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The anonymous cruelty of the Web (LEFTY COLUMNISTS FEELING THE HEAT)
Chicago Sun-Times ^ | April 4, 2010 | NEIL STEINBERG Sun-Times Columnist

Posted on 04/04/2010 8:24:03 AM PDT by Chi-townChief

You suck.

Yes, you, Mr. Reader, you big, umm, doo-doo head. . . .

Sorry, I just can't do it -- I thought I would enter into the prevailing spirit of online commentary, its slash-and-burn casual meanness.

But the truth is, I am in no position to comment upon your degree of suckiness. I don't know you, don't know whether you are a good or bad person, and should you, oh, stick a fork in the toaster, trying to extract an obstinate half of English muffin, and be electrocuted and die, I would hesitate to use that incident to say whether this is a stupid end to a stupid life, or a tragic mistake made by an otherwise splendid person.

This degree of introspection must be why I pull down the big bucks as a newspaper columnist, because it utterly eludes so many. You cannot read a story online, no matter how unadorned a tragedy, without it being followed by hoots of derision. A 9-year-old boy struck and killed by a bus at Disney World. "Do they charge X-tra for this ride??" someone quips on FloridaToday. A Swedish hiker falls to his death from the rim of a volcano on Bali. "I have NO SYMPATHY for this MORON," another opines on Yahoo News.

Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote a column in the Miami Herald last week calling for an end to the practice of running anonymous comments after articles online.

"Message boards . . . ," he wrote, "have become havens for a level of crudity, bigotry, meanness and plain nastiness that shocks the tattered remnants of our propriety."

Ain't it the truth? Yet, as I read Pitts' piece, I was curious if he would implement the policy he had just advocated -- nope, immediately after condemning the practice, he then runs anonymous comments, which seems odd; if he believes it enough to espouse it, he should have his tech guys pull the plug. It isn't as if he needs to catch the czar's ear on this one.

Readers fond of spouting bile see it as their First Amendment right, and cry censorship when decent people squeegee their repulsive sentiments into the sewer.

It is not censorship -- censorship is done by governments. This is called "editing," and if the column above gets it, why shouldn't the remarks below? If I smirked at a 9-year-old boy hit by a bus, it would never make the paper.

Most media Web sites offer readers the opportunity to respond. Why do they give a platform to anonymous cruelty? The true reason has nothing to do with free expression -- rather, Web sites are evaluated according to how many people click on them and how long they stay, and if a certain percentage log in to glory over the death of a woman and a baby hit by a train, their participation still helps to pay the bills.

Myself, I struggle not to read the comments posted after my column, because they tend to be long partisan harangues or short personal attacks. But curiosity often overcomes my restraint, and I am invariably rewarded with a nasty slap or two, which, to be honest, sometimes stings.

I've considered asking the paper to take the comments down. But first, as I said, they serve a commercial purpose. Second, people should have a chance to react -- I wouldn't stop the mail from being delivered because vile messages also arrive by that route. Better to cope with the world than to try and wallpaper it.

Third, I once had a colleague who -- supposedly -- demanded that his online comment section be closed, and, at the time, that struck me as in keeping with his general loathsomeness and cowardice.

Can't be like that. It is a Zen discipline, gazing dispassionately at a Greek chorus of damnation.

There are questions I would ask those howling in displeasure -- why read something you don't like? Day in and day out, eyes bulging in horror, then leaping to condemn? Isn't that sort of a Westboro Baptist Church approach to life? Traipsing after those you hate, spewing venom through foam-flecked lips?

Who lives like that? My guess is they are -- to borrow a phrase I coined for the aforementioned former colleague -- their own worst punishment. Nothing I might add could increase their misery.

Mere calumny falls flat -- a guy flipping you the bird in traffic annoys you, but three minutes later you've forgotten him. Softly stated criticism, if valid, carries far more weight than any insult.

My column Friday on TimeOut's April Fool's issue immediately drew a comment saying, in essence: "How is it that this moron is allowed to have a job at a newspaper?"

I ask myself that every day, though not in those words. It is a wonder to me. Think about it: This column runs four days a week. There is seldom any actual news in it, no Hollywood gossip, no sports scores, no inside dirt. Just stuff that I find interesting, presented in a manner I hope is pleasant to read. Though I write exclusively for those who like it, those who don't, well, as a full-service columnist, I welcome you, too, and encourage you to patronize our advertisers.

Is your ox gored today? If you are reading the actual paper, you may crumple it into a ball and fling it away. If you are reading online, there is a section provided immediately below for you to have at me, and each other, to your anthracite hearts' content, providing an electronic Punch and Judy show for those who like that kind of thing.

mailto:nsteinberg@suntimes.com


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: reichstaggers
When you consider the source, this is actually pretty funny.
1 posted on 04/04/2010 8:24:04 AM PDT by Chi-townChief
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To: Chi-townChief

“Myself, I struggle not to read the comments posted after my column, because they tend to be long partisan harangues or short personal attacks. But curiosity often overcomes my restraint, and I am invariably rewarded with a nasty slap or two, which, to be honest, sometimes stings.:

Can’t stand the heat? Get outta the kitchen!


2 posted on 04/04/2010 8:27:10 AM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (Save the Earth. It's the only planet with Chocolate.)
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To: Chi-townChief

I’ll give him credit for advocating the comments stay - most Dem-libs are for shutting down avenues of broad communication that they cannot control. This guy has the marbles to play outside.


3 posted on 04/04/2010 8:30:44 AM PDT by Titus-Maximus (Light from Light)
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To: Chi-townChief
"This is called “editing,” and if the column above gets it, why shouldn't the remarks below? If I smirked at a 9-year-old boy hit by a bus, it would never make the paper"

Yeah?
Ed Schultz, MSNBC, says “Hello!”.


“MSNBC’s Schultz Derides NewsBusters, Urges: ‘We Ought to Rip Out’ Cheney

Read more: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/brent-baker/2010/02/25/msnbcs-schultz-derides-newsbusters-urges-we-ought-rip-out-cheneys-heart#ixzz0k96KtGYD

4 posted on 04/04/2010 8:34:44 AM PDT by SmokingJoe
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To: Chi-townChief

we have to remember reporters frequent only left wing sites.

Those are vitriol, curse word, heavy sites.


5 posted on 04/04/2010 8:35:25 AM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: Chi-townChief
There can be only one solution.

Complete suppression of all free speech.

And a Ministry that decides what is right, and what is wrong. Perhaps we could call it the Ministry of Truth.

6 posted on 04/04/2010 8:35:59 AM PDT by Lazamataz ("We beat the Soviet Union. Then we became them." -- Lazamataz, 2005)
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To: Lazamataz
"This was not exactly the truth, but then, what is, exactly?"
Howell Raines (b. 1943), U. S. Journalist.
From his book Whiskey Man, 1977
7 posted on 04/04/2010 8:43:34 AM PDT by abb ("What ISN'T in the news is often more important than what IS." Ed Biersmith, 1942 -)
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To: Chi-townChief

When did liberal boys become such girlie men?


8 posted on 04/04/2010 8:45:44 AM PDT by cardinal4 (Dont Tread on Me)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin
“Myself, I struggle not to read the comments posted after my column, because they tend to be long partisan harangues or short personal attacks."
9 posted on 04/04/2010 8:47:24 AM PDT by Paine in the Neck (What we really have going on in this country is a MAL-DISTRIBUTION of EFFORT.)
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To: Chi-townChief
Neil Steinberg:

Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote a column in the Miami Herald last week calling for an end to the practice of running anonymous comments after articles online.

Hey Neil, That is what FreeRepublic is all about. Make comments to columns in an organized and moderated forum. Sheez!

10 posted on 04/04/2010 8:48:41 AM PDT by VRW Conspirator (There is no such thing as a conservative democrat - Rinse - Repeat)
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To: Chi-townChief

Just spend 5 minutes at a leftist/marxist/democrat hate speech site like Democratic Underground, MoveOn.Org or Huffington Post.


11 posted on 04/04/2010 8:49:37 AM PDT by FormerACLUmember (The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule. - H. L. Menken.)
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To: Chi-townChief

The left’s double-standard on print and on-air media is simply astonishing.

Saw where Chris Matthews was all over Limbaugh for calling Obama’s administration a “regime”...likened it to...wait for it...Joe McCarthy.

Check Google for “regime” and Bush...there are over 6,700 hits in eight years. One of which was by...you guessed it...Matthews. Bush’s administration was called a “regime” over 40 times in the...Washington Post.

On and on it goes.


12 posted on 04/04/2010 8:49:56 AM PDT by kjo
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To: Chi-townChief

"I am, after all, the most famous drunk in Chicago"

Steinberg was arrested on a domestic-battery charge for striking his wife—for slapping her because she said she was afraid of him and she started to call 911. He was also charged with interfering with the reporting of a domestic battery—that happened when he ripped his kitchen phone off the wall and hurled it across the room. Steinberg was immediately placed on leave from his job. He announced through the Sun-Times that he had been drinking before the domestic-battery incident, and that under court order, he would be entering an alcohol-recovery program.

In less than 24 hours before the incident leading to his arrest, Steinberg had consumed a third of a bottle of Cognac in the early-morning hours, knocked back two vodka tonics and a beer before a 10 a.m. editorial meeting, taken a "long and boozy lunch" with a college friend, had several drinks before boarding his evening Metra train, where he consumed two glasses of wine in the bar car, and then slammed back a drink at a local pizzeria when he picked up the family dinner. He topped the evening off with a snifter of Cognac. Drinking, he admits, is the greatest love of his life.

In his book, Drunkar: A Hard-Drinking Life (from E. P. Dutton) is, by turns, horrifying (Steinberg drinks the bottle of vanilla used for his kids' French toast), exasperating (he turns a speech in New York into a scene from The Lost Weekend), frightening (he leaves his young son Ross alone in the children's section of the Northbrook library so he can run out and buy a pint of bourbon), and funny (home from jail, he wishes he had spent half as much time thinking about his life as he had planning his kitchen renovation).

13 posted on 04/04/2010 8:52:17 AM PDT by kcvl
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To: Chi-townChief

Steinberg got arrested for hitting his wife while drunk.


14 posted on 04/04/2010 8:53:44 AM PDT by bfree (The revolution is coming and it will be violent--FUBO)
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To: Chi-townChief
There are NO JOURNALISTS left in America... you are all wh0res for satan... all you in the media do is lie and promote the evil that is the left in America today... did I mention that ALL of you so-called journalists are evil?

LLS

15 posted on 04/04/2010 8:56:28 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer ( WOLVERINES!)
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To: Chi-townChief
There are NO JOURNALISTS left in America... you are all wh0res for satan... all you in the media do is lie and promote the evil that is the left in America today... did I mention that ALL of you so-called journalists are evil?

LLS

16 posted on 04/04/2010 8:56:33 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer ( WOLVERINES!)
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To: kjo

howeird dean called for the outing of the BUSH REGIME! Burn in hell lefties... oh yes... I know that you will!

LLS


17 posted on 04/04/2010 8:58:28 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer ( WOLVERINES!)
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To: LibLieSlayer

I agree with you. They are socialist prostitutes who produce mindless drivel to condition the perpetually stupid.


18 posted on 04/04/2010 10:03:50 AM PDT by Luke21
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To: bfree
Steinberg got arrested for hitting his wife while drunk.

He should have know not to drink while hitting his wife.

19 posted on 04/04/2010 10:12:12 AM PDT by HIDEK6
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To: longtermmemmory
re: we have to remember reporters frequent only left wing sites. Those are vitriol, curse word, heavy sites.)))

I know--I can barely read a thread at Kos, even when I try every hard. They all sound like that guy who flew the plane into the IRS building.

20 posted on 04/04/2010 10:31:25 AM PDT by Mamzelle (Employers--lay off Obama voters first)
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To: Chi-townChief
"Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote a column in the Miami Herald last week calling for an end to the practice of running anonymous comments after articles online. "Message boards . . . ," he wrote, "have become havens for a level of crudity, bigotry, meanness and plain nastiness that shocks the tattered remnants of our propriety."

And how are Pitts' columns any different?

21 posted on 04/04/2010 11:07:33 AM PDT by circlecity
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To: Luke21

Hard to believe it but there is no truth in the media of today.

LLS


22 posted on 04/04/2010 4:20:53 PM PDT by LibLieSlayer ( WOLVERINES!)
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To: Chi-townChief
[Article] Third, I once had a colleague who -- supposedly -- demanded that his online comment section be closed, and, at the time, that struck me as in keeping with his general loathsomeness and cowardice.

Any idea who he's talking about?

When you consider the source, this is actually pretty funny.

I think I see your point, although I still don't think it's a knee-slapper.

If Americans' blood has grown so thin that we are supposed to recoil in horror from a boozy newspaperman (what, pleonasm? Oh, sorry!), or from guys who get mad at their wives and rip phones out of walls, or pop her one (Humphrey Bogart's first wife used to hit back -- he thought she was a great dame), then this guy is living in a hell of his own chickenhearted liberaldom's devising.

23 posted on 04/04/2010 5:15:25 PM PDT by lentulusgracchus
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To: circlecity
And how are Pitts' columns any different?

Good point. IMHO if Pitts had the courage of his convictions and acted in accordance with his thinking to realize his heart's desire, he'd be over in South Africa leading a band of rural assassins, murdering isolated white farmers for their race, one by one.

He'd eventually die of a buttload of buckshot, but at least he'd have led a life attuned to his thoughts.

24 posted on 04/04/2010 5:23:20 PM PDT by lentulusgracchus
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