Archive for Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Online comments exemplify need for common courtesy, respect

September 29, 2015

It is a well-known and true fact that I am a late arrival to the internet world. I started with e-mail and progressed through doing on-line research. Not too long ago I decided to take another step: I began using the computer to follow news stories.

It seemed logical that I would check the comments section after each article. I assumed the comments section would be an intellectual discussion with logical, thoughtful arguments and even innovative ideas concerning events. Boy, was I wrong!

I’m sure most of you are laughing that anyone could be so misinformed. In general, what I found was angry, illogical, hate-filled and racist comments. I imagine the same folks wait until a news article is posted and head for their keyboards to spew venom toward almost everyone.

That is really unfortunate since the comments forum could be an excellent tool for exchanging ideas. Sadly it has become a forum for the ill-informed and illogical who can remain anonymous and say nothing beneficial.

Yes, I know there is one way to ease my mind and that’s what I have done – stop wasting my time with comments. To be clear I have never made a comment on any issue on the internet, nor do I plan to jump into the mud.

When I was in the newspaper business we had a very liberal letters to the editor policy. But there was one major difference: if you sent in a letter, we verified it, and the writer had to sign his or her name. I wonder how many people would use the comments section if it included their real name, e-mail address and telephone number. My guess is none!

I like the Lawrence Journal-World’s policy of using the actual names of those who make comments. I think it makes for a more civil and realistic discussion.

Maybe it is time for the veil of secrecy to be ripped away and persons making comments should be identified. I wonder how they would react to an onslaught of bitter criticism they might receive from those who are offended by their vicious attacks. In addition, while it probably is impossible, it would be nice if someone checked some of the “facts” they put on line.

What the comments section does is point out a couple of short comings in our modern society. First, we need respect. I don’t care whether you agree with an elected official, the office and person should be treated with dignity and courtesy. I have been shocked at some of the personal attacks on President Obama and other elected officials. What really irritates me is the derogatory slurs the secret critics use for politicians, performers or athletes they are attacking. If you cannot support their position that’s fine, but if you disagree, do it with logic and dignity. You do not have to resort to personal attacks, and there is never a reason for name calling.

Yes, there is no doubt that we need political discourse. We need to share ideas and expand our intellectual horizons. But, it needs to be done with logic and courtesy. What the internet comments have done is create discord and dissention. People have a right to express opinions, but it needs to be done properly.

Back in the troubled 1960s, a song became popular, and I think its message is as strong today as it was five decades ago. The song was “What the World Needs Now is Love,” and that message is as strong today. I would add one thing: the world needs more common courtesy and respect. We can start the movement by just treating others in a proper manner.


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