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Monday, March 28, 2016

Breitbart Bullies: Adventures In Online News

The comments section is something new to me. In our local midwestern publications, comments tend to be well-thought out. There is some name-calling, but most of the responses actually discuss an issue--even the most heated of issues. Many times, during the discussion, someone changes their perspective based on new information. I have been fortunate to be able to change people's minds about issues that matter deeply to me. 

Ditto comments in the New York Times. In fact, I will often learn something there from an expert who is commenting, and then I get to look them up and learn even more. 

In our own community, we have been politically active for several years around a particular education issue. We found ourselves joined by legions of others with similar concerns, including several candidates for office. Last fall, via voting, we made change not only possible, but likely to happen soon. 

This January, the new officials were sworn in, (cheers, standing ovation.) Immediately, the proverbial shit began to hit the high-powered fan. Five years of intentionally ignored issues boiled over. Local actors leaped on a visible problem without knowing or caring about the much worse underlying issues, things that seriously affect students across the entire district, not just in one school. 

Suddenly, the issues that have concerned us for years are spread across the national news, but with a bizarre conservative slant that has very little to do with what is actually going on. 

So, I diligently went onto these national news sources to explain what is really happening on the ground, just as I have done locally, real conversations with real people that I just don't happen to know. 
I started with Breitbart. Don't laugh, I had no idea. I posted, laying out the local situation. 

I do my research. I look at things carefully. I state when something is opinion. You know what my posts are like, right? 

The post was immediately deleted, but not before I got several responses--all on a par with, "Well, you're stupid and you smell. And you're liberal, too." 

I scrolled a long way down, and did not find a single post that read beyond angry kids at third-grade level. 

By contrast, the posts in local publications seem to come largely from people with a couple of advanced degrees. 

I'm not saying that rigidity is linked with conservatism. I once had a conversation with a liberal neighbor, who opposed John McCain's presidency because, she said, he was tortured. "It permanently damages your brain when you're imprisoned and tortured," she said. "You can never think straight again." 

"Uh uh," I said. "Like Ghandi and Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu." 

There was a long silence. "Oh. Okay. I guess you're right." She drew a breath. "But he's still mentally disturbed." 

At least she didn't say, "You poop-head, butt-face (female body-part) who dares disagree with me." 

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