Grand Rapids pols say commenters blocked parking hike, they should blame themselves
At issue is whether opposition to parking meter hikes from commenters on the local news site MLive.com (the Grand Rapids Press’ web home) intimidated public officials into tabling the proposed rate increases.
MLive: “Any coward can say anything they want on MLive comments,” said parking commissioner David LaGrand. “That’s an abomination and a betrayal of the First Amendment.
You know who would disagree with the whole “betrayal of the First Amendment” patter? The guys who actually wrote the First Amendment.
This is not my opinion. It is a statement of fact, and we know it is fact because three Constitutional framers (John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton) wrote a series of essays encouraging its ratification under the anonymous pseudonym “Publuis.” We know their work today as “The Federalist Papers.”
Why is Grand Rapids Parking Commission David LaGrand accusing James Madison, the father of the Bill of Rights, of betraying said Bill of Rights?
That said, LaGrand is basically right about the MLive comments section and, really, the vast majority of mainstream news site comment sections—they are dumping grounds of ignorance and bile. For every interesting viewpoint, there are at least 10-15 morons ranting (usually in ALL CAPS) about “Nobama!” or how Gov. Rick Snyder has cloven hoofs.
That includes the un-anonymous sections powered by Facebook. Go read comments on any racially-charged story on the Freep or News sites, and you’ll find plenty of racism and stupidity from commenters who have their real names and usually faces attached to some remarkably awful thoughts.
I would argue, while acknowledging Deadline Detroit’s own comments stream, that comment sections are a 15-year failed experiment in what corporate bureaucrats like to call “engagement.”
With few exceptions (like Deadspin and Wonkette, where a culture of wit runs off the troglodytes) most comment sections are packed with a handful of prolific imbeciles who have very little interesting to say and a lot of free time with which to say it.
Many Americans, as this tall drink of water demonstrates, have no problem taking credit for the shallowest or most offensive opinions, so anonymity is beside the point.
The beauty of our marketplace of ideas is that everyone, from ordinary citizens to elected officials, are free to discount malformed, illogical, or offensive ideas just as we ignored Crystal Pepsi and the Pontiac Aztek.
That a digital rabble can discourage public officials from making what they believe to be sound policy says less about online comments and more about the cowardice of certain elected officials.