Sunday, February 02, 2014

Trolls not welcome here: Comments you're not going to get to read

I moderate comments on this blog. Without comment moderation, readers would be subjected to a steady barrage of commercials for various pharmaceutical products, imitation luggage, on-line casinos and a great many products and services of an, er, sexual nature. Sometimes I have also refused to publish comments that are ostensibly related the subject matter of particular posts.

I have allowed some comments to post that are harsh on individual candidates: I'm not happy about mean-spirited comments, but if I can let through careful analysis like "she's the greatest!" or "he's the best!," and since this is a political process I'm covering here, I figure I have to let some of the negative comments pass through as well.

But I have to draw the line somewhere. It may be a wavy line, pretty much always in pencil, and faintly drawn, but here are some of the places I've drawn it recently:

A would-be commenter slammed a candidate for claiming an "endorsement" by the CBA. The candidate in question has a page on his website labeled "Endorsements and Evaluations" and, initially, the candidate's website may have been less than clear about whether he was attempting to tout a favorable CBA rating as an evaluation as an "endorsement."

I've tried to clarify the difference between positive evaluations and endorsements in past articles here (most recently, Endorsements v. ratings). So this would be the kind of comment one might expect me to pass through without question.

But the would-be commenter scuttled right under the troll bridge by "asking whether anyone who knows" the candidate was "actually contacted by the CBA." Now, one can debate the actual value of CBA and other bar association ratings in many ways -- but the fact of the matter is that that all the bar associations who undertake to issue ratings do appear to take their task seriously. Candidates don't get to choose all the people to whom the bar associations will interview; they must also disclose adversaries and judges before whom they've appeared -- naming dates and providing case names and numbers. And when the troll also asked "where is [the] JIB or ARDC when we need them," it was easy to flush the comment away.

And, yes, the candidate's web site has cleared up any possible confusion in the meantime.

Another would-be commenter left three comments on a post about a judge he doesn't like. The judge in question is running in this primary -- but this troll wanted to plant his poison in a 2011 post. There have been easily 20 posts since in which this particular candidate is named. So why put negative comments on such an early post? Perhaps there is some sort of search engine magic in the post selected; perhaps the would-be commenter did not think to look for more recent posts.

Substantively, this would-be commenter was upset about the judge's allegedly pro-prosecution bias. It certainly is possible, of course, for a judge to 'lean' a bit in favor of one side or the other. Some judges have difficulty leaving behind the role of advocate and adopting the role of neutral arbitrator. It is absolutely not a good thing for a judge to forget that he or she is no longer an ASA or PD (or plaintiff's or defense attorney) -- but, call me naive, I have more confidence in the ability of the bar associations to diagnose and expose these kinds of prejudices than I do in bitter blog comments by disgruntled parties. I'll spare you these comments as well.

Finally, another would-be commenter slammed a different sitting judge as "the most bias (sic), rude and very arrogant." This judge, writes the commenter, "should NOT even see a court, much less sit behind a bench." The troll provides no support for these ungrammatical charges, no facts upon which potential readers might agree or disagree. The comment is flushed.

I'm pleased to publish thoughtful comments and hopeful that, with their comments, readers can help Cook County voters make well-informed decisions about the persons who will serve on the bench. But trolls aren't welcome here.

Troll image obtained from this site.

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