The issue that has convulsed Mayo GAA in recent weeks continues to rumble on. There’s plenty about it in the Mayo News today (paper and digitals variants) and elsewhere too. There was much talk about it here on the blog for a while as well, until I was forced to call a halt to the discussion.
I’ve had comments posted here since – and I’ve seen them elsewhere too – asking why this has happened. I’ve had some abusive comments posted here too, telling me what they think of me because I’ve shut down the discussion. The latter type of comments run off me like water off a duck’s back, in all honesty, but the former deserve an answer, which this post aims to provide.
This piece may be considered Part One of a two-part article about where I see the blog heading as 2020 approaches. The second bit was always going to have to be written, in light of impending changes in my own life coming down the tracks at me, but recent events have spurred me to consider the immediate-term impact on the blog and how this links into the wider picture.
So let’s start with the recent events, in which the annual Q4 downtime I crave so much each year was rudely interrupted by a rapidly developing and escalating Mayo GAA crisis. This isn’t the first such off-field brouhaha to occur at this time of year – as a county we tend to excel in the production of Q4 drama – but it is, by some distance, the most vicious one I’ve ever seen break out.
I had hoped, as the row rumbled along a few weeks back, to keep the blog out of it. I wrote two pieces for the blog relating to the issue by way of background, which I’d hoped might help to steer whatever debate that happened to start in an enlightened and informed direction. More fool me.
It soon became apparent that the debate that did break out here – to say nothing of the rather unhinged looing that had taken root on Twitter and elsewhere – was becoming impossible to control. All manner of wild accusations were being made and abusive comments aimed at named individuals were becoming commonplace as a mood of anger rapidly took hold.
Combined with this, though, came a different phenomenon. New contributors popped up, wasting no time at all before getting stuck in to peddle specific agendas, which were then pushed with increasing aggression.
All of this meant that – at what should be the quietest time of year on the blog, where I tend to kick back and get on with other things in my life (bearing in mind that this still is, all these years later, pretty much a solo effort) – comment moderation duties were starting to resemble a full-time job.
Then came reports about legal letters flying around.
For me, that was the breaking point. You would be truly astonished, from a legal standpoint, at the utter stupidity and recklessness of some of the comments I’ve had to consign to the bin down the years. In doing so, I’ve certainly saved a number of people from defamation suits and it’s always been my aim, for obvious reasons, to ensure that the blog stays clear of such trouble too. The house rules on comments are there for a reason.
It was clear to me, by the time that I was forced to call a halt to it, that the debate in the comments about the ongoing dispute was proving too problematic for me to oversee. I simply couldn’t be sure that someone wouldn’t go overboard in what he or she posted and that trouble would inevitably ensue. Did I need this stress, just to give a minority of out-and-out troublemakers a platform to propagate their divisive views? Did I hell.
So down came the shutters.
What recent events have brought home to me is how much the fragile ecosystem in which the blog has thrived for so long depends so greatly on trust. The comments section was open and, aside from a reasonably small number of malcontents who had to be policed closely, it was safe to allow the majority to post their contributions without the need for pre-moderation.
For me, that trust has now been shattered. A minority of divisive, trouble-provoking individuals are to blame for this but, ultimately, everyone loses.
And so, two weeks on from pulling the ripcord, pre-moderation of all comments remains in place. This needs to continue for now and it might have to be how things work in relation to the comments for as long as the blog remains online. Right now, I’m in no position to make a final judgment on the issue.
I’m in no mood either to spark a renewed debate on the ongoing crisis. I’d love as much as the next person to see a sensible debate happening on the blog about this issue but, much as it saddens me to say this, I now know full well that a reasonable discussion simply isn’t possible in an online environment like this.
As a I mentioned at the top, what has happened of late on the blog also has wider implications for me at the current time. I’ll come back to this issue with some further thoughts in a few weeks, by which time I should have a better idea about what all of this means for the blog in 2020 and, hopefully, beyond.