by Marion Nestle
Jul 28 2011

Note to readers: a call for civility

I have received numerous complaints from readers about the increasingly hostile, aggressive, rude, and uncivil tone of some of the comments to this site.

I have not been censoring comments because I would like the site to be a forum for a wide range of opinions about matters related to food politics.  I know that people are passionate about their beliefs, and I do not take comments personally.

And for reasons of time and technical challenge, I have been reluctant to intervene.

But because I now understand that the tone of the comments is adversely affecting readers, I am calling for civility.

Societies set rules for civil behavior for a reason.  Lack of civility leads to hate and undermines democracy.

I do not want this site to contribute to the uncivil discourse that has become so common in our society.

No matter how strongly you feel about food politics issues, I expect your comments–whether aimed at me, other readers, or anyone else—to be offered thoughtfully, respectfully, and with an appropriate degree of civility.

I will delete comments that do not adhere to this expectation.

I thank all of you who have weighed in with your concerns about this and other issues.  Keep talking, please.




  • Dan

    Good move! It took me awhile to start on my own blog with the same response. It comes down to realizing that much as one wants to encourage free expression of ideas, our readers are, in a virtual manner, dropping in to our homes. We might want that same freewheeling atmosphere in a discussion in our living room, but likely we wouldn’t tolerate bigotry, hate speech, or just plain rudeness.

  • Amen

  • Sadly, the web allows for the anonymous diatribes from bullying phantom authors who lack the courage to own their words. Anything I write will have my real name attached.

  • What do you think of Disqus used at your Atlantic posts? I’ve noticed that it has prevented trolling on my own blog, since I set it to require facebook/twitter signin trolling has been minimal.

  • foodie

    What do you charge for babysitting?

  • Suzanne

    Thank you, Dr. Nestle. I used to enjoy reading the comments because of the bright, well-reasoned, thoughtful contributors. I especially enjoyed reading the perspective of people working in the industry to improve people’s health and the local/national food system. I concur that requiring Facebook or Twitter sign in via Discus might be in order. Again, thank you for all you do!

  • The only website I know that really has civil discussions is
    They have a moderator editing posts after the fact, to delete personal attacks etc.
    So I suggest checking out their system. It’s more labor-intensive than just deleting posts, but having a civil atmosphere IS labor-intensive. The internet is full of vicious personal attacks. That’s the culture. So that’s what people will try to do, when face to face they would avoid being vicious.
    Threatening to delete people’s comments for incivility won’t work, because a lot of posts would have to be deleted that include some meaningful comments. So it will tend to set the bar for incivility higher than it really should be.
    Requiring people to identify themselves is a violation of privacy. I don’t think I would post if I had to identify myself. I don’t want to create an online portrait with all sorts of details about me, that’s accessible to billions of people. `

  • Good move-there is no room for nasty comments.

  • Emma

    Halleluja! Hope it works.

  • Cathy Richards

    Thank you Marion. A good reminder for us all. I try (not always successfully) to do as Thumper’s mother told him in Bambi — “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” — it’s a sweet variation of the golden rule.

    If I ever post anything inaccurate, I hope other posters will kindly correct me. If I post anything ignorantly or naively, I hope others will kindly help me to more deeply understand. And if in a moment of pique I post anything hurtful, I hope I will be forgiven and gently reminded about Thumper’s wisdom.

  • Anthro

    Sorry you had to do this Marion, as I think there is really only one person behind all this nastiness. It just takes one “bad apple” sadly.

    I’ve thought about using my name on this blog, but the recent spate of nastiness is what keeps me from doing that–this nasty person who has been using people’s screen names seems just the sort to try to make some nefarious use of real names.

    Hopefully, we can now go forward and resume our discussions, while not always producing complete agreement, used to be interesting and reasonably respectful.

  • realfoodie


    Lame attempt to avert civility.

  • Hear! Hear!

    Sometimes, passion gets confused with good ol’ fashioned hate…You have reminded me to take a moment to think before I respond…Thanks!

  • Ben Boom

    I think this is long overdue and I am really glad to see it. Thank you, Marion! However, please do not start requiring a Facebook account for posting (or any of its lookalikes). Some of us want nothing to do with social networking data mining sites like these and when blogs require a Facebook account to comment we are left out. I realize that those with a Facebook account will dismiss this out of hand but nonetheless I think it is a valid concern.

  • I heartily agree with Ben!!

  • Here’s a third person who intentionally is not on twitter or facebook, so I’d hate to see the ability to comment connected with only those avenues.

  • Sad that you needed to post this…unfortunately necessary though. Thank you for taking a stand for [un]common civility.