When should a blogger delete a comment or thread?
Arthur Przebinda, from winesooth.com and redwinebuzz.com, sent me the April 15 post from Dr. Vino concerning the brouhaha (I love that word) over at eRobertParker.com (and this sentence gets the award for the greatest number of URL links ever contained in a Heimoff statement).
In brief, the situation is that a Slate columnist, Mike Steinberger, got into a spitting match with Mark Squires, who moderates the Parker site. Seems Squires deleted a thread, based on a Steinberger column that had been mildly critical about Australian wine. (I’ve read it, and Steinberger didn’t say anything that many others aren’t saying.) That caused Steinberger to go ballistic and complain to Squires, which caused Squires to say things back to Steinberger, such as “Your arguments here are as bad as your article, which was a regurgitated…” etc etc.
Somehow (hmm, I wonder how?) Dr. Vino got hold of the exchange and ran it under the clever headline, “The X’d files: an exchange not seen on eRobertParker.com.” However, the deleted thread itself, which caused Squires such angst, has not been published, nor will it ever be, because it has literally been deleted. (Can’t the Dept. of Homeland Security recover a deleted thread?)
I’m not going to comment on the specifics of the situation, or on the state of Australian wine, but I do have two things to say.
1. I wish somebody would leak juicy emails to me!
2. Here’s what I think about deleting already-posted comments on a blog or, in this case, a bulletin board. It shouldn’t be done. Period. I’ve never deleted a posted comment and I never will. (Well, I accidentally approved some computer-generated spam a while back, and when I realized it was spam, I deleted it. But that’s different.)
Now, having said that, I have deleted 2 comments (i.e., didn’t approve them in the first place), out of 2,065, since my blog started last May. (First birthday coming up! Yay!) One was a rant from someone against my magazine, Wine Enthusiast, that I thought was rude and hysterical. I explained this to the person, and he/she has subsequently commented on my blog many times.
The second time I deleted a comment was when someone made a crude, insulting remark about a California winery. I explained to the person that I don’t mind thoughtful, constructive criticism, but I won’t tolerate hateful slurs. The person emailed me privately, apologized, rephrased his criticism, and the comment went up immediately.
I don’t read eRobertParker with any regularity, so I haven’t formed any opinions about Mark Squires. But I do have to say that, reading the exchange in Dr. Vino, he comes across as a pretty nasty guy. Also, a little pompous: “I have a degree in journalism, summa cum laude” … “I’m both a pretty good debater and awfully knowledgeable about every aspect of the subject matter, in general and in specific.” His concluding remark to Steinberger was “I have no interest in talking to you about anything at any time.”
Blogs and bulletin boards are supposed to be back-and-forths, right? I mean, a New Age kind of thing about participatory journalism, a digital conversation between bloggers and commenters, no more top-down Voices of Authority, but instead a dialogue of equals. Right? Or so I’m told. When a blogger or bulletin board host slams the door in a commenter’s face, that seems more Old Journalism than New, a digital version of Never make war against someone who buys ink by the barrel. Shouldn’t be done. Makes the site look like it has something to protect. Not “transparent.”