We live in strange times when even the purveyors of conspiracy theories and pseudoscientific nonsense gape in awe at the horrors they have wrought. Giorgio Tsoukalos has happily fronted a TV series that has reveled in all manner of conspiracy theories, from anti-government speculations to Russophile propaganda, and at once point he literally claimed that space aliens made a peace treaty with the coelacanth to spare it from extinction. But this week even Tsoukalos couldn’t fathom how it was that his fans could hold baffling conspiracy theories in their heads at the same time, namely that all of NASA’s visits to the moon were fake but that the U.S. secretly traveled to Mars and established a colony there.
Not to point out the obvious, but if your whole career is based on making wild and unsubstantiated claims about every subject under the sun, how can you really be surprised that your fans are unhinged loons who take it to the logical extreme?
But since I have to spend much of this weekend working on book-related projects, I wanted to take this opportunity to address some of the issues that have emerged over the comments section of this blog. Too often, these comments have descended into personal insults, political feuding, and off-topic discussions. I am, frankly, at a bit of a loss as to what to do about it.
Here is the problem: I don’t have the time to read all of the comments, and I can only waste so much time pruning and deleting them. I have a filter in place to block the most egregious comments. Seriously: If you think what you read now is bad, you should look at my “pending” comments folder. Ever wanted to read hundreds of 500-word-long rants about how Jesus’ UFO will come to burn all the sinners? I also have an IP blocker that restricts posting from specific IP addresses that have abused posting privileges. However, that is easy enough to circumvent if someone is motivated enough.
Since IP blocking is not particularly effective, my only other tool for controlling comments involves delaying or eliminating comments. I could close blog posts to comments. It is not my preference, but many major websites have ended up doing this because of the problems comments cause. I could also hold all comments for moderation and only post approved comments. Again, this is not my preference, but it may be the only way to avoid libelous, insulting, and off-topic comments. However, because I am not able to be present on the blog around the clock (I usually log in once a day in the evening to set up the post for the next morning) the delay is likely to be significant.
So, this brings me to a bigger issue: There are only perhaps a dozen or so people who regularly post comments, a minuscule fraction of the tens of thousands of people who read this blog on any given day. It seems unfair to make rules based on the interests of a dozen people against the entire audience, so I would like to ask everyone reading this, especially those who do not post comments to share your thoughts. How would you like to see the comments section changed?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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