Tag Archives: conservatives

Gentleness and Gender

4267iSesame Street aired an episode that warmed the hearts of unbiblical egalitarians like me.  Baby Bear’s favorite toy is a baby doll, but he runs away embarrassed when Telly finds out.  Gordon has to explain that there’s no reason that certain toys have to be just for girls or just for boys, and Baby Bear returns to discover that Telly likes playing with the doll, too.

Naturally, when the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood found out about this (just a year and a half after it originally aired), they weren’t happy.  Shamer-in-chief Owen Strachan opines about what you’d expect:

I grew up watching Sesame Street. That was in an era when it was largely, like much of American culture, compatible with a basically traditional outlook on the world. In other words, you could predict as a Christian parent that many cultural outlets would support, in a general sense, a Protestant worldview. Boys were boys; girls were girls; right and wrong exists; authority figures are good; and so on…We’ve now transitioned culturally to an era in which the basic foundations of the Protestant worldview are under assault…Boys can play with dolls; there’s no reason they can’t do exactly what girls do.

The progressive Christian blogosphere has already responded seriously and less seriously to the basic points, so I won’t reiterate them here, except to note the absurd post-hoc nature of Strachan’s defense of his clumsily legalistic position.  Only girls should play with dolls because dolls are girls’ toys.  Dolls are girls’ toys because only girls play with dolls.  It would be okay for a boy to play with a cute, cuddly toy animal; in fact, Strachan adds a note to clarify this:

update: not a stuffed animal or a toy figurine, but a little girl’s baby doll, complete with a bottle

So what is it about a human figurine that makes it so unassailably for girls?  Strachan’s predictable tirade about how modern culture is launching a war on traditional roles and how Sesame Street was way better when he was a kid* doesn’t even try to explain.  He goes on to rehash the Culture for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s basic arguments about how men and women are different.  But there’s nothing about, specifically, dolls**.  And dolls are a particularly curious case.  Baby Bear is pretending to be a father.  Strachan, head of an organization devoted to promoting “traditional families,” is at least nominally a strong proponent of fathers; why would he object to a boy learning to feed and burp a baby?

4267dThe idea that, although both men and women should rear children, only girls are allowed to practice leads into what really struck me about the episode: Gentleness.  Baby Bear kisses and cuddles his doll, and he gets upset when Telly plays roughly with it.  Strachan, of course, would say this is girl’s play.  I suspect he’d actually be less upset if Baby Bear stole his sister’s doll and played violently with it.  Boys will be boys, after all, and according to Strachan, “it is right and good to train them in masculine, not feminine, ways.”

But, setting aside the inherent problem of gendered behavior, why should gentleness be only a female virtue?  From a Biblical perspective, of course gentleness is a universal.  Jesus says “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29).  Paul refers to “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:1) and urges his readers to “let your gentle spirit be known to all men” (Philippians 4:5).  And, of course, gentleness is a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23).

4267aFrom the perspective of simple logic, it doesn’t make any more sense.  I don’t want to come down against roughhousing altogether and say that kids should always play gently (kids have a lot of energy), but it’s disturbing to think of one gender being taught that gentle behavior is actually wrong and that rough or even violent behavior is the only appropriate way to act, regardless of the situation.  Are there times when punching someone is the only sensible course of action?  Maybe.  But there are many more situations where gentleness is called for.  Boys who are taught that this isn’t an option are going to struggle as friends, as husbands, and of course as fathers.

It’s a good thing that today’s boys will have Baby Bear as an example.

There’s a secondary message that I hope children will also pick up on: Whether it’s a favorite toy, book, movie, whatever, don’t be ashamed of the things you like.

*The latter position is common all along the political spectrum, and I’ve got to say, guys, get over it.  Modern Sesame Street rocks.  Andy Samberg’s Conversation with Bert is frakkin’ hilarious.  Don’t forget to watch part 2.

**This inability to talk on-topic without just returning to generic talking points is typical of conservative Evangelical apologists.  You see it in pro-life crusaders who can’t discuss current events like healthcare without constantly steering the conversation back to “baby-killing” and in evolution deniers who somehow just repeat the same argument about baramins regardless of what you said.  To me, this demonstrates the difference between intellectualism and pseudo-intellectualism: The latter is just repeating what one has been told, so in a specific conversation, one has no ability to analyze a new situation and can only revert to the most applicable talking point.

Images from Muppet Wiki.


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The Trouble with Courting the White Male Vote

Opening blog posts and other informal writing can sometimes be a challenge.  Like this post, for instance: Do I really need to begin with “The Republican victory strategy revolved around the votes of white men,” as if that was new information?  The white dude vote has been the sum total of the Republican strategy for a good while now, though this election cycle was unusually extreme in that respect.  What is new information, at least to Republicans, apparently, is just how ineffective this strategy is.

The problem here is not that a party shouldn’t try to get white men to vote for them.  White men are a big demographic (although slightly outweighed this year by white women); presumably a candidate needs to capture some amount of it to secure a win.  The problem is how.

Since the white male voter has been entrenched in our political consciousness as the “default” voter, there aren’t any issues that are coded as white or male in the same way that, say, immigration is primarily a Hispanic issue or reproductive rights are primarily a women’s issue*.  If an issue were to disproportionately affect men or white people, it would be treated as an American issue that affects everyone.  The mortgage crisis, for instance: 75% of white people own their homes, as opposed to 60% of Asians and less than 50% of African-Americans and Hispanics, and spiraling rent prices don’t grab media attention as a national crisis.  And, for the most part, the populace goes along with this.

This mentality ought to be a godsend for a campaign looking to court the white male demographic because you can focus on the issues that most directly affect them while still appearing and presenting yourself favorably to everyone.  Yet this is insufficient for Republicans; they are under the impression that white male voters will only turn out for them if they help white men and nobody else.

Consequently, to appeal specifically to white male voters, Republicans have to (or think they have to) actively not appeal to other demographics.  Want to show that you support men?  Oppose women’s issues!  Courting the straight vote?  Snub the gay vote!**  Casting yourself as the candidate for people born in the US?  Make life miserable for those who weren’t!  And so on.

This choice is puzzling in the first place because it doesn’t actually help the white male voter base.  How does denying birth control to women, for instance, help men?  It only works if you can convince people that social policy is a zero-sum game where helping one person necessarily hurts everyone else and vice-versa.  There’s a whole conservative cottage industry that revolves around trying to convince people of this (NOM, for one).

But the really odd thing about this strategy is that was so obviously going to backfire.  How could it not?  Every time Republicans try to court one demographic by marginalizing another, they’re outright telling the other demographic not to vote for them.  Republicans are a party for men; women have no reason to support them.  Republicans are a party for white people; minorities shouldn’t vote for them.  And every time Republicans try to strengthen their core by undermining someone else, they add a new demographic to the list of people who shouldn’t vote for them.  Students.  Retirees.  The poor.  The list goes on.

Here we see the stark contrast to the typical Democratic strategy of appealing to minority demographics.  Instead of shutting people out of their party, they generally invite people in.  So Democrats define themselves as a party for minorities, for women, for GLBT people.  Each such definition doesn’t contain any implication that other people shouldn’t support the party, only that there are particularly good reasons to if you belong to one of those groups.  (Naturally, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Democrats are always good for those groups, only that they present themselves that way.)

Republicans have just learned a painful lesson: If you’re going to define your base by exclusion, you’d better be very, very sure that you don’t exclude more than 49% of the country.


Women for Mitt found on Manboobz.

*Say affirmative action and I will smack you.

**The most egregious case came last December, when a gay Republican asked Newt Gingrich why gay voters should support him and Gingrich told him to vote for Obama.

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So.  The election is over.

Image from Wikipedia

For inveterate poll-watchers like myself, it’s fascinating–if a bit anticlimactic–to see a years’ worth of wild speculation finally replaced with one single, incontrovertible set of data–the final electoral map.  No more speculating on whether polls oversample certain demographics or how voter-ID laws will affect the outcome; the outcome is now known.  This abrupt switch from entirely abstract guesswork to entirely concrete fact is seen practically nowhere except elections and sports; as such, it provides an interesting glimpse into the difference between reality and peoples’ perception of it.

By which I mean, we now have proof that conservatives are completely disconnected from reality.

I’m not talking here about ideology and values; what you believe to be right or wrong can’t be proven or disproven (although, if you believe something to be wrong because of its consequences, then whether those consequences really happen can be subject to proof).  So, for instance, the election doesn’t prove that conservatives are wrong about gay marriage.  It does, however, prove that conservatives are wrong about the general population’s opinions towards gay marriage, since common conservative wisdom stated that gay marriage would never be legalized by popular vote; Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins still claims that “contrary to what the Left will say, the narrow margin for victory in these four states offers plenty of evidence that a solid majority of Americans still opposes same-sex ‘marriage.'”  Losing four out of four proves that you have popular support?  It sounds like any result would convince Tony Perkins that people agreed with him.

But let’s return to the presidential election.  Sabermetrician-turned-psephologist (there are two words you don’t get to use very often) Nate Silver, whose blog, FiveThirtyEight, rose to fame through his accurate prediction of the 2008 election, faced some harsh criticism near the end of this cycle from conservatives who balked more and more as his estimate of Obama’s win chance rose from around 60% after Denver to a final value of 90%.  At the end of October, when Obama had picked up the momentum that would carry him through to Election Day, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough railed that Silver’s current estimate of 73% was ridiculous:

And anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they’re jokes.

And then there was Dean Chambers.  Like many other conservatives, he believed that Silver’s model introduced bias by weighting different polls to produce the result he wanted.  And how do we know that Silver wanted to influence the election for Obama?  Quoth Chambers*:

Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the “Mr. New Castrati” voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program.  In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound.

You just can’t trust those skinny guys.  Luckily, Chambers runs his own, bias-free election model, Unskewed Polls.  Let’s see how his model fares against Silver’s.  Their final November 5 predictions are shown at left.  I’ve labeled the graphs, although I doubt I really need to.

As poll watchers already know, election night was a triumph for Silver and statistics nerds everywhere, as he correctly predicted 50 out of 50 states (his electoral college prediction, being an aggregate, was actually 20 points short).  Meanwhile, Chambers was off by a humbling 69 electoral votes.

But there’s more to this than “Silver was right, Chambers was wrong.”  Silver made a careful prediction, using a logical algorithm to weigh the different factors and laying out his reasoning every day on his blog, noting any changes from the previous day’s prediction and explaining why it happened.  Meanwhile, Chambers only gives a vague description of a variety of factors without any indication to where or how much each factor came into play.  Chambers’ map, in fact, doesn’t look like a prediction at all; it looks like a calculated effort to create a plausible-looking win for Romney while giving him the fewest necessary swing states.

The best evidence for this is Unskewed Polls’ previous prediction, from October 25, when Chambers produced the truly remarkable map shown here.

Nobody could possibly mistake that map for an actual prediction, right?  It has Oregon going for Romney.  Oregon, which hasn’t been won by a Republican since 1984, and which Obama won by 16 points in 2008.  Romney wasn’t even campaigning there!  This is obviously just partisan cheerleading.  Then, the day before the election, Chambers published the map shown above to maintain some credibility while still promoting Romney.  Theoretically he could pass the second map off as a revision based on recent polling data, similar to Silver’s procedure, but curiously, he doesn’t even try to.  The methodology instead only notes that there are 11 disputed swing states (still including some long shots like Michigan) and 39 states where the results are agreed upon…including Oregon, New Mexico, or Minnesota.  I couldn’t find any explanation for his choice to award those states to Romney in the first prediction or to subsequently change his prediction.  He seems to have just realized that his first prediction made him look ridiculous and attempted to sweep it under the rug.

Chambers had to know that his prediction was ludicrously wrong; likewise, at least some the many conservative pundits who predicted a Romney landslide had to realize what a long shot it was.  But some–most infamously, Karl Rove–really seemed to believe it, right up until it became mathematically impossible on election night.  Why?  What motivates people to cling to a prediction they know to be wrong?

I believe there are two primary reasons.  First, there’s the obvious effort to influence the election via the bandwagon effect.  Second, I think we’re seeing the effects of the ever-more-stringent Republican demands for party loyalty.  Suggesting that Romney might lose, after all, is tantamount to an attack on him as a candidate, since it suggests that he lacks the chops to actually win the vote.  There’s a degree of pride in statements that the results would be a surprise, or in predicting that Romney would win a state that most projections gave to Obama.  For instance, Dick Morris was clearly trying to set himself above other predictors when he said about his prediction of a 325-213 Romney victory:

It will be the biggest surprise in recent American political history.  It will rekindle the whole question on why the media played this race as a nailbiter where in fact Romney’s going to win by quite a bit.

Anti-intellectualism plays into this, showing up both in the attacks on Nate Silver and in the tendency to base predictions on a gut feeling, rather than poll data, such as Rush Limbaugh’s statement that “common sense tells me this election isn’t gonna be close” (Limbaugh also cited the odd “Redskins rule,” which bases the winner on the outcome of a Washington Redskins game).  So can the right’s ties to evangelicalism, as in Glenn Beck’s assertion that God put Romney behind in the polls so that Romney’s victory would clearly be a miracle.  Either way, though, the core principle remains: Find a reason why Romney will win, and if there isn’t one, look harder.

In other words, party loyalty encourages Republicans to refuse to believe obvious reality.  And, as they have just discovered, this is never worth it.  Because reality intrudes.  It stubbornly insists on happening just as it was always going to regardless of how many equivocations or justifications you make.  The only difference is that you’re unprepared.

XKCD by Randall Munroe

Although I don’t expect it will, we can always hope that the victory of the nerds will cause conservatives to rethink their out-of-hand dismissals of statisticians, scientists, economists, and everyone else who uses data to suggest that common conservative wisdom is wrong.  Maybe global warming is happening.  Maybe fracking does have a negative impact on the land.  Maybe cutting taxes on the highest earners doesn’t grow the economy.  And maybe acknowledging these facts and crafting a platform around them is wiser than clinging to a position contradicted by plain evidence.

We can only hope.


*This links to a Gawker article, rather than Chambers’ original (which is linked at the beginning of the paragraph), because Chambers later deleted that paragraph and apologized.  After the election.  Almost as if, had Silver been wrong, Chambers would have redoubled the “you can’t trust femmy guys” line of attack.

**I’ve linked this HuffPo article, rather than FiveThirtyEight (linked in the body text), because FiveThirtyEight’s actual prediction maps are shown in a sidebar, rather than in an article, and therefore will probably become unavailable eventually.

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Chick-Fil-A’s Freedom of Speech vs. My Freedom of Wallet

This chicken, however, is awesome.

Never has there existed an online scrap that I wasn’t willing to jump into, and I have nothing better to do.  Therefore, in my capacity as a completely uncredentialed blogger, I present: My thoughts on the Chick-Fil-A mess.  In particular, let’s talk about free speech.

What is it with conservatives and misunderstanding free speech?  Look, everyone loves free speech.  I’m using it right now.  But it isn’t one of those meaningless political phrases that can be invoked at random, like “American values.”  Free speech has a meaning that has been carefully defined and vetted for over 200 years.  It doesn’t mean the ability to say anything without repercussions from anyone.

This is what Sarah Palin thinks it means, and unfortunately, a fair amount of the country seems inclined to follow her.  Let’s look carefully at the quote:

Well, that calling for the boycott is a real — has a chilling effect on our 1st Amendment rights. And the owner of the Chick-fil-A business had merely voiced his personal opinion about supporting traditional definition of marriage, one boy, one girl, falling in love, getting married. And having voiced support for kind of that cornerstone of all civilization and all religions since the beginning of time, he then basically getting crucified.

I’m speaking up for him and his 1st Amendment rights and anybody else who would wish to express their not anti-gay people sentiment, but their support of traditional marriage, which President Obama and Joe Biden, they both supported the exact same thing until just a few months ago, when Obama had to flip-flop to shore up the homosexual voter base.

Hmm.  Boycotting a company because of something the CEO said is a violation of first amendment rights?  That implies that either a) the First Amendment forbids you from deciding where to spend your money based on your perceptions of different companies, or b) the First Amendment forbids you from telling other people where you think they should or should not spend their money (which, yes, would mean that the First Amendment actually limited what people were and were not allowed to say).  Both of these are curious precepts.  The former, in particular, ludicrously implies that businesses shouldn’t be allowed suffer based on what those representing them say, which suggests that, for instance, a failed advertising campaign causing business to take a hit would also be unconstitutional*.

Dan Cathy has freedom of speech; I have freedom of wallet.  I can choose not to not to eat there because of his statements just as I could choose not to eat there because I hate their stupid misspelled name or because, let’s face it, their food isn’t that good.


*Unless, of course, they are Oreo or J.C. Penney, in which case the chilling effect of boycotting them on free speech is somehow negated.

Serama found here.


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Oddity of the Week

I was going to write about Psychology Today’s “black women are ugly” debacle, but I seem to have missed the boat on that one–although if you did too, I strongly encourage you to go acquaint yourself with the whole sordid affair.

And then I was going to write about the House Republican Jobs Plan (PDF).  It looks and reads like a report written by a kid who forgot it was due until the night before, with its elephantine font and liberal use of clip art, and yet it still took them four months to produce.  Lower taxes and less regulation?  I never would have guessed.  Pictured is a competitive American factory of the future, producing, I can only guess, triangles.  (Ezra Klein takes it apart beautifully.)

But I must set those aside in favor of Sarah Palin’s version of Paul Revere’s ride:

He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms uh by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.

Well…a horse was involved, at least.


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Oddity of the Week: Atlas Shrugged (the Movie)

Although it was predictable, I’m still delighted that the Atlas Shrugged movie has proved an astounding bomb.  As a no-budget independent film with Z-grade acting talent and a poster that looks like it was made in ten minutes by a high school student with Adobe Illustrator, it was inevitable, but still, even libertarian strongholds like the Wall Street Journal can’t defend this one.  They even got the release date wrong–thanks to federal holidays, tax day was April 18th this year.  Herp derp.

But seriously, there are train wrecks (pun intended), and then there’s 9% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Highlights:

This comically tasteless and flavorless adaptation of Ayn Rand’s bombastic magnum opus delivers her simplistic nostrums with smug self-satisfaction.  (Richard Brody, the New Yorker)

Few novels get the cinematic adaptation they deserve, but director Paul Johansson has been fair to Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” — or rather, the opening third of it. The first in a proposed trilogy, “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” is nearly as stilted, didactic and simplistic as Rand’s free-market fable.  (Mark Jenkins, the Washington Post)

I’d rather have all my teeth pulled out with pliers than go see it, myself.  If you can stomach it, here’s the bile-inducing trailer.  Watch it and you’ll see the inherent difficulty of bringing such a book to the big screen, as hinted at in Brody’s review.

The difficulty is not that the book itself is an author tract and not a proper novel.  It is not why, if John Galt and his cronies are essential lynchpins of society, no one has ever heard of him.  It is not the plot gymnastics required to make high-speed rail the conservative cause celebre of the future.  The difficulty is that you simply can’t get away with portraying awful people as heroes in a film.  In a book, straw opponents, contrived plots, selective viewpoints, and author filibusters can combine to present a narrow one-sided perspective from which the heroes appear to be, if not heroic, at least justifiable in their motivations.  But a film can’t get around the fact that a flesh-and-blood actor has to portray a character in some way, and there’s no way to portray characters with truly Randian motivations except as smug douchebags.  And that’s how they come across.  Hank Rearden can’t say a single line in that trailer without making you want to punch his smug face; Dagny Taggart (where did Rand come up with that ridiculous name?) mostly comes across as a shrill harpy.

It’s almost like a cinematic exercise in achieving the impossible: “Let’s recast Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life as a hero and George Bailey as a worthless loser!”  But, if this film is anything to go by, it may indeed be cinematically impossible.  People are just too human to buy it.


If you handled the trailer fine and are ready to test your constitution on something stronger, try Dear Woman: SFW, just guys talking, and you’ll never sleep again.

Here’s Trololo as a palate cleanser that somehow manages to be light-years less creepy.

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Moderation Policies (Left and Right)

Free Republic has been attracting some attention on the web for having stated policies like this:

Free Republic is a site dedicated to the concerns of traditional grassroots conservative activists. We’re here to discuss and advance our conservative causes in a more or less liberal-free environment. We’re not here to debate liberals. We do not want our pages filled with their arrogant, obnoxious, repugnant bile. Liberals, usurpers, and other assorted malcontents are considered unwelcome trolls on FR and their accounts and or posts will be summarily dismissed at the convenience of the site administrators.

It’s not just a stated conservative site–it’s an enforced conservative site where being liberal (or even non-conservative) is a bannable offense.  This raised the question of moderation policies on other political partisan blogs, so I did a brief survey.  Let’s handle the liberal sites first.

DailyKos has a whole pile of posting rules, conventions, and suggestions, but here is the pertinent part:

Some Rules Regarding Participation in Diaries and Comment Threads

  • Do not make threats or calls for violence. Threatening to beat up or kill someone, or suggesting that people should kill themselves, or saying that poison should be put in somebody’s crème brûlée, or making similar remarks, even as a joke, is prohibited and can lead to banning. This does not mean that all forms of cartoon violence, literary references, metaphors and the like are barred.

Admin Moderation: A single warning. Second offense: Banning.

  • Revealing the real identity or other personal information of a registered user who has not him- or herself made that identity known at Daily Kos or otherwise given permission for such information to be publicly revealed will result in summary banning. Among other things, such revelations include, but are not limited to, phone numbers, addresses, including email addresses not publicly available at Daily Kos, places of employment or clients, gender, sexual orientation, and the identities of other family members. Asking hostile outing questions such as: Do you work at such and such a place? when research has shown this to be true or likely to be true is a form of outing and will be dealt with as such.

Admin Moderation: Summary banning.

  • Registered users working in paid (or unpaid positions of authority) for political campaigns must disclose their affiliation when it is relevant to the conversation.

Admin Moderation: Warning, suspension, banning and, in an exception to the outing rule, exposure of the paid person’s real name.

  • Registered users who write GBCW diaries – saying they are leaving and never coming back – will be banned after their diary’s 24-hour recommendation period has expired. A user who changes their mind may return to Daily Kos under their pre-ban moniker and user identification number only after appealing for reinstatement to the Director of Community or Markos. Users who write diaries saying they are taking a temporary hiatus from posting at Daily Kos are not banned.
  • This is a site for adults and language is not generally policed here, in terms of “shit, ” “fuck, ” “asshole, ” or any of those other family-unfriendly words. Avoid “fuck” in headlines to avoid triggering browser filters of users who log on at their workplace. Anti-semitic, anti-Arab, racist, sexist, ableist and heterosexist language, however, is unwelcome.

Admin Moderation: Warning, suspension, banning.

  • Thread stalking is defined as having three requirements:

1. On multiple occasions, one or more commenters follow a community member into diary threads; and, 2. The commenter(s) posts comments that include false information, personal attacks, lies, or implied/express disclosure of private information; and 3. The commenter(s) engages in this conduct with the intent to harass, harm, humiliate, frighten or intimidate another poster. This intent may be inferred from the number of times that the commenter follows a community member into threads and/or the nature of the comments posted.

Stalking does not include the mere expression of disagreement, seeking out diaries or comments of favorite diarists or simply frequent interaction on the boards.

Before calling someone a stalker or tossing H Rs at a person thought to be a stalker, community members should post a comment explaining what conduct and/or statements constitute the stalking with a link to relevant evidence so that adminstrators and the community have a record to review. Admin Moderation: Warning, suspension, banning.

Nothing there about political opinions; in fact, it’s specifically mentioned that disagreeing with other people is allowed.

Here is the Crooks and Liars policy:

C&L takes pride and a vibrant and lively discussion on our posts. In order to insure that, we ask all our readers to adhere to the following commenting rules:a) Keep all comment threads on topic. This includes the main comments of the post and all sub-threads within that post’s comments.

b) Will not post comments that contain spam, malware, Trojans or any other items harmful to the community. Failure to comply with this rule is grounds for an immediate ban.

c) Will not engage in racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism or other intolerance.

d) Not post comments that are obscene, hateful, threatening or wishing acts of violence against other.

e) Will not engage in “flame-baiting” or trolling.

f) Will opt to ignore users before engaging in any of the above.

g) Keep all discussions civil. Everyone has a right to disagree, but do so respectfully and refrain from name calling.

h) Give proper attribution to all copied content and keep said copied work to a maximum of three paragraphs

i) Will not repost the same content numerous times.

j) Understand that the C&L staff reserves the right to edit or delete any comment for the purpose of; compliance with the TOS and/or privacy policy, content and clarity. We also reserve the right to edit content for any reason not stated above.

The bit about racism, sexism, and the like could be considered squelching the opinions of racists and sexists, but it’s a standard rule found on all kinds of blogs.  Again, there is a specific statement that dissenting opinions are allowed.

The Huffington Post lists five guiding principles for commenting.  This is the first one:

The Huffington Post welcomes all users to join our community and to comment and treats all members of the community equally.

We do not discriminate based on the person who is posting, and we never censor comments for political or ideological reasons. We never delete an appropriate comment because we disagree with its viewpoint or ideology, and we never publish an inappropriate comment because we agree with or support its viewpoint or ideology. We also do not tolerate ad hominem attacks of any kind.

Media Matters:

We are committed to providing a forum where anyone, from anywhere on the political spectrum, can address and respond to the work we do. We request that your posts be relevant to the topic at hand and respectful of others. Media Matters reserves the right to remove comments, topics and threads that are hateful, derogatory, trolling, irrelevant to the conversation, or in violation of copyrights.

Think Progress has its policy in legalese, but the idea is the same:

Blog Community Rules. We have adopted the “Blog Community Rules” set forth below to create a forum where information and progressive views can be shared in a productive way. While using the Blog, you agree to adhere to the Blog Community Rules below.You agree to:
• Respect other Bloggers – please do not threaten, insult, abuse, intimidate or harass other Blog users.
• Use the Blog for your personal use only. Posting entries solely to promote your own projects are not allowed.

You agree not to:
• Post any messages or provide links to any messages that endorse or oppose a particular political party or candidate for office.
• Post any private information, or otherwise harvest, collect or disclose information, about another Blogger without his or her express consent.
• Post any content to the Blog that is unlawful, racist, hateful, libelous, defamatory, obscene, or that intentionally discriminates against or harasses particular individuals or groups.
• Post any death threats.
• Post any content to the Blog that infringes any third-party’s intellectual property or other rights.
• Use the Blog for any unlawful purpose, or transmit or otherwise make available in connection with the Blog any material that would give rise to criminal or civil liability.
• Use the Blog for advertisements, chain letters, “spamming,” survey solicitations, junk mail or solicitations.
• Impersonate any person or entity, including any CAPAF employees, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with any person or entity.
• Imply that CAPAF endorses any of your statements or positions.
• Transmit any harmful, invasive or disruptive code or other materials (such as viruses, worms or web bugs) through or to the Blog, or otherwise “hack” or deface any portion of the Blog.
• Frame or mirror any part of the Blog without our prior written authorization.

The one major exception is Democratic Underground, which states:

Who We Are: Democratic Underground is an online community for Democrats and other progressives. Members are expected to be generally supportive of progressive ideals, and to support Democratic candidates for political office. Democratic Underground is not affiliated with the Democratic Party, and comments posted here are not representative of the Democratic Party or its candidates.

Being conservative isn’t listed specifically as a bannable offense, but it sounds like it is.

Moving on, we’ve already mentioned Free Republic, but let’s look at some other conservative blogs and forums.  For instance, Red State:

The posting rules for redstate.com are as follows:

  • No profanity.
  • No personal attacks.
  • No harassment or demonization of a particular individual.
  • No disruptive behavior or off-topic remarks for their own sake.
  • No trolling or mobying
  • Notwithstanding the list above, the proprietors of this site in their or their designated site moderators’ sole discretion may disable an account if the proprietors in their own judgment or the judgment of their designated site moderators believe a user is disruptive in any way or intends to disrupt

The purpose of this site is promote conservative and Republican ideals. This is our home, and we ask you kindly not to track mud into it. Revocation of posting privileges (banning) will take place after a warning of behavior which violates the intent and spirit of these rules.

The bulleted rules are all standard, but the following paragraph suggests that banning may result if you disagree with conservative ideals.

Right Network/Gateway Pundit has a much more inclusive policy:

RIGHTNETWORK encourages expression, discourse, and respectful debate.
RIGHTNETWORK is a vibrant community where people from all sides of the political spectrum can come together and join the national conversation.

RIGHTNETWORK is an entertainment media company and as such, we won’t dominate the conversation, we’ll stimulate it. The content and values you express in your comments are a reflection of your character and values.
All comments, visuals, videos and other type of material posted by fans on this site (“User Content”) do not necessarily reflect the opinions or ideals of RIGHTNETWORK, its employees or affiliates.

We review all content posted here and reserve the right to remove anything that violates the RIGHTNETWORK Terms of Use.

That’s an example of a conservative blog that specifically allows people of all opinions.

Pajamas Media is an aggregate of conservative blogs:

Pajamas Media appreciates your comments that abide by the following guidelines:

1. Avoid profanities or foul language unless it is contained in a necessary quote or is relevant to the comment.

2. Stay on topic.

3. Disagree, but avoid ad hominem attacks.

4. Threats are treated seriously and reported to law enforcement.

5. Spam and advertising are not permitted in the comments area.

These guidelines are very general and cannot cover every possible situation. Please don’t assume that Pajamas Media management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment. We reserve the right to filter or delete comments or to deny posting privileges entirely at our discretion. Please note that comments are reviewed by the editorial staff and may not be posted immediately.

Nothing about dissenting opinions there.

Michelle Malkin’s policy is a bit nebulous:

I may allow as much or as little opportunity for registration as I choose, in my absolute discretion, and I may close particular comment threads or discontinue my general policy of allowing comments at any time. By registering to post comments, you warrant that you are at least 18 years old and that you are solely responsible for your account’s activity.

I reserve the right to delete your comments or revoke your registration for any reason whatsoever. Rarely will I do so simply because I disagree with you. I will, however, usually do so if you post something that is, in my opinion, (a) off-topic; (b) libelous, defamatory, abusive, harassing, threatening, profane, pornographic, offensive, false, misleading, or which otherwise violates or encourages others to violate these terms of use or any law, including intellectual property laws; or (c) “spam,” i.e., an attempt to advertise, solicit, or otherwise promote goods and services. I may exercise these rights myself and I may delegate them to employees and/or contractors.

I do not own your comments and I expressly disclaim any and all liability that may result from them. By commenting on my site, you agree that you retain all ownership rights in what you post here and that you will relieve me from any and all liability that may result from those postings. You further agree to grant me a worldwide, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sub-licenseable and transferable license to store, use, transmit, display, publish, reproduce, or otherwise distribute your comments without limitation, as well as to make such additional uses of them as may be needed by me.

In short, you’re my guest here. I welcome your participation, but if you abuse my hospitality, don’t be surprised if you are shown the door.

Generally reasonable, pending an explanation of what “rarely” means.  Also note that, like most political blogs, commenting requires registration; unlike most political blogs, registration is currently closed.

Hot Air’s terms of service are carbon copied Michelle Malkin’s (or vice versa):

Hot Air allows you to post comments on the site, provided that you first register to do so with a valid e-mail address. Comments registration is now closed. That means you cannot comment unless you have already registered. We may allow as much or as little opportunity for registration as we choose, in our absolute discretion, and we may close particular comment threads or discontinue our general policy of allowing comments at any time. By registering to post comments, you warrant that you are at least 18 years old and that you are solely responsible for your account’s activity.

We reserve the right to delete your comments or revoke your registration for any reason. Rarely, if ever, will we do so simply because we disagree with you. We will, however, usually do so if you post something that is, in our good-faith opinion, (a) off-topic; (b) libelous, defamatory, abusive, harassing, threatening, profane, pornographic, offensive, false, misleading, or which otherwise violates or encourages others to violate these terms of use or any law, including intellectual property laws; or (c) “spam,” i.e., an attempt to advertise, solicit, or otherwise promote goods and services.

Hot Air does not own your comments and expressly disclaims any and all liability that may result from them. By commenting on our site, you agree that you retain all ownership rights in what you post here and that you will relieve us from any and all liability that may result from those postings. You further agree to grant us a worldwide, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to store, use, transmit, display, publish, reproduce, or otherwise distribute your comments without limitation, as well as to make such additional uses of them as may be needed by HotAir.com, Hot Air Network, LLC, or any affiliated entity.

In short, you’re our guest here. We value your opinion and are happy to provide you with a forum in which to express it, but if you abuse our hospitality or use our site to injure someone, don’t be surprised if we throw you out.

Again, comment registration is closed; again, we don’t know what “rarely” means.

While we’re on the topic of major personalities, Ann Coulter’s blog has always been closed for comments.  Bill O’Reilly‘s blog allows comments for Premium Members–and yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like (plutocracy in action: Your opinion counts if you have money!).  On the other side, The Maddow Blog, Ezra Klein, and Paul Krugman are all open for comments.  Their terms of service, which are pretty standard, I haven’t included because they are those of their respective news organizations, not those of the bloggers themselves.

In summary, all Democratic sites except Democratic Underground allow participation by people with all kinds of opinions; most specifically encourage it.  Republican sites run the full range from actively encouraging disagreement to specifically forbidding it.  In addition, all the conservative personalities surveyed either disabled or greatly restricted comments on their blogs, whereas all the liberal personalities surveyed allowed anyone to comment.

One possible reason is that liberals may be more likely to troll conservative sites than vice versa.  For instance, the largely-liberal Tumblrverse likes to flood polls on Fox News and similar sites (note that this isn’t actually trolling:  A public poll is going to be touted as “real people’s opinions,” and Tumblr users are real people).

Alternately, there simply may be a preponderance of liberals on blogs and forums, since internet-savvy demographics (young people) tend to overlap with liberal demographics, meaning that if a small proportion of everyone hangs out at blogs they disagree with, there will be more liberals on conservative sites than vice versa.  At any rate, I came up with a longer list of prominent liberal blogs more quickly than I could find even a modicum of prominent conservative blogs.

But it could also be that conservatives simply have less tolerance for disagreement.  Outside sources support this:  Republicans’ ability to walk in lockstep in Congress while Congressional Democrats hardly ever all agree on anything; sites like Conservapedia designed as alternatives to mainstream sites that allow conservatives to avoid exposure to other opinions (Conservapedia, which looks like a parody but isn’t, is notorious for banning editors so aggressively that it is essentially written by admins, and registration has been closed for several years now).

Liberals, in my experience, enjoy a modicum of disagreement because it gives them a chance to repeat their opinions and evidence.  Discussions among people who mostly agree with each other feel like preaching to the choir; one or two dissenters make the conversation feel much more productive.

After all, trolling should not be a serious problem for a healthy, vibrant online community.  True trolls–people who make obnoxious comments with no intent to engage in actual conversation–can be banned or simply ignored easily enough; people with differing opinions who want to have a real discussion are a benefit, not a harm.  If a community doesn’t like them, they can be ignored, voted down into oblivion, or simply told that they are not welcome.  After all, Free Republic is in love with their own importance:

Over 300,000 people have registered for posting privileges on Free Republic since inception in 1996 and our forum is read daily by over one hundred thousand freedom loving citizens and patriots from all around the country, and all around the world. We’re currently delivering over thirty million pageviews per month to over one million visitors.  Oh, we’re big stuff all right.

So why can’t their hundreds of thousands of patriots handle a few random liberals?  (And seriously, they actually said that last sentence?)


I’m not a big reader of political partisan blogs, so if there are any glaring omissions in my list, let me know and I’ll have a look at their terms of service.  Several sites (FireDogLake, Daily Kos, FreedomWorks, Ace of Spades HQ) have also been skipped because I was unable to find any relevant terms of service, or because they lack a venue for comments.


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