Via Meadia reached some big milestones in the last few days: since our first posts went up in the fall of 2010, more than 2000 posts have gone up up on the site and readers have posted more than 25,000 comments as they logged 7,000,000 page views. The ratio of comments to posts continues to rise, and we continue to hear from readers that our comments section is one of the liveliest as well as one of the most civilized conversations around.
When I started this project I had no idea how it would develop, and the response from readers has exceeded my wildest hopes. But while the reader response is gratifying (and I’m genuinely grateful to all of you for the interest you show in my work), the real reward for me and the reason I keep blogging is that the flexibility and freedom of a blog is endlessly stimulating. I can write about what I care about, I can respond to the events of the day or not as I choose, and I can go long or go short in my treatment depending on what a particular subject demands.
I’ve been at a conference in London this week with Peter Berger, who also blogs at TAI, and more than once we’ve found ourselves talking about the feeling of liberation that comes from the ability to write exactly as we like on anything we think deserves some attention. We’ve both found new audiences and even new friends by blogging. Peter has been publishing for about fifty years and I am coming up on thirty; for both of us it has been a pleasant and unexpected development to find that the world of writing now offers this new and interesting format.
As always, I’m profoundly grateful to my friends and colleagues at The American Interest for making all this possible. Peter and I both benefit from their care, attention and general hospitality for what we are trying to do.
And now for a housekeeping note. Apologies to those of you who have read about this before, but some new readers have joined the conversation in our comment pages. For readers just joining the conversation at Via Meadia, I want to alert you to our commonsense comments policy: if you couldn’t say it at my grandmother’s dinner table, you can’t say it on our site. The elder Mrs. Mead was not exactly a prude, but she had strong ideas about what was and was not appropriate behavior at dinner. That means vulgar words are verboten; it also means we reserve the right to edit or delete comments than in our judgment do not measure up to basic standards of good manners and fair debate. My grandmother had no patience for nasty cracks, sly insinuations or general derogatory comments about different racial and ethnic groups, and she did not like rude remarks about religion — whether the religion in question was hers or not. She deeply disliked discourtesy of all kinds and insisted that her home and her dinner table be places where people behaved. She was at once estimable and formidable and the Via Meadia team and I will continue to channel that lady as we curate our comments.
Comments that promote violence, racial or religious hatred are not welcome here; we do not believe that the government should ban hurtful or even hateful speech, but we think that the proprietors of an internet site should be free to impose their own standards on their small patch of cyberground. We hope that commenters will refrain from impugning the motives or attacking the characters of those with whom they disagree; it is more effective as well as more civilized to refute someone’s arguments than to cast aspersions on their intelligence or integrity. Trollfests and flame wars are not wanted here.
Fortunately, a growing circle of readers enjoy the kind of discourse that results when these basic rules are enforced. With 25,000 comments posted, and the rate of posting growing from week to week, we find that experience confirms our initial belief that these policies promote rather than squelch real debate.