I was discussing this issue with friends the other day and we were all lamenting the base level of commentary that online news articles often receive. I'm not sure how to take this: Does the anonymity of the Internet bring out the most vile opinions in our community, or is the aggregate perspective of our community less educated and more mean-spirited than many of us like to think? Or, is it something else?
I have found that the comments on the vast majority of news articles that I have read online are appalling, and fall in to one or another of the categories enumerated below. These categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive:
1) Mean and spiteful
1b) Mean in some other way
2) Politically reactionary
2a) Right-wing reactionary
2b) Left-wing reactionary
3) Illustrating the intellectual shortcomings of the commenter to a level that is embarrassing
3a) Ignorant of historical context
3b) Logically inconsistent and/or fallacious
3c) Ignorant of the substance of the article being commented upon
3d) Grammatically incorrect
I made direct reference to comments with some of these characteristics in an earlier post on the Superfund site in Portland's harbor, and I welcome hearing of examples of other lamentable comments and possible reasons for why this is phenomenon is so common.