Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beyond Chron and "quasi-hate speech"

It's hard to take seriously Randy Shaw's recent riff on extreme online comments as long as he insists on running letters to BeyondChron through his PC filter, which of course means that my letters---and no doubt those of a lot of others---don't get published:

Encouraging participatory journalism and reader feedback is great, but not when it becomes a forum for distortions, personal attacks and quasi-hate speech. These comment sections boosts[sic] cynicism and divides[sic] people, and betray rather than contribute to the media’s public education goals.

My past letters on illegal immigration and the Islamist violence over the Danish Mohammed cartoons didn't make the cut at the oh-so progressive BeyondChron. (No doubt my critique of BeyondChron on its fifth anniversary didn't help.) But if you can't take the heat, you should get out of the kitchen. If you dish it out, you have to be able take it, especially if the letters you reject are not abusive or hate speech but about issues. Shaw on BeyondChron's policy on letters:

Beyond Chron does not have an immediate “comments” section, though we get many requests for this feature. We not only do not have the staff to monitor such comments, but believe that the public gains little from exposure to potentially uninformed and factually inaccurate quick takes on articles. Long letters can also rely on falsehoods, but our process enables us to exclude racist and defamatory content.

Why does Shaw think he has to "monitor" letters/comments that are even "potentially uninformed and factually inaccurate"? Streetsblog and Fog City seem to get by fine without doing that, and they publish my comments with no dire consequences. I publish all the comments I get, unless they get too graphic about bodily functions, etc. And I got a lot of abusive comments from the bike people when the injunction came down four years ago, all of which I duly published.

I assume other sites reject feedback that is explicitly racist, obscene, or too full of hate, which SFGate---the main offender in Shaw's mind---routinely does also, by the way. This notation is not uncommon on SF Gate: "This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff." I counted five of those notices of the 24 comments on one of C.W. Nevius's blog posts on the sit-lie issue. Even worse for Beyond Chron, its letters section is so sanitized that it's boring, as the predictable leftist bromides scroll down the screen.

Shaw's squeamishness is odd, especially when you consider that Beyond Chron's intellectual standards aren't very high, as I've pointed out before. But he particularly seems to find any criticism of people of color for any reason as implicitly racist, which is ridiculous. My criticism of illegal immigration is not of the immigrants themselves but of the peculiar tolerance progressives have for illegal immigration. They claim to be concerned about discrimination against black people but somehow justify illegal immigrants working at many low-wage jobs that unemployed black Americans never get a chance to even apply for. In the years before I retired, I worked as a dishwasher in a number of kitchens in the Bay Area, and noticed that so many kitchen jobs are filled by Hispanics, most of whom were of dubious immigration status. (I shouldn't have to say this: all the Hispanics I worked with over the past 30 years have been good people and awesome workers. You learn a lot about people when you work with them all day at demanding jobs.)

Similarly, my loathing for Islamic terrorism and bullying has nothing to do with ethnicity or even with Islam, since only a small minority of Moslems indulge in that kind of behavior.

BeyondChron would be a lot more fun/interesting to read if Shaw backed off of his assumption that he has a duty to protect his readers from offensive and/or incorrect opinions.

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19 Comments:

At 4:47 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

I was lightly spanked by Matt Roth on Streetsblog for using certain words:

"lame"....and "whining".

use bad words. get spanked.

Imagine the field day he would have with Kathy Griffin!

 
At 4:54 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, these young guys are willing---even eager---to risk their lives on bicycles, but they quail at forceful language, which doesn't meet anyone's definition of obscenity. You and everyone else can use language of your choice here. D5 Diary follows Alice Longworth Roosevelt's maxim: "If you can't say anything good about someone, sit right here by me."

 
At 6:12 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

Yes, it is pretty funny and meaningless at times Rob. Matt Roth is having an ongoing email field day with me, cause of my "naughty" words..or calling someone "lame" or saying their opinion is "lame"..

The fact is, he doesn't like that I offer a strong, contrarian opinion to most of his loyal fans..So he tries to make some of us "behave".. But he has not singled out other loyal commentators who in the past 2 days has used such words as "d-bags", "suck", "assholes", "hypocritical shit", "pain in the ass", etc..

It's pure bullshit, in my humble opinion..and it seriously erodes their credibility for being an open voice about urban living, street, cycling and cars.

I'd much have rather him say he just doesn't like my opinions very much than come up with some other lame excuse.

I really do appreciate your blog and the openness for which you allow here, both pro and con.

 
At 6:46 PM, Anonymous mikesonn said...

Rocky's dad, you weren't really adding anything to conversation. Reading your comments it seemed you just followed Murph over to Streetsblog to blast at him there instead of here.

Using hyperbole examples and ragging on one commenter isn't adding anything to the conversation. Usually it is referred to as trolling, as in you were trolling for Murph to get upset and blow his steam at you. You could of had that exchange via email and left the rest of us to discuss the actual issues.

 
At 7:39 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

Oh please mikesonn..you are just one of the compliant, obedient little servants that says exactly what Matt Roth wants to hear..

What people have a hard time with at Streetsblog is hearing and allowing for other opinions. To dismiss mine as adding "nothing to the conversation" just points out more of the narrow mindedness of you and others..Seriously, you should be ashamed of yourself.

And I shall exercise my right to "blast" anyone, as you say. Stop whining and grow up. Aren't you trolling here now just to make an attempt to get at me? Hmm...

Are you going to start following me around too?

 
At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Matthew Roth said...

Rocky's Dad, the only thing I asked you to do was avoid ad hominems on other commenters. Rob posts comments on our blog all the time debating the issues and we don't moderate him. If he started calling other commenters "obedient little servants," we would moderate it, even if he were insulting avowed bike hating drivers. Kathy Griffin would make for excellent spankings!

 
At 7:43 AM, Anonymous mikesonn said...

I was wondering if you'd pick on the fact that I was doing to you what you were doing to Murph. Well done.

I'm all for other opinions and have tried several times to talk to Rob on here. Streetsblog isn't trying to convert you, but to bring topics to the forefront that aren't discussed in other media outlets. If you would have come to the comment section and actually talked about the issue, you would have been fine. However, you came over there with intent of pissing someone off.

 
At 8:24 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Tried" to talk to me? You mean it's not a successful conversation unless I agree with you?

 
At 8:43 AM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

Whatever. I think matt roth and others at streetsblog are self-eighteous and full of hot air and other crap.

The fact is I commented clearly and forcefully about how I supported the SFPD for giving out tickets to cyclists breaking the law. That was part of the topic thread. That touched a raw nerve with a lot of cyclists, who simply cannot deal with the laws, or other opposing opinions.The commentators over at Streetsblog basically are groupthink..and ANYONE who disagrees with them is jumped on, vilified and accused of not playing by the word rules.

Matt Roth, whoever he is, should take the time to read previous comments on Streetsblog before mine to find other "unallowable" words and phrases. Trouble is they are being written by his bike buds.

When you disagree over at Streetsblog, they get pissed. Matt, you're just plain wrong and narrow minded. And I don't give a rats ass what you think.

 
At 9:07 AM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

Oh, one more thing and this one is PRICELESS!

Headline article on Streetsblog, dated April 9, 2010:

NOE VALLEY PLAZA DEBATE; IT'S THE TRAFFIC, STUPID.

Author: Matt Roth

Oh my god! Did you just read that? he used the word STUPID in the headline! An ad hominem attack on ALL of us! He insulted me!

I'm hurt. I'm in shock.

Like I said; priceless. This is why I love the internets.:) Have a nice day.

 
At 3:11 PM, Anonymous whir said...

Rocky's dad, lots of people in that thread expressed that opinion without resorting to name-calling and they weren't moderated. And that "it's the X, stupid" phrase is quite obviously borrowed from Bill Clinton's famous campaign mantra and not an ad-hominem attack against the Noe Valley anti-park brigade (who, frankly, aren't exactly qualified to give lessons in public decorum).

Rob, I don't often agree with you, but I do think you deserve credit for not moderating out comments from people who are often vehemently opposed to you on this blog, and Beyond Chron would do well to follow that example.

My experience has been that StreetsBlog tends to filter out snarky or angry stuff, but they base the moderation on message tone, not content. I think it works out well.

You gotta admit that the sfgate comment section is awful, though.

 
At 10:56 AM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

@whir: you're just plain wrong. I can point out specific examples, previous to my very mild comments that were more snarky and mean..Several people have resorted to name calling toward Rob Anderson and others..calling him an "asshat"..and telling him to "crawl back in his cave.."

You need to read more. And, really, none of this matters much. They selectively edit and censor people at Streetsblog who simply do not speak the groupthink language.

Were you sent over here to help defend them too?

 
At 2:09 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't edit or censor anyone on this blog, but I confess to insulting the bike people on occasion. Why don't we all promise to go forth and sin no more by insulting one another? It doesn't bother me much that Streetsblog tailors its content to suit its readers. But it is bothersome that sites like BeyondChron sanitizes its content to suit a rather narrow PC viewpoint. Randy Shaw is simply not suited to be in the media business. He should stick to the housing biz and leave political controversy to those who appreciate unfettered debate.

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

Rob, I would largely agree with you. But there appears to be a pretty broad definition of what "insulting" someone really means. I worry about blog comments having to become completely sanitized and devoid of any emotional content.

Other sites like Socketsite or Curbed don't seem to have a problem with words like "lame" or "whining" or "whiner".. All pretty damn mild, in my opinion.

To wit: On occasion you will hear Rick Sanchez or Anderson Cooper on CNN call an idea "crazy" or "ridiculous". I don't know: is that insulting? Should those words be removed from the networks?

What about Kathy Griffin as a comic? What about Southpark? They can be downright insulting and rude, but so what? Aren't blogs also a form of entertainment?

Bottom line, for me, is this: I do feel that the editors running a blog such as Streetsblog would PREFER that the commenters reflect a groupthink attitude, and are uncomfortable with contrarian opinions. The "majority" of comments over there on such subjects as cycling/streets/cars are all supporting each others comments, patting each other on the back constantly as professing the "right" way to live. It's the self-righteous, smug attitude that offends me the most.

Thanks for allowing me to rant a bit.

 
At 6:44 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, it's better to err on the side of rudeness and crudeness. Ultimately the comment reflects on the commenter, which leads to another troubling issue. It's even more obnoxious when someone is insulted by an anonymous commenter. Or an anonymous blogger, like Jim Herd at SFCitizen. He seems to think it's cute to call me "Crazy Rob Anderson," which would be a little more acceptable if he put his name on the slur. When I insult someone, at least my target knows who's responsible for the slam.

 
At 7:10 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"You gotta admit that the sfgate comment section is awful, though."

I disagree. The Chronicle apparently rejects the worst comments. But SFGate is one of the only places where people fed up with the bike people, with homelessness and squalor on city streets, and with city government and its bloated payroll and pensions can express those opinions. Where else can people say these things? Not in the hard copy of the Chronicle, the Examiner, the Guardian or on BeyondChron, and the chatboards don't have as large a readership as SFGate does.

 
At 11:50 AM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

I would agree with you Rob on the SFgate comments. But over at Streetsblog, it has become very clear to me and others that you CANNOT comment against the bike people. They just won't have it, no matter how sugar coated your comment is.

And, yes, I agree re: the anonymous comment thing too. Everytime I have "blasted" or "insulted" (oh, my god, that hurts!) anyone or an idea at Streetsblog, I have always logged on as Rocky'sDad..not about to hide from anyone.

 
At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I looked up "Dad, Rocky's" in the phonebook - nada.

You are anonymous.

 
At 3:57 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

LOL..you do lead a busy life don't ya?

 

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