Trolling and flaming

Longtime reader AG writes to Ask Avery:

I wanted to let you know how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blog.  As you know I’ve been reading it since you started it several years ago.  I’ve laughed at some of the posts, gone out and bought cds as a result of some of the posts (Eric Reed’s Mercy and Grace project), questioned my own outlook on a number of issues…

 I’ve also the comments section of the blog as well but I’ve noticed a huge deterioration in many of the [commenters’] posts and I was wondering what your take on that is and if you have noticed it as well.  It really seems that many of posts are consistently showing a real lack of respect for the opinions of others.  Many posts start off sounding rather dogmatic and many of them end in near fistacuffs.  I guess I’m more surprised that many are so quick to react this way.  I know that if I could see many of the posts that got “edited” I would be even more surprised but it has gotten to the point that I’m actually able to gloss over many posts based on the writer (Wade, Harry etc.)  I know they are entitled to their opinions as well but they manage to offend, hurt and bring people down so quickly that it becomes a waste of time to even read it.

 I’ll always read your blog quite frankly.  I’ve enjoyed countless posts of yours and I have honestly appreciated your insight on a ton of issues.  I guess I hope for better things to come from many of the other readers/posters.

 Keep on writing, screening and editing.  The SG world needs this.

I didn’t ask for anniversary presents, but this ain’t bad as gratifying responses from readers go.

But more to the point: yeah things do seem to be getting uglier in the comments lately. Hard to say what’s going on. Maybe the proportion of boneheaded comments to original, thoughtful, and interesting ones is no different than it ever was but that the increase in comment volume (in both senses of the word) has accentuated the loudest, crudest, most anti-social voices. Could be that more people are reading (they are, if traffic metrics are any indication), and so a certain strident bloc of commenters think the only way to be heard above the crowd is to shout and hector and badger and bait. Could be fewer people are reading (or commenting) and the place has gone to the trolls, die-hards, deadenders and lifers – in which case the spike in traffic would be registering an uptick in the number of times the same people log on (from different computers?) to keep flogging the same old stuff. Maybe it’s a general direction in comment quality afflicting more sg blogs than this one (DBM discusses “stupid comments” here, though I’m not suggesting two is a trend).

I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve found myself more impatient of the numbskull posts, and more and more I have less and less trouble hitting the EDIT and DELETE buttons. I’m not sure that’s entirely a good thing, but it’s probably not all bad either. I’ve made this plea before and you see where it’s gotten me, but still … Less trolling and flaming, please. Honestly.

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  1. DamonfromKY wrote:

    Long time reader / Very Rare Poster

    Speaking for me, I stopped reading the comments many months ago when I could tolerate this trend no longer. (In fact, I post now only because there were no comments when I wrote this so the canvas was blank.) My theory as to the trend is two-fold: 1) reasonable people interested in academic or intellectual discussion have ceased seeing this site as an appropriate forum, even as we enjoy the intellectual comments in the main posts, and 2) unreasonable people view blogs in general, and among Christians perhaps this one specifically, as a place to air those extreme positions that would (rightfully) be unwelcome in any non-anonymous cross-section of society.

  2. Alan wrote:

    Interesting essay, Doug. And yes, there is a decidedly harsher tone that has surfaced of late. But perhaps consider this as possible reasons why this is happening. Its recent increase came when you posted about Joel Hemphill denying the deity of Christ. I’d have to assume that the majority of your readers are Christians, and when a cardinal truth of the church is attacked, strong feelings surfaced. There’s been a flurry of strong posts after several people wrote about all of the sins of too many in sgm, naming no names, just delighted to titillate the folks. And then, there were the Judson Chronicles which followed on the heels of the Rambo family feud.

    Bottom line, I guess, is that if the comments have denigrated - and they have - it’s at the very least partially due to what has been posted. The tone of your writings has changed, Doug, over the last year or so. I read some of the titles of your blogs, and think “Here we go again”. Certainly not all of them, but more than I remember in the past. I have friends who say that they used to read your blog religiously, but either do so rarely these days, or not at all.

    I’ve also noticed that basically any and every time that commentators use Scripture, the flood gates open and it’s as if someone quoted the Koran. To me it’s a willful ignorance on the part of a few; don’t dare bring Biblical passages into a discussion of Christian music or anything tangential to it. To me, this has been the biggest surprise of late, and not a pleasant one at that.

    You have allowed consistently asinine comments from a few to be posted, although I won’t name any of the well-known names of the more egregious posters. Some of their remarks are nothing but incendiary; if you want the tone here to improve, may I suggest that you lean on the edit or delete button a bit more firmly? (Maybe this will be deleted too, for all I know!)

    The essay on the early performance of Janet Paschal was exceptional - a lot more like your work of even a year ago.

    There are some obviously intelligent people who comment here, and their words are often scholarly and well - thought out. Sadly, too often, they’re completely overshadowed by too many others.

  3. quartet-man wrote:

    Damon, there are good comments made on many threads. You might as well remove yourself from society if you paint all comments with the same brush. Sure there is some venom and some might find what I have to say that way, but I am stating what I believe the Word says when such things come up. If that is unpopular, so be it. Christ didn’t win awards with some people.

  4. nonSGfan wrote:

    This is ridiculous…Mr. Doug, or whoever the moderator of this forum is, starts topics of the most raging controversy..deity of Christ ect…then acts SO surprised when a fire erupts. People are built with instinctive PASSION. Topics that touch the heart ignite that passion…which is why you see so many RAGING posts.
    Stop acting like you’re SOOO’s a calculative move, strategic planning, and it MAKES PEOPLE COME BACK.

  5. quartet-man wrote:

    #2 and #4, great posts. Although sometimes someone will insert a comment (say homosexuality) in another discussion, many of the topics of late are hot topics. I am glad that they were here because I had not heard of them, but of course they will warrant strong feelings. It is correct that using scripture or stating unpopular scriptural standards here seems to be met by some with disdain and those posters are seen as antiquated, unreasonable, hateful and ignorant, intolerant people. I can go with intolerant if it describes not accepting sin and I can go with antiquated because the standards go way back, but not the others.

    I will be more than happy to discussing SG only if that is the direction here, but anytime something is posted here that requires defending, watch out. :)

  6. Bull wrote:

    Douglas, you are surprised that a red cloth is waved at bull and the bull charges? That is crazy and that’s no bull.

  7. Alan wrote:

    #4, Quartet-Man, I think you really got it. Back when this blog was almost all about the music, with occasional comments about particular artists/groups, while there were still some rough comments, they seemed the exception rather than the rule. I think that’s why I had to write that there seems to have been a change in the direction of Doug’s blog essays. I almost wrote that I wonder if it’s an intentional thing, to keep the fires burning and the blog numbers up, but you said it for me.

    The biggest change of direction would come if Doug required any and all commentators to name their real first and last names. If that were the case, the comment numbers would decrease to a trickle, as the cloak of anonymity would be removed. Note how many of the comment sections have completely turned around when a well-known artist actually deigned to comment on an inflammatory thread…Madison Easter, Neil Enloe, Scott Fowler, etc. to name a few recent ones.

  8. Alan wrote:

    Sorry, Q-M…I meant #5.

  9. Leebob wrote:

    QSM & NSGF - No matter how much I agree or disagree with you, sometimes the passion that we all instill in our writing makes us return to see what was said next.

    NSGF - this is twice in a row that we agree…what is up with this?

  10. Leebob wrote:

    I would like to see less anonymity though Doug.

  11. nonSGfan wrote:

    Not me, the anonymity brings the mystery behind it.
    If I revealed my true identity you’d all pee.

  12. nonSGfan wrote:

    I am…..

  13. Leebob wrote:

    Thanks for the disagreement NSGF I was beginning to think something was wrong with me. LOL!!!!

  14. quartet-man wrote:

    #12, when you say “I am…” are you pretending to tell who you are, but aren’t going to, or are you saying you are peeing? ;)

    I want to keep anonymity too.There are those who know me personally and that is cool, but it should be my choice. Putting one’s real name on the internet takes risk especially on hot topics, and some won’t take that risk.

    I am quartet-man in several places though, so I am not changing my alias on every board. I am not saying things here to hide behind the name, I only want to control who I trust to know my personal information.

  15. sgoldy wrote:

    Avery, been reading and enjoying your blog for a couple of years now, and reader AG kinda hit the nail as far as what I’ve been getting… “questioned my own outlook on a number of issues”. When I think, yeah, that’s how I’ve always felt, or not, or maybe, then I think you’re getting it done. I’ve only commented a couple of times, and I try to read the others, but sometimes it becomes a little too much, and I’m gone. Keep up the good work.

  16. nonSGfan wrote:


  17. Joe wrote:

    Damon from KY wrote that on this blog in particular, perhaps…Christians seem to state…

    “those extreme positions that would (rightfully) be unwelcome in any non-anonymous cross-section of society.”

    And as far as Christians are concerned, isn’t this the way it oughta be? If and when our positions are NOT extreme, and ARE welcome in any cross-section of today’s society, we have lost our place as Christians, and we have compromised the word of God..

    We are not to be conformed to this world. We are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. And we are not to marvel if we find that the world actually hates our Biblical opinions and positions. All of this is right out of the NT.

    When we “achieve” what Damon seems to be suggesting, we lose.

  18. KDM wrote:

    Re: #11…Look out, everybody! NSGF is a urologist!!

  19. CVH wrote:

    I’m not sure if you can make comparisons between blogs and neighborhoods but…every neighborhood starts with a certain mix of geography, types of dwellings and the relationship it has to other neighborhoods around it. Beyond physical characteristics, neighborhoods are probably most defined by the qualities of the people who choose to live there; from their cultural background and worldviews to the flavors of their foods and the diverse norms and values of their native cultures. And of course, nothing is static. Neighborhoods begin, grow, develop distinctive attributes, and some manage to maintain their uniqueness while others devolve into a virtually indistinguishable blandness. Many eventually die or morph into something else as cities yield to suburbs which yield to exburbs which yield to…
    I don’t know…Nebraska.

    In the same way every blog is different; there’s the tone of the author or moderator; the intent behind the blog and the characteristics of those drawn to it and who comment on it. I’ve been visiting this blog almost daily for three years. What drew me to it is my love for southern gospel music and the fact that this blog, unlike others, approaches the subject from a more introspective and ‘questioning’ perspective. It tackles a range of issues from light to serious and doesn’t hesitate to skewer a few sacred cows along the way.

    As far as the purposes behind Doug’s posts, I have the sense he’s being pretty transparent most of the time. Sure, he’ll purposefully throw out an absurd assumption or question from time to time but I think the vast majority of topics presented are thoughtful and interesting. Take the recent “That’s Him/You Don’t Know Me” or “Early Janet Paschal” posts. The former delves deeper into a topic that most blogs wouldn’t even consider discussing. Judging from the comments, it was of interest to a number of readers. The latter, well…Doug and I have a mutual admiration for all things Paschal. But how many other SG blogs would post that clip and comment on it?

    So, like neighborhoods, the blog has evolved, people come and go and there are times when you fear for its quality because of the people who are hanging around. But two other things also happen: first, you stick around and hope for the best because you appreciate it for what it is…it resonates with you on some level; and second, you keep coming back because you wonder what’s going to happen next.

    Yeah, there’s been more crap to wade through lately. But I look at it this way…summer’s almost over. Pretty soon all the tourists will leave and the locals can breath a long sigh of relief.

  20. Angie M wrote:

    #1 Damon: I think you summarized the situation pretty neatly.

    #2 Alan: As far as I’m concerned, the comment threads began to degenerate long before the Himphill posts.

  21. Wade wrote:

    NSGF thinks if we KNEW who it was we would PEE and that makes him a Urologist according to KDM… it would just be completely ungentlemanly to tell you what you would do if you knew WHO Harry Peters is and what that would make HIM!!!LoL;-))) But it would be funny… but only DH would get to SEE it!!!

  22. Alan wrote:

    You might be right, Angie M. I could have gone back into archived threads to check when they seemed to denigrate, but I didn’t. It might be easier to name some of the posters who are likely tied to this more recent phenomenon. However, I can’t give a total amen to Damon’s post which led the comment section off. Both of his points are vague enough to make me pause until I’d know exactly how he meant them. Many commentators have expressed outrage against anti-Biblical positions, which I agree with. So, those who expressed opinions against anyone daring to quote Scripture are offensive to me, and the converse is true. Those who don’t want the Word of God brought into any discussion of Christian music will have found remarks of mine and others to be offensive. I do wish that we could more often agree to disagree, yet do it agreeably as Christians.

  23. JM wrote:

    Perhaps someone could clarify for me exactly why we would anticipate unanimity on SGM issues or a lack of rancor and abuse on spiritual matters? The history of the Christianity provides us with endless examples of disagreement and division. And while we should always attempt to reach beyond our divisive past, we have to acknowledge the realities of numerous denominations, a myriad of musical preferences and a plethora of doctrinal persuasions. Blogs, by their nature, are the crossroads of public dialogue. Please note that I didn’t say Christian dialogue…I said public dialogue. If you review many of our discussions, you cannot help but run into those who seem to pay little homage to the most basic tenets of Christain charity. Some respondents seem to join into certain threads with a sack full of vitriol and anger that demands to be emptied onto some unsuspecting soul. Others seem to “lay low in the bushes” and only chime in, when one of their most deeply treasured hatreds strays onto a particular thread. You know…homosexuality…Joel Hemphill…the “road behaviors” of certain SGM groups…Bill Gaither’s success…SGM vs. CCM…etc., etc. etc.

    I do not expect this web site to provide an unerring voice for biblical standards or theological purity. Rather, I expect to read comments from the whole of human-kind, full of passion and anger and wonder and joy and sadness. Those who believe in homosexuality; those who are involved in infidelity; those who have been disillusioned by the Church; those who hopelessly cling to unsound doctrines; each of these groups are my brothers and sisters and they have a Savior who loved them enough to die for them! So, while we may disagree via this blog and while our discourse may sometimes seem strained and harsh, we are simply trying to reach out to God, by reaching out to each other. If we rebuke, let it be through his Love. If we disagree, let us stand in the light of his Word. Disagreement should never be an excuse for a lack of Love!

  24. Wade wrote:

    # 23 JM Very Well SAID!!!

  25. Glenn wrote:

    CVG and JM,

    Great posts.

  26. NonSGfan wrote:





  27. quartet-man wrote:

    #23 Although there are undoubtedly some who hate homosexuals etc, I’ll say it again, saying something wrong or someone is doing wrong is not hatred. If it were, then I guess God is hate since he gave the 10 commandments and other rules. I guess parents are hateful for making their kids mind and teaching them right and wrong.

  28. Harry Peters wrote:

    Harry Peters doesn’t read anything in the 10 commandments that says “There shall be no homosexuality.” But if you folks think this topic is interesting it would blow your mind to know some of the writings in biblical times that were highly regarded by the church and what they said about things. Out of curiosity my friends, just how did Adam and Eve have 2 sons (Cain and Abel) and then all of a sudden Cain and Abel are having children. Now if you say there were other women in the bible, then the bible can’t be “literally true” as the fundies all argue. Second, if Adam and Eve had daughters for Cain and Abel to marry, there was incest involved, which makes homosexuality pale by comparrison.

    Old Harry Peters is tired from a long day at church. We went with the catholics today. I’ll bet some of you think that catholics aren’t Christians.

    Fonda tells me that it’s bedtime. She has that look in her eyes, sleepy, of course.

  29. Wade wrote:


    Please do not try to confuse these ppl with the facts. Dr. Joe has all the black & white answers as he alludes to on DH’s latest rant.

    What is black & white to some are many shades of gray. They seem to want to SEE things their way while ignoring John 3:16. Which to me is the clearest verse in the bible.

    Here’s to us Harry. They even mentioned us in the opening.

    We do not sing in any self important local groups. We do not preachers TROLLING for MONEY. We are no longer promoters cause many of the followers are to cheap to pay for quality entertainment. We are not medical doctors. Although you do have a doctorate degree… it just has a J in front of it. Nor are we FLAMERS singing a song.

    We just both love, Jesus, our fellow humans & this uplifting music called Southern Gospel for some reason. It was alot more fun when it was just GOSPEL MUSIC. Oh yeah…we both love Fonda Peters. But she is your wife and that is black & white enough for me!!! LoL;-)))) :-)))


  30. Harry Peters wrote:

    The huge problem with fundamentalists is that when presented with a challenge that they can’t explain, they just ignore you and run away. You “Godly” brothers and sisters insult old Harry Peters.

  31. Harry Peters wrote:

    Old Harry Peters got so involved in the discussion, he forgot to give you an update on worshipping with the Catholics on Sunday. They had the most festive costumes, especially their pastor. The rest of us could learn something from that. They marched ( I think they called it a procession) in. Whatever they called it, Old Harry Peters was humming “When the Saints Go Marching In” so loudly that I got that old punch in the ribs by Fonda. They had candles and a pot of smoke and the pastor slung water all over old Harry Peters. My eyes were the size of Jake Hess’s. Anyway, I can’t imagine any SG group there and the music wasn’t much, but it was sure different than the “Fire Baptized Baptists” that we worshipped with a few weeks back. You know what old Harry Peters learned though? We all seem to love Jesus, even if we have many different ways of expressing it. I really sniggered during the middle of the “homily” (that’s what they call the sermon) when I thought of what would happen if somebody cut loose speaking in tongues. Let old Harry Peters tell you what, though. Those catholics know how to take up an offering. Afterwards, I thought I was stepping into the bathroom. It was kind of dark with grates on one side, kind of like a portty Potty. Before I could get my bearings the door slammed behind me and the lady in the Potty next to mine started confessing all her sins to Old Harry Peters. As soon as she got done, a man came in and did the same thing. Pretty soon somebody jerked open my door and I’m pretty sure it was the pastor, except he had taken off his fancy preachin’ clothes. He wasn’t near as friendly as I thought he would be and he almost screamed at Old Harry Peters….something about I was in the wrong side.

    Anyway, Old Harry Peters thought it would be good to shake it up and to have a funny story to tell so you folks wouldn’t be so serious all of the time. I went into the other side and asked the preacher what he thought about homosexuals. I’ll have to report on that later. He said something like, “hell, yes, Mary” and told Old Harry Peters to go and sin no more. I asked him if he thought those little boys that helped out during the worship service were cute and he slammed his grate in my face.

    Anyway, our summer vacation is almost over and Harry and Fonda Peters are going back to their home to the flock in their own church. I did learn a lot from the catholics, though.

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