Now Here’s an Interesting Development
Matt Jerzyk, administrator of the generally liberal RIFuture blog, www.rifuture.org, said he wrote a post the next day expressing his outrage that the media was staying silent about Yorke’s comments, rather than holding him accountable and taking him to task. …
“Anytime we get over 20 comments on a post, it’s considered a pretty hot issue. A lot of people were weighing in with their opinions on the matter,” he said. …
When Mark Comtois from the generally conservative AnchorRising blog, www.anchorrising.com, got wind of Jerzyk’s post, he wrote a blog entry of his own asking whether or not bloggers have a responsibility regarding the comments on their blogs. …
Justin Katz, administrator for AnchorRising, said bloggers need to be careful about spreading rumors that they may have heard.
“I think Matt’s outrage is ludicrous and it’s bizarre to believe that outing someone – the idea that that could affect someone politically and adversely is bizarre,” he said. “The leftists see an opportunity to silence a voice that they want out of the media. It’s almost as if we’re requiring gay politicians to have a stance on [their own] gayness, which raises issues for concern.”
Katz said there’s value to the area in which public figures’ lives aren’t spelled out and scripted.
“I think there’s a humanity lost if we start requiring a checklist of what we’re allowed to say about each other,” he said.
The fact that the story centers on a blog debate puts blogs in the position of being generators of news. That, of itself, isn’t particularly unique at this point, but the number of commenters whom Bower quotes strikes me as a new development — almost as if blogs can become a repository for quickly available and easily quotable man-on-the-street reactions.
Frankly, I’m not altogether sure that such a thing would be a healthy development. One doesn’t often read news stories in which the reporter writes, “One person I stopped on the street said X. Some guy sitting at a table outside the local coffee shop thought Y.” (I’d categorize separately lazy/suspicious constructions such as “some people feel.”) With an abetting blogger, anonymous commenters — perhaps each pretending to be multiple different people — can now generate the impression of a movement within minutes and reach a large audience of not-necessarily-tech-savvy print news readers within days. Just look at the upshot in this particular case: Matt and a bunch of nicknamed commenters manufactured some outrage, and now a print media source has given their production old-media credibility. Here’s a well-lubricated chute for the creation of political avalanches out of a little spit and froth.
On the other hand (or perhaps on the same hand, I suppose), this dynamic clearly presents people a channel through which to discuss matters — such as the evolving significance of politicians’ sexuality and society’s reaction thereto — but have felt it improper to raise on a public stage for quite some time. Perhaps there is grounds for faith that free expression and a growing reward for participation are ultimately beneficial, despite opportunity for abuse.
The relevant page at RI Future appears to be unavailable for the time being. It may be some sort of technical glitch, but until Matt resolves it, here’s the Google cache.
The original post is back up, and the only thing that I can spot that’s changed from the cached version is that comment #27, by Mike, has been deleted. It read as follows:
Oh, Matt-everyone, and I mean everyone, in Warwick has known he was gay for years. I don’t think he’ll be running to the courthouse to file a defamation complainyt. LOL.
Of course, the cache is short 50-some comments from the actual post, so who knows what else Matt might have deemed inappropriate in that range. Other comments make it clear that Mike had other posts, and their disappearance is particularly peculiar, given comments to this post. I’d be curious what Mike might have said to become erased from the page that was more worrisome, from a blogger’s standpoint, than comment 46.