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Sealing the Slice Echo-Chamber

John on July 5, 2006 at 11:37 am

About two weeks ago, I had an argument (see the comment thread) with Jim Bublitz about comment practices over at Slice of Laodicea. For those who aren’t interested in reading the whole thing, here’s what happened. I left three comments over at Slice over a period of a week. When the first one never appeared on the site, I e-mailed Ingrid, the owner, and asked her why? She explained that it must have been a technical glitch and encouraged me to try again. I did.

When the 2nd and 3rd comments never appeared on the site, it seemed clear to me that the issue wasn’t technical but one of content. Because I had disagreed with various Slice authors, my comments didn’t see the light of day. (Note: One of my comments was allowed several hours after Jim and I started having our discussion about comment practices at Slice. Jim later claimed that it had been there all along. It hadn’t.)

All of this brings me to today when I discovered that Slice of Laodicea has now officially turned off all comments on its blog. Jim Bublitz has offered an explanation for this decision at his own blog:

The perception with blogs is that they are “free speech” discussion zones, where anyone can talk. That’s not a format that works well with apologetics however. Think about it, if you run a blog that exposes the flawed teachings of cults such as the LDS and JW’s, do you really want a “rebuttal area” where these groups can go-on at length about how Jesus is not really who you think He is? No, you want to expose such harmful teachings, not give them a platform to express their views.

Yes, that is usually the perception. In any case, I think it’s telling that Jim sees disagreement with Slice authors in the category of “truth vs. error.” Rick Warren isn’t just wrong, he’s actually outside the faith. Thus the comparison that apparently comes to mind is Mormonism.

This next line almost made me laugh:

There were commenters on Slice who seemed to make a ‘ministry’ out of shooting everything down.

If there is a more perfect summary of what Slice itself acutally does, I haven’t seen it. Ingrid and Jim have made it their ministry to shoot down every believer they disagree with. Often they do this in the most heavy-handed way, and yet they don’t like the same treatment. Maybe this should tell them something about their approach [It won't].

A little later on we get to the section titled Friendly but Over-the-Top Commenters. Here is where my own part of the story comes up:

There were many good commenters who had better things to say than the Slice authors sometimes, but then a few bad apples would simply go over the top. For example, a while ago a pastor posted a comment that compared Rick Warren to a child molester; he meant it as a hypothetical non-direct comparison, but it caused Slice’s critics to go wild. Their blogs lit up with postings on how “Slice people” compare Rick Warren to child molesters, etc.

Yes, I am proud to say that I did go wild over that absurd comment. The same thread contained another comment comparing Warren to a hit-and-run driver. In fact, my comment in response — stating that this particular individual had gone over the line — was one that Jim says didn’t get posted because out of line. Got that? I went over-the-line by saying this sort of thing was, well, over-the-line. The “child molester” comment however was approved and presumably not-over-the-line by Slice standards.

I asked Jim to explain the publication of that comment. He never did. Now however he takes a stab at it saying it was a “hypothetical.” Um…yes, Jim. I got that at the time. No one thought that this was a literal statement of fact. Nevertheless, the comparison was offensive. And that was precisely the content of my criticism at the time. I’m certainly glad that two weeks on you can now admit that Slice was wrong in approving these comments in the first place. That they were in fact “over-the-line.” If you’d only said so two weeks ago. Go back and have another look at my original comment, Jim. According to you, all of these remain in a database, even the ones that weren’t approved. What is contained in my original “scold” which you have not now said yourself?

Jim ends his explanation of the no-comment policy like this:

So to sum things up, the comment section on Slice grew into a microcosm of fallen human depravity, causing people to do and say things that they normally probably wouldn’t. But I think the biggest problem was that ‘comments’ conflicted with the very definition of what the owner of the site wanted in the first place. Ingrid’s intent was to create a site for her to distribute news and views; it was never intended to be a free-speech town-hall meeting in which everyone with their own twist of religion could compete in a marketplace of viewpoints, to promote their own agendas.

Unfortunately what Jim fails to see is that the problems at Slice go far beyond the comments. Over-the-top is a perfect description of so much of their output. For instance, Ingrid’s comparison of Purpose Driven Ministry to the Soviet Gulag (which I called “flaky”, much to Jim’s consternation) was and is an absurd, over-the-top statement. The comparison of the Catholic church to the “the beast” of revelation just a few days earlier was over-the-top too. If the over-the-top comments deserve to go, so do the over-the-top posts by Jim and Ingrid.

Shutting down the comments won’t begin to address the real problems at Slice. In fact, I’m quite sure it will only make things worse. With the closing off of the site from any and all disagreement, it will become nothing but an echo-chamber for its own brand of Christian-bashing vitriol. This is one Christian blog that I’m happy to slice off my regular reading schedule.

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