Brent Finnegan -- October 2nd, 2007

Effective immediately all comments must be approved before appearing on the blog.

I’m an advocate of self-regulation, but several commenters have proven themselves incapable of that. I’ve resisted it for as long as I could (over 14 months, to be exact) but the tone of “discourse” in the comments lately has deterred many people from commenting on (and in some cases, from visiting) the blog at all. I’ve received numerous emails from readers asking me to censor the rude, ugly, vicious, and otherwise irrelevant comments.

This blog was created to be a sort of online hub for the Harrisonburg community: a place where people of all ages and walks of life could feel welcome, and talk about things happening around the area. But I can’t say that I blame people for not wanting to visit or participate. The vocal minority has ruined it for the rest of us.

I’m one of seven people who will be monitoring, approving and/or deleting comments. This will continue until commenters have demonstrated that they can have a civil and respectful conversation.

43 Responses to “enough.”

  1. I’m sure this is aggravating for your Finnegan, and I’m grateful you’re not giving up completely. The vocal minority did make this a far less pleasant place to visit, and I’m glad they’ll be outta here.

  2. Karl Magenhofer says:

    By doing this you are protecting the guilty. There is some value in seeing the “bad” comments. We get a constant reminder of who in our community cannot have an adult conversation. Now we will never know how many times you have protected them from themselves.

    I don’t blame you for taking this action, I’m just disappointed in the community at large. It’s kinda like the first couple times I heard candid comment…scared me to think those people lived near me.

  3. Frank J Witt says:

    “He who guards his mouth keeps his life, but he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3 AMP).

    Should be an interesting morning on C C.

    Have a great day all.

  4. Emmy says:

    I’m sorry it had to come to this Brent, and I’m sorry for any role I played in it. Sometimes I forget that you just can’t have a real discussion with a lot of people.

  5. cook says:

    Thank you, finnegan. You probably don’t want to hear this, but you have now crossed the line from being a youthful idealist to, well, adulthood. Welcome. And now it’s time to start drinking coffee.

  6. republitarian says:

    I’m sorry to see you have to deal with the issues that I had to deal with. I feel sort of responsible. It looks like it left mine and gravitated over here.

    Look on the bright side…..it is a sign that you have a well read local blog. I hope that was what you wanted.

    I’m jacked up over this election being over. It’s like looking forward to the last day of school.

  7. Reaganite says:

    I understand the frustration but feel the remedy is worse than the problem. When I don’t want to read the BS (which is not all the time), then I just scroll down faster. When a seeming open forum is policed by unknown powers, then it isn’t really open. Now, I trust you, Finnegan, to only delete the “bad” stuff, but does everyone? Not everyone knows you. Some will wonder, “who watches the watchmen.”

  8. Laura says:

    finnegan, I really admire the restraint you’ve shown, but agree that, unfortunately, it is time to set some boundaries. I completely trust that you and the other admins will be more than fair.

  9. Barnabas says:

    It’s not just Brent who is approving the comments.
    There are several people who have the power to approve a comment. So if your comment doesn’t get accepted it’s not just Brent who doesn’t like it, it’s Brent and/or six other people.

    So if you have some good points to make AND you want to vent make two seperate posts. Your points will most likely get through but if your venting crosses the line it won’t keep your well stated point of view from getting through.

  10. finnegan says:

    Obviously, this is a temporary fix. It won’t be this way forever. I should hope that things will die down after November 6th. And hopefully it won’t even have to last that long, but it got to the point where I had to do something about it.

    I’m always open to hearing other suggestions.

  11. Bubby says:

    Karl: Whatever value I may find in seeing the ignorant, hateful underbelly of the community, it is far outweighed by the great disappointment that it is handed a bullhorn and broadcast, free form. What Finnegan is doing is called ‘editorial control’. We all know that there are ignorant, hateful people sprinkled like cowpies across the region. Do we really need to facilitate their speech beyond what they can get on Courthouse square with a milk crate for a forum?

    Candid Comment could and should become a directed discussion relevant to the entire community. The requirement to stay on topic, and contribute, would impose badly needed discipline on the opiners, and weed-out the crazies. Rockingham is a growing, diversified, and informed community. It is time for the media to reflect that. Lets keep the incoherent speech where it belongs – private.

  12. Emmy says:

    I’m going to have to agree with Bubby.

    Candid Comment could be a decent program.

  13. David Miller says:

    Thank you for continuing to host Hburg. In hburgnews.com, I have found a portal to discuss and share with neighbors. Thanks for keeping it true to form.


    This is my official apology for getting so pissed off at some of the commentors. At first I tried to work through an arguement rationally, but facing the oppositional tactics, I caved and joined rank. I think that this is a good opportunity for all of us to analyze the way in which we converse. Hopefully, ensuring that future discussions are productive and are actually discussions.

  14. Jeff White says:

    Those who would censor comments in a so-called public forum for other than decency reasons are fascists, basically.

    And those who tire of some particular person’s conspiracy theories create a greater problem by shutting these people down than they resolve.

    Free discourse is its own best police, and the people themselves are the greatest guarantors of liberty. Let the community sort it out if it can. Elsewise, you run a little club, an elitist little groupthink society – and you will lose thinking people to other, more open fora.

    Just my thinking, anyway.

  15. Jeff White says:

    The great and continuing frustration I have open fora like Candid Comment, and this one (at least prior to the censorship), is the general lack of education, and lack of fact-checking, correct information which forms the basis of so many wrong and yet forcefully proffered assumptions and assertions in it.

    But again, the only solution for that is people getting involved, demanding citations for questionable information, challenging flawed statements, and using their logic and other intellectual resources to correct errors.

    How else could we do it, without it becoming arbitrary and unfairly overbearing to somebody?

  16. finnegan says:


    But this isn’t a public forum run by the state. This is a website created by a private citizen. I have no official obligation to do anything for anyone.

    I’ve politely requested NUMEROUS times that people keep it civil and respectful. I’ve emailed offending commenters privately. I’ve asked for suggestions. If people refuse to self-regulate, I’ll regulate it for them.

    And I am not a fascist.

  17. JGFitzgerald says:

    Aristotle said, “That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.” The idea was written up in 1968 as the tragedy of the commons. In the marketplace of ideas, the phenomenon describes the open blog.

    Candid Comment is limited by time and the words the FCC won’t let you say. Its control rests with, to the best of my knowledge, one person. The DNR letters column is limited by space and the ideas that two or three men hold about decency and propriety. This blog is limited by the opinions of the half-dozen or so who can decline a comment. But any one of those half dozen can, as it stands right now, over-rule all the other and let a comment be posted. Satisfy one of six, and you’re in.

    Anyone who calls that censorship or fascism is using an overly emotional idea of the meaning of each word. As defined in a good dictionary, neither applies here.

  18. Frank J Witt says:

    “lack of education, and lack of fact-checking, correct information …citations for questionable information, challenging flawed statements, and using their logic and other intellectual resources to correct errors.”

    Yep, too bad we don’t live in that kind of world. I have written mean things and tried to cover my tracks. For this I apologize, but some people just don’t get it and because of that the only outcome is censorship…If YOU don’t like to be censored, then go create your own blog…

  19. Gxeremio says:

    In all fairness, as one of the people who can moderate comments, there have been a number of comments that have been denied which I never got a chance to see. So sometimes it works for the most restrictive censors rather than the least restrictive; really it depends more on who sees it first.

    I’ll be glad when finnegan feels things have cooled off enough to not moderate comments. It’s not fascism, but it’s not living up to the ideals of a community blog, either.

  20. JGFitzgerald says:

    Why not simply ignore anything worth denying? Maybe somebody will approve it, maybe it will be deleted when it’s cluttered the works long enough, and maybe someone will decide in a few days that it really wasn’t that bad.

  21. Del Marvel says:

    “Those who would censor comments in a so-called public forum for other than decency reasons are fascists.”

    With all due respect, I don’t recall you describing the two administrators of Republitarian.com as fascists when you post on their site. They’ve been deleting and censoring posts for quite awhile which is one of the reasons this discussion spilled over into hburgnews in the first place.

  22. The only comments deleted on republitarian.com are those which are, in our individual opinions, LEGALLY DEFAMATORY in nature…the object of the posting is not at issue, it’s the content within.

    Routinely, it’s generally been the posting of one individual that has been deleted, and it’s our blog and those on it are not subject to any First Amendment protections.

    Certainly, if someone’s going to make defamatory statements on this blog, I intend to defend myself against them.

    It’s ironic that the operators of this blog have chosen to censorship of comments when they were criticizing us over at republitarian.com for having done so. But again, this is finnegan’s blog and we’re not entitled to graffity-up the place with our spew via the First Amendment, here, either.

    We dealt with what you are dealing with now and are not unsympathetic to your situation.

  23. finnegan says:

    briggman wrote

    It’s ironic that the operators of this blog have chosen to censorship of comments when they were criticizing us over at republitarian.com for having done so.

    You referring to this? I never criticized you or Myron for that. I said, “by closing comments and deleting stuff you don’t agree with, it definitely does make you look bad.”

    I’m not enacting this becuase I’m under personal attack here. I haven’t deleted any comments yet. It’s the nature of the discourse in general. For the record, the only IP addresses I’ve ever banned here were from a commenter personally attacking you, Dave.

    I’d like to be able to simply ban all offenders’ IP addresses, but there are too many ways for people to get around that.

    As I’ve already stated twice, this is a temporary measure.

  24. Dave Briggman says:

    Brent, I’m not criticizing you, nor do I blame you for the action you’ve taken…it will only be a temporary measure…hopefully the garbage will stop flying when the elections are done.

  25. Jeff White says:

    I have no control here and am in fact grateful for the privilege to post here. No kidding.

    I have lived where there is no freedom, or significantly less freedom, and I just offer my views – not to force anyone to do it “my way,” but to hopefully convince them to see it from my perspective.

    Do what you think is right.

  26. Jeff White says:

    I don’t know who is a fascist specifically – but I know something about fascism, and I will just clarify it, and reiterate – If you censor comments for reasons other than decency, and then try to call it an open forum, you are a liar, in my humble opinion, such censorship is basically fascist.

    I was advised by a Clinton-appointed Special Ambassador in Bosnia to run a call-in show thus:

    1. 4 phones.
    2. the 4th # published and manned to receive calls.
    3. 1st 2 phones calling the 3rd phone with questions, the answers to which YOU think the people should hear.

    When I enquired as to possible ethics complaints, AMB Klein said that it all depended on whether I wanted to spend our broadcast time and wattage answering questions about alien abductions or not…

    Now do with that what you may.

  27. finnegan says:


    Please show me where on this blog I have (or anyone else has) advertised it as an “open forum.”

    It’s a “community news blog.” On the contact and blog info page has always stated that this was set up “as a way for the online community of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County to stay informed and exchange information.”

    The objectionable things that were happening here had little or nothing to do with political ideologies. This temporary comment moderation policy was put in place to put the brakes on all the accusations and personal attacks being thrown back and forth between a few individuals. It’s not because someone is too liberal or too conservative.

  28. Del Marvel says:

    Why am I not suprised that the discussion of fascism sooner or later gets around to Bill Clinton? Just out of curiousity, how ethically do Bush appointees handle the media in Iraq?


  29. Jeff White says:

    Fair enough. You never did. And so, you would not be guilty of lying, or fascism on that score. I apologize if I seemed to accuse you falsely.

    I never meant to allege that you were policing the thing based on ideology either – although you might choose to do that if you wanted – and why not? Well, I think I mentioned why I would think you would not want to do that.

    Also, I suspect your forum, whether you want to advertise it that way or not – is pretty open.

    I agree – personal attacks should be policed and prevented – but I worry, because a lot of things can be called “personal attacks” which are really just calling a spade a spade – such as when Jesus accused the Pharisees of being hypocrites, or even perhaps when a serviceman such as myself accuses of John Kerry of slander in his war crimes claims regarding Vietnam, and the moral equivalence to treason regarding his secret meetings with representatives of the Communist north Vietnamese in Paris during the war.

    Just so you see what I was thinking about.

    I do agree however – civil discourse is best, and unsubstantiated name-calling and mudslinging do make for repulsive dialogue.

  30. Thanh says:

    finnegan, I support your decision to temporarily moderate the comments being posted on hburgnews. The comments were becoming childish with personal attacks, unfounded or off topic accusations, and name calling. Ideas and opinions of individuals can definately be expressed without name calling.

    I value the ability of this blog to act as a community news blog and also as a place for individuals in our community to ask questions and share thoughts and opinions.

    I take this action as a time for people to think about “how” they post, not necessarily “what” they post.

    I’ve definately learned a lot from hburgnews bloggers and commenters, and have been introduced to new opinions too and in the end, I don’t always agree with all the opinions expressed, but it gives me a basis for understanding another perspective, which I can appreciate. Thank you finnegan for being open to others too, and thank you to all the bloggers and commenters for taking the time to share your opinions.

  31. ktr001 says:

    I suppose you have to do what you have to do, Brent, but I am going to agree with several people above in saying that I worry about the censoring of material becoming a bigger evil than the material itself.

    I believe that those who wish to be inappropriate, rude, or derogatory will be their own demise, and choosing to ignore the things they say will only fuel their fire. We cannot ignore that unintelligent, rude, mean, inappropriate things are said because we need to learn from them. For me, personally, hearing people be inappropriate or the like only inspire me to act, think, and speak as differently from them as I possibly can.

    I do get angry, of course, as most people would when hearing or reading things they disagree with or take offense to. But we do have a choice in how we handle things we dislike. People on this blog who respond to the inappropriate comments in a volatile manner are no better than the people who post crap on here. Want people to stop posting inappropriate things? Then respond to their unintelligence with intelligence, patience, and dignity. Nothing enrages an angry person like an intelligent one who can be calm.

    So, since you asked for suggestions in an above post, Brent, I suggest you stop censoring and that the bloggers on here who do “behave” continue to do so and not sink to the level of those inappropriate bloggers. That way, people can see a misaligned post as well as the informed, intelligent, and calm response to it. We have to learn from misguided people, not pretend they will go away if we ignore them.

  32. Thanh says:

    ktr001, you make all good points in your comment above, and well said. Thanks.

  33. King Richard says:

    Every time I respond to any comment, one or two of the regulars resort to calling me names. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I go into a ‘defensive mode’.
    With exception of 1 or 2, everybody seems very intelligent on here, any ideas on how I should handle this?
    I guess I stepped on somebodys toes and it really hurt. If you read some of the above post, you will see that they don’t want me on the blogs at all (you may have to read between the lines a little).
    I will consider all comments or suggestions, thanks.

  34. Kelly says:

    My simple (but time tested) words of advice for all friendly city dwellers would simply be:

    Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

    Be Respectful.

    Don’t goad or bait others. And no name calling.

    Use a filter… or the delete button. This isn’t a brain to mouth situation. Type something up, read it over (and out loud if possible), walk away, come back, and if you still feel that way then you can hit submit. Or just hit that backspace button.

    Respond to the discourse (civilly) not the commenter.

  35. finnegan says:

    King Richard,

    I’d like to avoid having another fruitless fight break out here. I’ve tried to email you numerous times, but your email address doesn’t work.

    You need to be using a legit email address when you post. Email me. hburgnews [at] gmail.com

  36. Jason says:

    Why not just require that anyone posting has to register an account?

  37. finnegan says:

    This site used to be set up so only people with registered accounts could post. Several people emailed me and said they didn’t like it — they said it discourages people from commenting since registering is an extra “hassle.”

    I may resort back to that.

  38. Jason says:

    It would be cool if you only had to approve anonymous comments, allowing registered users to comment without approval. There may be a plug-in for that.

  39. TM says:

    But even if people had to register, all we’d have then is a bunch of registered mudslingers. Right? As far as I’d seen, most offending parties never posted anonymously.

  40. finnegan says:

    Thanks, Jason. I’ll look into those.

    This plugin made me laugh.

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