Why I Don’t Comment Much On My Own Posts

Generally, I think it’s not meet for the author of a blog post to extensively comment on his or her own post. I try and say what I have to say on a subject in the text of the post itself, and let that post speak for itself (and thus for me) by publishing it. I will sometimes respond to something but that is more the exception rather than the rule. This does not mean I’ve backed down. It does, however, mean that I’m leaving room for other ideas and facts to be developed by others. Here’s why I do that.

The unstated expectation of serious blogs is that they are either forae for discussions, or they are echo chambers. In a contentious discussion blog, most comments will offer some manner of challenge to the original post. My guess is that when you read something and agree with it, you’re probably not going to say much of substance in the comment. You’ve got places to go where you can read stuff you already agree with and so does everyone else; that’s not why you came here. You came here to be challenged. But if you read something and disagree with it, you will be more motivated to speak out. That’s not only cool with me, it’s something I want. To be a good blogger requires having at least a moderate appetite for that sort of thing.

But a blog worth reading is not an endless succession of postulate-and-defense. Ideally, people are thinking and sharing ideas. Those who think differently than I should bring their side of things to the table, and proffer intellectually constructive conflict. When I do respond to a comment with a comment of my own, it’s generally because I see an opportunity for that kind of constructive conflict to be demonstrated.

Further, maybe someone agrees with me this seems to happen on occasion, rarely to be sure, but often enough that I don’t lose hope that I’m completely in my own private Idaho. I can’t infer massive agreement with my writing from an absence of posts, but no one will ever step in to defend my ideas against criticism if I am the one ferociously defending the points at issue. This again points to leaving room for others to say what they have to say, whether they agree or disagree with me.

Then there’s the issue of status: I already have the privileged position of picking the subjects for discussion, and offering first thoughts on them. Argument implies that there is some degree of equality between those engaged in the exchange, so if one enjoys a privileged position at the outset, procedural fairness suggests permitting a balancing privilege at the conclusion. Certainly my status as the principal author doesn’t mean that I either deserve or will attempt to take the last word on a subject, and as a typical matter I am usually content to allow others to have the last word.

Finally, I am human and subject to error, both in my reasoning and in my facts. If I have made such an error, that error ought to be exposed. Comments are a good place for that to happen.

The result is sometimes a commenter will directly ask a question worthy of a response and sometimes a point will be raised that is worthy of a response and I will engage, but more often than not I try to let my posts go out there and let the missiles, barbs, and assaults of criticism, counter-points, and nitpicks to score whatever points they may. That is so even if — perhaps particularly if — the comment in question exposes a real vulnerability to what I have offered in the argument. This is sometimes an effort of will but I think it is necessary if a good commentary culture is to flourish.

There is no Blog Umpire to weigh in on whether my original post has been completely punctured, or whether my ideas are sound. Nor is there a Blog Court of Appeals to determine if an argument by either the author of a post or a commenter is fair or accurate or reliable. It is up to you, the readers and commenter, to determine for yourselves if that is something that has really taken place — and you are encouraged to offer your opinion, whether agreeing, dissenting, or concurring, in your comments.

What is so enjoyable about a forum like the League of Ordinary Gentlemen is that the commentary culture is generally sophisticated enough to deal with this set of expectations and understanding, and intelligent enough to offer the sort of constructive conflict that so nicely refines an idea. But it also means that the exchange of comments may be slower, particularly where I am concerned, than some might expect.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.