As regular readers may be aware, I generally don’t respond to comments on my posts here. In fact, I don’t generally read comments, finding that it is not a very productive use of what little spare time I have available.
I do, however, dip my toes into those murky waters from time to time, and I have years of experience reading and responding to comments on my own blog (until I finally decided I had had enough and stopped allowing comments). I do, therefore, know a fair bit about the nature of commenting on a family law blog.
Recently, as some may have noticed, I have been making a modest effort to read some of the comments on my posts here, and even respond to a few. It has not been a very uplifting experience, akin (and now I’m showing my age) to listening to an old vinyl record that keeps skipping back a groove, repeating the same phrase over and over.
Only this particular phrase, which I seem to come across in about 90 per cent of the comments I read, is not exactly musical. It repeats the same mantra endlessly – that the family justice system generally, and the family courts in particular, is/are corrupt and biased against men and fathers.
And it doesn’t matter whether that mantra is relevant to the subject matter of the post commented upon. Often it is not, or at best only by some tenuous link. I swear I could write a post here about the merits of the Queen’s Gambit as a chess opening, and someone would come on to comment about how the opening was an example of prejudice against men, part of the conspiracy of corruption and bias emanating from our family justice system.
Look, contrary to what some may believe, I am not unsympathetic. I know that the system can fail fathers. In fact, I probably knew that long before most of the present commenters ever came into contact with the system. I well remember, for example, a case back in the 1980s when I was not yet (or newly) qualified, in which a partner in my firm was acting for a father who was being denied contact with his daughter. I had a few dealings with the case myself, whilst the partner was away. Sadly, the father had some issues with depression, which the mother mercilessly used against him. In fact, there was no good reason why he should not see his daughter. I recall in particular an occasion whilst I was looking after the case that the father suggested to me, only half-jokingly, that he might take his own life. In the end he lost contact with his daughter, despite having excellent representation, and he did take his life. It was an absolute tragedy, and it struck me then that the system had failed both him and his daughter.
So I ‘get it’. As I said, I probably ‘got it’ long before most commenters here did. I also got that there were no easy fixes, and that means that now, thirty years later, some fathers are still being failed, although I like to believe that lessons have been learned and that the failure rate is less than it was back then.
But to suggest over and over that the system fails all fathers, or even the majority of fathers, is both wrong and unhelpful. It will deter many fathers from cooperating with the system. And cooperation is, like it or not, the best way to achieve what they want.
Constantly repeating the mantra is also extremely tedious, and is likely to be a turn-off to many ‘neutral’ readers, and those looking for a serious discussion relevant to the topic or topics raised in the post. No one wants to keep reading the same thing again and again. Repeating the same thing does not make it true.
Don’t get me wrong: like most bloggers, I like to receive relevant and interesting comments, irrespective of whether or not they agree with the views I express in my posts. Sensible, polite, discussion is healthy, and to be encouraged. However, the worth of a blog post is not measured by the number of comments it receives, so I would happily rather receive no comments than twenty comments that are not relevant, or that repeat the same point made many times previously.
I’m sure some of the commenters genuinely believe that they have been badly treated by the family justice system, although others no doubt are jumping on the bandwagon. I guess what I am asking for is an improvement in the level of debate. By all means join the discussion, but keep it relevant and tap that turntable so that the stylus moves to a new groove once in a while!