March 28, 2006

The amazing comments thread.

Have you noticed that this post from last Thursday has over 350 comments and that people with strongly opposed views on the hot topic of gay marriage are keeping up a substantive debate that has not deteriorated into abuse? A similar debate took place the previous Friday, going up to 290 comments.


TWM said...

Ahhh, if only all comment threads were that way - LOL

Balfegor said...

My, how civilised we all are. If only public debate were that way. Now, if we all linked more liberally, that would be just perfect. Geoduck2, for example, gives us several relevant books to look at, but neglects the all-important Amazon link!

Bad Penny said...

Tut tut. This is simply shocking. Perhaps it is true, as some say, that the blogosphere has run out of gas. What next, a moratorium on references to Hitler?

Joseph Hovsep said...

Thank you, Professor Althouse. I can't tell you how happy I am when I find a forum like this. I have many well established views that are unlikely to change but I also have views that I haven't thought a whole lot about. I like to think that in a comment thread on same sex marriage, I get to articulate arguments that I might not have yet with my coworkers or acquaintances and then decide if I should or not. I honestly don't expect that other commenters are going to change my mind on an issue like same sex marriage and I don't expect to change many of the other commenters' minds. But this forum really helps for me to flesh out why I feel the way I do and what are the strongest arguments on the other side.

On issues that I'm not as invested in, I like this forum because I can look at both sides and see who sounds reasonable and who sounds like they're grasping for straws. And I hope there are other people out there who aren't that invested in same sex marriage, for example, and can more objectively compare the two sides.

I guess this might sound silly, but it kind of makes me tingle with delight to see this process at work. Despite the occassional rhetorical excess or offensive comment, the end result of discussion on your blog and other blogs--but I have to say this blog stands out--is a peaceful and necessary venting of legitimate frustrations on all sides of a debate and a means of sifting through arguments to find the kernels of truth that are worth considering further. I'm really happy to be able to be a part of this process.

CB said...

I am very impressed by the quality of the comments here. There are blogs out there, like Political Animal, that are very good, but have out-of-control comment threads. Even the Volokh Conspiracy, which has great comments, gets a few cranks and trolls. Not so here. I'm glad to be a part of it.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks. Joe. It makes me tingle with delight too.

Thanks, everyone else, too.

downtownlad said...

The comment thread is good, but the Constitutional Amendments in and of themselves surely count as abuse, no?

amba said...

Quite a few of the commenters note that while there are many, many historic and cross-cultural examples of polygamy, there is no precedent for gay marriage. That's just not true.

anonlawstudent said...

Also worth noting that there's little or no correlation between cultures that included same-sex marriage and cultres that included polygamy. Overlap, perhaps, but no correlation.

amba said...

Good point, Anon. Not slippery. No slope.

HaloJonesFan said...

Hm. quxxo stops posting, and suddenly the comments threads get better. Coincidence? Or something deeper?

Dave said...

I say we make like Peter Tosh and legalize it.

Then no one need to waste their time convincing the anti gay marriage folks that they are oppressing others.

But that's a rather idealistic thought and therefore will never happen.

Balfegor said...

I think (based on a quick read of amba's links on his own blog) that there's actually an alternative reading there that's not particularly gay-marriage-ish. But leaving that aside (to avoid this becoming another thread about polygamy and gay marriage), I do think I should note with respect to the thread linked under 350 that "Neoconfucianism" properly speaking (or rather, the "Neoconfucianism" I'm talking about) is not "neo" in the sense that it is modern or contemporary -- it is actually mediaeval. "Neoconfucianism" dates from around the 11th century or so, and was the official doctrine of the Yi/Chosun dynasty in Korea from the 14th century or so until the Japanese occupation. It's just "neo" to distinguish it from the first wave of philosophical development in the Confucian tradition, that running from around 600BC to perhaps the reign of the Usurper, Wang Mang.

I'm not certain that the people responding to me (Marghlar, Geoduck2) didn't understand that, but just in case there was that confusion of terms, I thought I'd clear it up.

Balfegor said...

On her own blog, I should have said. Amba appears to be female. Sorry.

Ann Althouse said...

Let's keep the discussion of the gay marriage issue at the linked post and keep this conversation on the subject of comments (or it will be confusing).

Joan said...

Well, now that you've commented on it, Ann, new blood has been injected into the conversation -- but I'm not sure how much longer we'll be able to sustain it.

I think it's great that, for the most part, people have avoided heated replies even though there have been some fairly provocative comments posted.

Of course I've had way too much time on my hands recently...

Bruce Hayden said...

I found the thread interesting, though through most of the later part of it, it seemed quite heavily weighted towards SSM. I just wish I had had to the time to participate.

But my problem with the comment thread is that it was supposed to be (I think) about the intersection between polygamy and SSM, and it ultimately devolved almost entirely into a discussion of the later. I think the previous thread was better, as it stayed more on the possibility of the slippery slope between SSM and plural marriages.

My complaint about discussion about SSM is that, by now, there isn't a lot new to say, so I think we saw the same rehashing we have seen before.

That said, it was interesting. And, I too found it a better discussion than the similar ones I have participated in at

Synova said...

There was a lengthy and remarkably civil comment thread on the Blackfive milblog about gays in the military. I think that the trick, as it were, to discuss controversial topics, is if everyone assumes (or at least a critical majority of people assume) that the other side is arguing in good faith and is not holding their view out of hatred.

Without that it's not possible to engage the concerns of the other side. If "gays are bad for military discipline" is met with "you homophobe!" it goes no where. Similarly with "you don't care what you destroy." To have a conversation, there has to be an assumption that the other guy *does* care, even if you think that what they suggest *will* be destructive.

PS. to bad penny... I'm starting to think that Hitler is old school... these days comment threads that degenerate tend toward an obligatory reference to "Faux" News. ;-)

PPS. Word verification... qxajbvim. Wow.

Aspasia M. said...

Now, if we all linked more liberally, that would be just perfect. Geoduck2, for example, gives us several relevant books to look at, but neglects the all-important Amazon link!

Hah! Thanks Balfegor, although I'll try to do better next time Balfegor. Although, I haven't figured out how to do links yet. My husband has shown me how to do it; but I really need written directions.

Then again, the fact I can't figure out how to work either our voice mail (cell phone) or VCR recorder may be telling about my techno-phobic nature. My husband jokes these, uh, technological inabilitiies give him "job security."

The books: Many of the books about divorce or the legal history of marriage should be available at your local law school library. (Especially a legal historian like Hendrik Hartog.)

Oh - and the Norma Basch article about the bigamy of President Andrew Jackson & his wife Rachael can be linked from the on-line _American History and Life_ at many University libraries. It's in the Journal of American History, and looks at the scandal in election politics.

Aspasia M. said...


Your post on the comment threat as a public forum highlights the importants of public spaces in Democratic nations.

Blogs are interesting to me as a new site for debate and the role that they can play in a democratic republic.

Habermas theorized about the role of public space & democratic institutions. We can chart the growth and role of public or semi-public space in our democracy:

Early Republic: Taverns, Newspapers, Broadsheets.

Antebellum period: The rise of institutions like Orphanages; Hospitals; Lyceums; Libraries; Theaters; Concert Saloons; Schools; Universities; Benevolent work at churches; the growth of print culture and popular media, literature and newspapers.

(all of these things have continued to thrive in America - except we now call Lyceums public lectures.)

Nineteenth Century: The Steamboat and the trains have public spaces citizens could eat together and circulate. Women could network and travel in relative safety in the Ladies' car in trains or the Ladies' parlor in the steamboats.

Then of course we have the telegraph.

20th century: Radio; Movie Theaters; TV; and, of course, the internets.

We have quite a wealth of democratic institutions in this country. We're very lucky. I think these sites of public space are critical to sustain a healthy democracy.

downtownlad said...

Ann - It sounds like you're trying to get us to say that your comments section kicks ass.

Well, um, yeah - it does kick ass!

Ann Althouse said...

Downtownlad: I was mostly expressing my own appreciation of the commenters -- especially on that long thread, which I haven't been participating in.

I do see all the comments, even on old posts and even if you immediately delete, because they are emailed to me.

Jennifer said...

I do see all the comments, even on old posts and even if you immediately delete, because they are emailed to me.

Oh, I didn't realize that. I would have stuck an earlier comment on beards back in the beards thread then. Oops! Sorry about that.

That's good to know.

reader_iam said...

At so many other places, I think:

"So much bad faith, so little time."

Not here!

[\ [\ [\ to the commenters whom you attract.