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It’s always interesting to wake up and read the comments that this column generates.  I know that some of you hate what I write; you’ve made that quite clear in your posts.  I find it intriguing to see what names or labels you want to give me.  And the personal hate you lay at my feet? Well, that is a wonderful way to start my day.

Fortunately, many more of you write to say how much you liked my column, or that it at least made you think differently about something.  Some of you who disagree with me provide a cogent counter to what I say.  By that I mean, a well-thought out rebuttal that has merit and that deserves to be posted in our comments section.  And those are usually done in a civil manner, not an insulting one.

To all of you who are respectful of what I write, thank you.

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For all of you who have nothing to add to the conversation but early morning or late night “online punches,” I accept that you are part of what the Internet has created, and I accept that I can’t change the way you act. You don’t deserve replies from me, though I do occasionally provide one if I think you missed the point of my column or if you insult me with no real purpose other than to, well…insult.

You seem to think that the anonymity of the Internet allows you to say whatever you like, to anyone at all. You think it’s your “Right.”  It’s not.  Only in your head is insulting someone under the secrecy your screen name provides you, a Right.  It’s your choice to do that.  But don’t claim it as some civil liberty you’ve been granted by your home country, or by the one you live in now.

A Hyde Park Corner soapboxer.

In the 19th century (and even today), people would stand in the park on soapboxes and shout at passersby, and if they were lucky, a crowd that would gather.  Often more than not, their discourses were on political issues, though not always.  These soapbox orators were found all over the world (in London for example, there is even a “Speakers Corner” in Hyde Park that has been around since 1892).

These street preachers gave rise to the term “on a soapbox.”  And now we have different ways to be on our own personal soapboxes.  This column is sometimes (like today) my soapbox.  The Internet is the World’s soapbox.

I don’t always espouse overly controversial topics; even so, some of the replies I get to those columns are still hate-filled.  When I get attacked for some perceived injustice, and I push back, I’m called thin-skinned or get accused of trying to censor comments.  It seems that I’m required to stand here and have some people crap on me, but if I reply to their comments in defense (and never heavy-handed), then I’ve crossed some sort of line and “don’t have what it takes to be a columnist.”

But you know what?  I’m not afraid to be up on my soapbox, trying to generate serious thought among serious people.  And like the soapbox orators of the last two centuries, I am not afraid to let you see who I am.  I don’t hide behind the Internet’s obscurity.  I use my name. It’s at the top of this column.  You know who I am.  That’s what makes me different from you.  I have the guts to post who I am. You can track me down any time you want to and tell me you disagree with me.  But you don’t, because it’s easier to hide in the dark and cowardly throw out your insults through the cloud.

So much so, that I’ve had people tell me they won’t even think about leaving comments for us on CuencaHighLife.  Because they are afraid of the backlash that will be hurled at them. When haters create an environment where people are afraid to speak up, it’s censorship.  When someone can’t write a simple column without having to face a litany of personal insults from hidden figures, that’s censorship. When smart people are quieted by fear, when civility takes a backseat to hostility, when the strangers in the night make us lock up the thoughts in our heads, that’s censorship.

I won’t endorse censorship here.  From my side, or yours.  So here is my challenge to the people who choose to attack with hostility and insults rather than to offer civil discourse, use your name when you post.

Don’t hide behind what you think is your clever screen name.  Use your real name.  Tell all the readers and writers who post on CuencaHighLife who you are.  Stand up in front of everyone when you are on your soapbox.  Stop being cowardly and be brave.  If you feel so strongly about something that it makes you want to scream and yell at someone, then do it in the open.

Every week there are people who disagree with what I’ve written and who use their names publicaly to tell me so.  They get my respect.  We may never see eye to eye, but at least they believed what they said strongly enough to tell us all who they are.

If you’re not one of those people, if you feel it is your “Right” to say whatever you want, without being brave enough to use your name, then just go away.  Because what you have to say isn’t worth our time or concern.  You add nothing valuable to the conversation.

I’m not “just sayin,” I’m saying this loud and clear.

66 thoughts on “Soapboxes

  1. I’ve had people tell me they won’t even think about leaving comments for us on CuencaHighLife because they are afraid of the backlash that will be hurled at them.

    I think something should be done and as one of the owners I imagine you have some say in that. In the real world nobody would call it censorship if a police officer or judge told someone to stop harassing another person so why should it be considered censorship for you to stop online harassment??? We both know that the majority of the problems come from one individual but I can understand if you’d rather not ban him outright (unless you have clear rules that apply to everybody then that would indeed be censorship). It seems a shame to have to write a whole set of rules in order to deter one troll but then again we just spent millions on a special vote to eliminate the possibility of Correa being president again so maybe it’s worth it. The following is a proposed addition to your posting policy which would eliminate over half of all the toxicity on CHL should you choose to implement it or something similar, all it takes is the will to do it:

    The purpose of the comment sections below CHL articles are to facilitate conversation between CHL readers as well as make it easy for CHL readers to provide additional information and correct errors. In order to achieve these goals and also make the site a friendly place for all who would like to contribute we ask that before hitting the submit button you double check what you are about to say to ensure you are speaking in the same manner as you would if you were face to face with the person you are about to address. Furthermore, in order to prevent CHL from becoming a toxic environment the following activities are STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.

    -Falsely impersonating another person.

    -Attacking another CHL reader if not using your full real name.

    -Making repetitive or persistent attacks on another CHL reader (whether using your real name or not).

    -Trolling activities such as arguing endlessly just for the sake of arguing, deliberately and repeatedly starting arguments, harassing another CHL reader under the pretext of correcting spelling or grammar, repeatedly trying to turn conversations into debates, and any activity that would be considered bullying or harassment in the real world.

    Any comments that violate any of the above rules may be blocked from publication, and, even if published may be deleted at anytime without any warning or explanation other than that stated in this comment policy. Any person who repeatedly posts or tries to post comments that violate the above rules will get a warning and if violations continue he or she will be permanently banned from the site.

    1. Agree 100% with Micheal Berger. I usually avoid the comments section on CHL due to the senseless arguing. The people who feel the need to ‘be heard’ with messages of insult, anger and hate need to move-on. Thank you for bringing this to light.

    2. You are both correct. At least in the area of forum debate. 😉 A robust exchange (clash?) of ideas is what freedom and human progress is all about. Personal attacks cheaply sidestep debate and undermine all that. It dooms us all to dogma and misunderstanding. It takes a blind person not to see that personal attacks are a strike at democracy..whether in Ecuador, in England or in the USA. Yet it is tolerated and flourishes in CHL!!

      Like facts, good ideas (and bad ones) are not choosy. They can come from any source. Our personal opinion of that source doesn’t factor in. It is merely rude to mention.

      We all know many people, of all persuasions, who shun the comment section of the CHL and often the CHL entirely because of this blight. I confront them, often in hope of protecting another target. Perhaps, if I deflect their bile, the others will stay and keep CHL more interesting for me.

      Frankly, I enjoy hearing from everyone.

      And I have never had a message refused because of a personal attack. My posts are deleted when the young monitors do not like an idea I wish to express. But I am not of the same culture of most here and it is not so hard to express something they believe offensive to their training.. sort of like expressing appreciation for cuisses de grenouilles or escargots to a Macdonald’s lover. Cuy anyone?

      1. Yes, it is clear that those that subscribe to socialist/statist beliefs will always turn to an outside party to protect them from criticism instead of taking responsibility for that task themselves. On the other hand, there are those that post here that don’t need the nannying and believe in the sanctity of true freedom of expression.

  2. Michael, you hit the nail right on the head and I share your views and feelings 100% plus. Well done!

  3. Rather thin-skinned and censoring, in my opinion. Come on trolls and editors, let me have it.

    1. Larry, I seldom agree with the things you post but I never feel so threatened by them that I would seek protection from your words through censorship. There sure are a lot of whiners here that feel emboldened to come out of their closets and yell for protection.

      Carry on, Larry. You are always unambiguous and I know where you stand when you post. Far better that than the virtue signaling by burger who proclaims his righteousness by pointing out virtue signaling in others.

  4. On average, less than 10% of readers of any website article actually read the comments. Most readers don’t even know they’re there. I think anyone should be allowed to comment if they follow the rules but it’s a mistake to take them too seriously.

    1. Considering that it’s a niche blog targeted at retirees with plenty of time on our hands I’m sure a lot more than 10% of the readers of this site’s articles also read the comments. Also if you consider the Pareto principle the minority who read the comments are probably the people who matter the most.

      1. Since these are folks with time on their hands I would argue that they matter the least. Those with anything on the ball have better things to do.

    2. Sounds like you are advocating for a free market of ideas and the way those ideas are expressed. I feel similarly.

  5. If someone wants to descend into vitriolic name calling and chooses not to rebut with a reasoned argument, they are only showing their utter ignorance. I enjoy these forums for the lively give-and-take.

    1. Nat, dissent can often be well expressed vitriolically. I don’t take vitriol in the pejorative, per se. Grown ups can evaluate it for content and veracity on their own without the filter of censorship.

  6. Well said, Michael. I’m one of those people that rarely comments on articles in CHL. The slurry of people regularly commenting quickly attack without provocation and often have a bullying tone that I don’t appreciate. “Scroll on” may be a quick remedy, but it’s not a solution. Thank you for writing, thank you for your perspective, and thank you for what you do for the expat community. I for one appreciate it very much.

    1. Your welcome! If they implement a policy like this I think we will all of a sudden start hearing from a ton of people such as your self who would love to be involved with the conversation but aren’t willing to get in the mud and wrestle with the pigs.

      1. No hope Michael of that. They made some pithy mention of stopping the venom here some months ago..but the venom has continued unchecked since. If only there was a way to stop white trash at the border and ship it back to the USA where it belongs. Next thing you know is that they will open yet another forum for hate. Frankly, they have to be the source of it under pseudonyms.

    2. On the other hand, I am one that finds burger to be a self righteous hypocrite, but you have never heard me call for his censorship. Mature adults can deal directly with those whose views they don’t share and ultimately can ignore them if they choose to.

      There is a blocking function on all Disqus forums that is simple to use. Ironically, when I reached the point that I found burger’s posts to be a waste of time, I tried to block him but have been unable to do so. In spite of that, I still never sought to have him censored because I disagree with him.

      Perhaps it is time for the whiners to just put on their big boy pants and take direct action to meet their own needs.

  7. Thank you Michael. Imagine my innocence when I signed up with Discus and put my PHOTO up! I used a cute name…thank gawd…and not my own. Someone who I understand uses several names made every comment of mine personal. He creeped me out, I closed my account and now occasionally comment under a false name. Gringo Post reviews comments before they are posted. I have no idea how this operation runs, but I’m guessing that is too onerous for CHL. The lengthy suggestion on posting policy could simply say “no personal attacks or name-calling.”

    1. I had to block one person, because of personal attacks. So now I do not have to read the nonsense anymore.

  8. Thank you Michael ! If enough people show up these cowards who hide behind false identities – the ONLY reason to use a pseudonym – maybe they will just disappear and crawl back under the rock they emerge from every so often! If a person does not have the courage of his/her convictions, he/she should simply shut up and let the world go by without dirtying it with their cowardly ideas and what passes for thoughts! YOU ARE RIGHT!!

  9. I totally agree with this article as well as Micheal Berger’s comments and commenting policy. I love to discuss ideas and hear other peoples take on a subject. I’m open to growing and learning all the time. However, I can seriously do without the negativity, intolerance & cyber-bullying generated by some small-minded & close-minded people whose comments do nothing to further the conversation.

    1. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. One mans happiness is a 30 foot putt while another mans happiness is an 8 point buck.

  10. If a person would not say something face-to-face, then they should not say it here either. If they are afraid to state who they are, then they should rethink what they were intending to write. I support Michael Berger’s proposed policy.

    Particularly the part about intentionally impersonating another person. I had a problem for awhile over on GringoPost, where someone intentionally created an account in my name and then started making stupid and vile comments, making it appear that I was the person doing so. A little research showed the account had been created a couple weeks earlier (I only found out about it when a friend emailed to tell me I was being a jerk with my recent comments).

    GP deleted the account (at my request), but the troll created another with the same name the next day — this time even lifting my avatar, making it even harder for anyone to tell it was not me. GP again deleted the account, at my request, and did something (don’t want to say exactly what here) to prevent the problem from happening again (so far, so good anyway…).

    My point is that there are people who not only are as bad as Michael refers to. There are people hiding behind this mask that are simply evil. We all benefit if those trolls are eliminated… or at the very least leashed.

    1. I’ll come out and condemn that person that pulled that stunt on you, Burt. I find it just as odious as those people that have tried to say that other posters were me posting under a different screen name. faulkner and John G. were famous for doing that but I admit it did piss me off a bit when the actual poster didn’t step up and say “nope, wrong, I’m not him”

      Even then, I never called for John G or faulkner (and a bunch of others) to be banned. I just went about my business and let my posts speak for themselves.

      1. The problem, of course, is when readers do not really know which comments came from you/me, and which came from somebody else posing as you/me (or in your case, stating that you are someone else — wow, is that clear as mud?).

        At any rate, for those of us that are active (I tend to go in spurts of active for a few days, then stay away from CHL/GP comments for weeks), we gain a reputation, good, bad or other. Everything will be filtered by many readers based upon their memory of what we said (or they think we said…) in the past.

        If someone pollutes that reputation, it has an effect on how future comments will be received. In most instances (the troll who pretended to be me, and the trolls that claim comments not yours were being said by you), the change to our reputations is negative.

        And that extends beyond these online forums. I have had many people over the years come up to me at parties, and say “so you are the Burt Johnson I have been reading so much about!” In a couple of cases, during that time when the “fake me” was spouting filth, the introduction was not so pleasant, and I had to explain “THAT WASN’T ME!”… 🙁

        1. Completely clear to me, Burt, because I was living it and following carefully. For those of us that were familiar with your posts (the one on saving money comes to mind) it was obvious which posts were the real Burt Johnson and which weren’t. I remember asking at the time, “What did Burt do to this guy that has caused him to post this garbage?”. I never got an answer.

          Your point about the effect on ones reputation is well made but I’ve never run my life worrying about what others think of me. I would never change my posts to curry favor and to shoot for popularity points like some posters on this forum.

          1. I think most who know me would not ever say I would “change my posts to curry favor.” I have pi**ed off more than one person over the years…

            However, if someone is going to be mad at me, I think it should be because of something I said, not something someone else said to make me look bad (… worse maybe?…)

  11. There is nothing wrong with voicing an opinion. Some people here within this community choose to hurl insults–make comments that are really offensive and get really nasty. Would anyone in their right mind –choose to say who they really are in terms of this ‘arena of public opinion’? I think that si just asking for more trouble—there is nothing respectful and well mannered about many who post here. My thought is to censor heavily the rude comments and nastiness right out of this forum.

  12. I think we have enough “RULES AND REGULATIONS,” thank you very much!
    It always seems small minds run to the “rules and regulations” to solve problems that their little brains cannot handle.
    It is also disingenuous that “CHL, Cuenca High Life, etc. are free to control, comment, and publish behind a pseudonym (in this case a not-real person’s name while stirring the pot of dissent.
    Ok, it is time to roll out the word cops, the spelling cops, the brown shirts of free speech! We have crossed the line! Next you will be asking me to wear a star or your neighbor, a cross, or another a crescent… Your mentality is so 1930’s!
    Go ahead, do it. Destroy another site with your anal retentive rules!

    1. Cuenca High Life is not anonymous. The names and pictures of the owners and manager are shown online.


    I agree entirely. Having said that, I do choose to use a pseudonym because of the trolls and crazies.

    I do want a lively exchange of ideas. However, the constant denigrating of others (e.g. towards Jason Faulkner), the nasty comments towards those who have different opinions, and the name calling all tended to discourage me from reading the comments.

    What I have done (after repeated unsuccessful attempts to have the comments moderated) is to “select out” the trolls and crazies. Basically, I use a “three strikes and you’re out” strategy. Three stupid, useless, or nasty comments in a row without a useful, thoughtful comment and you’re blocked. Amazingly, this reduces the “crap” I’ve got to read, and I don’t miss anything thought-provoking and useful.

    Many of the folks I’ve blocked can’t be blocked on Disqus (no profile). About 1/3 of each day’s comments are blocked by the following method:

    1) Use Google Chrome as your browser.

    2) Download and install the extension: “Blog Comment Killfile”

    3) When you encounter a poster that you want to block, hover the cursor over their name. Click “Hush” which means only their name will show up in comments (you always can show the comment, or “unhush” them if you wish).

    Occasionally, I do look at some blocked comments to see if I’ve missed something. So far, I’ve not changed my opinion on anybody blocked–it seems that nasty and/or ignorant people don’t change overnight. Who knew?

    1. Interesting. I have never heard of that extension before.

      As I get older, my memory becomes less precise (how is that for a polite way to state it? 🙂 ). Truly, I don’t remember who wrote what sufficiently to implement a “3 strikes” personal rule, regardless of how much I like the concept.

      I do have a very long “block list” on Facebook, where the nonsense is much worse than here. So far I have only blocked one person in Discus. I keep hoping I won’t feel compelled to lengthen that list…

  14. As far as I can tell this piece has no author. I don’t see one listed anywhere. Another anonymous poster. OK, fine. I guess that means that I can use my alias to comment.

    It seems that it should be pretty easy to review various published policies and implement any one that suits. For example:

    Though if I ran a forum, I’d require all responses to be via email. After screening for garbage I would publish the decent responses, including the commenter’s real name and verified email address.

    And maybe also require a paid subscription, which ought to reduce random commenting by about 98%.

    But what about the damage to readership?

    Well, if a forum has actual value, then people will pay to get at that value, or at least to add value-containing comments even if the information is free for the reading.

    But maybe I’m not that bright. Could be.

    1. Huh? His name is right there in bold in the artwork upper-right in the article. Just as it has been for every one of the “I’m just sayin'” articles both here and in print in The Cuenca Dispatch.

      This is simply an online version of the editorial column (clearly identified as editorial) of the print version.

  15. Seems like burger is seeking to enlist the complicity of big brother to protect himself from the criticism he always elicits from wise readers. Pretty hypocritical for a guy that professes to be a libertarian.

    1. This may be hard for you to understand but it’s really not about me but for the sake of being able to hear from others. Not sure why you say big brother this is the free market at it’s finest 🙂

      1. I’ll write slowly so you might stand a chance of understanding.

        My use of the term “Big Brother” is a metaphor for your attempt to recruit Cuenca High Life (Big Brother) to do for you what you don’t want to do for yourself. You have sought allies in this effort from other readers on the forum that think like you———— that Big Brother should protect them from all perils———-in this case, to censor posts that you don’t approve of. Therein lies your hypocrisy as you claim to be a libertarian and what you are doing is anathema to every real libertarian.

  16. I totally agree with the article. I have argued the same thing. I only recently created this fake account because I got tired of debating with rude, insulting anonymous people. There is a huge inequality between individuals whose identity is known and whose is not. You might be in a pissing contest with your friend, landlord, doctor, restaurateur, neighbor, etc. They know it is you but you have no idea who is insulting you. I will change back to my real name and photo when it is a requirement of all posters.

  17. With the merger of Cuenca High Life and Dispatch, the owners will eventually have to decide what direction they want to take their new blended publication. Do they want a more Pollyannish, “never-any-negative-news” digest (as the Dispatch promises) or do they want to continue to offer occasional, more controversial news items as CHL sometimes does?

    Personally, I enjoy reading (and occasionally participating in) the debates over tendentious subjects appearing in CHL, e.g., chemtrails, nationalizing the 5G network, the decline of the USA, cryptocurrencies or Julian Assange. Stories like these recently featured in CHL make me think and are open to honest and often radically divergent opinions. Stories about puppy dogs, “the bizarre sport of wife-carrying,” or Pumpkin catapulting contests at a New Hampshire speedway (as previously published in the Dispatch) frankly don’t interest me in the least.

    It’s up to the new partners to decide which way they want to go with their new joint venture. There’s a market for each genre. I’m sure the owners will take it in whichever direction they determine is most profitable. You can guess which direction gets my vote.

    Regarding Mr. Soares’ and Michael Berger’s laments about anonymous “flaming,” all I can say is lots of luck. If your goal is to create a publication with a comments section that is nothing but positive praise, sweetness and light with no dissension or debate, then keep the Dispatch model. How many people get really worked up debating the virtues of the sport of wife-carrying?

    If, OTOH, you want to offer a publication that is interesting, informative and thought-provoking, then keep the CHL model and don’t stifle spirited debate.

    For the snowflakes needing their safe spaces, put a disclaimer banner over the article or relegate such articles to a dedicated opinion/ editorial/ discussion page.

    The practice of using a pseudonym or nom de plume when debating controversial topics has a very long history. Would the Cuenca Dispatch have rejected commentary submitted by Cato, Brutus, or Publius? Would you reject essays submitted by George Eliot or JK Rowling because they weren’t the authors’ true names?

    And to the folks who “won’t even think about leaving comments for us on CuencaHighLife because they are afraid of the backlash that will be hurled at them,” my advice is to stick to reading the Cuenca Dispatch. If you somehow muster the courage to read CHL, limit your reading to the body of the article and stay away from the comments section. Take some personal responsibility and don’t risk damaging your tender sensibilities.

    1. Ten thumbs up. I have divulged before that I know all of the principles of CHL/CD personally and I have told Michael Soares personally of my aversion to his version of Minnesota Nice. That doesn’t stop me from being Michael’s friend.

      Libertarian, I’d love to see a rational response from someone that doesn’t embrace all that you just wrote. Posts like yours seem to frighten snowflakes back into their safe places because they are ill equipped to confront arguments based on facts, logic and reason. Sad for them, bravo to you.

  18. Horse puckey. You’re entire post about prostibulos in Cuenca was totally false and disingenuous and if I wanted to go through your other posts, I could point out many lies and distortions. Stop hiding behind the cool Latin phrase ad hominem as if it protects you from the truth. Naturally, when I point out YOUR lies the post is going to be about you.

    1. jajajaja you failed to mention any specific because you can’t name even one thing I said in that post that was incorrect! For some reason you got offended when I stated the undeniable fact that brothels in Cuenca were filthy and you were so desperate to get into an argument that you actually started to argue that they were clean!

  19. I’m not living in Ecuador yet (planning on moving by the end of the year) and getting kind of disgusted by what I see on different forums… some of you seem like grumpy old jerks… seems to me that there should be plenty of opportunity to love and enjoy life, now that you’re free of the burden of work just to pay the bills, cold weather and other things you wanted to escape by moving to a Latin American country… my suggestion for a happier life: stop sending those comments dripping with sarcasm and negativity, stop complaining, go out listen to music, eat good food, learn Spanish, make new friends, preferably Ecuadorians and enjoy your new life for the few years you have left, you miserable old farts

    1. How interesting that an article dealing with such a trivial, meaningless, inconsequential subject like this one should elicit such nasty epithets from a reader who then paradoxically proceeds to admonish all “you miserable old %$#@s” to dispassionately discuss viewpoints on such similarly meaningless subjects as the imminent collapse of the USA, treatment of whistleblowers who disclose illegal spying by the government, alternative currency systems and other mundane issues of the day.

      Go figure.

    2. I do find it ironic that you complain about a certain behavior in others, and then proceed to display the same behavior yourself — in the very same comment post.

      You didn’t even give us time to breathe and reflect, before showing how totally non-serious you are about your own proposal…

  20. Every time I read the comments on this site I’m reminded why I couldn’t leave the states soon enough. What I don’t understand is why most of you don’t go back.

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