Civility Rule


Civility and Decorum Policy:

This blog is committed to the principles of free speech and, as a consequence, we do not ban people simply because we disagree with them. Indeed, we value different perspectives and do not want to add another “echo chamber” to the Internet where we each repeat or amplify certain views. However, the Turley blog was created with a strong commitment to civility, a position that distinguishes us from many other sites. We do not tolerate personal attacks or bullying. It is strictly forbidden to use the site to publish research regarding private information on any poster or guest blogger. There are times when a poster reveals information about themselves as relevant to an issue or their experiences. That is fine and is sometimes offered to broaden or personalize an issue. For example, I am open about my background and any current cases to avoid questions of conflicts or hidden agendas. However, researching people or trying to strip people of anonymity is creepy and will not be allowed.

Frankly, while I have limited time to monitor the site, I will delete abusive comments when I see them or when they are raised to me. If the conduct continues, I will consider banning the person responsible. However, such transgressions should be raised with me by email and not used as an excuse to trash talk or retaliate. I am the only one who can ban someone from the blog and I go to great lengths not to do it or engage in acts that might be viewed as censorship. Yet, we have had a few people who simply want to foul the cyber footpath with personal name-calling, insults, and threatening behavior. If they will not conform to our basic rules (which should not be difficult for any adult person in society), they will have to move on.

We do allow comments as well as anonymity, which some sites have disallowed. It is a curious thing how anonymity will unleash vile and dark impulses in people. Yet, anonymity is part of free speech and, while we have discussed eliminating anonymous comments due to abuses, we are trying to preserve this important element to free speech. It is possible to be anonymous but not obnoxious.

The blog is for civil dialogue on all manner of topics and not the promotion of commercial interests. If you have a product or service for sale, please refrain from including that in the comments section.

Given my family and professional responsibilities, I cannot continually monitor the comments. It is a challenge to post multiple stories early in the morning each day. This is reflected by the typos that sneak into my posts at 5 in the morning while I am trying to pour caffeine into my body. For that reason, this site relies heavily on its regulars to preserve decorum and civility. The failure to delete or respond to a post is not a reflection of any agreement or content-based review. All comments are solely the view of the poster and not the blog, myself, or the guest bloggers. We get thousands of comments and have only limited screening ability for foul language. For that reason, your help is not just welcomed but absolutely necessary in maintaining the character and tenor of this blog.

Like all sites, we attract trolls and juvenile posters who want to tear down the work of others. It is a sad reality of the Internet and the worst element of our species. Don’t feed the trolls. Ignore them. They are trolls and live under cyber bridges for a reason.

We have often been described as a place where people can have passionate but respectful discussions. That is not for everyone. Indeed, one of the leading legal blogs expressly rejected a civility rule as boring and unnecessary. We disagree. If you find it difficult or unfulfilling to discuss issues without personal insults or foul language, please move on. Our Guest Bloggers are asked to avoid any tit-for-tat fight with trolls and critics. Likewise, most of our regulars refuse to engage in such exchanges. Please help us keep this an island of civility and mature discourse on the Internet. Address the issues and not the individuals in our debate. Be passionate but don’t let it get personal.

And thanks again for being part of our blog community.

Jonathan Turley

68 thoughts on “Civility Rule

  1. Prof. Turley, I am concerned by the lack of Civics 101 knowledge and practices among the citizenry. I have been thinking about trying to convince media producers at the majors to create some Civics-content programming or written pieces. Here are some basic themes that could be developed out:
    1. Constructive conflict as a controlled process with its own rules
    2. Issue-centered argumentation vs. ad hominem attacks
    3. Compartmentalizing grievances, avoiding conflated, exaggerated and speculative grievances
    4. The role of the neutral process manager or referee in keeping disagreement productive
    5. Choosing neutral, non-incindiery language as a meeting point for problem-solving, avoiding sloganeering meant to shut down the discussion
    6. Swapping perspectives, articulating the opponent’s viewpoint without speculative mind-reading, asking for information non-rhetorically
    7. Gaining general agreement on problem-solving goal, and holding to it throughout process
    8. Recognizing impasse and techniques to break out of it, the importance of the problem-solving schedule

    I haven’t received formal training, but have 25 years experience leading design teams in high tech.

    If you like the idea of asking the TV and print media to devote thematic attention to spreading Civics 101 awareness, maybe we could work up a letter to be sent to news execs / senior producers.

  2. Professor Turley,

    Regarding civility rules I would respectfully invite you to visit the posts in “Northwestern Transgender Student Seeks Entry To Sorority”.

    I am a recent subscriber who finds your blog to be a comforting repository of insight and logic and an antidote to chaotic and anxiety provoking times. I am also a non-Lawyer type so the deep level of knowledge and intellect from posters is a valued resource. However in the “Northwestern” blog it was disappointing to realize that intellect and knowledge is, apparently, not a prerequisite for civility. While the article had presented the topic respectfully (your use of the students transitioned pronoun “He” for example) some of the posters did not follow suit and felt licensed to have a go at it (not regarding pronoun usage but re. civility rules). For example and solely for illustration; the use of facial characteristics or body parts to express view points, I would assert, is inappropriate when arguing against the admission of a person of a particular ethnicity who wishes to attend a country club. Society has evolved past the use of such “identifiers” here. Unfortunately civility for Transgender Individuals is roughly near the unfortunate culture speak we had describing Black America in the 50’s it seems. Thus we read terms like “Freeek” and “Dong” used in response to your well written article, because those particular posters see this as an acceptable terminology on a public blog.

    I did recognize in my reply’s to posters in the “Northwestern” article that exposure to the transgender community is about nil for most and that this is problematic for the meaningful evolution of views on and understanding of transgender individuals. I do have the advantage of being a parent of a transgender college student (as you may have guessed) so my evolution came fast and progresses steadily. There is a better vernacular for those who wish to make their counterpoints.

    I hope you might find a few minutes out of your busy day to review some of the posts. I believe they fall below the bar you had described in “Civility Rule”.

    In appreciation,


  3. Can someone please tell me why all of these blogs or forms do not tolerate personal attacks or bullying? Why do grown men and women have to act like we are in pre school? Why can’t you give your unfiltered opinion without the possibility of being kicked off of the site?

    I have a dream that people would stop being so dam soft!

    • The question is why do grown men and women act like they are in preschool? Civility is one quality of being a grown up.

      I advocate that you be as harsh as you like with ideas you don’t like. Not with the people who proffer them. Admittedly, it takes more work and more brain power to marshal a cogent concise argument regarding an idea than to launch an ad hominem attack against the writer. But that’s what separates the men from the boys, as it were.

    • Can’t one state one’s views without descending to personal attacks or bullying. In civil societies, that is known as conversing and debate, and much more likely to advance one’s cause.
      Fellow citizen.

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