Keep your comments to yourself

When I express my opinion I don't want you to then give me yours. Got that? Right.
Publish date:
Updated on

What's the point in crowdsourcing - inviting the public to contribute to a project or a piece of writing - if the crowd is made up of illiterates and arseholes?  The internet has been around, usefully, for a bit more than a decade and its only area of growth recently has been to let the general public air their opinion.  What engages my wick most of all is the informed and reasoned opinions people give at the end of an article published online.  I've listed a few examples below.

Now, the general public are in favour of capital punishment (so am I - but only for James Corden and Peter Drury) so clearly they don't really understand complicated issues.  The general public elected a man with a balloon for a face to run the country.  The general public still don't really think rape is a proper crime, so they shouldn't be trusted with expressing their views to everyone with a computer.

Whenever I've written something here, or on other sites, I might get some praise, or some constructive criticism, neither of which I really care about because I've got lingering self-esteem problems.  However, there's always going to be some cunt calling me a cunt.  The other day someone slagged me off for not knowing about Dalston, without realising I've lived in Hackney for two years.  Sometimes you get a moron arrogantly correcting a statement, even though they're factually wrong.

For the most part, I tell them to fuck themselves.  It's both functional and erudite.  But it still gets me down.  They don't troll sites just to get at me.  No, it's more than that:  go to any website with comments enabled, and you'll get comments like this:

'Methinks the author has only written this because he doesn't understand what's REALLY going on in Iran'

This is usually followed up by a link to the commenter's blog.  It's got one comment, and that's from someone he's friend with who also has a blog.  They'll be called something like FreeThinker or TruthFinder.  They both leave friendly comments for one another, but would coldly execute the other if it meant a paid commission from The Times.  Or even Spiked Online.  Which is rubbish.

'I can't believe you got paid to write this.'

This is just jealousy.  It doesn't really make sense, because if you have a smidgen of talent you can get writing work if you really want it.  The bloke who made this comment is at his desk, bitterly disappointed at the way his life turned out, wishing his history degree had got him further than halfway up a midsized company, telling anybody who'll listen about the year he spent abroad seven years ago. He puts down his girlfriend at any opportunity because he has no feelings for her beyond an unjustifiable sense of superiority.

'Ah Ms Hyde, you're delightful as you are incisive.  I wish all articles had your byline!'

What do they actually expect is going to happen here?  They go to Marina Hyde's fifteen millionth wry look at New Labour apparatchiks, and leave her a flirty comment.  Are they thinking, 'Maybe Marina will read this, see how witty I am, and email me asking to meet up for a coffee?  Or maybe even a fuck.  She won't mind the birthmark like my ex-wife did.'  Sadly, I know the answer to this. Beyond pornography, the internet has provided plenty of ways to show men up as absolute wankers.

'I've no interest in this.  Yawn.'

Do I sit through Eastenders?  No.  Do I read Glamour?  No.  Do I eat okra? No.  Because I know I don't like any of them so I'm not going to waste my time. For the same reason I'm not going to read the Guardian's episode-by-episode blog on the Wire.  Because I know they're going to get a smug sack to write it, displaying his self-satisfied Wire knowledge to an audience who a) read the Guardian b) want to show off their Wire knowledge and c) want to post a comment after each blog.  No thanks!  But I don't read it, because I know I'm not interested.  I'll leave it to the people who are.  Is that so weird?

'Fundamentally, I'm unreasonable and stupid'

A quick example:

BertFromPhilly 15 Jun 2010, 4:47PM

“Back in the day we didn't drink all that water and we never fainted. What's up with all this water people are drikning. When I was a kid I'd sit and a class room with 53 ohter kids all day and you'd better not drink water orfaint or the nuns would smack you. Then I'd go home and work on the farm in the blazing sun all day with only a break for lunch. We never drank water. This guy is supposed to be a gerneral, for god's sake. If anything he should be drinking wiskey! Do you think Churchill drank water? Enough of this water! Drag the guy back by the scruff of the neck and ask him why we are still in Afganastan! You think the Afgans drink water???”

There's really not much you can do about this.

'I hope your kids die.'

Fergus Henderson, by all accounts a lovely man and certainly a heroically good chef, got comments like this when he did a Q&A on the internet about meat.  It's no accident that anytime you see a news story about a horrific crime comments are disabled.  But comments now even have to be moderated because some commenters can't abide meat eating without threatening the lives of a chef's children.  The reason that comments are disabled, despite the lip service paid to a paper's or a site's audience, is because they simply cannot be trusted to behave themselves.

What a depressing fiasco.  Please, tell me what you think.  I'd be delighted to hear your feedback.

For more from Alex Netherton click here.

To follow Sabotage Times on Twitter click here.