The comment section at Pharyngula is becoming a bit too wild west lately. I am all for vigorous, unhindered language and the expression of strong opinions, and I think dumb ideas need to be dealt with harshly, but we also need to allow opportunities for those ideas to be fully expressed. Too often, the conversations are beginning to go like this:
Stranger: I think…
Old hand: [Pulls out six-gun, shoots stranger down]I do believe I didn’t like your accent, stranger, and you were a bit cross-eyed.
I’m not at all keen on this. It makes the comments a very hostile place to new people (I like seeing new people here, don’t you?) and if it keeps up all we’re going to have left are the twitchiest, most psychopathic contributors. To encourage a little more restraint, I’m going to ask everyone to voluntarily impose a 3 comment rule on themselves. What that means is that if someone comes along and says something, no matter how outrageous, engage them in polite conversation first, give them a chance to clarify and expand on the idea, and then if it’s still utterly insane, you can cut loose.
Stranger:1I think all women are chattel.
Old hand: Pardon me, friend, but are you using humor, irony, sarcasm, or satire? Are you perhaps about to expand on a deeper philosophical point?
Stranger: 2No, I just think women are meant to serve my needs.
Old hand: This sounds like a most unfortunate and disagreeable belief. Why should you hold such a demeaning attitude?
Stranger: 3Because the Bible, which is the literal word of God, tells me so.
Old hand: [Smashes whiskey bottle over stranger’s head. General brawl commences.]
See? Isn’t that much better? You can still have your fun in the general melee, but let’s just slow the onset down a little, hold fire for a few minutes, and see if we can get a few words through the macho murk first.
I will also add that, aside from a few persistent trolls, most of the regular commenters here share at least some of our goals, although there are of course routine differences of opinion on subsidiary matters, and it isn’t in our best interests to reflexively knife one of your fellow commenters because he is a Christian or opposes abortion or once voted for a Republican city council member. You certainly can argue about that stuff, but treating it as good cause to spit in their eye gets a little tiresome.
Note to metaphor-challenged literalists: there aren’t actually any Colt pistols or broken beer bottles in the comments threads here. It’s a metaphor (look it up.) I do, however, have the power to throw individuals out of the saloon through plate glass windows.