Will the comments section ever reopen, or is this a permanent vacation? I expect to reopen, well refreshed, and with some new ideas about how to make the ongoing experience rewarding for commenters of good faith.
ADDED: A reader emails:
Just a note from the peanut gallery that's been around since at least the Bush/Kerry election and a non participant in the comments section (I think I've commented 3 times in the history of the blog.)Thanks. I know there are lots of people who only read the front page, and this vacation is helping me think more about the blog as it feels to them. As for the notion that I'm "trying to lead a class discussion," I love starting and furthering conversation, here and in law school class, but there are many differences about the conversation here, where there is no particular goal, and commenters could do all sorts of amusingly creative things that would be way out of line in class. Wonderful, beloved commenters like rhhardin, Chip Ahoy, and betamax3000 would have no way to do their thing in class, where I must keep the discussion on track for the sake of the entire group, which is sitting there in real time with specific needs that must be met. There is no "right" conclusion that I'm trying to extract from either group — law students or commenters — but in law school there are readings that must be understood and issues that must be explored in ways that relate to the profession the students are there to learn. Commenters have far more leeway, and I love diversity of opinion and all sorts of weird things that aren't opinions at all. I want all manner of interesting material in the comments.
I preferred the no comment policy.
Sometimes it feels more like an attempt to generate a discussion and I'm not looking for a group exercise to reach some conclusion. I read because I'm interested in what Ann actually thinks about something and I like to see her explain her view, and lately it's felt more like she's trying to lead a class discussion and she's gotten fairly frustrated when the class came to the "wrong" conclusion. I also live in Madison and enjoy the local flavor, especially the "how the hell did they think that was going to be a good idea" variety.
I don't know what goes on in the comments, good or bad, I've never really read them. Since most of the comments are by definition going to come from the people who comment... I thought I'd chime in from the side that liked the blog better when there were no comments, and I'm hoping they stay closed.
There are a few ways that commenters can go wrong, but it's not that they've reached the "'wrong' conclusion." And I wasn't putting up posts for the purpose of getting people to figure out some right answer that I had in mind and was Socratically trying to get them to say. And I don't feel "frustrated" when they don't come up with what I would say. My commenters pretty systematically disagree with me about same-sex marriage and abortion rights, and that's been going on for the entire life of this blog, and it doesn't bother me. I think it's possible that things got especially ugly after the Supreme Court decided the gay marriage cases, and a few people seemed almost to have a nervous breakdown. Then, when I started talking about the consequences of unmarried heterosexual sex, there was some severe cognitive dissonance for the opponents of gay marriage. Their supposed profound reverence for the union of a man and a woman got subordinated to their enthusiasm for the fornicating man's interest in escaping child support payments. That had to hurt, and I felt fine expressing respect for the marital bonds of love for everyone.
That's when things went to hell around here, and the really destructive commenters showed who they are.