A Pox on Commenters and the Apocalyptic Horse They Rode in On!

351720gg.jpgThe recent chatter about online commenters is refusing to die down (apologies for the bad pun). You may recall how a few weeks ago Time‘s Lev Grossman was wondering what makes commenters so nuts (conclusion: basically deep down we’re all mean). Since then the discussion appears to have turned from why to why not, as in, why not get rid of them all together. Well, maybe not altogether but at least as far as newspapers are concerned. Over at Radar Choire Sicha thinks that anonymous commenting is one of the things killing the country’s newspapers. His solution: newpapers (in this instance the NYT) should consider suing!

The accusations published anonymously about the Times are often false, negligent, incautious, harmful, malicious; they go far beyond protected opinion in many, many instances; they meet and exceed every legal standard of a defamation complaint. Many of these comments are libel per se, as they accuse the Times of dishonest business practices and even crimes.
Yesterday, Gawker’s Sheila McClear weighed in.

Comments are thought to be an added value to a newspaper’s site — providing another reason to read. You come for the article, and stay for the interesting discussion. The only problem is, there is no interesting discussion. Almost never. Not even from the mythical supersmart New York Times readers.
Sadly, we must concur. In our (admittedly non-scientifically based) experience, it seems the only time we come across reliably positive commenters (FBNY, notwithstanding, obviously) is when we find ourselves at wowOwow. And probably the less said on that, the better. McLear thinks hard newsstories should banish comments altogether, and leave the dissembling (we almost just wrote dismembering) up to the blogs, be they the newspaper blogs or otherwise. Leave the news alone!