Tablet Magazine could use either a quick lesson in geometry, or free comments

Tablet Magazine’s article about Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, “The Singapore Story is the Israel Story“, was published on March 25. Here’s a thing that it says:

When Singapore was voted out of Malaysia and had, in the words of Lee, “independence thrust upon it,” the country was weak and vulnerable to attack. It doesn’t take that large of an army to conquer a sliver of land roughly 270 square miles long.

This is the sort of elementary error — confusing area and length — students learn to avoid in elementary school. More importantly, it’s the sort of thing that often gets weeded out rather quickly through the magic of the internet, where readers become commenters who gleefully pounce on even the most minor sliver of factual error.

So I was surprised to spot something so objectively mistaken still available for correction four and a half days after publication. Until I scrolled down the comments to see if someone had already pointed it out but the editors just hadn’t gotten around to fixing things up.

The first thing I noticed: 0 comments.

The second thing I noticed: why.

Tablet Comments

I had never seen such a thing before, but do not have to draw on some deep reservoir of expertise to tell you this is a terrible idea.

$18 a month? I understand that number has some significance for Jews, but it’s $2 more than the New York Times charges monthly (sticker price) to read its content online. And Tablet wants you to pay that just for the privilege of commenting! As should be clear from the example above, commenters aren’t just helpful because they drive engagement and generate pageviews, but because they help publications with less-than-New Yorker fact-checking departments quickly correct any obvious and embarrassing mistakes.

I expect Tablet’s pay-to-comment policy to join those obvious and embarrassing mistakes, and disappear sooner rather than later — without the help of any commenters.

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