The Bonding of Civility and Dialogue

26 Jul


            Recently my blog posts have attracted some venomous comments. I have somewhat reluctantly ‘approved’ of most such comments unless blatantly anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, anti-Semitic, racist, or personally defamatory, and even with such offending comments I have leaned toward inclusion. Recently, however, I have received several critical messages suggesting that allowing such comments demeans the quality of the dialogue generated by the blog. These messages have prompted me to reconsider my way of filtering comments, and lead me to become somewhat more of a gatekeeper.


            My whole purpose in writing these posts, which often touch on sensitive and controversial topics, is to develop an open channel for serious dialogue, including debate. I respect deeply a diversity of views and understandings that is almost inevitable given our different social locations in the world, our varying experiences, and the victimization of our minds as a result of media manipulation and indoctrination. One of the glories of the Internet is to allow a great variety of information channels to be open and accessible, a surge of digital freedom that we are just beginning to learn how to (ab)use. Of course, this surge has produced a permanent condition of information flooding, and often leaves us with feelings that we cannot do more than receive impressions of spins starkly different from than those being promoted so vigorously by corporatized elites. Even if such liberating impacts happen rarely, and then only at the societal margins, there exists, at least, the potential for releasing the captive mind from media bondage.


            My new resolve follows from these reflections. I will do my best in the future to limit access to the comments section to those who appear to share these assumptions of civility and dialogue, which are my foundational verities. And to live up to my own standards, I welcome comments on this ‘comments policy’!


            Finally, to be clear: criticism and debate welcome, insults, slurs, and defamatory remarks about ethnic and religious identity will be hereafter unwelcome, and were their publication were never occasions of joy. Civility of tone is the real litmus test for inclusion. Indications of agreement and disagreement are often helpful, especially if expressed in dialogic manner. I look forward to working together with my readers in the hope that one day in the not too distant future we will discover that out of such tacit and sustained collaborations we will however unwittingly have formed a genuine digital community.

18 Responses to “The Bonding of Civility and Dialogue”

  1. deepaktripathi July 26, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    Dear Richard,

    I know you would never want to censor comments that challenge you on matters of critical importance. But I have sometimes wondered why openly abusive comments about yourself find space on your blog. Not only do venomous comments take the focus away from real issues, they diminish the decorum of serious debate. Furthermore, people who make these comments will never learn, for they keep repeating.

    I would support you being more rigorous in filtering and approving comments about your postings. That way those of us who wish to read, reflect on, and respond to your views can do so without cyber hooliganism. The hooligans who cannot help being venomous and personal can do so elsewhere. That would be a fair outcome, I think.

    • Richard Falk July 26, 2012 at 6:53 am #

      I share precisely this understanding of how to keep the blog a site of dialogue, and not a venue for the release of toxic language.

  2. Fred Skolnik July 26, 2012 at 6:21 am #

    “Well, this comment forum has typically been taken over by the domination-and-control hasbara experts espousing the political/militant Zionist line — and that in only 4 or 5 days!”

    Do you mean civility ot dissent?

    I don’t blame you for trying to protect yourself because you are certainly exposing yourself a little to much in your blog. But in the end all you are going to be left with is a handful Jew haters.

    • Richard Falk July 26, 2012 at 6:52 am #

      I welcome dissent, I will exclude ‘Jew haters,’ but include all who seek discussion and debate carried on in a civil tone, without bashing those whose
      views they disagree with..

    • monalisa July 26, 2012 at 7:31 am #

      to Fred Skolnik:

      I think you are not aware of the fact that there is a difference between critisizing government orders and ill-fated outcomes of such orders of a state (whether domestic or foreign policy) and the people living in a state. People in many countries on our globe are voting. Votes usually represent their hopes. And usually politicans in almost all states where people can vote on our globe don’t keep their promises after they have been elected. If otherwise this politican would be a real rarity.


  3. Levi July 26, 2012 at 7:10 am #

    Here here. I agree with those who have suggested that clearly venomous posts are in fact a form of counter-dialogue, detracting from the goal of this blog. I think, Richard, that you err so far on the side of inclusion that some additional filtration will not inhibit of a diversity of opinions expressed in your comments. Good call.

    • Richard Falk July 26, 2012 at 10:33 am #

      Thanks, Levi, for these consoling words, and the underlying sentiment with which I agree totally. Richard

  4. Francis Oeser July 26, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    I agree. Rules of engagement must be set as filters to any debate. There is another problem: dealing with extreme ideas, even the Norwegans had trouble.
    BUT the general sense of most comments sections of most sites are disappointingly rude, pointless and contain more contempt than reason. Any comment on yours should be as good as the original statement – anyway, that’s my expectation! GOOD LUCK

    • Richard Falk July 26, 2012 at 9:40 am #

      Thanks for these reassuring words, which well express my own point of view at this time after trying, perhaps too hard, to accommodate even rude and insulting comments.

  5. Giles Gunn July 26, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    Abuse and venom have no place in a public site for the discussion of issues to which you have given such searching, passionate, candid, and self-critical treatment. Your new policy is the only reasonable, not to say, morally warrantable response. What you deserve, and we all need, is answerable discourse.

    • Richard Falk July 27, 2012 at 3:22 am #

      Thanks, Giles, for these supportive sentiments, which are much appreciated, and particularly
      cherished considering the source.

  6. Shahram Vahdany July 26, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    We had the same situation regarding your articles at MWC News and decided to delete those comments and some times to ban those who are incapable of civilized debates.

  7. Terrell E. (Terry) Arnold July 26, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    Richard: I think what you propose to do is essential. Like you, I have no trouble with well thought out or sensible arguments on the other side or even third views, but I do appreciate civility. I fear frankly that inability to argue with civility is either a character flaw or a sign of undue bias. You need not endure either.

  8. monalisa July 26, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    Dear Richard,

    I am very glad that you implemented some restrictive rule.
    The rude and very aggressive writings were almost unbearable and inadequate.

    Take care of yourself,


  9. Fred Skolnik July 26, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    But of course the blog is not a forum for civilized debate but for a chorus of adoring and hate-filled supporters with only a rare intrusion by someone outraged by the biases and half-truths displayed there.

  10. monalisa July 27, 2012 at 12:39 am #

    To Fred Skolnik:

    as I wrote above to you here again:

    To critisize a state for ill-fated actions is everywhere possible where free speech is allowed.
    To critisize Israel for doing ill-fated actions concerns their politicans.
    However, to hate people is something different and has nothing to do with critizism.
    People went there (to Israel) because they hoped that a dream will come true and fell prey to this dream.

    Truth of ill-fated actions of a government – for example Guantanamo – leads to critizism.
    Building a wall too – because it means apartheit and fencing. There is no half-truth in it. It is visible as well as it is visible that Gaza was/is an open-air prison and people had to grab tunnels in order to get medicaments. No half-truth in it. Well known and documented.


    • Fred Skolnik July 27, 2012 at 1:00 am #

      Dear Monalisa

      People grabbed tunnels to smuggle in rockets from Sinai to fire at Israel’s civilian population. Israel built a wall to keep out terrorists, and for the time being it has worked fairly well. No terror, no wall.

      • Fred Skolnik July 27, 2012 at 1:26 am #

        But just to set the record straight about medicine, here is what an Israeli spokesman says. This is the whole truth as opposed to a half-truth. But if you don’t believe it, take the trouble to find out the whole truth for yourself.

        “Israel allows the passage of all medicine and medical equipment purchased by the Palestinian Authority. There are no Israeli restrictions on the amount or type of medications transferred to Gaza. There is a lack of medicine, but it is not due to Israeli restrictions. The reason for this is the low health care budget of the Palestinian Authority.”

        The PA’s annual budget devoted to medical care for the Palestinian population in Judea & Samaria and Gaza (about 3.5 million people) amounts to less than the budget of the Israeli hospital in Tel HaShomer, which supports less than one million patients a year.
        The Gazan Department of Health is in contact with the PA in Judea and Samaria, and must, under Palestinian law, pass along its demands to the Palestinian Department of Health in Ramallah. If the PA has these medical supplies in stock, it ensures their transfer into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing. Maj. Moshe Levy adds:

        “The transfer of drugs has priority over all other commodities. 100%
        of the Palestinian demands are met by the Israeli Ministry of Health.”
        Israel transfers anywhere between 3,000-6,000 tons of cargo daily, depending on the supplies sent, but it can actually transfer up to 12,000 tons per day. The PA can maximize the transfer capacity of the crossing, and thereby avoid shortages, if it would send more supplies every day. Maj. Moshe Levy explains:

        “We know there is a lack of medical supplies in Gaza. The budget allocated by the PA to health care in Gaza is far less than it needs to be. To address this problem, we give Palestinian patients the option of seeking treatment in Israel, East Jerusalem or in Judea and Samaria. These treatments are supported by the PA and coordinated by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories of the IDF.”

        According to a report by the WHO (World Health Organization) in 2011, 93% of PA requests for Gazans to receive treatment outside the Gaza Strip were coordinated by Israel. In 2011, more than 18,000 Palestinian patients received treatment outside the Gaza Strip, 48% of which were treated in Israeli hospitals.

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