Saturday, April 14, 2012

Should I allow comments from racist trolls?

Ok, so it seems like there's been an upswing in race-hating douchebags leaving comments on my blog recently. Most of them have just been on a couple of old posts.

So far I've let them stay up, but I've been thinking long and hard about that. Generally, I have only deleted comments that are obviously spam (most don't make it past the spam filter anyway), or the rare comment that I decide is too objectionable to stay up.

I want to point out that I don't have a problem with someone having a different view to me. One person who comments here quite regularly, Bay Area Guy, identifies himself broadly as a White Nationalist. This would mark him as having a very different ideology to me; however, he engages in intelligent discussion/argument without being rude or inflammatory, so I have no reason to moderate any of his comments.

On occasion, there are commenters who think that aiming personal abuse at me is the appropriate way to behave. I generally allow those comments to stand, primarily because my competitive instincts take over and I like to argue with stupid people.

... but then there are those that are on another level of douchebaggery.

Here are comments on two different posts from two people named Anonymous.

WARNING: If you are easily offended, read below at your own risk. Explicit and racist language follow.

These are from my rather old post on the TV show Merlin having a black actress playing Guinevere (read it here). These are replies to other comments, which I have not included here.

Charming. He must be fun at a dinner party.
This next lot of comments is from my post about the ethnic diversity on display amongst journalists on Australian TV channel SBS (read the full post here). I have reproduced the entire exchange between myself and the commenter. 

Should I allow their comments to stay up? Or should I send them to the trash?

Here are some of the reasons to allow them and not to:

  • These people have abhorrent views and I don't want to give them any more air.
  • By being vile and aggressive towards me and others, they have forfeited their right to express themselves in this forum. Sharing an opinion is fine, but if you can't do it in a civil manner, then you don't get to share yours.
  • I don't want readers to be unnecessarily confronted by racially inflammatory language, as ideally this would be a relatively safe space for readers to frequent.


  • Given that this blog often discusses the subject of race and racism, comments like these serve as an example of the sort of views that are out there.
  • By being vile and aggressive, they undermine their stupid cause anyway, because it makes them look like morons. Anyone who reads the above comments is unlikely to be converted a racist way of thinking; indeed it may well do the opposite.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Although to be honest it'd be nice if your thoughts didn't include the words "nigger" or "cunt".


  1. On my blog I heavily moderate comments to prevent spam like this from getting through. Because I've done so, a lot of the repeat offender trolls have moved onto less discerning pastures to spew vitriol.

    Allow obviously racist commenters, even those are argue in a civil/intellectual manner is often extremely triggering for commenters who deal with racism on a daily basis. On the one hand you want to encourage healthy debate, but at the same time you don't want to contribute to microagressions and "teaching the controversy" as I call -- where people put two opposing viewpoints in the same arena in order to make them appear equal and legitimate, however obviously one is incredibly bigoted despite it's pseudoacademic air.

    However I am biased in this regard. I frequently have dealt with such trolls, and it's also one of the (many) reasons I left Abagond's blog. The prospect of constantly debating people who can't even meet you halfway on simple truths -- by having to essentially "prove' that the Earth is flat and racism exists before a meaningful conversation can even begin -- is emotionally and intellectually draining.

    So, for my two cents I'd spend it on removing obvious bigotry, and perhaps only leaving the so-called "civil" discourse to be utilized towards making your point. But only in small doses.

    Good luck!

    1. Cheers Zek.
      Have you ever read Field Negro's blog? ( He gets a LOT of wingnuts and overt racists commenting, but he deliberately leaves the comments up because his blog is largely aimed at pointing out the racism that exists in the US, and the comments are a clear illustration of that.
      The drawback of course is that the comments section of his blog is just a free-for-all.
      I certainly don't have the sort of readership that he does, so the nutjobs are fairly manageable so far.

      Your point about triggering is a good one, and certainly one that I have considered. Particularly when the commenter (as with the first one above) is clearly just interested in inducing a reaction.

  2. Your blog, your rules. But there is such a thing as being too nice. Trolls aren't worth the effort. When was the last time you had an intelligent debate with one? You bring facts, they bring nonsense. They don't want to talk, they want to scream. Why bother to engage them?

    They're cowards who hide behind the distance and anonymity of the internet. Keep in mind that by tolerating fools, you're letting them disrespect you. You deserve better.

    1. Good points Omar. I guess one could also point out though that letting them scream and spout nonsense is in effect letting them bury themselves.
      I generally don't try to engage them in a serious way. I guess I find them easy fodder to take the piss out of - which is another reason I've not deleted some of them.

    2. I see your points. But I disagree. You're tolerating people who see tolerance as a sign of weakness. Yes, you're exposing their hatred and lunacy to the world at large. But trolls write for themselves and their fellow trolls. They KNOW that decent people don't use the N or C. words. They don't care. Just seeing their screeds online is a victory to them.

      Anyway, you've got a great blog. Keep writing. Oh, and more stuff about Indian/indigenous Fijians would be nice :)

  3. Hi ES. I think these comments don't add anything to the discussion. But instead of trying to 'judge' whether they are 'racist' or not, an easier solution might be to just filter those which use, for example, the 'f**k' and 'c**t' words. If people can't make their point clear without using these two words, then they probably don't really have an intelligent point to make anyway. This way you can filter stupid comments without getting accused of trying to play 'judge'.

    1. Hmmm... I wonder if Blogger has a filtering function like that.

      Though I do think the F word has reached a point where it's not necessarily uncivilized to use it. Hey, I use it for emphasis sometimes. The C word... not so much.

  4. yeah, i do too. Except these folks can't seem to write a comment without cluttering them with a combination of such words (f-word, c-word, n-word, b-word, etc) at least 3 times per comment/paragraph. (I just re-skimmed the comments up above.) Obviously spammers, I mean, who talks like that anyways apart from idiotic spammers with too much time on their hands. (or perhaps I'm being naive?....hmmmm...)

    1. I think trolls, rather than spammers, is what you mean.

  5. I have to agree with @Zek and @Omar. That kind of bile is just the blog commentary equivalent of a psychotic person writhing on the floor shitting their pants and making nonsensical vocalisations. It's upsetting for no particular reason. People who can change their minds won't do that just by being on a blog comments section, being asked to think differently by warmer persons such as you.

    Whatever you do (or have decided doing!) just keep it consistent and true to yourself.

  6. Sorry that was a bit mean to psychotic people, implying that they were at all linked to those kinds of blog commenters (and that writhing on the floor with incontinence is normal for that condition).