Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tales From The Shallow End Of The Internet Gene Pool

One of the Immutable Laws Of The Internet is that the worst human beings on the planet are the ones who post comments on newspaper websites. Commenters on blogs can be petty, snarky, mean, and occasionally deranged. But the genuine refuse of the human species is found at the bottom of any newspaper article published on the web.
I was reminded of this truism once again – as if I needed reminding; I stopped posting comments on the Chicago Tribune website two or three children ago, and our kids range from 11 to going-on-17 – when this article about Illinois’ governor piqued my interest:
An emotional Gov. Pat  Quinn lashed out today at his alma mater, Fenwick High School, for firing his brother as boys basketball coach.
“He’s a kind and gentle man who understands the importance of sportsmanship, and I feel that my high school has lost its soul,” Quinn said. “It’s a devastating blow to my brother, John, and I think the administration there has let down the students, the alumni and shame on them.”
See, Fenwick High School, where Gov. Quinn matriculated and where his brother was, of late, the head basketball coach, is in my hometown. In fact, my sons and I pass by Fenwick every morning when I give them a ride to the public high school, Oak Park and River Forest, where Jennifer and I both graduated (ahem) awhile back.
My first reaction to Gov. Quinn’s comments was this: Judging by the outrageously expensive luxury vehicles I see pulling out of Fenwick’s parking lot every morning – and the douche-nozzles who drive them – I’d say it lost its soul a long time ago. But that’s just me.
In any event, for a moment I actually thought about breaking my own rule and posting a comment to that effect. Until I scrolled down and read what others had posted before me. And then I remembered why I long ago I vowed never to wade into that primordial ooze as long as I remained tethered to sanity, however tenuously.
To be fair, some of comments were predictable and hardly offensive:
“Why not just fix the state instead of moaning to us that your brother lost his job.......guess what? So have a lot of us!”
“Don’t worry Quinny....You’ll be able to join your brother in the (LONG) unemployment line as soon as we fire you in 2014.”
Okay, fine. Those are the kinds of things you only say if the guy in question belongs to the other party, but they’re to be expected.
But you don’t have to scroll too far down the comments to see precisely the kind of right-wing bile that drives most rational people away from the comments sections of newspaper websites. Said one guy with an Irish surname:
“As the Governor states ‘my’ school, I am sure they are proud of their Irish Catholic former student pushing gay marriage in this State. He ought to be ex-communicated.”
And then another with a WASPier moniker:
“Isn’t this good upstanding governor also for birth control in addition to queer fornication? Quick lane to hell. His BS on gun control and his hissy-fit about CC [concealed carry, presumably] has me pushing all my neighbors (which I don’t have to do since they’re all pro-gun) to get this clown out of office and into the unemployment line with his brother.”
Followed buy the knuckle-dragging coup-de-grâce:
“I think the gov’s brother was rumored to be a flamer at Fenwick.”
Yes, support for basic civil rights and birth control – birth control! – brings out this type of vitriol in the comments section of the once-respected Chicago Tribune.
So, fool that I am, I decided to look at comments posted on other articles on the Tribune’s website, because I obviously hate myself. From an article titled, “Survey: U.S. Women Feel Pressed To Work More As Economy Rebounds”:
“First it was , ‘Women want Careers’, then, ‘Women aren’t paid enough’, then ‘Women work harder’, then, ‘Women are hit hardest by Economic Down turn’, then, ‘Successful Women sabotage other Women’s Careers’, now, ‘Women are pressured to Work’...does this Campaign ever end?
“Welcome to the ‘Man’s World’ coming from a father of two with monthly bills, nice things, a college education bill, and working 50+ hours a week. If you want it all you have to put points up on the board everyday. Remember this is America and we don’t have siestas, if you are not at the seat when it’s expected - the boss will find someone who will put in the time. That rule goes for EVERYONE.”
Yes, of course, both from commenters who, shall we say, pee standing up. Duh. And stop asking for your damn siesta, ladies. I mean, really.
Then there are these comments, from an article on the release of teenage Chicago rapper Chief Keef from juvenile detention (for having violated probation after being convicted of a weapons offense):
“After his stay in detention, he is now known as Chief Pillow-Biter...”
(That, from a guy who’s Facebook profile picture features Pres. Obama and the late Osama bin Laden … no race-baiting there, of course. But, anyways, prison rape is hilarious!)
“The thug life will follow him forever and one day may be his demise having 3 million dollars [from Interscope Records] has nothing to do with being stupid to the point that he pointed a gun at a police officer. That has to do with upbringing and a lack of respect for law enforcement. Money can't buy you brains and common sense.”
And, yes, I believe we have a winner:
“Could’ve been Obama’s son.”
It’s funny, because: Black!
And you wonder why I post so frequently about prejudice of one sort or another. It’s because it’s virtually always there, just below the surface. And, sometimes, right on the surface. If you honestly believe the bigotry on display here is unusual, or if you think the kind of racist, misogynist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-anything-and-anybody-who’s-not- exactly-like-me comments you see posted on virtually every major American newspaper website are in any sense unusual, just remember what you’ve always heard about cockroaches: If you see one, that means there are thousands more you can’t see.
It’s the same with bigots. For every one who’s willing to sign his or her name to a comment on the Tribune’s website, or the New York Times’, or the Washington Post’s, you can rest assured there are thousands more reading those comments and responding with a full-throated Amen!
[Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles]


  1. Conversely, it's a pleasure to read comments here and on Angry Black Lady.

  2. Dear Dave:

    I do not generally leave comments on blogs at newspapers or other MSM* products. I value, and rightly so, my own sagacity, perspicacity and, um, er, ah, smartitude!

    I hope that "douchenozzle" makes the next update to the OED.

    Mostly Silly Mush

  3. Like democommie, I gave up commenting on newspaper sites a long time ago. For one thing, I don't like be one of 873 comments - it makes me feel my opinion has been buried. For another, of course, what you said. If there's something in the paper that interests me, I post a link and blog it.