After almost 2,500 comments in about 4 months, on June 13, 2007 we decided to change course and shut down the comments capability of this blog and do some serious reflection.
While some readers might find this decision rather sudden–our sincerest apologies to those of you who feel cut off from an important outlet for your writing and/or reading — for others, this decision comes as no surprise. (Fortunately, many commenters have their own blogs, so there will be no shortage of outlets in which you can fully air your views.)
From day one, it seemed clear that there was a need for a space where people could freely debate challenging political issues related to Israel, Palestine, and US foreign policy. Over time, however, the comment boards seem to have drawn in those who communicate in a more polarized fashion, and have chased away people seeking more thoughtful dialogue. Lately, the site has become a forum for posting anti-Semitic in particular, and also other bigoted and racist comments, as well as ugly personal attacks.
Given our focus on open debate, at the beginning it seemed to make sense to offer an open forum for discussion, and to avoid moderating every single post and playing the role of politically correct police (Israeli newspaper Haaretz’s English message boards, for example, are unmoderated). We thought that the boards would be ultimately self-regulating in that sense. Instead, the vitriol, demonization and outright bigotry seems to have increased.
Because JVP stands against anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds, we decided we cannot justify hosting a forum where these views are promoted and spread. Further, within Jewish Voice for Peace, we strive to use a language that does not dehumanize or promote hate, but rather illuminates complex moral issues.
We thought, in the spirit of free speech, it was the right thing to do to make a place where people not affiliated with the organization might discuss these issues. Clearly, this experiment in unfettered free speech hasn’t worked.
Knowing that a lively comments sections typically means a larger audience, we feel particularly comfortable making this decision because Muzzlewatch has already grown tremendously, far exceeding our hopes and expectations for a brand new blog.
Finally, this decision will actually free up time for us to report stories and write analysis, which is why we started the blog.
In the meantime, we’ll be consulting with other bloggers to see if it’s possible or even worthwhile to come up with a much stricter set of commenting guidelines. But for the moment, comments are closed indefinitely.
Again, our deepest apologies to those of you for whom the comments section has been a daily part of your lives.