Monday, May 08, 2017


A number of people have asked me about my blog's comment policy. As some readers may have noticed, in recent posts I have had many comments by anonymous commenters with minimal or negative value. I rarely delete comments, and I sometimes reply to them even when it is obvious that my interlocutors aren't engaging in good faith. Many people have asked me why I do this. As they point out, one result is that the comments sections of my posts end up being very unwelcoming to many of the people I might wish to be engaging with. This is absolutely true, and a serious cost to the current procedure.

One reason I haven't disabled anonymous comments, or engaged in more significant comment moderation, is that I don't only want to be discussing these issues with people who already agree with them. I'm spending quite a bit of time engaging with the Kipnis book in part because I am amazed that so many people find it compelling. But I don't just want to gawk at them with members of my own tribe. That doesn't get us anywhere. I want to assume that many of them are thoughtful humans it's possible to have a real conversation with—to have a chance of changing their minds, or to have a chance to correct any of my own errors.

Many people who are skeptical about the things I've been writing about sexual assault are unwilling to say so under their own names.

Not all of the comments I'm talking about are productive conversation of the form I'm talking about. Indeed, the majority are not. For example, there's no value related to the intellectual common ground in comments that do nothing but comment on my personal appearance, or comments that do nothing but lie about what someone has said. There's absolutely a case to be made for screening or deleting such comments. I guess there are two reasons I don't do that.

First, the line between comments that are and are not potentially productive is not always an obvious one; putting the bar for speech super low means I won't mistakenly exclude things that could have been useful. I'm letting in more garbage, but there's at least that advantage.

Second, I think it's important, for those of us who spend most of our time talking to people who agree that, e.g., a workplace where employers habitually let their hands linger on their female employees contributes to rape culture, to be aware of the cultural backlash to the advances of recent decades. We shouldn't forget that we live in a world where, if you say that a good exercise in female agency can be to report your boss's sexual assault, or that student activists aren't the force behind unjust Title IX investigation procedures, you're likely have commenters crawl up and tell you that you're a snowflake narcissist who doesn't deserve his job, maybe with some speculation about your sex life thrown in for good measure. I think this is a gross fact, but it is a fact that I think it'd be a mistake to ignore or forget.

Gratuitous insults from anonymous commenters don't really bother me personally—so I'm not suffering myself from the abuse (aside from the not-trivial time it takes to respond, on those occasions when I decide to respond). Obviously many people in different professional and social positions are different from me in this respect—I'm not saying how anybody should feel about this kind of thing, just how I do. The main cost, from my point of view, is the one mentioned at the top: letting the toxic voices in disincentivizes some people I'd like to be talking to from participating in the conversation. My compromise solution so far has been to open public facebook threads for posts, so that anyone with a facebook account can discuss it there. That's imperfect for a lot of reasons, but it's the compromise I've landed on so far. I may well change my mind at some future date.

(In case it wasn't obvious: this is not intended remotely as a criticism of blogs that use heavier moderation. I think they do so for very good reasons. Different spaces are, and should be, different.)


  1. I vote for much heavier moderation Jonathan. Comments that you determine have minimal or negative value should not be published on your blog. Neither should you allow any comment that is unwelcoming to the people you might wish to be engaging with. Unwelcome comments are too high a cost that cannot be underestimated in my view. Any comment that you consider may be garbage, IS GARBAGE. I don't think letting more garbage in is healthy.

    Just because you are not bothered by these comments doesn't mean that your readers such as me aren't bothered on your behalf. I too have a thick skin and am not bothered by the comments but I worry that over time their corrosive effect may in fact bother you, probably before you even realize it consciously.

    Comments that are unwelcome create a hostile learning environment for third parties. By allowing them to be posted on your blog, you are potentially putting yourself at risk of being accused of enabling them. A trigger warning before each comment section would make this blog safer space. Indeed, it would be more welcoming if you would suppress the comments entirely, or barring that, have them appear only after the reader has issued a form of affirmative consent to read them such as clicking on a hyperlink labeled "comments."

    I'm going to sign as anonymous, but I'm pretty sure that you know who I am.

  2. Anonymous Sense5/08/2017 11:57:00 PM

    Jonathan, Anonymous,

    Let me say a couple of things that I don't think will be overly harrowing or hostile for anyone, and then you can let me know how you'd like me to proceed.

  3. Anonymous Sense5/09/2017 12:12:00 AM

    1. Regarding your amazement that people think otherwise on this issue than you do, here are a few examples of the reception of Kipnis' argument by people who have the benefit of being outside of academia and looking in.

    I can't speak to the politics of Rachel Cooke, but the Guardian is a reliably left-leaning paper - they sided with the "paranoia" angle:

    Christine Smallwood at the New Yorker gives a relatively sympathetic portrait, though the headline is more ambivalent:

    Jill Filipovic at the Times called Kipnis' book a, hold on, "persuasive and valuable contribution to the continuing debate":

    Salon ran a positive review from Eileen G'Sell:

    Charlotte Shane at Bookforum:

    So there are quite a few positive or at least conflicted reviews from a variety of female and feminist writers, in a variety of forums that could be considered pretty firmly in the mainstream of the left or center-left. On the right, they've been using the epithets "moral panic" and "neo-Victorianism" for years.

    I would suggest you and your readers might benefit from reflecting on these receptions, and on the fact that virtually no extra-academic publication has claimed that it, or its readers, are too vulnerable to hear a contrary point of view.

  4. Anonymous Sense5/09/2017 12:26:00 AM

    2. Exactly because, as you said, the system has failed, and there are important moral and philosophical questions here, I think it's vital to continue having conversation. Some of us post anonymously because the cost of being public about the issue is too high. Kipnis was actually legally barred from discussing her case and the proceedings, but was bold enough to air them anyway. People are in fact worried about their jobs and reputations.

    However, my goal is not to inflict psychological harm or even insult on anyone. And it is your blog. So if you'd prefer, I'd be happy to cease commenting in this forum.

    I would like to be clear about one aspect of this discussion, though:

    You gesture at "anonymous comments" and seem, by doing so, to conflate me and my questions and objections with the commenter who seems to be quite severely heckling you.

    Do you in fact consider us to be in the same camp?

    Do you consider my comments to have been toxic, or merely frank?

    Have I called you a snowflake narcissist?

    Do you think it's fair to say exactly that I have "speculated about" your sex life? Or, just as you labeled your YouTube video "satirical", is it more fair to say that I clearly and explicitly bracketed what I was saying as a demonstration of the kind of paranoid hermeneutic of suspicion to which other people have been subjected?

    If you'd like me not to comment further, and feel like my presence hasn't been intellectually fair or rigorous, and has the same vices as those of the other anonymous poster, I will cease commenting. Or you can simply bar comments.

    But I would also disavow any intention to insult or discomfit anyone, and suggest only that some subjects are so inherently uncomfortable that the pursuit of accuracy and justice on them requires a strong stomach and some psychological fortitude, much as we would wish it otherwise.

    It is also quite psychologically harrowing to have people imply that one is sympathetic to rape or sexual assault, or guilty of it, especially when there is a full-fledged bureaucracy present that has pointed blame at innocent people readily, a weathervane in the wind of that implication.

  5. I will wait to hear Jonathan tell me what I should think about the comments above.

    Until I hear from philosopher Jonathan, I will take the word of Paul as gospel: “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

  6. Anonymous Sense5/09/2017 03:41:00 AM

    Or in your case, Anonymous, he masquerades as himself, and cites Scripture to his purpose. I am not interested in ridiculing or embarrassing Jonathan, or in giving cover to you or your peanut gallery chortles. And I hope - because I know how people can have their cynicism perked up online - that Jonathan's blog platform is able to log IPs or at least differentiate between anonymous posters, because at this point I would not like to be accused of some ventriloquist's pas de deux with you. Though what better devil's advocate than the devil? I only want to render as fair an account as we can of what fairness might be in a way reconcilable to as many parties and observers as possible.

  7. Anonymous Sense - name calling me Satan is exactly the low blow Jonathan has warned us about with anonymous comments like yours!!!

    I should have known better than to have tried to think for myself or to express my thoughts.

    Jonathan, help!

  8. Anonymous Sense5/09/2017 05:47:00 AM

    You were the first one, there? Well played, you really got one over on me. That hasn't happened in awhile. When I was a little kid, my grandad used to put one over on me and then, when I fell for it, act like I had put one over on him. "Are you pulling my leg?", he'd ask, and wink. Leg is what he called his...

    WHERE AM I??

    Ok, sorry. Is this all just some elaborate performance art project, or, I think Kipnis called it a "purification rite"? Or some punishment for those who infringed on the "Eyes Wide Shut" night mansion orgiastic ceremony?

    Unfortunate for the wrongly accused young man who killed himself -

    Or the one whose own girlfriend testified he was innocent, who lost a scholarship and now works at a GNC: - a young black man, no less. But hey, stay woke. They may have been guilty anyway - who isn't?

    Anyway, I can't ever imagine a *woman* having mean-spirited or deceptive impulses like yours, Anon. So we are safe, inside a false picture of the world.

  9. I can't make sense of most of these comments, and I'm not going to spend the time to sort it out. Obviously this is one disadvantage of anonymous comments—you can't in general tell who is and isn't the same person, or keep track of conversations over time.

    Anonymous Sense: I don't know whether you're engaging in good faith or not. You say you are and I haven't seen anything that definitively rules it out. As far as I know you're not gratuitously insulting people here. I was careful in my post not to say that all anonymous commenters are the same in these respects.

    As for your list of people who have reacted positively to Kipnis's book: yes, I'm well aware. That's a lot of what I was talking about when I said I was amazed that so many people find it compelling.

  10. This is a good comment. Thank you for writing it.

    Without referring to any specific comment above, I'd just like to observe: One can consistently think both that Ichikawa has made correct, important points in this comment, and think that his opinion is the only one that matters. It's his blog.

    His dressing down of Anonymous Sense reminds me of the true story of the sheep in Scotland. (The "woman in the bar" one is funnier).

    1. Anonymous Sense5/09/2017 09:07:00 AM

      A bit confused, Anon - those jokes - down thread from a discussion of rape culture - seem to make light of, and introduce some inappropriate degree of philosophical "nuance" into - this subject.

      Jonathan, I am nearly convinced that you are the one engaging in bad faith. You haven't responded substantially to *anything* I've said, except to alternate between misrepresenting my contributions or agreeing that the system is broken and deeply unjust, false reports and "convictions" have occurred, women sometimes lie about rape, and that neither you nor Kipnis can offer a workable idea of consent. But you're somehow "amazed" that people wouldn't agree with you.

      I would say that at least 75% of the political spectrum, from what I can tell, now has serious skepticism about the "rape culture" narrative that has been peddled, or at least the Salem-esque approach to addressing it.

      You might reflect, since so many people thought Kipnis' book expressed some honesty about sex and the degrees and ambiguities of consent, on exactly why you find that so amazing. That there's life outside of a prison of paranoia and rigid moralism about gender and power, that men aren't all rapists who haven't gotten around to it yet, and women aren't all helpless victims with no capacity or responsibliity for communication or self-assertion whatsoever, paralyzed by chthonic energies and sexual neurosis? You know, drag a sailor into a bathroom stall and get over yourself. The vast majority of people abhor sexual violence, and to imply otherwise because we all feel too guilty to tell rape victims they might need to go to therapy, get better, and stop projecting is actually quite abusive in its own way. And it so undermines your own ostensible cause as to do more damage to the legitimate interests of victims than anything anyone could ever type in an Internet comment thread.

      It also occurred to me scrolling down your blog that the post about 'selective sampling', where you fixate on incredibly violent rapes by men named Donald, or immigrants, in order to suggest that we can easily mislead ourselves in the grip of emotion into perceiving patterns that aren't really there - would actually be a neat way to interrogate the epistemic validity of "rape culture" as a concept, which leaves it rather empty, when placed alongside the bogus statistics and ideological myths.

      But you know, I'm not in your "tribe" of philosophizing polyamorists whose idea of a good time is sitting at home performing lowlights of musical theater to a webcam while their spouse entwines fingers over dinner with the designer of "The Legend of Zelda."

      That's more "personal attacks" than I want to give, but fewer than you deserve for being a sententious twit, and the last I'll bother to post here on this topic. If you want to hang me in effigy, I'll let you know the whereabouts of my neck. Any passing knowledge of biography would suffice to let a reasonable person understand that the sex lives and imaginations of philosophers are a perennial embarrassment.

      Anon, let's find a way to exchange numbers - whatever age, gender and orientation you are, you can do absolutely anything you want to my body.

    2. The Sheep Story was the following:

      A mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer are riding a train through Scotland.

      The engineer looks out the window, sees a black sheep, and exclaims, "Hey! They've got black sheep in Scotland!"

      The physicist looks out the window and corrects the engineer, "Strictly speaking, all we know is that there's at least one black sheep in Scotland."

      The mathematician looks out the window and corrects the physicist, " Strictly speaking, all we know is that is that at least one side of one sheep is black in Scotland."

      I was reminded of it by Jonathan's paragraph, especially the last sentence thereof:

      Anonymous Sense: I don't know whether you're engaging in good faith or not. You say you are and I haven't seen anything that definitively rules it out. As far as I know you're not gratuitously insulting people here. I was careful in my post not to say that all anonymous commenters are the same in these respects.

      That's quite an offer you make to me, Anonymous Sense. I am speechless.

  11. "You haven't responded substantially to *anything* I've said, except to alternate between misrepresenting my contributions or agreeing that the system is broken and deeply unjust, false reports and "convictions" have occurred, women sometimes lie about rape, and that neither you nor Kipnis can offer a workable idea of consent."

    Funny, that's almost exactly how I feel about you, too.

    "That's more "personal attacks" than I want to give, but fewer than you deserve for being a sententious twit, and the last I'll bother to post here on this topic."


  12. Anonymous Sense: You have made the right decision. As I say, Itchy is a fanatic. He is not interested in debate. You have raised a number of excellent points, with sourcing, on multiple threads, and he has just ignored them. As with all fanatics, his worldview cannot accommodate facts.

    So let us leave him to his digital sandbox, where the only ones who visit will be his friends, who can pat him on his little head and tell him how brilliant and brave he is (“You’ll be a Dean someday!”; “Thank you so much for taking on that evil woman Kipnis!”). Meanwhile, the world will continue to pass him by.

    People are waking up to the injustice and intellectual vacuity behind Itchy’s virtue signaling, and the Kipnis book is only part of the reason. Too many botched cases have made their way into the courts, and judges don’t have the appetite for bullshit that university administrators and campus activists do.

    And speaking of those worthy sorts, I have asked some friends at UBC to spread word about Itchy’s videos. If he’s right that he isn’t mocking sexual assault and lampooning gay people, then he has nothing to worry about. But, as you have so eloquently said, others have been fired for much less.

    As for your final offer, I am flattered! But alas, my heart belongs to pudgy, green-haired Itchy. You will just have to be the one that got away.

    1. Now we really have a problem, unless Anonymous Sense is willing to have a menage a trois with two different Anonymouses. But I remain speechless at the offer.

      What videos do you refer to?

    2. Yes, I'm a different Anonymous. Anonymous Sense and I were running rings round poor Itchy in other threads, which led him to post the sorry missive above.

      You may see the full, pathetic crop of videos here:

      If those do not convince you that Itchy is the most insipid, posturing ass of a philosopher ever, then maybe his comments on this blog will. The particularly offensive videos (because they mock sexual assault and gay people, thus doing untold harm) are here:

      Anonymous Sense disagrees with me on this. He thinks these videos are funny. But that defense didn't help Teresa Buchanan, who no longer has a job....

    3. Thank you. The videos are essential viewing for all serious followers of Jonathan Ichikawa.

      I tend to agree with Anonymous Sense that they have a peculiar sense of humor about them. However, like so many artistic films, while they attract critical acclaim, they have not as yet attracted a large cinematic following. Typical viewer count rate is approximately one per month.

      More seriously, those are disturbing almost independent of content.

      And seriously to Jonathan - I honestly feel you're doing a good thing blogging philosophy. You may mature into a good writer and philosopher with time. It does take time. But do yourself a favor: eliminate those videos and do not post any more like them. Disavow them as a foolish and failed attempt at avante-garde art and never be that foolish again. Thank your department chairperson regularly for all he or she does. Hopefully tenure at UBC will be more meaningful than it was down south for Teresa Buchanan, but those videos are going to attract some very unusual characters eventually.

    4. As a Canadian, Itchy isn't subject to what Kipnis calls the accusation factory of Title IX, though he feels he has a right to opine about it, for some reason. I presume, however, that there must be *some* mechanism for policing extramural utterances by Canadian professors if they are found to be offensive or harmful to protected campus populations. I thus join Other Anonymous in urging Itchy to scrub them from the Web ASAP. Better to be known for your lame attempts at philosophy rather than your lame attempts at blue humor (though philosophy can get you in trouble too, as poor Rebecca Tuvel has learned).

    5. I found this and now have much greater empathy for Jonathan. Good for you and best of luck finding your happiness, Jonathan. Same to those you love. (Now if you could just try to better convey some of your sexual open mindedness in your opinions on other matters...)

      Based on the one-minute interview below, I would say his wife Carrie Jenkins is also a very articulate professor. I may read her book sometime.

      By the way, my advice to scrub the videos was not because they might be offensive. It is because they are disturbing. I'd rather my own child's professor be a stripper on nights and weekends than take the time to post these sort of videos. Watching them I am reminded of "The Shining."

  13. Thanks for all the advice, Anonymous, Anonymous, and Anonymous. I'll reciprocate with some advice of my own for each of you: fuck off and mind your own business.

    Have a nice day! :)

    1. Oooh, such tough language from the little philosopher! Come on now, you can’t decide to make your private life this aggressively and performatively public and then whine when someone publicly comments on it. Such sensitiveness does not bode well if your videos should ever, by some mischance, come under scrutiny from the purity police. After all, there are other philosophers whose private lives have been dragged, against their wills, into the public arena, based on false charges and vindictive prosecutions, and you seem okay with that.

      But I’ve given up expecting consistency or coherence from you. You’re a cynical little opportunist who’s been lucky not to have fallen yet under the blade of the virtue guillotine whose reckless operation you wholeheartedly support.

      Adieu, Little Itchy! And continued good luck!

    2. Jack: Do you have the SLIGHTEST IDEA what a moral and ethical principle is? Do you?

      Jonathan: My answer is No!

      Twins separated at birth?

  14. Two interesting observations about this thread:

    1) No named individual came to Jonathan's aid or defense, and thereby risking attracting the anonymous commenters to their own bogs. Jonathan bravely continued to engage seemingly alone.

    2) Jonathan instituted an approval step for comments after this exchange, on or about 5/10/2017.

    1. Yes, I'm sure their "bogs" are very deep.

    2. typo for blogs. sorry!