Hey, bloggers … what’s the best way to give your readers the big fat middle finger and tell them “I don’t give a rat’s patoote to what you think?”

You do what Chicago Tribune columnist and blogger Eric Zorn recently did. You stop accepting comments from your readers.

Apparently not happy with the quality of comments and debates he was dealing with, Zorn announced that he’d turned off reader comments on his “Change of Subject” blog. You can still make comments on his Chicago Tribune columns, but forget about getting into debates with anything he posts on ‘Change.’

I can certainly understand Zorn’s reasoning. The ability to post comments anonymously to blogs and mainstream web media has unleashed a tsunami of commenters who think the First Amendment’s freedom of speech provision gives them the right to say whatever they want, regardless of truth, logic or without regard to others’ plights of feelings.

Unfortunately, they don’t realize that “Freedom of Speech” is a misnomer. While it does guarantee that government cannot infringe on speech rights, it doesn’t allow complete freedom. If that were the case, then libel and slander laws would not exist.

Nonetheless, these folks who hide in anonymity and post vicious, untrue and or downright tasteless comments have seriously clouded the forum of debate and discussion that was the basis of Web 2.0. It’s a problem for all who all commenting, and Zorn is not unique to the situation.

However, to eliminate all comments from your blog is, basically, a big step backward into Web 1.0. The whole basis for blogging is to create a community for discussion and debate. Without this, you revert back to the one-way dialog. You’ve cut the heart out of your blog.

I admire and respect Zorn. He’s one of the few Tribune columnist worth his salt and was also a leader for the paper into the Web 2.0 world. But, Eric, to cut comments from your blog, aren’t you basically saying “I don’t like who’s moving into my forum community, so I’m shutting the gate?”

And, if one compared these anonymous commenters are the al-Queda of Web 2.0, wouldn’t you say that by ending commenting, the terrorists have won the battle for Web 2.0?

Frankly, I’m a firm believer that if you’re not willing to put your name and face behind what you say, then I doubt you really believe what you say. And I think Eric Zorn also believes that. But it’s a shame that he’s thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

The commenting communities in Web 2.0 are indeed a wild west. We need more bloggers out there — especially in the mainstream — to fight to bring balance and sanity to web discussion and debate. It’s sad that a good one has given up the fight.


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