Hi there. Let's talk.

This site used to have no comments section. We posted our content, but never really heard much about it. Oh sure, the occasional e-mail would trickle in, and we knew we had some readers, but it felt a bit like sending our material out into the void. And that was sad.

Then we added the comments sections, and we started to hear from our readers. And hear, and hear, and hear. And we were delighted. No, seriously. We love the comments section. We love hearing from you. And we love that the pieces we post aren't just ends to themselves now. They're starting points for longer, deeper discussions in which writers and readers both participate. The A.V. Club name began as a bit of self-deprecation, but we've come to take the "club" aspect seriously. It's your site too.

Up to a point. Here's the deal: We strive to cover pop culture with intelligence and wit–note: "strive"–and assume that that's what brought you here in the first place. It's our obligation to make sure the site reflects that goal, and abusive / offensive / obscene posts just don't contribute to that. These are the posts we delete, and we reserve the right to define those terms however we see fit.

Past deletions have prompted charges of censorship. Let's define some terms: If we attempted to pass a law preventing you from saying something terrible, that would be censorship. If you showed up in our living room attempting to say the same thing, we'd have the right to throw you out. The First Amendment forbids Congress from passing laws that abridge freedom of speech on a national level; it does not in any way apply to our right to delete posts on this site.

We suspect that some of you reading this will take this post as a challenge. Please don't. We're here because we can't stop writing about our obsessions with music / movies / books / television / games / bizarre foods / etc. Let's keep the focus there. There's a lot more that unites us than divides us, so do we really want to get bogged down in tedious internecine battles over the right to use racial slurs or talk about the fuckability of our interview subjects?

Speaking of which–not the fuckability thing, the other thing–let's lay out some guidelines for how not to get deleted from the comments section. While we reserve the right to delete any comments, these are the things we're most likely to target:

… flagrant attacks on other commentators, staffers, or interview / review subjects, particularly aggressive, insulting posts with absolutely no other point to make. Unacceptable: "You're a dick!" Acceptable: "Only a dick would watch Con Air six times in a row!" Better: "You watched Con Air six times?! You should've taken IQ tests before and after to see how it affected you."

… offensive commentary on interview / review subjects, including but not limited to ad hominem thoughts on how they look, how they might smell, and exactly what you'd like to do to them in the sack. Hate on their work all you want, but attacking them for their appearance is childish, and providing detailed commentary on your sexual reaction to them is, well, icky. If you did that at our party at our house, you wouldn't be invited back.

… racist, homophobic, or sexist remarks. Don't assume that everyone else gets your sarcasm, irony, over-the-top tone, etc. Maybe if we knew you personally, we'd know that your consciously offensive statement is actually a gag, but you aren't really like that in person. Online, it's impossible to tell. Attack comments don't get a free pass just because you "didn't really mean it."

… blatant trolling.

… blatant plugs for your own website that don't relate to the topic at hand.

… spoilers. We don't go out of our way to kill these, especially for older works, and we absolutely do not guarantee a spoiler-free site; let the reader beware. But depending on your timing, it may be considered inappropriate to give away the end of a film in the comments on a film review, or the end of a TV episode in the TV Club post about it. We're more likely to target deliberate, malicious spoilers for current or upcoming material than anything else.

One more thing to keep in mind… we can't be everywhere at once. We're all working full-time jobs in addition to monitoring the comment boards. And we prefer to read them to see how people are reacting to our work–and to the films and books and TV shows and creators and interview subjects that prompt us to write in the first place–than to punish commenters who step out of line. So we don't necessarily have time or attention to delete everything that might fit under our guidelines. And comments aren't moderated here in the sense that someone has to actively approve them before they appear to the public. So just because an offensive comment made it past us doesn't mean we actively approved of it, and doesn't mean we won't delete similar comments in the future. If you don't get caught speeding, that doesn't mean the speed limit has been repealed.

Okay, that all said, let's get back to that first paragraph. We love the comments. We enjoy reading and becoming involved in the discussions people have, and we want this to be a place that fosters funny, intelligent discourse. We like jokes. You make us laugh, and we appreciate your opinions even when they boil down to, "You suck, A.V. Club!"

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