I'm a bit of a news junky. My homepage is Yahoo! for two reasons, the first is that I my primary email address is housed there, the second is because I've set it up so that news is fed to me in bite-sized chunks. I can sift through international, national, and citywide headlines in a matter of seconds. I can even see what's happening in my neighborhood (thank you, Yahoo! beta).
I read (OK, scan, then read) many of the major mainstream outlets (CNN, MSNBC, even, begrudgingly, Fox) plus some of the left-leaning sources: The Nation, Mother Jones, Alternet.
After the Japanese earthquake and tsunami I felt...upset. I was disturbed by the images because those images translated into real human suffering. In my grief (not too large a word for it), I posted an admittedly lame, but also, admittedly cathartic post (though mere words could hardly relieve the sorrow I felt):
"After September 11th, the French president declared, 'Today, we are all Americans.' Today, we are all Japanese."
Apparently not everyone felt the same. Most of the comments I post go ignored; a few may garner a handful of thumbs up or down. Within a day this comment had amassed over 100 comments, about 95% of them in support of what I had written (yes, I did the math). Within two days the comments had reached over 300, maintaining more or less the same percentage. After a week, the comment had received over 6,000 thumbs up and about 300 thumbs down.
What bothered me weren't the morons (and I'm very comfortable using that word in this context) who yelled, "DONT CALL ME JAPANESE" (or some similar version thereof), but the people who seemed to relish the suffering and death of so many people.
Like AmeriKKKan who writes: "Fuck the Japs. We shouldn't have left any of them there after '45."
Part of me feels like I need to provide a balance to the outrageousness that's so pervasive in these sections; the overtly hateful vitriol spilling from seemingly every corner of the Internet.
Here's the problem: these "corners of the Internet" represent real corners of the world. These comments aren't generated by a machine: they come from the computers and minds of actual human beings.
My wife says that the comment section is little more than ignorant peoples' way of feeling like they have power in the world, anonymity providing cover for the most outrageous nonsense people can think to say, like "Colin" writing "Fags belong in Hitler's ovens."
I wonder if there are people or news sources or pundits who read comments and see a consensus. Do my statements of support (or disapproval) provide any basis for a coalition of thought? Am I really balancing anything? Or am I just whistling in the wind?