Hate Comments

I regularly delete spam comments from this blog via MT-Blacklist, but have a policy of not removing non-commercial comments no matter how weird or off-topic, and regardless how much I disagree with them.

But this morning I awoke to find “white power” comments scattered across some older (totally out-of-context) posts, linking to a historical revisionist site “debunking the myth” of Martin Luther King. New policy: I leave up everything but commercial messages and hate speech. I guess “no matter how much I disagree” does have a threshold after all.

Music: Cab Calloway :: A Chicken Ain’t Nothin’ But A Bird

20 Replies to “Hate Comments”

  1. I’d classify this as commercial, whether it’s for-profit or something you’d see on TV or not. It may be a new form of advertising, but it’s still advertising.

    I haven’t been spammed *knocking wood* but there have been random, severely off-topic comments left on old posts that I’ve truncated or deleted altogether because they just don’t belong (though I usually leave a note explaining why); I figure most of them show up through some random google and are never coming back anyway.

    As far as the haters, I’ve only had one post where I got any noticeable amount of dissent, and it was on-topic and thought out, so I left it. I may be right ;) but the purpose of comments is to encourage discussion…

  2. Amazing article, chris. I had no idea this was going on.

    To me it seems that the distinction between avid (or acrid, as the case may be) debate/criticism and hate speech is that hate speech is directed at things you can’t much change about yourself – race, sex, religion, etc. as opposed to political beliefs, which one presumably reaches intentionally, and can change if one so desires.

  3. Gwen, that’s a good point – the point of the comment was not to comment on a post but to promote their own site, so in that sense, the comment was plain old blog spam.

  4. Not only is it going on at the political level, it’s going on at the cultural level:


    “An award-winning drawing blaming President Bush for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was pulled from a small-town exhibit over “insurance issues” after a businessman withdrew his $300 prize and called the piece a form of “hate speech.””

    David Neiwert has written a lot of eloquent postings on what he calls “eliminationist rhetoric”, the right-wing idea that not only are liberal ideas illegitimate, but liberals themselves must be eliminated from the public discourse, by whatever means necessary. A representative example:


  5. Chris, how ironic that the name of the censored piece was “The Tactics of Tyrants Are Always Transparent” – fits the situation so well (the businessman as tyrant, his tactic of censorship utterly transparent).

  6. Scot – it’s only censorship if it’s practiced by the government – I can burn any book I want in private and it’s not censorship – it’s my personal opinion.

  7. Ian, I’ve heard similar before, but dictionary.com’s definition does not seem to necessarily require a government agent. Do you know of a definition of censorship that specifically requires government action?

  8. Okay, I’ll grant you that, but are you constitutionally protected from censorship by parties other than the government? Which was basically my point.

  9. Ian, correct – one is only protected from censorship by the govt. But that doesn’t mean the businessman’s act was any less of a censure – a censure designed to prevent a certain political view from reaching the eyes of the public. And that’s tyrranical in my view.

  10. Would you think it’s tyrranical for me not to buy a book I disagree with? Or to speak out against a song I disagree with? The artist may have the right to present his art in any form he wishes, but the gallery owner also has the right not to display it.

  11. >Would you think it’s tyrranical for me not to buy a book I disagree with?

    Of course not. In what sense would that be comparable to this situation?

    > Or to speak out against a song I disagree with?

    Of course not! Speaking freely is the opposite of protecting something from public view.

    > The artist may have the right to present his art in any form he wishes, but the gallery owner also has the right not to display it.

    Of course does. Just don’t conflate censorship and free speech. They’re not the same thing at all. Deciding not to show the artwork is NOT a form of speech, even though it IS his right to censor the work if he chooses.

  12. Maybe if it was effective, but that point of view is rampant, so taking down one picture (for insurance reasons,I might add) by a gallery owner hardly qualifies as censorship or tyranny.

  13. Well, this is your house, so to speak. I’m just a guest who spray paints on the walls. Anything I spraypaint, you still have every right to remove if you are uncomfortable with it. As soon as I make you uncomfortable, I am not longer behaving as a consensual guest, and I am not being reasonable. You can control what is displayed here and its reasonable to not promote and display ideas you do not wish to display and promote.

  14. That makes no sense – so then every painting he chooses not to display in his gallery in censored? I find that definition too broad. Anyway, I’ll let you get back to the heart of your discussion, which is your right as a blog owner to choose which posts will appear in your comments section. As a blogger myself, I found Movable Type’s I blocker most effective, because when I did a geographic match-up for IPs that were spamming my blog (http://www.ip-to-location.com/free.asp), I found they were all students at some eastern university. I banned the Uni’s IP and that stopped it. Hope that helps.

  15. Ian, the definition of censorship is extremely broad, and is also very simple. From dictionary.com:

    “To examine and expurgate.”

    So, yes, it’s censorship, just as it is when I censor this blog by eliminating posts that offend. Interestingly, by this definition it is not censorship to block, only to remove.

    I would not be willing to block entire ranges of IPs — too many innocent readers are hurt by that. And most people have dynamically assigned IPs, so it’s not effective to ban individual IPs. MT-Blacklist takes care of the problem neatly by banning posts that promote given URLs, which gets right to the heart of the matter.

  16. Well, the gallery head didn’t examine the picture – when he heard the insurance price, he refused to show the painting sight unseen. If there was censorship, it was the sponsor who pulled his $300 prize, however, he wasn’t preventing anyone from seeing the picture, just not giving the artist any money.

    As to banning IPs, it turned out I didn’t need to ban a range, just one IP that they were all spamming from.

  17. Speaking of “debunking the myth”, here’s a sampler (no “hate speech” or empty rhetoric about “white power” necessary, or indeed apposite):


    Only 24 more years, and then I guess we’ll find out for sure.

    But that doesn’t mean the businessman’s act was any less of a censure – a censure designed to prevent a certain political view from reaching the eyes of the public.

    You’re calling two very different acts by the same name, which is bound to lead to confusion.

    If the government comes along and says “We won’t permit you to publish X”, then that is censorship in its purest form: the use of physical force to impose prior restraint, e.g. smashing a printing press.

    If a private businessman comes along and says “I won’t pay for you to publish X”, then–regardless of how much said businessman might wish it to be–that is not censorship: you are still at liberty to find someone else who will pay for publishing X, or pay for it yourself. Withdrawal of subsidy/patronage is not the same as withdrawal of all permission by force (see: National Endowment for the Arts).

    “When all else fails, and public funding of art faces real opposition, liberals cry censorship. This accusation turns truth on its head. You censor someone by actively hindering his self expression. Refusing to help someone express himself is not censorship; still less is it censorship to refuse to force others to help him. What liberals call “censorship”–such as ending the NEA–is respect for freedom: the freedom not to support what one does not wish to.”
    http://www.mises.org/journals/fm/fm596.asp#Who Should Pay for Art

    “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.”
    — Confucius(Kong Zhi)

    Both you and the businessman who withdrew his $300 prize have the inherent right to do as you wish with your own property: your blog, and his prize.

  18. Mark —

    I’m not sure what to make of the New American links – they seem to want to discredit Dr. King’s philosophy for reasons I can’t fathom. And they do so with reasons that make no sense. Why would anyone care that he was associated with communists? What, is this the 1950s? Is Communism not a valid political viewpoint? How in the world do communist associations discredit his thinking on race relations?

    That was a good and useful distinction on the difference between govt and private censorship.

    Not sure I understand the connection to debates over funding of the NEA. Anyone who claims that not funding the NEA equals censorship is just being inflammatory/naive. But at the same time, attempts to defund the NEA are just plain pathetic. “The freedom not to support what one does not wish to.” Are you suggesting that I shouldn’t have to pay taxes, or that I should be able to earmark exactly where my taxes go? This is a democracy. We all have to pay for things that we don’t like if the majority thinks we should pay for them. And fortunately for the last remainig shreds of American culture, the majority of people believe in public funding of public arts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *