We just voted on the trolls issue. The "let them stay and ignore them" proposition won by a 62-38% margin. That's always been my policy, and now I know that 6 of 10 of my readers agree with it.
But I am sensitive to the other 40% too, who wanted to ban the trolls. They often gave very good reasons for their position on this matter, too. It seems to me that there is another level of annoyance and obnoxious, insufferable behavior that deserves immediate banning, above and beyond the troll issue. Everyone recognizes that a person coming and speaking rank vulgarities and profanities, should not be allowed free speech. And we all accept that the person who yells "fire!" in a crowded theater should be escorted out and even possibly charged with a criminal act.
Well, it seems to me that a similar line is crossed with people whose sole intent in coming onto this blog is to insult its host, who (as they know full well) has always let them speak up till now. The one person I have banned in two-and-a-half years (apart from a fleeting vulgar person) was "ct": a universally-acknowledged extreme anti-Catholic troll who is even banned by many of the major anti-Catholic blogs. Even that was after months of many readers virtually begging me to do so, and my having to endure her ceaseless slanders of my person.
But I am under no obligation to suffer fools who want to now use this blog, where legitimate free speech has always been allowed, to try to tear down my character and my apostolate, and even what motivates me to engage in the latter. That is a clear line. It doesn't involve free exchange of ideas (which I supremely honor and value), because there are no ideas or interaction in such posts: it is all insult and attempted character assassination.
It doesn't have to do with free speech, in the legal or political sense, because I am not obliged to allow absolutely unlimited posting here (like someone said, I have a right to induce "quality control"). I have come close to that because I didn't want to give any hint of a propensity to ban people simply because they disagree (which we all know is a frequent practice on the Internet). That is not what this is about at all, but some people distort basic distinctions.
All I'm talking about are posts whose sole content is one long insult or some attempted smear of your host on this blog. This is unacceptable. It is not only the height of rudeness and unethical behavior - tantamount to going into someone's house, eating dinner, and then proceeding to personally rip them to shreds - (and in the recent instances, the content was sheer falsehood which has long since been disproven), but it pollutes the atmosphere here and gives a wrong impression of the high level of discourse which has always prevailed in this venue.
I'll now be accused, of course, of arbitrarily selecting those whom I would place in this category, and of oppressing opposition ideas. That is sheer nonsense. Anyone who knows anything at all about me knows it is poppycock, and that I not only not run from opposing ideas, but, to the contrary, enthusiastically welcome and encourage them (hence my 370+ posted debates: find anyone who can match that number!). But insults are not ideas.
If anyone tries to pull this stunt, he will be warned once or twice, then banned altogether. I started thinking about this because I realized that future Open Forums would always be open to this kind of thing, and I (and I think, my readers) value them too much to see them ruined by foaming-at-the-mouth drivel of this sort.