“I have always tried to live in an ivory tower, but a tide of shit is beating at its walls, threatening to undermine it.” — Gustave Flaubert
“If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business.” — Abraham Lincoln
“It’s our party; we get to decide who comes.” — Nick Denton, Founder, Gawker Media
“I only read the comments.” — My Sister
It’s evident that the comments section is one of the best things about this website. The dissemination of useful information, the development of useful ideas, the manifestation of diverse personalities, the formation and strengthening of community bonds, and the occasional peaceful resolution of emotional personal/political disputes that takes place in the comments section on a regular basis are all highly worthwhile products of this endeavor. Of course, the world is a better place when people communicate more effectively, even at the smallest margins. And if this place is anything, it’s a place where at least some people communicate at least a bit more effectively at the smallest margins.
For that, everyone who participates or has participated in this, even in the smallest way at the smallest margins, may nod knowingly. Salute.
But still, of course, it could always be better, which is why we’re publishing this official statement of policy on commenting and free speech.
It should also be noted at the outset that another thing that’s evident is the personal value of participating in mankind’s search for truth, especially as it pertains to Cleveland, Browns and things. Science is conclusive as to the manifold benefits to mental health that result from consistent honest expression of ideas, even if these ideas are only expressed in a private journal. When such ideas are processed in a healthy open forum, the benefits become exponential from there, which is why folks were nodding knowingly above.
Of course, it takes a significant amount of work to maintain such a forum, and a big part of this is keeping the comments section free from diminishing clutter. The hard part is understanding what qualifies as “diminishing clutter,” a problem made worse by the widely held misconception that just because a forum exists on the internet, anyone should have a right to a voice in it provided they follow certain basic rules involving the use of profanity and personal (ad hominem) attacks.
Such a rule might be fine for a place like Cleveland.com, or an outlet with a similar lack of concern for what’s posted in its comment section, but to understand why a higher standard is applied here, it’s better to think of this place as a cross between a dinner party and a committee convened to solve problems. One wouldn’t invite just anyone to a good dinner party, nor to participate on an effective problem-solving committee. In real life, if the host of the dinner party or the decisionmakers of such a committee found your participation to be diminishing, you wouldn’t be invited back. Notably, this wouldn’t implicate your right to “free speech” nor any of your First Amendment rights in the slightest (unless the dinner party host or committee decisionmakers were acting on behalf of the government in denying your participation, and even only then under certain extreme circumstances). Here at Frowns, you’ve got a much better deal, because while your comment might be deleted, you’ll almost always be allowed back, which is still all perfectly fine under the First Amendment, of course. Chin up!
Of course, no dinner party or problem-solving committee is perfect, and nor is this system whereby the administrator of the forum is the one who decides what qualifies as “diminishing clutter.” Results often vary, even somewhat widely at times, but this variation is only natural, mainly depending on the amount of time and energy that the administrator has to effectively address the diminishing clutter without deleting it, or the time, energy and inclination that other members of the community have to do the same. Of course, time and energy are limited resources, and when those limits are reached, this website’s choice is to let them fall on the deleted comments rather than to risk allowing this forum to be a safe haven for ignorance and regression by leaving such comments up unaddressed.
And yes of course these decisions are personal and political. It should be understood that words and ideas matter (especially words and ideas about Cleveland, Browns and things), and that what’s right often isn’t at all what’s going to offend the fewest people (or provoke the fewest to pollute a good forum with diminishing clutter). It’s also understood that folks have their own different ideas about what’s right and wrong, that a big part of being a decent human is constant evaluation of one’s own such ideas, and that honest disagreement is what makes the world go around. While an effort is sometimes made to address even those comments that are believed to make the world a safer place for ignorance and regression, the few that get deleted are usually the ones that were made with a certain level of disregard for logic, the English language, or basic rules of human decency and procedural order. Still, as much effort as is made to avoid this, a perfectly honest, thoughtful and well intentioned comment might sometimes get caught in the vortex here, which is (or would be) truly regrettable.
Anyway, omelettes, eggs. And it hardly ever happens. The more you feel that it happens too frequently to you, the more likely it is that you should either get a better worldview, find another forum, or start your own. Or else try harder with the logic and/or the English. Under the First Amendment, you’re allowed to do all of these things. God bless America, God bless Cleveland, Browns and things, and thank you for reading and understanding. You guys are the best.