Monday, August 13, 2007

Too far!

I am not against debate and discussion of different viewpoints. In fact, I like nothing better than for someone who believes differently on a particular issue to explain their thought processes behind why they have come to the belief that they hold.

But what I do not enjoy is a person explaining their beliefs using hatred and cliched stereotypes as the "facts" of their beliefs.

In other words, I am all in favor of thoughtful discussion of all sides of an issue with the ultimate goal being a greater understanding of all viewpoints. For me, the goal of a debate isn't to convert someone to "my way" of thinking, but to understand them and hopefully, have them understand me.

We don't have to agree, merely respect each other's right to have a different opinion. And many times discover that there isn't really that much difference in our opinions at all.

And for this reason, I am very sad to find myself in a quandary. The local newspaper, the Post-Courier, has an on-line version, Charleston.net. Recently, they added a comments section to the news stories they printed on-line.

Sounded great. Discussion of local and national stories by the public.

But as is all too common in on-line and anonymous discussion, it has devolved into a morass of ugliness and ignorance.

Here, for an example, is a comment that was made on a story about low income housing:

Posted by NN on August 12, 2007 at 3:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

ooooooo lordy, shirley! go puts da pig feet, cornbread and chitlens in da bean pot fo suppa! we gots us a new house!


Okay, I see the little button for "suggest removal" and I'm pretty sure that the powers to be at Charleston.net will remove this little gem as soon as possible.

But here is the question I have. Would this person have made this comment in those words if, like letters to the editor, he or she had to post them under their real name? I think not. I think he or she would have thought up a less inflammatory way to say that he or she does not support tax payer assistance for low income housing.

As a Charlestonian, I am embarrassed for my community that this is allowed to stand for even a moment in a public forum. Not only a local public forum, but one in which anyone anywhere with a computer can access.

My quandary? This blog is listed on the Lowcountryblogs, which is a part of the Charleston.net. I have written a letter to the Public Editor, expressing my concerns about the anonymous practice of comments. I am sure I am not the only person who is concerned about the tone the comments sections have taken.

I hope I will hear something positive back from the editor.

4 comments:

Pam said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you. For the first time recently I read a comment thread on Charleston.net, and I was simply appalled. I had no idea that it was going on - and essentially with full support of the P&C (not the content, but the comments). I support public input - but geez, it was just offensive stuff. I've been thinking about pulling out too, so thanks for the food for thought on this one.

Oh - and I love the kitten pics with the captions. They're great.

Uncle Zoloft said...

Dear JL,
With such an abundance of ignorance in South Carolina it is a shame to have to see you leave the Blogroll. Even though we may want to pull our hair out with some of the comments made - someone has to speak back at them.
Elsa is the P&C's shill. If you'll notice the P&C is never wrong in any of the actions they take. I have see this time and again and actually been thrown under the bus by her and one of her editors in print.
Being a Damn Yankee when I see a comment, like the one referred to my reaction is: Get your head out of your butt and you a$$ into the 21st century - usually on the comment section... and then a war of words begins which I fight until my head is numb from banging my against the keyboard.
Keep on posting girlfriend - you've been bookmarked on my computer for a long time and will remain so.
An aside: I got into a very heated chat debate on the City Paper Blog and will admit I had to use some very inappropriate language to make my point.

Heather said...

Uncle Z,
I don't believe it is the language that is the problem. I think the problem is the unmoderated nature of the commentary. While flame wars create hits initially they devolve into a cesspool that most rational people avoid. At this point the comments are like anonymous graffiti on a bathroom wall. Occasionally you'll find a witty gem, but typically it's trash.

JanetLee said...

Thanks for the kind words, Pam and Uncle Z.

Heather, you are right, but the comments are no longer graffiti on the bathroom walls, but feces.