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.


  1. Don Sherfick; words are powerful, they can be used to comfort, to offer guidance, encouragement, to warn of impending dangers, to lead, to insult and to lift spirits. Words too often are used as weapons. Hitler began with words which led thousands of his followers to kill millions…some of his words parroted by Gooper. Jesus began with words, he led his few apostles who then led thousands which became millions and now billions either follow the words and message of Jesus or twist them for their own personal gain.

    Gopper’s words served no purpose other than to insult, misinform and distract others but primarily to give him a public voice he would not otherwise have access to. Sheila was more patient than most of her followers would have been and, being Jewish, his insults were aimed at her personally. Another reason he served no good purpose on this site…spewing his personal hatred will find another outlet.

    “Sticks and stone may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” What a load of bulls*+t! Bullying of our children begins with words; if not halted, it escalates and violence ensues. We are following the words of those who want to lead this country by becoming the most powerful leader in the world. LISTEN CAREFULLY TO THEIR WORDS! Be encouraged to support them or beware the results of ignoring their words.

  2. Marv—You’re an attorney? Strike what I said about the prejudice against lawyers. I take it you employed satire in that statement. I apologize. I look forward to your e-mail.

  3. Mark,

    You have a lot of guts. I wouldn’t feed squirrels by hand. I grew up around a lot of squirrels.

    When I was 5 or 6, I tried to feed one and ended up in the emergency room of the local hospital. You win that one. I’m a coward when it comes to squirrels.

  4. For the reasons u banned gopper, I always wondered why Diane rehm had Tony blankley on her show. He added nothing but vitriol to the conversation.

  5. Sheila–Thank you for welcoming us into your home. I feel sad that there are people like Gopper who are so fearful, miserable, mentally unbalanced, or all three, that he must say such awful things. I didn’t read his posts except the one directed at me and never responded to him. Thank you also for the amazing work it takes to write something thoughtful and thought provoking every day and have a day job!

  6. Popular topic. That’s one thing that I’m not good at guessing.

    Feeding trolls. I’m as guilty as anyone here I suppose but I didn’t do it for catharsis only in the spirit of trying to understand what I don’t.

    In the end I concluded that there was no intellectual substantiation for Gopper’s positions only emotional conditioning, culture if you will. That might seem dismissive but it’s as real as anything. While we can blame media for creating it now we all are stuck with it and it’s preternaturally resistant to change.

    Obviously others and I, who tried engagement didn’t move the Gopper problem at all, not surprising, but perhaps some onlookers who were on the fence learned that conservatism is impossible to defend so decided on wanting what we all want for everyone instead.

    Perhaps I got a little hooked on his brand of political porn in a voyeur sort of way. I couldn’t stop rubber necking on the way past the wreck.

  7. Pete,

    We all did the same thing in our own way. in administrative law, there’s a term called “exhausting all remedies.” In other words, you can’t take legal action unless you do every thing you can to avoid it.

    The timing was different for all of us with the Gopper. However, it appear that all of us, including Sheila and you, finally had enough with the Gopper. He became too “exhausting.”

    We finally exhausted all our LOGICAL remedies.

  8. Thank you, Sheila! It was time…no, it was long past time, to block the offender. He insulted you, and as a result, us, in every possible way. Many of us were suckered into his wild rants. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he loved it. He might wish to start his own blog, where he and others of his ilk can rant and rave to a fare-thee-well.

    Now then, where were we?

  9. I for one will miss his musings. I looked forward, perversely, I know, to what outrageous thing he was going to say next. He really got my blood boiling and therefore got me up and moving in the morning. Now I guess I’ll have to listen to Hannity (egads!). Seriously, though, I was more than willing to listen to ideas different that my own, but only when given with respect and civility, neither of which he possessed.

  10. He insulted the blog author waaay too much for my taste and I would have thrown him out of my home much much sooner. The fact that she kept her patience as long as she did makes me want to share her blog with the world. The professor has the patience of a saint! I’m happy to be a regular reader and will enjoy the banter without the insults every single day! Next time I’m in Indy, I’ll want to meet her! It’s going to be a great Thanksgiving this year! 🙂

  11. Bravo and about time. I would ban all comments by those who are not willing to sign their legitimate names.

  12. I think there must be some mistake. Somebody just told me you had blocked me from your home and other humans were having a heyday either berating me or taking you to task. Look, I don’t know and don’t care about pre-WWII Germany or Pete or whether your cousin is a Girl or a squirrel. Just trying to burrow in for the winter. Give a Goph……oh, now I get it……


    Hope those two attorneys get to know each other better. Maybe even form a partnership.

  13. There is little doubt that Gopper make interesting and provocative thoughts. On occasion I agreed with his observations. Yet, there is the axiom that if you can determine the set of their sails, you can discern their direction. If I know your sect I can predict your argument. And I am not worthy unless I can present your side better than you.

    So it was with the Gop. And in that vein there was less contribution and more distraction. We have little time to debunk the issue of 2 x 2 . There will ever be those who claim the solution is 5.

  14. Morton Marcus – I believe that I read a column of yours in a recent issue of the Fort Wayne Business weekly. In that column you addressed a commenter of yours – when I read your quote of what he/she wrote I immediately thought of Gopper. The words and ideas sounded just like Gopper’s. Your column was a very good read and it was good that you spoke of a commenter that refused to use their real name as he/she bashed you.

  15. Earl,

    “Yet, there is an axiom if you can determine the set of their sails, you can determine their direction………………..”

    Terrific explanation.

  16. I note that two of my comments and those posts which elicited them no longer appear. Have I, too, made the “Gopper” list, or have they been judged to be non-essential?

  17. Wray; check “older comments” or “newer comments”, sometimes there are so many, they are broken up into two lists. I had the same thought when I couldn’t find a couple of my comments.

  18. Sheila. . .

    I am a daily reader and a very infrequent contributor to this blog and I must admit to being at least a little ambivalent about blocking Gopper.

    His rants were often such that they detoured the conversation and resulted in participants reacting to him rather than the topic that you raised.

    And his use of Nazi propaganda to justify his Anti-Semetic views was over the top. Actually, I was embarrassed for him because, obviously, he had unwittingly (or intentionally) gone over the line of civil discourse and seemed to think that was alright.

    But, he did give us a glimpse into the workings of his mind which was instructive as to what the far (very far) right is thinking(!).

    I recently was “unfriended” by a friend on facebook who posted right wing stuff that was often offensive, but it did give me an idea of what they were up to. I had often responded to his posts. He didn’t respond. He just threw brickbats.

    It’s a sad commentary of our times to think that we can’t even agree to disagree.

    There’s a lot of anger and I am curious as to it’s origins.

  19. Thank you, Sheila, for the blocking. I have a number of friends who swerve to the right of me, but we have (almost) always been able to carry on civil discourse. As a Jew, I have heard plenty of anti-Semitic rants; I prefer, however, not to expose myself to them if I can avoid them.

    I’m mostly a “lurker” here, but ever since Tom Fisher put me wise to your blog, I have enjoyed it (except for Gopper). Your other blog friends are great, and I get a real kick out of reading their comments. So thanks to all the participants, too.

  20. Sheila – I am doing some catch-up reading and came to this post. While I too am a great believer in free and open speech, especially if it allows for unpopular views, I applaud your decision to ban Gopper.

    Being a bit of a gray-beard who was on the Internet in the days of Usenet discussion groups, I have seen trolls destroy some of those groups. If there was a real exchange of ideas, that would be one thing, but trolls revel in the highjacking and/or destruction of groups/blogs. I love the comments almost as much as I love your blog, but whenever I saw a comment from Gopper, I quit reading the comments section, even if it meant that I missed some insights from your readers.

    Thank you for eliminating this distraction.

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