Enough toxic talk

I’m not cruel enough to post a Britney Spears video or link to it. I am cruel enough to put earworms in your head.
Image found on NextWeb.

“Baby, can’t you see, I’m calling. A guy like you should wear a warning.”

—Britney Spears, “Toxic” (2004)


Anything that puts a Britney Spears song in my head is inherently evil/infuriating. I’m ashamed I even know enough of “Toxic” for it to be in there.

Yet that’s what I think of many times when I read the comments on our site and others that allow anonymous posting.

I guess I should be happy it’s not “Oops … I Did It Again.” Why is her music so earworm-y??? Why does it always come back no matter how hard you try to get rid of it?

Kinda like this, but less delicious.
Speed Bump by Dave Coverly.

While I police the letters that go on the Voices page, rooting out those with libel, opinion stated as fact, name-calling of private citizens (public figures have less protection because they are, well, public), etc., I don’t serve the same function on the comment boards of the Democrat-Gazette. I’d have no time to sleep if I did that in addition to my actual duties. I already forget to eat half the time as it is, not that you’d know by looking.

Some commenters would need blocks of time dedicated to them alone based on the sheer number of comments they make, especially those known for harassing other commenters with insults, off-topic inappropriateness, reposts of the same comments on multiple pages, and large sections of stories/opinion pieces copied from elsewhere, usually without attribution (because you’re supposed to believe they came up with it themselves, you untrusting bastard!).

If only all trolls decided they didn’t have time …
GIF found on tenor.

To quote a meme from several years ago: Ain’t nobody got time for that. (Yes, it’s grammatically incorrect. No, it’s not the end of the world.)

Those with complaints about commenters on the Democrat-Gazette website can report the posts that are offensive at the link directly under the comments, and they’ll be reviewed by the Web staff and removed if necessary. While I can pass along reports sent to me to the Web staff, I can’t do anything about them. On this blog, I can since I have to approve new commenters (which I usually do anyway unless they’re outrageously offensive. There is one I answered early on who I don’t believe ever commented again. He learned I’m not afraid to break out the transcripts to prove a point. 😉

I imagine this isn’t too far off on some comment trolls, who seem to take far too much joy in making others as miserable as they are.
Image found on TV Tropes.

We’re not the only publication with toxic commenters. I’m often aghast when reading comments at the end of Washington Post stories. Between the name-calling, conspiracy theories and assorted threats, it’s hard to believe some of these people had mamas. The New York Times a few years back decided to open comments for just a handful of stories a day for a limited amount of time to allow for human moderation. Now it uses machine-learning technology called Moderator to open up more stories, but still only for a limited amount of time.

“But my freedom of speech,” I hear some of you gasp. And yet again I remind you that the First Amendment dictates what the government can and cannot do. Private businesses in the U.S. are not part of the government, and many have this nifty little thing called “Terms of Service” on their websites. If users violate those terms, a business can deny them use of its platform. And it’s not like people can’t comment at all; that’s what social media is for. Stories can be shared to Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, and commented on there. As long as you haven’t broken the terms of service there, anyway.

The Hulkster can’t make a decent sandwich … c’mon!
Image found on Hootsuite Blog.

When the actions of certain commenters on a website get too out of hand—such as when there’s rampant name-calling, obscenity, libel, threats and the like—it becomes a deterrent to other commenters. I mean, who wants to go somewhere they’re constantly abused? That means the website may just step in to make it a hospitable place again by closing comments and/or banning some users for violating the terms of service.

As my newspaper’s own terms of service say, when you post comments on Arkansas Online, “you are participating in a community that is intended for all our users. Therefore, we reserve the right to remove any content posted on our site at any time for any reason.”

So you have to behave because one bad apple … well, you know the rest.

Reminiscent of that “tyranny of the minority” concept I mentioned last month, we’ve been letting a small, very loud group bully those of us who do abide by the rules.

Let me play my tiny violin to show you my sympathy for you having to pay the consequences of your own actions.
GIF found on Reaction GIFs.

And of course, when they’re punished for breaking the rules, they cry victim. We see that often with Twitter users who have been banned, because apparently rules only apply to other people. Protecting the rights of the majority of the community members? Meh. All that matters is they were forced to face the consequences of their actions, and that’s just not fair.

And this is why we can’t have nice things.

What pandemonium can I cause today?
Image from ComicVine.

In January 2018, KQED reported that in the years since Popular Science was the first to eliminate public comments on its site in 2013, other media sites have done the same, including Reuters, NPR, and Vice News. In announcing Vice’s decision in December 2016, Jonathan Smith of Vice News wrote: “Comments sections are really just a continuation of that age-old tradition of letters to the editor, a cherished part of many publications and a valuable way of creating an open dialogue between magazines and the people to whom they are ultimately accountable. …

“But without moderators or fancy algorithms, [the sections] are prone to anarchy. Too often they devolve into racist, misogynistic maelstroms where the loudest, most offensive, and stupidest opinions get pushed to the top and the more reasoned responses drowned out in the noise.”

Do you mean there are people whose apparent sole purpose is to infest comment boards to create chaos? I’m shocked. I almost spilled my water I’m so shocked.


And because I’m nice, just in case anyone has Britney Spears running half-clothed through their head, I give you a couple of better earworms. You’re welcome.

You can also thank the ads for Amazon’s Good Omens (which I enjoyed immensely, by the way). They know how to get me.

24 thoughts on “Enough toxic talk

  1. It’s a dilemma. A decade or so ago, i began a book of essays, which was to contain a chapter titled. “Evil Trumps Good,” a title chosen before I was aware of anyone by that name. My point was, for example, that a violent bully would probably win in a fight with a gentle pacifist. Or, someone committed to the truth, which is almost always nuanced, was at a disadvantage when arguing with someone making up lies about a simplistic, black-and-white “reality.”( I had not yet heard the phrase, “NO COLLUSION.”) The constant temptation is to beat up the bully or tell counter-lies, but I can’t bring myself to those solutions. Ultimately, I take refuge in the Martin Luther King, Jr., assertion that the moral arc of history is long but bends toward justice. In the meantime, I’m pissed off a lot. Suggestions?

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  2. Britney who?(I am joking) Unfortunately as a practicing musician, I know more about her than I want to. I have listened to some of her songs because I was trying to understand why she is so popular.

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  3. Speaking of bullies, karma does catch up to you eventually and hurt you. One time when I said that to someone, they jokingly asked me how the television show “My Mother The Car” could catch up to them and hurt them?

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    • My hypoglycemia says I do. I had to take a glucose tablet when I got home. I forgot to eat my snack when I was supposed to. 😞

      I keep snacks in my office, but I still forget.

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      • Please be careful about your hypoglycemia because you can get really sick and end up in the hospital. Hypoglycemia is Serious Business. We have too many stubborn and hard headed patients who don’t want to admit that they have hypoglycemia. They won’t eat properly even when they are inpatients and they complain about their diets.

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      • I usually keep it in check, but I slip sometimes, especially when I’m on a roll. That’s why I keep snacks, and I carry glucose tablets in case I miss the signs my blood sugar dived and I need something quick. I also keep orange juice in my lunch bag for emergencies.

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  4. Yes, exactly, too many people are like my former sister-in-law. They either don’t think there should be any consequences for their actions or their words or the consequences are all wrong and assbackwards–they get punished when they should be rewarded and they get rewarded when they should be punished. They seem to have a lot of trouble dealing with this thing called “Reality” and like a certain person who I will not name, they seem to think this “Reality” is biased against them and is out to get them.

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    • Yep. I’ve been dealing with a few trolls on the paper’s site. One always says I said something I didn’t say, and the others are nuts. They all hate being called out and facing consequences. Reality isn’t fair.

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      • That is supposed to be one of Zathras’ signature lines on Babylon Five. “Zathras never have anything nice.” I figured you could easily look up Zathras if you wanted to. I suspect that Joe Straczynski (who created Babylon Five) intended Zathras to be comic relief. Zathras was one of my favorite characters on Babylon Five. When I recently ate out at one of these restaurants which asks for a name to go on the order, I told the young woman “Zathras” and spelled it for her. I told her that wasn’t my real name but that was the name I wanted to use so she wrote it down. She was so young that she looked as if she wasn’t born yet when the last new episode of Babylon Five was broadcast. When my food was ready and they called out “Zathras”, since no one else noticed or responded, I guess I was the only Babylonian in the restaurant. I try not to Babble On and Babble On and Babble On about one of the favorite shows.

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      • I wonder how this young woman and the rest of the staff in this restaurant might have responded if I had given the name “Voldemort”?

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  5. “The End Of The World” is a song which was recorded by Skeeter Davis in 1962. That is supposed to be the genuine end of the world.

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