Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Comment Manifesto

I tend to get suspicious when an older entry from the Outpost gets a new comment. Sometimes it's because someone was Googling for pages on a specific subject (I get lots of hits on my George Maharis posts, for example), but more often it's comment spam.

But this one tonight was in a class of its own. It was posted to "The Curse and Promise of Change," an entry from November 16th that has recently aged off my blog's main page.
Let's start with a copy of my posted comment in reply, slightly edited for typos, and then I'll say something new. Here we go:

I am deleting a comment that begins,

rafael said...

The subject of evolution among those who understand it, they must be aware that there is the danger of excessive subjectivity concerning one owns knowledge. This is not healthy, is a means of cultivating the mind with vain thoughts, and be fill with self examination. Is better, to be objective.

...and goes on for a total of 20,661 words, most of it in one paragraph. The bulk of it is an attempt to use Biblical quotes to disprove evolution. It contains misspellings, poor grammar and punctuation, logical fallacies, and pure gobbledegook. My favorite (by default because I haven't the patience to read the entire screed), is the following:

Darwinism was accepted by eugenics which was Hitler idealism or dream, never accomplished in Germany but applied in North America, where is up to now working, nevertheless the biggest lied on humanity is ending microscopic world.

Looky there! A genuine Reductio ad Hitlerum!

I would leave this misguided comment up in the interest of fairness (and so Paul et al. can laugh at it), but the fact is that it fails my comment policy. There is no indication whatsoever that the person read my entry, which was mostly about my job changes and Tuffy's cancer, and secondarily about change itself. Evolution wasn't even mentioned. I'm assuming that the person Googled the buzzword "species" and pasted in comment spam everywhere the word turned up. Sorry, rafael. Your manifesto, pasted in as a response to a posting on an entirely different subject, does not constitute intelligent discourse. Bye-bye.

Anyone who knows me, or even reads this blog on a regular basis, can probably tell that I'm not the most confrontational of people. I hate, hate, hate interpersonal conflict, and do my best to avoid it. It makes me physically ill. And I really do believe strongly in tolerance for other points of view, and not dividing the world into Us and Them, and all that other ethical stuff I sometimes rant about here.

So believe me when I say that I don't really want to belittle or make fun of this "rafael" person. That's not my idea of a good time. The deficiencies in English may be an ESL issue, and if it's not, it mostly just makes me sad to see the language mangled. Nor am I going to refute this manifesto, which when I paste it into Word comes out as 32 pages. The final paragraph is over 28 pages long, and consists entirely of interpreting Bible quotes as "proof" that Darwin was wrong. At least, that's the impression I get from glancing at a few lines here and there.

And that's kind of my point. Even if I were to leave this ridiculously long comment visible, I doubt that anyone would read it through, least of all me. It's not necessary, when it's possible to get a sense of the thing from reading bits and pieces of it. I can overlook deficiencies in punctuation (well, let's pretend I can) if the words themselves make sense. But there seems to be precious little sense to be found in this one, even beyond my gut reaction of "I disagree with you, and therefore you're wrong," which is a fallacy in itself. If I were to read it through, it would probably be to play "count the fallacies."

But let's not, and I'll tell you why. First off, this was an anonymous comment, in the sense of having no contact link for the commenter. It is unlikely that any attempt on my part to educate this person about science or critical thinking or paragraph breaks would ever reach its target. Second, even if the person were to turn up again, and I somehow overcame my aversion to confrontation, I doubt I could make a dent in the person's illogic. Third, evolution has plenty of defenders online, with far more knowledge of the subject and far better arguments than I could manage. It doesn't need me to jump in there too. Fourth, at least one of my friends has issues with the subject, and I don't want to open that can of worms. Fifth, I really do respect the right of this person to disagree with me. And sixth, it would be too darn much trouble!

What annoys me about it, though, and the reason I clicked on the trash can icon, is that this person posted 20,661 words of comment to my 1,519-word entry, not one of which related directly to what I wrote about. That's rather rude, isn't it? Here I am, going on about jobs lost and a sick dog, and trying at the end to turn it into something philosophical and uplifting. And does rafael call me by name, sympathize about Tuffy, or indicate in any way whatsoever that he's read a single word that I wrote? He does not, unless that single word is "species." And what is my grandiose claim, requiring 32 pages' worth of passionate but clumsy refutation? As far as I can tell, it was simply this:

Species die out, the Earth gets warmer, and new superviruses arise.

Y'know, I wouldn't have thought there was anything terribly controversial about that sentence. The passenger pigeons unquestionably existed, and don't anymore. Icebergs are melting, and polar bears are having a difficult time as a result. And hospitals find themselves battling highly drug-resistant viruses that weren't around a decade ago. One can debate about dinosaurs, or whether humans have an effect on global warming, or why and how viruses seem to get more virulent over time. But the facts stated in my little sentence are pretty hard to refute at this point, short of some elaborate twisting of both facts and logic. Notice that I didn't say why or how any of that stuff happens. I never used the word evolution. I was merely listing three examples of change, which was after all the subject of the essay.

Still, I doubt rafael even knows this, or cares. And that, more than anything else, is why I deleted the comment.



barrettmanor said...

Apparently that guy has been spamming blogs everywhere.

There's a difference between having a rational conversation on a topic and dumping a novella in the comments section and running. When someone does the latter - whether or not I agree with the poster - I tend to treat it as spam. And it goes double when the post was obviously dumped to a seemingly random entry.

As long as people play by the rules (be nice, be on topic) I won't delete a comment unless it's a duplicate or the poster asks.

And I owe you an e-mail. After the coffee. Oh, and I have a Blogger identity. Had to choose a different name. Sigh.

Steven said...

I've not had a comment like that but I've had similar long essays just comment dumped in my archives. I delete everything that seems spamish or is just bizarrely off topic to my photos.

Been rather quiet on the comment spam front lately. Maybe one a week now if that.

Becky said...

Sorry...but I find this hilarious for some reason. Can't stop giggling...

Carly said...

Hey Karen

It's really weird, whenever these weirdos start spamming, my blog somehow gets avoided. There must be some sort of Guardian Angel for blogs. LOL. Or maybe, like going a long time between earthquakes, my time is coming! YIKES! :)

Always, Carly