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Trolls To The Back of the Bus

Writing about race and religion brings out the trolls; Via Meadia‘s normally urbane and civilized comment pages have been invaded recently by two groups of posters.  One wants to argue simultaneously that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist and that it is caused by the bad behavior of Jews.  The other wants to turn discussions of urban policy into an argument over alleged genetic differences between the races. We have already trashed many of the worst of these comments.  Readers can imagine what some of them were like.

This is not about censorship; it reflects our concern that on the web as elsewhere bad discourse drives out good.   The internet is a wide and welcoming place and I am sure there are large and capacious Troll Reserves on the web where these points of view are celebrated and welcomed.  Via Meadia does not want to close the Troll Reserves down, but neither do we wish to become one.

All future comments on the joys and justifications of anti-Semitism or the alleged genetic inferiority of any race will go immediately to the trash.

Since the recent influx of racists and anti-Semitism apologists significantly lowered the tone of the comments site, we will be making extra efforts to enforce our longtime policies about courtesy in comments.  Comments deemed lacking in basic courtesy or decency will be amended or trashed at our discretion.

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  • Steve

    Thank you. It was bcomeing tedious and out of harmony with the serious content of this blog. I only hope that it doesn’t reflect a wider view than seems apparent to me.

  • Thom

    Professor Mead’s blog and essays are unsurpassed, particularly in his informed, history-based, contrarian analysis; by and large the comments section has attracted thoughtful, informative responses. Best of luck in your efforts to maintain a sanctuary of civility.

  • Random Dude

    Good news for the editor of the “Foreign Policy” site: Steve Walt’s “Realist” blog was losing a key demographic of its readership for a while there…

  • David Hoffman

    You won’t see any arguments from me. You are under no obligation to leave bigoted, rude, or idiotic comments up. All too many internet forums have been ruined by herds of trolls.

  • Paul

    This may be premature, but here is one vote for the prior format – occasional in-depth, thoughtful, and well-reasoned essays. Blogs, to turn a phrase into a very small and thin piece of currency, are a dime a dozen.

  • Eurydice

    Well, that’s a relief. I’m pretty used to strapping on the hip-waders before I enter a political blog, but it’s nice not to have to.

  • Luke Lea

    There still remain the challenges of human biodiversity which, in our multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural society need to be recognized and addressed. For example, affirmative action in our elite, gateway institutions (aka, the Ivy League). Since they are the pool from which tomorrow’s governing elites will be chosen, there is a case that the student bodies of these institutions ought to represent the full ethnic and geographic diversity of America. At present they do not. My group, for instance, protestant whites from the South and Mid-West are woefully under-represented at Harvard, a fact I was able to deduce by reading Ross Douthat’s excellent memoir Privilege about his undergraduate experiences at Harvard.

    What would such a student body look like? It would be (roughly) 3 or 4% Ashkenazi, 3 or 4% East Asian, 12% African American, 12% Hispanic, 25% Catholic, and the rest a cross-section of white Protestant America. Red states and red areas of blue states would be much better represented than today, while blue states and blue areas of red states would lose numbers. Small-town and rural America would gain, particularly in the South and MidWest.

    Why is this important? It is important because in a democracy it is important that the full diversity of the country be represented by the people who make the big public policy decisions, so that we don’t have a situation like we have now in which not a single Protestant (with exception of Judge Thomas) sits on the supreme court; or in which trade and immigration policies are made with no consideration given to their impact on huge sections of the country. Does anyone doubt that today’s governing elites are not doing a very good job?

    Our country could still be a meritocracy in the sense that “the best and the brightest” from each ethnicity and geographic region in the country would be chosen (leaving aside the question of whether the “best” and the “brightest” are one and the same or even bear much relation to each other). The absolutely brightest students in the country would most certainly be eligible for admittance. It’s only that the second and third “best” on the basis of standardized test scores might have to attend so-called second tier institutions, which might not be so second-tier as a consequence.

    There is no need to apply this kind of “affirmative action for all” at science and engineering schools like MIT and CalTech nor in medical schools, where brains alone should be the only thing that counts. But in elite liberal arts colleges, law schools, schools of business, education and public administration, where networks are formed, there is a strong case to be made for this kind of proportional representation. We are still talking about the cream of every crop.

    This will not prevent inequality or large disparities of income and success in the world of business from developing, nor should it. Talent will out in a free and open society. But it might make a difference in the way we frame our tax, trade, and immigration policies, the choose three major examples that effect the public welfare.

    I’m not saying that this is the way things have to be, just that these are the sorts of issues need to be open for discussion, which is not the case today. They go right to the heart of the issue of diversity in a representative democracy.

  • srp

    BTW, for the deniers of contemporary anti-Semitism, check out the first comment on this post:

    The commenter gets in most of the classic tropes delineated in Professor Mead’s earlier post.

  • Dave from Boston

    Tedious and brutish yes but I still think they should stand and not be removed. I always thought a bad idea or comment was better left out to rot in the sunlight.

  • Kenny

    The thought police has spoken so comply.

  • Richard F. Miller

    A thousand thank yous for this. I read your take on anti-semitism and actually muddled through all the comments. The whole thing was depressing, not the least because that, unchecked, it might have augured badly for this site.

    For instance, there is an otherwise excellent site that caters to historians and that attracted some pretty serious posters. Unfortunately, the site’s policy against “censorship,” well-meaning as it was, did operate (as you noted) as a Gresham’s Law. Serious posters could not compete with pathological obsessives, and the site soon lost its following.

    There is a cyber version of mud wrestling, but unlike the real thing, there’s no shower to get clean.

    Thanks again.

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