Sunday, July 7, 2013

A journalistic dilemma

     So here's a journalistic dilemma you can comment on in real time. Usually, the comments are shut off after my column, because it's a full-time job to kick the wackos off -- not my call, the paper's. But today's piece on Muslim prayer and Ramadan (posted below) is not a column, it's an article, and the comments section is in full cry, from haters and head cases, denouncing both Muslims ("Muslim = Terrorist") and myself (drunk, wife-beater).
     My first thought was to ask the paper to take the hurtful remarks down -- why should Muslims, reading a nice piece about their big holiday, be subjected to this poisonous spew?
     But then I considered: Muslims certainly know those sentiments are out there, and maybe even common. This isn't news to them. So maybe it isn't they who are really being shielded, but we, non-Muslim readers, who would prefer not to gaze at the nauseating bigotry of our fellows.
     So I thought, "best to leave it up. Let 'em look at it."
     This problem is nothing new -- more and more news sites shut off comments, because people are vile will ridicule a 6-year-old hit by a bus. But these comments are up, at least for now, and leaving them up is a conscious journalistic decision. Right call? Wrong call? What do you think?


  1. Right call. Why perpetuate the myths these same people live with that we live in a "post racial" society or, more likely, that the only real racism/prejudice is anti-white?

  2. I can't help but thiink: leave them. If they were commenting this way about Jews, I'd want all to see the kinds of people we have to tolerate. Perhaps reply to them, if you have that kind of stamina, but let all see who our neighbors are.

  3. Leave the comments. What these cowards behind a keyboard don't seem to grasp is that they are EXACTLY like the Muslims they claim to despise. Fundies are fundies, no matter which god they follow.

  4. I'm with the others; leave them up. I would prefer the vileness be transparent so others can witness -- and mock -- the hate. Those that do not condone the hatred need to understand what they are really up against.

  5. This is difficult. I believe we learn, grow, and "get over" our discomfort towards topics by discussing them. However, internet message boards seem heavily dominated by extreme comments that little represent an actual discussion. If all of these folks were in a room together the discourse may get heated or emotional but would ultimately look and sound quite different.

    For some reason the anonymous nature of commenting on the internet brings out the worst in many people. This makes the comments and conversation below an article of little value in my opinion. With all of that said, however, I still feel it is the right call to sustain the opportunity to comment. It somehow feels consistent with freedom of speech guidelines and perhaps the few genuine/positive comments will hold an impact on one or two individuals. If one positive connection or progressive revelation is made through all the negativity existing there then maybe some value is retained.

  6. First thought: Rather than removing the bigoted comments, what if they were struck through in their entirety? It could act as an editorial anti-highlighter.

    It would indicate that there had been some editorial decision that the comment added no value to the discussion -- and make those valueless comments easy to identify and skip -- but would allow them to remain as a testament to human crappiness.

    Just an initial thought,
    -- MrJM

    Note: Ironically enough, commenters can't use the HTML code for "strike" in this site's comments.

  7. @Mr. JM -- I like that, though it does presume the presence of an editor leisurely striking through certain remarks. The key to keep in mind is that newspapers today, more and more, live in environments of extreme austerity, where paying salaries to staff is considered Byzantine luxury.

  8. Now that we've decided that the comments should stay up, it seems the paper has taken them down (either that, or the site won't load). Which certainly is the path of least resistance.

    1. I guess that leaves it up to you to tell "the rest of the story".

  9. Too bad I missed them, I like when they are not anonymous. I rather know who the odd balls are.

  10. If a blogmaster wants to have commenting community then the wackos should be deleted. But the blogmaster must be even handed about deleting wackos. I have seen bigotry (including name calling and character assassination) from some liberals/progressives directed at the Roman Catholic Church, conservative leaders, and conservatives generally.

  11. BTW:

    One indicium of being a wacko is the use of profanity when commenting.

  12. @Jerry -- of course, I'm not sure that standard holds on a blog called "everygoddamnday." So far, I've not had to delete anything anybody says -- perhaps knowing that I will keeps people in line. The first day I vetted all remarks, but Eric Zorn said I'll get feistier exchanges if I don't, so now I only vet remarks on older posts, since I don't always check those. So far, it's working. Is it not?

  13. But now I am perplexed. We have this nifty new toy –“profanity” – “goddamn” – for example.

    It is wrong to use it as an adjective with respect to Muslims, Roman Catholics, Democrats, Republicans, President Obama, President George W. Bush, Neil Steinberg, and JerryB.

    But it O.K. to use “goddamn” with respect to “days,” the weather, and mosquitos.

    But this is like having a million dollar food voucher that can only be spent on tofu and oatmeal that one will personally eat.

    Sounds cool to me. Just saying.

  14. You don't sound perplexed to me -- I think you've limned the situation nicely.

  15. With respect to the “goddamn” title of the blog I thought Steinberg wanted to be artistically transgressive. After all he posted:

    [I like the title because it reflects the relentlessness of life. Existence comes at you, like a defensive lineman in a football game, ready to slam your teeth into the grass, and you have to somehow slide around him and get where you want to go. Again and again and again. Every day. Every goddamn day. I like the word because it's a filter -- if it upsets you, then maybe, rather than complaining to me -- who wrote the thing, remember -- you should consider whether you are in the right place. Because I'm not writing this for people who passionately dislike it -- I'm writing it for people who enjoy this kind of thing, and if you don't, well, why not go find something you do enjoy? Assuming that such a thing exists.]

    But now if I limned things correctly – as Steinberg asserts – the use of profanity on this blog is not transgressive but merely trivial.

    But I do find the pose of transgression amusing. Thus I have no gripes but merely an amused observation.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.