This post originally appeared in byoolin's trebuchet, another blog in which I write, in July 2009.
Like many other newspapers' websites, my town's local fishwrap, Wheeling's Intelligencer & News-Register, allows its readers to comment on many articles on its website. The site's Terms of Service say that the comment feature is “provided to give users an interesting and stimulating forum to express their opinions and share ideas and information.”
“It is a condition of your use of these Services,” say the Terms, that people don't, among other things, use “vulgar, profane, abusive, hateful or racist language or expressions” or make “attacks of a personal, racial or religious nature” or “post any material that is threatening, false, defamatory, misleading, fraudulent, unfair, and inaccurate... [or] is unreasonably harmful or offensive to any individual, community, association, business or group.”
It's a system that works, except when it doesn't, which is usually. You know that old saying that opinions are like assholes – everybody's got one? The News-Register's comments section seems to be on a single-minded quest to tip that balance. Now, a lot of news (and other) websites have comments sections that seem to be populated mostly by people who have checked their good manners at the door. But the News-Register's comments are different. The comments on nearly every story seem to rapidly and rabidly devolve into demonstrations of who can be the most puerile and juvenile. How juvenile, you ask?
Well, here's user “EllisWyatt” implying that “GymJones” is a homosexual voyeur in response to GymJones calling him gay and “a little whiny c-u-n-t” (the hyphens are there to defeat the Dirty Word Filter) during an interesting and stimulating discussion of some local steelworkers being recalled from layoffs.
Elsewhere, “AlexanderShulgin” adds a non-journalist's perspective to a story about poor weather during the local Jamboree In The Hills music festival: “Tit bit nipply,” he remarks, expanding upon his own earlier comment - “Let’s see some t i t i e s [sic]” - on another story about the Jamboree.
“WVUGator2” agrees with EllisWyatt that a fire at a local country club “is a classic example of Jewish Lighning [sic],” - arson as an implement of insurance fraud - in part because “we all know Moondog could not get his bike up Route 88.” Moondog, a bit of a local celebrity, is known for riding a bicycle that flies a very large flag. Were it not for the difficulty in riding that bike up the very steep hill, Moondog, an African-American, would seem to be high on WVUGator2's list of suspects.
On the healthcare issue, “conservsquatch” says GymJones is both incestuous and a pedophile: “Gymjones does his mother. He also still touches little boys,” while “Truthseeker” believes many of the commenters “enjoy kicking puppies and kittens.”
Commenting on another healthcare story, “Highland” postulated that “[President] Obama will shut down any hospital that refuses to perform abortions,” prompting “acousticportal” to riposte in customary fashion, “Highland...are you really that ignorant? f-n blind follower.”
When a nearby school board announced the appointment of a principal to a new position after allegations of harrassment had been made against him, EllisWyatt suggested that county voters were “morons,” prompting shastacooper to call him “truly, truly the VILLAGE IDIOT.” Then, when “All4One” lamented the lack of civility in the comments to that point, COACH1 seemed to imply that All4One was a corrupt crony of the former principal, which in turn prompted Honeybun to speculate that COACH1 “may have been getting some special favors from” said former principal.
So, the News-Register's comment pages are home to a pretty sad-sack bunch of intemperate, insulting, homophobic, vitriolic, foul-mouthed, xenophobic, intolerant, petty, vindictive, rude and libelous people, and the Wheeling Intelligencer & News-Register seems unable or unwilling to do anything about it. Maybe its editors just have a different definition of “an interesting and stimulating forum.”