Of Hecklers and Bores

What makes the quality of a blog? I am not a journalist or a professional in this domain, but I do have a certain amount of hands-on experience over the years. I often have comments from people who don’t agree with my “party line” and others who debate with each other. I think I am quite tolerant, but this is an old subject.

Each blog owner, moderator, call that person what you will – the person who set up the blog with the blog hosting service and gave it a name and a main subject – deals with comments in different ways. Some blogs don’t allow comments at all, but rather invite people to write e-mails without the cover of anonymity, and at the other end of the spectrum, you have a completely laissez-faire policy. That sometimes results in 50 or more comments in a thread dominated by two or three persons who are determined to prove themselves right.

My own ideal is something of a compromise somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum. I have exactly twenty-one e-mail addresses on moderated status, because if left unchecked, some of those persons would just take over the blog like a malignant cancer tumour – profiting from the blog-owner’s tolerance. The blog is then transformed into something else: a peaceful moderate country becomes a totalitarian dictatorship run by criminals. You know, it happened to a certain central European country in 1933! The first sign I find about such people in the blogosphere is that they are not here to discuss but to heckle and dominate. I am brought to think of the song in The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan:

All prosy dull society sinners,
Who chatter and bleat and bore,
Are sent to hear sermons
From mystical Germans
Who preach from ten to four.

Where is their empathy for other people?

So I am obliged to keep control over this minority of individuals, so that conversations can be subtle and interesting, and not crushed out by deafening “radio jamming”.

I may be accused of being a “despot, a tyrant of this blog”. I would only be accused of such by one who himself wants to be a despot and tyrant – riding piggyback on my achievement of having gained a number of regular readers. He could start his own blog, but it might be such a boring soap box rant at Speaker’s Corner that people just wouldn’t listen or who would walk away and find a more interesting speaker. I have even had a blogger who doesn’t allow comments on his blog sending comments to mine to provoke comments to his comments. The thought that came into my mind was that he was dumping his trash in my bin, or putting it more crudely, crapping on my doorstep. The man is on moderated status and I have gained more experience in blogger tactics and strategy. The blogosphere is a free world, and anyone can set up his own blog. The more interesting ones are those set up for the benefit of other people. I leave others to judge the quality of this blog. Comments are a part of this spirit of service to others, the quality of the blog and its future.

There is nothing obliging me to let hecklers and bores onto this blog. They are the same persons, and their literary style remains the same even when they change addresses. Some are trolls, and others are just hobbyists, fanatics and bores. Imagine if Word Press, Blogger and other blog providers introduced a rule saying that we were not allowed to filter our comment boxes, that everyone has the right to jam, troll and spam at will, I would end the blog immediately. I had scruples about this when I had the English Catholic, not any longer. Filtering is accepted practice and I will continue to do so for as long as I blog.

Indeed, I have not to heed moralising reproaches about honesty on account of not allowing the blog to be taken over by some young neo-Fascist hothead from Los Angeles or the bore at the Captain’s table of a cruise ship – among others. Perhaps my blog is boring or uninteresting. It certainly is to people not interested in religion for example, but people are free to look at what they want and not look at what doesn’t interest them. However, I am perplexed by those who say they rarely find my blog interesting, yet they want to plaster their digital graffiti all over it!

Most commenters here have a free hand and will find their comments published the moment they send them, and I trust those people. They represent a diversity of views from conservative Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, classical Anglicanism, free and liberal points of view. The difference is that they respect that their view is a part of a diversity of views that make up the wealth of spiritual humanity.

I have noticed over the past few weeks that morale is low in the very narrow interests represented by this blog and two or three others. Posts are getting rarer as subjects become worn and hacked to death. I am aware of this. The Devil was indeed in the details of too many events of the past few years. Most of us have to one extent or another “made our beds” and decided where our spiritual and ecclesial loyalties lie.

My advice to those who comment is that I read other blogs and observe the activity of the hecklers and bores who migrate from one to the other desperately seeking to leave their mark. Their dominance has reached such a level that I hardly ever comment on those blogs any more. I am not going to allow that here. So that accounts for the moderated twenty-one e-mail addresses, some from the defunct English Catholic blog and which are probably themselves obsolete. In reality, I probably have no more than three or four to keep a vigilant eye on.

I am open to diversity of opinion and discussion. I am not interested in the “Speaker’s Corner” style where a guy gets up onto a soap box and rants, and is then shouted down or is able to shout down his hecklers. Speaker’s Corner is an old institution in London. It originated in the right of a condemned criminal about to be hanged on the adjacent Tyburn gallows to have his last word before his death. It then became a place of free speech. Discussions often become spirited and downright rude.

It’s another world. I don’t want my blog to work in that way, but rather to be like a university seminar or a peaceful fireside chat and constructive dialogue. There are commenters who are obviously concerned to win converts for what they believe to be the “true Church”. They believe this to be their duty, and I respect their conscience. The difference is that they present rational arguments all in respecting diversity. Just a question of empathy for other people and courtesy. I also draw attention to the fact that there are apologetics site and blogs, and some of them are very good. Frank Sheed would have been a great blogger!

For those who have had anything to do with boats, my analogy is the difference between a military Naval captain running a tight ship and the humble and kind skipper of a small yacht or a fishing boat. My way is the latter. I give the compass bearing and just a minimum of what I think is needed to keep the vessel from being sunk by the kraken and the rocks, and those who want to be aboard know what to do with the sails, ropes and all that…

My attention was brought to 3 Despicable Internet Behaviors (That Are Really Your Fault). Not bad, as both bloggers and commenters, like teachers and schoolchildren, prison “screws” and prisoners, anything, can be just as twisted as each other. It’s a pretty twisted world as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, let’s keep this blog informal and friendly while it’s still here. Books burn when you set light to them and information on a computer’s hard disk or a server can be instantly effaced with a magnet. Vanitas vanitatem! Everything is vanity. It’s as simple as that and painfully obvious for most people who do care about others.

Indeed, like Speaker’s Corner, a blog is only a reflection of the world we live in and nothing will ever be utopian or ideal.

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15 Responses to Of Hecklers and Bores

  1. ed pacht says:

    Just a quick line to say that I like the way you’ve handled this blog. It’s one of the very few places where I will bother to comment. Keep it up.

  2. Stephen K says:

    I agree with ed. Yes, keep up both the content and style, Father. I don’t always contribute to the various subjects posted, not because I am not interested. I read everything, but obviously there are many particular topics that I don’t have a view about or am not competent to have one. But I’ve learnt much reading your blog.

  3. I rarely comment, but I do read everything in detail, appreciating very much the wide choice of topics you write about – I have long been an advocate of the value of the contribuitons you have made in furthering our thoughts towards God’s kingdom, and I welcome in the main, the sensible comments returned. You would be surprised at how much help you have provided me with, in pursuing my current course of study!
    Keep it going Father Anthony, for as long as you feel God wishes you to continue in this feild of ministry.

  4. Dale says:

    For questions of Anglicanism, Anglo-Catholicism, liturgics (especially Sarum) this is the blog! Personally, I find that the conversations on this blog impressive. I especially appreciate Michael Frost’s contributions, this is certainly true concerning Lutheranism, of which I admit my complete ignorance. Ed Pacht is also a great commentator as well (he has the rather gracious gift of telling certain fatheads [I am including myself in this category] to back off in a very polite, yet still direct manner!). And although I sometimes disagree with Dr Tighe his contributions are always, always worth reading.

    Thank you so much for this blog.

    • ed pacht says:

      Thanks, Dale, for the good words. We’ve tangled a few times, but there’s little I enjoy more than tangling with a gracious “opponent”. You and Michael and Bill Tighe are certainly three voices I love to hear, from whom I have learned, though often disagreeing, and Fr. Anthony does indeed make this blog a place worth visiting often.

      BTW, my head is certainly as fat as anyone elses and it’s not unusual for me to have a post ready to send, reread it and decide to zap it as unworthy in attitude.

      • Don’t blame yourself. I am targeting the sort of person (or two or three of them) who are still commenting on a blog post on another blog, not this one, on why some Anglicans don’t want to join the Ordinariate, and why they are trashing anything other than conservative Novus Ordo Roman Catholicism. They have ratcheted up more than 100 comments. But it’s not my blog.

        That’s the kind of thing I won’t have here. I’m all for reasoned discussion even if people disagree. What I find unacceptable is people shouting others down in order to hold a blog to ransom and present it with a choice of going along with their demands or closing down.

    • Michael Frost says:

      Dale, You’ve got me blushing. I think it is Fr. Robert who brings out the strong vestiges of my “inner” Reformer. What can I say, I love Melanchthon and Wesley. But I also like Bucer, Molina, Laud, and the Non-jurors. I, too, appreciate the decorum shown here. And we owe it to both moderator (of course!) and participants (nicely too many to name). Is wonderful to have a respectfully serious ecumencial discourse on interesting areas of thought. In the American print world, I think both First Things and Touchstone are shining examples of such wholesome polity.

  5. Dear Father Anthony,

    I not only value your friendship as a fellow Clergyman , but also value your blog. I quite agree that we have talked about some subjects until we were blue in the face, and we still did not solve any problems. By the way I have re-named my blog fatheredbakker.blogspot.com reason being that prior to +Klaus’s death I had decided to return to the full time Ministry at the ACC/OP here in Australia, which is more relevant here than the order of Port Royal.

    I was brought up in the Union of Utrecht before emigrating to this part of the world and + Klaus moved from Utrecht to Scranton and/ or a more Orthodox Old Catholic approach, which I think is very good.

    Have a blessed day

    Father Ed Bakker

  6. Patricius says:

    But youth, of course, must have its fling so, pardon us!

    • Yes, but there’s a difference between you and the “fascist hothead” in Los Angeles I mentioned. For example, you don’t go writing strings of fanatical comments on blogs just to shout others down. Also, you have your own blog and you can say what you want.

      • Patricius says:

        That was from The Mikado, father! You know, Titipu, the three little maids, Pooh-bah? I said it because it’s a lovely little song and it seemed to fit in with what you were saying.

      • I remember when I was at school and we did The Mikado. We rehearsed it for so long that I still know a lot of it by heart. I was one of the Gentlemen of Japan, and we had to learn how to open and close the fans with a flick of the wrist. The executioner brandished an enormous axe made of papier mâché. The Mikado’s My object all sublime and his belly laughs were very good! I remember well the bit about billard sharps, fitless finger stalls, twisted cues and elliptical balls. Old Mr Gilbert had a wonderful sense of inflicting suffering on the most annoying people in Victorian society!

  7. Patricius says:

    Indeed. I think The Mikado is the best of the Savoy operas; it’s certainly the most entertaining (for me at any rate).

    We never did any Gilbert & Sullivan at school, but my music teacher was obsessed with Handel…

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