Do the staff at Jezebel manually manage the trolls in the comments?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Apparently so, this is interesting.

Someone named Jinni writes:

Our Muqaddimah of Code 45* is still banned, alas. A bright point in my own days feels notably dimmed. For those of you who didn’t read (or quite ‘get’) Code 45*; it was a hallucinatory tour into the subconscious of Donald Trump as evidenced by the odd and illogical punctuation of his disordered tweets. Code 45*, like a creative, and slightly mad psychotherapist, attempted to wrest vestiges of meaning from the morass of Trump’s brain salad.

I loved it.

A few days, ago, in a satire of Jeff Sessions, Muck used an archaic term that was common in the 1950’s to refer to African-Americans as something that Jeff Session, in his antediluvian and, alas, antebellum thinking, might still use.

Commenters were understandably upset. People protested and they were exactly right to do so. From there we could have had a fruitful discussion as to that which are implicit/explicit blind spots; the reasons for which an entire community might feel wounded or hurt by this terminology; and the inferences therein.

This conversation wasn’t allowed to happen.

Muqaddimah was summarily banned and had no way of explaining his intentions. (This is no fault of the commenters at all.)

It gave us (and gives us) no opportunity to hash things out at all and come to consensus. It merely gags. Muck, to be clear, was no troll. He was an admired commenter, here, who took time to create a thoroughly unique portrait of the president so that we might have a laugh in the midst of the madness.

His comments on the Slot have always been progressive and elucidating.

The staff took no notice of his history or intentions but simply shut him out.

We can have that discussion here but is ‘disappearing’ someone without giving them a moment to explain or right the situation the way we wish to go? This makes no sense to me. This does not feel that it represents whom we are as a community. We could have used everything as a ‘teaching moment’ and squandered that opportunity.

To be clear, Muqaddimah is upset that he caused anyone any hurt or offence. This was in no way his intention. His intention was to profile the backwards, racist attorney general we have today.

He has told me repeatedly that he does not wish that I ‘go to bat’ for him, but, to me, this goes beyond one person. This goes to whom we are as a community if we summarily banish commenters of longtime good standing without engaging in discussion, we are nothing.

He also doesn’t believe that his ethnic background should play any role in this but I have been receiving so many responses assuming that he is white (as has happened so often to myself, as well) that I do feel constrained to clarify that Muqaddimah is a person of colour. That may not be here or there, but we might cease to make assumptions as to people’s racial backgrounds.

He also doesn’t wish that this become a big thing. He’s more focused on his political work, right now, and it is righteous (though that is my word not his own), and feels that there are far more pressing issues in the word than Code 45*. He would miss writing it as a little spark in his day but has a lot more on his plate, right now.

But this bugs one jinni, very much, so I’m going to keep it up for discussion.

Madeleine Davies responded:

Hi Jinni, this is a little late but I’d like to give you some background on our banning process to hopefully elucidate how these things happen. When a comment is flagged, it goes into this massive flagged comment queue that often amasses 100+ comments a day—some legit and others flagged with the purpose of making it more difficult to weed out the trolls. When there’s a spare moment (which is rare as we’re a bit of a skeleton crew, currently), one of us will go through them all. There are times when it’s easy to tell who deserves to be banned—i.e. the people who say bigoted things or are going out of their way to be cruel. Other times, it’s a little more complicated and you start seeing a pattern of antagonistic behavior overtime. My assumption is that the comment you’re speaking of was blocked immediately because whoever was going through them saw the slur and, after reading hundreds of comments that weren’t satire, assumed that it wasn’t ironic.

I know that it’s frustrating and often feels like we’re not paying attention to our most loyal readership. The truth is—and I promise that I don’t mean this in a martyr-y way—we’re just insanely busy and sometimes things slip through the cracks. I encourage anyone who feels like they’ve been unfairly banned to email me at and I will do my best to hear you out and reinstate you. We really appreciate your thoughts and the time you all spend with us

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