Somewhere along the way, modern media managers have determined that readers of their product should be able to comment on what they have read. This interactive capability has awakened a species of human that has lain dormant since its previous life of tar and feathering and burning at the stake. In its current incarnation, it is generically known as a blogger.
I have personally felt the wrath of these camouflaged snipers several times in my career as a journalist. The vile odium hurled by these veiled posters left me defenseless, as most other public figures are after their assault. Hiding behind anonymous screen names, these masked dart-throwers spewed enough online toxin to rival the BP oil poisoning of the Gulf. To attempt to engage, dialogue or rationalize with them is fruitless. Like a defendant in a kangaroo court, or the protagonist in a Kafka novel, the person in the box is guilty without discussion.
Why do reputable owners and editors encourage these foul after-story comments by unidentified gunslingers? The only benefit is derived by the arousal of the sick authors of this tripe, much like the arsonist returning to the scene of his crime getting turned on by witnessing the devastation he has caused.
This is not to castigate the entire blogging universe. Some blogs have deservedly become a legitimate part of the journalism landscape, contributing ideas, opinion and provoking thought. These blogs are written by people who know how to write, have been trained or trained themselves in the art of combining words cogently and proportionately to make a point, and are personally accountable for their work product. To them, writing is a craft, wherever the venue.
But blogs posted by people who simply have a computer, Internet access and a need for therapy are the dregs of that universe. They are the bloggers with nothing of good to say about anything or anybody. A cure for cancer could be reported and the reader comments written by these keyboard cutthroats would castigate the scientist who discovered the cure, blame the liberals for causing cancer in the first place, and warn that it is probably a hoax perpetrated by some anti-American sympathizers linked to the Obama administration.
I would suggest that responsible media owners and managers re-evaluate the current policy of publishing unfiltered blog posts on their websites. No responsible journalist files a story using an anonymous source. Letter writers must verify their identity for their comments to be published. Likewise, editors and publishers should insist that comments posted on their websites be attributed or otherwise rejected.
The reasoning behind the trend of reputable electronic and print newspapers to solicit unsigned reaction to stories baffles me. The concept is as oxymoronic as Peyton Manning asking Pacman Jones for life coaching.
Soapbox spouting is an age-old tradition. But one can see the person standing on the soapbox. Calling in to radio talk shows has become a part of the media spectrum. But callers are screened prior to offering their comments. And while hecklers at rallies are often disruptive, they are visible and identifiable. The bloggers in question here are more akin to graffiti scribblers than to any form of legitimate protester.
Oh! I hear it coming: First Amendment rights!
Of course I recognize that these idiots have a right to say what they are posting. Their free speech is a given. Without question they have the right to dumb down a well-crafted, well-researched and skillfully reported news story or commentary with their imbecilic follow-up.
My fault lies not with the gorillas but with the trainers who dangle raw meat outside their unlocked cages. The current open-door policy contributes nothing toward the public’s need and right to know except to further incite the growing national malady of anger and hostility.