The future of Crooked Timber and its comments

by Chris Bertram on March 25, 2022

A couple of days ago we had an online get-together of many of the Crooked Timber writers. Although we’ve been around for nearly nineteen years, this is the first time this has happened, and it probably never would have but for the pandemic and the possibilities that Zoom has opened up. Some of us were approaching our bedtime and others had to make a really early start as participants came from Brisbane, Singapore, Exeter in England, the south of France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and various parts of the US. We should do it again soon.

One thing we discussed was how to improve the volume and variety of our contributions. Things have changed a lot since 2003, not least the variety of channels of communication, including social media. Many of the people who read Crooked Timber tell us what they like and don’t like using Twitter, Facebook, email and the like. On-site comments, on the other hand, are not what they were. Though we retain a small cadre of dedicated commenters, the quality of discussion is not always that great and there are too many drive-by and borderline insulting interventions from anonymous accounts. Figuring out how and whether to respond to a misdirected comment can be a significant overhead for writers who can’t know whether the original engagement was in good faith. So we’ve decided to change our default to having comments turned off, with writers having the option to turn them on if they like. Open threads and “Twigs and Branches” will have comments enabled, but we will not tolerate people using open comments on one focused post to comment on a post where the writer decided not to open them. Long-term readers, feel free to show your appreciation (or not) via those other routes. Comments on this post are open [now timed out].



Chris S 03.25.22 at 8:43 am

Long time reader. What stopped me commenting was that my comments always turned up late and I couldn’t figure out what level of verification was needed there stop that happening.


oldster 03.25.22 at 8:49 am

A reasonable response to a sad situation.
Thanks for keeping alive a format that has generally disappeared elsewhere. For those of us who do not tweet, this site is better than, eg, a list that aggregates the tweets of all authors. And of course permits longer essays.
I’ll see you out on the branches, and try not to saw them off.


Julienz 03.25.22 at 9:25 am

I have always been a quiet reader, absorbing and learning, listening and trying to understand. The policy doesn’t affect me but I am sad that you have had to implement it.


digamma 03.25.22 at 9:59 am

I definitely understand the reasons but I am still sad to hear it. This was one site where I always read the comments.


Moz 03.25.22 at 10:18 am

As a non-user of antisocial media that leaves me emailing or nothing, which isn’t ideal as that would mean challenging your spam filters in order to have a private interaction. Which if nothing else is quite a change in emphasis.

Note that in Australia antisocial media seems likely to gain a stronger ID requirement under proposed law changes, and that will further filter out otherwise useful commenters. Quiggin will be fine, people who can’t keep their career and participate in politics using their legal identity not so much.

I have a vague impression (from sites like Techdirt) that the EU is heading down a similar path of imposing legal liability on websites that requires significant resources to mitigate, thus removing smaller sites from the pool.


aubergine 03.25.22 at 10:52 am

I’ve been reading for many years, for most of which I just read without commenting. I feel like the quality of discussion fell with the change to pre-moderation, which turned each thread into a series of missed connections. But it’s still been worthwhile.

What drew me here and kept me coming back was not just the posts, but also the way each post was immediately open to being challenged or defended in the comments, which would then challenge or defend each other, generally in a thoughtful and interesting way (by the standards of online discourse). There’s something about that style of publication, I think, that makes it more valuable than a series of unchallenged pronouncements, and it’s becoming tragically rare in today’s Internet of polarisation and blocklists. But it’s your site, of course, and you’re doing all the work, so it’s entirely up to you.


Thomas Beale 03.25.22 at 10:53 am

If you want to really keep it going, and have more comprehensible comment threads, up and down votes, managed moderation, controls on too-frequent posters and much else, Discourse is the platform to use. It would be technically annoying to make the move, but various organisations in which I work have done so, and it has been a game changer.

I would suggest that the proposed approach is not likely to improve engagement – unless comments are left on as previously. If they are mostly turned off, I think the audience will fade away due to the disconnect between posts and generic open comment threads.


Daniel Lindquist 03.25.22 at 11:22 am

End of an era. RIP.


stostosto 03.25.22 at 12:01 pm

“On-site comments, on the other hand, are not what they were.”

As a longtime frequent reader (and highly infrequent commenter) I haven’t noticed any particular, or general, quality problems in comments. Maybe the most egregious examples are moderated out preemptively, or quickly. I do enjoy the fact that there are often great comments to the often great posts here.


Matt 03.25.22 at 12:19 pm

I think that either I or Engels are the “oldest” semi-regular commenter here now. Certainly I’ve been reading since very close to the start. In any case, I’d be sorry to see comments mostly closed, but understand the motivation. I don’t comment all that often anymore, but the ability to do so is still an attractive feature. And yet, the time that it takes (maybe more so these days, though I can’t be sure) to try to keep the discussion focused on reasonable is no doubt not minimal.


SusanC 03.25.22 at 2:02 pm

I have long felt that CT is much less tolerant of dissent than would be typical of an academic department, at least in the departments I am used to. (Which, too be fair, may be departments that have more of a culture of forthright responses to speakers than average).

If you submit a paper to a journal, the referees are not going to hold back on why they think your argument is completely dumb.

CT on the other hand, has a bit of a culture of “I’m the professor, and I’m allowed to say whatever stupid crap I like and no-ones allowed to contradict me. Anyone who points out I’m wrong will be thrown out,”

… which is really not how my esteemed institution runs seminars. My students are definitely allowed to point out when I’m wrong. There was a most amusing discussion on what the aforementioned institution’s policy on politeness was, the upshot of which is that various esteemed scientists are quite clear that your are allowed to call them an idiot. (Policy forbids racism, etc. But if you want to say that the idea presented in Susan’s recent paper is completely dumb … you are allowed to do that).


SusanC 03.25.22 at 2:36 pm

Further on seminar etiquette … the highly senior faculty member who was the most vocal in saying we should be allowed to call someone an idiot when the situation calls for it frequently advocates positions his grad students think are completely dumb .. and I (a faculty member) call him out on it, even if some of his students are too timid. So he’s not a hippocrite, as he knows well that he will often be in the position to be on the receiving end of said policy. His students should be braver.

Banning discussions of non comments CT threads has an odd effect. It means. That if a non CT author, such as Glenn Greenwald, says something wrong on the Internet, he is fair game for discussion. (Target-rich environment, as they say in the military[*] Michael Tracey, a Greenwald associate, was still trying to downplay the prospect of a Russian-Ukraine war after Russian forces had crossed the border into Ukraine).

On the other hand, if a CT author says something dumb in a no comments thread, we’re not allowed to discuss it. (unless you can find some work around, like quoting a non CT author advancing a position that is stupid for the same reason).

[*] choice of metaphor may reveal something about how my esteemed institution views seminar etiquette.


Brett 03.25.22 at 2:36 pm

It’s a disappointment, but the pre-moderation kind of killed much of the commenting anyways. And if you’re still having problems with insulting drive-by comments, then it’s just not worthwhile to keep it open.

People can still communicate via Twitter and the like, but it’s a very different kind of engagement. Twitter tends to encourage “vertical” discussion between the writer and the commenter, without really encouraging the kind of “horizontal” discussion between commenters that makes for a lively and worthwhile comment section.


Sashas 03.25.22 at 3:05 pm

I wasn’t aware responding on Twitter was an option. I don’t see how I can participate effectively in a discussion that way. Ditto Facebook. Ditto email.

This is the only place on the internet where I willingly discuss with people I do not personally know. I greatly appreciate the amount of work involved in moderation which makes that possible. I understand that if that work isn’t sustainable, there isn’t much else to be done.

Though we retain a small cadre of dedicated commenters, the quality of discussion is not always that great and there are too many drive-by and borderline insulting interventions from anonymous accounts.

Feel free to not answer this, but are you talking about comments that we can see as well? Or is this referring largely to comments that get weeded out in moderation? I’m trying to get a sense of how bad things are. (As a practically-speaking-anonymous commenter who often has only one or two comments to contribute in a thread, I also admit to wondering if I’m being told to go away.)


JimV 03.25.22 at 3:06 pm

Soon all our brilliant comments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.


Abby 03.25.22 at 3:25 pm

I can’t speak directly to the work required in moderating comments (which I imagine has not been inconsiderable) but the quality of the resulting conversations has been much better than any other open blog comments section of which I am aware. Thank you. While an infrequent commenter, but longtime reader, I will miss reading the critiques of posts. All things pass.


LAL 03.25.22 at 3:46 pm

As a semi-regular reader who has commented perhaps twice I have found most of the comments at least as useful as the original post in both extending the argument of the post and offering orthogonal views. Taking out comments seems injurious to the value of the weblog .


Fredrik Graver 03.25.22 at 4:20 pm

I think I’m with @SusanC — it seems odd for a philosophy blog site of such high quality and regard as Crooked Timber to make the default no discussion. That said, I don’t think I’ve commented before in the 12-13 years I’ve been reading CT — but nor have I noticed a marked drop in quality in the comments that are made.


oldster 03.25.22 at 4:20 pm

“Taking out comments seems injurious to the value of the weblog”
Now there’s a name that I have not heard in a long, long time.


LFC 03.25.22 at 4:22 pm

I haven’t been reading or commenting here as long as Matt, because I didn’t get a high-speed internet connection until approx. 15 yrs ago. But I’ve been commenting, off and on, for a while. I’ve never had a Facebook account and while I have a Twitter account, I’ve never done anything with it. So I don’t use FB or Twitter, at least as of now.

I hope most CT posters will choose to open comments on their posts. If that happens, then the decision to change the default to no commenting will not make much difference. On the other hand, if most CT posters choose not to open comments, I think the change will be a bad one.

Apart from the book “events” and some occasional and, it seems to me, rather half-way efforts to enlist guest commenters or new voices, CT just doesn’t seem to have done very much to increase the diversity or number of its contributors. I usually (not always) read what Chris Bertram, I. Robeyns, J. Quiggin, H. Brighouse, and M. Farrell (and sometimes Holbo, when he decides to post) have to say, plus the occasional others (G. Schouten, e.g.), and they often say interesting, perceptive things, but after a while it gets a little boring to read the same people. (C. Robin doesn’t seem to be posting here any more.)

At a blog like Lawyers Guns and Money, which I almost never read these days though I look at it occasionally, the lack of diversity of front-page posters doesn’t matter so much, because their OPs are often mostly just long quotations from some piece of journalism or some blog or social media outlet, often interspersed with biting, sarcastic, sardonic, or otherwise consciously “hip” interventions by the front-page poster, who is then often joined by a chorus of commenters patting each other on the back and congratulating each other for holding the correct opinions.

Crooked Timber is not like that. The posters do more than just reproduce quotations interspersed with interjections, and they expect to be disagreed with, though not in an impolite or insulting way. At least, that’s always been my impression.

I think I’ve rambled on enough.


LFC 03.25.22 at 4:43 pm

P.s. Just to add that the old days at CT, before comment moderation, were often kind of fun and interesting, even though things sometimes got heated (and trollish). I miss them.


MPAVictoria 03.25.22 at 5:22 pm

I am very sad to read this. I have been commenting here for over a decade now and have always found the quality of discussion here a cut above most other blogs and a couple cuts above social media.

That said I understand why you would make this choice and, given that everyone involved in running this blog is an unpaid volunteer, I can’t really complain.

Thank you all for all the work you do creating this space. and I will keep reading regardless.


Mike Furlan 03.25.22 at 6:09 pm

As a former Usenet newsgroup moderator, I understand some of your issues. And I know what is feels like when your “loved one” passes on. I think you are making the right choice.

I’m happy to be able to continue to read this blog, with or without comments.


dale self 03.25.22 at 6:12 pm

Sad but understandable. I always looked for the words of Bob McManus and gained substantially from reading those entries but you could see comments being badly influenced by social media tendencies. I suppose the tell was the responses to D-squared’s offering of a signal of a coming bull market after the last stress test in Europe (he was spot on about that) and watching everyone and their dog have a go at him just because they thought the corrupt bankers were getting a pass. I still love the place that you all have created and you deserve much respect for maintaining standards as long as you have. Disclaimer: I did a couple of drive-bys, please forgive me.


Dr. Hilarius 03.25.22 at 6:37 pm

I have been an infrequent commenter at CT. Coming from the biological sciences with little background in economics I’ve tried to read and learn rather than expose my ignorance. I thank everyone who has contributed to my learning. But commenting online in general, not just at CT, has become less and less rewarding. More and more bad faith responses by people trying to score points or bludgeon with their ideological certitude. I just don’t have the energy or interest in engaging with people who insult or belittle anyone who doesn’t wholly endorse their views. I hope that CT will continue to provide useful and challenging content with or without comments.


Mr Spoon 03.25.22 at 8:14 pm

Long term reader, seldom qualified to make insightful comments. …I pride myself in this self-knowledge. I would rather have no or few comments than CT shut down. All the best for your next decades.


Theophylact 03.25.22 at 9:44 pm

As an occasional commenter but a regular reader, I will regret the loss of comments. Despite a certain amount of trolling and what seems to me pointless controversialism, I’ve found the comments section often as enlightening as the original posts.

I do wish, though, you had found a way to allow previewing comments; my own typos and misformatting offend me.


Ingrid Robeyns 03.25.22 at 11:07 pm

I’d just like to echo what LFC @20 says: we don’t know how often comments will be off (or on). It is a default in a technical sense (we have to choose either ‘on’ or ‘off’ as the default for all posts, but that default can be changed with a mere tick of the box. But that doesn’t mean it will quantitatively/sociologically (or whatever word you’d like to use here) be the default: that depends on what the posters choose. Even for the posters who receive mainly interesting and respectful comments (like me), it’s really better to have this option to choose for comments on/off, since it allows to choose to write and post something without all the time it costs for follow-up.

Also, I’d like to say it is really lovely to have all those long-term readers comment here, whatever your views are – thanks for dropping a line :)


anon 03.25.22 at 11:31 pm

Anonymous commenter here. (After over 4 decades in IT I try not to make it too easy to be traced. Anyone with the proper skillset could likely find me out. But …
why bother?)

With regards to the Crooked Timber “style” … I think it’s perfect the way it is. The original posts are well written and often thought provoking. Personally, I like the photo posts and book recommendations the best.

For the most part the comments here are high quality too. I’ve seen few, if any, personal attacks. None come to mind at this time. Disagreements are evidence based and property expressed.

It is probably getting harder for our proprietors to find the time to devote to keeping this place … well … nice.

For me, no changes needed. I’ll likely stay a frequent lurker and occasional anonymous commenter.


SamChevre 03.26.22 at 12:32 am

I think this is the site that’s still live on which I’ve commented longest–the oldest comment of mine I can find is from 2005. That said, since the banning of many of the more helpful non-leftwing commenters, and particularly since the pre-moderation, it has been much less lively. And good moderation is time consuming.


Older student 03.26.22 at 1:43 am

It is sad that this change is necessary but it is and it hurts those of us rubes who are always looking for intelligent posts that offer understanding of this increasingly unintelligible world and learn not only from the posts but the discussions and interactions in the comments. I guess I’ve lived too long.


NomadUK 03.26.22 at 1:53 am

I honestly don’t know how long I’ve been reading this site; could well be since shortly after its inception. It was around the time of the war on Iraq and Afghanistan, in any event. I rarely comment, as I haven’t the background in economics or philosophy to hold my own here, and there seems little point in arguing politics, as everyone has made up his mind already. But I always find the comments interesting, occasionally enlightening, and sometimes very funny indeed, and have bought a few books based on recommendations herein. It’s probably one of the top two or three most intellectually sophisticated comments sections of any blog I read, and any diminution of that content seems a shame. But, all things change. Best of luck with the new format.


nastywoman 03.26.22 at 2:06 am

and I always read comments FIRST
everywhere –
(and then sometimes the articles for the comments)
and so I really would miss the comments
and especially the comments
which make me write comments to –
as I really like it here –
with such few comments –
as I don’t go to the best comment section of this planet –
(at the NYT) anymore – as it has become far too crowded.


nastywoman 03.26.22 at 2:10 am

and sometimes we even place (little) bets – which one of my comments will make it through.
(and that’s really fun)


Sean 03.26.22 at 2:15 am

Smartphones and corporate social media created a second Eternal September, but also, people in the UK, US, and Australia are tired after the past six years. And when people are exhausted, they get short-tempered.

I don’t have anything more constructive to add, I spend the 2010s fighting and decided it was time to retreat to a monastery and start writing epitomata of the open web which will outlive it.


Neville Morley 03.26.22 at 7:13 am

Your blog, your rules, but I am sorry to hear this; unlike a lot of blogs and online articles, I always read the comments here, as they can (sorry!) sometimes be at least as illuminating as the original piece, and I regularly feel regret that a particular piece isn’t getting much engagement.


derrida derider 03.26.22 at 11:00 am

Commenter since 2004. Frankly, I often learned much more from the comments threads than the posts.

But there was always also an awful lot of pressure for ideological conformity – and I say that as someone who mostly conformed ideologically. As noted above the low point here was the treatment of Teh Evil Banker dsquared.

This got worse with auto-moderation – it ensured the poster definitely won every argument. But auto-moderation degraded things anyway through the loss of immediacy, especially for those of us living in very different time zones.

Reading all that, it reads like an epitaph. Of course for those of us who abhor Twitter it is. Sadly, I predict this site will close soon. We will be poorer for it.


Scott P. 03.26.22 at 3:46 pm

The issue with comments on CT is the large proportion of commenters who reduce every issue to their personal hobby horse and never seem to learn anything or adjust their opinion. There is only one answer and that answer is the same to every question from how we should react to the Russian invasion of Ukraine to what kind of ice cream we should buy at the store today. As a result, there is little actual discussion but everyone holds up their sign like people used to do at the airport. And although this has always been something of an issue since I’ve been reading over the last few years it has become omnipresent.


James 03.26.22 at 4:27 pm

Twenty year reader here, who has only commented a handful of times. I have to agree with SusanC at #11 “CT on the other hand, has a bit of a culture of “I’m the professor, and I’m allowed to say whatever stupid crap I like and no-ones allowed to contradict me. Anyone who points out I’m wrong will be thrown out,”” and derrida derider’s similar point at #37. I have often been surprised at the apparent thin skins and ready wrath of the posters, and for this reason I have always merely skimmed the comments. So the policy announced here is little loss, especially as I would also agree that the quality of comments has indeed seriously declined.
Anyway, I think CT should worry more about how to create more and more meaningful material. The lack of posts, or the niche nature of posts (academia – sorry that’s not my world; comics – likewise don’t care, sorry John). I remember the – ahem – glory days of posts here during the Iraq war. Yet CT has seemed increasingly narrow and even parochial in outlook, and there have been a raft of global injustices which have never been mentioned here.


Cranky Observer 03.26.22 at 4:40 pm

I haven’t posted much in the last 5 years so I just wanted to say a quick farewell to the long term-commenters I have been interacting with over the last… almost 20 year(?!) at CT. I’ve been active on what is now the Internet since 1982 and both the fp posts and comments at CT are the best there has ever been IMHO.

As seen over at Balkinization in the last 12 months however setting fp posts to no comments by default is the 5th of 6 stages of blog death, so I suspect this is the end. It has been a great run – thanks to everyone.


ChrisG 03.26.22 at 6:37 pm

You mean someone actually reads comments?


Michael Cain 03.26.22 at 6:58 pm

Crooked Timber has always been, at least IMO, a post-centric site. That makes posts a lot of work if comments are allowed. The author has to keep an eye on things, approving comments as needed in a timely fashion, writing their own comments to expand on or defend some point. A slow-motion classroom discussion if you will. (Tangentially, CT is the only site where I got e-mail from an author to tell me that while mine was a reasonable comment, it was in a direction they didn’t want the discussion to go.)

Comment-centric sites are a whole different thing. Lawyers, Guns & Money has been mentioned: placard waving by the good guys, piling on the bad guys, bad jokes, and a quite loose definition of “off topic.” Comment-centric sites almost always have to go to nested comments eventually, just to even try to keep the multiple conversations separated. And have either “report” or “down vote” buttons so particularly offensive comments get flagged and (eventually) removed.

I’m an irregular reader at CT because there are only a subset of the posts that align with my interests. And an even more infrequent commenter, because my comments have to wait until the author gets around to approving them. Even with the commonly used “@” notation, having a comment appear a day after it’s submitted can put it badly out of sequence, and the discussion has moved on. Put me down as voting for the change, with the hope that authors that enable comments will do so having made a commitment to at least try to keep the discussion moving.


Bart Barry 03.26.22 at 7:24 pm

I posted here for years under an assumed name, before giving that up some time ago. Pre-moderation ended the kind of lively give and take the comment section had going for it in the past, even with characters like abb1 on board, who could certainly derail a discussion with the merest flick of a phrase. I miss that.

Of course, too, many of the most interesting voices have stopped contributing; Healy and Waring and Davies and, yes, Barlow, who I followed over here in the early going, and who recused himself rather quickly.

Still, I look in every day, and hope to continue doing so far into the future.


Adam Hammond 03.26.22 at 9:33 pm

I read the comments in the hopes of getting a quick counterpoint to the OP. It’s not my field, so I appreciate a bit of contrarian commentary to help me think it through with perspective. I am moderately inclined to believe @SusanC about some groupthink in the CT group, but I bet you actually disagree more than you let on.

So, my proposal to CT: before a post goes live, one of the other members of your team writes a critical response. And, no response edits on the original post! (besides typos). Further debate should be in the open. That would help me a ton, as a reader. Instead of time spent moderating, you could model some solid criticism. Then, on some posts, the comment section could be opened up as well. Awesome!

I’ve checked CT as part of my morning routine for more than 10 years. I have commented a score of times, maybe? I’ve never been anonymous. Best of luck keeping this going. I recognize and appreciate the effort.


Alan White 03.26.22 at 11:52 pm

I’ve been here for 15 years or so (at least) and occasionally comment if I feel qualified to do so in some way. ( I taught philosophy for 40 years at a US teaching intensive state university campus with a publication record that is decent for having 8 classes a semester FWIW.) This site has taught me a great deal over the years, with mostly terrific OPs and some commentary that give me perspectives I wouldn’t have had otherwise, in particular from non-US parts of the world. I visit it every day, multiple times a day. Please keep going in whatever capacity you collectively see fit. And please keep those Sunday photos coming!


Donald 03.27.22 at 1:13 am

This blog was much more interesting 10 – 15 years ago, but the banning of people on both left and right made it less so. It is interesting that people compare it favorably to LGM. To me it has seemed just a more genteel version of the same blog and has been that way for years.

On foreign policy Crooked Timber has been largely worthless for a long time for anyone looking for a progressive critique of Western crimes. Evidently the subject is of little interest here since the end of the Bush Administration. Virtually nothing has been said about Yemen and one might think Bush’s sanctions on Afghanistan would be of interest, but apparently not. However, Chris was very exercised over the small number of Putinists on the left, people who have little or no power.. Some Twitter writers such as Adam Johnson, Daniel Larison, Sarah Lazare, Shireen Al Adeimi, etc.. have more to say and often link to longer pieces they or others have written. And they aren’t Putinists.

I won’t miss Crooked Timber. I have mainly stopped by here for past ten years out of habit. It will now be an easy habit to break.

Print this or not. It is just a parting remark. You didn’t print my last comment a week or two ago, but it was utterly sincere. I think the Crooked Timber “ left” seems weirdly oblivious to how Western outrage over Putin’s atrocities has been orders of magnitude greater than over Western atrocities. Others have noticed this. Calling it “ whataboutism” is just the new way of saying hypocrisy is a good thing.


David Hobby 03.27.22 at 4:23 am

I do tend to read the comments, and appreciate the effort required to keep them pruned. I’m not about to look anywhere else for comments, though. Not twig-and-branches, not Twitter, not…


Tm 03.27.22 at 9:43 am

I don’t know whether the quality of debate was better 19 years ago. 6 or so years ago it was most certainly worse. So I find this move puzzling. I want to say that I appreciate the effort hosts put into moderating threads. Technical issues are a frequent problem. Thanks especially to John Quiggin for rescuing comments out of technical limbo.
Quite often, threads close abruptly while meaningful and respectful debate is still going on. Not sure whether that is a technical glitch or intended by the host. I ask you to consider that when it takes a day or more to get a comment published, then closing a thread after a week doesn’t leave much time to engage with critical debate.


nastywoman 03.27.22 at 11:15 am

Now see –
readying Donald – I feel very much motivated to write another comment as
I completely disagree with:
‘On foreign policy Crooked Timber has been largely worthless for a long time for anyone looking for a progressive critique of Western crimes’.

as most of – what you might be able to call ‘progressive critique of Western crimes’ was posted by very obvious ‘Greenwaldians’ –
who –
(trying to say it in the same joking manner Glenn started to work with)
OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA and posting the word OBAMA up to 42 times in articles about something completely different.
(while the subtext always only said – that Glenn Greenwald just had fallen out of LOVE with Obama)

AND then there wer -(very ‘strangely) ALL these comments of very obvious Crazy Right-Wing Trumpers – who just used: ‘what you might be able to call ‘progressive critique of Western crimes’ for TrumpPropaganda – pretending that dude who was willing to send
North Korea Fire and Fury is some kind of ‘dove’ – all peace loving Americas should LOVE.

And how true –
these Right-Wing Racist Science Denying Idiots made a lot of CT threads a –
many I say_
Unpleasant read –
which never bothered me – as they always also – were the best motivation in order to make fun of these… ‘Donald Ducks’ – and that’s ‘the thing’ why I always completely agree with Susan – a few more really idiotic comments from Right-Wingers –

would make the CT comments section very



Fake Dave 03.27.22 at 12:11 pm

This is one of those times where I wonder who has changed more, the commenters or the bloggers. Two decades is a lifetime on the internet. A renovation of some kind seems well earned. Still, I can’t help but think that you could solve your main issues with workload long turnaround times just by getting a dedicated content moderator. Have you considered getting an intern?


David J. Littleboy 03.27.22 at 1:06 pm

This is just me, but I’m here for the discussions. I read the first paragraph or two and then check the comments and then go back and read the post more carefully if the comments reveal that the post is worth it.

So I think disabling comments is a horrifically bad idea.


Lynne 03.27.22 at 3:58 pm

I’ve been reading CT for quite a long time now, and occasionally have participated in the comments (pretty actively in particular threads but not much at all, overall). When I check the site I often check the comments first, and look for particular commenters. I doubt I would read much without comments.

As a few people have noted, there seems less tolerance for divergent views than when I began reading. Chris Bertram in particular seems to want only comments he agrees with. This is his/your blog, so of course you can screen comments as you like, but I have found this intolerance unwelcoming.

On the other hand, I am probably not the target audience, since I have no connection with a university or academia.

Among the posts and comments I look for are those by women. I always read Maria’s, and miss Belle’s. Whatever happens, it has been a pleasure getting to know this site and some of the people here, even in a limited, internet-y way, and I thank all the front pagers for their work over the years.


Ronan 03.27.22 at 4:02 pm

I learned a lot from the posts down the years, both comments and OPs, and appreciate all the effort that went in from various posters and interlocutors. I’d kind of miss the contrary boomer characters who used to hold court in the comments section in years past.

Lfc, you should join twitter. It’s better than its reputation


Chris Bertram 03.27.22 at 4:46 pm

Note that the post makes clear that comments will continue, whenever writers choose to turn them on.


nastywoman 03.27.22 at 5:01 pm

have you guys ever thought about hiring somebody like:
(aka – TEH CLOWN)
or if y’all like to call him: ‘Contradictionater’
As they are GREAT for making any comment section HUUUUGE and that’s how
for example –
Glenn Greenwald became HUUUGE.

He always had a few Idiots on hand – who either provoked his posts and comments
or he employed them to write the utmost obnoxious comment in order to
completely deconstruct them on his blog.

And without any doubt the most interesting exchanges were –
when he responded to somebody who clearly was
he –

So why NOT –
from now on –
start every article – with some kind of ‘Fight Club’
Dr.J versus Mr.H routine? –

Now that would be fun – and perhaps win a lot of new… partici-pants?


Stephen 03.27.22 at 5:28 pm

I have learned a great deal from reading CT over the past years, from both original posts including CBs and comments. I have occasionally commented myself, being held back from more frequent engagement by the curse of the drinking classes, and by imperfect health. I don’t know if that counts as “drive-by” whatever that means, and have never given my full name (hint: I have been in Northern Ireland where public identification is not always a good idea).

CB, whose recent post on the Ukrainian tragedy I can only belatedly applaud, writes that “comments will continue, whenever writers choose to turn them on”. If I were a gambling man, I would offer odds on particular writers being willing to turn them on. For CB, I would offer odds against, but (to use a phrase not often offered by some CT OPs) I might be quite wrong.


Peter Dorman 03.27.22 at 8:16 pm

There has been a long term decline in the blogosphere, quantity and quality, and it has affected CT along with everyone else. Fewer thoughtful people spend less time reading and commenting. It deserves some research. I think the decline has been a bit less debilitating on CT.

As for the bs commenting, I have always felt the solution is to just take a pass. Stop reading when you come across it and don’t respond. This applies doubly to the OPer. I still post on other blogs from time to time and simply ignore the inevitable reply junk. Of course, having to take notice, however briefly, is a cost, and as the benefit of exposing yourself to insightful comments diminishes, the cost is harder to put up with.


Suzanne 03.28.22 at 1:23 am

What oldster said at #2 and most of what Lynne wrote at #52.

As a regular reader and occasional poster I understand the new policy although I regret the reasons for it. I enjoy the comments here at CT precisely because moderation is on the strict side. It keeps discussions mostly on track even if it deprives commenters of the instant gratification of seeing their comments up and replied to instantly. I hope that some of the front-pagers will continue to open discussions up for comments from time to time.

I thank everyone at CT for providing us with this wonderful blog.


DavidtheK 03.28.22 at 1:43 am

If this is the valedictory for Crooked Timber comments, I would like to thank pen name MPAV Victoria, pen name Joshua Burton, and pen name nastywoman for helping shoulder the burden of helping the left side through these difficult years of century 21. I wish you the best of life going forward and I’m going to miss not seeing your thoughts on different topics that come up. I wish I was as smart and as well spoken as pen mame notGoodenough, I wish you also the best of life also; and I’m going to miss your insights too.

And also a special thanks to pen name Adam Roberts for a comment on “the-end-of-american-democracy-is-unimaginable” of 30 Jan 2022 and pen name jacob for a comment on “richard-posner-on-the-conservative-intellectual-collapse” of 13 May 2009 as the two most succinct and insightful comments on modern politics possibly ever given on the internet. There really should be some kind of award for that.

I’ll keep coming back to Crooked Timber because I’ll always be able to get something from the main authors. Thanks for some great reading and looking forward to future pieces.


Moby Hick 03.28.22 at 3:05 am

This reminds of the end of Old Yeller.


Ray Vinmad 03.28.22 at 3:06 am

I hope most writers will still allow comments.

Some of the comments aren’t so useful to thinking through the ideas in the posts but there are some interesting references and ideas on certain comment threads.

I’ve been reading this blog for many years and I’m grateful this blog survived social media and the monetization of online writing–maybe it’s just nostalgia but blogs made it easier to become familiar with the perspectives of certain writers that were willing to entertain ideas outside media consensus. I’m hooked on Twitter but it’s much nicer to hear from people and be less distracted by so much flotsam and jetsam or deluged with hot takes.

I haven’t found the comments here have gotten worse–though they do sometimes veer off in directions I don’t understand.


Rudolf Schnetler 03.28.22 at 3:40 am

Really an end of an era. I agree with some previous commenters that pre-moderation sucked the life out of this site. And as Lynne commented Bertram really likes to clamp down on alternative views to his own. But I will definitely miss John Holbo (and I know he does not post much if any anymore) and years ago Daniel Davis and Henry Farrell.



Trader Joe 03.28.22 at 11:41 am

Not sure I can add a lot to what has been said – I do enjoy the comments and find them largely worthwhile. The ones that are rambling, pedantic or disrespectful are easy to skip (even back during pre-moderation days) and the signal to noise ratio has been on the whole very manageable especially vs. other venues.

I appreciate the efforts of the posters, its clearly a labor of love though no doubt it has its downsides. I hope most will routinely keep comments turned on reserving their ‘closed’ posts for only the most unusual content. In any event – thank you in advance for your continued content. Its hard to articulate how much I’ve learned over the years as a result of this forum.


Orange Watch 03.28.22 at 5:21 pm

While I certainly understand why the move away from comments is happening, it doesn’t bode well for the future of the site. The more-aggressive moderation kept me from regularly visiting for quite a while, and it was mainly after other blogs went belly up that I ended up here. What makes a blog a blog is the community that gloms onto it, with very few exceptions. Again, it’s an understandable move, but it will certainly reduce readership.

One quibble I’d make about blog taxonomy based on above comments is that I don’t think calling LGM comment-centric captures its dynamic. It’s engagement?centric. The posts are brief stepping-off points – generally a link, a quote, and a sentence or paragraph of shallow analysis. They’re also rapud-fire; several will post per day. The comments are likewise short and fairly superficial; there’s a lot of dross to sort through to find those which add substantive information to the post rather than judgements of goodthink and badthink. The comment threads also largely die off ~12h after posting, as the commenters will move onto a fresher post that’s still getting engagement. The major focus is on community interaction (with a lot of that being on conformity and defining and excluding out-groups).

If you want a comment-centric blog, I’d point to something like Golden Age of blogging Obsidian Wings under Hillary Bok – there would be a thoughtful, substatitive post, but there would also be voluminous substatitive comments by both commenters and frontpagers, and the discussions on a single post would often still be active a week or more after posting. I’d argue the key distinction making that comment-centric is that the blog hosts would routinely make substatitive comments, and you would miss a lot of the substance of a post by skipping the comments. Crooked Timber, while not as purely post-centric as some other (frequently academic) blogs, is certainly not comment-centric; the comments often add value, but not always, and they mostly consist of commenters with frontpagers acting as moderation moreso than active participants. Certainly there’s little risk of missing the meat of an author’s thoughts on a subject by skipping the comments.


roger gathmann 03.29.22 at 9:59 am

I’ve always liked CT. It is a site in which worrying about comments and how to administer them has sort of bumped along the changes wrought by the internet – the way the exit/voice/loyalty triad has rather failed to map the flood of voice. I’m one of those voices, and have liked leaving the occasional comment. I wonder whether this comment change will pep things up. My suggestion would be that perhaps there should be one post a week in which all can make any comments they like with minimum pre-editing. The post would maybe list the previous week’s topics.
Anyway, I’ve seen RIPs written for this site many times over the years. They never came true. I am hoping that you keep recruiting academics to write posts regularly. Good luck!


Jonur 03.29.22 at 3:34 pm

The first case of “no comments” that I remember was Chris Bertram’s <a href=”” title=”post on the Stock OBE”). While he avoided the controversy, I was looking forward to his take on Stock’s subsequent resignation from Sussex University and the implications for free speech in academe. Must have missed it.

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