Warren Ellis, the acerbic writer and social critic, discusses perhaps reinstating his commenting system, an idea he quickly rejects:
Which brings up another thing, and I’m not going to ascribe it to Charlie, who is a nice man, but it’s real – sometimes, your commenters, by which you often mean your audience and your readership, are really fucking annoying, and sometimes you don’t like them. Which you can’t say. Who’s going to pick up another book by a writer who says “My readers are awful pieces of shit and I can think of twenty of them, right off the bat, who should be drowned in hot pig blubber”? Nobody. “My audience are all complete pissflaps. Have you read my website comments threads? Utter inane gibberish. I would like to train a giant horse to fuck out all their eyes.” Who’s going to say that?
I guarantee you that even the sweetest and kindest writer has thought that exact thought more than once in their lives. And its corollary: “Oh god, my readers are such horrible demented shitbags, what am I doing so wrong that I attract them all to me?”
Just as I know that every writer has dropped the ball at least once and disappointed a reader. Or exposed themselves as a total prick or a frothing nutter.
Running a blog puts you a bit more on the front line with readers, but at recent events in which I interacted with real life humans, disparaging remarks about the Beat’s recent comments were frequent and mortifying. For whatever reason, this seems to have become a Newsarama refugee camp and the results are discouraging. Sure there are entertaining byways of history going on here and there, like comics figures Tom Mason and Paul Power disputing something that happened in an auto garage many years ago in the Platinum thread. But so much more of it should be strangled in its crib—the best example being someone who was getting a drubbing in some argument inventing a new screen name and then complaining that the thread was out of control. I can see ISPs, you know.
I’ve never seriously considered turning off comments—the utility of corrections and amplifications still being present—but I’m been thinking of putting in a more robust comment modding system of some kind. NOT FACEBOOK. I would never require someone to be on Facebook to have free speech, no matter how subnormal that speech might be. I don’t really have time to ruthlessly police the comments, and I would rather put resources towards hiring writers than just blocking idiots. But, oh,
what a world we live in.
As with many things, however, implementing this will have to wait until the site gets an overhaul in the next few months.
So in the meantime…BEHAVE. And don’t be a subnormal pissflap.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.