Single issue commenting vs. our mission

Moderating comments on this site has always been a special hell. When you talk about complex concepts that most people mistakenly think are quite simple, you get a lot of comments that are not badly intended, but don’t foster the sort of nuanced discussion we need to have here. Therefore, I’m changing my moderation strategy once again, and please bear with me. This one is complex and nuanced, not a soundbyte.

We get a lot of commenters here who only have one thing on their minds, and are not interested in engaging with the entire community we’re trying to serve. Most of them arrive here via Google (yes, sometimes we can tell), which doesn’t do a great job of matching our complex and nuanced articles with short search phrases. These commenters usually spout some venom and probably never even come back to check if their comments posted, so I don’t expect this to upset many people. Examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Abuser apologists. These are people who are deeply and rightly concerned about the stigmatizing of mentally ill people. However, some mentally ill people are also abusive personalities who cause more mental illness by victimizing people into depression, PTSD, etc. Instead of trying to balance the interests of these variously suffering people, they just want us to stop criticizing the actions of these poor abusers. That is not consistent with my mission in life, which is to reduce abuse in all forms, no matter who’s committing it. Besides, there’s a reason mental illnesses typically associated with abuse, domestic violence and rape are categorized in court as character disorders and not grounds for a diminished capacity (“insanity”) plea.
  • “Why should I feel sorry for him?” commenters. In almost complete opposition to the above point, whenever we point out that there are useful psychiatric classifications for abusive personalities, some people immediately assume we are saying the abusers are unable to control themselves and deserve pity. This happens because that’s the picture pop psychology has painted, so sometimes we’ll try to correct these commenters, but it’s kind of exhausting to do this over and over – and a lot of people don’t listen anyway. Honestly people, just watch Criminal Minds for a wealth of complex and nuanced presentation of mental illness and abuse, and how the one doesn’t excuse the other – in either order. And see the above item in this list.
  • “You’re doing it wrong” commenters. There are many forms of egalitarianism. If you don’t like ours, well, gee, there are only a ton of ways to set up your own website at no cost whatsoever or for a few bucks a year. And I won’t clutter your site with comments on how your egalitarianism is wrong because it’s not just like mine.
  • Abuse victims with grand unifying theories. This is the one we struggle with the most. We get survivors coming in here, often from Google, who have embraced a theory to explain their situation. The theory may be outdated, it may be something they came up with themselves. In either case, when we offer better sourced research and/or common sense questions their theory fails to answer, these commenters get hostile instead of considering new or alternative information. We’re sorry these people have suffered – so have most of our writers and other commenters – but debate is essential for the development of good theories.
  • Supremacists of any sort. We occasionally get people who want to label huge groups of people as inherently inferior or superior in some way. You’d think on an egalitarian site this would be an obvious NO!!! but sometimes it’s sneaky. For example, criticism of the US sometimes devolves into implications that the people of the United States are inferior to people in other countries. Or a criticism of men doing horrible things devolves into concepts of inherent female superiority along the lines of “if women ran the world, we would never have wars”. A lot of people will tell you that criticism of the powerful equals bigotry toward the powerful, which is absurd, so it’s sometimes a fuzzy line we’re treading. But any implication that a gender, nation or race is inherently inferior or superior to the rest is indeed bigotry.
  • Gender essentialism. I banned this one a while back, but it’s worth reiterating in the context of the “supremacist” item I just discussed. I could regale you all day with tales of “bad” science leading to gender essentialist conclusions, but it’s simpler than that. The one big glaring reason to doubt every bit of gender essentialist research is that environment impacts genes, particularly in the brain. And that the brain is dismally susceptible to psychological priming and programming. Sources: Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference and Chabris and Simon’s The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us. No matter what has been published where and by whom and how many degrees they have, good science simply cannot find that “women are inherently like this, and men are inherently like that” until you take a sample pool of newborns, have robots raise them, and see what happens. And even then we couldn’t eliminate that the robots relayed some human concepts from their programmers that we weren’t consciously aware of implanting.

The ultimate mission of Hathor, whether we’re talking about TV portrayals of women or devastating issues like child molestation, is to reduce oppression and power abuse of any kind. If your comment doesn’t contribute to that agenda, it will likely not be posted.

Let me state clearly, however: respectful disagreement is fine. So is informing us we have maybe failed to take in a relevant dynamic, such as a race element or an international variation on an issue. If you are against abuse in any form, even the ones that indirectly benefit you, then your comments are going to be welcome. If you’re just fixated on one small part of the problem and not interested in learning more, then you might run into trouble. Hope this clarifies.


  1. Gabriella says

    Regarding the supremacy issue, I know I used to be terrible about being smug regarding the US’s history, particularly in regard to Native Americans and blacks, until I started studying my own history and… Australia doesn’t exactly have a great track record if you’re not white of British decent. Aboriginals, Chinese, Kanakas (we united the country just to get rid of them!) people with the remotest amount of German/Italian/Japanese blood in WWII to our current anti-boat people sentiment. It made me realise how easy it is to judge another country for it’s historic/cultural mistakes while refusing to acknowledge that your own was pretty much doing the same thing.

    (Still think we have a much better welfare system, though.)

    • says

      I think loads of countries have a better welfare system!

      Yeah, any nation that’s more than a few years old has something to be ashamed of. That should remind us that the problems of humanity aren’t limited to nations and won’t be fixed by governments alone.

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