Over the past couple of weeks, mostly since posts on the Ferguson grand jury debacle, there have been new readers at SJ posting comments who are unfamiliar with either the nature of this blawg or how comments are addressed here. Regular readers need not read further; you already know all of this.
SJ is a law blog. By that, I mean that its contents are, except when I decide they’re not, law related and directed toward lawyers and judges. This doesn’t mean that the subject matter shouldn’t be of interest to others, but that you’re largely voyeurs to a law-related blawg. See that word, “blawg”? That’s a bastardization of law and blog. It’s used for a reason, because this is not a political blog, or a cause blog, or a blog for people who believe in social justice, whatever that means. It’s a law blog.
Part of the “attraction” for lawyers and judges here is that I do not allow the comments to devolve into shallow, mindless, rants about how all cops are evil, or all lawyers suck, or pretty much “all” anything. We deal with specifics, with the nuance of law and individual cases and fact patterns. I attempt to offer ideas that address matters at a level of depth that illuminate aspects of the criminal justice system. Whether I achieve that is another matter, but it’s what I try to do when I write.
For the life of SJ, which goes back to 2007 over almost 7000 posts, I’ve sought to foster a reasonably solid level of discussion at the level that practicing lawyers and judges would find interesting and useful. Others with significant levels of expertise, such a readers with law enforcement experience and academics, have added to our understanding of the law, and they are both welcome and appreciated, as they bring greater breadth and knowledge to the discussion. But as JCC noted the other day:
SHG and I may never agree on the resolution of a specific incident, but we would probably agree in many respects on the solution to what leads to them. However, SHG and I have spent time (on opposite sides) in furtherance of the same thing. I suspect that many of the posters here have not that weight of experience…
His point is well taken, and has become overwhelmingly clear. There have been far too many comments that fail to reflect the level of education, experience or knowledge that I and other lawyer readers of SJ expect and desire from the commentary.
The comments have become a problem. From time to time, I’ve considered banning comment from non-lawyers, and lawyers have occasionally urged me to do so. While there is much to be said about eliminating the empty noise, every once in a while a non-lawyer offers insight that reminds why they should not be banned.
That said, most of the non-lawyer comments are truly worthless. I understand that some of you feel some inner need to express whatever pops into your minds, and you believe your opinion must be heard, but few of you have thoughts that are illuminating to lawyers who practice criminal law. If you need to express yourself, there are plenty of other places on the internet where you can rant at will or enjoy whatever catharsis you need. Just not here. Reddit immediately comes to mind.
And then you get all butthurt that your comments aren’t appreciated. As if SJ exists for you, and you alone. Sorry. It exists for me. You get no vote. You don’t have to like either what I write or how I handle comments, but your only recourse is to go elsewhere. Don’t worry, my feelings won’t be hurt.
Before you leave a comment, ask yourself if what you have to say is something that rises to the level of illuminating, or at least interesting and humorous, to lawyers. Stay on the narrow topic of the post, no matter how strong the urge to go down some path that you think is absolutely critical. Do not leap to ridiculous, mindless, one dimensional conclusions. Don’t write about your feelings. Trust me, no one cares. They have their own.
Nor is anyone interested in what you think about how I manage SJ. This is not a democracy; you don’t get a vote except with your feet. Don’t like it? Leave. But don’t complain.
My plan of action going forward is to be brutal in trashing comments that add nothing illuminating to lawyers who practice criminal law. If your comment doesn’t appear, it’s because I deleted it, and I deleted it because I think it below the level of thoughtfulness I want of the comments here. If that angers you, press the blue button on the sidebar. Do not email me to complain. Do not leave more comments calling me mean names. I’ll delete those as well.
Telling me that you “like the content, but” will not buy you any latitude here. Consider what happened with Judith if you doubt that I’m serious about this. I would rather have no comments than stupid comments, and since this is my blawg, the decision is mine alone. There are no tummy rubs at SJ. There never have been, and it’s not going to start with you.
So read if you want, but before commenting, ask yourself whether you really have something worthwhile to add. If you’re not a lawyer, chances are that you don’t.