Controversy and Blog Comments

hecklersComments are very powerful and can be benefit your blog. Regardless of your niche or your intent when publishing a post sometimes discussions can give rise to unexpected controversy and it’s important to keep a safe environment for discussion on your blog. But we would be foolish not to take note that there are bloggers whose blogs are dedicated to creating controversy and using it to attract traffic.

During my recent blog surfing forays I  sought out blogs in the American politics niche and  observed right-wingers who are outraged that their President Obama is on weekend retreat to Maine. No, I’m not kidding!

Teabagger Blogs

When it comes to teabagger blogs and the people who publish in them and support them I cannot express my disdain for them more clearly than by saying they provide an excellent example of “much ado about nothing”. Why? Because the bloggers who author them and their fans tend to be   black and white thinkers.

Primitive thinkers

Without doubt we live in times where almost all the issues we face are complex issues. That’s why it’s extremely important for us to avoid simplistic thinking and consult what’s in our hearts as well as what’s in our heads. Black and white thinking means seeing the world only in terms of extremes. It’s a way of clinging to simple minded thinking rather than acknowledging complexities and opening one’s mind to realities.

In children developmental psychologists call this black and white thinking primitive thinking and most of us grow out of it. In adults those who are most prone to regressing to primitive thinking are fearful and emotional. Many are passive aggressive manipulators who aren’t even aware their own hatred and bigotry provokes them to demand simple minded solutions to complex problems. The same maladjusted adults also tend to be supportive of the most draconian measures when it comes to law and order.

Characteristics of primitive thinkers

Adults who are prone to primitive thinking have other characteristics. Many are ill educated and proud of it. Many are adherents to fundamentalist religions and proud of it. Many are in favor of the death penalty and proud of it. Many are patriotic in the extreme. Many are drawn to conspiracy theories. These characteristics suggest that they are fearful “little people” projecting false bravado. They got stuck in childhood black and white thinking, failed to developtheir intellectual potential, empathy and compassion for their own ‘self’ and consequently, for others.

But how should you deal with controversy and attacks on other blogs? While that varies depending on the situation, here are 6 few tips to point you in the right direction.  – Why Blog Controversy is a Good Thing (Even When it’s About You

Blogging tip 1 : Do your homework and research your topic thoroughly from all angles prior to writing.  When responding to comments view the other side and all sides of the issue and make honest efforts to understand where  others you may disagree with are coming from. Try asking them to state their key concerns.

Blogging tip 2: Focus on the issues, not on personalities. When answering comments that conflict with your own opinions remain calm, knowing that the more emotional you become, the more clouded your thinking will be.

Blogging tip 3: Maintain a balanced sense of humor.

Blogging tip 4: Look for common ground and when you cannot find any politely agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable.

Related posts found in this blog:
How to Become a Better Blogger 3: Ethics and Links
How to handle negative comments
Handle Online Attacks Effectively

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48 thoughts on “Controversy and Blog Comments

  1. The comments this post elicited are almost as powerful as the post itself. I am hanging my head a little bit for getting sucked into controversy in the forums. I can especially relate to the awkward humor part – I always seem to need to explain myself. Thank you for such a great resource.

    (you have the word ‘out’ twice in the second paragraph – did you mean to? If yes, then please delete this and save me from the shame :-))

    • Thanks for the compliment on the post. As for the comments my readers are great – love them, I do. I also got sucked into posting to a couple of forum threads I have now walked away from.

      P.S. Thanks for pointing the error out to me. I have edited the extra “out” out.

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  3. Hi Timethief, sorry, a bit off topic – cannot find an email address for you or generic comment posting spot, so went here as nearest logical place – I have a link to an article about legal issues re blogging I thought would be of interest – in context of wine writing, but the issues and discussion have wider implication and interest I think – http://palatepress.com/2010/09/wine-bloggers-and-the-law/ Especially the bit about defamation – back to your controversial blog postings ideas. Hope all is well, take care.

    • Thanks for providing the link to that post and sharing it with myself and my readers. I am a paralegal so nothing contained in it is really new to me but I’ll bet the article does contain information that many bloggers aren’t aware of.

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  5. Well, I hardly have time to know the politics here in Canada, so I certainly can’t comment on those int the States. However, having spent the morning trolling various abortion and contraceptive rights websites and blogs, I got to see plenty of examples of how people deal very badly with controversy and differing opinions!
    I occasionally couldn’t resist putting my own two cents into the mix, and your rules above are great advice for that. Every now and then though, I admit, I just get downright snippy with the fundamentalist right wing, and take an emotional as opposed to factual and scientifically based jab!
    Sigh. I guess we are all just human.
    Thanks for the food for thought about building in useful controversy in a blog :)

  6. Blogging tip 4: Maintain a calm and balanced sense of humor. We need it in this day of Mass Karma crashing around all over the place.

    • Excellent point. I’m going to edit and include it. Thank you Sash.

      P.S. My personality type is introverted and my sense of humor is as dry as Melba toast. I laugh at things others do not laugh at and I make awkward attempts at humor that don’t always go over well. :(

  7. I would agree that it is tough at times, to discuss sensitive subjects particularily when we can not visually see each other. While the written word offers space and time to reflect and think before responding, the virtual electronic words are still missing the holistic element of a live person with facial, bodily gestures, tone of voice and the pacing of the conversation.

    • @Jean
      This is the very reason I prefer not to discuss either politics or religion online. We can be so easily misunderstood.

      “Online friendships can be very real and very valuable, and when compared to face -to-face friendships they have different strong and weak points.

      One way in which increased communication on the internet is beneficial is that it allows people like me who are less personable and outgoing, to feel less inhibited to communicate. Although there are benefits, researchers argue some disadvantages of an internet based society as well, such as the ability to fantasize and create enemies and conflict where none ought to exist. …” Read the full article here > http://thistimethisspace.com/2009/04/26/internet-relationships-when-the-walls-fall-down/

    • @Marilyn,
      You cherry picked the mocking comments I made above out of a comment. You did not mention this comment a little further down where I made it clear I was just joking.

      @Cynthia … My polar bear comment was just a joke as was the prayers for sterility quip.

      Of course I would not recommend placing any human being on an ice flow with hungry polar bears and of course I would never ever use prayer as a weapon.

      You say that you believe in freedom of speech but you do not seem to think that I a Canadian citizen have the freedom to make jokes in my blog. How can that be?

      Please read the 1st Amendment and truly comprehend what it states:
      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      Your government does not possess the legal capacity to establish Christianity or any other religion as a national religion in America. Yet, the position that the teabaggers espoused was that the Founding Fathers created America as a Christian Nation. Fundamentalist Christians are currently working overtime to convince the American public that the founding fathers intended to establish this country on “biblical principles,” but history simply does not support their view.

      The Founding fathers of your nation were not Bible-believing Christians; they were deists. Deists did not believe in the virgin birth, divinity, or resurrection of Jesus, the efficacy of prayer, the miracles of the Bible, or even the divine inspiration of the Bible. These beliefs were forcefully articulated by Thomas Paine in Age of Reason, a book that so outraged his contemporaries that he died rejected and despised by the nation that had once revered him as “the father of the American Revolution.” To this day, many mistakenly consider him an atheist, even though he was an out spoken defender of the Deistic view of God. Other important founding fathers who espoused Deism were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, James Madison, and James Monroe. — The Christian Nation Myth

      The statement that is commonly made is that “The United States was founded as a Christian Nation“. To examine this statement examine the founding documents: the Declaration of independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution and the First Amendment. As well as the Treaty of Tripoli and The beliefs of the Founding Fathers. Note that on July 30, 1956, a bill is passed by Congress and signed by the President declaring “In God We Trust” the national motto of the United States. The Pledge of Allegiance was amended Amended in 1954, during the Cold War McCarthyism, at the request of Christian and anti-Communist groups to include “under God”.

      I bear no malice towards anyone. I visited political blogs in order to prepare an article on controversial blogging. I was astonished to find that there were blogs featuring posts on Obama’s 2 day retreat. I read all the posts and all comments and found there was much ado about nothing. That remains my opinion on the subject matter that they were purportedly discussing.

      As for those who commented on the blogs in question and proclaimed they were Christians and then expounded nothing but hatred, bigotry and racism I immediately identified them as hypocrites. There are 57 places in the New Testament where Jesus taught his disciples to love their enemies as they loved themselves. He emphasized that by their love his disciples would be known. Where was the love? I found none in the blogs I visited.

      These universals are the essence of teachings of Buddha and 500 years later of Jesus. (Note the words before the equal signs below are from Pali which is the closest living language to Sanskrit.)

      dana = authentic generosity (charitable giving of the self and sharing of possessions, donation)
      metta = selfless love and good will toward all beings (loving kindness)
      karuna = compassion (respect, acceptance, forgiveness)
      mudita = altruistic joy filled with peace and contentment (appreciative joy at the success and good fortune of others)
      sila = self discipline -abstaining from physical and vocal actions that cause harm to oneself and others
      uppekka = equanimity (an inclusive state of open mind free of attachment, aversion, bigotry, craving, ignorance and intolerance)

      The forgoing universals are also found in other traditions as well, and I think they do constitute common ground for all people who are aware of their spiritual nature. Well, based on my own life experience many religious people are not aware of their spiritual nature, and the least aware of all cling to fundamentalism (primitive thinking).

      I respect everyone’s right to choose to ascribe to a belief system. I equally respect everyone’s right not to choose not to ascribe to one. I am free to critique behaviors of anyone ascribing to any belief system within the context of their espoused belief system. That’s what I did and it’s also what Jesus did.

  8. “OOPS! I forgot. While we are touching on planetary matters – they are climate change deniers! My conclusion is that they are not only primitive thinkers but a significant number of them may also be bat sh*t crazy. I’m hard pressed not to begin praying for them to all become sterile …”
    Isn’t that a nice prayer!
    No room for other opinions? “they are climate change deniers!” how awful!! We do have free speech, & I believe in it. You should read what you write.
    Marilyn

    • @Marilyn,
      If you were indeed well grounded in your faith and were not emotionally hyped then maybe you would notice that I posted this thread to create controversy. That’s apparent to anyone who can read and who is not a primitive thinker. Thanks for taking the bait.

      • Oh and all those Founding Fathers believed in God, but that was about it. They were Deists and thought God basically didn’t intervene after he created earth. Jefferson ripped out everything supernatural in the bible. What’s that leave? Maybe the 10 commandments but not how Moses got em.

    • Hi, Marilyn,
      Remember Christians aren’t supposed to be nasty to folks unless they’re selling in the temple. I got a little like what the heck at the blogger who’d rather live in China (he has this really nifty blog though). No thank you!

      Sadly it’s true that it was McCarthy got the in god we trust and under god ball rolling. I’d be kind of sad to see “In God we Trust” off the money, just b/c it was always there as long as I’ve been here. I don’t like the fact that under God is in the Pledge, but don’t much like the idea of getting rid of it eithe , so I’ll let smarter folks than me deal w/ that one.
      But yeah, turn the other cheek. Jesus didn’t much like nasty, pretty sure.
      Shameless plug: My last blog post was about me making folks cross defending this fellow who was cross himself. I turn into Joan of Arc too! http://ocdbloggergirl.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/ocd-14/

  9. Cooking in Mexico wrote, “Rudeness and lack of respect can be more commonly found on the internet, due to not being able to see the readers face to face.”

    CASE IN POINT:
    “Canadians know the injection of “in God we trust” and all that other ‘Christianese mumbo jumbo’ was not inserted into documentation until after the days of …”
    Well, isn’t that nice of you! You have insulted my Christian religion! I don’t know your religion, but that’s ok because I never planned to insult YOU.

    No vitriol coming from you, right???

    I’m surprised at you!

    Marilyn

    • @Marilyn,
      I’m surprised that you aren’t aware that what I said was the truth. The ridiculous notion that America’s Founding Fathers created “Christian nation” is absolutely false. All Christianese was inserted into the documentation after the days of McCarthyism.

      I’m further surprised that you think any religion is above criticism. Is that what blind faith is all about? I don’t think so. I think we are all intended to use our brains just as Jesus did. He didn’t hesitate to criticize hypocrites now did he?

  10. Rudeness and lack of respect can be more commonly found on the internet, due to not being able to see the readers face to face. I think that when we speak to each other in person, there is a tendancy to be polite. When the reader and writer are anonymous, inhibitions can fall away. We all must write as though we are sitting down with someone, maybe even over a cup of tea. Then civility is present, regardless of our stand on an issue.

    President Obama needs more than a week-end vacation. I hope he gets it soon.

    Kathleen

    • @Kathleen,
      I think your observations are sound. There is a disconnect that occurs when we are communicating online rather than in person. What’s missing is 60 – 80% of all human communication which is conveyed through body language, facial expression and gestures. Added to that is the fact that many bloggers choose to publish under pseudonyms.

      I believe that those who were ridiculing Obama for going on retreat on the blogs I read would benefit from following his example just as Sandra said above. The blogs I read were full of comments from histrionic people who alleged that Obama was irresponsible for going on retreat. I was astonished that no one observed that where his body was situate in this technological age would not in any way prevent him from fulfilling his duties as President. In the case of an emergency he would of course be immediately available and able to pick up his duties and act.

  11. Timethief, what have those poor polar bears done that you could wish that on them??!! Re your list of every mistake in the book – maybe I have been reading the British press for too many years but I can’t remember the last time I saw anything in a newspaper purporting to be news reportage that didn’t tick everything on that list.

    My Portuguese is still too dodgy to fully comprehend the little I’ve tried reading here, so am now living in a near news-free state, which actually is rather pleasant. At some point I will have to take responsibility for being well-informed again, but I really can’t imagine where I will find good balanced intelligent news sources.

    Oh – and one mistake you forgot to list – their grammar, syntax and typing are thoroughly wretched.

    • @Cynthia
      Good one and you’re right. I do have an affection for polar bears. My polar bear comment was just a joke as was the prayers for sterility quip. The horrid vitriol and fallacious stuff I read on those blogs was so shocking that I didn’t fixate on the spelling, grammar, and syntax errors. Based on what I read IMO teabaggers have no viable solutions for the complex economic and political issues America faces.

  12. What an interesting post! Very well done! You never cease to amaze me, and now this. I enjoyed the article thoroughly, and the commentary even more so. I don’t know if what I’m about to say is inappropriate or not, but anyway …As an American I am ashamed that this country goes stomping around the world hammering people over the head with democracy, and systematically drilling it into into their heads like so many Manchurian Candidates.

    Claiming God is on our side, what a load of rubbish that is! I’m saddened by the state of the world, and embarrassed to be an American. I’ve not come across these teabagger blogs mostly because I’d rather read blogs like yours TiTi. Sadly my blog is linked to one of those racist blogs, and it pains me that it is.

    If you ask me well I’d rather live out my days in China, not that China doesn’t have it’s own abuses, but no one bothered me there. I didn’t have to deal with right wing racist extremist talk radio hosts spewing hate like so much vomit all over my damn floor.

    As for Obama going on retreat, well I think he’s entitled to do that, deserves that, and who doesn’t want to get out of Washington? Man! I don’t know if I’m a black and white thinker or not, I hope I’m not. I lived here for 52 years, and I’m just plain tired, just really tired. I won’t be happy until I’m handing over my boarding pass on that non-stop flight to Beijing. Thanks TiTi !

    • Hello there Jaco,
      I was truly amazed at the tripe I read on those blogs and I intend to steer way clear of teabagger blogs for ever more. Best wishes re: your return to China.

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  14. I for one am happy that Obama takes 2 days to relax in Maine. He’s modeling behavior that all of us would do well to institute! Everyone needs relaxation and rejuvenation. I don’t have space in my life for such black and white thinking.

    • @Sandra Lee
      I’m with you on that.

      IMO everyone of the teabagger bloggers whose blogs I read could benefit greatly from a 2 day retreat on an ice flow with a hungry polar bear … just joking. ;) :D

  15. I participate in 2 international forums that have a strong/dominant American membership…just based on the number of responding members. I personally find it better to participate in open dialogue in an Internet forum with a few black-white hardliners than try to convince at the website of a blogger who holds very fundamentalist, unresearched views consistently.

    It is a matter of power..commenting at a blogger’s blog is essentially far more limiting in scope than in a large forum with several hundred regular members commenting on a diverse range of topics over a course of several years.

    Sometimes I am amazed at the amount of vitrol and sarcasm that is expressed by some bloggers on many matters and regularily within their own personal blog. Really, they must be very angry/unhappy people in general. Or their blog is a psychological vent for them. If blog is a vent, well at least it is some sort of safety valve without physically hurting anyone. But the disturbing thing, is that there are people who do read content and take it to heart without looking at other sources, etc. Also using a blog to continously vent with frequent profanity, if it is a style of writing on a frequent basis, gives the wrong narrow view of the author.

    Lest I am accused of being a prude: remember I was raised by a mother, who swore heavily in Chinese. The thing is…that us innocent kids didn’t know what the heck she really met…until we got older and tried to repeat her words.

    • I can understand why a larger forum may be a better place to locate some folks who are actually capable of conducting civil and sane discussions. However, my recent forays into teabagger blogs have convinced me that I don’t want to hear another word from them. Next I’ll look for some blogs on the other side of the issues but in between I’m taking lengthy sabbatical form American politics.

      This all started because I wanted to provide advice to bloggers who blog on controversial subjects about how to insure they did a good job of sharing their POV and providing a safe environment for commenters who did not share their POV.

      What I saw was so discouraging. The bloggers, some called themselves “citizen journalists”, were living examples of how to make every mistake in the book:
      they did not research and were not well informed about the subject matter;
      they were dishonest and distorted truth for their own purposes;
      they did not provide sound evidence to support their POV;
      they did not employ valid reasoning;
      they approved and posted “empty” comments filled with defamatory and inflammatory remarks, cursing, racism, bigotry and vitriol;
      they were incapable of refuting sane and sensible comments but they posted the comments and ridiculed the commenters;
      they approved and posted comments containing fallacies and ad hominem attacks. …

      Just recounting what I read in teabagger blog is threatening to move me into the migraine zone. It was awful!

  16. Thanks, TT.

    I do recall our earlier interaction but had mistakenly understood the problem to be temporary for you and that you were going to, in time, revert to full posts. I now understand better and certainly respect your decision. Thanks for spelling out the rationale. If content theft has become, or is becoming, widespread, I would think most bloggers would do what you are doing.

    • Thanks for accepting my decision graciously. Sadly I think more and more bloggers are being forced into making this decision every day.

  17. I receive notice of your new blog posts through RSS. Your RSS feeds used to show the entire article. Now, however, they are just a teaser portion, and then a link to your site to be able to read the entire post. In the past, you have eschewed the “teaser” RSS feed. Is this change intentional, and, if so, could you give your reasoning?

    (I ask because I regard almost everything you do as “best practice” in blogging, so I want to know if the practice of teaser feeds has become more accepted than it used to be. Thanks.)

    • Hello Mike,
      I believe I answered this same question previously in an email between us. Since my whole posts were being RSS feed scraped and posted on splogs when I had them set to display “full” posts, I have chosen to reduce my feeds to “summary” to prevent content theft. I have spent far too much time and energy tracking down who has stolen my posts and posted them on splogs, doing whois searches to locate their web hosts and sending DMCA complaints in to get my posts removed.

      I prefer to spend my time on other activities so the RSS feeds will remain on summary. Those who are interested in what they read in the summaries will click into my blog to read the whole posts. When they do my blog gets a page view statistic, and if they click further my blog gets additional page views. Maybe they will even do as you did and leave comments on the posts that interest them.

      Those who won’t click through to my blog from the RSS feed summaries deprive my blog of a page view by reading full posts on their feed readers, and do not leave me any comments. I’m sorry but I’m not going to change my settings to suit their convenience. My time is precious and I choose to spend it on uplifting activities rather than on chasing content thieves.

    • You’re welcome. It’s so sad to see how some fear filled adults remain primitive thinkers for life. To me it’s obvious that black and white thinking cannot provide actual solutions to complex problems.

      The subject was Obama going to Maine on retreat for the weekend. More than one “swift thinker” thought this had something to do with birth certificates and second names and who Obamas’ father was and so on. They were obviously racist and bigoted and preoccupied with the most assinine stuff that they made me shake my head.

      Some were ragging on and on to the effect the economy would fall apart because Obama was away for 2 days! For goodness sake the American economy was on life support when he came into office and was faced with the bail-out that had to be, because the past Presidents and their parties refused to regulate banks and financial institutions like we “pinko commie socialists” (lol :D) in Canada do. The simple solution they had was no bail-outs let the banks fall and let hundreds of thousands of citizens become unemployed.

      They stated Obama ought to be cleaning up oil covered birds rather than going on retreat for 2 days. Well how much IQ does it take for those who pretend to know something about economics, and who espouse their preoccupion with the state of their ecomony to comprehend what a huge taxpayer expense it would be for the whole secret service contingent to accompany Obama to Louisiana to bathe oil soaked birds?

      Most of what I read was so bizarre that any Canadian would have been hard pressed not to think the bloggers and their commenters were drop-outs who escaped History lessons in grade school. Canadians know the injection of “in God we trust” and all that other Christianese mumbo jumbo was not inserted into documentation until after the days of McCarthyism. We are fully aware that some Founding Fathers were deists and some were theists, and more to the point that they did NOT create a Christian nation. Early Americans escaped from countires where the monarchies imposed Christianity upon the citizenry. Yet, the teabagger blogs are full of that “our Founding Fathers created a Christian nation” balderdash and more besides.

      I was absolutely astonished when I read post after post filled with unsubstantiated speculations, specious arguments, and fallacy after fallacy. The suggested fixes they proposed for everything in sundry from dealing with illegal aliens and Iraq were all the products of black and white thinking – primitive thinking that cannot and did not address complexities.

      I’m shuddering as I remember the crappola I read because these dullards trapped in childhood have the vote!

      • I find that such ‘dullards’ really have few critical thinking skills and are easily manipulated reactionaries. Whenever I stumble into one of their blogcasas I generally exit quickly instead of reacting to their mentality. What does scare me, however, is just how many of them there are for my comfort. I hope that they’re just in to posting more than their contradictory counterparts. Just because they ‘scream’ they get attention that they ought not to have. Take away the attention and then what? Hmm? Then they’re silent except in their own little toilet bowls–or so one would hope.

        “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [people] to do nothing.” Burke

        • I was truly shocked by what I read. They referred to slain American soliders who are clearly sacrifices on the altar of oil as dying for their country to keep us all free back at home. Some had the temerity to state God was on their side!

          Say what? Your country invaded Iraq due to the determination of past Administrations to achieve hegemony in the middle east over petroleum resources that do not belong to America.

          All I can say about teabaggers is let’s hope they remain a tiny minority because many appear to be fundamentalists, who don’t believe in planned parenthood, and who are dedicated to populating the planet with little images of themselves.

          OOPS! I forgot. While we are touching on planetary matters – they are climate change deniers! My conclusion is that they are not only primitive thinkers but a significant number of them may also be bat sh*t crazy. I’m hard pressed not to begin praying for them to all become sterile …

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