The Poisonous Comment Snake

The comment snake

I just read this phat piece by Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian and found myself nodding a “Hell yeah” in agreement. Freedland really nailed the problem with comment sections on blogs, news articles and nearly everywhere else online, and I’m in full agreement that a set of orderly online debate rules would be nice.

I can’t remember the last time I read a full comments thread on a large-scale news blog or media website, as the instant I see “144 comments” at the end of a piece, I know I’m going to wander headlong into a vitriolic swamp that I’d rather avoid. The people who “win” these kind of debates are usually those most willing to spend hours at work hitting F5 and typing out “Go crawl back in your liberal/Zionist/fascist/terrorist/Fox News hole and die a slow death.” Every publication at which I’ve worked gets loads of this in e-mail format each day as well, often fired off with no name. Yet nearly 100% of the time that I’ve responded to these irate people in a polite fashion, I get an apologetic e-mail back. So yes, commenter: you did know it was wrong to address somebody in the illest way, and when you were called on it, you knew better.

While you can’t force people to use a real name when commenting, I’m of the belief that those who spew awful venom without using their real name should be shunned by other commenters. It shouldn’t be an official policy of websites to block people from using anonymous handles, because as Freedland points out, sometimes this really does allow for real-life freedom that wouldn’t occur otherwise. (And I mean the good, democratic kind, the type they don’t have in Egypt or China.) But if you’re a Westerner living in a free society, you need to accept the fact that actions have consequences, and that freedom of speech isn’t freedom from irate reaction. Our democracy runs on both freedom AND order.

If you want to throw bombs at other people that don’t address the subject of their arguments, man up and use your real name.

Say word.

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7 Responses to “The Poisonous Comment Snake”

  1. word

  2. Just noticed you were back. Slick site, man. Although I miss the skulls.

  3. While I can understand that people want others to man up and use their own names, there is a reason someof us have created online personalites. Security. Being a fairly liberal minded person living in a very red part of MD, I find when I am on local blogs defending my positions I get threatened. And these people live around here. If they knew who I was they would be at my door. Have I said inflammatory things, sure after being called just about everything racist and bigoted you can think of. I used to write editors tot he letter that were in total idsagreement with ideology of a majority fo the folks around here and i got harrassed all the time. In the gorcery store, at work and most creepy at the daycare where my child was. And this is becasue I am a Democrat and not much else. I would hate to see if I was gay what would happen. Still Historical Wit came to be to protect my family. For reference, check out any of the local blogs on my webpage.

  4. Welcome back! I get your point and think accountability can be a good thing. However. There are people who blog about personal things – like their efforts to get pregnant, living with HIV, etc. And those people may be in the public eye, work, and may not have told people outside of their families about their health issues. Should I be able to Google my boss’s name and find out that his toddler may have epilepsy because his name pops up in comments? I don’t think so.

    I don’t WANT my name to show up in a Google search (and it doesn’t). And NOBODY at work knows the term “Green Yogurt” which is just how I want things.

  5. Crawl back into your liberal elite hole…

    Posted by Craig | April 20th, 2007 at 3:03 pm
  6. Also I think it is stupid that you have to note that the views expressed are yours and not those of your employers. I mean really. No shit. Independent people should be able to make comments and not have to claim their independence. I would be different if this was a company sponsored blog etc. What pisses me off more, is when a podcast for example, states that the views expressed are not those of the company sponsoring the podcast. I think by sponsoring something directly, not an advertiser, but something like the “Vanguard financial podcast”, that the company does have some responsibility. Not really on topic, but anyway.

    Posted by Craig | April 20th, 2007 at 3:08 pm
  7. Blog muscles!

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