Cen$orsh!p: Do you practice it?

In many countries, people are protected by laws regarding freedom of expression.  Thankfully, I’ve never been marginalized and have the liberty of expressing my opinions without fear of backlash or censorship.  For some, this isn’t the case–just ask Judy Blume, J.D. Salinger, or J.K. Rowling.  The banning of books is a hot-button issue for me (and for many others).

So, how has it come to pass that I find myself censoring someone else? 

Last week I wrote a post that loosely compared literary diets to the USDA’s Food Pyramid.  The feedback from readers was positive and people seemed to connect and see the humor and parallels…until Sunday night.

Sunday evening I found a ‘Pending Comment’ from a new reader.  I read the comment and couldn’t believe what I was reading.  Shut up!  This is lousy…” it read.  The comment went on to detail how my comparison of the Food Pyramid and a reading diet was essentially baseless. 

Reading it, the heat rose in my cheeks…indignation and a touch of humiliation.  My mouse arrow hovered over the ‘Delete Comment’ button for a long minute but I resisted.  I decided to post the comment–I didn’t want to practice censorship on my blog.  But in the end, I didn’t approve the comment and it’s still sitting in my ‘Pending Comments’ queue.  I’m not sure what to do with it.  The woman made some salient points, but the negativity and sheer meaness put me off.

I talked it over with my hubby and he said that I didn’t have to approve any comment I didn’t want to approve.  I argued that since I put myself (via my words) out there, I can’t be a Revisionista, approving only positive comments.  He disagreed, saying that the commentor disparaged me on a personal level, telling me to, “…shut up!”.  I worry that I’m compromising my (and Book, Line, and Sinker’s) integrity by ‘editing away’ this comment.

I guess my inaction could be considered ‘Passive Censorship’–not approving OR deleting the comment.  I’m hanging on to it for now…infringing on the commenter’s right to freedom of expression–censorship from the comfort of my own home.   

Have you had to deal with critical comments or emails related to your blog?  How did you handle them?  Am I compromising this blog’s integrity by blocking comments like these?  Or am I just too sensitive?!?

23 Comments

  • At 2009.08.25 02:45, The Biblio Brat said:

    First of all, why – and how, could she have taken what you did so seriously? I found it a fun way to look at my reading habits. It wasn’t like you were doing a dissertation on the literary digestive system.

    As for my own experience with critical comments. I’ve been lucky. I haven’t had too many, and all of them have been constructively provided.

    However, there are some out there, who leave comments only to incite at best a flame war among your more loyal readers, or at worst, make you feel angry enough to lower yourself to their level.

    If any comment left on my blog is meant well, then I’ll approve it. I state clearly on my “About” page that I don’t mind if anyone disagrees with me, just please do it agreeably.

    This doesn’t seem to be the case here as she apparently attacked you as much as she did your post.

    You are not too sensitive and I don’t feel like you are compromising your integrity. If this person wants to be heard, to make viable points regarding her disagreement, then she should learn some tact.

    That being said, the 1st Amendment does give us the right to voice our opinions. It is sad that others think this permission to be downright rude and nasty.

    WordPress allows you to edit comments. Instead of deleting it, you could approve it with an addendum, including a link to this post, so that others can see the struggle of conscience you experienced.

    • At 2009.08.25 03:30, bybee said:

      I’d put it up there and let the whole blogosphere see what a humorless, ill-mannered ass she is, which is what she seems to have intended.

      • At 2009.08.25 06:16, Mary said:

        At first I agreed with bybee but then I thought that usually only encourages the negative people. I say, it’s your blog and you set the tone. It’s up to you to allow it or not.

        • At 2009.08.25 07:46, bermudaonion said:

          It sounds like that comment was totally out of line. I agree with your husband – you don’t have to approve any comment you find offensive. Luckily, this is not an issue I’ve had to deal with.

          • At 2009.08.25 08:18, Steph said:

            We’ve had a few “argumentative” comments on our site, and generally we’ll go ahead and post them and respond to the negative nelly, but it doesn’t happen all that often, and when it does, it tends to be a “drive-by posting”. The first time we got a negative comment, I did hesitate to post it, but Tony went ahead and did so, and I think that’s fine… In this case I might because the person, despite being negative, does go into reasons why she disagrees with your post, which you could address in a follow-up comment. If the post were simply a personal attack (or largely one), where there is nothing constructive or thoughtful, then I wouldn’t think twice about simply deleting it. I mean, we delete spam for not being useful or helpful/relevant to the discussion, right?

            • At 2009.08.25 08:41, Positively Present said:

              Negativity sucks! Don’t let ’em get you down. 🙂 Your site is awesome!

              • At 2009.08.25 09:17, wordlily said:

                I generally allow such comments to remain on my site. Actually, I don’t think I’ve deleted/moderated a single comment unless it was spam.

                • At 2009.08.25 10:20, Jen - Devourer of Books said:

                  I don’t think that I’ve really deleted any comments, but there was one point, after I wrote a negative review of Twilight, when I had to put up a statement saying that I didn’t mind comments that disagreed with me, but purposefully rude comments might be deleted. More recently I allowed a relatively rude comment, but replied to it on my blog saying that there was no cause to be so rude, particularly to the people reading my blog (she wasn’t just attacking me). If she leaves another similar comment, I have no problem deleting it and putting her back on comment moderation, or even blocking her.

                  I figure, it is my site. It would be intellectually dishonest to delete comments that disagreed with me, even vehemently so, but people that are looking to take something out on others aren’t adding to the conversation, so I don’t have a problem warning or deleting them.

                  • At 2009.08.25 14:26, vivienne said:

                    I would just delete it. I have had a couple of really nasty ones over the last couple of months, really slagging off books by certain authors. I know they are entitled to an opinion, but there is no need for nastiness, especially on my blog. So go ahead and delete it, their comments were obviously upsetting and you are worth more than that. Your blog rocks!

                    • At 2009.08.25 14:42, Tracie said:

                      I don’t think that you any integrity by blocking comments. It is your “space” in the world and if you don’t like it, then you can delete it. So it is really up to you…and what you are comfortable with and what you are not; and everyone’ answer is not going to be the same.

                      My philosophy is this: I would allow comments that stuck to what I had written…even if it was derogatory, “mean” whatever. If it was a personal insult…like, “you are dumb to write this” then it gets deleted. The only person allowed to call me any names is myself…period.

                      Good luck 🙂

                      • At 2009.08.25 17:09, Kerri said:

                        Thankfully I haven’t had any negative comments to date. (I’m knocking on my wood desk as I type). I think you should feel no regret deleting anything that starts with Shut Up. However, if you choose to post it, I would suggest you write a retort. Although, this post is probably a pretty good retort in of itself.

                        • At 2009.08.26 10:49, Megan said:

                          Oy! Like others have said, I wouldn’t hesitate to delete something nasty or vindictive. If a commenter wants to rail against your obviously tongue-in-cheek, fun blog post and be a total wet blanket, let them start their own blog!

                          I’ve had a few random comments that weren’t mean, persay, but they were obviously plugging a product and/or spinning some tiny part of a post I wrote into something way beyond what I intended. I deleted them, and I don’t feel bad about it!

                          You’re awesome! 🙂

                          • At 2009.08.26 10:57, Jennifer said:

                            I have been reading your blog for about a month or so and have enjoyed it. I can’t imagine what that woman got out of being so mean. I have always been the type if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything. I think she is a sad person if she must resort to commenting in such a nasty fashion. I for one think it was a clever blog and hope you keep them coming. I think you have every right to hit the delete button, while blogging puts you out there, it shouldn’t give someone the right to be nasty.

                            • At 2009.08.26 14:52, Holley said:

                              I’d say as long as the comment does not contain, I don’t know, curse words or anything, let it stand. Then you can watch us all come strongly to your defense!

                              • At 2009.08.26 19:16, melanie said:

                                I’ve deleted spam, but nothing else. A couple of months ago I posted about a political subject and got a few very, very negative comments. I left them, but wouldn’t have felt particularly sorry if I had deleted them. The blog is my piece of journalism, as it were, and I can choose what I publish, can’t I?

                                Love love love your blog!

                                • At 2009.08.27 14:35, justicejenniferreads said:

                                  My blog is still relatively new and luckily I have only gotten positive feedback so far – I’m not sure what I would do if I got negative comments! However, in the past, I had a personal livejournal that would get the occasional mean comment. I kept most of my entries private, but haters still managed to find me. I remember blogging about their mean comments just like you are blogging about your experience.

                                  Personally, I don’t believe removing a negative comment is a bad thing – especially if it has no merit at all. That being said, I still kept my hater’s comments around. If anything, I think seeing them kept me grounded. No matter how successful you might be with readers, someone won’t appreciate your work and will bash it. It’s something inevitable and I think it’s a good idea to learn to feed off of criticism as well as praise.

                                  I’m going to be an RA this upcoming year and one of the questions they asked me upon hiring was, “how do you like to receive criticism?” I almost wanted to blurt out, “I don’t.” But then I realized that some criticism is important to us learning and growing. I guess the key is to remember how many of us love your blog and enjoyed that piece on the reading pyramid (I know I loved it regardless of what anyone else might think!)

                                  • At 2009.08.29 09:09, Beth F said:

                                    Such a difficult issue. No one likes to be attacked. I would likely approve any comment that was not horrifyingly offensive. Rudeness will be seen as such by your readers, so you will be hurting the commenter — not yourself — by approving. But it is your blog and you really have ultimate control.

                                    • At 2009.08.30 12:18, Chris@bookarama said:

                                      That’s a tough one. On the one hand, it does set a lousy tone to read nastiness… on the other, the commenter gets to see just what a jerk they are on a public forum.

                                      Was it anonymous? If they have nerve to post something rude, then they should leave their name. If it was anon, I’d probably delete it.

                                      • At 2009.08.31 22:59, Steve said:

                                        I’ve not (yet) faced this dilemma, at least on my blog. I have had one pointless, insulting, and rude @reply to a tweet I sent which caused me to ask myself why anybody would be so totally destructive. I ignored it and, thankfully, so did everyone else in the twitterverse (I think!).

                                        If (ok WHEN) this happens to me, I hope that I’m able to glean something constructive, or at least validly critical. If so, I expect I’ll allow it, perhaps with some moderators comments embedded.

                                        • At 2009.09.08 19:13, Kari said:

                                          One of our blog authors wrote a scathing review for a book he absolutely hated and found disturbing and disgusting. We then had a comment by an ‘anonymous’ author that personally attacked the reviewer. I deleted it at first, but then thought twice. If our reviewer can be completely honest without censoring his criticism, why not let the commenter give his opinion as well? I re-posted the comment. I also discovered the commenter was the author. Maturity abounds on both sides!

                                          PS – I found your blog on the BBAW shortlists. I gotta give you props…it’s not very often that I feel the need to comment on so many posts!

                                          • At 2009.09.08 19:55, Jenners said:

                                            I’m glad I haven’t had a truly negative comment yet … I live in fear. I guess I’ll cross this bridge when I come to it.

                                            • At 2009.09.14 20:39, institutrice said:

                                              I had a woman verbally attack me last year after I wrote a vent-ful post about a bad day at school. She slammed me from every side – intelligence, teaching ability, even the fact that I wear glasses. I experienced the exact same feeling you described about the heat rising in your cheeks!!! (Along with a knot in my gut. ;-)) I approved her first comment, and tried to explain myself while encouraging her to read my story from the beginning to understand how I had come to feel so negatively about my class. She just got nastier and nastier, making fun of me on more and more posts, so I put her on my blacklist. 😉

                                              It’s your blog, and you are in control. If something someone says makes you uncomfortable, you absolutely have the right to censor it.

                                              • At 2009.09.22 20:40, Marie said:

                                                I got an anonymous anti-Semitic comment on my blog once, on a review I did of a book about Israel. I deleted it. Then, later, I comment I thought was disrespectful and insensitive to me, about someone who had died. I left it, though I was tempted to delete it, and responded with another comment. So, I guess it depends. Real nastiness I will delete. Immaturity I will leave for the world to see.

                                                (Required)
                                                (Required, will not be published)

                                                CommentLuv badge