2 April

Setting Clear Blog Boundaries, Last Words: Where I Have Landed (Finally) In The Nasty And Hate Mail Drama

by Jon Katz

The postings and discussion about hate mail have been nothing but good for me. I’ve learned and admitted the mistakes I have been making, and have also opened up some of the most thoughtful and interesting discussions in a long time on the blog.

Good can come from everything if you are open to it. A number of people got caught in friendly fire during my battles with trolls and disturbed people, and I have apologized for that.

I’ve even gone to my long-time therapist to sort out what I learned to learn and do.

I feel I am a better person for these discussions. I am much less angry, resentful and trigger happy and the blog is a better place for it. It was almost like an exercism, I came to terms with my Dyslexia as well. Cruelty can either kill you or make you strong. It’s made me strong.

The latest issue was whether I should accept an offer of AI software to screen for people who would be cruel or insulting or dishonest about me  or figure it out myself. All of the responses but one was civil and helpful.

Charlotte doesn’t trust me to judge the difference between hostility and argument; ‘The trouble with your idea is that you alone get to define the difference between “hatred” and thoughtful disagreement. I don’t particularly trust your barometer for that.’

I told  her that if she didn’t trust me, there was nothing I could do to appease her, I will always react strongly to people who are cruel, hateful or diishonest to me or about me.

Charlotte doesn’t like me much  (but still obviously reads the blog) but nothing about her message was hateful, and she is welcome to post messages on the blog any time.

It isn’t necessary for people to like me or agree with me in order to comment and it never has been the policy. And yes, Charlotte I do get to make the decisions.

That’s why I can call it “my blog,” and not  yours. You can always start your own blog and do it right.

It’s my blog and I take responsibility for it, good and bad. As I suspected, Charlotte was not interested in thoughtful dialogue.

The issue has also taught me a lot about me, most of it unplelasant but important. I can’t be enabling or giving these people power, then complaining about the hurt. I’m definitely stronger than that.

Pete below offered a thoughtful and unusual response, I disagree with it, but I appreciate his civility and intelligence.  He’s welcome here. I wanted to share the conclusions I have reached.

This is how meaningful conversations happen.

Pete: It really doesn’t seem like more monitoring and filtering of messages is the answer. Not that I have an answer. It’s clearly true, though, that this is not an open discussion board; it’s a website belonging to one person who pays for it to exist. In that regard, it’s private property. You can’t march up to someone’s house and splash paint on it just because you prefer purple to blue (or for any other reason). And although there are laws against that kind of behavior, I don’t think it’s the laws that keep it from happening. I think it’s that people share a generalized understanding of what’s acceptable and what’s not. This Internet stuff is still pretty new; maybe it just takes a while for people to realize basic decency applies here too.”

I enjoyed Pete’s respectful response, but I can’t agree with it. I did think about what he said.

People can and do disagree with me all the time, including him.  We are often an open discussion board. Just not open to hatred and cruelty. Lots of people show basic decency many don’t.

I don’t believe the Internet promotes decency, I believe it spawns hostility.

The point is hatefulness and cruelty.

The internet is  not a newborn baby, it’s more than 60 years old, and there are no signs time is easing the issue of insult and anger,defamation,  bigotry and hatred that is sweeping social media.

This is reflecting the growing bitter divisions in the country, which will continue until Mr. Trump finally steals and cheats and lies his way into jail,   trips over one of his $60 mega bibles,  or explodes from internal combustion.

People in American right now do not, in my view share a “generalized” view of what’s acceptabe and what’s not. That, in fact, is the problem. That’s the way it used to be, not the way it is now.

We have no common feelings about lying and honor at the moment. Lying and dishonor is a valuable asset in our political environment.

Religion used to do that for us, but much of religion has lost its authority and courage, just like Congress.

I liked the discussion we all had this week – there were many and useful comments, and lots of support too – it was a good and important one and I want to share the rules for my blog that I have developed and refined. I don’t need or want AI software to do this for me, that’s my job and I am up to it.

First, any and all comments must be approved by me before being posted anywhere on my blog.

Secondly, the rules are simple.

No one will be permitted to post any message that I find cruel, dishonest, or hateful, period. I screwed that up, and I’m sorry. It’s never too late to grow and change. Any name calling means being blocked for good.

Third, disagreement is welcome, as it was all week, no one in the history of the blog has ever been knowingly banned or blocked for posting thoughtful and civil messages. If that happened, and I’m sure it did,   it was a mistake and it won’t happen again.

Finally, I am and will use software that enables instant deletion and blocking. Some people don’t like it, but it’s my blog and these are my decisions to make. I won’t run or hide from making them.

I was one of the problems more than once, and now, I intend to be one of the solutions.

The rules are simple, no matter what people think of me. I won’t be posting any messages that I find offensive, cruel or dishonest. People lie about me all the time, and I failed to see the foolishness of that.

I happen to love civil argument, Pete’s message was stimulating and valuable, even as I don’t share his views. Disagreement causes me no harm, and has always made me smarter and stronger. Pete is always welcome back.

My dream for the blog has also been to use the comment section as a forum for thought and civil discourse. Hate and rage and lies have no place for it. I won’t ever let them return, and yes, I will be the judge of what is acceptable to me and what is not.

Thanks for following this, and thanks for participating in this and future discussions. I got more comments this week than ever in th 17 years of the blog. Thanks.



  1. I think your blog, and your *handling* of it….has improved greatly over recent times. I enjoy reading even the most *disagreeing* comments….as long as they are civil and not mean in nature. That is what civil discourse is all about…and we can all grow from listening with open ears and hearts to differing opinions. Kudos to you, Jon…..for working to find the balance
    Susan M

  2. Hi Jon – I find it kind of sad that people don’t know ‘basic decency’ in any forum or ‘form’ anymore. I guess I’m ‘old school’ in that regard. Thanks for your thoughtful post.
    P.S. – Love the photo series of you and Zip enjoying the beautiful afternoon sun and ‘hunting’ for chipmunks. The bond you two have is special!

  3. Jon, I am a faithful reader of your blog because I know that I will find thoughtful commentary that causes me to think critically. I come to your blog to see the beautiful art in your photographs, great stories about your beloved Maria, farm and animals, and to follow your journey of intentional evolution as a human. I have learned so much from you about the work of authenticity. I am glad that you’ve landed in a place of peace about the haters.

  4. Remember the “old days” when your blog was new and people enjoyed it or simply moved on? It feels like decades ago. To quote a movie line,” Can’t we all just get along?”

  5. Charlotte said , ‘The trouble with your idea is that you alone get to define the difference between “hatred” and thoughtful disagreement. I don’t particularly trust your barometer for that.’ I think her comment is nasty – of course you alone have the right to discern between hateful and thoughtful disagreement. Obviously, it’s your blog, and you decide what to post……..and……does she know you? Why does she not trust your barometer, or whatever. Idon’t know you either, but I love your writing, and here is my assumption, you seem to intuitively see people for who they are.
    A great judge of character.

  6. Hi Jon, I don’t have any answers, but I still think the Internet is new compared to things like newspapers, town squares, and letters to editors. I understand your disagreement, but I’m sticking with my hope that it will get better. It is, of course, just a hope, but hope can be pretty important. Cheers!

  7. I just had a follow-on thought. Social media platforms like Facebook, etc. are free, or nearly so. And most people don’t have, and have never had, their own websites. Maybe that’s a disconnect — you put a lot of effort and commitment into your site, but I wonder whether people get that if their experience of the internet is that it’s free and in no sense anybody’s personal domain? Once again, no answers, but back in the day when it wasn’t that easy to set up a website or even get connected to them, I think there was a different standard of behavior.

    1. Interesting. There are 30 to 40 million people with blogs, I don’t think it’s that strange for people, I think it’s unusual for hate messegers to be challented, that’s why I did it.

  8. Thanks Jon — I’ve been following you since Running to the Mountain. That book meant a lot to me, and I wrote or emailed you about it. You were very kind then too!

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