Archive for July 31st, 2007


Please, Everyone, Show Some Common Decency

July 31, 2007

Unfortunately, when the news broke that Chief Justice John Roberts fell ill today, some very ugly comments began to appear on a few lefty blogs.  The one that got the most attention was this one left on Wonkette:

Chief Justice John Roberts has died in his summer home in Maine. No, not really, but we know you have your fingers crossed. [Talking Points Memo]

I’d just like to state for the record that no matter how I feel about Mr. Roberts’ politics, this comment is way out of line.  This wasn’t a random user posting in the comments section either.  This was on the blog’s main page. 

Wonkette wasn’t alone, however.  Texas Rainmaker managed to capture this type of crap in the comments sections of DU, Crooks and Liars and The Huffington Post.  User comments are anonymous, of course, and could have been left by anyone, but it doesn’t diminish their ugliness.  

There has been quite a bit of talk lately about the level of hate that comes from the blogosphere.  I’ve noticed it myself, and I’ve also noticed a lot of finger-pointing going on over it.  It saddens me, and I wonder what effect it may have on the level of political discourse of this country.  So, I’d like to make an appeal to bloggers and netizens everywhere…

I’ve been around the blogs on all sides of the political spectrum long enough to know that this type of stuff comes from the left and the right.  Many will claim that the other side is more ‘hateful’ than their own (I see it ALL the time), and will try to prove it by grabbing comments from blogs when these little hate-fests occur, but I think in the end both ‘sides’ are equally to blame.  

The flaw in finger-pointing by cherry-picking from comments sections

If you think about it, using these “gotcha” comments like the ones Texas Rainmaker linked to can encourage mobys and impostors to “plant” offensive material. The phenomenon can snowball, as the more importance is placed on them, the more incentive there is for netizens to resort to that type of subversion. Eventually they become meaningless and only serve to taint legitimate political discourse.  What you wind up with is more of a mud-slinging contest than anything that could be considered productive debate.  That, and it doesn’t really prove anything.  (Of course, comments that appear on the main blog entry are different, which is why I pointed to Wonkette) 

Just so you know, I’m certainly not suggesting that all those comments about Roberts were ‘planted’ by people who wanted to make those blogs look bad, but there isn’t anything to stop someone from doing that.  I’m just pointing out that, in the big picture, the finger-pointing exercise itself is counterproductive.  It appears to be happening more frequently lately, too.

So, instead of finger-pointing, let’s agree to categorically condemn the hate (wishing death on someone, especially) whenever and wherever we see it via the comment sections.  Many bloggers already do this, but it wouldn’t hurt to encourage their deletion as well.  It shouldn’t seem like a novel concept. Perhaps I’m just dreaming. But…Maybe, just maybe, we can all tone it down a little.

Also see my post Comments Do Not Necessarily Reflect The Views Of…