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Columbia Missourian

Missourian comments policy follows the golden rule; you should, too.

By Tom Warhover
April 24, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

I’ve been asked several times to ban some of our more angry commentators on stories. I’ve resisted on the notion that the best antidote for poor speech is more speech.


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Missourian policy allows comments that are uninformed, lazy, grammatically tortured, unintelligible, hyperbolic, dense or dull. Mixed metaphors may soar like trees in arid land. Incomplete sentences — OK. Follow a tangent wherever you like.

The rules on comments are simple. The newspaper asks that commenters leave their real names, and a few actually have the courage to do that. The policy also says: “Comments containing personal attacks; profanity; nudity; attacks on race, creed, or religion; or illegal material are prohibited.”

I haven’t run across any contraband or cuss words. Same for nudity. Unlike some newspapers, the Missourian has been blessed to not have hateful talk about religion or race.

Personal attacks are another matter.

Some of our commenters just can’t stop. They engage in war of words against their neighbors, not just their neighbors’ ideas.

So I’ve given the go-ahead to opinion editor Jake Sherlock to ban those who regularly violate the policy. He’ll give some warnings. Then he’ll block the person for 30 days. If it continues, he’ll make the ban permanent.

Neither Jake nor I intend to monitor every comment, so if you find offense, we’ll rely on you to report it.

Writing this feels silly. I have no desire to become the assistant principal monitoring this virtual playground. (I also hate making “policy” statements — too often, policies are used to circumvent critical thinking and common sense.) But some enforcement appears to be necessary.

Please note: Appropriately placed vitriol is still OK.

You might, for instance, choose to say: “Warhover’s policies on comments are stupid. Given the choice of this policy or root canal, I would ask the dentist to have at it with gusto.”

What you shouldn’t say: “Warhover is stupid. He is about as intelligent as a dentist performing a root canal on an octopus. “

The regular commenters are pretty good about policing others when things get out of hand — and you can, too, by politely directing the conversation back to the topic at hand.

This is simple enough, isn’t it? Didn’t your mother teach you not to call someone a dumb, lazy, good-for-nothing-no-account-KU-loving ne’er-do-well?