Posted by User, Raged At By Me

Two-way communication and feedback capabilities have been delivered by the big tent of the ubiquitous ‘comments’ section – only to be bastardized by what I surmise to be hack political staffers and unbelievably stupid people.

The intention is, no doubt, community-minded. News isn’t for the elite! The opinions of everyday people are important!

We may have failed to take into account that the opinions of the type of everyday people who want to share thier opinions tend to manifest as useless, overly-personalized and incorrectly-spelled brainsludge.

As evidence, I refer you to a comment-accusation on this CBC story that the RCMP is mired in “sexual Inendo” and “inappropriate behavior becoming of a police officer.” (Those are real cut-and paste quotes. Seriously. Sic. Sic. Sic.)

Is this human actually representative of the average person?

Rules of thumb that should be but shouldn’t need to be disclaimed at the top of the comments box include prohibitions against:

– So-called evidence that the health care system is falling apart because you knew a woman who had a friend who went in to the hospital with a cold and died;

– The use of the words “communist,” “socialist” and “fascist” unless you’ve properly studied their definitions and are capable of applying them without silliness or shenanigans; and

– Old-man observations which purport to contribute to serious discussions, like “the weather is colder now than it was when I was a kid,” as a comment on climate change.

Exhibit B is a little more tricky.

Notes that seem to indicate, for example, that Stephen Harper is a real everyman who has put Canada on the right track, I submit, have a stench.

That reek is a dead giveaway for unashamedly embattled political staffers. Their mammalian imitation is obvious.

So, no, soccermom1981, I don’t believe it’s actually the case that you weren’t sure you were going to give Harper your vote until he vowed to scrap the gun registry so now you just know he’s the man to move this country forward.

Nor is that a logical comment under an article on another party’s leadership race.

Alas, online news outfits are now a twisted ensemble of real journalists on top (who think about trifling little things like research, interviews, balance and objectivity – even when they don’t get it right) and the ever-stretching bike spandex of the comments sections – one leg crammed full of unfounded and misspelled moronicisms and the other, sausage-like, with clawing hacks vying for your love for their bosses and ideologies.

And, yes, the irony of posting this to a blog (no less, with comments allowed) has dawned on me.

15 thoughts on “Posted by User, Raged At By Me”

  1. Too bad you didn’t post under your own name, McD, but you do sound familiar…

    I’m surprised that you’re surprised about the quality of feedback in “comments” sections. Unlike newspapers, which edit letters for length, grammar, spelling, etc., the internet gives free rein to anyone with the ability to type (if not spell) and to click a mouse. Many who avail themselves of this freedom expose their shortcomings in language and logic usage, and this is to be expected. Is it to be restricted, as per your list of prohibitions? No. Even the people you despise for their stumblings and fumblings have a right to their say. As to the political ops, they write letters to the editor, too, and these as well as internet comments should be published. Why? The reason should be obvious.

    If reading all the stuff you hate so much is raising your blood pressure, stop reading.

  2. My good friend McDuckling is a brand new blogger (though she did write a piece in our post- federal election issue under her previous super hero name, Rubber McDuckling). So if you know her, it’s not from here.

    (Unless she’s been posting under a different pen name in the comments section previously).

    McDuckling also has a Bonus Column in tomorrow’s issue. It’s pretty good, I think.

  3. Hello, Stephen; long time no hear.
    The Bonus Column had better be better than this rant, because frankly, my dear, pd is becoming known more for its bitching and ranting than for reportage.

  4. Hello, Barb! I was on a secret mission. Might share a photo or two tomorrow.

    Bonus Columns aren’t reporting so I don’t know if you’ll like McDuckling’s. We’ll see!

    We will continue to strive to achieve the perfect balance of ranting, bitching and reporting.

  5. I’d just prefer to see less ageism, less classism, less disdain for those not as well educated, less intolerance for others’ opinions, and altogether less of a totalitarian mindset.

  6. The ol’ Harlan Ellison quote seems appropriate to nail up here: “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

  7. Having been a Harlan Ellison fan for years, I’m not blind to the fact that he has a towering ego and picks fights with everyone he thinks less of – which is nearly everyone – so his remarks need to be taken in that context.
    In the area of moderating comments, newspapers have begun stuffing the djinn back in the bottle, but only in the traditional areas (libel, foul language, inappropriateness to the topic, etc.). I’d be concerned if they moderated for what is being described here as ignorance, because other commentators take the opportunity to correct comments they disagree with; this is part of democratic discussion.

  8. Comments on many website blogs are moderated, but in some cases – especially that of the CBC – the volume of items to be reviewed overwhelms the one or two staff members in Toronto who do this job. These people rely on others to report items that constitute ‘abuse’, but they simply do not have time to read every comment that comes in prior to posting it, let alone after posting it.

    I know this because in my workplace we questioned whether some comments placed on articles were libellous, and the posting policy was explained to us. Do not expect the host of the blog to pre-edit the comments if you are commenting on a large media outfit’s website(s).

    One thing that has been tried in the past to improve the quality of posted comments is asking people to use their names when posting. However, sometimes there are legitimate reasons for someone not to use one so this method is not used as much as it used to be. As long as there is a working email address attached to the message, the posting can be accepted.

    If you want to improve the quality of posts, post higher-quality messages yourself. And that means re-reading and editing the post for spelling, grammar and logical errors.

  9. Fair points Barb, but I think we’re on the cusp of opening up many possible protracted discussions, from which I may have to prematurely resign.

    However:

    1) Remarks taken in particular contexts: personally, I think that particular quote is fair game to divorce from the author’s behaviour. It still makes ontological sense, even without knowing about Ellison’s pricklishness (or prickishness, if one wishes to go so far).

    2) Personally, I’d be happier if we lived in a world that valued education to a higher degree, and within that imparted greater virtue towards civics, rhetoric and writing ability. I would love to see a direct correlation between such an admitted fantasy land and the level of discourse in comments sections. I don’t want to agree with everything that I read, but I do want to clearly understand where the writer is coming from, and that the writer has indeed put some thought and rigour into his or her reasoning rather than inchoate rage, or churlish sarcasm strictly for its own sake. So yes, my proposed solution for cleaning up comments is preventative and wildly unrealistic. Dare to dream.

  10. Like you, Brett, I have other claims on my time, but if I may:
    – I think who a person is and what (s)he says are significantly linked; I have little use for J.J. Rousseau’s pronouncements on childrearing because he fathered numerous children and abandoned them all over Europe. I’m as free to make this assessment as you are to ignore same.
    – I’m afraid that your dream, as admirable as it is on the surface, excludes many First Nations people, as well as folks with dyslexia, ADHD, brain injury, etc. Sometimes the standards you’d like to set cannot be achieved by certain individuals. Do we ban them frm social discourse? Not if you’re a democrat or just a decent person.

  11. Quick response:

    1) Hence, my qualifying it as a personal thought. Now, on to watching my Polanski movies whilst listening to Wagner…

    2) To reiterate, and perhaps to clarify: “…the writer has indeed put some thought and rigour into his or her reasoning rather than inchoate rage, or churlish sarcasm strictly for its own sake.” Ergo, my aim was to point out that these would in an ideal world not be the motivating goal for discourse (much like how jokingly yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre is widely considered an abuse of free speech.) I’m not sure how any person who first and foremost makes a sincere effort at attempting to be understood would be seen as failing to meet even your rather wide interpretation of my fantasy standard (fantastandard? Hey, I’ve coined something!)

  12. Quicker and shorter:
    (1) I didn’t disagree. Enjoy the Luftwaffe soundtrack…
    (2) Sometimes it’s difficult to tell struggling but sincere from inchoate. McDuckling makes no such effort.

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