Informed Comment does not have a ‘free comment’ policy because it tends to produce a lot of junky postings and extreme assertions that do not actually advance a reasoned debate. You have to think about comments here as a letter to the editor at a traditional newspaper. The editor has no obligation to post a message simply because it is submitted, and, indeed, fair numbers of messages will inevitably be rejected. The editor does not have time to explain why any particular message was not posted, and those who submit them will simply have to accept that the system is arbitrary and at least occasionally unsatisfactory.

The ideal comment would be meaty, with some analysis or information that contributes to the topic, and would be one or two paragraphs in length. Short messages of a sociable nature (greetings, etc.) are discouraged. Short messages that are mainly sent just to include the author’s URL will not be accepted. A substantive message that points to a URL will be entertained.

For reasons of copyright, we cannot reproduce at this site a whole newspaper article or even large portions of one. Please summarize the information that you wish to pass along. Too extensive quotation of a copyright source will cause a message to be rejected. Where the moderator inadvertently lets copyright material through, it will be promptly removed on notification of site owner via email.

That a message is not posted does not indicate that the editor does not like the poster, or does not like the posting. It could indicate that the moderator was on airplanes all day or too busy to do webwork that day. Or the editor may feel that the message duplicates a previous comment, or is a little off topic, or is unsubstantiated. Because the editor is often traveling or in committees or classes, there may be substantial delays in posting comments. The message may have been unfairly caught by a spam filter.

On the other hand, the editor, having few enough prerogatives in life, may in fact persistently reject messages of people whom he simply does not like. :-)

The editor is looking for messages from people who seem to know whereof they speak, demonstrating more expertise than emotion. Remember that he edited a top academic journal for five years and is used to dealing with people who have done the hard work before they express themselves publicly. He is moreover looking for a certain tone, of civility and a willingness to share ideas and information in a non-dogmatic way. Strident messages, and those that are simply insulting or libellous, will not be posted. Messages that even sound as though they are a form of trolling will not be posted. Rejections are final and non-negotiable, and persistent attempts to argue the editor into posting something will simply result in the author being killfiled.

Large generalizations about whole groups of people defined by their ethnicity (“the Arabs are X”) are a form of racism and will usually be disallowed. Generally speaking, comparisons to Nazism are discouraged and probably will result in a posting being rejected, though there are rare occasions on which such a comparison might be justified. They are rare.

The comment section does not seek any sort of artificial two-sides-of-a-story “balance” at all, and no critiques of lack of such “balance” on these pages will be entertained. This sort of “balance” would require that the allegation that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer be offset with a denial of this simple and well-established fact. This pernicious game played is not played here. A variety of points of view is all to the good, but a mere opinion not backed up by facts, reasoning or analysis is unlikely to get through. Moreover, not all points of view are valuable.

All that said, it is the editor’s hope that the discussions will be an asset, and will be gratifying to readers and writers.

One response

  1. Congratulations on the new look of the opening page of your website. It will take some time to get used after always looking for the main comment. Best wishes

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