Reposting: RBC “Play Nice” rules

Please don’t insult other commenters.

The RBC has managed to achieve a far higher-than-average level of civility in its comments section, with only a very modest level of “moderation” (i.e., censorship). One persistently obnoxious commenter has been banned (after repeated warnings).

I’m especially pleased that there is some diversity of opinion among commenters, though not as much as I would prefer. Those whose views are in the minority here are doing the rest of us a service, and should be cherished accordingly. That makes it especially important to apply the posted “play nice” rules to them. Especially when one is in the majority, it ought to be possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

Below are the rules, pretty much as originally posted. I see no reason to change them in substance.

1. No naughty words. (They trigger all sorts of filters, and we can’t corrupt the minds of the youth if they’re prevented from reading our stuff.)

2. No insults to bloggers or other commenters. Calling someone’s beliefs “delusional” is an insult; just explain why you think the belief is false. “Liar” and “fool” are deletion-bait.

3. No group defamation. Truth (as you see it) is not a defense. If you think fundamentalists are boobs, Republicans are bigots, or liberals are traitors, please say so elsewhere.

4. Don’t assume we’ve read your comment. If it contains something you think the poster needs to know, send email, as before.

5. Don’t assume we’ve read anyone else’s comment. Our not deleting it does not constitute an endorsement, or even a certification that we think it within the bounds of civilized discourse. None of us has the time or the inclination to play censor. By the same token, a poster’s failure to respond to an argument is not a concession of error; probably the poster either didn’t read the comment or didn’t think it worth responding to.

And yes, posters have somewhat more latitude than commenters.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

25 thoughts on “Reposting: RBC “Play Nice” rules”

  1. Re: Rule 1.

    Although I have a potty mouth myself, I have no qualms about the exclusion of profanity in this forum. I see see it as nothing more than a preference in taste. However, the conceit implicit in the parenthetical statement is truly staggering. As if anyone, youth or otherwise, could be corrupted by the utterly conventional, status quo-enforcing content generally posted here.

    See Chris Hedges’ The Death of the Liberal Class

  2. @Matt Mangels:

    No, fortunately Brett is still active. This post was triggered by a rude comment (since deleted) directed at him by someone else.

  3. @jm:

    Sorry if it seems to you that reality has a status-quo bias. From the perspective of the sort of people who judicially murdered Socrates, teaching the young – or the middle-aged, for that matter – to question, and to pay attention to fact and logic, is corruption.

  4. Thanks for posting the “play nice” rules Mark. This is what I appreciate about this site. I am one of the ones whose views are in the minority on this site, and so I appreciate that I can actually come on here and have a hardcore debate that is non-compromsing on either side’s position and passionate but still plays by some rules of civility and intellectual honesty rather than crass name calling or worse (which, as you pointed out, all too often happens on other sites). This is my favorite site to come and interact with liberals; I check it daily. And yes, passions get the best of most of us on any given day or topic, and we say things we shouldn’t. Admittedly, I’ve been warned once or twice about my own comments before on this site. I think this is a great site though, and I’ll keep coming back and “trolling” as long as you’ll have me.

    I’ll challenge you on one thing though. You pointed out that posters have somewhat more lattitude than commenters. This is clearly the case. I see rule # 3 being violated all the time by posters. Of course it’s your site and you are absolutely entitled to make and play by whatever rules you want, or even make rules that apply to some but not to others. I would just respectfully challenge the posters to play by the same rules. Comments in original posts about “teahadists”, “wingnuttery”, etc. are cases of “group defamation” and might make nice rhetorical devices but in my opinion don’t lend themselves to civil discourse.

  5. @Mark Kleiman:

    Funny you should use the example of Socrates in this context. He was tried and executed because of his social criticism. While I continue to read this site daily due to the fact that you all regularly challenge my assumptions and occasional change my mind, my ongoing beef is that, for putative liberals, you all are insufficiently critical of the status quo, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that your team is contributing to the unnecessary suffering of real people. You and your colleagues regularly illustrate Hedges’ thesis.

    If Socrates was alive today, would he be blogging that the Democratic Party, while imperfect, is better than the alternative?

  6. I agree with the challenge by Bux. What exactly is the morality of allowing posters to act differently than commenters? Might makes right?

  7. To Joel and Bux:

    I believe the idea might be that people who are familiar with this site will know that the RBC posters very frequently provide much evidence for their claims that, for example, the Right-wing is “nutty” or “teahadist,” and so the posters do not need to constantly re-defend their terminology (and if you aren’t familiar with the site, you should follow the old internet rule, “read before you post”); whereas usually in a site’s comments, people will be much less familiar with any one poster’s arguments in general, and so commenters should defend their statements more frequently (once per blogpost, for example. Few things are more annoying than a commenter who says, “I already made my argument in an earlier thread,” and then doesn’t even link to the earlier comment).

  8. Gee, I’d be fascinated to see evidence for the claim that the right wing is “teahadist.”

  9. Swift: The current debt ceiling “crisis” would seem to me to be the easiest-to-point-to example of what basically amounts to Right Wing economic terrorism – plenty of Republicans in Congress authorized and continue to authorize spending that would require an increase in the debt ceiling, and yet now when the check comes due, they refuse to raise the debt ceiling and pay for it (risking worldwide financial catastrophe) so that they can instead force through “emergency” cuts on the least-powerful people in our society, the poor.

  10. Sean:

    And what about the “economic terrorism” from the other side that seems oblivious to reigning in their spending (which added 4 trillion to the deficit since 2008, raising questions whether the dollar will continue to be the reserve currency) even as they see repeated evidence (the recent uptick in the jobless rate to 9.2%) that they are unable to spend their way “to grow American business and jobs”? You may feel warm and fuzzy every time Obama talks about “investing” in America, but to me it is pretty scary. In reacting to the jobless report, in the space of two sentences Obama went from the need to cut the deficit to the need to increase the investments in America. There are 14 to 15 million who remain unemployed. Do you think they are more terrorized by the debt ceiling or the federal government’s ineffectual economic policies?

  11. Socrates was a critic of the excesses of Athenian democracy; his execution was motivated by the suspicion that he had plutocratic and pro-Spartan sympathies, on the part of the same sort of people who accuse Barack Obama of being a tool of the banksters.

  12. Sean, you can’t prove that somebody is a “teahadist”; It’s an epithet, not a status. But, as Bux says, it is Mark’s playground, if he wants to be exempt from the rules, even sensible rules, he puts on commentators, he’s entitled.

  13. Thanks for the reminder. I’m afraid I must apologize to this blog and to Malcolm, as I believe I crossed the line a bit on rule #2 a few weeks back. My comment would have been much better without the last sentence, which I regret having posted. I sincerely apologize and pledge to keep it civil in the future.

  14. The “excesses of Athenian democracy” Socrates criticized were the abuses of power by a democratically installed government that was adept at manipulating popular sentiment (sound familiar?). Specifically, he opposed the denial of due process to a group of generals who were to be tried en mass, in violation of the existing law, rather than individually. The government mobilized a mob and ultimately had its way. The defendants were condemned and executed. Socrates was standing up to tyranny. My point is that our own democratically elected government acts tyrannically through its projection of force abroad–with the too frequent loss of innocent life resulting from our three wars and the suppression of democratic aspirations in countries whose autocratic leaders are compliant to US government aims–and through its prosecution of the War on Terror here at home–with the loss of civil liberties. Anyone who would claim Socrates as a role model should be vociferously criticizing our government, not making apologies for it.

    As for “the suspicion that he had plutocratic and pro-Spartan sympathies”, the former claim was essentially true, though a more accurate word choice would be oligarchic–he felt that only educated, well-informed citizens, not necessarily the wealthy, should be allowed to participate in the political sphere. The latter claim is nonsense. Socrates opposed The Thirty, a government installed at the Spartans’ behest that, though democratically elected by the Athenians, maintained its power largely through Spartan aid. In any event, these suspicions, and the actual charge–irreverence–that resulted in his trial, were specious. His real “crime” was calling bullsh*t on the then prevailing powers-that-be. That was why he was executed. As someone who presumably identifies with Socrates, you only, with rare exception, call bullsh*t on our own powers-that-be when they are affiliated with the Republican Party. Do you really think the Socratic tradition supports rank partisanship at the expense of the truth, inconvenient though the truth may sometimes be?

    Finally, did you mean to equate The Thirty and their allies in ancient Athens with people like Bill Black who are currently calling out the White House, the Treasury and the Justice Department for the collective failure to resolve the financial meltdown, in essence labeling some of our most prominent officials, including the president, as “tool[s] of the banksters”? If so, wow. I mean, WOW. Read this article (you have to register to see the complete story) if you doubt that the conscious and affirmative actions of Obama, Geithner, Holder, relevant to this issue are redounding almost entirely to the benefit of those at or near the top of the financial industry food chain.

    [Black claims,] “Obama has ignored the savings and loans crisis [of the late 1980s, which Black helped resolve] to this point. The position of the administration was that there were no lessons to be learned from the savings and loan crisis. I find that very bizarre.”

    By instead green-lighting bank bailouts, ensuring that regulators do not consider toxic assets in stress tests, and reappointing Republican-era figures like Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, Black says Obama has taken some “disastrous” decisions.


    The notion that the failure of a large financial institution will automatically trigger a domino-effect collapsing other businesses is a “wonderful myth” perpetuated by those reaping the benefits of the taxpayers’ largesse, Black claims.


    Black, a renowned expert on fraud who has testified to Congress in the past, is perhaps most damning about the Obama administration’s action – or lack of it – against the boardroom “crooks” whom he believes are guilty of vast corporate frauds concerning the buying and selling of mortgages or mortgage-backed instruments.


    Blankly, Black concludes that US authorities’ response since the financial crisis amounts, in effect, to an Obama-sanctioned “cover up” with potentially explosive consequences.


    Looking balefully to the future, the regulator-turned-academic warns that the political system’s apparent inability to grapple with the financial crisis could be storing up “recurrent, intensifying” crises which dwarf recent troubles.

  15. @Sean–not good enough. Until we have evidence that the Tea Party is training suicide bombers, the epithet “Teahadist” is embarrassingly puerile.

  16. Sean:

    Exactly what is your evidence that there is a “Tea Party” which is training suicide bombers or any bombers for that matter? or a “Tea Party” which is instrumental in a Militia movement? If there was any credible evidence, why haven’t there been mass arrests? Or are the law enforcement agencies populated with and/or controlled by the “Tehadists?” Anyone who would argue that either political party is controlled by murderers, racists, or any extremist element, shows a partisanship, who’s belief system is akin to that of a religious fundamentalist and is closer to the extreme element of his party than the average member of the party which he or she opposes.

  17. @Sean–abortion clinic bombers and the militia movement are hardly representative of the Tea Party.

  18. Heck, you come down to it, the actual militia movement doesn’t bear a lot of resemblance to a jihad type movement either, as demonstrated by the fact that virtually everyone in it isn’t committing violent acts.

    OTOH, there are abortion clinic bombers. There are also ELF and the Unibomber. Do I get to adopt a suitable epithet for liberals?

    No, the bottom line is that “Teahadi” is just an epithet. Mark just routinely violates rule 3. He’s entitled to, it’s his playground, but he better expect to be called on it every time he does it.

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