may like to rag members of the professoriat a little — if nothing else just to get back for all we had to put up with back in the day. And I think its true that comments on a blog are more like a party than a classroom. But, for my part, I generally only bother to read and comment on blogs that I like.


garymar 11.24.09 at 5:39 am

Who can resist commenting on this thread? I certainly can’t.


Dylan 11.24.09 at 6:12 am

Didn’t John Emerson comments used to have their own category?


Salient 11.24.09 at 4:03 pm

Didn’t John Emerson comments used to have their own category?

(protip: John Emerson is the new Brett Favre)

(this analogy works on multiple levels)


Natilo Paennim 11.24.09 at 8:38 pm

153.3 It has to be said that this occasionally (if not often) takes the form of enforcing a bourgeois-liberal consensus against any radical position, regardless of facts or actual political realities. I would comment here more often, but it often seems like there’s little point when the weight of opinion falls so heavily in favor of maintaining collegiality over admitting of any difference. Obviously, the preceding does not apply when we’re talking about actual trolling, but the line drawn between trolling and dissidence here is often blurry in the extreme.


bob mcmanus 11.24.09 at 9:07 pm

156: I can.


stostosto 11.24.09 at 11:34 pm

Chris obviously hadn’t read the comments to his post before he posted.


Doctor Slack 11.25.09 at 4:08 am

17. Commenters who begin their comments with the phrase ‘late to the party’…

Oh, shit.


mollymooly 11.25.09 at 6:31 pm

Once there are over 100 comments, further comments are pointless. Anybody who reads all preceding comments has no life. Anybody who jumps straight to the last ones is an idiot.


Beryl 11.25.09 at 6:36 pm


sharon 12.01.09 at 10:35 pm

Commenters who, for reasons I shall never be able to fathom, refuse to use capital letters.

can’t speak for anyone else, but when i do it, it usually means i’m drunk

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