Recently, there has been some discussion as to an extremely harsh criticism posted in response to a poem published by Radius, and it’s had us thinking that, perhaps, it’s time to have a small discussion about what we deem appropriate and inappropriate for a comment here.
The comment in question was harsh to a ridiculous degree, but restrained itself to criticizing the work at hand, and while one suspects there was a personal motivation to the comment, it remained on this side of the line, and consequently, was allowed to be posted.
We were alerted not long ago to a response to the comment, which seems to have somehow gotten buried in our server problems this morning. (It happens.) The response was a personal attack on the critic, which used a derogatory term for a person who faces mental challenges. We decided not to post it. (We have allowed another response, which is more appropriate.)
Here’s the deal: At Radius, we prefer our discourse to be at least somewhat civil, although we know that’s a hope that will be periodically dashed. It’s the striving that’s important. But we do have qualms about personal attacks, and I’m afraid derogatory language — particularly language meant to denigrate people because of their race, gender, religion, sexuality or physical or mental challenges — is an absolute no-go for us. We understand that sometimes those terms have a place in art, and remain open to them in that context, on a case by case basis, but feel that they have no place in civilized discourse. And we desperately try to be civil in these things.
We look to W.H. Auden for our guiding principles in the literary criticism that we publish, and encourage our readers to do the same:
“Judging a work of art is virtually the same mental operation as judging human beings, and requires the same aptitudes: first, a real love of works of art … an inclination to praise rather than blame, and regret when a complete rejection is required; second, a vast experience of all artistic activities; and last, an awareness, openly and happily accepted, of one’s own prejudices. Some critics fail because they are pedants whose ideal of perfection is always offended by a concrete realization. Others fail because they are insular and hostile to what is alien to them; these critics, yielding to their prejudices without knowing they have them and sincerely offering judgments they believe to be objective, are more excusable than those who, aware of their prejudices, lack the courage to enter the lists to defend their personal tastes.” – W.H. Auden
We admire and desire your passion and bravery in the discussion of art. Indeed, we feel it’s essential. We’re willing to understand that things get heated. But if we at least make an effort at civility, the conversation will be better for everybody.