Some have noticed that comments are turned off for most posts on SWIFT. There are several reasons for this: spam, the effort and time it takes to moderate comments, many inappropriate (and often hateful comments), off-topic messages, and the potential to degrade or derail the topic at hand. This "no comments" policy was instituted by the JREF board because unmoderated, often ill-crafted, random comments dragged down the quality of a site. And they may influence and misinform readers in conflict with the organizations goals.
Not all websites need to be a forum. Not all opinions are equal. There are plenty of appropriate places to hash out arguments with opponents, share your thoughts, or state your opposing view to the public -- SWIFT is not one of those places.
The JREF is very interested in well-crafted, thoughtful responses and ideas that we will publish if warranted. Send an electronic letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the topic of how to craft useful and effective comments, there is the classic "Proper Cricitism" by Ray Hyman. I'd suggest printing that and rereading it often. Here is philosopher Daniel Dennett relating the steps to what he calls “the best antidote [for the] tendency to caricature one’s opponent”. The list of rules was derived from social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport.
How to compose a successful critical commentary:
- You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
- You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
- You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
- Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
Ah, if only all critics followed these, the internet (and all media) would be a better, smarter, more civil place. It would actually move important discussions forward! But proper criticism takes a great effort in thinking, time, reflection and restraint.
It's all to easy to just wing-off an emotional, off-the-cuff reply. So that's what's most often done.