On blocking, muting and posting

5 min readNov 19, 2018

Just the other day, I had an interaction with someone in the Fox News Politics community on Google+ that I would like to share with you. I can’t remember the subject of the post, but I remember how the comments went. One person criticized another for poor spelling and grammar, even when the first suffered the same malady. So I pointed out that the first person had made grammar and spelling errors, too. He said that I had made an error by putting a comma before the word “too”. So I replied with a link to the Chicago Manual of Style with a link to the precise page on the use of a comma followed by “too”.

I came back to the post after receiving notification of a new comment only to find that I was blocked from reading or posting comments. I had an exchange with someone who moderated comments on his post and he blocked me. I don’t usually get blocked, but I was struck by why I got blocked. I don’t use profanity online as a rule and I really did use neutral language to keep it sane. I like to use neutral language to stick to the facts. I was blocked because I presented facts to show that I was right.

Some of you might be wondering what I’m doing there on Fox News Politics. I’m there for exploration. I’m there to check my assumptions. I’m there because I can preach to the choir anytime. I have posted a few of my blog articles there to see what kind of response I get. I can tell you that it’s mostly positive, but it’s interesting.

What I saw exhibited in that community is the impulse to punish more than rational debate, and that impulse is not exclusive to conservatives, but it’s blatantly obvious there. It’s almost as if to say, “If you just don’t understand, if you don’t agree with me, you should be punished.” I’ve seen numerous interactions where one person is wrong and the other is right, and everyone piles on the person believed to be wrong. They all pile onto the one with the wrong opinion, the wrong facts, whatever. The problem is this: punishment doesn’t teach any skills.

I was blocked as punishment, not as a lesson in civil discourse. Did that teach me a new skill? Perhaps. But for the person who blocked me, he lost the opportunity to persuade me that his position was sound, even just. He, and all the other participants, also lost the ability to see all of my inputs on that post.

Years ago, I saw this great Sherlock Holmes play featuring Frank Langella cast as the great detective himself. I recall this interaction between Holmes and…