Online commentary system is deeply flawed …

   OK, guys, I give up. You win. We have halted any ability for comments from the readers on my blog, largely because the service has been hijacked by a handful of individuals who feel their grievance against our magazine and by extension me is so manifestly paramount that the conventional guidelines of civil discourse may be abandoned.
   First, I apologize to our readers for having to endure this wretched situation. Readers who wanted to involve themselves with the comments component would find themselves reading through an interminable rash of sophomoric, malicious gibberish. That’s the hijacking part I mentioned.
   At one point, a hobby pioneer was recovering from a stroke and I blogged about him as a way of notifying many of his friends about his situation. Then I had to sit by in horror as these anonymous individuals planted a rash of comments about their grievance du jour. If their goal was to humiliate and embarrass me, they succeeded. All I could think about was his family and friends eagerly going to the comments section in hopes of finding supportive words from friends, and instead they found themselves in the middle of a hateful onslaught that had nothing whatsoever to do with them. I apologize specifically and explicitly to them.
   And so I am pulling the plug on this element of the blog in part because I don’t want to subject our readers to this nonsense. I’d be kidding you if I denied that the torrent of bile – easily more than 150 postings in the last month – has been a pronounced aggravation for me personally. As I noted at the beginning, you guys win. You’ve worn me down.      
   By way of explanation, the aggrieved individuals feel there is a company advertising in the pages of Sports Collectors Digest that should not be permitted to be there. They reject my continued assertion that I have no role in deciding who advertises in SCD, and have employed their own conviction of my alleged malfeasance as justification for online conduct that swings back and forth between infantile and pathetic.
   But the other reason we are stopping the entire undertaking (not halting the blog, just the comments section) is that the whole phenomenon of online chat is underpinned by at least one enormous structural flaw that everyone has timidly permitted even though most decent people know in their hearts is wrong: anonymity.
   Over the last 40 days or so, these individuals have made an unending stream of vicious attacks on my character and integrity, called me any number of hateful names and have done all of this without the requirement that they provide their own names as part of the process. One of the things they have accused me of is cowardice. Repeatedly. Libeling someone anonymously is far more cowardly than any misdeed I am alleged to have committed.  This is wrong and is a hideous component of our online meanderings that never should have been permitted to take root.
   The same individuals have posted dozens of times in a fashion that suggests to the uninitiated cyber traveler (that would include yours truly) that the messages were coming from me. That’s even worse than the rest of this preposterous crap. For the record, since this marks the end of it, I have never responded to any of the comments in any fashion. Not once. To sit by and read idiotic postings that appear to the unschooled to have come from me is, like all the rest of it, more than I can take.
   To the individuals who have undertaken this, you have your victory. It would seem to me to be a hollow one, but you have it.
   Whatever the merits of your grievance, the frenzied tactics that you have employed have created a situation where the readers are being shortchanged in deplorable fashion.
   And we won’t be providing a venue for any of it anymore.

– T.S. O’Connell

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