I just praised a couple of our readers for the enjoyable, civil thread of comments on an article here at TMV.

Ergo, a column this morning at the New York Times does not apply here, but it is nevertheless interesting and something our readers may want to browse.

It is about how the internet at last provided “a public sphere with unlimited potential for reasoned debate and the thoughtful exchange of ideas, an enlightening conversational bridge across the many geographic, social, cultural, ideological and economic boundaries that ordinarily separate us in life, a way to pay bills without a stamp.”

But then “someone invented ‘reader comments’ and paradise was lost.”

Before I get myself further into trouble by quoting about ad hominem attacks, etc., the better part of valor is to stop right here and let the readers “decide.”

And please keep those comments coming.

But, most important, keep in mind: (some of) what I have said is satire. (Where are those smiley faces when you need them?)

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Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
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Copyright 2013 The Moderate Voice
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Shannon Lee

Blogs or newspaper websites are a bit like e-communities. People tend to post on the same sites and a drawn to the sites that best fit their personality. Of course you have those occasional trolls that are just around to upset people. We are pretty good at not feeding trolls here on TMV, but other sites are not. I tend to avoid those sites. The NY Times, RCP, HuffPost, ect… have way too many trolls. If an author does not like how the trolls change the impression of their articles, they need to just shut down comments on those articles.

Shannon Lee

I hear you ddw, but if an author is so concerned about losing the jest of their work to the comments section, then shutting the section down is the easy option…or direct moderation, which is time consuming.

I personally enjoy it when an author responds to comments…even if the author is the one being a troll. Not u of course :)

Kim Ritter

Hi Dorian!
I personally love the reader’s comments section, because despite the trolls, I often learn as much from the comments as I do from the original article. WaPo has recently adopted a mechanism that allows you to block the commenters that you find the most offensive.
It works!!!
Regards, BB


One of the ‘quotes of the day’ today seemed quite apropos.

Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day. – Bertrand Russell

Shannon Lee

or hummingbirds


The good news is that the internet provides for the free exchange of ideas. The bad news is that it provides for the free exchange of “ideas”.



I’m honored that you were interested in my opinion on the matter. Due to time constraints I have to skim through headlines to see what gets my interest, and that one didn’t. But since you requested my input I went back and read your post (but not the linked NYT or other articles). Unfortunately, since I don’t have much personal familiarity with military matters (I’m a bit ashamed to admit), nor do I have a firm grasp on the relevant statistics, I don’t think I’m able to contribute much to the discussion. Obviously, sexual assault is unacceptable (No, the NRO is wrong to suggest that it is a contradiction that we need to protect women from assault when sending them out to face mortal danger–we don’t expect soldiers to have to protect themselves against fellow soldiers). It’s unacceptable regardless of the extent to which it contributes to the problem of female veteran homelessness. But as to what degree it does, I can’t say. Like most complex problems it probably has complex causes.

(I’m tempted to assume you may have wanted mine and roro’s input because we have had some interesting discussion in the past regarding traditional gender roles vs. gender equality, etc. So I’ll just say that I don’t see that issue entering into the picture here. Regardless of whether a woman chooses a traditional or non-traditional role, she deserves our support and certainly doesn’t deserve to be victimized.)

I’m posting this here, rather than in the other thread, since as I mentioned I don’t think I’m adding much to that fine discussion. If I have any more insights I’ll post them there.


I think what’s allowed the nasty comments is the internet’s ability to allow readers to do this anonymously. Anyone can create an ID that may or may not be true, even multiple ones. Even though I’ve never created a false online identity, I know that being online and many, many miles away from other commenters has allowed me to be, at times, more belligerent than I would be if I were having a face-to-face discussion. I really have tried to work on that part of my online persona because I can’t expect anyone else to change if I’m not willing to make the change myself.


I don’t think that it is just our own anonymity that is a factor, but the anonymity of those we are addressing. It’s an extension of how we tend to treat people next to us in line at the grocery store differently that we treat the same people in our cars in the parking lot.

I think we allow our imaginations to create caricatures of the anonymous people we are addressing which makes it easier to justify rude behavior.