Option to ban a specific troll from the comments (Updated)

Update: The poll closed early at fred’s request. fred is now banned.

In order to improve the quality of the comment section, yet uphold the ideals of free speech and democracy, readers of the blog Restructure! can vote on whether commenter ‘fred’ should be banned. I will honour the results of the vote. (If the motion to ban fred does not pass, I can put it to vote again sometime in the future.) fred may appeal the ban by submitting a persuasive essay on whether or not minorities are at a disadvantage within a democracy.

Here is a sample comment by fred:

At first, I wasn’t sure whether you were black. But after reading that last comment it’s obvious. Its devoid of reason and logic. […]

The poll closes in a week.

Some thoughts on voting by Spider Jerusalem of Transmetropolitan are below the fold (trigger warning for a description of sexual assault with a weapon). Vote first, then, if you choose to, read the comic.

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The Ethics of Comment Moderation

Some people argue that bloggers have a responsibility to moderate hateful comments, but this abstraction often assumes that the blogger is an able-bodied, middle-to-upper-class, heterosexual, white, cis man who is not the target of the hateful comments. If the blogger is from a marginalized group, is she responsible for protecting her readers from hateful comments directed at her or her group?

When readers ask the blogger to moderate hateful comments, there seems to be an unquestioned assumption that if the hateful comments or trolls are not publicly visible, then these comments and trolls have ‘disappeared’. However, what usually happens for most blog setups is that the hateful comments go straight into the blogger’s Inbox and need to be processed along with other e-mails.

Comment moderation requires time and energy. When I have to read hateful comments closely to press the appropriate moderation button, it is more unpleasant and time-wasting than when I skim and mentally skip hateful comments.

Moreover, banning trolls often has the effect of increasing their bigotry and directing bigoted (e.g., racist, sexist) personal attacks towards the blogger herself. For example, the only commenter I have banned so far goes by the name of “goaler”, “Anonymous”, “brett weir”, or “jerky boy”, a White Canadian man living in Metropolitan Toronto, which is where I live as well. Before I banned him, he at least tried to pretend he wasn’t racist. Now that he is silenced on my blog, I get racist comments in my Inbox calling me a “racist chink”; other comments with the words “chink”, “sp**k”, and “sp*c”; and shameless declarations that white people are superior to people of other races. This White Canadian man also appears to have a predilection for fellatio, and said, more than once, that he would perform sexual acts upon me.

(Dear Journalists: This is why bloggers from marginalized groups want to use pseudonyms. If I blogged under my real name, I would probably quit blogging by now.)

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The term “moderate Muslim” is still Islamophobic.

George Lakoff is a professor of cognitive linguistics at UC Berkeley, and the author of Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. While Lakoff’s book is generally a great instructional tool for American progressives, he is still encumbered by a Western bias, which is evident in his framing of Islam and Muslims. Lakoff’s hidden assumption is that Islam is fundamentally violent, but that Islam in moderation is tolerable and acceptable. That is, Lakoff’s prototype of Islam is that Islam is centrally violent, and his concept of a non-violent Islam is that it is atypical or non-prototypical. Moreover, Lakoff accepts a worldview in which “Islam” and “the West” are polar opposites, and that a non-violent Islam is non-violent because it falls somewhere on the continuum between “Islam” and “the West”. Within this frame, of course, “Islam” is violent and “the West” represents non-violence.

Lakoff frames terrorism as arising from cultural difference.

Lakoff is a progressive, but his understanding of “radical Islamic fundamentalists” is borrowed from American conservatives’ understanding of “Islam”. Instead of dismantling the conservative frame that characterizes Islam as inherently violent and backwards, Lakoff keeps the conservative frame and adds the disclaimer that this characterization is not representative of most Muslims. In Don’t Think of an Elephant, p. 59, Lakoff writes:

The question that keeps being asked in the media is, Why do they hate us so much?

It is important at the outset to separate moderate-to-liberal Islam from radical Islamic fundamentalists, who do not represent most Muslims.

Radical Islamic fundamentalists hate our culture. They have a worldview that is incompatible with the way that Americans—and other Westerners—live their lives.

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