Is it ethical to withhold comments from rude and obnoxious haters?
Yes, I’m talking about my most active critic, Baylor Health Care System’s online AIDS diagnostician, and recently revealed Internet sleuth, J Todd Deshong.
In the comment thread for an article at a another website, Todd recently accused me of—among other things—not posting comments he has made to my blog. I replied that I have not seen any comments from him for months.
It turns out that we are both right, and I need to provide some background to explain.
A couple of months ago, Todd posted content from my blog on his anti-AIDS dissident blog, dissidents4dumbees. Problem is, he failed to properly attribute the source of that content by providing a link to it, despite my request that he do so. In fact, he has never posted a link to resistanceisfruitful, though he has mentioned me fairly frequently lately.
It should be obvious to anyone who has followed my blog that there is no love lost between Todd and me. Todd has posted numerous nasty unflattering and dishonest comments and posts about me and other AIDS dissidents on his blog. It would be fair to say I am one of a handful of AIDS dissidents that he is fixated on, and I am guilty of having taken him to task here a couple of times too.
As if having his own blog is not enough, Todd has also abused the comments feature of my blog by trying to make off-topic and inflammatory remarks—a trademark of his blog. Unlike Todd, I have had some journalism and editorial experience and I understand why it is acceptable to have standards for publication.
His failure to be a good netizen by properly attributing source material on his blog (another source on that subject here), particularly when requested to do so, irked me so much that I marked one of Todd’s off-topic comments here as spam, rather than just deleting it. My automated spam service then took the initiative to send all subsequent comments from him to the spam folder, which I rarely look at.
From my perspective there is a certain poetic justice in this. There are consequences to our conduct, and Todd has found that out. I did not realize what happened until Todd brought the matter to my attention today, and in hindsight I should have known better than to think Todd just “went away”. That is definitely not his style.
Unlike Todd, I have always provided links to his blog when writing about him. It’s the right thing to do and there’s no reason to deny my readers that information. They are smart enough to decide what to think for themselves.
Personally, I think he does the cause of AIDS dissidence more good than harm. He is so bombastic that it almost hurts to read his posts. The catty, dishy queen in him may or may not be a learned stereotype, but it does remind me of some other bitter gay men I have known.
I also get a bit of a kick out of seeing his website ranking (more on that below) jump whenever I blog about him, though it doesn’t always last.
I have been thinking about whether or not to approve Todd’s “comments” but my own bitchy side feels more like tit for tat right now. Hey, I’m only human too. Showing some good faith would go a long way with me, but I’m not holding my breath, especially since Todd just posted yet another fabricated tale about me working for the IRS and threatening him with an audit!
Search engines love links and sites that use them. Search engines and the people who use them seek out sites with content, integrity and credibility… words that Todd also likes to throw around, but doesn’t really understand very well. Failing to link sources speaks volumes about his own insecurity, and how little he trusts his readers to read the source material he is pontificating about for themselves.
Posting links is not only the right thing to do, it might just be good for his blog.
For example, global Internet reach the past 3 months for our two blogs, per the web information company Alexa as of today (in this case, smaller numbers are better):
dissidents4dumbees – 4,312,123 (more than 4 million websites get more hits than d4d)
resistanceisfruitful – 421,018 (less than 1/2 million websites get more hits than rif)
I’m a geek and I track stuff like this, so I just happen to know that I am one of the best things to happen to Todd, whether he knows it or not. His rank improves every time I write about him. You would think he would be more grateful for all I’ve done to promote his provocative, if not intellectually dishonest blog.
Speaking of numbers, during the same three month period, my readers viewed nearly 8 pages per visit, compared to Todd’s 2.2. Visitors to resistanceisfruitful spent an average of 17.9 minutes on my site, compared to 4.9 minutes at Todd’s.
UPDATE May 14, 2010
After a good night’s sleep, I’ve decided to post most of Todd’s comments, though I reserve the right to moderate my own personal space in the future. I don’t mind criticism, but if Todd cannot make his point in two or three comments, it’s time for him to utilize his own blog, which I have provided generous and abundant links to.
I did have to delete two of Todd’s comments because they were completely off-topic and/or libelous. I have a responsibility as a publisher to exercise some judgment.
UPDATE II May 31, 2010
While I was out of town visiting my mum this past week, Todd spammed my blog with seven new comments in three days, and he has written a new defamatory post dedicated to me on his own blog.
True to form, most of his comments were off-topic, or personal attacks and name-calling, along with a good measure of flat-out untruthfulness. For example, Todd asserts that I work for the IRS and am stalking him from government computers there. This outrageous and unfounded statement reeks of clinical paranoia (not that I’m qualified to make that diagnosis, but according to wikipedia….).
Since Todd has his own blog space which I have generously linked to above, there is no good reason to post his bile and venom here on my blog.
However, in an effort to be as fair as possible, I am posting many of those comments, despite the fact that they violate my personal sense of propriety and good taste. The name-calling is particularly unnecessary and onerous.
Some blogs thrive on lengthy back-and-forth arguments in the comments sections. This is not one of them. Most people lose interest pretty quickly and the debate ultimately devolves to personalities, rather than substance. I do expect that I will ultimately ban J Todd Deshong, but I will publish enough of his comments to help the average reader understand why I eventually lose patience with him.