Last Comment on Comments (Read The Comments 3)

“Don’t read the comments!” translates as follows: “Don’t read, don’t discuss: Leave public discourse to people who for whatever reasons happen to command relatively high-profile platforms already. If you are one of those people, pull up the ladder behind you, and sneer at those below.”

Put more precisely, “Don’t read the comments!” and its allied gestures, like advertising a post’s, blog’s, or site’s prohibition of comments, or, as on one popular blog, refraining from identification of e-mailers supposedly in the interest of fostering discussion, are meta-comments on comments, or comments in another format. As an emptily self-gratifying, attention-seeking, and otherwise pointless attack on strangers, the particular meta-comment “Don’t read the comments!” further qualifies – or disqualifies itself – as a “troll” comment.

The non-trolling or serious response to unsalvageably obnoxious comments sections is to support responsible sites: Not “Don’t read the comments!” but “Read and comment where commenting is taken seriously!” – or, for those of us who operate our own sites, “Take commenting seriously!”

I myself returned to blogging and to writing in general as a blog commenter. At many sites I find comments threads more interesting than posts, and I frequently discover topics for new posts through comment-thread discussion. In my observation the refusal to participate, one volunteer in the Army of Letters to another, is often among the first signs of a blogger’s creeping careerism and intellectual conformism.

I do not aim at this blog for quantity over quality. I will remove comments that I deem offensive or insulting, or that I find indistinguishable from “comment spam” (which often takes the form of praise, usually garbled and generic), though I do regret that more visitors – whose numbers I track via site statistics – do not pause to offer their thoughts even briefly, or to email them to me if too shy to comment in the threads. I am grateful to the visitors who, sometimes without commenting or explaining themselves, have given donations (though I’m beginning to wonder whether you all will ever start Cent-Upping).

To improve the commenter and comment-reader experience here, I have recently added new comment editing and formatting tools, I am continuing to research other enhancements, and I’m happy to take suggestions. In the coming weeks, I expect to be adding Commenter Pages (collecting every commenters’ contributions in one place, with enhanced features for registered commenters) and Comment Titles (further encouraging commenters to treat their comments as “posts” in another format). I have resisted adoption of an externally hosted commenting system like Disqus, Livefyre, or Facebook Comments, since, whatever their virtues, they make the level of customization I seek difficult or impossible. Where, however, they approach the level of integration and convenience in which a comment smoothly converts into a tweet or update, a tweet or update converts smoothly into a comment or post, and a comment anywhere is already a post everywhere, they define the challenge to bloggers and developers who accept social media on their own terms, as tools rather than threatening distractions, but who also want to maintain independence.

At some point, I may even address the visual convention that always places the post “above” its discussion, not to erase the difference between a piece of writing carefully crafted and an offhand reply or set of replies, but to let the difference, when it is a qualitative difference rather than a merely presumed or conventional superiority, stand forth on its own.

textcontext copy

writer also = blogger, artist, etc.; reader also = user; a “comment” is also a text, or the re-emergence or “expression” of the “context” (as re-conceived or altered by experience or absorption of the text) within or as a new text, and so on.

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Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

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2 comments on “Last Comment on Comments (Read The Comments 3)

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  1. I take DRTC as a reaction as much as anything else – as such representing an understandable although not articulated critique, and therefore mainly unaware/uncaring of its limitations.   Vox does seem to combine this with an air of smugness at its particular brand of dumbing downess.  So I guess I see the commentlessness a symptom not the disease even as they see it as a feature not a bug.

    For my part, I view your planned heightened prominence of commenters with some alarm.  I just as soon some of my comments never see the light of a Wireless Mobile Device again.  This may derive partly from my non-participation in social media, and I recognize that it may represent an idiosyncratic view that is unhelpful to the development of your blog.  Further expression of this is the fact that I never comment at sites using the externally hosted commenting systems you mentioned.  They always seem to be trying to herd me into behavior I don’t have an interest in.

    On the other hand, you have a vision of possible alternatives in blogness and I find that interesting and would like to see it play out.  My ambivalence perhaps is a feature not a bug.

    • Aw, don’t be alarmed – whatever we say will still remain drops in an ocean among oceans – but you may have to accept that blogging and blog-commenting are already social and mediating, which means that for all you know your first comments or links however many years ago on Emptiness are right now being Snapchatted by Buddhism-curious pre-teens in between snippets of Iggy Azalea videos and quick-pics of their parents.

      The changes I have in mind here will at first simply make it easier for you, or for someone interested in your thoughts, to view your comments together, and to proceed from them to the contexts of discussion in which they occurred. People may also be encouraged to find their way to Atomic Geography.

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Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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