On Anonymous Comments

Last week, agent Nathan Bransford mentioned that he is considering disabling anonymous comments on his blog as a result of a couple of trolls who are making inappropriate comments. The response was heated, to say the least.

Now, of course, Nathan can do whatever he likes on his own blog. Plus, Nathan has a day job that doesn't involve moderating the hundreds of blog comments to make sure they're all appropriate every single day. Who has the time, right? So whatever he wants to do over there is his business. I'll still read the blog, regardless of what Nathan decides about anonymous comments, because it's entertaining and useful, a win/win of blogs, if you will.

But I don't think I'll be posting over there anymore.*

Why not?

Not because I'm some ideologue who assumes that she has the right to say whatever she wants wherever she wants. (I don't.) Not because I'm "taking a stand" against the banning of anonymous comments. It's Nathan's blog. He has the perfect right to do whatever he wants with the comments, and should do whatever he feels necessary to make running the blog palatable to him.

So if it's not the theory of "censorship"** and it's not Nathan, what is it?

Frankly, the other commenters on this post. There are about a hundred comments on this post that say something like "I can't believe you want to be a writer if you can't even stand up for what you believe in."***

Here's the thing: I can. I'm a LAWYER. All I do all day is stand up for what I believe in.

And I object to the underlying assumption in that statement that people who choose to post anonymously**** are cowards who shouldn't be writers. Yeah, because there's no rationale reason why someone who is NOT a coward would ever want to put something on the internet (where it will stay for YEARS) with his name attached.

Like, for example, if you went on Nathan's blog and suggested, maybe, that the fact that he rejects people in, literally, seconds might be a sign that he's not managing his time properly or taking his submissions seriously,***** it would be totally cool to sign your name, right? Because none of Nathan's huge fans would be upset by that at all, right? And they wouldn't, I don't know, google you and send messages to your work email account or leave anonymous comments on your blog talking about how you obviously don't understand Nathan and are probably a talentless loser who should ROT IN HELLDIEDIEDIE!!!

No, debates on the internet never get out of hand, do they?

But the funny thing is that the fact that conversations on the internet get out of hand is the reason why some people chose to post anonymously. And, for the moment at least, I don't want to get into conversations with people who can't recognize that. Even if I'm using my real name.


* Not that this is a huge loss for Nathan since (a) I hardly ever commented anyway and (b) he has no idea who I am. :)

** I use the term loosely.

*** I'm paraphrasing.

**** I'm not one of those people. I wasn't, anyway.

***** I am NOT suggesting this, by the way. As Josh Olson says, "It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't." This is just an example of criticism that Nathan has faced in the past.


Good post. Don't forget the sheer force of laziness. Some sites require all sorts of silly information that I may or may not be in the mood to provide. Maybe I just want to leave a quick comment without all the hassle. Even here, on your site, I still comment anonymously even though I have a user ID and password. I'm just fantastically lazy and you know who I am anyway.

I used to really get on people (mostly the authors of newspaper articles) in comments but in recent years have given up. There's a line in War and Peace toward the end where Pierre feels more at ease in his life and he realizes it's because he has accepted that there's almost nothing that you can say or do that will change another person's opinion about something. Once he realizes that, he's free to LISTEN to the person and not spend so much time trying to convince the other person that he's right about something.

The way I see it, people are free to comment anonymously and the people who run blogs are free to disable anonymous comments. That's the way it goes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 12:13:00 PM EDT  

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