By: Zach Geldert
Have you ever read a political news article online (or seen the link to a news article on Facebook) and scrolled down to the comments section? If you scroll down, you will notice the astounding amount of unfounded claims, childish name calling, bigoted views, and other nonsense that makes you shake your head and ask “why do people waste their time writing this garbage?”.
In my opinion, there is nothing to be gained from reading, let alone writing a comment about anything on the Internet. What is to be gained from arguing over an opinion with some stranger on the Internet? Some people may reach for a free speech quote, maybe some think they can actually change a stranger’s opinion. Let us examine each of these scenarios and paradoxically form an opinion about people who form opinions in comment sections on the Internet, and why they are wasting their time. Also note that I will be referring largely to Canadian examples because the American situation deserves about two dozen Ph. D. theses worth of analysis, not a 700-word opinion piece.
First of all, the people who appeal to the old mantra “I am exercising my freedom of speech!!!” need a reality check. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) protects you against government censorship and punishment for having and expressing your beliefs. However, all you racist, sexist, and general bigots beware! The government also has the ability to spew hate-speech, or if it “frustrates the pursuit of truth, the participation of a community, or individual self-fulfillment and human flourishing” (see R. v. Keegstra or the Charter if you have literally nothing else to do, they’re both boring). So, now that there is an understanding as to what freedom of expression actually means, I am extremely curious as to when the last time these “commenters” have felt that their ability to speak freely was jeopardized. After all, that must be the only reason that they feel the need to appeal to their “I’m exercising my freedom of speech” excuse, right? Has the government suddenly begun a crack down on writers of opinions? Is this the last opinion I will ever write? If it is, I’d best work quickly and move on to explain why ‘commenters’ should really stop trying to change peoples’ opinions online.
I don’t even think I need to write a paragraph here because if you have made it this far through my opinion you are at least capable of reading at a grade 4 level, and any 4th-grade student can understand and answer the following scenario/question. Bob and Jo were on the playground, playing and doing whatever kids do. Bob becomes smitten with Jo so, being the super cool and suave 10-year-old that he is, Bob walks up to Jo and says “hey…my favorite color is blue”. Jo responds “that’s nice, mine is red”. Bob becomes furious that his future wife does not like the same color as him and begins to yell at Jo, calling her names and generally attacking her opinion while not considering why she likes what she does. Jo responds similarly. The goal for each person is to convince the other to like their favorite color. Question, will this work? Survey says…NOPE. Now imagine that exact same scenario, only this time happening online and concerning politics. Survey still says that this will not work. The people doing the online ‘shouting’ are like Donald Trump, all they do is try and spew attack after attack, with little fact, in an effort to shout down any opposition, without considering the opposing side’s views (note: Donald Trump is just an example and I am fully aware that all sides of the political spectrum have people who engage in this sort of behaviour. However, most of these people are keyboard warriors who don’t have a shot at becoming President).
I feel that it fairly clear that Internet comment sections contribute nothing to our society. They are simply vessels of hatred, racism, shouting matches, senseless spewing of “facts”, and bigotry. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to read any comments section of virtually any online news source. A well-written news article quickly devolves past the last period and there is no turning back. I would be welcoming of comments sections if they didn’t contain any of the aforementioned materials. Alas, it is not to be. That being said, I am not disenchanted about debating political (or any) news stories. But please, Cadre readers, do not waste your precious time (like you have any free time already) writing comments (even good ones) because you will simply become a victim of the snarling weasels on the Internet. Instead, write to the Cadre! We can publish your opinion as an article! It allows you more space to form your arguments in a proper way and freedom from the vile cesspool that is comment sections. Finally, please note that I am aware that this opinion piece is somewhat hypocritical and paradoxical. However, I have tried to form it in such a way that represents my emotions while remaining factual or flat out identifying my speculation as such, and without writing any bigoted, sexist, or racist comments (because we don’t live in the 1400’s anymore eh). Ugh.