Kelly asserts control

Kelly Wilson apparently felt that the human race needed to be protected from the following comment of mine, on his post at Vox Nova:

It’s hard for me to understand why the Church must either explicitly endorse legalization of homosexual acts, or else be guilty of “failing to confront dignity-diminishing realities”. Aren’t homosexual acts objectively “dignity-diminishing realities”? If so, then wouldn’t endorsing their legalization constitute a failure to confront a dignity-diminishing reality?

“I realize that not everything that is sinful should necessarily be punishable by law. But at the same time, isn’t the question of whether a particular sinful act should be punishable by law a prudential one to be decided in the context of a particular society and culture? Or is there some principle (which the world has discovered but to which the Church remains inexplicably ignorant) by which we know beyond doubt that homosexual acts should *never* be punishable by law, at any time or in any place?”

He did me the courtesy of explaining his criticisms of my comment in an email. Since it was private I am not posting its contents. As always, Kelly is welcome to explain himself here if he chooses.

I will just say that however valid his criticisms may have been, I don’t see them as justifying the censorship of my comment, since it was neither uncivil nor obscene. I think the point of a blog is to post your ideas publicly and have people interact with them. You go back and forth, civilly criticizing and correcting each other, presumably in the hope of learning from other points of view, and allowing others who may not be actively commenting to learn from the interaction as well. (What Kelly thinks the point of a blog is, I don’t know.)

Thus, I would think the courteous, civil response to my comment would have been to post it and then criticize it. He took the time to draft a criticism anyway. Why not just post that as a reply to my comment, rather than censoring my point of view from the discussion? If I’m so far off-base, why not let me make a public fool of myself and learn from the experience?

I appealed to the other contributors of Vox Nova in an email, hoping they would agree that Vox Nova should be a place for free exchange of ideas and not their censorship, but since I got no response to my email, I can only surmise that they either agree with Kelly’s comment deletion policies, or don’t think this issue is as important as I think it is. Or who knows, maybe they were just busy.

So why do I keep commenting on Kelly’s posts, in light of how often I get censored? Well, because somewhat more than half the time (I guess), he ends up posting my commments after all (after I complain about their deletion). I keep thinking that maybe this time, he’ll err on the side of tolerance; and if not, what have I lost? Hope springs eternal.

And of course, there’s the fact that he’s always posting fabulously controversial things, especially for a seminary student …

10 thoughts on “Kelly asserts control

  1. Thanks Brian. Kelly says (and he can correct me if I get this wrong) it’s not the controversial nature of the comment that’s the problem, but rather its poor quality. He indicated that for the most part, when he censors my comments, it’s because they lack “sobriety” and use “exaggerated language”, and therefore are not conducive to the furtherance of good conversation.

    He may be right. What I don’t get is why that’s a problem. So you have an “unsober” comment posted on your blog. So what? What harm does it do? I haven’t got a direct answer to that question.

    My guess would be, that he doesn’t want to let it stand unrefuted. But because of its unsober and exaggerated nature, it would take a lot of work to refute since, of course, any attempt to refute it would be met with further unsober and exaggerated comments.

    Still, I can’t help thinking that if it’s so obviously unsober and exaggerated, no one would take it seriously. Wouldn’t I just appear as a crank and be ignored by the more sober and restrained participants in the thread? Maybe the fear is that other unsober and exaggerated commenters would engage me on the opposite side of the issue, and Kelly’s sober and restrained thread would turn into a drunken free-for-all.

    The funny thing is, that doesn’t usually happen when I comment on other people’s posts.

    In any event, I think the kind and considerate thing to do would be to give it the benefit of the doubt. Let it stand and see what happens. If it gets out of hand, then you can put a stop to it.

    However, another thing Kelly indicated is that he is not concerned about free expression on his blog posts. He’s more concerned about nurturing quality of conversation. You know, like a mother hen nurturing her brood and guiding them along right paths of conversation. In that vein, he offered to post a redacted version of my comment consisting of two sentences out of the original two paragraphs. Oy vey!

    (I only mention that because Kelly said he would not mind if I posted the content of his email for my readers. I don’t choose to post it, but if he wants to that’s fine with me.)


  2. Well, I will conced that Kelly has the right to decided whose comments get published. I would say that I really do not understand what he means when he says that your comments are unsober or exagerated. I myself find your comments thought provoking and seemingly thought out, as opposed to my occasionally intemperate or impetuous comments…which have not been censored.


  3. Oh I’m not questioning his right to do whatever he wants on his blog. But I also reserve the right to complain about it on mine. : )

    Thanks for your kind comments.


  4. Hi Brian,

    This is going to be a long comment, and will say all that I intend to say on the matter.

    In my opinion, the comment of Agellius created a false dilemma (the alternatives he presented as the only two propositions [through the language of either/or] were hardly the only two possibilities) — so he committed a logical fallacy — and one of his alternatives (the endorsing the legalization of homosexual acts) is not even an alternative entertained or featured in my post, but in crediting it to me (through presenting it as if he had found it in my post) he committed another fallacy (in my view). Further, half of his second paragraph is asking someone (perhaps me?) to satisfy his longings regarding a scenario unfamiliar to me (one wherein “homosexual acts should never be punishable by law, at any time or in any place”). Why should I speculate?

    I took time to explain my objections to his comment. He then made an appeal to my fellow contributors and, so far as I know, that appeal wasn’t given credibility in the form of a response. I had informed him that his comment would remain pending approval, and that what I was willing to approve was a few sentences of the original comment. Before I would edit his comment, however, I invited him to respond indicating his level of approval.

    That adapted comment, in my view (and I informed him of this) was still rather irrelevant to the point of the post, but at the very least, the comment would be connected to the other sorts of responses people were making, and as I had extended the courtesy to such other comments I was willing to do the same for Agellius. I thanked him for his interest in my post and expressed my hope that he would interpret my email to him as an effort to improve upon his ability to engage in that conversation.

    There’s a deeper issue here, however. When I have refrained from approving some of his comments in the past it has been because I believe such comments lack sobriety and use exaggerated language. In my view such qualities are not conducive to good conversation. Without disputing my evaluation of the sobriety or exaggerated nature of the comments I refrain from approving, Agellius himself states “I don’t get why that’s a problem.”

    He doesn’t get why I have an interest in furthering comments I believe are conducive to good conversation and in refraining from approving comments which I believe will spiral our of control? Well, that is a problem, then.

    So that we are all clear, the default position at Vox Nova is that of a “pending” status. My decision to not approve certain comments I deem unworthy is not a matter of the harm caused in approving a comment being weighed against the offense caused in not approving it. Rather, instead of asking me, as Agellius does, what harm there is in approving a comment, consider it from my perspective, and ask “Why approve a comment I deem as so lacking in potential to produce meaningful conversation?” If the default position were approval, then one might seek rationale for bothering to disapprove a comment that had already been approved, but at Vox Nova there is a pending status and so a choice exists.

    When I asked myself that question (“why approve?”), after reading his comment, I couldn’t come up with a good enough reason to approve the comment as is, and so I proposed to him an alternate comment (one still off-base, I thought, but somewhat relevant to some of the comments others had made). Now, at least, Agellius understands that I do not blog primarily in order to interact, or in order to go back and forth, civilly criticizing and correcting each other, presumably in the hope of learning from other points of view, and allowing others who may not be actively commenting to learn from the interaction as well. I write in order to share my views and I do so with the hope that what I have to say will add something to the reflections of those reading. Those things (like going back and forth, being complemented by the insights of others…) can happen, and have benefitted me, but they are not primarily why I write. The mere existence of a post written by me is not itself an invitation for comments.

    This is the way I approach blogging at present. Nurturing quality conversations is hard work, and I have to content myself with the fact that what I have time for is writing posts. I will continue to do that, and I see a number of ways forward for someone like Agellius. To evidence that the mere existence of a post written by me is not itself an invitation for comments, I have turned off comments for a few posts. This clearly evidences the different approach to blogging that I take than the one taken by Agellius who claims to be grateful for every comment he gets. So, one approach is to see such posts and read and reflect on them if the topic is interesting. Another approach, if comments are open, is to sober the comments and drop the exaggerated language. Agellius might wonder why such perceived qualities are a problem, but if he can learn to recognize that such qualities are the reason such comments are not accepted, and if having a comment accepted is important to him, then motivation might exist to tighten the quality of such comments.

    One benefit to my having posts where Agellius is either (1) not submitting comments or is (2) submitting sober ones with non-exaggerated language is that when I am arriving at his page I don’t have to read posts about his own issues with comments I have moderated in a way he wouldn’t have. Frankly, my being the subject of so many posts of his is a little unusual and if that were to stop because he could live easier with the way he was being treated by me, then that would be a good thing.


  5. Kelly, you have always been more than gracious with me. Your posts are indeed yours and the comments are yours to moderate. My agreement or disagreement for your reasoning is not germane to the discussion at Vox Nova.
    I have enjoyed my conversations with you…and I have found Agellius’ to be gracious as well, both in the various blogs where we have interacted, and in private email discussion as well. Whether it has been your intent or not, you both have spurred me to think more deeply…and post less quickly. So I extend my thanks to both. With that, I’ll extricate myself from this particular discussion.


  6. Kelly:

    It’s nice to know in advance that I’m getting the last word. : )

    Yes, believe it or not I value every comment, including this one of yours. What can I say, I like interacting with people, even when I disagree with them.

    I agree it’s unusual to have so many of my posts be about one person censoring my comments. But then again there’s only one person who regularly censors my comments, so in that light maybe it’s not so strange. It’s not about *you*, it’s about censorship.

    Although you say it’s not your objective in blog posting to engage readers’ comments for your mutual benefit, it is evidently the objective of Vox Nova itself:

    “It is our goal to investigate and discuss how the church can better carry out its mission in the world. To do this we present our ideas in the areas of politics, economics, ethics, theology, philosophy, history and more **in the hope of engaging our readership in substantive conversation**. … Our hope is that you are challenged through our writing and that **we are likewise challenged through our readers** to become more thoughtful and more faithful Catholics.” [ ]


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