With some frequency, an article appears in this esteemed publication that captures the imagination of our citizenry. Readers appreciate the articles which bring these topics into focus.
I remember a hearty response to the sighting of Bald Eagles on the banks of Lake Audubon. The comments went on for days and days with new sightings and informative links about the raptor that serves as our country’s symbol. Had the excitement not died down, one of those eagles would have almost certainly been competing for the Hunter Mill District seat on the school board and another would have found a position on the DRB.
However, there are other articles which appear benign and yet inspire such a frenzied chain of comments that one starts to believe that the author has craftily chosen the topic to inspire that level of response from the community. It gets personal.
The article itself is always about an issue which is simple enough that many people feel confident expressing their complete comprehension of the matter at hand. Both the confidence and the controversy are important in fueling a commentary stream of any length.
If it’s an article weighing Keynesian Economics against The Austrian School, the author has failed to make it simple enough to evoke the necessary comments. If it’s an article about chocolate-chip cookies being delicious, then there’s no controversy. The article crafted to create the longest stream of commentary may appear to be harmless but must instill in the potential audience two simultaneous responses: 1) I know more than this guy does about this topic and 2) This guy is a jerk-covered jerk with jerk filling.
And then the comments begin. Let us say that the article itself is about county funds being used to train unicorns as service animals. The article outlines the planning process, the funding, the timeline and the pedigrees of the unicorns. And then the comments starts coming.
HornKeeper says, “I have trained unicorns to do dishes, serve coffee and hem clothing for the past 17 years. Unicorns are docile and clean creatures. However, you are a right moron for thinking that unicorns can be trained in groups. They are solitary creatures. That is one of the three differences between them and horses. I hate the air you breathe.”
CountyBeanCounter says, “Unicorns are dumb and imaginary. I do not want my very real tax money used for this program. Griffins, on the other hand, are often used in epic battles. We need more eagle-headed, lion-bodied creature funding. Anyone who thinks otherwise should be dipped in a vat of Ebola.
GirlWithADragonOrTwo says, “Unicorns are real and they are real beautiful too. I love them lots. Mean people suck. I saw a pretty pixie once. You wouldn’t know anything about that.”
OMG says, “I’m not an expert or anything, but I was thinking that I might attend the meeting and get more information about the issue. Thank you for this interesting article.”
Of course, the next 10 comments are about how OMG is either enouraging the enslavement of mystical beings, single-handedly bankrupting the county or a known Griffin Hater.
The commentors may hate the author of the article, and often turn sour on one another, but what they dislike the most is someone who does not reflect their zeal. The land of anonymous comments has citizenship requirements.
Without taking a firm stance on whether or not public funds should be used to train one of antiquity’s foremost images of purity and grace to help local citizens cross our streets more safely, I would just like to speak up on behalf of the poor sap whose name is attached to the piece.
The person who has spent time crafting his or her four or five best paragraphs on the subject must now defend against accusations ranging from lack of familiarity with the grammar and syntax of the English language to poor personal hygiene. Maybe, and I am asserting this in only the most theoretical of terms, the author is merely giving voice to a sincere perspective and is not actually threatening the moral bearings of this or any other community.
It is possible, although I cannot say how probable it is, that we are capable of living among one another and expressing differing opinions in a civil manner.
Then again, I may indeed know nothing and lack the ability to string together a cogent sentence. People have said that about me. In the comments, of course.