What’s In A Comment Policy

Posted February 23rd, 2012 @ 7:20 AM by

Comments on Madison.com and the Isthmus thedailypage.com can often get rough. Harsh comments and personal attacks and name calling – mostly done anonymously – are common. Check out the differences in the comments on these two posts about the same thing and the difference in the commenting policy.

So, I got an email from a reporter apologizing to me for the comments on her blog post. I hadn’t read them, so I didn’t know what she was talking about. I started reading them while working on a campaign on primary day and got distracted by the campaign – but I pointed them out to someone else who read them for me and they said they were the “garden variety” attacks. Nothing unusual. Later, I read the comments out of curiosity.

In the comments I get called a dingbat, a scumbucket, irrelevant, a Progressive Dane thug, anti-american, idiotic, hysterical, nonsensical, perpetually offended, a blowhard, out of touch with reality, a sleezebag, useless, pathetic, crazy, etc. And I’m told to “get a life”, am accused of “using minorities”, remarks are made about me being fat, I’m asked to move to Germany or Alaska and there is a suggestion that we “Send Brenda on a one way ticket out of this country.”, told to wash my hair, my blog is called worthless, I’m asked to “move on”, there’s a comment about who is going to protect my “crazy a**”, apparently I think “the only public service that exists is to suck at the nipple of public benefits.” One person says “ha, ha” and hopes I’m reading the comments. And my personal favorite – One poster says “I would suggest we handover Brenda to the Taliban so that they can give her the Burqua treatment and make her invisible.”

Yeah, whatever. I’ve tolerated years of abuse by these posters and they are all anonymous so I don’t really care. Nothing they can say about me really matters. And when these haters and bullies use these kinds of tactics, whatever the content of their arguments are get completely lost and become irrelevant. I’ve developed a thick skin over the years and learned to ignore all that crap – it just distracts from the real work to be done.

Two things do bother me about this tho.

1. This could all be stopped. I think that people should be required to use a real name or email address. That is the comment policy at forwardlookout.com and any comments where people engage in name calling are deleted. The comments there are more civilized and on-topic, but I guess I did let one anonymous one slip through on that post.

2. It prevents good people from getting involved and speaking up. They are afraid of getting those kinds of comments. When I try to recruit candidates for local offices, one of the first issues they bring up is that they don’t want to be attacked like I have been. I try to convince them it won’t happen to them – that a strange set of circumstances created the political nightmare of “Brenda Konkel”. But I’m usually not that convincing. And, I think often elected officials are trying too hard to make sure they look “reasonable” so this doesn’t happen to them and they stay quiet. It simply prevents good people from getting involved. But then, that is the point. The bullies and haters don’t want people to get involved.

Comments on articles like that add nothing to the debate. They don’t contribute anything. They are, in fact, the “useless” part of this discussion. I think changing the commenting policies could really add to the public discourse and add to the stories that are written. Comments on my blog posts on my Facebook page are often the best and continue the debate and bring up new issues. I call facebook “thedailypage forum for adults”. There is just something about having to put your name on something that makes you act like a normal decent human being.

However, having said all that, I need to acknowledge that the anonymous comments are likely tolerated because they increase the hits to a website that they can then use to get advertisers to pay them money. And there we go – we’re back to advertising again.

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As a complete aside, but for the record and back on topic.

My father (the guy who died a homeless alcoholic) was in the military (Vietnam Era). Rob, my partner for the last 20 years, went into the military right out of high school to get out of town. My dear friend Joe Lindstrom (served in Iraq) went into the National Guard to pay for school. Rob’s brother-in-law was a marine. And my 21 year old niece is in the National Guard to pay for school. The recruiting tactics used in at least three of the situations I’m very familiar with were unscrupulous at best. And, when Rob talks with others who have been in the military, they sometimes swap stories about what they were promised, and what really happened. It’s a real issue. See Will Williams comments on my post. He knows better than I.

Also, I was on the Transit and Parking Commission when we reviewed the advertising policies in the mid-2000s. I’m intimately familiar with the polices and legal issues – and the all or nothing legal requirements of advertising on the buses. I’d go with nothing – its not worth it.

Categories: | Madison | Media

Forward Lookout's Comment Policy - use a real e-mail, if not an actual name. We don't share your e-mail with anyone.
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