Hurling Stones from the Peanut Gallery

Q: What do you do when you find a blogger burried up to his neck in sand?

A: You go get more sand.

That’s just one of the bad jokes I didn’t tell at Wednesday night’s Times Union Media 2010 blogging forum. Moderator Steve Barnes kept us so busy answering actual questions that there was little time for my nonsense. He deserves a big thank you from the audience for keeping me away from my two pages of corny material. I could tell that not everyone finds me funny.

It was also good because we got to discuss the topic of anonymous comments. If you’re reading this, you know that commenting on Times Union blogs doesn’t require any registration or verification. This is great because it encourages participation, but also opens up a dark and vicious side of people that doesn’t usually surface.

These are sometimes simple insults, like those made against Bethlehem blogger Jeanie DiNapoli — to vile and hateful attacks. The most virulent of these I’ve seen lately are leveled against Libby Post. These people aren’t just getting more sand, they’re swinging the shovel.

Libby Post writes about civil rights and GLBT issues, and Wednesday she stood up and talked about the nasty remarks hurled her way in the comments section. She said that she’s used to people lashing out at her because of who she is and her beliefs, but the anonymous comments are like nothing she’s ever seen.

This doesn’t stop her from writing. And that takes courage.

If you comment, you should probably know that we can sometimes tell where your computer is located. This means it’s a bad idea to comment from places that could be embarrassing — like your office. It’s also transparent if you’re using multiple identities from the same computer.

It’s funny sometimes to see where people are commenting from. For example, I’ve gotten several critical anonymous comments from right inside the Times Union building. That’s the thanks I get for working for free?

17 thoughts on “Hurling Stones from the Peanut Gallery

  1. Libby gets my nod for Most Courageous Blogger. I’m really pleased that she shared her story of the hate that’s come her way via blogging.

    re: TU colleagues posting anonymous comments. It’s our policy to identify ourselves as TU people when we comment on blogs. In his defense, he didn’t know. That’s my fault. Sorry about that. If you see it again, pls let me know.

  2. Works both ways, Rob. I’ve had three comments, critical of an industry and a large concern within it – but no personal flames – spiked by someone whom I am surprised does it. A very disappointing thing to see.

    And my email is real, so I can be contacted any time. My dark and vicious side is part of my charming public persona. Ya gotta work it if ya got it.

  3. Libby is heroic and looked every bit of it as she stood up in front of the entire crowd and identified herself. Some of the comments made to her are frightening. I don’t know about receiving”thanks” for blogging, but I hope the T-U thinks about the safety of bloggers that tend to be a lightning rod for the most dangerous elements of society.

  4. This might be as good a place as any to ask. Who is Kali Zigrino, Mike, whose posts have been showing up on several sites, and sometimes cross-posted. If it’s an intern, how about adding that to the byline.

    “…It’s also transparent if you’re using multiple identities from the same computer…” Good point, Rob. And I’ll add to that. From a slip of the tongue, or should I say keyboard, I figured out a commenter was using at least 3 different computers, one a work computer. Wasn’t hard to figure out.

    While I chuckled at the sand story, here’s a version that I think some bloggers use, especially some in our town.

    A farmer(commenter?) threw a donkey(blogger?) in a hole and started throwing dirt in to bury it alive. The farmer kept shoveling without looking in the hole.

    The donkey, realizing what was happening, made the best of the situation. Every time the farmer threw a shovelful of dirt in the hole, rather than cower, the donkey stepped on it.

    Pretty soon the donkey was out of the hole, thanks to the idiot farmer.

  5. At the heart of news and blogging .. is opinion. (And the subtext is judgment.)

    The online medium provides fertile ground for anonymity. And when people can hide their identity and voice an opinion, anything goes, and the full judgmental array of humanity can (and does) manifest itself.

    Among the categories of blog commenter styles, I am most amazed by the group that seem to voice their opinions just to be inflammatory. It usually changes the entire tone of the dialogue, as evidenced by the flurry of responses that follow.

    But then isn’t that exactly the purpose of blogging? To stimulate dialogue?

    You do a great job, Rob. For free. Thanks!

  6. Rob–
    Thanks for the kind words. Just one teeny tiny correction–being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is not a lifestyle. It is an orientation–immutable. To say this being L, G, B or T is a lifestyle gives creedance to the “pray away the gay” folks who think it’s a chocie and that we can be “cured.” My lifestyle is the type of car I drive, the food I eat, the TV shows I watch, the books I read. My sexual orientation is lesbian–yes, it does inform my life but it is not my lifestyle.

  7. Libby: Thank you for setting me straight — pun intended. I made a revision to the post. “Orientation: sounds very clinical, so I simply said it’s who you are.

  8. I have nothing to offer, but without anonymity you would be spared even that. So how then, would you look good by comparison? We, the nameless mass, serve only to elevate you.

  9. Rob, you make some great points. A lot of the bloggers do this for pleasure and get flamed all the way. I am sure that we don’t even see the most violent comments, as hopefully they get deleted before seeig the light of day.

    I have to applaud Libby Post for her courage. I am sure she gets some of the worst bashing. The part that impressed me the most is that she lets a lot of those comments make it to her blog. Bravo. I don’t know that I could handle some of the things that are said to her.

    I really enjoyed the forum. It was nice to hear it from those that have been doing it for a while. I look forward to another forum soon!

  10. Rob, this is one of the few areas where we disagree. You put your name out there in your postings, the least someone can do is reciprocate in kind. I personally think more of bloggers who aren’t hiding behind some kind of made up “Alan Smithee” like identity. And I know, sometimes it’s more expedient, when you wanna drop a dime on someone, or be a whistleblower, to use an alias. But like you readily indicate, even if you use multiple aliases, your identity is easy to trace once you log on to a comnputer.

  11. No easy answers on comments.

    Having people set up accounts is imperfect because one may still establish an online identity that cloaks their real one.

    So should we just leave the door open and weed out offensive comments? That’s tempting. Then we would never have to be reminded of how many stupid and hateful people walk among us.

  12. Note to Freddie. Hi there. Nice to see a fellow Bethlehem blogger here in Rob’s blog. Kali Zigrino and Cristina Rodriguez-Ruiz are our two interns during this spring semester. One of their tasks is to post TU stories to the blogs to elicit discussion.
    I’m not keen on adding ‘intern’ to their bylines because it’s hard enough to get respect and establish credibility from readers without calling attention to their intern-ness. Isn’t it bad enough they have to brew my coffee every morning?

  13. As a blogger I love getting comments.

    There are a lot of lurkers out there, who read but do not participate in the conversation.

    Frankly I’d rather get some level of participation, as people dip their toes into the community, using the shield of anonymity as a security blanket.

    As someone who mixes his metaphors, it is probably unsurprising that I think Rob’s jokes are funny.

  14. Thanks, Michael. I wander all over the site. Rob’s style is like I think, but can’t quite get it to translate into print. lol

    So, you’re on Spring Break, with two assistants and dedicated chefs. What a deal!

    Wish I could have made the meeting, but previous commitment prevented it.

  15. Rob – I am gratified that you have revisited the issue of anonymous comments – I was the questioner at the event who asked for more discussion on that topic, and was rewarded with many thoughtful responses from the panel. It was tempting for me to feel stupid for bringing it up, as so many in the blogosphere seem to take anonymity completely for granted and have no problem with it, but it clearly is not a completely settled issue. I personally feel it makes a person’s opinions seem more valid if they are willing to say who they are when they express them. Yes, Libby Post is courageous – but shouldn’t we all try to be? – david brickman

  16. Well just so you know, Michael & I have been sharing my computer while his is out for the count. I guess we’re okay though because we’re not posting anonymously…. Though there have been times where he’s left comments forgetting I was logged in…. C’est la vie 🙂

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