Having a pool of devoted readers who jerk you and each other off in your comments is not good. Having a pool of the above who also jump on anyone who dares express an opinion on a feminist blog and have a penis at the same time is worse. The thread I'm thinking of had a chap come in and ask what seemed to my socially-deficient eyes to be honest questions and attempt to add to the conversation from a male perspective -- maybe a feminism-clueless male perspective, but not a hostile one. You'd think this would be a good thing. But no. The thing that really gets me is the male regular commenter and his attitudes. Since politeness and discussion were obviously not the virtues that got him accepted there, what were? Toadying? Sticking extremely close to the "party line"? I mean, I could understand a blog with a comments policy that asked men to not involve themselves; lame but could be necessary, given the state of the world. But to jump all over (and ban) a man for engaging in discussion without such a policy bugs me. Maybe this is my lack of social skills, but I like to know the
I like polite dissent. I think it's the best way to learn things. Disagree with me? GREAT! If you can phrase the comment such that you avoid both ad hominem attacks and a snotty tone of voice, odds are I'll like talking to you, or at least consider you a worthy participant in debate. I don't want to be told that I'm so super at phrasing things, that I have the Best Ideas, any of that. It gets slimy real fast. And god knows I'm wrong often enough.
I'm now trying to nail something down -- what struck me as "toadying" there, when comments other places are often just as consistently positive and don't bother me? Maybe it was the exclamation marks. Or the sense of quota-meeting. I know that I do occasionally feel compelled to say a particular thing in a comment, and it comes across like that. (Just recently I asked somebody in lj about the user icon they had used, but felt like I had to add in birthday congratulations to the people named in the post so as not to be rude and off-topic. That kind of "compelled".) Maybe that was it -- the feeling of "to get this comment past moderation/approved by the other commenters/not flamed to shreds, I must say foo and avoid bar at all costs". The fact that total agreement means that after fifty comments nobody's learned anything more than after five, that no new points get made. (By this point I'm generalizing and no longer applying literally to the blog I was thinking of at first, in case anyone was getting offended.)
In short, I don't think it's really conversation if you're all saying the same thing.