Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Comments Are Closed

I don't do "comments" The few I get I publish or delete at my discretion. One is the issue of spam and the other is the problem with abuse. I get few and far between and that is fine as I don't do ads either on the blog so there is no metrics I need to support to maintain earnings. I have a donate button and I get zero, so that speaks volumes about my blog as well.

So why blog? I need to comment, to have a thought. I find that increasingly it has become difficult to have an opinion or a thought on any number of issues that I find important and this is my monologue to share what I have read and in turn my thoughts on the subject.

Do I care if someone agrees or more importantly disagrees. Well yes and no. I have said repeatedly to students that we all have the right to disagree with someone and not like them or still like them despite it but what we don't have the right to is insult or bring harm to them. There is a point where you be the person who just decides what matters most and as my mother said "going to jail doing the world a favor is pointless."

Now does it mean I avoid conflict? No, I just pick and choose when and how and more importantly why. I work to avoid the obvious the ad hominem attacks, the name calling or verbal abuse. I do however make my point clear and I am quite sarcastic. My favorite is to launch into a multi syllabic rant and then ask the individual is there something that they want from me other than that? Free lunch, my tears, me doing what that will satisfy them to the point that they feel they "won."

It becomes exhausting at the days end to constantly defend or deflect or ignore idiocy. I get it. I really do. But even I have found my limits of late. As I wrote in my blog post the Final Word, I have had enough barely 24 hours into the teaching strike. I truly think this issue is too complex, it becomes too personal and to divisive to elaborate into a 140 character sound bite that defines debate and discussion today. Also the lack of humor and the ability to laugh has turned every exchange into a labored effort of trying to explain the funny and when you have to explain humor it well isn't funny anymore.

But I am not against free speech and the issue that centers around many college campuses and the debates about social media the impact on people's lives and in turn censoring that form of expression. I do however think that there needs some moderation and in turn an adult in the room to stop the trolls and the abuse that anonymity provides. As I said in the final word the internet enables those to be who they really are and that is often very different than the public face. Again we have the right to privacy so maybe you should find a healthier outlet to be your "real self" than attacking people on the internet. And they are often called "trolls" but frankly the amount of comments alone tell me there are a lot of trolls. There are the hit and run trolls and the big truck driver trolls that endlessly comments and targets individuals in drive by shootings that never end. (My favorite are the trolls that have a blog and then publish comments to viciously attack and mock which makes trolling easier. Those are usually the "blawgs" of Attorneys which right there is very telling)

I try to point out that the physical comparison is walking up to anyone on the street and just punching them in the face for whatever reason you have decided with regards to something that person is doing annoys you. It takes the idea see something say something to a whole new level. See that fat person over there? Well walk up call them a fat fuck and punch them. See that gay man? Go up call him a faggot and walk away. But when you do that it is a hate crime so how is verbally abusing people online any different? And to tell me that you can manage to do that at home and not take that into real life is a hell of an ability to compartmentalize and I need no more proof to see the rise in shootings by kids over a brawl that began online. That said free speech is just that but if you really think that have the guts to say it to my face but that is the problem you wouldn't know my face and would not know me in a room of one. So there is safety in anonymity but also there is this inability to own your evil. And if you do really believe the shit you spew then you don't need to do it online you could do so in public with the idea that free speech is protected speech. But that is the real problem. We have long lost the ability to debate and exchange thoughts without it denigrating into a brawl.

There is agreeing to disagree and then there is what has become a verbal brawl on the internet. I do read comments but even after the last few days I could not tell the comment section of Gawker from that of NPR and that has to be two very different audiences. But one would not know by reading the comment section.

So I am not to read them? Well that and yet I find the New York Times comments to their articles well moderated or just the people who both read/comment on the Times site seem to feel that being articulate and mature is more important so they keep it to the point. I have learned quite a bit reading them and will continue to do so. They do it right there on every level. The Washington Post however, well it is not Reddit but it is often amusing and they have a block feature so it works quite well, all sites should have that. Twitter has it and it makes it useful, you would not believe the fisticuffs over the Real Housewives.

So when I read this piece in The Guardian and I think it nails it. You may not agree but you have the right to respectfully do so.

Not all comments are created equal: the case for ending online comments

The Guardian UK
Jessica Valenti

Wading into comments sections is like working a second shift where you willingly subject yourself to attacks from people you’ve never met

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m not fond of comments sections. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many female writers who are. On most sites – from YouTube to local newspapers – comments are a place where the most noxious thoughts rise to the top and smart conversations are lost in a sea of garbage.

There’s a reason, after all, that the refrain “don’t read the comments” has become ubiquitous among journalists. But if we’re not to read them, why have them at all?

I wasn’t always a comments-hater. When I started a feminist blog in 2004, I was thrilled to finally be able to talk with other young feminists online and was open to chatting with detractors. I saw the comments section as a way to destabilize the traditional writer/reader relationship – no longer did audiences need to consume an article without a true opportunity to respond. Comments even made my writing better those days; feedback from readers broadened the way I thought and sometimes changed my mind.

But as the internet and audiences grew, so did the bile. Now if feels as if comments uphold power structures instead of subverting them: sexism, racism and homophobia are the norm; threats and harassment are common. (That’s not even counting social media.)

For writers, wading into comments doesn’t make a lot of sense – it’s like working a second shift where you willingly subject yourself to attacks from people you have never met and hopefully never will. Especially if you are a woman. As Laurie Penny has written, “An opinion, it seems, is the short skirt of the internet. Having one and flaunting it is somehow asking an amorphous mass of almost-entirely male keyboard-bashers to tell you how they’d like to rape, kill and urinate on you.” The problem is so bad that online harassment is a keynote subject this year at the Online News Association conference.

My own exhaustion with comments these days has less to do with explicit harassment – which, at places like the Guardian, is swiftly taken care of. (Thank you, moderators!) Rather, it’s the never-ending stream of derision that women, people of color and other marginalized communities endure; the constant insistence that you or what you write is stupid or that your platform is undeserved. Yes, I’m sure straight, white, male writers get this kind of response too – but it’s not nearly as often and not nearly as nasty.

I don’t much understand the appeal of comments for readers either. Outside of the few places that have rich and intelligent conversation in comments, what is the point of engaging in debate where the best you can hope for are a few pats on the back from strangers for that pithy one-liner? Isn’t that what Facebook or Twitter is for?

Seriously: when tech news website Re/code shut down its comments section last year, editors cited the growth of social media as one reason for the decision: “The bulk of discussion of our stories is increasingly taking place there, making onsite comments less and less used and less and less useful.”

Comments sections also give the impression that all thoughts are created equal when, well, they’re not. When Popular Science stopped publishing comments, for example, it was because “everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again...scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to ‘debate’”. When will we see the humanity and dignity of women as a fact, rather than an opinion?

It’s true, I could just stop reading comments. But I shouldn’t have to. Ignoring hateful things doesn’t make them go away, and telling women to simply avoid comments is just another way of saying we’re too lazy or overwhelmed to fix the real problem.

Websites and news sources are increasingly moving forward without comments because they find them unnecessary and counterproductive. In my perfect world, more places would follow their lead – at least until publishers find lasting solutions to making comments worth it. Worth it for readers and for writers. Because the nastiness on our doorstep has piled too high for too long, and I just want to get out of the house.

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