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Attention: New Commenting Policy for Dear Author

Updated: the new commenting policy is explicitly stated above the comment box and an elaboration can be found here.  The comments to this post are closed. If you have concerns or isssues with the commenting policy, please address them on the new Commeting Policy page this way the concerns and issues can be centralized in one location for ease of future reference.

Comment Policy

Last year in March I made an announcement regarding comments because we had an increase in sock puppetry.  This year, it seems like we have had an increase in incivility.  I’ve always tried to operate that the best cure for uncivil speech is more speech per Justice Brandeis in his concurring opinion in Whitney v. California, a 1927 US Supreme Court case.

 “To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence. Only an emergency can justify repression.”

But on some days, even I, the blog owner, hate reading the comments here because it is full of vituperative statements.  I want robust debate here but I want us to respect each other as well.  Unfortunately, there is distinct lack of respect going on that is chilling honest discussion.    Therefore, so that I can enjoy reading all the comments at my own site and others won’t be afraid to come here, I’m instituting a new policy.  If your comment is deemed unrespectful it will be “Shushed”.

As a human myself, I am bound to make mistakes. I will miss comments that should be marked and mark comments that shouldn’t.  My own frailties as a person is why I never wanted to be much of a moderator but in order that Dear Author is a fun and lively place for everyone and not just the tiny few who don’t mind slinging arrows at each other, I’m donning the role.

Please feel free to help me out by emailing me whenever you might see a comment that is objectionable. I’m not going to catch them all.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

196 Comments

  1. e_bookpushers
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 19:26:24

    I am sorry it has come to this but thank you for doing what you can to keep discussion and opinions flowing in a method that all feel safe to contribute or to disagree without attacking other commentators or being attacked.

  2. Ridley
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 19:31:26

    I’d like to know how you define “uncivil.” Are we just to never say anything controversial lest people find themselves challenged?

  3. Jane
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 19:44:51

    @Ridley – Unfortunately I have to be the judge of civility. Civil means engaging another person respectfully. If you can’t be respectful, then your comment will be shushed.

  4. Ridley
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 19:50:18

    @Jane: Well, this is obviously prompted by that NA book giveaway thread, so who was disrespectful? Just me, for pointing out why someone’s privilege allows them to overlook problematic themes? Or were the people who thought the book was an April Fool’s prank also disrespectful?

  5. Jane
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 19:53:41

    @Ridley – I’m not going to go around with you. My post is in response to several months’ worth of indigestion and inbox email complaints. The giveaway thread was the last straw. I’ll treat each comment going forward on a case by case basis. I hope that we are all going to act like adults and think before we comment. Again, if a commenter can’t be civil and respectful then maybe the Dear Author blog just isn’t for them.

  6. Elise
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 20:06:55

    Yikes! I thought this was an April Fool’s joke at first until I saw the locked thread. Even as a lurker I’m sad to see these types of policies being implemented.

  7. Jane
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 20:13:37

    @Elise – I tried to do an April Fool’s day joke today but technology refused to agree with me. Suffice to say we were bought by Amazen. An Amazing worldwide company. You can read the press release I, err, Amazen wrote over at SmartBitches.

  8. Iola
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 20:17:04

    @Ridley:

    I’m guessing that as Dear Author appears on a certain website that shall not be named (as do you and I), she is attracting a certain element who believe everthing they read on the internet, and commenting accordingly.

  9. Sarah
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 20:17:47

    Frequent reader, infrequent commenter here. Just popping up to say I totally get the policy and I think it’s perfectly reasonable. People argue a lot about free speech on the internet, but that reasoning doesn’t work for me. I think of it more as hosting a party and not wanting it to devolve into fighting and name-slinging, and having the discretion to stop it when things go off the rails. I run a highly commented website myself and I understand the reluctance to moderate, but you know, ultimately it’s the site I built and poured my sweat and tears into, and I get to set the tone I want it to have. So kudos and thanks to Jane for all your hard work in building one of my favorite sites on the internet, and I hope the policy brings you a little less grief at the end of the day.

  10. wikkidsexycool
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 20:33:52

    @wikkidsexycool – deleted your comment per your request.

  11. Jane
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 20:36:23

    @wikkidsexycool: And I closed that comment thread for a reason. If you have something to state about the new policy, then great. Otherwise, I’d appreciate it if you stayed on topic.

  12. wikkidsexycool
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 20:47:44

    Wow. No problem Jane.
    Please delete my post, as I certainly wouldn’t want to stray off the topic.

  13. leslie
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 20:56:41

    @Jane: It’s your blog, but I wish you would rethink your decision. The shushed thing doesn’t sit right with me. Shutting down an “uncivil” thread might have more of an impact than being shamed, I mean shushed.

    And as a side note: I have always disliked tattle-tales and whiners.

  14. Jane
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 21:01:36

    @leslie – I’m not sure who are the tattle-tales and whiners. Every person who reads DA is a member of the community. I consider everyone’s opinion, whether they state it here publicly or choose to share it with me privately. Hopefully this post will be enough. That we can all remember to avoid name calling and try to agree with civility and respect. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

  15. Lori Toland
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 21:01:59

    Honestly Jane, I’m surprised you haven’t done this before now.

  16. Kay Webb Harrison
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 21:02:44

    Jane,
    I also appreciate all you do to provide this meeting place for readers. Your new policy is fine with me.
    Kay

  17. azteclady
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 21:09:27

    I may not be the sharpest tool in the box, but what I gather is that Jane would prefer the tone of the discussion/conversation to be civil, not to squash disagreement altogether.

    It’s not what you say so much as how you say it. In a community of voracious readers, finding a civil way to express our opinions shouldn’t be a terribly taxing chore.

    Beyond that, it is Jane’s sandbox/virtual living room, after all.

  18. Sunny
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 21:28:14

    I’ve always very strongly felt that if a website is going to have comments, it has to have strong moderation, because you have to take a very clear stance on the kind of community that you want to have. When sites don’t moderate their comments, they’re tacitly condoning whatever happens there. It doesn’t mean there needs to be tons of moderation, but a presence is nice, and that’s generally been the case here.

    I know it’s a lot of work, and now extra work, but Dear Author is one of the sites I can count on one hand where I not only CAN read the comments, but look forward to it. The general community tone of this site is one I really cherish, because people generally come here open-minded and passionate about reading, authors, and the book world. That doesn’t happen by accident, and it makes a difference to new people coming to the site, too.

    The other thread is the other thread and I completely understand not wanting it to be the place for that discussion, no matter where my personal feelings lie on the topic. I really respect the folks who comment here and what they have to say, but eventually when you put passionate people from many viewpoints together in a jar and shake, it’s not always roses that fall out.

  19. Jane
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 21:29:34

    @Sunny: I hear you and maybe we just all need a cooling off period, me included. Thanks for your thoughts.

  20. leslie
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 21:29:45

    @Jane: Of course!
    I am projecting my own feelings on the constant e-mails of complaint I imagine you must receive daily. I hate dealing with those kinds of e-mails and I have to in my professional life. That’s all I meant with the crack about tattles and whiners.

  21. Shiloh Walker
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 21:31:38

    I think I’m just going to go with this … ‘ditto what Aztec said’

    I understand what you’re doing, Jane. Hate that it comes to this, but I can understand it.

    Disagreements are one thing…being hateful with it is another thing altogether.

  22. srs
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 22:00:08

    One of my favourite bloggers says that a good blog post is like a dinner party. Everyone feels comfortable speaking their mind and engaging in a vibrant discussion, but there are unspoken rules about where the lines are and a good host is responsible for ensuring that people don’t cross them and doing damage control if they do.

    This is your house Jane, and your dinner party. Thanks for being such a gracious host.

  23. Gina, book dragon
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 23:48:41

    and once again I miss all the drama!

    I’m one of the quiet ones at your dinner party. I speak once in a while but have spent my time enjoying the characters and ambiance. If it takes shushing someone who stands up and yells/swears at someone for the party to continue, I’m all for it.

  24. Brandy
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 00:55:37

    I read here every day, but rarely comment. I just wanted to state that I am perfectly fine with your decision.

  25. Megan Lavey-Heaton
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 02:00:48

    I’ve always made it a personal policy to treat other people online the way I would treat them in person, with great respect but not tolerating them if they go over the line. If you take a look at the comments in places such as CNN, they’re rude, hate-filled places. This is your site, Jane, and you don’t have to tolerate any of it. It’d be like if I walked in your front, over to your bookcase and started grabbing novels and flinging them over my shoulder. Just because you gave us a place to read and discuss doesn’t mean we have the right to fling mud everywhere. I greatly support your decision.

  26. Liz H.
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 02:57:08

    The fine line between moderation and censorship bothers me, especially because that line is quite blurry. Although I understand why you feel the need to do it, and other than shutting threads cannot think of a different method of management, I don’t think it’s something I will ever be comfortable with.
    I believe another SCOTUS quote is “I’ll know it when I see it.” It is difficult to impossible for you, the single person who will be enforcing it, to define it Jane, and it will certainly be significantly different for every single other person who reads and comments at DearAuthor. “Robust discussion” is threatened when comments are deleted and writers self-censor, and offense is risked when others are told that the comments that they found objectionable/”unrespectful” are not. I don’t envy you your task. (And I don’t think this is likely to lighten your inbox burden.)

  27. Cathy
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 03:00:53

    I’ve read this blog everyday for years but do not often post.
    I went and read yesterday’s comments re the NA giveaway. Wow. I’d suggest some people who posted yesterday look up the book “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. You might learn something.
    Jane – fully support your new commenting policy. Shame you have to police it, but I love this site and would hate to lose it.

  28. Amy
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 03:54:19

    Another regular reader (for years) but occasional commentator here. Sorry to hear you have to go this route but I get it and appreciate it. There are many uncensored sites out there where lack of civility is commonplace but that is not what I expect when I visit DA. Though where to draw the line? I don’t envy you.

  29. LethalLovely
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 04:52:43

    As a longtime Lurker, sometimes Commentator of DA (I’ve visited this blog almost every day for 4+ years) I understand where you’re coming from, Jane. I adore this blog to bits and pieces but there have been more than a few occasions where I refrained from giving my two cents because I feared I would be persecuted by some of the more vocal commentators. I do not feel like I do a good job of articulating my thoughts about certain subjects which is why I think I’ll always be a lurker (and lover) of DA. I agree that there seems to be a lack of respect from some (not all by a longshot) commentators. It’s not always about WHAT you say but HOW you say it and I hope that your new rule will go a long way towards pushing people to think before they speak (or type, I should say). It would break my heart if this blog to regressed to the WTFery found in Amazon/BN forums or even the circus found in the Goodreads Feedback group.

    I appreciate everything you do and the wonderful community you’ve built here at DA for us unique, opinionated lovers of books and I am on the team of those who don’t think your new rule is meant to (and shouldn’t have to) stifle said readers views.

  30. library addict
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 05:27:36

    Will sushed comments be deleted or is that just where the comment will show like a spoiler and people can still click to open/read it?

    One of the things I love most about DA is the varying viewpoints of the posters. Over the years I think posters here have done a good job of keeping things civil even while disagreeing. So here’s hoping the shush feature will be something you don’t have to use very often.

  31. Las
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 07:07:45

    I wasn’t going to comment because your blog, your rules, if I don’t like it, etc., etc., but it’s been bugging the hell out of me and you’ve said in the past that you like feedback so…

    I have yet to see an online community that implements a rule about “civility” in this way not turn to shit, because it’s really easy to be civil while saying the most foul, ignorant crap. And “shushing” any responses that aren’t some version of an insipid, “I respect your opinion, but…” just pushes any intelligent discussion away. Maybe you know where to draw the line, but considering the discussion that sparked this decision, I’m having a hard time being optimistic.

    So, again, your blog, your rules, but do you really want to take to heart the opinions of the type of people who would email you because they think things around here are too uncivil? Who are these people?

  32. mari
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 07:10:13

    There are a number of sites that have shut down comments altogether. In the NA thread, it really was just one person’s trollish behavior (I draw the line at personal attacks) that made the thread unreadable. I think if those personal attacks had been shushed, folks would have felt safer to comment, and conversley, the shushing would lead to more free speech. Jane is not trying to stifle speech, she is trying to stop bullying which shuts down free speech and silences people who genuinely want to have conversation.

    I support this effort.Even if it means I have to have my own knuckles rapped, on occasion.

  33. Jane
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 07:13:00

    @Las: Yes, I do want to take to heart the opinions of people who email me privately. They are readers and commenters, much like yourself. Some where frequent commenters a few years ago who hate commenting at all now. Some are other bloggers. Some are current commenters.

    Maybe it is the wrong decision. We’ll have to see.

  34. Aisha
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 07:26:19

    @mari: I agree with you and previous commenters that online forums without some enforceable rules of conduct can become … unruly? This is despite my, and I’m sure, everyone else’s issues with censorship. It would however be helpful maybe to have a sticky post/something under the info tab with general rules spelt out. I, for one, always wonder if my post is likely to be problematic (either offensive or too off-topic or too many multiple posts, or whatever), which is why I never posted until very recently.

  35. Bronte
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 08:20:05

    Wow. Also not in favour of censorship but that comment thread is a train wreck. Do what you have to do, cause that is not why I read Dear Author.

  36. carmen webster buxton
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 08:24:30

    I must have missed the kerfuffle. I love the commenting on this site, because we do so often disagree without being rude. Some of the Georgette Heyer review threads are the best illustration of that. Someone one said that no two people ever read exactly the same book, because each of us brings his or her unique experiences to every story we read. I think that’s true, and this site is one place where we could acknowledge that without claiming that our own experience was somehow more authentic than anyone else’s. I’m not worried that Jane will run amok with power, because I think she values that situation, too.

  37. CG
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 08:58:28

    What it comes down to is that this is your site, Jane, your house, if you will. You have every right to draw boundaries you feel comfortable with and set the tone here. Do not feel bad about this. And I have confidence in your moderation abilities. Also, have you considered adding a clearly defined and easy to locate Commenting Policy to the Dear Author home page? If you haven’t seen it already, I like Scalzi’s, especially the part about, “A good rule of thumb is to comment as if the person to whom you are commenting is standing in front of you, is built like a linebacker, and has both a short temper and excellent legal representation”.

    One of the things I dislike the most about vituperative (learned a new word!) statements—besides the basic lack of respect for another human being—are that they totally derail the discussion. It puts people on the defensive and the conversational focus becomes all about the person(s) spewing vitriol rather than the original exchange of ideas and opinions. It is possible to be righteously and furiously pissed-off without resorting to abusive language. And just to be clear, profanity is not automatically fucking abusive.

  38. Lynnd
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 09:03:38

    @Jane – I am sorry that you you have to take this step, but I completely understand why and I hope that it will be a rare occurence. As others have said, the thing I like best about this blog is that it is a community of people who have been able to voice their opinions and thoughts in a mostly civil and respectful way no matter how much they disagree with each other. If this policy will keep that going, I am in favour of it.

  39. cbackson
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 09:08:32

    In my experience, online communities that lack either (i) explicit rules or (ii) strong self-policing of implicit norms eventually find their comment sections devolving into unpleasant sorts of places. I like this site a great deal, but as someone who’s been around the internet a long time, despite my relatively young age (I sometimes joke that I was raised by the usenet), it seems to me that the comments section here hasn’t yet reached the point in its evolution at which it is a stable community that self-polices. There’s a lot of drop-by commenting, a lot of sockpuppetry, etc. It makes sense to me, given that, for Jane to impose some level of moderation.

  40. Dabney
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 09:17:37

    @CG: I love that standard.

  41. Tori
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 09:29:37

    Do what you feel is best Jane. After all, it’s your blog.

    Impassioned discussions are one thing but arguing and name calling just for the sake of causing discord is not only juvenile but annoying. I’ve left many a blog because the discussions went from intelligent commentary with a healthy balance between give and take to a riot of trolling, name calling, and general chaos.

  42. Lege Artis
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 10:16:07

    First of all, it’s your blog and I’m going to play by your rules which is normal behavior for every blog out there. Second, I’ll never object to more civility. I went to to debate competitions since high school and one thing they teach you is “measured reasoning” and “separation of people from the problem”.
    Thank you for explaining new policy, Jane!

  43. Patricia
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 10:28:50

    I support your move to deal more directly with uncivil behavior on Dear Author. Online communities seem to function best with some strong, visible moderation. The community standards should be clear as well.

    I have two questions, though. First, what exactly is “shushing”? And second, what does “uncivil” mean here? Specifically, what kinds of behavior are likely to result in a comment being shushed? I suspect you will see fewer accusations of favoritism or bias if your criteria are spelled out in advance.

    Years ago I administered the email discussion group for a small cooperative in dire financial straits. There were lots of smart, well-intentioned people with great ideas but also lots of passionate opinions and hard feelings that sometimes turned into demeaning behavior. Trying to figure out when discussion had gone past “heated” into “destructive to the community” still stands among the most difficult situations I’ve ever had to navigate. So I really feel for you, Jane. I don’t envy your position at all. Good luck.

  44. P. Kirby
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 10:52:05

    By the standards of other sites I visit, the comments sections here is astonishingly polite. But, I don’t see any problem with your decision to implement some moderation. As others have said, your blog, your rules.

    All of my favorite haunts, even the more uncivil ones, have a degree of moderation, which in turn defines the tone and culture of the community. I don’t see this as censorship. After all, if I want to express my opinion in a manner that goes against a blog/forum’s community standards, I have my own blog where I can happily rant away.

  45. Lori
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 11:12:21

    I love Dear Author and probably check it out a minimum of twice daily and oftentimes more. The discussions are fascinating, the news interesting and the number of authors and books I’ve discovered through this community are staggering.

    I prefer polite conversation in my life but I know on the internet and with issues that matter to people, politeness can be less important than getting a point across. Start telling me why you think gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry and I promise my civility starts eroding.

    This is a community of strong, intelligent women. I find that oftentimes the ones I consider more strident or less polite I often agree with but close down my interest in what they have to say because their point gets lost in the vitriol.

    I just don’t want to see your joy in maintaining this blog erode, Jane. I think moderating comments might make you more miserable/uncomfortable than people complaining about certain threads derailing.

    But I don’t know. Whatever is best for you.

  46. KMont
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 11:47:19

    As someone who had to be (no, chose to be, not realizing what a huge load it would become even with help) responsible for a reader discussion board community, I wish you tons of luck moderating the comments here. It’s never going to be an easy task. I eventually gave it up because it literally began to affect my health, though unfortunately it took me a little too long to realize this. Just be good to yourself if it ever comes to that and do what you need to, to make it work for you. I know your doing this for others here as well, but my concern would be how it’s affecting you personally since the overall issue has already been affecting you. Hopefully it will help, and I wish you luck again.

  47. Arethusa
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 12:39:24

    I think it’s a great idea. I don’t comment much but over the years I’ve seen how well run this site is and can’t imagine that it will somehow descend into repressed boredom. Scalzi’s “Whatever” is a great example of how moderation enables free-ranging, enjoyable and entertaining discussion.

    But even if you decided to turn this into a strict “my way or the highway” kind of place that would *not* be censorship. The term encompasses a lot more than not being able to say anything you like on a blog, no matter how beloved. (Sorry: the lazy use of that word on the internet is a major pet peeve of mine. I find its liberal use tends to inflame discussions.)

    Good luck!

  48. Danielle
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 13:56:39

    When I first saw this blog entry and its use of the – to me – strange word choice of “shushing” I hoped it was an April Fools Day joke. While I have sometimes been dismayed by individual comment exchanges I have also come to love the benefits inherent in the multitude of personalities who opine here. It has broadened my comfort zone and stretched my tolerance and acceptance in a way I think is healthy. In some cases I have gone from disdaining commenters I originally perceived only as trolls to valuing them for the substance of their thoughts and opinions. On balance, I would rather take abrasive behaviour any day from regulars passionate about a subject, as well as the frustrations due to instances of sockpuppetry, than be forced to deal with the oppression of subjective ideas of civility.

    I realise that as owner of Dear Author you, Jane, are in a different situation than I, a regular reader but irregular commenter. I expect it must be time-consuming and sometimes stressful to manage the comment threads. I have admired your approach to it. I understand that this new comment policy is a coping mechanism. Other than that, I feel it is a step in a disturbing direction and I cannot welcome it.

  49. Jen
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 14:14:08

    Another person in support of whatever you have to do, Jane! I fully trust that you will use shushing judiciously and will not stifle conversation. And if you decide later that this new plan isn’t working either, I support that too! Thanks for having such a great blog. :)

  50. erinf1
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 14:37:57

    oh good grief people… Jane can do whatever Jane wants. Even if she said that we had to start commenting only in haiku… it’s JANE’S blog. If you don’t like it… there’s the door. As another person who visits this blog daily for the last few years but rarely comments, I think I’m fairly objective. And Jane has allowed a lot in comment threads. To the point where, yeah, I didn’t feel comfortable jumping in b/c of the fear of being flamed. So I totally understand if Jane has reached her stress and negativity limit. The house/dinner party analogies are apt in this situation. If it’s your space, you can set the rules and tone and no one has the right to tell you how/why/what in *your* space.

  51. azteclady
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 15:40:31

    @Arethusa:

    But even if you decided to turn this into a strict “my way or the highway” kind of place that would *not* be censorship. The term encompasses a lot more than not being able to say anything you like on a blog, no matter how beloved. (Sorry: the lazy use of that word on the internet is a major pet peeve of mine. I find its liberal use tends to inflame discussions.)

    This. Thank you, Arethusa.

    @Las:

    do you really want to take to heart the opinions of the type of people who would email you because they think things around here are too uncivil? Who are these people?

    Hello, Las, I’m one of “these people” who occasionally will refrain from posting in order to avoid being abused or called a troll. I’m also one of “these people” who has exchanged emails with Jane on the topic.

    And finally, I’ve been commenting on Dear Author pretty much from the beginning, with varying frequency. Nice meeting you.

  52. Courtney
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 16:24:39

    Well, this sounds like it’s a long-time coming. The problem, IMO, with the internet, despite all of its perks and advantages, is that it allows people to say and behave in inappropriate ways. My standard, for myself, has always been, “Is this something I would say to [x person] in her living room if we were face to face?” If yes, fine. If no, either re-word, or don’t write.

  53. Ridley
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 16:35:00

    @Courtney:

    My standard, for myself, has always been, “Is this something I would say to [x person] in her living room if we were face to face?” If yes, fine. If no, either re-word, or don’t write.

    Well, that’s my rule of thumb, too. Yet here we are.

  54. Jane
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 16:42:55

    @Danielle: Thanks for your comments. I hear what you are saying and while I’d love to be moderation free here at Dear Author, I just don’t see it possible right now.

    Unfortunately there is going to be arbitrary behavior on my part because I’m human. I’m going to make mistakes. I’ll do the very best I can but I’ll be the first to admit that I’ll miss things, not only because I can’t police the threads 24/7 but statements some people make will strike me differently than others.

    However, it has come to this, unfortunately.

    The primary problem is two fold. First, commenters are being personally attacked. It’s fine to address a comment itself or a part of a post but as we always point out that the reviews about the books, a debate cannot be had if the person is being assigned motivations. I’ve seen commenters call others assholes, ignorant, and rude. That’s inappropriate. I’ve seen commenters call others racist, privileged, uncaring. That’s inappropriate.

    You can say that the comment sounds a certain way but no one here deserves to be personally attacked. No one.

    If a commenter can’t make the effort to be respectful, then I’m not going to provide a platform for their behavior. There are plenty of other places for them to say what they will without repercussions and gain the approval or approbation of others. But it won’t be here.

    Second, I can’t remember what the second one is right now. Will edit if I can recall later.

  55. Liz H.
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 16:50:52

    @Arethusa: I may not have read carefully enough, but I don’t think anyone said that taking this step was censorship, they (and I) said that there is a fine line between moderation and censorship, especially when no definitive guidelines are issued, and urged Jane to be wary of it.

    The Webster’s definition of censorship is “the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts”. Or, that brilliant source, Wikipedia, “Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body. It can be done by governments and private organizations…” I think that’s fairly accurate useage.

  56. cleo
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 16:55:50

    I’m with the commenters in favor of posting expectations for civilized behavior – I believe having clear guidelines makes it easier to enforce them and it makes it easier for everyone to follow them. (I’m totally sympathetic to the “I’ll know it when I see it” approach, since it’s faster that writing up guidelines and it seems so obvious – but in my experience anyways, it’s harder to be consistent without guidelines).

    I’ve been a regular reader and occasional commenter for about 2 years. I like the community here. I like that there’s tolerance for off topic meandering and goofing off. I like that the comments are usually thoughtful and well written (which is probably how you can tell that I’m in my 40s). I like that there are diverse voices, and that people share their backgrounds and explain their reactions. I like that we can usually have civil conversations about uncomfortable topics. Honestly I’ve learned a lot from some of the wilder, less civil conversations too – but I didn’t always post on those threads, because I didn’t want to deal with getting flamed. And I particularly appreciate this conversation.

    @Aisha: I’ve noticed and enjoyed several of your recent posts, so I hope you keep posting.

  57. Kim
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 17:03:55

    I’m glad Jane instituted the new policy. Like Azteclady stated, I too often refrain from commenting. When things get heated in a particular post, it quickly devolves into perjoratives and I don’t want to be part of that. If Jane made people sign in with Facebook, would some of these things still be said? While I don’t think so, I hope it won’t ever come to that.

  58. Danielle
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 17:16:14

    @Jane:

    “Respectful”, like “civil”, seems a loaded concept to me, but that said, I readily acknowledge it is easy to wave the flag of idealism when one doesn’t personally have to suffer the practical consequences. I hope you get the breathing room you need and I remain very grateful for your hard work.

  59. Darlynne
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 17:31:53

    My two cents: While I enjoy a good donnybrook–on-line or at my dining room table–the location of what happened was part of the problem *I* had with how the conversation went.

    Jane asked the publisher for ARCs of a book about which she was very excited in order to give them away to the DA readership and generate interest; the book was also selected for the May book club. The chapter-length excerpt proved to be offensive for some readers (and I freely admit to being put off by a number of the descriptions used in the excerpt).

    Unfortunately, a brawl broke out in what should have been an invitation and giveaway and, honestly, I was embarrassed for Jane. She invites the publisher and author into her living room and the occupants already there aren’t interested in playing civilly together.

    And let me make it completely clear that I have no interest in only saying nice things. I’m saying, “Take it outside, people; this wasn’t the time or place. Wait for the review/discussion and then bombs away, if that’s how you feel.”

    Jane’s house. Jane rules (and she has some, too). I’d like to believe as a community we have enough respect for her–and each other–to pick our moments and do battle a little more thoughtfully.

  60. Annabeth Albert
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 17:35:33

    I’m with the earlier posters who said that they have often refrained from posting for fear of attack. In the early days of DA, I commented a lot more. But the last year or two has seen the rise of some rather harsh attackers who make me reluctant to post in spirited debates. I agree with Jane–it’s the personal attacks that go too far and the name calling. I read the NA thread yesterday and I really wanted to comment but seeing as how people were getting treated, I just sat on my fingers. I think a lot of people would like to comment more & will appreciate more moderation. I do like how some sites have managed “crowd-moderation” with ability to simply hide comments that others can click on to open if they really do want to see, but I think that would be almost impossible to manage here. I do, however, dislike the term shushing–I think just be straightforward that personal attacks will be deleted. Many blogs have that policy clear on the homepage.

  61. Ros
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 18:02:40

    @CG: Scalzi’s policy doesn’t work for me. It makes me want to stand up to the linebacker and yell, to show him that a bully doesn’t intimidate me. I’m better off imagining that every commenter is a shy, anxious old lady.

  62. Caro
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 18:13:09

    Newbie here, but I have frequented many blogs.

    I usually gravitate to music blogs because I don’t sing, just enjoy, so my “investment” isn’t as great compared to writing blogs. Yes, I’m a writer.

    My fav blog is very vigilant on comments. You can say that performance was crap, that you hate this or that singer, that you think their lifestyle sucks. You can tell jokes about a singer, disparage another, list your favs and unfavs.

    But the biggie rule is you CANNOT attack another poster personally. Argue with their opinion? Sure. Tell them they are ignorant, stupid, privileged? Ah, no. If you do this you get one warning. Repeat offenders are banned.

    It is a very lively, fun, respectful, and informative blog. I go there every day.

    Go Jane! You can do this!

  63. Las
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 18:26:30

    @azteclady: See, it strikes me as incredibly weird to contact a blogger about something like this. I would never; it seems like the kind of thing people who complain about negative reviews would do. Which is why this new policy sounds bad to me, because if Jane’s catering to that type of crowd, that just sucks.

    But since Jane is apparently one of those people who thinks that calling someone racist and privileged when they say something racist and privileged is more inappropriate than anything else, it all makes sense now.

    Carry on.

  64. azteclady
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 19:05:19

    @Las: Holy cow.

    Did you read the line in the original post where Jane says,

    But on some days, even I, the blog owner, hate reading the comments here because it is full of vituperative statements.

    Does Jane not have right to find a way to enjoy something that she owns and has build with a lot of effort, a lot of time, and money?

    Would it be better then for Jane not to take any action, let things continue as they are, have her burn out and Dear Author become one of many defunct blogs? Would that serve any purpose?

    Does Jane really deserve, after all these years and putting up with so much abusive behaviour–some of it directed personally at her, both in comments and privately–to have commenters feel entitled to say, in her own space, “Jane, one of those people”?

  65. Las
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 19:19:30

    @azteclady: I have no idea how you got any of that from what I wrote. Jane has every right to run her blog as she sees fit, which I already said in my first comment on this thread. Disagreeing with her decision is not saying that she doesn’t have that right. If she doesn’t want feedback, she could have easily closed this post to all comments. I’m a reader of this blog. Any comment/complaint/suggestion I make is feedback for her to read/ignore/take to heart as she so chooses.

    As for Jane being “one of those people:”

    I’ve seen commenters call others racist, privileged, uncaring. That’s inappropriate.

    It’s pretty obvious that the complaints about “uncivil” comments are coming from people who don’t like it pointed it when they say something racist, and that those same people think calling someone racist is worse than actually saying something racist. Jane shares that view. I find that view repugnant, and I’m extremely saddened that that’s how Jane thinks.

  66. Jane
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 19:22:52

    @las. No I never said calling out racist comments was inappropriate.

  67. Bronte
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 19:27:16

    @Las:
    Maybe I’m going to open up a can of worms but here it is: The problem is that whether the comment was racist is in the eye of the beholder. I think we can all agree that certain statements are unequivocal, while others are equivocal. I read the statement in question. I did not think it racist and I felt that it was inappropriate to call someone “privileged” without any knowledge of their life. As an observer I was offended. I’m all for debating content but I don’t think personal attacks are needed. Maybe that makes me racist and privileged?

  68. azteclady
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 19:28:50

    @Las: I am unable to read your comment solely as “I disagree with Jane’s new comment policy” when the motivation you assign to her decision is “she’s one of those people, wherein those people are repugnant to me.”

    And, call me crazy, I think that is Jane’s point exactly.

  69. Ann Somerville
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 19:33:05

    ” I’ve seen commenters call others assholes, ignorant, and rude. That’s inappropriate. I’ve seen commenters call others racist, privileged, uncaring. That’s inappropriate. ”

    You let Author on Vacation spew for how long, Jane?

    I feel ashamed to have ever defended you, Jane, or your right to review how you want. I defended you and your rights even when you banned me. I even defended your right to ban me.

    But this…. Holy hell this makes me puke. *Ridley’s* comments are the ones that crossed the line? When *Ridley* was talking about a *character*?

    “I never said calling out racist comments was inappropriate.”

    Actually you did. By specifically noting that the giveaway thread and the comments there about racism were what tipped you over the edge.

    As for the people busily chiming in with how scared and intimidated they are by all the horrid, horrid commenters here, I wonder how many of them consider that they themselves could be part of the problem, not part of the solution. I’ll give you a hint – more than half of you.

    Stop waving ‘the answer to bad speech is more speech’ flag around, guys. It’s tattered beyond repair.

    From now on, be honest. The blog motto is ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything’.

    Funny, I thought DA was set up to get *away* from that mentality.

    I’m sure this will get me attacked or banned again, but I don’t care. I hang around here for the occasional robust and intelligent discussion about serious issues. There won’t be any of those from now on.

  70. erinf1
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 20:14:18

    @Bronte… exactly!

    This seems to be such a circular argument. Those in disagreement are becoming more and more heated about the right to have open discussions and disagreements but yet are the first to take offense when their opinions aren’t supported?!

    We hear you! We just don’t agree with you. So my question is… what is it that you want? Because on one hand, you are vehemently bashing what you think of as sycophant behavior yet on the other, you are taking such defensive measures to make sure that we can absolutely not discuss this rationally or civilly. I can disagree with you without making this personal but I don’t feel like that would be reciprocated. And that’s the whole *point*.

  71. Las
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 20:27:15

    @Bronte: I’m done after this, but to answer your question, if you’re white, you have white privilege. If you’re of a certain socioeconomic class, you have class privilege, etc. “Privileged” is not an insult, it just is. And all of us tend to have issues recognizing whatever privilege we have, and might inadvertently say things with racist/classist/etc. implications. What’s problematic is when people immediately deny their privilege when called on it, insist that being called out is uncivil and worse than the racist thing they said.

  72. Lori Toland
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 20:38:55

    For the longest time, I have been unable to stomach coming here because of the crazy behavior of some of the commenters. It takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch; this is absolutely true so I just quit coming here. I used to come when I first started and get deals and read news, especially the law news because Jane breaks it down to easy to understand ideas.

    Commenters have long since stolen Jane’s microphone and yet anything said here all falls back to Jane because this is her website. If you want an open forum, go to Speaker’s Corner in London or whatever closest city that has something like it.

  73. Jane
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 20:40:08

    I am convinced we can have good debate by focusing on the content and comments rather than the commenters. That is really where the crux of civility lies. There is little benefit if you are truly interested in discussing an issue to resort to name calling.

    And as privilege exists naturally by virtue of the commenters age, race, religion, there is no need to point it out. That would be redundant. And often can be wrong on the Internet.

    Which is why focusing on the comments and the content is the source of good debate.

  74. Ridley
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 20:58:34

    @Jane: I find it funny that you just wrote “I’ve seen commenters call others racist, privileged, uncaring. That’s inappropriate.”

    It was in a thread here, on RaceFail ’09 I think, where someone tore me a new one for ignorantly denying my privilege. I was pissed off at first, but then I went and read up on white privilege and institutional racism. That uncomfortable moment spurred a major shift in thinking for me.

    I’m sorry that you’ll no longer be that site. It’s what set you apart from AAR, SBTB and most other blogs. Discussion was frank, honest and challenging. I’ll miss it.

  75. Tabitha
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 21:10:33

    I’m late to respond and I don’t often post on here either but this has been a long time coming. I’ve cringed on more than a number of occasions reading some of the comments on here…and they weren’t even directed at me! Like many others have said before me, it’s your blog, your rules. I don’t think it’s a lot to ask for commenters to be respectful when disagreeing.

  76. KarLynP
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 21:22:36

    Jane – I think you made the right choice, but a big part of me hopes the ‘civility’ rule doesn’t cut too deep.

    Over the years many of my favorite posts have been the ones that sparked colorful and heated comments, showing a diverse bag of opinions. Of course, that doesn’t mean those threads were uncivil ( as some have turned). I hope you keep pushing the hot topics on us, and keep challenging your readers to think and voice their opinions. The great debates here have been what sets this blog apart from so many others.

    All the best.

  77. leslie
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 21:42:03

    @Lori Toland: I’m feeling very uncivil towards you.

  78. Kim W
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 21:52:35

    I don’t understand how people feel they can’t have a civil discussion without resorting to uncivilized behavior. I’ve been following this blog for years and the one time I posted in disagreement with more vocal commentors, I was immediately attacked for being a troll. And I, too, have cringed at some of the comments and they weren’t directed at me. I’m sorry – free speech gives no one the right to attack another in an uncivil manner. I can’t, and won’t, believe we have a society that thinks it’s okay to call people names and infer nasty things waving it under the right of free speech banner. That’s just b/s. While a part of me will miss the train wrecks (sad, isn’t it?) the major part is cheering kudos and here’s to robust, challenging and thought provoking discussions without falling into abusive behavior. I submit there’s a wealth of words out there to speak one’s piece and still be civil and respectful.

  79. Lori Toland
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 22:04:37

    @leslie I hope this works, because I can’t seem to hit the reply button.

    Let’s celebrate that uncivility with a bottle of wine, shall we? :)

  80. Darlynne
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 22:11:06

    I, too, am wondering why we’re ringing the bell on earnest and heated discussion. Why would the expectation of civility automatically bar the door to intelligent and passionate argument? DA has always been a place for good, reasoned and frequently loud dialog. I don’t see how an effort to avoid making it personal will take that away. Drawing in broad strokes here, isn’t there a difference between “that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard” and “your opinion is as stupid as you are”?

  81. Aoife
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 22:43:03

    I completely missed whatever precipitated this policy change, and assume it must have been pretty heated, but I will just say that the policy change makes me a little sad. Of course Jane has a perfect right to run DA however she chooses. That goes without saying. I just really wish she hadn’t felt this is necessary.

    I’ve been around DA pretty much since it started, reading much more than I post. I don’t comment very often because I just don’t have the time or energy for the drama that ensues on some threads, but one of the most valuable and admirable things about Dear Author has always been the vigorous and intelligent discussion, and how light, careful and respectful moderation has been. DA has been one of the few blogs that feels to me like a fully adult venue, with a broad range of opinions. I hope very much that that doesn’t change.

  82. Nemo
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 23:24:12

    @ Las While I understand why censorship repels you, are you not offering up your own version of it? Picture this, a girl goes to her principal and says “Mr. Smith is grading unfairly.” The principal brings this up with Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith says, “They all failed a test, of course they think that. They just want their grade changed because they’re bad students.” You’re implying that anyone who complains or questions how things are done, is wrong and their voices shouldn’t be heard.

    @Ann Somerville The line that Ridley crossed wasn’t calling a character racist, it was calling another commenter racist. Attacking a book is fine, but attacking someone for voicing their opinion should not be. And while it may seem a victimless crime (after all they are racist) it’s not. When the Hate Speech laws came into effect one of the first charges of racism was a white man accusing a black man. That particular arrow is not always shot from a discerning bow. It’s best not to notch the arrow when your target is an anonymous person on the internet.

    Saying that a comment is racist is much different from saying a person is. It’s the difference between saying “You failed the test” and “You’re stupid.” The reality might be “You studied the wrong material and failed the test, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn.” It might also be “You threw the book out the window and stuck your fingers in your ears,” but I’d rather be optimistic.

    @Jane You always put things so much more succinctly and gracefully than I.

    In response to the policy, I understand and agree with it. The problem with the comments weren’t that they were frank, but that they were hostile. Instead of opening the dialogue they said, Shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Isn’t that what men have been telling women for years? You can’t vote, you don’t understand politics. Stay at home you don’t understand how to run a business. Instead of explaining their view point, the commenter attacked the person directly. Instead of saying, “This is why I find this racist, because of the word’s history, and I believe the book as a whole will reflect the same disregard for the history of prejudice and suffering,” they said “You don’t understand because you don’t know hardship/prejudice/racism and therefore your comment doesn’t matter.” How are you meant to have a rousing discussion when people chop you off at the knees and don’t give you any ground to stand on?

    What I want is to have place where we can all speak/argue and increase each other’s understanding. Isn’t that what writers do? Isn’t that what readers beg them to do? Explain 13th century Africa to me. Show me what it’s like to be a victim of domestic abuse. Teach me how to live past death and sorrow in the middle of the Dust Bowl. If we shoot each other down, then that dialogue can’t happen. People will grow silent because we aren’t trying to understand each other, we’re just trying to yell louder over the rest.

    We all have privileges that prevent us from understanding and we all have different blind spots. For example, I cringe whenever I run across the drunk, violent Irish stereotype. Not because it’s cliché, but because this image was used to oppress the Irish for hundreds of years in the U.K. and later in the U.S. Not a lot of people on the street know that. Wouldn’t I be better off explaining why it upsets me than accusing people of deliberately ignoring the issue? I understand how infuriating racism, sexism, and other prejudices can be. It’s an under-the-skin anger that builds and presses and it makes me, white-middle-class girl me, angry. I don’t want to imagine what it must feel like for people who have to face these things in their real life.

    Then I read a book that forces me to imagine. No necessarily know, but grasp. And I’m a better person for it.

    But the book doesn’t yell at me. Yelling doesn’t change people’s minds. It puts them on the defensive so that, instead of trying to understand and broaden their scope, they’re so busy trying to avoid this unexpected attack that they don’t take into account any valid points made. We don’t like being wrong, but plenty of us can admit it when we aren’t put on the spot and attacked. Some can’t, but then what’s the use of engaging with them in the first place?

    This is what lurkers fear. They’re not afraid that they’ll be wrong, that someone will call them out on their mistakes. They’re afraid they’ll be trampled behind violent words until they can’t communicate at all. Censorship by community.

  83. MaryK
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 23:50:06

    @Nemo: Yes.

  84. Melissa Blue
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 00:22:46

    Nemo, everything you said times a thousand.

    Also, I find it pretty amazing that people are worried about the discussions carrying on with the same openness and intensity now with Jane wearing a mod hat. That no one will be able to have a different opinion. There’ll be censorship…take a moment and look at this thread. Every other comment is disagreeing. This is what it feels like to have a debate without the personal vitriol for vitriol’s sake. Folks used to have these here on DA. I know I personally bowed out of many great and insightful posts, because it honestly wasn’t worth the headache. It wasn’t a discussion. And my understanding is that’s what Jane is going for–a discussion. And, honestly, her house.

  85. Lori Toland
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 00:23:15

    Nemo, you are awesome :)

  86. Aisha
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 00:35:50

    @Jane: With all due respect and noting your rights of ownership, I would like to offer another perspective to the prevailing discussion here. I mentioned in my previous post that I had not commented until recently on this site. I have lurked for a few years but felt that perhaps my perspective would be too different and maybe offensive to the majority of users here. Seeing the tolerance for a multiplicity of voices and positions (even one’s that are arguably more confrontational)was what ultimately allowed me to feel comfortable posting. I still engage in self-censorship and temper my comments to (I think) make them more amenable to the community but this is due to my own considered decision to at least attempt to be courteous. Not because of gendered expectations of female behaviour, I don’t think, but maybe cultural norms and my own position of “do unto others…” as well as my belief that while some assumptions may be valid, one or a few obvious truths do not give me insight into the totality of an individuals life experiences or motivations and so I will always try to give people the benefit of doubt.

    One more point – I do think that there is a place for pointing out and making explicit the privelege that we all here share to some degree. We, certainly I, can become complacent in this and blinkered, and it is sometimes useful to be given a swift kick in the arse when that leads to a lack of sensitivity for those less priveleged in whatever ways.

    @Nemo: I thought I had missed something so I went back and read that thread again. I do not see where Ridley called anyone other than the character/narrator in the book under discussion racist, but maybe I’m missing something.

  87. Annabeth Albert
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 01:00:39

    @Nemo: You rock. Seriously. The best discussions are the ones that get at the heart of WHY we think something but don’t blame or shame the belief–unraveling the why and how is what passionate discourse is all about. Think about school–most professors and teachers have to have a very strict “no personal attacks” rule, but the classes have rich conversations–with lots of disagreement. But all it takes is once or twice for a student to get away with a personal attack and then discussion suffers. Students stay quiet. They don’t talk about ideas. They get afraid that they will get jumped on. And DA isn’t a class, but I think what Jane wants is those sorts of deep conversations that have lots of disagreement and dissent without attacking the person. Some of my favorite DA threads have had tons of dissent and fast-paced discourse with passionate defenders on multiple sides of complex issues.

  88. Tiffany
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 01:59:13

    I had noticed how nasty the comments were getting. Also, I see the same faces making the same nasty comments on various sites. Perhaps if everywhere you go, new policies are put in place because of your uncivil behavior, it is time for a bit of self reflection, no?

  89. The fallacy of privilege | Her Hands, My Hands
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 06:02:28

    […] post brought to you by the comment thread on Dear Author’s new commenting policy–some screencaps at the end–though it’s something I see happen all the time […]

  90. wikkidsexycool
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 08:36:54

    Aisha,

    You’re right. Ridley was speaking about the character. She used the phrase “narrated by a casual racist.” Someone else read it, identifying themselves as a friend of the author and then applied it to her.

    I’d like to thank her (Ridley) for passionately speaking up. Because by the time I came back to the thread it had been closed. Otherwise I would have given a history on why the line “strolling through the ghetto” was inappropriate and offensive to ME. As it was, I too tempered my original comment on that thread. I’m just going to leave it at that, because I’d deleted an earlier post alluding to the other thread, since it strayed off topic. This is Jane’s blog, so respectfully, I followed her wishes.

  91. srs
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 08:38:37

    @Nemo: I started to type up a long comment on the difference between criticizing an idea and criticizing the person sharing the idea, but you’ve said everything I wanted to better than I ever could. Totally agree especially with this statement:

    “The problem with the comments weren’t that they were frank, but that they were hostile. Instead of opening the dialogue they said, Shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

    I am a lurker by inclination. DA is one of the few places I comment at, and I do so rarely. The only other place I comment regularly has a much larger platform and audience, but has managed to build an amazing community through very strong and active moderation. People feel safe to ask questions and be wrong on occasion because they know that they, themselves, will not be personally attacked for their statements. They may get a lot of pushback, but it is of the “I disagree and here’s why” variety, not “You are wrong and also a racist”.

    This is a great place and a great community. I am confident that we can still disagree, at times heatedly, and still treat each other with respect.

    ETA: I also think a clear and prominent commenting policy would be a good idea in addition to more active moderation.

  92. Jill Sorenson
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 08:43:50

    Jane has always moderated, so the only difference I see in this policy is that comments will be shushed/hidden/deleted whatever. Now she can shush the offending comment without having to step in a remind everyone to be civil. I’ve noticed her making these reminders or shutting down threads–this is what a moderator does. I don’t like shutdowns or shushing. If someone is being offensive, I’d rather just call them on it. The DA community does an excellent job of moderating itself. But even I hesitate to jump into the fray at times, and I’ve been hanging around here forever. Once when I tried to gently intervene on a heated thread, I was accused of launching a personal attack. That experience made me wary to engage with that commenter again.

    Ridley’s (admittedly rude) remark about the character was misconstrued as a personal attack on the author. Then she called someone who disagreed with her privileged, and that’s where she went wrong. Not every author is of the same socioeconomic class or ethnicity, and not everyone who disagrees about a race/class issue is doing so based on their privilege. Should privilege and racism be ignored? Absolutely not. I don’t think Jane ever said that. But it shouldn’t be automatically assumed, either. And there is a difference between saying a person is racist and their comment sounds racist. If framing your argument in the second way is too limiting for you, perhaps you should bone up on your debate skills.

    I think it would be helpful if the new rules were made clear. Personally, I can handle a bit of rudeness. Loud, persistent voices can lead to social change. Maybe I’m weird, but I think people like Ridley make DA exciting. I will admit to being one of the people who complained about her, years ago. I didn’t email Jane specifically for that reason, but I mentioned her name in a discussion about how one-sided the conversations here had become (in my perception). Since then, I’ve changed my opinion. It’s difficult to harbor negative feelings about a person (or site) when you have frequent, pleasant interactions.

    This is what frustrates me about every internet conflict: how easy it is to dislike those we disagree with. Criticizing the comment/idea, rather than the person, seems reasonable. But aren’t there instances in which criticizing the person is appropriate? If an author uses offensive language or misogynistic themes over the course of several books (for example), is it then fair game to make assumptions about the author’s personal beliefs?

    It’s so hard to say what constitutes a personal attack. As I mentioned above, sometimes any disagreement is seen as such.

  93. Kim W
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 08:51:47

    @Jill Sorenson “This is what frustrates me about every internet conflict: how easy it is to dislike those we disagree with.”

    What frustrates me about the internet is people who use the internet as a platform to force their opinions on others and when the others try to engage in civilized discussion, they are attacked and called trolls. People have said don’t say things you wouldn’t say to someone in person. What saddens me is when I’m told that they WOULD say such things to someone in person. In my opinion, that’s not worthwhile debate, that’s just plain mean and in a civilized world, free speech is no excuse to be mean. There are a lot of great men and women who have had no problems affecting change without resorting to personal attacks. Aren’t we great women? Why can’t we do the same then? I submit that we can–and should.

  94. Lori Toland
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 09:05:35

    @Kim W yes we are great women but even great women sometimes say things in fights that we might regret.

    The Internet is forever and it never forgets, which is another reason I never engage them. I’d rather write books.

  95. Dabney
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 09:22:44

    When we reduce the input of others to their class/race/political perspective–what is termed in this community as privilege–we are limit not only them but ourselves. The plurality of ideas any vibrant community needs for its intellectual vitality cannot flourish when people are afraid to express views that might be unpopular. It becomes almost impossible to converse if participants are dismissed or called out for their socio-economic status, their race, or their belief structure.

    DA has long been a place where vibrant discussions flourish. I see Jane’s actions as supporting that goal.

  96. Aisha
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 09:27:08

    @Jill Sorenson: I have been looking at your post for about 10 minutes here and there, trying to decide if I should post, and then thought what the hell. I think that since this word ‘privilege’ is being bandied about so much we should at least try to ensure that we are all talking about the same thing. When I say I am privileged, I mean that I have a job; I have a decent standard of living with disposable income; I have a car which means I do not need to use public transport unless I choose to do so; I am able-bodied; I am well-educated; I have family and friends who love me; I am fluent in English; I am relatively well-traveled; I live in a country where I am relatively safe from arbitrary harassment by state bodies; I have access to electricity, potable water, and sanitation… and of course, the internet. I am sure there are many more ways in which I am privileged over others, but, because those forms of privilege are so much a part of my life, I do not recognise them as such, and this might make it difficult to see its lack in others. So for me, to say someone is privileged is not such a bad thing – I have a friend who does not hesitate to tell me when I am being ‘bourgeois’ and I certainly appreciate it when she does.

  97. Tina
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 09:46:49

    You know what, I also appreciate Ridley’s comments on the previous thread & this board as a whole. Was she a bit…abrupt? yes. But she made an observation about the book that was important to her. She pointed out her discomfort of the casual racism of the character using the in “strolling in the ghetto.”

    And yet the responses to that line that she got really proved her point. A lot of people chimed up about how the term “ghetto” really isn’t racist. No, no, no. Rather it is economic & classist. Not racist at all. And Boom! there it is is. The knee-jerk refusals to allow validation of her feeling that something is racist to her is textbook privilege. Which she rightly pointed out.

    For me the term “ghetto” is racially loaded and coded. Yes economics plays a part, but the very definition of “ghetto” even in the historical sense is inextricably bound up with ethnicity. When it is used perjoratively it is coded with both racial and classist undertones. So yes, when I hear the term “strolling through the ghetto” I too hear race. And that is my perspective. So I am allowed to say I don’t like that about the character and will pass on the book without being told “but you are wrong.”

    The thing is people come at things from a lot of different perspectives. A reader should be able to introduce their perspective & voice their concerns without being told “no that’s not true” as if a perspective is fact. And honestly this has happened to me on this blog in the past so I very rarely wade into discussions about race here anymore.

    Since I think a writer is in a different space from a reader, I do think a writer should be challenged & questioned about why something was said or done based on a reader’s take-away.

    I know it feels like this conversation seems centered around Ridley, but if there is incivility going on she is hardly alone or even the worse offender considering some of the drive by commenters that drop in during particularly interesting social debates. Ultimately I don’t disagree that a moderated comments area is probably a better thing all around. I would hope though that the possibility of being shushed doesn’t dampen healthy, passionate discussion.

  98. Courtney Milan
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 09:55:09

    I’m a little disappointed that the word “privileged” is being lumped in as an insult with things like “racist,” as something that is basically forbidden.

    It’s true that people can be wrong about calling someone else privileged. It’s true that a discussion about privilege can end up as a personal attack, or limiting someone else’s input to a slice of who they are as a socioeconomic class. And that’s not a good thing. But I hope we get some clarification that what is intended is not a discussion that forbids the discussion of privilege overall–because I deeply disagree that talking about privilege is “redundant.” The whole point of talking about privilege is that you talk about it to make sure that people understand when an experience is not shared in common. It’s about making explicit that differences between people result in different views of the world.

    Discussions of privilege–because they touch on heated issues–can go off the rails, but I don’t see how you can talk about heated issues like race, class, disability and the like without talking about privilege. If DA talks about those issues–as it has in the past–and bans privilege discussions, I seriously doubt that DA will be able to effectively talk about race or class any longer.

    Having privilege is not a bad thing. Recognizing privilege is not a bad thing. The discussions at DA that touch on these things have been really important for me in making me think about what I have/don’t have, what I’m seeing, what I’m writing, what I’m thinking about.

    It would sadden me deeply to chill speech that says, “Hey, that experience that you describe, it is not normal, and I think you should be aware of that.”

    Using privilege as an insult–now, that can be a problem, and I can understand why you’d want to moderate that. But privilege as a concept is absolutely NOT something that you can just say, “Oh, well, everyone already knows about it, so no need to mention it.” The whole point is that there are some experiences that are so rarely mentioned, that we HAVE to unpack them, or we’re going to gloss over them.

    So I’m really hoping for clarification here–that what is meant is not “never discuss privilege” but instead, “don’t hurl the word ‘privilege’ around like it’s an insult, because it shouldn’t be used that way.”

  99. Dabney
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:06:05

    @Courtney Milan:

    I’m really hoping for clarification here–that what is meant is not “never discuss privilege” but instead, “don’t hurl the word ‘privilege’ around like it’s an insult, because it shouldn’t be used that way.

    I share that hope.

    Isn’t the goal that we all feel reasonably comfortable saying who they are and what they think? Take, for example, the discussions on DA about how readers feel about HEAs that include marriage and babies. Those seem to me to be healthy ones. Some said they are sick of such things and wish romance were less hetero-normative. Others said those sorts of endings work for them. Some discussed their own experiences and acknowledged how those experiences colored their opinions.

    I think a lack of vituperation married with differing perspectives is the goal.

  100. Jane
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:07:16

    @Tina – the reason I try to avoid using specific real life examples is because the issue shouldn’t be focused on one person or one comment. Monday’s comment thread was closed because it became immediately apparent that the thread was devolving and swift action needed to be taken.

    But as I said in this post, my feelings about discourse here at Dear Author have been building for several months. The entire internet is becoming a cesspool of insults, name calling, and perjoratives. Few are having real discussions that can lead to illuminating concepts or ideas because of that.

    I was having breakfast with a state legislator last week and I asked him why he thought politics had become so difficult to the point that we are at a constant standstill on real action, either one way or another. He said, and I believe this to be true, that the problem is that the debate is no longer over ideas and concepts.

    I’ve read all the comments here and I understand that people are worried that there will not be robust debate but I’m not sure where that fear stems from. Certainly this thread has presented both sides of the coin of moderation (among other things) in a vigorous and even loud and possibly offensive manner.

    This is the type of discussion I hope to see more of at Dear Author.

    By asking people to debate the ideas and content rather than the presumed morality of the commenter or their race, ethnicity, gender, etc., it’s a more consistent approach to moderation.

    Jill Sorenson asked below whether there is ever a time to call someone a racist or a misogynist. Perhaps there is. But it’s very difficult for me, a person, to do that on the fly. What I can do is read a comment and think, they are attacking the person and not the idea. That’s a concept I can implement without being too arbitrary (although with anything, as I have said before, I am bound to make mistakes).

    In the comments here at Dear Author, I don’t foresee a reason to cast a pejorative at the person. As I said upthread, a review is always a criticism of the book and not the author and likewise, a commenter should be off limits personally as well.

    I don’t really understand why eliminating attacks on the commenter personally and still allowing attacks on the content of the comment would somehow shut down debate.

    Pointing out that a review uses inappropriate language disparaging toward individuals with mental illness is helpful. Calling the reviewer an able-ist bigot is not.

    If real debate is what people want, then the debate needs to be centered around the topic, idea, content itself. Otherwise, as Nemo said upthread, it’s a way to be dismissive.

    You are A/B/C and thus your comment has no value. If a person truly wants to contribute to open discussion, enlightenment of others, attacks on the person do not serve that purpose.

    Commenting should not be the province of only those who are willing to be the subject of personal attacks because they are “thick skinned” enough to endure it.

    As a blog host, it’s one thing for people to attack me. I have a lot of tolerance for that. It’s another thing for me to sit back and see others personally attacked. I don’t want DA to be a place where people are afraid to talk. That’s a type of censorship in and of itself.

    I want DA to be a place where commenters can come and feel free to have a vigorous debate. I’ve been enlightened when people have pointed out my own failings but I would have learned the same even if I hadn’t been called names in the process.

  101. Aisha
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:09:39

    @Courtney Milan: Thank you. This was, broadly, what I was alluding to in my roundabout and far less articulate way.

  102. Jane
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:13:29

    @Courtney Milan – Perhaps you can articulate a way in which one individual can discern when privilege is being used as a perjorative or an instructive term? For me, the best and least arbitrary way is to say that those terms are appropriate when used to discuss the content. It’s pretty hard on the internet to presume privilege. Should I assume by your name the type of privilege you have? Or from your picture?

    I’ve never said that recognizing privilege is bad or wrong or inappropriate. What I am asking is that if people truly want this robust debate that they call for in the comments, that they fear will be whisked away when asked to avoid personal attacks, that they use language that encourages robust debate instead of extinguishing it.

    Edited to add: My use of the word redundant as it related to privilege was to point out that saying “privilege exists everywhere so it isn’t an insult ever” is ridiculous. If it exists everywhere and always, forever amen, then it doesn’t need to be pointed out. The word is used to point out flaws in a person’s argument, or in some cases, flaws in the person.

  103. Liz Talley
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:22:06

    Since my comment started all this maybe I can end it? (Or maybe that’s presumptive?)

    Look, I’m not angry at Ridley for calling me out on seeing through a veil of privilege. I’m not mad at Ridley at all. She has the right to feel the way she feels. I never said she was wrong. I said it didn’t trigger that reaction in me when I read it. My experience. Not hers. I respect her reaction. I respect all of your reactions. We’re all different, come from different backgrounds, different ideologies, etc. and that’s really cool because we can debate all sorts of things and learn from each other. This would be non sequitur if in response to my comment someone had said, “do you think you’re looking at that through eyes of privilege?” To which I probably would have replied “maybe so” and I would have thought about it and maybe agreed with her. But that’s not how it was handled. I wasn’t questioned on my beliefs, but instead told who I was. And, yes, while I am privileged, it doesn’t present the whole picture and paints me in an unflattering light. Being privileged doesn’t make you without a heart.

    Debate is healthy and I’ve visited DA daily because I like the varied, diverse opinions, but after this, yeah, I feel very tentative about weighing in, even now, for fear I’ll be misunderstood or made to be something I’m not. I’m not a racist, I’m not a bigot and I don’t kick puppies. But I am human and I do own that I make mistakes. Maybe I was wrong not to react more strongly to the word ghetto. Maybe I should have been offended that Nathan said rapist guy’s mom was a freak? Maybe I should have been pissed that the friends didnt take her home and care for her? Maybe I was wrong not to be outraged over the stereotype that slim blonde girls majoring in general studies would end up as golf course bunnies or arm candy. Grossly unfair to all the slim, gorgeous dumb blondes of the world.

    But I would like to apologize to Erin McCarthy and Jane for taking the focus of the giveaway off the book. I should have worked on my flipping book due in a few months and stayed off the internet.

    In short, I think we can all play nice in the sandbox, disagreeing in respectful ways and treating each other not as linebackers or old ladies but as respected colleagues we trust to be discerning in their impassioned comments.

    Again, I apologize it led to this.

    Liz

  104. Jill Sorenson
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:22:19

    @Aisha: I didn’t say privilege was a bad thing, just that it shouldn’t be automatically assumed, like ethnicity. Not everyone on the internet is well educated or well traveled with a disposable income. You can access the internet for free at the public library.

    About a year ago, Courtney Milan wrote a long comment (maybe a post) about how being an author is a privilege, in itself, because we have the skills to pursue steady employment elsewhere. I didn’t agree with her. Some authors have several young children, and daycare costs of working outside the home are prohibitive. Others have been struggling to find other work, to no avail. The vast majority of us are well educated and financially stable, yes, but I don’t assume this is true of everyone. I’m sure we all have drinking water; this is an assumed privilege.

  105. Bronte
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:27:11

    @Aisha: The trouble is that you don’t know that the person on the other end of the internet has that same privilege. So calling them “privileged” without inside knowledge of their life is an insult. Maybe they use the internet at school, read pirated books, don’t have a car, and catch the bus everywhere. Maybe they exist below the poverty line. The whole point is you don’t know – so don’t start with personal comments.

  106. Courtney Milan
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:30:08

    @Jane:

    I think “check your privilege” is always instructive, even when the person calling for privilege-checking is wrong about the background of the person they’re talking about. Being wrong is not the same thing as being pejorative, and that’s a case where clearly “more speech” is fine in response–“Hey, thanks for the privilege check, but I’m not a cisfemale, and I don’t think what I said comes from privilege.”

    “Check your privilege” should be thought of as, “I’m not sure, but I think your fly is down?” Maybe you’re wrong. Maybe you’re right. It’s nothing more than a reminder.

    When it crosses over into, “You’re a privileged asshole and there I don’t think you are allowed to contribute,” that’s extinguishing debate.

    Obviously between those two there is a wide range.

    But I fear that one of your statements earlier–that calling people privileged is just flat out not okay–will have the effect of extinguishing minority voice–by making them feel uncomfortable in telling people, “Hey, that universal experience you seem to be referencing is not universal to me. Can you please check your privilege?”

    I understand that being called privileged makes people feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t make it an insult.

    Recognizing and acknowledging privilege is a necessary part of including voices that are often marginalized. Given a choice between making people who are generally included feel uncomfortable and silencing the already marginalized, I’d rather see the former.

    I think it is possible to have a robust, respectful community of discussion that regularly privilege-checks.

    I think it is impossible to have a diverse community that doesn’t.

  107. Tina
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:32:04

    @Jane-

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I enjoy this blog a lot and I think even though there has been no overt moderation it still has been one of the more civil places to be. My online presence in romance blogs has over the years gone from being on a lot of boards to basically micro-ing down to one or two for the very reasons you point out. DA has always felt life a “safe space” to be even with some of the more heated discussions that crop up. Actually the vigorous discussion has made it even more attractive in some ways because the DA community is on the whole tends to be intelligent and articulate. My hope is that commenters will continue to be as sharp and engaged as they always have but be a little more…. aware…of the power of words.

  108. Courtney Milan
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:36:19

    @Jill Sorenson: But I think you can presume from my post that I was operating from a place of privilege–and I was–and it’s totally appropriate and necessary to point that out.

    You don’t need to know whether I have kids or whether I was a single mom. You don’t need to know anything about my life.

    You can point to that post and say, “Hey, I think, your privilege is showing, you’re assuming that we’re all capable of working outside the home.”

    And you would be right. That was a statement coming from a place of privilege, and I don’t know if I admitted/recognized it at the time, but I certainly do see that now.

    But I also want to point out that when I said that being an author was a privilege that was not using the word “privilege” in the sense that is being used here.

  109. Jane
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:37:11

    @Courtney Milan: Why is it so difficult to ask people to say “those types of comments sound like white privilege or able-ist privilege and here’s why?” instead of “you’re privileged and that’s why you don’t understand.”

    Is that too much of a burden on people? Is that stifling conversation and debate?

  110. Bronte
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:37:53

    @Courtney Milan: I personally have used the word privileged as an insult (to someone in real life not over the internet), and I read the way it was used previously here on Dear Author as an insult. I understand the point that you are trying to make, but I belive you can point out an alternate minority point of view, or ask someone to examine themselves without making insulting generalisations about their socioeconomic status or ethnicity. Case in point: you have no idea how much money I make, or whether the colour of my skin is blue like a smurf.

  111. Tamara Hogan
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:45:20

    I think there’s a huge difference between calling someone privileged vs. suggesting a particular perspective might come from a position of privilege. The first could be perceived as a personal attack (and assumes knowledge), and the second might encourage lively and robust discussion.

  112. Courtney Milan
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:51:49

    @Jane:

    I hope that there is a clear clarification of that, because some of the earlier comments make it sound like there’s no room for discussions of privilege at all. I am probably misinterpreting them, but I suspect I’m not alone in that misinterpretation.

    If this is something that will be actively moderated, I think it might be instructive if you had a do/don’t checklist for how to appropriately privilege check within the moderation bounds, and to reiterate that it’s important in a diverse community that underincluded voices be allowed to point out ways in which their experience differs from the norm.

    I know that a do/don’t checklist sounds seriously weird, but I think it will be extremely useful in further discussion.

    It would help if there was something you could link to when this sort of thing happens, so that the moderation can feel more like, “We appreciate the importance of this discussion, here are our rules for having this kind of discussion. We want your voice to be included in civil discussion,” and less like, “Shut up, minority voice, you’re making everyone else uncomfortable.”

    Having “do” items on the checklist will make it clear that this kind of speech is allowed and welcome.

  113. Jane
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:57:26

    @Courtney Milan: Creating a list of dos/dont’s isn’t weird. It’s impossible. You know that as a legal scholar. You can’t anticipate every possible way in which people are going to present an argument. You create a broad standard that you hope covers most behavior. Thus, please focus your comment on the content and idea in the comment itself rather than the commenter makes a lot more sense than to have a list of dos and don’ts of appropriate behavior.

    This is why moderating comments is zero fun and why I loathe the idea of doing it. I don’t want to be someone’s behavior police. It’s repugnant to me and listing a number of dos/don’ts even more so.

  114. Shiloh Walker
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 11:02:36

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find it kind of ironic that we are talking about civility & respect and yet so much of the focus is on Ridley.

    She made some remarks I found out of line-and I told her as much- but she is far from the only one.

    This has been a progressive problem here and yet I don’t see a lot of people who are poking at Ridley making jabs at anybody else.

    That respect & civility thing goes both ways. You can’t expect it unless you’re giving it.

  115. Aisha
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 11:04:37

    @Jill Sorenson: No you’re right, you didn’t, I think you said that Ridley went wrong when she accused someone who disagreed with her of being privileged. But I think certain assumptions can be made, and you have done so yourself in assuming that the availability of drinking water is a given. The small town I grew up in is very poorly managed or mismanaged and there are, more often than not, water cutoffs, so that community members have to rely on infrequent deliveries of water by water tankers and, those who can afford to (not many) rely on bottled water. Another example is that in many informal townships, many households have to rely on one standpipe for all their water supplies, and going to fetch water can often be quite dangerous. And finally the inalienable right to an adequate free basic water supply (a right that is guaranteed by the South African Constitution but previously limited by the state’s ability to provide) was [ETA] only eventually won a few years ago by a coalition of civil society groups who took the government to the Constitutional Court.

    So yes I think we do make assumptions about privilege, and some of them, at least the ones I am making, are evidence-based. I assume that everyone here is privileged because they are able to communicate in English; I assume that we are all privileged because we have access to the internet (and no, I did not assume that everyone accesses the internet from their own systems); I assume that we are all privileged because we are literate.

    @Bronte: My comments were mainly about myself and my own privileges, I did not assume they are shared by everyone here. Further I did say in an earlier post “”while some assumptions may be valid, one or a few obvious truths do not give me insight into the totality of an individuals life experiences or motivations and so I will always try to give people the benefit of doubt. ” So I apologise if I offended you, that was not my intention.

  116. Ridley
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 11:21:16

    FWIW

    1. Talley dismissed my perspective with her “I’m all for PC, but…” It was a handwave, and it was ignorant, and I responded from a place of frustration. Would a neutrally-worded “check your privilege” have gotten a better reaction? Maybe. But was my reply any different in substance? Is effectively saying “anyone who still uses PC as a serious term isn’t someone who gives a lot of thought to how privilege colors her perspective” going after the person or the person’s argument? Was her PC comment dismissing my argument or me as too sensitive?

    2. I guess an “At a guess,” would’ve softened my comment where I explained why I thought the facile treatment of rape bothered her when the casual racism/classism didn’t, but so what? When did having privilege assigned to you become an insult? If I was wrong, and she was actually a Latino single-mother living in a Boston housing project, she could just say so. I’d be wrong, she’d look vindicated, and we’d all learn something.

    3. I speak to people with the assumption that they will respond in kind. I assume everyone here is a grown-ass adult who can speak her mind. I don’t pick on people I think are easily intimidated. One, because it’s mean, and two, because it’s no fun. I’m looking for a response and a conversation, as a rule. Shouting down the timid gets me neither.

    4. For a bunch of people concerned about civility, this thread sure talks a lot of smack.

  117. Courtney Milan
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 11:41:46

    @Jane:

    I kind of disagree on examples–I was thinking more examples to sections of the Restatement, illustrative but not inclusive–but if you don’t want to do them, you don’t want to do them. That’s just one mechanism I came up with to at least partially cure the potential harm that I’m seeing here.

    I don’t really care what mechanism you use to convey that speech by minority viewpoints that makes the majority uncomfortable is valued. I do care that that point is conveyed in some fashion.

    Some of the things being said in this thread give the impression that it is not style that’s being critiqued, but substance–that viewpoints that make the majority uncomfortable are no longer up for discussion. Given the near history surrounding the adoption of this policy and some of the pronouncements in this thread about what’s okay and what’s not okay, I think there’s a danger that the takeaway will be that minority voices will be shut out in the name of politeness.

    As it is, right now you have a policy that allows people to say vilely racist things, so long as they are polite about it and forbids people from saying, “I’m sorry, that is racist” in response.

    It’s your policy. You get to make the rules. You get to choose how those rules are pronounced in a way that is comfortable to you. But I know that you’ve come out very strongly on the other side in the past. I believe you care about inclusion. I believe you don’t want to shut out minority voices.

    Since you are going to moderate, I am only asking that you please consider making sure that your statement of moderation affirmatively states in some fashion that minority voices are welcome, even if they are saying things that might make others uncomfortable. I don’t care how you say it, but I do hope you say it.

    I think that inclusion doesn’t go without saying, and so I hope that the official policy will recognize that inclusion is as important (perhaps more important) than civility.

  118. Isobel Carr
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 11:49:05

    @Aisha: Agreed. You’re not missing anything. Ridley called out race privilege because people didn’t *see* the racism of the character and she got eviscerated for it (and is still being attacked here for having done so while people cheer on those attacks). There is certainly a good deal of incivility on display in the comments above, and I’m rather appalled that nothing is being said or done about it given the new policy that is supposed to be a fix for this sort of thing. Play nicely should be cutting both ways.

  119. Zara Keane
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 11:55:21

    I rarely comment at DA these days because the comment threads tend to go nuclear. I still read the posts, but I tend to skip the comments. If this new policy stops otherwise interesting discussions from being derailed by personal insults, I’m all for it.

  120. Aisha
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 11:58:55

    @Courtney Milan: I think it would be better to say something like a multiplicity of voices are welcome rather than singling out minority voices. Its like the distinction between difference and diversity when thinking about race.

  121. Courtney Milan
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 12:08:37

    @Aisha: I am fine with that. I’m fine with anything that explicitly acknowledges and recognizes one potential harm and tries to ameliorate it.

  122. erinf1
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 12:13:19

    I guess this is also a good time to point out tone and intention. Like it’s been stated over and over and over and over, Ridley has a right to her opinions. But the way that she expressed them and has just admitted to responding in frustration, is what sparked a lot of *this* dialog. She’s expressing her opinion and then is very vocal when people disagree. I admire her passion and I’ve read a lot of great threads where she has contributed a lot of thought provoking comments. But… sometimes it is hard to differentiate/determine that her tone is passion for the subject and not intended to subdue/bully the commentor. And maybe it’s constructive criticism for us all to be more aware of tone and intent.

    @Isobel – “called out race privilege because people didn’t *see* the racism of the character and she got eviscerated for it (and is still being attacked here for having done so while people cheer on those attacks)”

    ummm… not really seeing that. Most people here have been responding to the hand wringing about the new policy. Even so, this statement is just fueling the misunderstanding. She got to express her opinion so why is no one else now allowed to?

  123. Liz Talley
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 12:15:52

    @Ridley

    In all honesty I was not tying to be dismissive of your point. Rather I tried to point out the the term “ghetto” used by a 20 yr old character in a YA book didn’t trigger the same response in me. So if by using the term PC you felt I trivialized your response, I apologize. I didn’t know that term had connotations attached to it. You are entitled to be outraged and feel anyway you wish, and I will point out that other than my mistake in “ignorantly” using a term that is out-of-date, I never treated you disrespectfully. And if I treated you as overly sensitive, for that I do apologize.

    I would also like to point out that though I am civil, I’m not racist. My comment was not intended to be implied as racist – my reaction was honest. So if my honesty had racial overtones, I’ll have to think about that, but, fwiw, I don’t use the term ghetto and would have never put it in one if my books.

    Writing flawed characters leads to discussions like the one we had yesterday, which I believe was my point. I assumed that the main character’s growth arc involved seeing outside her privileged existence to the hero’s tough and less than privileged world. Seems like what we’re talking about is hinted at in the blurb – that Rory will grow and change because of the hero and the world she’s exposed to. And like that character, I think I’ve learned a very good lesson from this.

    Liz

  124. Lou
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 12:24:24

    I’ve been a long-time regular visitor to Dear Author but I rarely comment. As Zara Keane stated above, past comment threads have gone nuclear–and I have no interest in dipping my toes in scalding water.

    Jane, I’m sorry you’ve had to go down this route but I understand why.

  125. wikkidsexycool
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 12:46:19

    Hi Liz,

    Unfortunately, in the original thread the term racist was wrongly attributed to Ridley, when she was simply talking about the character’s narration.

    I had a completely different reaction than you to the set up of a scene involving an “innocent” girl feeling a bit awkward about the boy she was sitting next to. I believe there was also a flippant reference about smoking crack and sagging couches in addition to the strolling line. And I get that perhaps the author wanted the reader to know exactly why the heroine didn’t leave right away because she felt uncomfortable venturing out alone. The problem was, as a reader I then felt uncomfortable with how it was presented. It was almost like “oh well, the area is so stereotypically bad, its better I stay in here with this somewhat creepy but hot gray eyed guy.”

    But see, the word “ghetto” has taken on a life of its own in our society. It’s applied with abandon, and unwarranted in far too many situations. It’s an overused term that has been applied to the late Trayvon Martin, and others in comments around the internet. Even JR Ward’s latest book is getting blasted once again for her vampires “ghetto” slang. Now, its possible the author of the book in question didn’t know any of this. But while I enjoy NA books, far too many are turning out to be devoid of diverse characters while dropping slang and terms that many writers , who are older, (let’s face it, these aren’t kids writing many of the novels) simply haven’t done their homework on. And I think it’s far too easy to dump it on a character and hope for the best as a story progresses. There’s a writer, and perhaps several editors behind a lot of the things I’ve read not only in NA but other genres.

    On a personal note, I’m not advocating censuring the word. In this case though, imho it was used to drum in a point that had already been made.

  126. Deb Nam-Krane
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 12:58:41

    Your blog, your rules. Okey doke.

  127. hapax
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 13:24:49

    Since the book in question has been chosen for a Book Club discussion in May, might I request that all these really interesting questions about the unthinking privilege/racism of the character (and the stylistic choices of the author, and the NA genre as a whole) not be forgotten when that comes around*?

    I wasn’t planning on reading this book, for many other reasons than that — neither the genre, nor the set-up, nor the author’s voice appeal to me AT ALL, as I rather disastrously made clear — but I’m willing to give it a shot if I can feel confident in advance that the discussion will involve such meaty and thought-provoking issues.

    (I don’t know how much I would be able to contribute — my personal invisible knapsack of privilege is pretty loaded — but I am willing to shut up and listen to those who are willing to take on the burden (and yes, I do acknowledge that education is a gift, not a duty) of speaking up and pointing out problematic expressions.)

    And if I know that it going to be okay to discuss them there, without commenters having to walk on eggshells to avoid the danger that such discussion might become painful and “contentious”.

    *Please note, I am not saying “save this discussion UNTIL then.” I just don’t want the topic to be dropped. I think it’s IMPORTANT, and I also think it will be a better discussion once there is more to go on than a short extract.

  128. hapax
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 13:53:04

    I tried to edit my comment above, but the Internet eated it.

    I just realized that my comment above might sound like I am trying to dictate the topics, terms, and tone of book discussion here, which I have neither the intention (nor any right) to do.

    I was just trying to indicate the sorts of discussions about books that I personally would find really interesting, even though I know in advance that some comments would surely be painful and distressing to me (and others.)

    But it isn’t like this is the only place on the wide Internet available to me for chatting about books; nor am I stupid or vain enough to flounce from such a valuable site just because it doesn’t always conform to my wishes.

  129. Danielle
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 13:57:07

    I thought I had already had more than my say but having read the comments about the need for/the impossibility of a more precise, written commenting policy than “please focus your comment on the content and idea in the comment itself rather than the commenter” there is a detail that my mind keeps turning over. It is this invitation in your blog post, Jane: “Please feel free to help me out by emailing me whenever you might see a comment that is objectionable. I’m not going to catch them all.”

    That final sentence was one of the main reasons I originally mistook the blog entry for a virtual, if somewhat rueful, wink. It may seem a wildly exaggerated reaction that it evoked some chilling associations related to family history in the former Eastern bloc. Yet a certain parallelism does argue for that something more is needed than a one-sentence guideline focussing on content and idea. I also wonder whether specific instances of moderation will be made publicly marked or at least brought to the attention of the person who made the comment? They wouldn’t be silent deletions, would they?

    The reason I ask this now is that one can already observe the confusion arising out of a vague guideline. In the comment thread of a recent post someone is calling your attention to comments in another, earlier post, with the words: “I won’t repeat it here, but suffice to say that it is quite critical”. I read the discussion in that earlier thread as the subject is one I find very interesting because it directly ties to my own reading interests, but I could not see that the criticism being voiced in any way breached the new policy rule. (Unless such commentary had already been silentlydeleted.) Good intentions, if misplaced, can give rise to as many problems as anything else.

  130. Jane
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 14:05:43

    @Danielle: No, I don’t intend to delete any comments. The comments I deleted on Monday’s post were ones that presumed the giveaway was an April Fool’s day joke which was not.

    Nor do I want to disemvowel comments or whatever other sites do. Instead, I have a plugin that allows one to hide any portion of the comment. You can see it in action here. http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-b-reviews/b-reviews/review-own-the-wind-by-kristen-ashley/#comment-533357 (I used it as a spoiler code here)

    The comment is called shush and the code is invoked by [ shush ]. I feel like that is the least intrusive way to engage in comment moderation. No one’s comment is removed. Anyone can read it. Only the objectionable part is hidden and the reason given would likely be “moderated by blog owner” or something like that.

    As for bringing my attention to a comment, the truth is that I can’t comment watch all day. I’ve got a real job and real responsibilities outside of DA. I read comments when I can but sometimes, like yesterday, I was in my car for 10 hours. It’s pretty hard to moderate comments during those times. Next week I will be traveling again. I just can’t be on top of things all the time, unfortunately.

    My inability to keep on top the comment threads is going to be problematic. I hate foisting the role on to any contributor here because if anyone is going to be the subject of slings and arrows over moderation, it should be me. Thus, my responsibility.

    I don’t see a big confusion in the policy and for the most part, other than a few commenters, the discussion on this thread has been heated but largely civil. Is it really too much to ask for commenters to behave as they have in this thread regularly?

  131. MaryK
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 14:08:12

    @Danielle:

    In the comment thread of a recent post someone is calling your attention to comments in another, earlier post, with the words: “I won’t repeat it here, but suffice to say that it is quite critical”.

    That had nothing to do with the new policy. The commenter who said that is the one who was critical on the other thread. She was pointing Jane to that discussion because Jane had shown an interest in the book.

  132. Jill Sorenson
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 14:33:17

    @Aisha: By “we” I meant authors, and I was thinking of this community in particular. I’d be surprised to hear of a romance author without reliable access to drinking water. But of course it’s possible.

    My problem isn’t really with pointing out someone’s privilege, although I think you can get into trouble making those assumptions. What I object to is dismissing anyone who disagrees for this reason. An example that comes to mind is “mansplaining.” Sometimes a man is just wrong, or arguing respectfully, and sometimes he IS mansplaining. We won’t all agree about what that looks like.

  133. cs
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 14:43:56

    The fact many have commented on uncivil behaviour, I find it odd that those complaining are doing the same thing. This is all about Ridley. I’m not going to comment on the big scandal because I don’t see what some people saw. I understand being upset about assumption; however if it wasn’t aimed at you then not sure why anyone else was too fussed? Just my thought there. Do I like the change? Uh no. Personally I don’t like the fact someone can email Jane and say “cs” was being “uncivil” to me. Even if I genuinely didn’t believe I said anything out of turn. Hypothetically Jane can agree with that email(er) and my comment gets silenced. Jane said she isn’t perfect and DA whilst a huge commitment isn’t her job. However, she may agree on something that puts me on the back-burner. That’s the tricky bit for me. I don’t generally comment a lot of DA – but if I do wade into a heated discussion (like this one) I’m going to worry about someone being offended/emailing if the discussion gets heated.

  134. Jane
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 14:50:15

    @cs: No it’s not about Ridley. The comment thread on Monday wasn’t closed because of Ridley. It was a terrible thread that began with assumptions that it was an April Fool’s Joke and devolved from there. When the fan girl showed up, I realized it was going to be a real problem and I shut the thread down.

    The comment policy, however, is something that has been fomenting for a long time. Dear Author had become one of those places that people did not want to visit because of the comments. That’s not really providing a place for robust discussion, is it?

    As for people emailing me, I’m asking for a heads up. I’m not going to agree with every instance and hopefully I won’t have to. If the comment is directed at the content, I can report back to the person who complained “The comment falls within our policy.” Unfortunately if the commenter cannot separate personal attacks from the content, then I will have to intervene.

  135. Aisha
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 14:51:40

    @Jill Sorenson: I misunderstood that, thank you for clarifying. And I agree that dismissing someone’s opinions on the basis of assumed privilege is much less productive than engaging constructively on it. My reading of the discussion around this, and my initial concern certainly, was on whether any discussion of privilege might be seen as unnecessary and possibly reactionary.

  136. Kim W
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 15:02:20

    I’ve read all the messages here and I’m completely confused about the those who are saying THIS thread has uncivilized comments. I sure don’t see any, I see frank discussion but everyone is being civil and not attacking people personally. And I’m sorry for those who seem to think this is about Ridley. I don’t think it is and Jane confirmed that. I think, like Jane said, this has been a long time coming as people felt free here, and all over the internet, to spew without considering whether or not they are being respectful. To me, this thread has proved, hands down, that we can have civil discussions but still get our point across. I think this is proof that Jane’s new policy, while some disagree with, has worked.

  137. Ridley
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 15:04:40

    @Jane:

    No it’s not about Ridley. The comment thread on Monday wasn’t closed because of Ridley.

    That must be shocking to all the people in this thread holding a referendum on my tone.

  138. Jane
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 15:12:55

    @Ridley: I read your comment as many others have, dismissive and insulting and not wanting to engage in any real discussion. I felt that it did personally attack Liz Talley with whom you disagreed. That may just be your nature, but it’s hardly helpful and it is one that in the future, I would ask to be rephrased or I would have to moderate it. I think you are a smart person with great insight but your comment stepped over the line for me.

    This thread hasn’t been a referendum on your tone but I can see how it is easy for people to use a more recent discussion point to frame their arguments.

    I have probably made my own missteps as well. As I said earlier, it is not one comment, but an accumulation of comments.

  139. Danielle
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 15:18:52

    @Jane: Thank you Jane, I really appreciate your thorough replies. I don’t envy you being caught between a rock and a hard place. I love DA and this is a depressing situation all around.

  140. Beth
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 15:22:54

  141. Has
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 15:47:42

    Jane I am sorry this has come to this as well but I don’t blame you in the least for incorporating a new policy. I also hope this doesn’t help to hinder honest discussions in the future for the blog.

  142. Robin/Janet
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 15:50:42

    I’ve been trying to stay out of this, figuring it’s Jane’s blog, and therefore her decision and her choice about how to handle things here. Fortunately (for me and everyone else), I don’t have to deal with all the responsibilities that come with operating a venue this large and diverse, with discussions that can go from unbelievably mild to incendiary within minutes. It’s a luxury for me to blog here, pure and simple, and one of the reasons I continue to do so is that Jane is so hands-off with those of us who blog and comment here. In fact, one irony in all this is that it’s her long fuse with commenters and her desire NOT to be a more active moderator that has often gotten her criticized for not wading in earlier and more often. But if there’s anyone who hates active comment moderation more than I do (and I hate it a lot), it’s Jane. And yet I also know, from talking with her a lot over the past few months, that she’s become more and more frustrated by the increasing need for her to enter a thread and ask people to step back and take a breather. It’s easy for me to see it philosophically, because I’m not responsible for it all like she is.

    But in watching this foment over the past couple of days, it seems to me that a lot of stuff is being wound together that needs to be unraveled. First, the Erin McCarthy giveaway thread was basically a clusterf**k of different things, all of which, in combination, made for a problematic thread – the comments assuming it was an April Fool’s joke, the critiques of the excerpt itself, the exchange between Liz Talley and Ridley, and then the entrance one of McCarthy’s fans to defend her from whatever her fans thought she needed defending from. It was NOT Ridley’s comment that got the thread shut down. This may be pointing out the obvious, but I get the feeling that there might be a perception that’s what did it. There was just a bad combination of things – which may or may not have been an issue independently — that all converged disastrously in that thread, and things didn’t look like they were heading toward improvement.

    As to Ridley’s comments toward Liz Talley, for me, at least, they eventually crossed a line. Not a line of murder or globalthermonuclear war or anything like that. Not an OMG I can’t believe she said that line. And not a line that any of us can’t and haven’t crossed at some point online. Nor, for me, was it about calling out someone on their privilege. For me the line crossed was the one between, “hey, your response sounds awfully privileged and condescending,” and “shoo fly, begone, you have nothing valuable to add to this conversation.” Liz Talley’s “PC” reference irked me, as those references always do, but I didn’t feel – as I did with Ridley’s comment – that Talley was aiming to shut down anyone else, even though her PC reference could be read in an offending way. I do think that line is illustrative in the larger context of this conversation, but I hope that Ridley’s pretty long history of speaking out at DA evinces that a single comment is not responsible for potential shushing. Nor is shushing new to DA, either, as those of us who participated in the longest thread ever should remember.

    More generally, what I hear Jane saying in her comments here is that what she’s really concerned with is the line between saying something that can be viewed as offensive or hostile or as going after someone’s comment, v. dismissively – and with some measure of hostility (passive or active) – trying to push/shut someone else up/down/out of the conversation. I don’t really see where the perception that she’s disfavoring any discussion of privilege is coming from, nor do I think the accumulated diversity of comments in this thread– let alone the years the blog has been operating — suggest that she’s going to be an aggressive moderator or censor. There are many, many, many online venues where the level of discourse in this thread alone would be unwelcome and not tolerated. I guess I feel that if you don’t trust someone who has had so much patience over the years with trying to let people police themselves, who routinely admits to her own failings, and who is so open to reconsidering things, then you maybe didn’t have much trust or respect for that person to begin with.

    Also, it was my understanding that we have all adhering to the unwritten rule that comments were always fair game, but people were not. Hasn’t that always been the clarion call? In fact, I think those of us with the biggest mouths and the strongest opinions should be most vigilant about this line, because we’re kind of setting the curve here. In an ideal world, it would be great if everyone could publicly withstand the verbal pummeling some of us can dish out, but that just isn’t the case. I know there are many online conversations I just don’t want to get into, but if I want to engage with one person in them, I will email or DM that person. I imagine there must be a lot of other people who do the same thing, which is probably why Jane gets these emails. I still remember feeling too intimidated to comment at STGB when I first started reading it, and I think there’s a big difference between feeling like an “insider” and an “outsider” in blog communities (even if someone has been reading for a long time, they can feel somewhat outside the community of frequent commenters). I’m not sure how these emails can be construed as “tattling,” since, uh, the original comments are made in a public forum, but in the same way that I suspect email and DM’s have been very active about this issue over the past couple of days, I don’t think it’s strange at all for people to email Jane and say, ‘hey, I don’t feel comfortable talking about this publicly, but…’ Should those readers be invalidated because they may not have the loud voices and thick skins that some of us do? Frankly, if someone doesn’t feel comfortable speaking up publicly, I don’t want them to, because IMO we’ve seen way too many blow-ups occur because someone decided to speak out when they weren’t really ready for the blowback from their opinion.

    I don’t know whether it’s a function of the awful election season or the rancor that the publication of 50 Shades seems to have kicked off in the Romance community, but I have also noticed an increase in reader shaming and general anger/intolerance. I have had to check it in myself, too, and not always with success. For example, I dislike Facebook because of the intense promo environment. I have frankly stopped using excerpts and blurbs to vet books, because I find that reading things out of context makes me less tolerant to how characters and situations change over the course of a book and less able to get a good sense of a new-to-me author’s style and sensitivities from a small excerpt. Not everyone feels the same way, and I get that – it’s why different avenues of reader engagement with books and authors exist. But in any case, I haven’t read in Jane’s comments a concern about textual or issue critique, nor talk of privilege or racism or anything else inflammatory and controversial. I read her as saying that she’s just trying to curb some of the outright hostility and anger that can boil over into a thread sometimes. Given the tolerance she’s IMO shown in this thread alone, for what are some pretty strong opinions about and against her, I don’t think for one second that she’s going to be banning or otherwise censoring people. In fact, she’s said she’s only going to shush comments, and I’m not sure how that can be perceived as censorship (and I’m obviously using that word in the informal sense, because only the government can censor in a legal sense). I get that people want open and forthright dialogue (I do, too), but I thought the way we had always talked about preserving and protecting that was to shoot at the comment, not the commenter.

  143. Ridley
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 15:58:53

    @Jane: Here’s what gets me: I found her tone dismissive and insulting. People in contentious discussions often use language like hers to dismiss someone while still appearing to be nice. We summarily dismissed each other. The only difference is that I made my motives clear. You’re advocating that posters cloak their points in pseudo-civil platitudes. I don’t see how this will be an improvement.

  144. cs
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 16:04:53

    The comment policy, however, is something that has been fomenting for a long time. Dear Author had become one of those places that people did not want to visit because of the comments. That’s not really providing a place for robust discussion, is it?

    I won’t keep at this because I’m sure you’re tired of all this already. However, call me blunt but how is that anyone else’s problem? Some people have commented saying they are afraid to wade into discussions in case they get attacked. Who is saying they will be attacked for a difference of opinion. I have one here and no-one has attacked me. I’m not saying there isn’t a possibility but fearing because there may be a chance is not on someone else. I can understand if you’ve been attacked before – I can understand that but I would assume that the person can a) handle it or b) a moderator intervened warning the poster. I understand some people may have left due to this and that is unfortunate. However, the idea that you can’t comment at all on DA confuses me. If I use an example when Captive Prince was reviewed the consensus was it was an amazing book. I disagreed. We all had a good discussion, and to me that is DA in a nutshell. Sometimes some threads will have a big blow-out, but if you don’t comment then you choose to. If you find the comments section a mess – fair dues. Read the article and move on. If you want to comment but cannot because of fear/drama etc then as I say you take the risk. I also took a risk in commenting to this post. But my point is not every post is like that – and there are a range of posts made here. Obviously if you feel that way you feel that way.

    @Kim W: People did talk about the giveaway thread and thus Ridley. Sure some may have not typed the name but it was obvious. I do think this is about Ridley and I know Jane said no. I’m just trying to think of the last “blow-out” and I don’t remember. Then again I don’t read all the posts here, so I might be mistaken. To me this is how DA has always been and it’s not because of the new rule working. Fair dues if you think that but I can’t say I agree.

    It was NOT Ridley’s comment that got the thread shut down. This may be pointing out the obvious, but I get the feeling that there might be a perception that’s what did it.

    But it was Ridley’s comment “everyone” found wrong though. I can understand stopping an escalation. That I’m not arguing with at all. Jane isn’t our mother and no she shouldn’t have to come into a thread and say “behave yourself”. My ignorance may be in question because this may be happening a lot and I don’t know. No attacking is never acceptable on a personal level. I know that’s always been the case, and now it has just been an official announcement. Forgetting about everything else my issues was about this whole emailing business. However, Jane commented to me and happy with her explanation.

  145. Jane
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 16:07:25

    @Ridley: If asking people to direct their criticism to the content and not the commenter is “pseudo-civil platitudes”, then yes, I can see how we don’t agree as to whether there will be an improvement. And if pseudo civil platitudes is how you characterize civil debate, then there won’t be any improvement in your eyes.

    I work in a profession where we argue all day long, aggressively (because that’s what we are paid to do), and I manage not to call anyone a perjorative. It’s kind of ironic how tone is so dismissed here because in the legal profession in my state actively encourages civility. There are Inns of Court (social fraternities) designed to perpetuate civility in the bar because advocacy can be soul crushing without treating our opponents with respect. Incivility only works if a) you are always correct; b) you never need latitude from any one else, ever; c) you don’t care to have an exchange of ideas.

  146. Ridley
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 16:21:22

    @Jane: So razzing someone’s use of “PC” is criticizing the commenter?

  147. Courtney
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 16:29:11

    I don’t envy Jane having to review, monitor, and potentially “shush” inappropriate comments. I used to be a Mod for a hugely popular message board for a great author and I know without a doubt that no one will ever be happy. No one will ever agree with everything you’ve done and those who are shushed will certainly take personal offense to it, instead of trying to learn from it and moving on.

  148. Angela
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 17:27:13

    Having modded a very popular author’s message board, with some very vocal fans – who both praised like crazy and derided author choices – I don’t envy Jane moderating comments. I do think, in general, most discussions here are incredibly civil, very enlightening, and fun to read and participate in.

    That being said, there has been plenty of times in the past where I haven’t waded into a conversation – not because I don’t have a thick enough skin to deal with possible flaming, but because I couldn’t see a way to start debating the actual topic of conversation with all the attacking/defending going on. The conversation had seemed to move past a point where conversation was happening and there was just this back and forth of people talking, but no one listening. Even the times I have waded in and tried to discuss, it didn’t end up adding anything to the discussion because there wasn’t any real discussion going on anymore.

    I’m a huge fan of clear-cut rules, too – it’s one thing that I tried to bring to the message board I modded – but you’re never going to cover all the bases, or even most of them. Like I said, I don’t envy Jane doing this. It’s a tough spot where hardly anyone will always be happy.

  149. azteclady
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 17:33:33

    I have been a moderator for years at one of the first LOST boards, and one of the things we have learned is that clear and cut rules actually create more drama, because you often have the one person pushing the envelope on that one issue/circumstance, and arguing their point to death–as well as the person complaining about how the rules are not enforced equally, etc.

    In the end, it’s all a judgement call, and while I don’t envy Jane the task, I trust that she’ll do what’s best for herself in order to keep Dear Author open (so to speak).

  150. Alix
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 17:35:41

    @Ridley: has it ever occurred to you that not every commenter on DA is American and has the same cultural background as you? They might even come from a cultural background where the term PC is still used seriously in social and political debates. It is also possible that they are arguing in a language (English in this case) which is not their native language and as such might struggle with all the finer details and the constant changes that languages, especially in sensitive political and social fields, constantly undergo.
    I’m pretty sure that Jane has statistics on how many people outside the US are accessing DA which would show-case that DA is read globally and as such, based purely on probability, will also have its share of non-US-native commenters.
    So razzing them (I actually had to go and look up what that word means, but yay, learned a new word) can feel like criticism or like a personal attack without them realizing why exactly they are being attacked.
    I could give you numerous examples of how words and terms are used differently in the US versus the UK versus other countries/cultures. “Ghetto” would actually be a very good example of that.

  151. Ridley
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 19:22:34

    @Alix: You raise a good point, and I’ll keep that in mind for the future.

    In this particular case, though, PC is almost exclusively an American English term with a strong anti-liberal connotation. It’s an extremely weighted term, especially if you remember 1990’s American politics. And seeing as how her dismissal of the heroine’s use of “ghetto” rested on her thinking the offense was overly PC, and not that ghetto means something different where she comes from, I’m not sure this makes for a good example for what you caution against. All the context clues telegraph “American” pretty clearly.

  152. Liz Talley
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 19:41:29

    Thanks for that thought, Alix, but I am very much American, though I would say many consider the rural South quite foreign. Honestly, I did not know the term PC had any connotations that would be offensive. I had only meant to circumvent saying “I disagree with the previous commenter in not thinking the use of the term ghetto in the context of a 20 yrs old fictional character’s POV offensive”. Guess if I had said that in the first place I might have been accused of being privileged but not of disdainful of others’ opinions. And for that I’m sorry. I really wish I hadn’t commented at all and won’t make the mistake again. This has been truly upsetting and I hate my intent was misconstrued. Last post from me. My thanks to you who understood I only meant to discuss the points made not insult or inflame.

    Jane, I wish you the best in your endeavor to moderate the blog. It’s a great blog.

  153. Robin/Janet
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 20:04:57

    @cs: If you go back and check out the last comment before Jane announced she needed to shut the thread down, it is most definitely ad hominem. How many times have we seen these fan v. whoever wars flame out of control? IMO the last thing that beleaguered thread needed was more of McCarthy’s fans coming over to defend her. I also want to note that Ridley’s comments remain intact in that thread, as they do here.

    I don’t really know how the focus on Ridley started (although I think she asked about her own comments at the beginning of this thread), but I don’t remember Jane singling anyone out when she made this post. As I said before, though, I do think Ridley’s comment was over the line, and I’ve seen others who, like me, have appreciated many of Ridley’s insights, say the same thing. For me, at least, it is one clear example of crossing the line between dismissing a comment and dismissing a commenter. But the initial comments about that excerpt being an April Fool’s joke were cringeworthy to me, as well (but now they’re gone, so it’s difficult to talk about them when people can’t reference them), and I think they set the whole thread off in a bad direction.

  154. Ridley
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 20:34:58

    @Liz Talley:

    I hate my intent was misconstrued.

    Buried Comment (Reason: moderated)   Show

    Don’t flounce on me yet.

    Your intent hasn’t been misconstrued. I haven’t commented on your intent at all, and I’m 100% sure your intent was good and innocent.

    It’s just that intent isn’t a magic wand, and your words and argument were dismissive, whatever you were going for aside.

    You know what I think you mean, despite what you keep saying? That you think the character is a typical young woman who means well but still has a lot to learn and will likely grow up as the book continues. Does that sound right?

    If that’s what you mean, stop trying to argue that what the character says isn’t offensive. Because it has to be offensive if you think she’s a flawed character with growing to do.

  155. Merrian
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 23:36:45

    @Tina: Thankyou for this lovely and clear analysis of the thread and Ridley’s comments which were about the character in the story not the author. I do think we have to hold writers to a high standard when it comes to racism and privilege because their texts can and do become platforms for unconsidered views and it is in the unconsidered words that privilege most often lies. I thought that is what Ridley’s comments were about.

    I am also angry and am using that word purposefully, at what is ultimately an action against Ridley as a person from a point of great power imbalance by DA. If DA wished to change commenting policy here, I think there were more strategic approaches to doing so possible.

    Tone and voice in commentary do matter but not in the sense of being ‘nice’ and sitting at a tea party. They reveal who and what you are speaking to and I am now worried that for DA this will result in a fundamental shift towards shallow conventionality, fannish-ness and book marketing.

  156. Aisha
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 01:51:04

    @Robin/Janet: I never bothered to read *that* thread originally as I wasn’t interested in either the book or the giveaway and only read it after it was referenced here. When I did it was clear to me that it was the “how dare you…” comment at the end that precipitated the shutdown, notwithstanding the preceding discussion that had become somewhat heated. What happened here was that some people then took it as an opportunity to figuratively kick someone that they thought was down (and that is simply not honourable behaviour), or at least this is the way it was read by others, including Ridley herself I think.

    The other concerns that were raised here, were not on the whole, in my opinion, meant to imply lack of trust in or respect for Jane, but related to concerns over the policy and, to me at least, could be read as requests for reassurance.

    The discussion around privilege, again, was not a criticism of Jane but confusion/concern because of a comment she made that she subsequently clarified.

    Personally, I have previously pointed out my appreciation for the community here that Jane has built, where there is space and tolerance for robust and sometimes heated discussion, and perspectives that may differ from the ‘norm’.

  157. Aisha
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 07:20:57

    @Alix: I feel I need to make a few points to problematise some of your statements and maybe add a broader perspective. 1st – I would think that American cultural hegemony mitigates against ignorance of US cultural, social and political norms and practices and their associated socio-linguistic trends, especially in anglophone countries. There may be different words used for the same thing and the same word may mean different things in other countries but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the American definitions and usages are unfamiliar.
    2nd – To argue that non-mother tongue English speakers are likely to be weaker and to struggle with the language can be construed as patronising. It may be just as likely that a non-native speaker will be more careful in her use of the language and evince greater clarity of expression as a result (I don’t think Sherry Thomas’s prose suffers in comparison to those whose first language is English for example).
    3rd and last – I’m not sure how ghetto is a good example of your last point. I think there is a common understanding of the word that sees it as referring to a geographic space that is inhabited by people with a poor socio-economic status. It can further be associated with the social ills that accompany extreme poverty and inequality as well as, often, the more marginalised groups in a particular society, whether the stratification is based on race, ethnicity, religion, caste, citizenship, or even purely on economic status (although the last is strongly correlated to the other markers of difference that exist in a particular society).

  158. tangodiva
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 09:06:12

    I was going to send an e-mail to Jane but I’ll just say what I was going to say here: I am new at DA. It is a pleasant diversion from work. I know I should not be admitting that – but I need a mental break from the work I do.

    I am one of the people who assumed the excerpt of True was an April Fool’s joke. I can be sarcastic in my comments. I apologized for assuming it was a joke after I saw my mistake.

    My comment was on the WRITING itself. Which struck me as so cliche as to be a purposeful parody. I fear I cannot apologize for disliking the excerpt. But I can apologize if the way I said it was untoward. I enjoy spirited debate on writing, and was a film critic in a former life. It’s my nature to be critical and I find I can’t erase that part of my personality, nor do I want to.

    If I offended, I’m sorry. I will continue to enjoy the content here, but I think I will go back to lurking.

  159. cleo
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 09:55:19

    Quick note – I think this conversation’s been fruitful. I’m glad for the clarifications from Jane. The guideline of “comment on the comment, not the commenter / don’t make personal attacks” is much clearer and easier to follow (and enforce) than “be civilized,” which is too vague for me.” I’d still like to see that put somewhere on the site – maybe on the For Readers page – for newbies to read.

  160. Shiv
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 10:52:27

    @aisha to me ghetto means the place where my Jewish ancestors were confined. That’s my first thought and my sense of its meaning and that’s not from privilege that’s from history and a different geography.

    You also over estimate the interest in and knowledge of American history that other people have. I have enough history and culture of my own to deal with not to care about America. It is dangerous to assume that words mean to me what they mean to you.

    And privileged of course to assume we should follow American norms

  161. Zara Keane
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:46:17

    What Alix said. I’m Irish. It’s news to me that PC is no longer a PC term. It’s still used without irony where I come from. I was also baffled by the phrase “you’re showing your privilege” when it was used in a recent blog post. I figured it out pretty quickly, but I’d never heard it used in that context before.

  162. wikkidsexycool
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:50:39

    Hi Shiv,

    I’m not Aisha, but I’d like to respond to what you wrote:

    “It is dangerous to assume that words mean to me what they mean to you.”

    As someone who’s coupled a Holocaust survivor to speak with inner city kids who’ve experienced violence and the murder of a loved one, some of us are fully aware of what the word “ghetto” means in history, specifically Jewish history. In many American school districts, the Holocaust is coupled with instruction on WWII, and is a significant part of the curriculum. However, a 2011 study by the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) stated that more than half the states in the US fail at teaching the Civil Rights Movement. Link: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/news/splc-study-finds-that-more-than-half-of-states-fail-at-teaching-the-civil-rights-m

    I’m only mentioning this to give you an idea of the uphill battle many educators of color face when trying to explain to admin why diversity is crucial, and also that the history of those of Japanese ancestry housed in internment camps, some of whose families fought for the US during WWII are also not given the respect and study in our educational system.

    In that respect, I’d never state that I didn’t care about Jewish history, or another culture’s history simply because I have my own to deal with, and I’m a bit taken aback that you’d state that, however to each his/her own. When I teach kids, I try to remind them to have a world view and not a neighborhood viewpoint. That it’s important to communicate not only their history, but know and appreciate the history of other cultures and countries in order to have this world view.

    I think what’s getting overshadowed is that the opening pages of the novel which provoked conversation on the various meanings of the word “ghetto” is most certainly from the viewpoint of an American young adult.

    So when reading the opening of the book that produced varied responses, the heroine is American, and setting is an American college, and the students themselves are written to represent the American culture, which is a melting pot of other cultures. Thus the phrase used in the novel is the more modern variation (s), and I think it’s important to point that out.

  163. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 12:03:44

    @Aisha:

    I would think that American cultural hegemony mitigates against ignorance of US cultural, social and political norms and practices and their associated socio-linguistic trends, especially in anglophone countries.

    I’m confused. Are you saying that citizens of other countries SHOULD be conversant in Americanisms and their nuances (cultural, social, and political) (including regional differences, e.g., “soda” v “pop”; “the 5″ v “I-5″; “bless your heart”)?

  164. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 12:09:49

    @wikkidsexycool:

    I’m a bit taken aback that you’d state that, however to each his/her own.

    So when reading the opening of the book that produced varied responses, the heroine is American, and setting is an American college, and the students themselves are written to represent the American culture, which is a melting pot of other cultures. Thus the phrase used in the novel is the more modern variation (s), and I think it’s important to point that out.

    And I’m still reading this as a demand for citizens of other countries who want to read American books to suck it up and “just understand” what that means. Perhaps they can get it from context; perhaps not. Perhaps it’s not important at all.

    In other news, I think this word, “privilege” used in this context, has become utterly meaningless, particularly when (as I read in this thread) Americans are presuming to think that Americans are privileged over citizens of other countries just because we’re Americans.

  165. Kim
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 12:12:58

    “I work in a profession where we argue all day long, aggressively (because that’s what we are paid to do), and I manage not to call anyone a perjorative.”

    I think this quote by Jane clearly enunciates the new policy. No one is silencing this community. DA just wants us to be more respectful of other the commenters. Take on the comment itself and don’t make insulting judgments about the individual.

    @Liz Talley: I’ve read your comments on the other thread and you shouldn’t feel badly. You stated an opinion based on your experience with teenagers. Whether one agrees or disagrees with you, it’s just as valid as anyone elses opinion. It’s a shame that your take-away from this is not to comment in the future. I think that’s why Jane is instituting this new policy.

  166. Aisha
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 12:25:58

    @Shiv: I wrote a long post in response and then lost it so I will have to try to remember what I was saying. Sorry Shiv, but I don’t see how my understanding of ghetto contradicts yours. I did say that one of the associations is with people marginalised on the basis of their religious beliefs.

    As to the rest, I am not sure I have understood your point/points or how it relates to mine. One does not need to have an “interest in and knowledge of American history” in order to be exposed to its cultural hegemony. If you are at all linked into global networks (which evidently we all here are, since we are interacting on this site) you will be exposed to information (if not knowledge) about America. Not to mention the ubiquitousness of American cultural products (if you enjoy watching movies and/or TV, especially in English – it is easier to find diversity in music) and consumer goods and services (Apple, Nike, MacDonalds). But perhaps a better example of this is that events that are of significance to Americans, such as their elections, will enjoy a great deal of coverage by the national media of other countries, certainly more than is given to the elections in Chile for instance (unless you are Chilean). All of this information will not of course be presented or interpreted in the same way but that was not my point. What I was saying basically and what I will now expand on is that assuming a lack of knowledge can be just as problematic as assuming shared knowledge. I was not necessarily disagreeing with Alix, but attempting to add more complexity to what she presented.

    @Moriah Jovan: Was that how it read? No, of course not. I hope my response to Shiv covers you as well.

    PS. Not sure if this matters, but I am not American.

  167. Alix
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 13:22:20

    I think my comment was eaten by the internet-gods.

    @Aisha:
    ***I would think that American cultural hegemony mitigates against ignorance of US cultural, social and political norms and practices and their associated socio-linguistic trends, especially in Anglophone countries. ****
    You would be very wrong in that (including Anglophone countries). You’re also completely ignoring all non-Anglophone countries. I’m not even going to touch the problems inherent in your statement of “American cultural hegemony”.
    I often get asked to explain small things when it comes to English and/or American culture for example something like *first base, second base* in the context of relationships. In a country where thanks to tv-shows people might have a vague idea what Baseball is, but where the game isn’t really played, no-one is going to get the meaning without some kind of explanation. Or moving it back into politics, the same terms can be defined different. We might be talking about nuances, but these nuances can be very important. Conservative in Europe (including UK and Ireland) for example means not the same as conservative in the US.
    I find it interesting that you jump to patronizing when I was asking for consideration for non-native-speakers, while I was trying to ask people not to jump to conclusion and to automatically assume the worst. See what I was trying to say about nuances. Sometimes all it takes is a question like ‘What to you mean by X’ or something like ‘Am I understanding you correctly in…’.
    Not all readers and commenters will be as fluent and as aware of linguistic complexities and nuances as for example a writer would be. I know why I usually stay out of political debates even though I speak and write English (which is my second foreign language) fluently.
    Prose is also not the same as an online political debate. It lacks the immediacy and allows more time for thought, for research, and for feedback.
    ****geographic space that is inhabited by people with a poor socio-economic status. ****
    Am I understand your comment correctly in that you actually agree that it isn’t automatically and always a racist term? Because that was the point I was trying, very badly, to get at. Nuances again.

    @Jane: I’m really sorry for derailing the debate :-(.

  168. wikkidsexycool
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 14:13:33

    Hi Moriah,

    “And I’m still reading this as a demand for citizens of other countries who want to read American books to suck it up and “just understand” what that means.”

    I’m not sure where you’re getting this from my post. But I’d think whether the individual was a non-American or American, any phrases or words which have several meanings could be researched or even clarified the old fashioned way. Ask, and have a conversation, like many of us are doing on this board. Even in the US, sometimes different states have words/terms that aren’t used the same. Now its quite possible the author of the piece could come back and state that while she used “ghetto” it’s not in the modern sense of the word. But since her piece includes several instances of dropping additional phrases to highlight that this is a young studious student, and the narration includes other instances of modern terminology coming from this character’s viewpoint, I took it to include the word at its current modern usage, which varies and is the source of debate whether its positive or negative.

    And please also understand, that as someone who grew up during segregation, I can relate to the frustration of feeling as though the reader should just “suck it up.” My schooling included being taught that empathy for other cultures came first, and that my own culture came last, even when reading literary works.

  169. Aisha
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 14:34:38

    @Alix: Your last line makes me wary of posting again, but I honestly don’t know if it is ruder to continue with the derailment (which I think I hold more responsibility for than you) or to not respond to your post. But one of the things I like about DA is that discussions can go off in interesting tangents. I would hope however that if it is a problem, someone (Jane?) would say so, and, to be at least a little on-topic, that is where some clearly spelt-out guidelines would be useful (as others have stated already as well).

    Alix, I think that my response to Shiv might also serve here, but to reiterate what I said there, what I was attempting to do in part in my original response to you, and very badly it seems, was to make explicit the point that there are alternative perspectives to the one’s you presented. I was not saying that you are wrong and I am right but that perhaps you might be wrong in some cases and I may be wrong in others but that it shouldn’t be simplistically taken as read. Perhaps I was pointing out the obvious in this, but sometimes the obvious does need to be pointed out.

    As to the patronising comment, I was, maybe unfairly, equating your comment to a perspective that believes that people who are ‘other’ in some way that is seen as significant, should be cut slack because they are not at the same level of competence as ‘the norm’ – i.e whatever standard they are seen as different from – because of that supposed difference. Let me be clear: I am not accusing you of holding this belief, but saying that it is possible to read what you wrote as reflective of it. And you are right, using a writer and her apparent competence was probably not the best way to illustrate my point, but I hope I have been clearer here.

    Last, yes, I don’t think it is automatically racist, but depending on how and by whom it is used it can be, or can very easily be perceived to be, a term signifying denigration of some sort.

    Again, Jane or whoever, if this is inappropriate, please just tell me to shut up. I promise not to be offended :).

  170. Ridley
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 15:46:28

    While this is interesting, it’s not super-relevant. I not only knew I was talking to an American, I was talking to an American author. I hold authors to a higher standard than other commenters. When you write for a living you should know the power of the words you use.

    And this was about her words. It was “I’m for PC, but” and “I don’t offend easily” that turned whatever she may have intended to say into a facile dismissal of those of us who objected to the heroine’s word choices.

  171. Lori Toland
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:02:45

    @Ridley I’m not sure why you hold authors to a higher standard than anyone else on here. We are not smarter than anyone else. All we are that makes us different is we have published a book. Now that’s hard work, and a lot of hours go into making one, but that’s it that sets us apart from anyone else here.

    I think everyone understands the power of the words that they use and if they don’t, they hopefully will after their first fight online.

  172. Ridley
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:14:07

    @Lori Toland: Because authors make their living expressing themselves textually, I figure they know what they’re saying and that their word choice is deliberate.

  173. azteclady
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:36:46

    @Ridley: Language choices matter, yes. However, I believe many–if not the vast majority of–authors make very little from their writing, and actually make their living elsewhere. In other words, what Lori Toland said.

  174. Lori Toland
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:54:10

    @Ridley: I do appreciate that you think we are amazingly talented to always come up with the exact right thing to say. I’m not being facetious in saying that. I really do appreciate that you think that highly of us. Some of us are very gifted in coming up with just the right comeback online but many of us are not. Our books are also better because of our editors. If I had a dollar for every time my editor or line editor says “Do you mean (this) instead?” I’d be going to Melting Pot tonight.

    I make a living as a CEO and I’m afraid that job will haunt me for the rest of my days :)

    And thanks azteclady!

  175. Ridley
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 17:33:52

    @azteclady: All the same, writers have more practice at writing.

  176. Shelley
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 17:47:16

    @Bronte:

    I read the statement in question. I did not think it racist and I felt that it was inappropriate to call someone “privileged” without any knowledge of their life. As an observer I was offended.

    Ditto, Bronte.

  177. Shelley
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 19:58:06

    @Jill Sorenson:

    “It’s so hard to say what constitutes a personal attack. As I mentioned above, sometimes any disagreement is seen as such.”

    Actually, I think I am perfectly capable in recognizing the difference between disagreement and a personal attack and I’m assuming most people here probably can do the same.

    @Jane:

    “I don’t really understand why eliminating attacks on the commenter personally and still allowing attacks on the content of the comment would somehow shut down debate.”

    I agree. I am not uncomfortable with heated debate on any number of issues, big or little. As far as I’m concerned, the more debate/arguing the better. What I’m uncomfortable with is mean-spirited behavior and personal attacks that make presumptions about other commenters’ lives. Really, what’s the point? All that happens is that you have alienated yourself from the group and discussion and instead of actually making a point and persuading more people over to your way of thinking (otherwise what’s the point of debate), you’ve created discord. Obviously, there are some people here who totally agreed with that behavior, so fine, I guess. Personally, I’ve had some good times reading comments from the more audacious regulars here but sad to say, on 4/1, it got very personal and very mean, very quickly.

    @Ridley:

    “I guess an “At a guess,” would’ve softened my comment where I explained why I thought the facile treatment of rape bothered her when the casual racism/classism didn’t, but so what? When did having privilege assigned to you become an insult?”

    I guess privilege became an insult when you couched it as such.

    Buried Comment (Reason: moderated)   Show

    You intended this as an insult

    and it was very clear in your tone you were interested in not debate, but flaming.

    “I speak to people with the assumption that they will respond in kind. I assume everyone here is a grown-ass adult who can speak her mind. I don’t pick on people I think are easily intimidated. One, because it’s mean, and two, because it’s no fun. I’m looking for a response and a conversation, as a rule. Shouting down the timid gets me neither.”

    Buried Comment (Reason: moderated)   Show

    With all due respect, Ridley, you’re full of it. You started out mean, you continued mean, and you ended mean and I suspect you had fun doing it. You were not looking for conversation. You were looking for people to flame back at you, for what reasons, I am unable to discern.

    Was the whole clusterfuck your fault? Not by a long shot. But you definitely did contribute (and the fangirl totally finished it off for me). I’ve personally enjoyed some of your perspectives on certain topics over the years and maybe the same could have been said on 4/1, if you had actually been the least bit interested in initiating real debate, heated or not, on any number of topics brought up that day.

    @Isobel Carr:

    “There is certainly a good deal of incivility on display in the comments above, and I’m rather appalled that nothing is being said or done about it given the new policy that is supposed to be a fix for this sort of thing.”

    Seriously? You call this uncivil. Huh.

  178. willaful
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 20:58:21

    Well. This new policy has certainly made things feel much friendlier and pleasant around here.

    /sarcasm

  179. LethalLovely
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 21:32:49

    @willaful:

    *Said in the voice of Phaedra from RHOA* Mmmmmhmmmm.

    I think I’m done reading the comments on this particular post. Time to go back to the RL drama that happens in RL.

  180. Aisha
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 00:59:37

    @willaful: and @LethalLovely: I am truely sorry for my part in this. It wasn’t my intention to make anyone uncomfortable or to offend. I’ll be quiet now :)

  181. Robin/Janet
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 02:07:27

    @cs: I do think this is about Ridley and I know Jane said no. I’m just trying to think of the last “blow-out” and I don’t remember.

    If you go back to the post I wrote on the site that shall not be named, shushing was employed pretty extensively there, for precisely the kind of thing Jane talks about here. No one complained that I remember. One of the many ironies about all this is that when Jane has had an issue with a specific individual, she has dealt with it privately, one-on-one. She doesn’t come to the blog and announce it, because that’s not how she is. So while I understand that people don’t know that generally, I still feel a sort of amazed bafflement that people think she would institute a new moderation policy that she doesn’t even want to implement for ONE commenter, especially when she has previously been able to manage individual issues in private. There was more than one over-the-line/lash out at the commenter comment in that McCarthy thread (check out the comment right before Jane announced the thread being closed), and, over the past months, more threads being closed (example: http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/f-reviews/review-dmitrys-closet-by-latrivia-s-nelson/). I have heard from a number of readers that they’ve been made to feel shamed for their reading choices, and while I don’t think it’s intentional, I do think it reflects a shift in the ethos of the Romance community.

    I didn’t know about this comment policy change until it was announced, but I have felt that over the past few months, especially, there has been a profound rise in intolerance in the Romance community. Sweeping disparagement of self-published books, Kristen Ashley books, 50 Shades and its fans, New Adult books, less editing in Big 6 books, etc. I’ve felt it myself, and I’ve noticed it in others. Moreover, IMO the tenor of the intolerance has risen past “this is not for me” to “how the hell can anyone like this stuff?” DA has been criticized for reviewing certain types of books, and while I completely understand people not being into what is being reviewed at any given time — and would hope that those who don’t find what they’re looking for here can locate it elsewhere — I do think discussions here (and even just about DA) have become more personally rancorous. I’ve always resisted Clay Shirky’s insistence that communities can have too much freedom, but now I’m starting to second-guess my objections.

    I don’t know if this new policy will help that or not, but I do wish we could all go back to having really heated discussions without having to resort to shaming/calling each other names/etc.

    @Aisha:
    The other concerns that were raised here, were not on the whole, in my opinion, meant to imply lack of trust in or respect for Jane, but related to concerns over the policy and, to me at least, could be read as requests for reassurance.

    I definitely think some of the comments here have been earnest attempts to gain clarification and reassurance. And I appreciate that people are concerned about any change in policy, especially when moderation was handled more casually in the past (although this is definitely not the first time Jane has had to urge people to be more circumspect in their comments).

    Where I lose understanding, though, is in some of the more personal accusations against Jane, here and, for example, on Twitter. I have tried to stay clear of that particular venue, actually, because I have seen some comments there (and here, frankly), that very well may have irreparably damaged some previously congenial online acquaintanceships I’ve enjoyed.

    And as I said to CS, I’m kind of gobsmacked that especially those who have been hanging around DA for years would so easily believe that Jane would administer a moderation policy even she doesn’t want in response to one commenter. I get that some of the response is related to a deep sense of ownership over this space, but let’s face it: for most of us, it’s a sense of ownership and/or freedom, with very little relative responsibility or risk. And when we talk about privilege, I’d suggest that’s one that should be contemplated, as well.

  182. Las
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 07:07:09

    @Robin/Janet: I had no intention of responding to anything else here, but this:

    I’m kind of gobsmacked that especially those who have been hanging around DA for years would so easily believe that Jane would administer a moderation policy even she doesn’t want in response to one commenter.

    I can’t ignore.

    Maybe it’s not your intention, but that is an emotionally manipulative argument. And while that tactic has certainly proven effective for many bloggers in all corners of the internet, it’s still insulting to those of us who chose to judge Jane by the things she actually says and does rather than what we’re supposed to know about her personality based on her internet presence.

    You might disagree with those of us who take issue with her comments about privilege (and since you believe that, in discussion of privilege, the opinion of the privileged are as valid as those of minorities, let’s not bother to debate that since it will be pointless), but it’s unfair of you to completely ignore the fact that our opinions are not baseless here. You’ve read Jane’s words; you’ve seen what she’s chosen to “shush” and what she’s allowed to stand. Don’t come at us with a “woe is Jane” defense in order to discredit what we’re saying.

  183. Jill Sorenson
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 08:28:06

    @Robin/Janet: “I have felt that over the past few months, especially, there has been a profound rise in intolerance in the Romance community…I do think discussions here (and even just about DA) have become more personally rancorous.”

    Totally disagree. The discussions here have always been rancorous. There’s always been vitriol and name-calling. You’re making it sound like criticism of DA is unwelcome, and counts as rancor while squabbling between commenters is fine.

    @Las: I agree that some of the comments about privilege were poorly worded, but I think the shushing was applied fairly in comment 177.

  184. Robin/Janet
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 09:03:09

    @Las: those of us who chose to judge Jane by the things she actually says and does

    But this is precisely my point.

    The only comments moderated in the McCarthy post are those made by the people who made the April Fool’s cracks; those comments have been deleted. Ridley’s comments stand as is.

    In this thread, there are a grand total of two comments moderated thus far, one from Ridley to Liz Talley, and one from Shelley to Ridley. Note that the comments are still there for people to read, they’ve just been partially hidden.

    This moderation technique is not new to DA , and when it’s been used before, no one has complained. In fact, there have been many calls to “ban” or otherwise shut up/down various commenters on DA over the years, some of them from those who are critical of Jane now for implementing a more formal policy.

    If we’re going by pure logic here, I don’t think it’s even possible to judge a policy until it’s actually rolled out, so one can actually see how it is implemented. That did not happen here. And what evidence exists does not support, let alone prove, a conclusion that this moderation policy is a referendum on Ridley.

    IMO characterizations of BOTH Ridley and Jane as “one of those people who…” are equally ugly and unfair.

    @Jill Sorenson:
    The discussions here have always been rancorous. There’s always been vitriol and name-calling. You’re making it sound like criticism of DA is unwelcome, and counts as rancor while squabbling between commenters is fine.

    That’s why I used the term “personally rancorous.” The “personally” part is what has been the difference for me. Pretty much from the beginning, the blog has had a reputation among some for being too hard on authors, a pit of mean girls, etc. For every person who thinks this moderation policy is bad, there have been those who have been equally critical of DA for NOT more actively moderating. I don’t even think it would be possible to blog here if you cared about what people said about DA, because pretty much every criticism from every side has and is being made.

    The point I was trying to make — and I apologize if I was not clear — is that I feel like everyone has been more on edge in the past, well, since 50 Shades was published, I think. I’ve noticed it in myself, too, and have been avoiding discussions I might have participated in last year, even, either because I know I’ll get too worked up myself, or because I don’t feel like getting into it with someone else who’s worked up over something I see differently. I don’t know what, if anything, will roll that back. But I understand why the person who runs this blog as a hobby feels the need to step in at this point in time. These kinds of decisions are one of the many reasons I haven’t wanted to have my own blog.

  185. Ridley
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 10:43:16

    @Shelley: This comment basically proves every reservation that’s been voiced thus far about this policy.

    If I can’t call out what looks to me as a flounce, and this poster can’t call me out for what she sees as speaking out both sides of my mouth, honest discussion that cuts through the bullshit isn’t possible.

  186. leslie
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 11:01:38

    @Ridley: I agree.

  187. azteclady
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 11:45:41

    @Ridley: And yet, you can, because the comment has not been deleted forever, it’s hidden. And it’s not deviously hidden in a way the required a decoder’s ring–there’s legend indicating the comment, and a link to make it visible.

    We are calling that censorship?

  188. CG
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 11:51:16

    @Ridley:

    “I speak to people with the assumption that they will respond in kind. I assume everyone here is a grown-ass adult who can speak her mind. I don’t pick on people I think are easily intimidated. One, because it’s mean, and two, because it’s no fun. I’m looking for a response and a conversation, as a rule. Shouting down the timid gets me neither.”

    I would be willing to bet there are minors here, what with all the YA and NA reviews, not to mention a lot of readers discover the romance genre in their teens. I’d also be willing to bet there are non-neurotypical commenters or lurkers who find the path to speaking their mind a difficult one. So while I don’t think you deliberately set out to intimidate or shout down the timid, I believe that can be an unintended consequence.

  189. CG
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 11:53:46

    I posted a comment that included a link so I think it went into the spam folder?

  190. Ridley
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 11:56:05

    @azteclady: Only person dropping the C-word is you.

    I think you know that if Jane is hiding things, they are things she wants eliminated, and she would not tolerate ignoring those cues for long. You’re being disingenuous to imply that it’s business as usual and that this won’t change discussions substantively.

  191. azteclady
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 12:06:28

    @Ridley: Censorship? No, read the first hundred comments, and it’s either spelled out or clearly implied numerous times.

    As for me, I do not imply nor mean to that things won’t change–that is the point of a new policy, to effect change.

    I don’t believe that modulating my tone to my environment is, in itself, a bad thing. I do not believe that change in how things are phrased will kill interesting discussion.

  192. Janine
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 12:18:16

    @CG: I pulled your comment out of the filter.

  193. Ridley
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 12:25:27

    @azteclady:

    As for me, I do not imply nor mean to that things won’t change–that is the point of a new policy, to effect change.

    If that’s true, what was this implying?:

    And yet, you can, because the comment has not been deleted forever, it’s hidden. And it’s not deviously hidden in a way the required a decoder’s ring–there’s legend indicating the comment, and a link to make it visible.

    I argued that the moderation in this thread would eliminate any attempt to cut through posters’ obfuscation attempts, and you said that wasn’t true because the comment is merely hidden. Now you’re saying it is true that it will change discussions in this way and that you think it’s great.

    Your points are contradictory.

  194. Janine
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 12:50:54

    I have felt that over the past few months, especially, there has been a profound rise in intolerance in the Romance community. Sweeping disparagement of self-published books, Kristen Ashley books, 50 Shades and its fans, New Adult books, less editing in Big 6 books, etc. I’ve felt it myself, and I’ve noticed it in others. Moreover, IMO the tenor of the intolerance has risen past “this is not for me” to “how the hell can anyone like this stuff?”

    Thank you Robin for putting your finger on the crux of the matter.

    And yeah, I’ve felt it in myself as well, and sometimes I’ve been hypocritical, too. For example I don’t think of myself as someone who likes self-published books, but I adored Captive Prince by SU Pacat to pieces, and greatly enjoyed The Governess Affair and other Courtney Milan works. It’s easy to make sweeping generalizations when a category of books is new to us and we don’t have a list of reliable authors developed yet.

    But easy as it may be to slip down that slope, comments like “How can anyone like self published books/New Adult books/50 Shades of Gray/Kristen Ashley?” are reader shaming. It is one thing to say one doesn’t like them, and another to imply that no one who had a brain would like them.

    Moreover, while I completely understand being frustrated with Dear Author for reviewing more self-pubbed works/NA/Kristen Ashley/what have you, if they don’t appeal to you as a reader, it’s not fair to blame DA for following current publishing trends, which is something we have done since 2006. It’s not our fault that print publishers are putting out fewer historicals, for example, in favor of picking up NA books. Or that they are reprinting self published works, or coming out with 50 clones.

    Nor is it wrong for us to choose to review what we are drawn to reading, as we have always done. Speaking for myself, if I turned to reviewing books that don’t appeal to me, I would lose my interest in reviewing altogether.

    And yet, I’ve seen finger pointing at Jane and at my fellow reviewers for these things on Twitter, including from sources I’ve been friendly with.

    In fact, speaking of Twitter, just as Ridley feels her ears have been burning when she has read this thread, my ears have been burning in sympathy with Jane, reading my tweetstream in the past few days. People who follow Jane and whom Jane follows have been making everything from veiled criticism to what read to me like ad hominem attacks, to the point where I’ve thought about taking a Twitter break.

    And it’s not that I don’t have some sympathy for some of these folks, because I too needed some reassurance about this change in policy and about what shushing would entail.

    Maybe we all need to cool down? And remember that since DA’s inception Jane has been in the eye of a storm of criticism from a variety of sources for her advocacy for readers and for her honesty? Even I don’t always remember this, and I have the enormous privilege of this platform thanks to her. Yeah, that is one of my many privileges, that I get to benefit from DA without having to make all the sacrifices Jane has to make.

  195. claudia
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 13:25:37

    Perhaps it time to move DA to a comment system that requires accounts and allows comment up/down ranking and user ignores. It might lessen the time sink of moderation for Jane and would offer even lurkers more control over their content viewing.

    Some might still claim retaliatory actions by DA members, but such folk would remain free to write whatever they want at their own blogs or other social media hangouts.

  196. azteclady
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 13:47:57

    @Ridley: I am confused, so I’m reading back.

    I think a commenting policy that makes Jane willing to keep DA open–which was a real concern, going by her original post (if the owner dreads reading her own site, it does not bode well for the site’s longevity)–is a good thing.

    I think asking commenters to moderate themselves by moderating their tone enough that Jane doesn’t feel the need to intervene doesn’t by itself mean that all discussions will become polite noise devoid of content.

    I don’t believe that hiding the bits that cross that line, at Jane’s discretion, is the same as deleting the comments–I imagine it’s a lot more work. It’s also something that she did before, in that thread that still hasn’t died, and it didn’t change the depth of the conversation or stifle the passion of the people commenting.

    Will it change the tone of the comment threads? I hope it will. I hope it will make it so that people are not afraid of dissenting–or even agreeing–lest they be flamed into retreating from important discussions they probably should have. To learn, to become more self aware and more aware of the world around them.

    And I most definitely hope that, if this doesn’t work for Jane, she’ll find something else that will, because the real issue for me would be DA closing its doors because the one person doing all the work finally gets fed up with all the demands while not enjoying the rewards.

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