Sullivan is upset/annoyed that some homophobic things show up in the threads here, as if it says something about my blog. He doesn't have comments, but I'll bet if he did, he'd collect plenty of homophobic crap at his place too. Probably even more than shows up here. Maybe that's one reason he doesn't have comments. But I've chosen to open my place to comments, and I have a strong free speech policy.
Fair enough, I guess, so far as it goes. But it's disingenuous on several counts.
The Dish has polled its readers annually on whether they want comments threads that degenerate the way Althouse's and anyone else's can. The readers don't want them by a massive majority. What we do here is read and post the most intelligent and eloquent reader responses we can find and readers can judge whether I allow dissent and push-back on this blog. All I can say is: show me another blog that airs as much self-criticism and dissent as this one – without the vile ad hominem, anonymous hate-speech she relies on for traffic.
Secondly these were not just homophobic comments. They were vicious personal attacks on a specific human being, using both my sexual orientation and my illness as targets. I find attacks on someone because he is gay and has HIV to be disgusting – and I would obviously feel the same about anyone else in my position. I'm all for free speech and I respect her open comments, but there has to be a line somewhere and this kind of personal abuse has been a feature on her blog now about me for years. It's perfectly possible to lambaste me for daring to ask questions about a national politician's fishy personal stories, without accusing a 16 year HIV-survivor of AIDS dementia. If even that does not prompt her to remove a comment, then what would? She then says:
So I did engage with a commenter in that thread. I answered a specific question that was addressed to me, and that I happened to find interesting. What I don't do — and what Sullivan is wrong to infer — is monitor the hundreds of comments that come in every day. I don't systematically keep track of anything. Sometimes I read haphazardly, and I am a very busy person… a very busy person who is committed to free speech and to creating a place where people with different opinions can talk with/at each other.
I am glad she does not deny that she engaged in this thread herself, and she did so long after many of the references to my HIV were published. It seems to me that if you are actually contributing to a comment thread, you tend to have read the thread leading up to that point. So the idea she had no idea what was afoot is ludicrous. She has already accused me of being a racist, a heterophobe and a misogynist and she teed off the most recent and most vicious assault by accusing me of having no shame because I cannot pretend to have resolved the doubts I have about Sarah Palin's stories about her fifth pregnancy. (I'm sorry but I cannot. God knows I know I'm in a tiny minority and that my own dear colleague, Patrick, has blogged in this space arguing I'm off-base and on and on. But I owe my readers honesty. I'm here answerable and accountable at all times and I feel duty-bound not to bullshit my readers, even if it makes me look like a loon. That's why I went silent as I first tried to figure out if this bizarre story could possibly be true. I had to address it if I were to be honest, but I simply didn't know. So I shut up, simply asked for the thing to be resolved (as it easily could be), and have never ever claimed that I knew the truth. I have always, always only expressed my lingering doubts and asked them to be resolved.)
Anyway – deep breath – even if everything Althouse says in her defense is true, it says a lot to me that she is unable even to offer a word of apology or regret, or to remove any of the vilest personal attacks in that thread. I offended her a while back with a post on her announcement that she was getting engaged to one of the commenters on her site. You can read the post here to see how offensive it was. Her immediate response was:
Not sure he quite sees the time line…. but… thanks for noticing.
I subsequently apologized for any offense she subsequently felt. I was too glib, and insensitive, but it's in a different universe from the hate speech she publishes. In that same Althouse post in March, the following comment soon appeared:
The years of HIV infection have taken a toll on his body and his brain. He can beef up with testosterone and steroids, but there's no drug to cure AIDS-related dementia.
If Althouse had not partially built her traffic on this kind of stuff for years, and if she weren't a big blog, and a contributor to bloggingheads and other MSM outlets and a professor at a university, I'd let this slide as I usually do. But at some point, you have to say: enough. And someone on the right has to say: no more.