In some of the comments posted in earlier entries, a mentor of mine posted a note to me:
Steve, I have followed The Washington Note periodically and have been increasingly concerned to see in the “Comments” how your website has attracted progressively more and stronger reactions of the vilest racist kind in response to your repeated, usually reasonable but sometimes strident attacks on Israeli policy and critiques of US failure to toughen up its policy on the “peace process.”
Of course, opposition to Israeli policy and anti-Semitism are hardly the same thing, but the Comments on your site are often obscuring the difference. I hope you realize that you are providing “acceptable” space for some truly hateful rantings. With “friends” like these that you are attracting, you don’t need enemies.
Disappointed, a one-time mentor.
The person who wrote this note to me is one of America’s premier strategic thinkers, and my acquaintance with him in my early career was life-changing.
He is absolutely right about the toxic nature of the comments which often spiral out of control — particularly when matters related to the broad Middle East and Israel/Palestine come up.
I want to make clear to everyone on this list that I find the ad hominem attacks and back and forth personal attacks that some engage in absolutely disrespectful of the purpose of this blog. I am disturbed by the behavior, but have been conflicted about what to do about the problem. I will not take sides between those of you debating these issues and will not line up behind one purveyor of insults against another.
I can either turn off comments — which I do not want to do as there are many excellent comments made by some readers that help to add to the discussion and to broad understanding of some issue — or leave them on and ask you to behave better.
I will try to be more engaged with comments and respond in civil, measured tones — and hope that others will follow my lead. I do not have the time to respond to every comment and will not be drawn into issues that I feel are trivial or off a course that interests me.
That said, I will begin to have my staff (or will myself) start removing ANY comment that crosses lines that I feel are uncivil or rude. The POA-Nadine wars must become more issues based and less personal, or you will simply see your hard work and writing removed from the blog.
The comments are a distraction for me, not a primary focus — and I’m irritated that I have to post this note. But given my mentor’s very appropriate note, I must take this action.
So, I would like to encourage all who read and comment to do so in a constructive manner and to up the game here. If you engage in further erosion of the culture of comments here, your comments will simply be removed.
Best regards — and thanks for understanding and trying to improve the tone and level of exchange here.
— Steve Clemons