Arizona Republic Website Comments A Model of Incivility

A good indication of the type and level of discourse on the Arizona Republic (Phoenix-area newspaper, largest in the state) website is found in the comments on a story about a dust storm rolling through the metro area as I write this. (I’m at the airport awaiting a flight, which I still hope will happen though they’ve closed operations at least temporarily.)

The story is about the dust storm, of course. But check out the comments, which start off stupid and get worse. You won’t be surprised that extreme politics — this is Arizona — enter the mix in a big way.

The Republic’s comment threads are often like this — and it’s obvious that the paper doesn’t much care, or else is too busy and resource-hungry to do anything about it. But it’s a perfect example of the wasteland in American newspaper “conversation” online, and another reason why people gravitate to places where intelligent and moderated conversations take place.

The FCC’s weak new “open Internet” rules

This article was originally published on on December 21, 2010.

A partisan vote on Tuesday displeases everyone. And everyone’s right

The neutering of the Internet is now the unofficial policy of the Federal Communications Commission. Contrary to the happy talk from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at a rule-making announcement today in Washington, the move is well underway to turn the Internet into a regulated playground for corporate giants.

Tuesday’s FCC vote on rules purportedly designed to ensure open and free networks was a 3-2 partisan charade, with Genachowski and the other two Democratic commissioners in favor and the two Republicans against. It did nothing of the sort. The short-term result will be confusion and jockeying for position. Genachowski’s claim that the rules bring “a level of certainty” to the landscape was laughable unless he was talking about lobbyists and lawyers; their futures are certainly looking prosperous. The longer-range result will be to solidify the power of the incumbent powerhouses — especially telecommunications providers and the entertainment industry — to take much more control over what we do online.

Continue reading The FCC’s weak new “open Internet” rules

Comment Policy; Why I Just Rejected a Comment

I just approved and, on further consideration, unapproved a comment about the posting below. It was written by someone who was looking at the ProPublica board of directors and learned that Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates is a member of the board. From this discovery the writer made several truly ridiculous inferences (framed as leading questions) straight out of the  right-wing conspiracy-theory playbook.

The commenter may or may not have used his real name. I doubt that he (or she) did, because the email address (which is not made public when you comment in any case) was phony.

We will have one fundamental rule here in the conversation: civility. Even when we disagree, and we can do so in a strenuous way, we’ll treat each other with respect. That comment didn’t pass the test.

This reminds me that I need to create a semi-formal “rules of engagement” for this project. I’ll be borrowing liberally from the brilliant “Community Guidelines” at BlogHer, which state, in part, “(W)e agree to agree and to disagree — as strongly as need be — without crossing the boundaries into unacceptable content…”

I invite the commenter whose posting I’ve rejected to try again. Or, better, I urge him to create his own blog and post it there, where he can be more accountable.