Owen posted this link to an article about research on how on-line comments undermine the content of an article, and, specifically, work against people learning anything about science.
I said I thought it didn't just apply to science, and that anonymous comments undermine any sort of intelligent commentary, and have since the days of the "Speakout" columns, in which anonymous haters phoned the paper and recorded snippets of incendiary drivel to be transcribed and printed in the paper.
We agreed there was a distinction to be drawn between those anonymous comments and Letters to the Editor, which, at most newspapers, must not only be signed but are supposed to be verified to make sure they really came from that person. (The ongoing success of Heywood Jablomey in having letters published showing how often verification doesn't happen.)
But even the swill in the Speakout columns was vetted for libel, racism and obscenity, even if delusionary nonsense was permitted to go through.
Which brings us to the Dog Shaming meme. And how many people simply don't get it.
Dog Shaming began last summer, and was an absolute crack-up, with entries like this:
Part of the humor is the dog's expression, which is more likely from being told to sit and stay rather than any actual guilt over the underwear. Mox nix -- it works, and the more you capture the dog amid the destruction, the funnier the shaming becomes.
But then people started staging the destruction, or simply thinking up captions for cute pictures of their dogs that didn't involve shame at all. Now you have to sort through a lot of nothing to get to the few pics on the site that are (A) genuine and (B) funny.
Ditto with mondegreens. There was a site at SF Gate in which Jon Carroll collected these snippets of misheard lyrics, and the first rush of participants had some very funny examples. But it didn't take long for people to begin submitting obviously contrived, impossible examples.
So here's the question: Which is more cynical to believe?
1. People are no damn good. These people make up these things simply to get themselves out there for all to see.
2. The world is full of really stupid people. They're not trying to be dishonest. They really just don't get it.
Working on the premise that one should never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity, I'm inclined towards #2.
And it's just not that they will make stuff up, though obviously somebody at some point does invent the stupid things that rocket around the Internet.
But they also pass on stupid stuff unquestioned. People believe what they want to believe. Evidence? We don't got no evidence. We don't need no stinking evidence!
If you ran an article that was nothing but that PressType faux-Latin gibberish people use to lay out brochures, and inserted the word "abortion" in the headline, you would get 100 comments agreeing with it, and 100 comments attacking it.
The content of the article doesn't matter. If they read it at all, they read it through a filter so dense that it only reflects what they had expected to find in it.
I saw another Teleprompter joke today, from a professional cartoonist who gets paid to ... well, I guess to draw things that make people laugh, but, come on, man. The Teleprompter thing never, ever worked. Not given that every president in the past half century has used Teleprompters, and especially given that, if anything, Obama is too articulate and doesn't speak in soundbites but in whole paragraphs.
It's too easy to say they can't believe a Negro could speak so articulately without a Teleprompter. Maybe the person who started the meme believed that. It's even likely. But it survives because it exists. It's there because it's there because it's there because it's there.
Like the ridiculous but hugely popular notion that any sharing of public funds is "socialism."
And this goes both ways -- I saw someone the other day praising Khaddafi's Libya as a successful socialist regime, destroyed by Obama's imperialist aggression.
If socialism means handing out bread and circuses to keep the masses at bay, they're right -- and certainly you can replicate that worker's paradise in any country that happens to have massive reserves of oil and not a whole lot of people with whom to share the proceeds. And in which many of those people are happy to go overseas to work in non-socialist countries and send their pay back home.
But that's a tough model to replicate and it isn't "socialism" anyway.
He said, speaking to the wall.
I don't know that the comments under articles undermine the article so much as they reinforce the misconceptions people already had, for the simple reason that, judging from the comments, these people apparently don't read the articles -- they read the headline and either skim it lightly or leap straight to the comments section and start venting.
Here's what I do know:
The comments section of far, far, far too many news sites have become clubhouses for some of the most ignorant, bigotted, foolish people in the world, and it's the fault of administrators who seek hits rather than to disseminate information.
It is like a restaurant that keeps serving a loud table full of obnoxious drunks despite the discomfort of other diners.
And then complains that business is down.
We need an Editor Shaming meme. It is disloyal to the community you serve, and to the nation at large, to allow and, however passively, to encourage the proliferation of ignorant, delusional hostility that creates ignorant, delusional, hostile political factions to clog up our legislative system.
Meanwhile, if you've read all this because you were looking for the part about sex, you're not part of the solution. But thanks for the hit.