Monday, September 18, 2006

Commenting on Comments: Re-reading the Globe and Mail

For most of us in the Canadian centre-left, there's only one newspaper of choice: the Globe and Mail. The paper's probably shifted itself in the conservative day and age we live in, but when the other options range from the right-to-far-right National Post (who recently ran an op-ed piece on how globalization saved the post-9/11, whatever) and its other regional companions to the more tabloid-y regional papers (Calgary Sun, Vancouver Province), the Globe's still the most reliable mainstay.

It's odd, then, to read the comments on the online version of the Globe. Without getting into the sheer mind-fuck of how a commenting feature changes how one reads the news (depending on my mood of the day, it might serve as an example of over-inclusion), reading the comments is a bizarre experience, capable of providing back context to published stories or of a modest sampling of national opinion, though neither result has proven to do much more than churn my stomach.

If one were to poll through the various comments on the more political-orientated of the Globe's stories, you'd think that most public opinion swung right of centre. That, in itself, isn't a horrible thing in itself - people are entitled to their political views and, like or not, there does exist the Conservative Party and its various supporters. Political diversity's one chooses to express it, though, is another matter.

I check the comments every day, and it's not an over-generalization to say that most conservative comments are, for lack of better terms, assholish beyond belief. Take today's online interview with Liberal leadership candidate Hedy Fry for an example: most range from ill-mannered to intolerant, and whatever your opinion of Fry is (I don't have an opinion on her either way, btw), she surely doesn't deserve a comment like "go back to academia -- where your radical thoughts can be foisted on unsuspecting young minds and leave the real world to the rest of us."

More specifically, the rest of us don't deserve comments like these. I can respect a good criticism of any politician, but when that criticism tries to paint huge segments of the population into the same light because they're more likely to support Fry than, say, Steven Harper, then I've got problems. Can I respect that many right-of-centre conservatives are educated, white-collar individuals sick of paying for over-inflated governments? Sure. Should they respect that many left-of-centre liberals are pragmatic realists in the same white-collar work force? They better.

These comments prove a bit more disconcerting given what I've assumed to be the Globe's readership. Granted, many of us are simply too lazy to dilute these comments out with more level-headed ones, but I would have assumed that there's be a 60/40 split given what I've assumed to be the Globe's leftist readership. The sheer volume of these often mean-spirited comments serves to color the stories they connect with, and it gives what aims to be neutral (whether it is or not - I realize the sheer subjectiveness of journalism) such an odd slant in another direction that it makes reading the online Globe a little disorientating (as a disclaimer, I'd be equally intolerant of leftist comments of this nature, and have just as much disdain for comments trying to paint all conservatives into some sort of hillbilly Cleetus inbreeding picture). I like the interaction between the story and the comments, would've loved it ten times more if the comments were informative and provided greater factual context, but given what I read on a daily basis in these comments, it's more disinformation than not.

1 comment:

  1. i wholeheartedly agree: the on-line comments are just about unreadable. i have to stop myself from clicking the links because they invariably enrage me beyond belief. You'd think there were thousands of esra levant-wannabees & david frum clones battling a few dozen noami-kleinites. I thought/hope the overall readership of the globe was better educated and less reactionary.