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Internet commenters can be a distasteful crowd
[May 30, 2010]

Internet commenters can be a distasteful crowd

May 30, 2010 (Culpeper Star-Exponent - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- If you've dared to step into the world of blogging, it's no secret that civil discourse and reason have long since melted away, just like this winter's record snowfall.

Regardless if you like to post your online comments at, another news site or elsewhere on places like YouTube, I've found that a cadre of cruel and unusual creatures -- online bloggers -- often populate each site.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a blog is short for weblog, a tool that allows online viewers of a news story, video clip, photo or anything else, to respond with a written comment of their own. On some sites, bloggers can also post links to other websites or video clips along with the written comments. Bloggers are rarely required to include their real name with online postings and can easily hide behind a handle, an online nickname.

I'm directing my attention in this rant to news-related blogs. To me, blogging on social media sites like Facebook is different.

Don't misunderstand -- news blogs have good points. Bloggers keep the media accountable, even on the smallest details. It allows those directly or indirectly involved in a story to informally become part of the story. The blogosphere reaction can become a story unto itself.

But often, I think the negative aspects overshadow the positive. The anonymous nature of many online forums devalues the overall dialogue. It drives people to say things they normally wouldn't if the world actually knew who they were.

Blogs can also birth a petty and ruthless climate that drives away the still, small voices of reason. And it's also no secret that online forums can facilitate threats or even actual violence in real life. Anyone with a computer and a vendetta can get 15 minutes of fame.

I'm sure many people can remember when engaging in casual public discourse required participants to be civil, thoughtful and calculated. It's a shame those days have disappeared.

So if you're new to the blogosphere, before jumping in, I'd like to warn you who to watch out for online: Schadenfreude Sam: Taking immense delight in pointing out any typos or other inadvertent errors committed by anyone, no matter how small, Sam stands ready to pounce. The news writers, editors and other bloggers are frequent targets. Somehow, they seem to miss the mistakes in their own comments.

Expert Eric: No matter the subject, Eric knows more about it than anyone else, and he won't hesitate to let you know.

Alvin the Analyzer: He's the only one qualified to offer insight on why the story is important to the community. Never mind that he's not actually involved in anything positive in the community.

Vicariously Vindictive Vicki: If a story runs about a child or animal being hurt, she's ready to personally hunt down the accused to dispense summary justice. For her, there is no other side of the story, and anyone who suggests otherwise is a target too. Perhaps she's never needed the benefit of the doubt.

Miserable Missy: This person can't wait for traditional media outlets to die off. To her, it's no surprise the corporate media machine is in crisis, because the fourth estate is all run by idiots with no regard for anyone or anything. Besides, who needs training, support and skills when anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can publish the news? That's all it takes right? Last Word Larry: It doesn't matter to him that the story is already a month old and the rest of the world has moved on -- he will have the last word, so help him God, before the story drops off the radar.

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