The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates has a comments section on his blog that's become renowned for its level of discourse. "I always tell people it's like a dinner party, and I try to host it that way," Coates told NPR's On The Media. "I try to keep the conversation interesting, in terms of what is the bane of all comments sections and that is, you know, rude commentary, people going over the line, controlling, "that sort of thing. I generally follow the same rule, so I always tell people, if you were in my house and you insulted one of my guests, I would ask you to leave. I don't understand why it would be any different in a comments section."
Say word. On Coates's blog, there's still room for digressions and debate over fine points, but readers joke and offer up book suggestions and related reading. For the most part, they flag or ignore the trolls and assume the good faith of their fellow commenters.
That's the kind of commenting environment we're trying to foster here at Code Switch. But it didn't just happen by accident — it takes constant monitoring and pruning. That's especially important for us here, since our primary concerns are race, ethnicity and culture. We encourage people to share their experiences about their own cultures, and in trying to create a safe space for that kind of thing, we're going to err against allowing people to say denigrating things about other cultures.
So you may have noticed that lots of comments on Code Switch articles have been removed over the past week. Many of the comments we've taken down have been of a few broad types, and we figured it would be helpful to highlight the types of comments that we keep having to ax, with some actual comments — many of which have been deleted — as examples.
1) "Why Are You/We Talking About This?!?!"
- Honestly, who cares what NBA players say about anything? I don't care what Actresses say about foreign policy either. How is this given credence as news?
- Why are there so many articles about gays?
- Please!!!! Stop the nonsense with this non story!
- Why is this dreck on NPR at all?
We cover so many things here at NPR: war and conflict, science, sports, economics, music, politics, and movies. Race and culture informs all of those things, so we're going to dig into it. But if this isn't really your bag, we hope you holler at the many, many other dope sections of NPR.org.
- I take issue with this story's classification of this grammatically incorrect euphamism "yo" as a "solution". I understand the linguist's interest with the placement of "yo" as a gender ambiguous pronoun, however, it's still slang. In slang there are MANY pronouns that do not exist in ANY language. The fact that linguists are looking at whether or not as adults, these individuals will "keep that in the workplace", is laughable. Bottom line, if "yo" use that in the workplace, "yo" will be working at McDonalds for the rest of "yo" lives.
- Glad to learn some people like this (c)rap. I'm with the ones who don't. First, it's not MUSIC. At best it's spoken word with monotonous background noise. Second, there are plenty of outlets for this kind of story where it won't be boring and exasperating everyone else because people who like this stuff are their listeners. Yes, it's national PUBLIC radio, and as far as I can tell we're still in the US where freedom to express our opinions is protected. To NPR: please find something else to broadcast, or put this kind of thing on in the middle of the night, and put your sports stories right next to it.
Woo-sah. The richness and variety of cultural expression across the world is one of our primary fascinations at Code Switch, and we're going to be dedicating a lot of time to it. And more importantly, that expression is worthy of exploration and thoughtful reporting whether or not you personally feel that slang or hip-hop or whatever is the nadir of the human condition.
3) "Group X Is Objectively Terrible, And I Have Proof" (or "It's Not Racist, It's Just The Truth")
As you might imagine, this is by far the biggest class of offender here at Code Switch, and these will look familiar to anyone who's ever waded into a comments section to a post about race. (There are quite a few subspecies of this one: I met an Asian guy one time and he said X, therefore Asian-Americans think X; No, you're the real racists!; etc.)
- What in the hell are you talking about? I live in WI, Milwaukee to be specific, and there is a reason why more blacks are incarcerated and it has nothing to do with racism. Sad to say but there are loads of black males that simply do not know how to act going from the south side all the way to the north side.
- The greater the proportion of Muslim population, the less benign it becomes. In many countries, the controversy isn't over whether it is okay to kill infidels — that's taken as a given. The controversy is to what extent it's okay to kill Muslims in order to advance Islam.
- In california black , and hispanic neighborhoods are horrible. Top 3 reasons for both 1. Have kids too young of an age 2. Too many drugs 3. Father no where to be found IF their family units were stronger, they would survive and prosper like many Asians have here in America. They can take their racist crap and eat the truth instead.
- its not the skin color, its the combative loud attitude that people dont want to deal with, hrmm why is it white people and asian's can co-exist in harmony? Or are they both white now?
- Here is the thing, there are good neighbors and bad neighbors. Bad neighbors make house values drop, good neighbors make house values rise. Anyone that has been to an all black community knows what happens to house values, no one takes care of their yard etc etc. There are exceptions, but it is not the "RULE" to have a good black neighbor. Has nothing to do with their skin, it has more to do with their attitude, and lack of pride of ownership.
- First I want to say I am Nigerian from Africa a black women, our people sold you all over the world not just the US. You dont have one city in the world you built yourself. You will be the down fall of America. Why wont you work for your self. I know there are plenty of jobs.Look at all the foreigners that come here and work. Not you, let me get anything I can for free and sale drugs,thieve,rob,anything that is easy. 80 percent of prisons are filled with black men. The prof is in the pudding.
4) "It's Censorship!" (Or "Your Removal Of My Comment Is Evidence Of Your Conservative/Liberal Agenda!")
A lot of times after someone's comment is deleted for one of the above offenses, they get heated. They then post follow-up comments insisting that we've infringed upon their right to be obnoxious on the Internet.
- Apparently the powers that be (a$$hole$ [at least this time the purge will be justified]) don't like any of the three perfectly rule-compliant comments I have made on this topic. . .Such censorship is patently opaque, intolerant and more importantly COMPLETELY UN FAIR!!
- All of us are getting deleted! It seems that author dislikes the "Public" part of NPR...
No one likes to be shushed. But a comment complaining about the removal of a separate comment is even less germane to the conversation that's happening. And again, we're going for dinner party, not mosh pit. If you take a look at our community discussion rules, you'll see that it says we reserve the right to delete comments. But removing a comment does not infringe upon your ability to make the same statement elsewhere. To paraphrase Coates: the beauty of the Web is that whatever [our] comments section is, it's not the Internet. There are plenty of places available to anyone to make the same comment that might not fly here.
Tell us in the comments section of this post if there's a type of annoying response that we missed here and about which we should be more mindful. And, if you take issue with our, uh, active curation of our comments, we genuinely encourage you to holler at NPR's ombudsman. That's what he's there for.
We want you to talk to us. No, really — talk to us. We envision our comment section as a big part of the reason people will come to Code Switch. But we've just started, and this is more art than science. If it's going to be the thoughtful, engaging, funny space we hope it will be, we'll need your help.