"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


It's like feeling compelled to keep touching a hot stove. No, it's more like ordering a combo plate of assorted deep-fried appetizers with a side of ranch dressing at some restaurant where the fryer oil has traveled south for the winter, knowing that you'll regret it, and of course you do. Yet awhile later you go back and order it again, hoping maybe the result will be different. Not that I've ever done that, it's just a metaphor. That old saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

I love news via internet. I read print newspapers if they're lying around, but most of my news is online. Sometime last summer, though, I started reading the comments posted to various articles a lot more often. They are to public discourse as Taco Bell is to Mexican food but that doesn't help me at all (in either case). I know that the ability to post comments to online newspaper articles is not breaking news in itself. It's just taken awhile for me to start noticing them, and how asinine, ignorant, infuriating and reeking with meanspiritedness they are.

I don't mind a little snarkiness if it's clever. But people just aren't, terribly, most of the time. I don't know if the freedom of anonymity gives people license to say all the nasty things they really feel but wouldn't dare say publicly otherwise, or if sounding worse than the Grinch who Stole Christmas (or, more likely in this case, the Grinch who Accused Others of Stealing Christmas,) to see how many of your fellow citizens' buttons you can push is just part of the game. Maybe both. There is none of the weeding and editing that would normally occur in a "letter to the editor" either, as demonstrated by the following non sequitur gem in response to a Sac Bee article last week about Prop 8:

There is as much science in Expelled as thier is in the atheistic fundamenatlist fantacisim that labeles itself as science when it comes to the totally unproven T H E O R Y of eveloution.

If you chose to belive in that worthless pile of trash feel free. There are many scientist who don't believe it because of its lack of creduilaltiy and why do may believe in it? It lets them off the hook, because there is no higher authority if we all came form the ooze. So we can do whateve we want with no consequence.

Glad to see how much you hate churches and want them out of our life entirely. I guess your next step is to revoke the Freedom of Relgiogn and throw every Christian into pristion.

[Drat...however did s/he guess our next step? Foiled again!] I have a soft spot for the author of this; the comment was so recently come from a sort of verbal ooze itself that I was able to laugh and step away from the browser when I read it. Plus, as I discovered just now when I looked up the article link again, all the comments, nasty or nice, are dumped into the ether after a few days never to be seen again. Yes folks, this grotesque primordial comment specimen has been preserved in its glory and posted here on One Cheese Sandwich to amaze and horrify! Unique on the World Wide Web! Stay behind the red rope, no shoving! Only $0.02 to have a good look!

Yet too much of the time I keep reading the damn comments, and they're not even stupidly funny, and my blood pressure rises (good thing it has a pretty low starting point) and too often I waste a good 60 words engaging in completely pointless argument, and I don't feel all that much better after I do it. I wish I could permanently block myself from all comments on all the news websites I regularly visit. Like an ignition lock device in a car, or like the Taco Bell that was two blocks from my office that just up and closed a couple months ago. (No more jalapeno chicken melts...like a volcano in my tummy!) I don't want to know what people are thinking and feeling because it makes me feel like most everybody is dumb and hateful except for me and my little circle of friends and family. That's not a helpful approach to the world, whether it's true or not. I will refrain from expressing what I perceive as a big imbalance in the number of excessively vitriolic comments from one "side" of the sociopolitical spectrum vs. the other because no doubt my own filters and biases are at work. But I do perceive it.

My last comment on the subject of online news article comments is that they prove Yeats was right. The best lack conviction and the worst are full of passion without mercy. Little did he know he was describing the difference, generally, between Democrats and Republicans.


Allie said...

I've been doing really well on my goal to not read the comment section of the online newspapers. I only end up feeling angry.

It is hard to "look away" though.

Bellabell said...

Nothing--not the stupidity of the Bush adminstration, the high-level scandals of every ilk, the frenzied, demaning itch of the paparizzi and other media junk yard dogs feeding off pathetic celebrities--nothing has shredded my belief in my fellow folk more than the comments you are talking about, Em. All the great writers have tried to teach us, but I never got just how dark our "heart of darkness" actually is until the miracle of Cyberia began showing us day after day. When I was a journalism student of 20, I objected to my beloved professor about newspaper coverage of a student who had placed her newborn baby in a dumpster. His answer made some sense, but I long to know what he would say about the egregious comments in today's press.