Does the internet encourage ignorance?

I’ve always wondered if someone would ever write an article about website comment boards.  I saw this article today in the Los Angeles Times about how internet message boards seem to encourage the worst in folks.  I have seen this all over the internet.   On newspaper sites, blogs, celeb message boards, etc., people let the whole world know how racist, sexist and ignorant they can be.

Website comment boards bring out the inner vulgarian

Despite its power to inform and connect people across cultures and time zones, the Internet all too often discourages, or coarsens, a healthy civic discussion.

By James Rainey
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The Washington Post published a smart, thorough takedown Wednesday of the baseless charge that Barack Obama spurned a visit with wounded troops because he couldn’t turn the trip into a public relations coup.

Reporters Michael D. Shear and Dan Balz showed that Obama never planned to take the media to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, putting the lie to charges from John McCain that the Democrat was on the prowl for a cheap photo op.

After reading the Post story online, I ventured to the adjoining public comment board to see how the public was receiving news about the bogus McCain attack. I shouldn’t have bothered.

By midafternoon Wednesday, the washingtonpost.com forum had been flooded with nearly 1,400 messages. A few ventured toward rational discussion of Obama and his overseas travels, but the forum also overflowed with ignorance, profanity, impertinence and racism.

It was just one message board attached to a single story. But it provided unfortunate proof that, despite its power to inform and connect people across cultures and time zones, the Internet all too often discourages, or coarsens, a healthy civic discussion.

It’s hard to say from the few minutes I could stomach of the online forum which of the anonymous contributors deserved the award for Most Offensive.

It might have been Daman1, who described Obama as a backer of Kwanzaa and called the annual celebration of African heritage “a made-up holiday to celebrate the first time Dr. J dunked from the foul line.”

Or perhaps the top offender might have been Dianne72, who complained about “the ‘whitey’ rants of Michelle Shaniqua Obama. Doesn’t she realize that it was whitey’s affirmative action policies that got her where she is today?”

Those gentle souls, with their concocted and racially charged stereotypes, had company from a platoon of other name-callers, including soonipi6, who railed over “the most corrupt, most insidious, most fascist, most criminal collection of Republicans I have witnessed in my 63 years as an American.”

And Thunder2, who scored a high imbecile quotient with just 42 words that painted McCain as a “songbird” and traitor because of the limited statements he made to his captors during 5 1/2 years of brutal wartime imprisonment in North Vietnam.

The problem with Internet discussions at many websites, including latimes.com, is that participants are not required to identify themselves. Many use the veil of anonymity to spew the most vile and inane remarks you can imagine.

One of the things I noticed about these website comment boards is whenever the news article is about a woman or a person of color, it’s like the hatred comes out in full force.  I believe that’s one of the reasons why Yahoo got rid of the comments board that accompanied their news articles. 

Check out the entire article here.

2 responses

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  2. I discovered your homepage by coincidence.
    Very interesting posts and well written.
    I will put your site on my blogroll.
    🙂

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