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Posted by on Mar 3, 2013 in Arts & Entertainment, At TMV, Media, Satire, Society | 21 comments

Readers’ Comments: ‘The Nasty Effect’

I just praised a couple of our readers for the enjoyable, civil thread of comments on an article here at TMV.

Ergo, a column this morning at the New York Times does not apply here, but it is nevertheless interesting and something our readers may want to browse.

It is about how the internet at last provided “a public sphere with unlimited potential for reasoned debate and the thoughtful exchange of ideas, an enlightening conversational bridge across the many geographic, social, cultural, ideological and economic boundaries that ordinarily separate us in life, a way to pay bills without a stamp.”

But then “someone invented ‘reader comments’ and paradise was lost.”

Before I get myself further into trouble by quoting about ad hominem attacks, etc., the better part of valor is to stop right here and let the readers “decide.”

And please keep those comments coming.

But, most important, keep in mind: (some of) what I have said is satire. (Where are those smiley faces when you need them?)


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  • ShannonLeee

    Blogs or newspaper websites are a bit like e-communities. People tend to post on the same sites and a drawn to the sites that best fit their personality. Of course you have those occasional trolls that are just around to upset people. We are pretty good at not feeding trolls here on TMV, but other sites are not. I tend to avoid those sites. The NY Times, RCP, HuffPost, ect… have way too many trolls. If an author does not like how the trolls change the impression of their articles, they need to just shut down comments on those articles.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    If an author does not like how the trolls change the impression of their articles, they need to just shut down comments on those articles.

    ShannonLeee, the problem with just shutting down comments, at least in my opinion, is that most authors want or need feedback — positive to “stroke their egos” and/or for positive reinforcement of their writing style, content, etc. and negative (when given constructively) to improve upon their writing.

    As to trolls, my solution is just to ignore them, Soon, they’ll get tired of being ignored.

    Thanks for your comment, and no, you are not a troll 🙂

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    @ ShannonLeee (Added)

    While, of course, “nasty comments” may have an impact upon the author, I believe the thrust of the study was what effect civil and rude comments have on other readers — how such comments influence the understanding and the perception of the subject at hand by other readers.

    Of course, in that case, shutting off comments will leave readers on their own to draw their own conclusions, but — in my opinion — other readers (and the authors) are then deprived of the insightful opinions and amazing knowledge that readers often bring to the table.

  • ShannonLeee

    I hear you ddw, but if an author is so concerned about losing the jest of their work to the comments section, then shutting the section down is the easy option…or direct moderation, which is time consuming.

    I personally enjoy it when an author responds to comments…even if the author is the one being a troll. Not u of course 🙂

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    I see your point, ShannonLee.

    On the “troll” part, touché 🙂

  • bluebelle

    Hi Dorian!
    I personally love the reader’s comments section, because despite the trolls, I often learn as much from the comments as I do from the original article. WaPo has recently adopted a mechanism that allows you to block the commenters that you find the most offensive.
    It works!!!
    Regards, BB

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      Hi Bluebelle,

      Blocking trolls/obnoxious commenters — now that is a neat feature/option…


  • zephyr
    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      Thanks for the link, Zephyr. Interesting read.

      I remember up to a couple of years or so ago, the following was occasionally true here at TMV, too, until, fortunately, through Dr. E’s efforts the tenor started changing, and TMV is now one of the more civil sites:

      When the comments are uncivil
      They are given much more weight
      So the rude and boorish bastards
      Hold more sway in the debate—
      There’s no need to point to evidence
      Or logic, you can tell—
      When the comments thrive on rancor
      All you have to do is yell.
      Yes, the winner (on the internet)
      Is he who best can yell.

  • SteveK

    One of the ‘quotes of the day’ today seemed quite apropos.

    Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day. – Bertrand Russell

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    I guess, if those “comforting convictions” were “good” convictions,those nasty flies would metamorphose into butterflies 🙂

  • ShannonLeee

    or hummingbirds

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      Just by ‘happenstance’ I came across a fabulous cartoon about internet trolls that Joe G. put up last year:

      Since it’s copyrighted, I am going to see if he can re-post it as the lead image here.

  • adelinesdad

    The good news is that the internet provides for the free exchange of ideas. The bad news is that it provides for the free exchange of “ideas”.

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      Very subtle, but very good (If I get the subtlety) 🙂

      Thanks, adelinesdad

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist


      @ adelinesdad

      I had been hoping to get your (and roro’s)views on the New York Times piece on female veterans homelessness, and in particular how “M.S.T.” does or does not contribute to it.

  • adelinesdad


    I’m honored that you were interested in my opinion on the matter. Due to time constraints I have to skim through headlines to see what gets my interest, and that one didn’t. But since you requested my input I went back and read your post (but not the linked NYT or other articles). Unfortunately, since I don’t have much personal familiarity with military matters (I’m a bit ashamed to admit), nor do I have a firm grasp on the relevant statistics, I don’t think I’m able to contribute much to the discussion. Obviously, sexual assault is unacceptable (No, the NRO is wrong to suggest that it is a contradiction that we need to protect women from assault when sending them out to face mortal danger–we don’t expect soldiers to have to protect themselves against fellow soldiers). It’s unacceptable regardless of the extent to which it contributes to the problem of female veteran homelessness. But as to what degree it does, I can’t say. Like most complex problems it probably has complex causes.

    (I’m tempted to assume you may have wanted mine and roro’s input because we have had some interesting discussion in the past regarding traditional gender roles vs. gender equality, etc. So I’ll just say that I don’t see that issue entering into the picture here. Regardless of whether a woman chooses a traditional or non-traditional role, she deserves our support and certainly doesn’t deserve to be victimized.)

    I’m posting this here, rather than in the other thread, since as I mentioned I don’t think I’m adding much to that fine discussion. If I have any more insights I’ll post them there.

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist


      I believe that — in your comment — you have already given me a good glimpse into your views on this issue, especially with your (rightful) disagreement with the NRO’s views.

      You are probably correct that there may be various other “complex causes.” I may have ignored and which may be much more subtle and debatable aspects to this problem, and since you are one of our readers who usually looks “behind the headlines,” and comes up with perceptive viewpoints, I “tossed the grenade to you.” 🙂

      But, as I said, you have been very helpful already.

      As to why I called upon you and roro, you are partially correct that it is because of previous good debates on gender, equal rights and sexual orientation issues (the latter not too much applicable here), but perhaps more important, because — although we have disagreed on some issues, especially political — I do value your judgement.

  • brcarthey

    I think what’s allowed the nasty comments is the internet’s ability to allow readers to do this anonymously. Anyone can create an ID that may or may not be true, even multiple ones. Even though I’ve never created a false online identity, I know that being online and many, many miles away from other commenters has allowed me to be, at times, more belligerent than I would be if I were having a face-to-face discussion. I really have tried to work on that part of my online persona because I can’t expect anyone else to change if I’m not willing to make the change myself.

  • zusa1

    I don’t think that it is just our own anonymity that is a factor, but the anonymity of those we are addressing. It’s an extension of how we tend to treat people next to us in line at the grocery store differently that we treat the same people in our cars in the parking lot.

    I think we allow our imaginations to create caricatures of the anonymous people we are addressing which makes it easier to justify rude behavior.

    • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

      brcarthey and suza1, you are both right, in my opinion. It is probably much “easier” for an anonymous reader to hurl a “nasty” comment towards a faceless, unknown, anonymous, “hardly real” target somewhere out there in the blogosphere — especially if we have already, as suza1 says, created a caricature of the person “out there.”

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