On Blawg Comments

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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2 Responses

  1. John Armstrong says:

    I’m generally with you in spirit. The issues aren’t as cut-and-dried as some on those comment threads from redstate to kos would like us to believe.

    One thing, though, sticks out: point #3. Maybe the game is played differently in the legal wing of the Tower, but I’d say that’s par for the course. Let’s say you’ve posted on my primary area of research and mentioned my viewpoint favorably. A commenter comes on and “slams” me. This is either (a) a harsh assault on my work or (b) a personal attack.

    If (b), then I can either ignore it — trusting my colleagues to recognize and dismiss an ad hominem attack — or I can post a single response indicating that he should find fault with my work rather than myself. If it reaches the level of slander, that becomes another story, but I don’t think anyone would be faulted for removing what amounts to graffiti.

    Otherwise, case (a) is the meat of academics. I can’t put a new idea out and have it stand or fall on who I happen to know or be friends with. Yes, having the right contacts can help spread my thoughts or build my name. But if my work cannot stand on its own or with reasoned responses to assaults from outside, then it’s worthless and deserves to be torn asunder.

    Either way, I would expect you to leave that comment up (excepting of course for slander) for the world to see. In fact, though I understand the impulse to help out a friend I sense a patronizing undercurrent: “You aren’t able to defend yourself against attack by rational response, so I’ll help by removing the enemy.”

  2. I’m not so sure about developing a strict set of rules, whether they be lenient or restrictive in allowing comments. And I’m not sure that all of us here at Concurring Opinions need to concur in precisely how we should each moderate conversations in our posts. My general view is that I don’t see the comments section as a bulletin board for anybody to say whatever they want. I post to solicit a conversation, and as the poster, I’m the moderator of that conversation. If there’s a comment I feel is off-topic, libelous, incoherent, or otherwise detracting from the debate, I will not hesitate in deleting it. I certainly welcome criticism and strong disagreement with my posts or with other commenters. I can take a fair bit of snarkiness. I love a good debate and thoughtful disagreement. But I also want discourse in my posts to be civil and substantive.

    So I don’t see the comment section in my posts to be a free-for-all. If people want to speak, they can get their own blog and write whatever they want about my posts there. If they want to engage in the conversation I’m moderating, then they should participate via the informal norms of that conversation, which thus far have been to be thoughtful and civil.

    That said, I am quite impressed with the comments we receive here. The comments are very much worth reading and are generally civil, thoughtful, and interesting. It makes the comments worth reading; it makes me want to start conversations with the readers of this blog. And that’s why as moderator in my posts, I want to make sure that this continues.

    In other words, I kind of see discussions in posts as similar to a seminar discussion — one that is permissive, that is not moderated in a very heavy-handed way, but one that is nevertheless not obnoxious, rude, or off-topic.