Why I Have Blocked “Gopper”

Regular readers of this blog’s comments sections know that it has attracted a regular troll who calls himself “Gopper.” Gopper’s comments suggest that he is an unhappy and angry individual (with, evidently, a great deal of time on his hands), and although he has frequently crossed the line into invective and incivility, I haven’t previously blocked him, for a couple of reasons: for one thing, I am a big believer in the widest possible exchange of perspectives; for another, it is much too easy in the age of the Internet to limit our interactions to those with whom we agree, and thus fail to recognize the extent to which others hold not just diverse but frequently disturbing and even dangerous beliefs.

In that sense, Gopper’s frequent bizarre rants were instructive (although to the extent others couldn’t resist taking the bait, he managed to derail several otherwise productive conversations).

Yesterday, however, the anti-Semitism that has been visible in previous comments was full-blown; his defense of Nazi atrocities exceeded any tolerance to which he might otherwise be entitled in a civilized society,  however useful he might be as a “case in point.”

In a very real sense, this blog is my virtual home, and those invited in will be expected to adhere to the rules of civilized behavior. Visitors are free–indeed, encouraged–to disagree with me or with anyone posting comments. As arguments heat up, I can tolerate–and I have tolerated–a certain degree of testiness and occasional incivility. But ad hominem attacks, personal nastiness and unrepentant bigotry are not welcome and cannot be tolerated.

Gopper’s presence here has served its purpose; he has demonstrated where the problem lies.

The raw vitriol–unleavened by any respect for evidence or reason or other people’s humanity–is undoubtedly not unique to him. Those of us who are trying to leave this world just a little bit better, a little bit kinder than we found it, need to realize that Americans aren’t just arguing about the best way to achieve the common good, or even about what the common good looks like. All too often, debates that are ostensibly about policy are really about power, fear, privilege, advantage–and deep-seated tribal hatreds.

People in the latter category simply cannot be allowed in polite company.

Forgive the detour; this blog will return to its regular obsessions tomorrow.




72 thoughts on “Why I Have Blocked “Gopper”

  1. Thank you, Sheila, you allowed his 1st Amendment freedom of speech months of leeway and the opportunity to join the conversations but he abused your offer. He became nothing but an insulting, offensive distraction with little worthwhile information to add. He would have done well during the Nazi regime…or in today’s neo-Nazi groups. Wonder if Southern Poverty Law Center is aware of who and what Gopper is? Enough is more than enough where Gopper has been concerned.

  2. Brava! I’m glad we are rid of him. Respectful intelligent dialogue is healthy, but he frequently seemed to be more interested in “pushing all of our buttons” than engaging in dialogue. Thank you, Shiela; as AgingLGrl said, enough was enough.

  3. I’m old fashioned enough to not be able nor willing to tolerate the kind of thing of which you speak. But, my reason for blocking the occasional name on my page, or anywhere, comes down to the issue of being able to learn anything from them.
    If we have to read the same old stuff, which is of the same old uselessness, it’s productive of nothing, is a waste of eye-labor, and I do not hesitate to block them.
    We must always be mindful of the words of one of our lesser known Presidents, Millard Fillmore, who said:
    “There are lots of people who post on the internet who are more useless than I am, and nobody needs to waste their time on THEM!”

  4. I respect, and understand your reasons for, blocking Gopper. I stand by what I wrote earlier in regard to blocking him (or her; as I also pointed out in an earlier post, the pseudonym prevents actual identity of the individual, although the inference Gopper is male seems valid). And I like Steve’s quote of Millard Fillmore. Fillmore also once wrote a good review of a Doors concert. At least, that’s what I found someplace on the internet.

  5. Stepping aside for just a moment; I must have missed something or misunderstood comments by Steve Smith and Mark Small. Millard Fillmore was president from 1850-1853; how could he comment on the Internet or write a good review about a Doors concert? Just askin’

  6. Thank you, Sheila. I don’t know how you tolerated the troll as long as you did. He did, however, remind us daily of what horrors lurked outside of this page.

  7. Sheila,

    what appalled me was the lack of response to his/her/its latest drivel citing the article from a 1933 newspaper. I only saw one retort wherein the blatant misinterpretations were mentioned. The article, when read in context, was in juxtaposition to G’s ridiculous claims. That’s how they roll: Their blue is not the real blue and their green is not the real green. It is not by accident by rather design.

    Everything said about your ‘home’ was spot on. The enlightened information exchange should not be compromised by the vitriol of the self depreciated and forlorn.

    Well, Pete; guess that leaves me and you.

  8. JoAnn—I think Steve’s point was about the ways in which “quotes” arise on the internet. Fillmore (later a candidate for President for the Know-Nothing Party, appropriately enough) of course was a person of the 1880s. I kind of followed up on what I think would be called reducio ad absurdum (sp?).

  9. Thanks Prof. Now, his poor family has to listen to his ranting about us at Thanksgiving. Poor Poor family.

  10. Mark,

    In the earlier post you criticized Sheila for banning Gopper. I’m sure you meant what you said with good intent.

    However, you have your own blog entitled: Civil Discourse Now with the banner reading: “Where the Far Left and Far Right overlap for FUN (emphasis added) and enlightenment.”

    I don’t look upon Sheila’s Blog as something that’s funny. Neither do the people around the world that are tuned in on it.

    Maybe you can convince Gopper to become an active member of your Blog. That way, all of you can have a lot of fun exchanging ideas with a well versed Neo-Nazi as American democracy falls apart.

  11. Thank you Sheila. One of the reasons that I became hooked on your blog was that it was, in a sense, an escape from what I see in my Facebook feed and on the web in general every day. On those venues there are rarely meaningful conversations that aren’t hijacked into inane tangential avenues that then descend into what borders on hate speech. It is incre3dibly depressing to see. On your blog, amazingly, people were and are, in fact determined, to have meaningful conversations on issues that concern us all not matter our political affiliations.

    While I definitely can appreciate your waiting to do this and your concerns about doing it when Gopper offered up arguments defending the Nazis the time for him/her to go was obvious. He or she can deflect meaningful conversations elsewhere provided that they are indeed occurring.

  12. I’m waiting for Pete to weigh in on the Gopper-Blocking. Possibly Pete will suggest that a warning was in order, or that Gopper might have been playing the gadfly. We need more pot stirring such as the Mike Pence brou-ha-ha. Priceless entertainment.
    Why can’t you ladies just ignore or delete history revisions you don’t like?

  13. Sheila – I was so shocked at what he wrote that it left me speechless. While I was tempted to engage, I realized that his comments were so far out of line that it would have been fruitless. So sad to see that there are people with that much hatred for other human beings, yet they claim to be Christian.

  14. “Why can’t you ladies just ignore or delete history revisions you don’t like?”

    OMG; what a totally sexist remark added to what appears to be pro-Gooper support for another chance or that we, and possibly Sheila, misunderstood his ugly, worsening anti-Semitic rants.

  15. Good decision. Varying opinions and debate are stimulating, but offensive, psycotic rants don’t belong in this forum.

  16. I often wish my local newspaper would decline to print letters to the editor that routinely use invective from both the right and the left. Nobody wins hearts and minds by name calling.

  17. I often wish my local newspaper would decline to print letters to the editor that routinely use invective from both the right and the left. Nobody wins hearts and minds by name calling.

  18. Thank you. Trolls are a public nuisance. Gopper was a classic troll.
    And, I’m happy the other readers generally refrained from “feeding the troll”.
    There will always be trolls. Please don’t feed the trolls. Ignore them. If they persist. Block them.

    “In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[2] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion,[3] often for their own amusement.”

  19. Marv,
    You make valid points, but I would point out that I did not criticize the Professor for banning Gopper. I posted, before she banned him, that I would disagree with such an action, although this is her blog and she has the right to make such determinations. Her banning of Gopper had not yet occurred. I stand by what I wrote. I wrote in a couple of posts here that I find his anti-Semitism offensive. Unfortunately, there are people who put forth such ideas today. Nationalism a la the 1920s is more prevalent: in Australia, Germany, here, other places. To the extent that such people can be addressed in dialogue, at least some form of communication is established. If something like the internet had existed in 1920-24, and thoughtful people had engaged the people who joined the Klan in Indiana, would as many have joined D.C. Stephenson’s organization? The mention of “fun” in the banner or whatever one calls it on my website is meant to temper what people say. Finally, what I have posted here I hope others have found at least to be in proper taste, even if people disagree with me. You seem to imply I not post here. Such a suggestion, on your part, would tend to reinforce what Gopper accuses liberals of doing: exercise of intolerance of those with whom liberals disagree.

  20. And Marv—this system is falling apart because vested, wealthy interests—the point one percent (0.1%)—have bastardized the system. Remember—of the 55 delegates who attended the 1787 Constitutional Convention, 20 claimed ownership over other human beings. All were male. All owned land. Washington, Jefferson, and others engaged in what today would be called a form of inside trading in land. The system they established was based on democratic principles, but was, in form, a republic. They took extreme measures to protect perhaps the most evil aspect of our country’s history—the institution of slavery. Satire and humor are valid means by which to criticize even the most onerous systems. Contrary to popular belief, the band on H.M.S. Titanic, as the ship sank, did not play “Nearer My God to Thee.” The band played Dixie.

  21. I suspect that there was some genuine sadness and loneliness in that anger, but sometimes that doesn’t improve with age, and some only continue to see how far they can push the envelope, then insult you for allowing it. I don’t think he/she would have cut you as much slack as you gave. Sometimes you have to do sad.

  22. I would relish the opportunity to observe the Goober er Gopper’s reaction when he realizes he?she?it? has been blocked.

  23. A very tough call…….and there is much merit in what both Sheila and Mark Small have to say concerning the matter. I had not seen Gopper’s original posting and the comment thread that accompanied it, only after I saw and read today’s post and comments did I undertake to go back and review the original posting, what Sheila had said that it reacted to, and the accompanying comments.

    My first reaction was to say: “Let Gopper stay……but insist that he use his real name…. and only apply that policy against the use of pseudonyms in this kind of extreme case, because there is a justifiable need for certain very unpopular options/people.groups to be protected.” But I realize that this itself is problematic: We (and I think SCOTUS once said) that such things as the lists of people belonging to the NAACP could be exempt from disclosure but those of folks organizing against marriage equaity couldn’t be. But then again, as Mark says, this blog belongs to Shiela, and I would add that her decisions are not state action.

    My understanding as to how most blog sites work is that either permitting something to appear and blocking certain commenters aren’t the only two options. Many bloggers employ a “moderated comments” approach, reviewing before permitting publication. But that works against the free and rapid interchange of ideas…….and makes the blogger check pending comments frequently. Sheila does do other things besides blog and tend it 24-7: …..teach……interact with her hubby and family…..as do we all. I don’t know if there is another alternative: Allowing all except certain folks to comment without moderation (meaning the screening process….not a description of the content!). That would allow the vast majority of comments to flow immediately and encourage robust discussion…….and perhaps permit someone like Gopper to have “one free bite” (whether or not Ben Carson would consider that dog rabid is another issue for another time)…..but probably worth the “risk”.

    Weighing all factors I think Sheila has done the right thing in this instance……..but I haven’t arrived at that conclusion without being conflicted…..and I remain so.

  24. What’s this talk about blocking commenters who do not use their real name? If it’s going to apply to Me……know that I have other friends in very high places.

  25. Mark,

    “You seem to imply that I not post here”

    That’s not what I meant at all. I haven’t seen anything by you out of taste or not worth learning from you, nor did I feel your intent was anyway out of order. I said: “I’m sure you meant what you said with good intent” and I stick by that.

    You just made the following statement implying that things are worse in other countries like Germany:

    “Unfortunately, there are people who put forth such ideas today. Nationalism ala the1920’s is more prevalent: in Australia, Germany, here, other places.”

    I take from what you say that you think things are worse in Germany. That’s absurd. There’s no movement in Germany that’s anywhere close to gaining power like the Goppers: Tea Party dominated Republican Party. What do you think their intent is? To make love.

    What are your credentials to make such statements. You don’t give any background on your blog. Have you taken time to see Sheila’s background? I can’t match her’s, but I was confirmed by Congress to be the Deputy Chief of the Office of Emergency Planning which included overseeing Civil Defense and the stockpiling of all our oil and gas reserves when I was 29. That’s about 50 years ago.

    Your political perspective is way off base. Take my word for it.

  26. I always hoped “gopper’s” extreme and cliché posting were intended to be thought-provoking satire, and many were just missing the joke. I’m saddened to learn his posts were in earnest.

  27. I was still trying to figure him out.

    Sometimes he came across as a plain vanilla conservative. The kind we’ve all had to learn to tolerate while they’ve chipped away at the American dream of liberal democracy.

    Other times though he switched gears into almost full blown Fascism of the kind that I thought died 70 years ago.

    Still other times he came across as a normal, if there is such a thing, libertarian.

    I’d love to know his life story if he really existed or otherwise the why behind his act.

    Being a white male Christian American small town middle of the roader I have never been subjected to prejudice. Unless you count the occasional treatment of liberals by friends and neighbors that I personally relish. So I can’t say that I am familiar with the emotional impact of it. I haven’t felt it so it’s always struck me as egoistic ignorance. Why would anyone think themselves superior to whole categories of fellow humans?

    Sheila’s description of this as her virtual home really rang a bell. I feel the same way and have always enjoyed my time here as I would a visit to one of our family homes. Fun, interesting, diverse, intellectually satisfying, uninhibited. A Thanksgiving of ideas.

    So I stand behind her house cleaning though I will miss my research on whether Gopper was real or a creation, and if a creation, why?

  28. DEUS? How high? Could you give us a name or two just in case we need some power on our side. Hell, I don’t know anybody! Irvin

  29. Marv, I meant that nationalism movements of a reactionary nature are afoot around the World. I attempted to acknowledge your point that matters are serious. I do not have a gauge that reads the level of participation in such movements, but there is reaction to the status of refugees, as a prominent example from current news stories. Whether such movements are more widespread than similar groups here—that is a valid question. As to my credentials or qualifications: I was a member of the Trivia Bowl Champion Team at DePauw in 1978, where I also was Student Body President, and debated (pretty successfully at the national level); after undergrad I dug ditches, performed stand-up comedy in Chicago (less money than the ditch-digging and more dangerous), and worked in libraries at Purdue and Northwestern; I am admitted to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court, the bars of the Seventh, Ninth, Federal and District of Columbia Courts of Appeals (are the “c” and the “a” in that phrase supposed to be upper-case?); I read a great deal, have three novels published, and feed squirrels with my bare hands. You purport to understand my “political perspective” from a relatively few paragraphs. Your conclusion in that vein is way off base, please take my very civil word for it.

  30. Marv, let us take this conversation off the blog. We’re taking up people’s time with what seems to be taking on the aspects of a very civil conversation. My e-mail is not a secret, so send it to marksmall2001 at yahoo dot com. I live in Indy, but hitch-hiked around the country when I was in college. And you did not address the point I made about feeding squirrels with my bare hands.

  31. I will admit that I sometimes looked forward to Gopper’s foolish commentary. I saw him as the poster boy for all that is wrong in my beloved state. Yet the last posts went so far beyond that, and I couldn’t shake the unrest that I felt after reading his hatred. I am thankful that you blocked him, though I have no doubt he will find a way to come back in another forms, slinking in like sludge.

  32. As a participant in WW II, I can tell you that Gopper’s defense of Nazism was offensive to me, as was Dr. Goebel’s propaganda back in my day. However, I worry a bit about shutting own access to First Amendment rights and privileges however offensive the content and wonder if, having established the right to do so, we are embarking on a slippery slope of where the line is and the standards to be employed in enforcing the hazy description of “free speech.” So it’s your site and you can shut down whatever speech you may consider to be beyond the pale – nobody questions that.
    What may be questioned independently of that reality is the wisdom of initiating such a response to language you consider too offensive to rebroadcast. My daughter tells me that hate speech is not covered by the First Amendment and, of course, as a lawyer I am well acquainted with the old Holmes’ comment that “Free speech does not include the right to shout Fire! in a crowded theater” which suggests a certain fluidity in definition depending upon the environment in which the language becomes “offensive/hate speech” so bad that it escapes First Amendment protection. Was Gopper’s speech that bad, and if so, by what standards? Are we contributors now on notice that our commentaries are subject to blockage if we venture too far afield from the conventional wisdom of the echo chamber?
    Yes, Gopper was and is a mess and apparently wished to throw a monkey wrench into the works with his baseless claims that contributed nothing to the ongoing debate, and it is not Gopper that I am defending; I am rather defending the principle of Free Speech.
    It’s your site, but perhaps (unless you have already tried it) a private admonition to Gopper that you were going to edit his offerings (as do editors of Letters to the Editor columns in newspapers) and remove offensive language or block a particular offering would have preserved the principle of free speech embedded in the First Amendment – or perhaps your patience in putting up with his antics was exhausted and you have other things to do, like teaching a class in an ever-changing discipline.
    I can’t know, but irrespective of that, I urge caution when defining any right, privilege or immunity in the course of privately defining the reach of the Constitution or any amendment thereto regardless of the ownership of the platform and how obnoxious the speakers or writers asserting such rights may be, noting, finally, that the free speech exercised by Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. must have seemed at least obnoxious if not seditious by the ruling powers of their day, whoever owned the platforms. Are there alternatives to shutdowns?

  33. I am a strong believer in giving a person enough rope to hang himself. He – and I do believe “he” – was clearly getting more irrational and transparent the last several weeks. His post didn’t surprise me one bit.

    Sheila, you handled this perfectly.

  34. Mark,

    If someone thinks there is anything funny about what is happening in America and also thinks things are worse in Germany then I’m 100% sure their political perspective is off. I don’t need anymore.

    Being an attorney is no qualification, it only makes matters worse.

    What’s going to happen in Court when those Republican judges find out about your “political perspective”? You better not look to deep, if you want to keep winning.

  35. I always winced when someone directly responded to one of his ridiculous rants – the first rule of the internet is to not feed the trolls. I have no objection to a well-thought-out, insightful comment that I disagree with, but trolling is trolling.

  36. Jerry, while we all have the right to free speech in the public forum, we do not have the right to bring our garbage into someone’s house and spill it all over the floor. That is what old Gopper was doing, as this blog is Sheila’s home. He would not have lasted this long in my home I can tell you.

  37. Marv,
    1) Satire in the face of evil, Charlie Chaplin’s “Great Dictator” to counter Hitler as an example—do not advance the notion that wrongs are funny. Humor legitimately can be used to deflate the people who perpetrate wrongs.
    2) I never said things are worse in Germany. I merely said there are reactionary, nationalistic movements around the World—and specifically said I have no gauge that reads the levels of support for such movements.
    3) Being an attorney only makes matters worse? That comment indicates you are unaware of the nature of my practice and a prejudice against members of the legal profession.
    4) I address judges as judges—not as a judge with an “R” or a “D” over her or his head.
    5) You still haven’t responded to my point about squirrels.
    6) We should take this to email, seriously.

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