Now That's A Lot of Comments:
As of the time I am posting this, Maggie's final guest post from earlier today has 339 comments. I've heard a rumor that if a VC post ever gets 500 comments, the entire Internet will crash. I dunno if it's true, but we may find out.
TFox (mail) (www):
What a big thumb's-up for the all-new, more stimulating Volokh conspiracy...
10.21.2005 8:05pm
SP (www):
As a former student of his, I say bring on Prof. Carpenter!
10.21.2005 8:34pm
chris (mail):
339 comments, 338 of which consist of "bigot, bigot, bigot..."
10.21.2005 8:38pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Actually, the report I read said that the internet will shut down if the Volokh Conspiracy gets 400 commen

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10.21.2005 9:03pm
Quarterican (mail):
339 comments, 338 of which consist of "bigot, bigot, bigot..."

10.21.2005 9:05pm
Crane (mail):
Hmmm... controversial subject + blogger who can't seem to articulate an argument to the satisfaction of one side but says all the right things to the other = lots of posts as the one side challenges and asks for clarification (and yes, suggests bigotry) while the other expresses support and accuses the first of illiteracy.

Now, how can that formula be improved to attract more comments? It's hard to think of a more controversial topic than gay marriage, and even foggier writing might just bore and repel people.
10.21.2005 9:27pm
Guest 44:
I think Crane summed up both sides as well as anyone could. Everyone loses when MG speaks.

The fight between Goober and the Editors was exactly this.

No minds were changed in this debate. But speech is speech and we can always use more of it. If for nothing else, this shows how ignorant the other side is.
10.21.2005 9:46pm
enfo (www):
MG had some problems in her arguments, and some of her links were a bit weak.

But the amount of straw man-bashing and personal attacks in the comments section was disappointing. People either ignored her points, mis-interpreted her points, didn't understand her points, or already had an archetype for what they thought were her points. I guess this shows the saliency of personal bias, and that even some who otherwise possess a decent amount of intellect fall victim to it.

In any case, the majority of comments generated in high count situations... at least if the troll-research is true, are generated by repeat posters.
10.21.2005 10:34pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
I posted this on the 'final post' thread (408 comments at that point). But, perhaps, it would be more appropriate here...

I will be charitable. I think Maggie Gallagher chose a specific line of thought and used the VC as a 'testing ground' for the stamina of that particular part of her overall argument. As she alludes to in this last post, her objections to homosexual marriage are far more encompassing and complex than simple procreation.

This has been the major weakness in her presentation and a major non-sequiter on the part of critics of her position. The weakness is in the fact that, on its own, the argument related to procreation is a non-starter. The larger portion of the debate to which procreation is an integral part, i.e., child-rearing (including male/female stimuli, environment, social acceptance, etc.), appeared to be her real agenda, but was never fully admitted to or articulated within the constraints of time or intent. The non-sequiter is the presumption on the part of participants in the discussion that she would take time to address their criticisms (many of which have been little more than specious, spurious, and deliberately inflammatory - i.e., the internet posting equivalent of 'shouting down' through volume rather than substance a guest speaker) directly rather than take the opportunity to lay out her argument without digressing into point/counter-point debate.

Frankly, Maggie Gallagher's argument, as presented here, is less than compelling and incompletely addresses the realities of homosexuality vis a vis the social institution of marriage. In the end, her stronger, more factually based, and complete argument is a more effective combination of the factors she alludes to in this final post. It's too bad she can't find a way to more effectively and concisely encapsulate these points into a comprehensive form for digestion on a board such as this.

Volokh, as a professor, is compelled to pedagogically experiment with ways of introducing information, alternative points of view, and encouragement of discussion into the 'classroom.' To that end, there can be little doubt that Gallagher's guest blog 'encouraged discussion;' something not necessarily synonmous with 'productive discourse.' Gallagher's point of view is obviously an alternative to that held by many posters. But, insofar as 'introducing information,' I think Gallagher's posts, not to mention many of the posts from her more savage critics, largely fail in terms of anything 'new,' enlightening, or persuasive in their effect.

I guess that leaves us with a quote from the singer/actor Meatloaf: "Two outta Three Ain't Bad."
10.21.2005 10:41pm
Paul N (mail):
I don't think number of comments is a good thing. Pretty soon people will be posting "first!!!! aw3s0m3 31337".

Consider this: if Pat Robertson were allowed to guest-blog on Atrios, how many comments would he get?
10.21.2005 11:13pm
Interesting observation, Orin.

If it's a divisive topic on this blog today, it's bound to be interesting tomorrow...although we currently lack the data to support that hypothesis.

Objectively speaking, I think Maggie failed to successfully rebut her critics, but I thoroughly enjoyed the debate that her posts sparked.

Fie on the people that rebuked E. Volokh for his invitation to this intelligent and intellectual person. The essence of intellectualism is the ability to entertain an alien idea.
10.22.2005 12:12am
Harriet Miers:
There have been only a few comments in the last hour, so perhaps the rate has slowed down to the point where the Internet will not crash.

That said, my opinion of this blog has gone down considerably.
10.22.2005 12:30am
That said, my opinion of this blog has gone down considerably.

By all means, feel free to pass it by. :)

In the free market of ideas afforded by the Internet, we're no longer reliant upon your interest.
10.22.2005 12:43am
Windypundit (www):
I think I read part of MG's first post and then skipped all the rest. That sort of argumentative brawling is not what I'm hoping to find when I visit the Conspiracy.
10.22.2005 12:43am
That sort of argumentative brawling is not what I'm hoping to find when I visit the Conspiracy.

I'd agree with you, Windy, that there's a fine line between "argrumentative brawling" and "debate". I'd draw that line between the side that has substantive facts and cites and the side that resorts to ad hominem attacks upon those that provided the substantive data.

10.22.2005 12:58am
Troy H:
The comments in that last Gallagher post are a VC low point. Agree or disagree but to say she didn't articulate reasons is purposefully obtuse.
10.22.2005 1:38am
Cornellian (mail):
I think part of the problem is not just the emotional nature of the topic but rather Ms. Gallagher's writing style. The usual posters and readers around here are quite often lawyer, law students or other with some kind of legal education, and used to parsing, analyzing and generally ripping apart every argument that is put before them. We not only do that to every one else's arguments, we ourselves write in anticipation of that kind of scrutiny. So when Ms. Gallagher shows up here with postings that are long on mysticism and metaphor instead of the tightly woven, reasoned argument that we normally see, there's going to be even more of a negative reaction than one would expect. That's not to say that writing with legal precision is always the best way to go, just that it's what people are used to around here.
10.22.2005 2:03am
Justin (mail):
When someone like MG has such obvious contempt for a seemingly reasonable viewpoint, refuses to explain her contempt, gives reasons that are incoherent to the point of her defenders having to "interpret" them, creates double standards and moves the goalposts on such a contraversial subject, you are going to have the type of comments that MG received. Blaming the commentators, who are pretty much the same commentators and readership for all of VC, seems silly.
10.22.2005 3:36am
I for one think I have gained a greater understanding of some of the issues, views, and arguments used by both sides of the debate.
10.22.2005 4:26am
BobNelson (mail):
After five days, "please provide substance" morphed into "she can't write!". Is that an ad hominem attack? Most of you went to law school. Is a bad grade an ad hominen attack? With, in her own words, 20 years of fighting this struggle, the posters here expected her to offer more and said so. That's not ad hominen, it's ad materiam -- don't know if that's a legal term, do know it's Latin ;-)
10.22.2005 4:54am
The posts created a lot of heat, but the substance is disappointing. Gallagher argues "tradition" when it helps her, but distances herself from it when tradition doesn't help her.

It comes down to the fact that some people think that homosexual sex is morally inferior to heterosexual sex, and others believe that the government should stay out of judging the sex lives of consenting adults.

The rest of the arguments are just commentary. Given that so many of the arguments are like (to use Gallagher's expression) ships passing in the night, it's easy to see why some judges don't see any rational basis in anti-gay arguments.
10.22.2005 9:28am
Solid State (mail):
I think Cornellian has it dead-on. Ms. Gallagher wrote in a 'conversational' style - which seems to be unacceptable to quite a few people who don't share her conclusions. Several comments I read expressed frustration that she expected people to "make up her argument themselves". Likewise, when Mr. Kerr paraphrased what he understood her argument to be, commentors seemed upset that he was adding content and structure that she had not explicitly stated.

Folks, this is what we in the non-legal conversational world call "trying to understand one another". It requires (1) that you make charitible interpretations of the other's statements. If a person makes a statement that could be interpreted nonsensically or coherently, you assume the coherent interpretation (perhaps checking to make sure it is correct). By doing this, you demonstrate that you are interested in understanding them, not simply trying to score points off of imprecise phrasing. At this point, you are not trying to 'win', you are trying to understand.

As an example, you never pretend to obtuseness as to the overall point your fellow in the conversation is making. Generally, people do this to entice the other into some mistatement of detail which would allow the detail invalidation to be extended into overall argument invalidation. This pretense is considered rude and prima facie evidence that you have no intention of 'understanding' the person with whom you are speaking.

How then, you might ask, shall we discuss matters of fact which might be relevant? Once you are fairly sure of what the other is trying to express, you might say something like, "I see what you are trying to get at, but I would need to see empirical evidence that the societal harm you describe has actually arisen in foreign societies which have embraced SSM." Note that 'discussion' does not prevent disagreement, it just proceeds from an assumption that the interlocutors are jointly engaged in a project of understanding one another clearly.

Second, (2) you make a genuine attempt to get the overall picture of what they are trying to tell you. That means, if the other's argument is structured in an unfamiliar way, or a way that doesn't make total sense to you, you try to restructure it for yourself so that it makes sense. Then, you check to make sure your mental image of what they are trying to express correctly captures their viewpoint.

This is what Mr. Kerr was attempting to do when rephrasing and structuring Ms. Gallagher's explanation. It was courteous and appropriate. If his restructuring is more coherent to your manner of thinking, and Ms. Gallagher agrees that the restructuring is accurate in gist, then conversational ettiquete would expect you to simply use it as your basis for understanding the argument Ms. Gallagher is making. Remember, in this 'conversation' we are attempting, the overall purpose is not to undermine Ms. Gallagher's credibility but to understand what she is trying to express.

In conclusion, I believe Ms. Gallagher was attempting to engage in what we non-legal types refer to as a 'conversation' or even 'discussion'. Of course, analogously to conflict resolution, conversation between parties cannot exist unless each party believes it is in their interest to participate.
10.22.2005 11:47am
Shelby (mail):
Ms. Gallagher is welcome to make a "conversational" argument for her position, but she never did make an argument of any type. She alluded to various arguments and propositions, and laid out various data points (results of studies, etc.) without tying them to her claims. She asserted conclusions without demonstrating a basis for them. It was not argument because it was incoherent. If you agreed with her conclusions, perhaps you were willing to infer her steps in getting there.

I'm a pretty bright guy, and I read over (but did not closely study) her posts, and there was no evident way to get from her point "1" to her "10" without making a great many unstated assumptions along the way. Other assumptions, which many posters found more plausible, lead just as readily to "-10".

Orin's summation of her "argument" was far from persuasive, but had the virtue of at least making sense. I disagree with Ms. Gallagher's position, but my unhappiness with this experiment stems from her inability to express herself, not from her supposed "bigotry".
10.22.2005 1:07pm
DM Andy (mail):
My main gripe with Maggie's style of debate was her habit of reading the comments, picking up the most extreme pro-SSM position in those comments,using that in the next post with "Most SSM advocates believe..." and then arguing against that strawman. That left many SSM supporters, including myself, scratching my head and wondering when Maggie was going to address the more moderate voices in the debate.

Finally yesterday, Maggie said that "poor time management" prevented her from addressing the rest of her argument against SSM. I would genuinely like to hear that so can you invite Maggie back for as long as it takes her to make her point.
10.22.2005 2:29pm
491 and counting....

Of course, they're mostly commenters talking to each other and/or posting crap, but still impressive
10.22.2005 2:47pm
Quarterican (mail):
Ms. Gallagher's take on the week just past, which I found very amusing:

I'm going to try to do here [], what I meant to do at i.e. spend some time figuring out why the wall of incomprehension exists and what it consists of. BTW, I'm perfectly aware that for many of my readers last week, the wall was up and particularly excrutiating. i.e. they were bringing up what they saw as key and fatal flaws, which were met with blank silence on my part.

Of course from my point of view, it was rather like being in a room with 1000 kids tugging at your elbow, interrupting your train of thought, sometimes with innocent but ignorant questions, often with complete irrelevancies, but in any case each one convinced that his question required my attention right then.
10.22.2005 3:23pm
KenB (mail):
The discussion was probably about as good as you could expect in an open forum on a contentious topic. It would've been better IMO to close comments but have a designated moderator (someone with a lot of free time on his/her hands) to accept people's reactions by email and post the most compelling of them -- that way we readers wouldn't all have had to wade through the muck, Ms. Gallagher wouldn't have felt so overwhelmed, and her responses could have focused on just those arguments that most needed a response from her.
10.22.2005 4:54pm
KenB nails it. This was...unsatisfying. And, frankly, I don't know I want to sit around for the next round, with the opposing side with the main billing. Why? Because it'll be the sort of bloody-minded ideological feeding frenzy that is the most...disquieting part of blogs.

If I were a guest-blogger here, I would have personally said at the beginning, for my own sanity, that once comments had reached, say, 30 for any one post, I was not likely to read them and even less likely to respond to anything said there.

Also, I'm not sure it's fair to expect from a non-lawyer an argument with legal precision, as some here seem to demand.

Most people do not know how to do that, quite simply. It's not exactly a taught skill, and the blog medium (which lends itself to short posts; Frankly, anything approaching half a page in Word is entirely too much for a blog post) is even more uncomfortable. Trying to assess someone in that situation as if they were a lawyer is dooming them to failure.
10.22.2005 7:04pm
MCG (mail) (www):
Lawyers are good at parsing statutes and distinguishing and applying precedents and established principles. Supporters of same-sex marriage, like most parties in opposition to accepted wisdom, have reached for established principles from neighboring areas of law and applied them. Equal rights, for example, although there is neither a right to marry as one wants (an infant, a first cousin, a goat, a string quartet) nor any special constitutional protection for gays.

Unlike a lawyer, Maggie Gallagher is not parsing or applying existing principles. She is trying to justify first principles and accepted wisdom. Being a lawyer would not help her. She is off in uncharted waters, without headnotes. She is doing what philosophers do, not what lawyers do.

Challenging the crowd is always hard, especially on emotionally-charged issues. I don't know whether Maggie can succeed in justifying exclusively mixed-sex marriage. I think it is admirable that she is trying.

Full disclosure. I am not related to Maggie Gallagher.

Mary Campbell Gallagher
10.22.2005 7:43pm
Maggie Gallagher's last post has now surpassed 500 comments, and all still seems to be safe and sound in the blogosphere and the wider web. :-)
10.22.2005 7:44pm
Quarterican (mail):
If Ms. Gallagher was doing what philosophers do (an area I'm much more qualified to judge than anything touching on the law) then I think she's not very good at that, either. Thinking airily and writing emotively may be persuasive technique, may provide engaging reading, and even produce valuable insight. Nietzsche and Kierkegaard certainly get over on style and personality as much as anything else. But philosophy demands a level of intellectual rigor buttressing an argument which, if Ms. Gallagher possesses it, I do not think she displayed. This philosophy shares with the law: training in the analysis of an argument, learning how to present one and how to dismantle one. Objections were raised to essential components of Ms. Gallagher's argument, but to her we were as a few dozen upset children tugging anxiously at her sleeve.
10.22.2005 8:01pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
The thread's reached 500+ comments and the Internet has not cr
10.22.2005 8:42pm
Patrick (mail):
I don't think that the government should have any say in marriage whatsoever. It is possible for two people to be in love without the government getting involved. Indeed, it is even possible for two people to stay together for the rest of thier lives without the governments assistance. Is that such an outlandish idea?
10.23.2005 2:50pm
Joshua (mail):
I disagreed with Maggie for the most part, but I didn't think she was as bad as others have made her out to be. If nothing else, she stood on principle, that principle being "The integrity of marriage/family life/American society as we know it, to the extent that it is protected by a restriction on marriage to one man and one woman, trumps the rights of homosexuals not to be discriminated against in our marriage laws." (Of course, I also stood on principle - exactly the opposite one - in many of my comments.)
10.24.2005 6:43pm
randal (mail):
Maggie's dumb. Look. The question isn't whether gays should be able to "marry"; the term has distracting connotations for people like Maggie. It's how to integrate gays into society. Letting them marry is the obvious answer. People who have an instinct to "protect" marriage could best do it by coming up with alternatives. She failed. Maggie's dumb.
10.27.2005 7:20am