14 July

A Manifesto: Once Again, Re-Thinking My Blog, Taking It Back

by Jon Katz

I want my compassionate and civil blog back. I miss it, and I bet many of you do as well. So I’m going to get it back from the trolls and the peckerheads.

I’ve been re-thinking my blog lately, as I often do, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you about changes I am making right now.

When I began bedlamfarm.com in 2007, I did not allow comments of any kind, either on the blog or later, on Facebook. It was always my idea to publish a monologue, the story of my life, not a dialogue, as is done on cable news.

I started permitting comments because of the rise in interactive media, and people wanted to talk to writers, get to know them, and share opinions with them.

But America has changed since I started the blog, so much of what we now all social media has degraded the very idea of listening or communicating. So I need to change too.

I fear sometimes getting sucked into something I really dislike.

Tonight, I deleted four comments.

One accused me of being a voyeur, another a thief, another of being a sexual predator, and a sociopath.

These people, I realized, were not interested in talking to me or listening to me; they were just digital sharks out trawling for blood. They are the ghouls of our time, and I’m not going to help them.


These are not people who know me or care about me, they are the creatures we now call “trolls,” they were always around, but President Trump brought them out into the daylight.

I won’t permit their comments any longer on my blog or my Facebook page. I should have done this months ago.

I have the tools to delete and ban them, and I will use them, starting the second I post this piece.

To some extent, the decision some years ago to permit comments on the blog made me uncomfortable.

I was a book writer for most of my writing life; I worked alone and rarely interacted with readers except on carefully produced readings at book stores.

I thought it was smart to do in the digital age when everybody feels free to shoot their mouths off about anything, especially things they know nothing about.

I am doing nobody a service by giving damaged and broken people a hateful platform on my blog. Quite the opposite, I have become just another unknowing peddler of poison.

I can’t explain my every move to the satisfaction of thousands of strangers; I can only present my ideas and hope they have meaning to someone.

Over time, the trolls and ticks will go away; like all vampiric creatures, they feed off blood and need it to survive.

My moral responsibility is to look in the mirror and like what I see. I don’t like what I see when I am challenging hateful people. I don’t ever want to become them. Sometimes, I feel like I am becoming one of them.

That is not the direction I want to go in with my life.

The best defense is to be me, not to let anyone else try to define me. The heart of the troll is cold, cynicism and hatred is their vitamin. I don’t want them anywhere near my blog.

This is the challenge of our times, this intolerance and cruelty, it is much too big for me to handle and still stay creative and focused on my work.

I have to protect my creativity and peace of mind; they are the only things I really have apart from Maria with so much central meaning.

This decision to open up the blog was before the rise of cable news and extreme political partisanship and the digital revolution, which has spawned a sea change in communications.

The new technology permits people to talk to one another without restraint or consequence. It promotes rudeness, cruelty, and what has now evolved to what we call “trolling,” the willingness of people to be vicious, dishonest, invasive t and mindlessly argumentative.

I see my online home as an extension of my material hope; I don’t expect anyone online to say anything to me that they wouldn’t say in my house. That’s an easy and clear line to draw.

It has become a right and expectation to many people to be cruel or hurtful; many suffer a lot worse than me. I’m not into formal manners, but the tsunami of rudeness and cruelty no longer seems to serve any function at all, other than to wound or declaim.

Arguing with them, challenging them, making fun of them is an act of ego and stupidity, it accomplishes nothing and wastes my emotional and creative energy—shame on me for doing it. The viciousness crept on me; I was slow to see the scope of it.

The part of these new communications I love is the people who have thoughtful, often critical, positive, and challenging things to say about my writing.

That has been good for me and is valuable to me.

My work writing about the Amish has been some of the most worthwhile in my career, and I very much appreciate all the support and approval you have given me.

It is affirming and sustaining.

What isn’t good for me is the viciousness and ignorance that social media has enabled, spawned, and tolerated. This work has made me a magnet; the hateful assaults were occasional, now they are regular.

We really have a sick vein running in this country; we truly hate the different.

This trolling came to a head this spring when I began writing about the Amish. I had no idea how much many people disliked them and resented my friendship with Moise.

The Amish seem to embody the idea of “the other,” and our country is on a full-blown hate streak against “others” right now.

Somehow, the subject just opened the gates to a flood of nastiness.

Every day, I get several shockingly vicious and mindless messages, often threatening, especially when I write about my friendship with Moise.

This tendency to what we now call “trolling” began around the time the  Trump campaign for the presidency began in 2016. There were always trolls; they were never as brazen or frequent as they are today.

Since then, cruelty, stupidity, and viciousness have escalated on both sides; I get as much hate mail from people on the extreme left as I do from the army of Trump trolls gobbling up and poisoning the internet in the same way Japanese beetles eat flowers and plants.

The noise drowns true liberal and conservative thinkers. The American mind is sick and hurting/

I decided the right thing to do was to challenge these trolls, make it clear that they can’t pollute free speech, and get away with it clean and without challenge.

This was a mistake. It was not the smart thing to do. It was a waste of time. I should be exposing these hateful ideas; I should be protecting people from them, making it a safe place.

I will do that.

These assaults draw out some of the anger that still lives in me, and too often, I was challenged to defend my thinking and ideas by people who are simply intrusive, inappropriate, vicious for their own sake.

Ideas are never discussed; the dialogue is like taunts on a middle school playground.

I need to change that. It’s not good for me, or the blog, or for the many good people who are genuinely interested in ideas, even if they disagree with me.

From now on, I’m going to take a step backward. Civil and thoughtful comments are welcome; I will read them and respond to them when I can.

They are important to me.

I’m not doing battle with angry or disconnected people or trolls any longer. A particularly obnoxious woman wrote today that she got the idea that I didn’t like to argue with people who disagree with me.

The woman who thinks I don’t want to argue my ideas is correct, but only partially correct.

I don’t argue about my ideas, period. That’s not why I write. I am happy to explain myself.

My role model for the blog was E.B. White, the wonderful New Yorker writer who wrote about rural life and his many ideas from his farm in Maine.

There was no Internet, no social media.

He didn’t argue his ideas; he expressed them, and he welcome comments from readers, which came mostly from the mail.

I will never argue my ideas on Facebook or in blog posts. Ideas have a right to live and move freely or die on their own. I will absolutely not spend my life arguing with people on the Internet.

Arguing all day is not healthy for a writer; too much crap gets into my head. I don’t care what most people think of my writing; I’m not looking to defend my ideas to thousands of strangers online, many of them with bent heads.

But I do like to know what people think of what I say, like it or not.

My protest against cruelty will no longer be to argue about what I write; I will delete and ignore the hate.

The idea is to deprive it of life and oxygen, not enable it with attention. I do that to protect my writing and to protect my blog. Being accused of obsession, child abuse, and psychopathic behavior isn’t a good way to be creative.

Believe me when I tell you – and many of you know this – that I love being challenged thoughtfully and civilly. I will never delete those comments, and I will happily respond to them when I can.

But I have to stay healthy in the head if the blog is to be useful at all, and if I can survive and prosper on bedlamfarm.com in this new reality – it is my creative life, my income, my meaning in life, next to Maria.

Those who wish to comment in good faith,  question my ideas civilly and thoughtfully will find a welcome place here, and hopefully, a  peaceful place where we can talk openly, honestly, and safely.

It’s up to me to police the site, and I welcome that opportunity to make a stand truly.  I will always speak directly and honestly. I live off of mind food, and I will never delete or prohibit mind food. I will have no hesitation in rejecting the angry, the aggrieved,  and the cruel.

So this change will, I believe, strengthen the idea of my blog being a monologue, but one with a protected interactive element. Would you please tell me what you think? I don’t argue my ideas, but I am happy to explain them and listen to the ideas of others.

Give it a chance; I think you will be pleased.

The outside world is losing the ability to speak empathetically to one another. I believe in doing that. Come and see for yourself, watch the atmosphere change.

This is my blog, and I love it and care for it. I’m taking it back. Trading witty blows with creepy people is not why I started the blog, and will certainly not be how I finish it.



  1. Thank you, Jon. I agree with you. I am reminded of the great song “The Boxer” by Paul Simon, particularly, the last verse:
    In the clearing stands a boxer
    And a fighter by his trade
    And he carries the reminders
    Of ev’ry glove that laid him down
    Or cut him till he cried out
    In his anger and his shame
    “I am leaving. I am leaving.”
    But the fighter still remains

  2. It’s so good to see how many people were up late last night responding to your idea. Clearly, these people have busy lives and actually sit down at the end of their workday to relax and read your insightful blog! Inspiring! 🙂

    1. I recently found the Bedlam blog and on FB, I love it, but the last few days I noticed the tension. I am glad, Jon, thanks for you taking this new direction. Pettiness never goes well. We come to relax. That is the environment you are striving to achieve.

      I have been been binging on all your books and been “in love” with dogs all over again. I cannot service without a dog! They are all special. I found a Hallmark movie about training a border collie to herd sheep and understood it so much better by reading your books,

  3. Jon,
    We are supportive of your decision. We are financial supporters and daily readers of your blog but only read it by going to bedlamfarm.com.

    We became disheartened by and disappointed with social media/warfare as the US approached the 2020 election. I closed all my social media/warfare accounts because of the hate and vitriol being spewed by individuals of all persuasions. I choose whom and what I read and keep in touch with friends by email, text or real honest-to- goodness letters. And just a few minutes of the daily nationally broadcast left- and right-wing news/editorials is enough poison for the mind. We’d rather spend time with a good book or some individuals’ blogs – including yours and Maria’s. We browse through the comments but slide past the spiteful and hateful ones – your decision to eliminate them and block those who write them is welcome news.

    Blessings to you and Maria!

  4. Good for you to create a boundary protecting your emotional space. Dedicate the energy you would have been spending on those unhappy people to Maria, your animals, your friends (Amish and not), and your writing. I enjoy your blog very much and read it most days.

  5. Awesome Jon. I Can’t belive it took you this long to reach this point. Love the use of “Peckerheads” – makes me think of the John Prine song When I Get to Heaven.

    Long time reader and infrequent commenter.

  6. Thank you so much. Naively, I know..but I had hoped that the 2020 election results would get rid of some of the vitriol online. Foolish thought, I know. I love reading your posts, but would find myself getting riled up by these trolls, which unfortunately, made me want to respond to them in kind. Those people have no right to be part of your life. Keep on keeping’ on…

  7. I love what you wrote about EB White, his kind thoughtful writing. That for me is the embodiment of an individual speaking his truth with the sensitivity of a type of beauty which when the two are combined, become a deep abiding graciousness.

  8. Jon,
    I salute your decision to stop the troll madness. Your writing has provided me comfort in these trying times and you have every right to screen/block those that just choose to foment nonsense and hate. Thanks again for all your thoughtful writing and great stories. Good luck to you and Maria and to everyone in your immediate circle. Peace be with you all.

  9. I think your loyal readers will all be behind this. I’ve noticed a slight vehamance in your responses at times that seem to come from the attacking comments pdople make. Sometimes you have even seemed to mistake what I thought people were saying, but I felt it was because of the antagonistic comments so many make. People need to learn the difference between an argument and a discussion. We learn from discussions but learn little from arguing. We learn more from listening than lecturing.

  10. “Every day, I get several shockingly vicious and mindless messages, often threatening”

    Glad to see that you’re not going to put up with it anymore.

  11. Yes! I don’t need to read their comments….I want to read you. If I wanted to read their point of view, I would subscribe to their blog….I subscribe to yours….and Maria’s. Yes!

  12. Do it.
    Make it happen.
    Thank goodness we can put the naysayers to rest.
    I’ve been loyal follower since the very beginning and found myself not wanting to read it lately….due mostly to what you are attending to now.
    Just be YOU.

  13. Thank you for this. I,, along with many others, are simply tired of the SPPO – the Society of the Perpetually Pissed Off. Refusing to give them a platform is a good step and will make this a much more pleasant place to be.

  14. I support your wise decision and look forward to continue reading your blog. More kindness and understanding is truly needed in our world today…

    1. I think it will be fund to actually have good conversations with people when I can…it doesn’t take much time to delete a butthead..

  15. Thank you so much for taking this stand against the Society of the Perpetually Pissed Off. A therapist once told me: “You don’t have to participate in every argument you are invited to. ” I agree with that sentiment and applaud your judicious use of the comment delete button!

  16. Yes…Yes…Yes ! You no longer need negativity energy sent your way ! Nor do you need
    to justify yourself for others. Just keep on and keeping on for those that are of like mind.

    You are a breath of fresh air !

  17. Mr. Katz,
    I have been reading your blog for years and have wanted to comment for the past year but was a bit intimidated by your writing, which of course is my own insecurity. However, each and every post you write has touched my soul in some way, as have your books. My hope is to grow as you have grown. Your willingness to share your journey of growth is astounding, informative and always thought provoking. As a (retired) teacher of 35 years you made me smile when you said you were proud of your spelling mistakes – something I tried my hardest to tell parents when their children attempted to write. Your thoughts and comments on your family brought me to tears not only for you, but for thinking of my own fractured family. I will forever be thankful for therapy and for choosing supportive, trusting friends that have enriched my life. Friends can be life saving in so many ways. Your comments on animal rights and politics continue to be so needed at this time. Bravo to you about not responding to cruelty. This is something I continue to work on especially in my own family and in-laws of opposing political views. It saddens me to no end to think that our country has such trolls that rely on being mean, hurtful and especially proud of being ignorant. I always felt that computer cruelty was such a sign of cowardice, hiding behind a screen. And it is painful to realize that I, too have been mean in so many passive ways in real life. I just lost a brother to ALS and during his care-taking and in his sudden (but expected) death, I have been thinking so much about what it takes to change and to act with kindness. Families have a certain way of cruelty and it takes so much to release these ingrained views and death certainly has brought all of this to the surface for me to face. I guess what I have always wanted to write and say to you is that your writing has made me think and think and think again and want to change. But here is where these so called trolls have miss the mark – your example of doing good, being a good husband, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses as a parent, being proud of your granddaughter, supporting and championing women, championing anyone different, championing dogs / animals, volunteering, being kind to less fortunate people, being a good friend and being honest about your own growth seem to be the clearest, most compassionate responses to all of this madness. Please know that you are fully appreciated by this reader. For every post and book you write or have written I say a resounding “THANK YOU.” Your writing has meant the world to me.

  18. Jon, I read your blog the first thing every morning. And I only read your words. Rarely do I see or read the comments. I am grateful to you for the decision you have made. Your blog and all of your books before that have enriched my life and all those with whom I have shared your writings. Thank you.

  19. I’m glad you’re not getting rid of the comments. I enjoy reading other people’s point of view – when it’s respectful and thoughtful. To use a biblical phrase – all you have to do is separate the wheat from the chaff.

  20. Jon I am happy your are taking this stance. I have read almost all your books (Going Home: Finding Peace when your pet dies) is a life saving journal, and I enjoy your blogs. Enjoy and God bless!

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