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Chernynkaya On April - 12 - 2010

Published in The New Yorker 7/5/1993

Last summer, someone with the moniker “lawmiss” posted a comment on the website of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Lawmiss wrote something nasty about a relative of a Plain Dealer reporter. The more than 80 comments posted under the lawmiss moniker since 2007 covered a wide range of Ohio and national current events, and showed a familiarity with the inner workings of the Cuyahoga County government and Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold’s courtroom, in particular.

Many of the most recent comments involved legal issues in three high-profile criminal cases before her, and Judge Safford hears some very high-profile cases, even capitol cases. But oddly, it was the comment about the reporter which prompted the newspaper to investigate the source of the posting. It turns out that the newspaper was able to trace the lawmiss username to the personal AOL account of Cleveland judge. The Plain Dealer removed the comment for violating cleveland.com’s community rules, which do not allow personal attacks.

Anyway, it seems uncertain whether the judge posted the comments—she claims it was her 23 year old daughter. Either way, the judge (who appears to be a bit of a loose cannon) is under investigation for ethics violations. Saffold’s daughter declined to talk about the specifics of her postings. “I don’t think the content of my posts is necessarily pertinent,” she said. “I know all of the people I spoke about . . . I don’t see why I owe any explanations about my blogging activities.”

But the story of Judge Safford and the Plain dealer is just the background to a larger issue that is now being studied by news sites—that of the anonymity of posters.

News Sites Rethink Anonymous Online Comments

When the Cleveland Plain dealer acknowledged that it had broken with the tradition of allowing commenters to hide behind screen names, it broke a kind of fourth wall, and broke the barrier of anonymity. It may not be guaranteed. The editor of The Plain Dealer said that perhaps the paper should not have investigated the identity of the person who posted the comments, “but once we did, I don’t know how you can pretend you don’t know that information.” And the fact that it turned out to be a judge made that story more important than merely the anonymity of their posters.

When news sites first went on line, they didn’t all allow comments. But they soon learned it drew readers and clicks, and, therefore, advertisers. They also used the rationalization that now anyone could weigh in and remain anonymous. A virtual Town Hall, if you will. The policy of allowing anonymous posts is now coming under attack, and journalists are questioning whether anonymity should be a given on news sites.

Leonard Pitts Jr., a Miami Herald columnist, wrote that anonymity has made comment streams “havens for a level of crudity, bigotry, meanness and plain nastiness that shocks the tattered remnants of our propriety.”

We’ve all been there—The Huffington Post. And we all use avatars and monikers whenever we posted there or elsewhere. There is legitimate value in letting people express opinions that may get them in trouble at work or offend their neighbors. And there is the issue of identity theft and plain old privacy too.

“But a lot of comment boards turn into the equivalent of a barroom brawl, with most of the participants having blood-alcohol levels of 0.10 or higher,” a dean at Columbia’s journalism school said. “People who might have something useful to say are less willing to participate in boards where the tomatoes are being thrown.”

The Washington Post plans to revise its comments policy over the next several months, and one of the ideas under consideration is to give greater prominence to commenters using real names. The New York Times, The Post and many other papers have moved in stages toward requiring that people register before posting comments, providing some information about themselves that is not shown onscreen. I always use my real name when I comment on the NYT’s site and I really like their feature of opting to see other comments ranked most popular by other Times readers. It weeds out the trolls very effectively, as they are at the bottom of the rankings. The Times also has someone review every comment before it goes online, to weed out personal attacks and bigoted comments. That is too expensive for most news sites, especially ones with a huge readership.

There is still the problem of those paid trolls though. Sites may have to guard against a concerted campaign by a small group of people voting one way and skewing the results. The Wall Street Journal’s site gives readers the option of deciding to only see comments by WSJ’s subscribers, on the theory that the most dedicated readers might make for a more serious conversation. Since I rarely visit the WSJ, I don’t know if that is the case.

Huffington Post

According to The New York Times, Puff Ho will be announcing changes to their comments policy, including ranking commenters based in part on how well other readers know and trust their writing. The more fans, the higher the reliability is the rationale. That means Hume Skeptic will now be the featured commenter on every thread, I suppose. He’s over 2000 fans now and actually, that’s fine with me.

“Anonymity is just the way things are done. It’s an accepted part of the Internet, but there’s no question that people hide behind anonymity to make vile or controversial comments,” said Arianna. “I feel that this is almost like an education process. As the rules of the road are changing and the Internet is growing up, the trend is away from anonymity.” I disagree. People still want to be able to state their opinions without fear of retaliation from their bosses. They still worry about cyber stalking. They still want to be able to speak their mind without their friends knowing exactly how radical they may be.

“There is a younger generation that doesn’t feel the same need for privacy,” Huffington said. “Many people, when you give them other choices, they choose not to be anonymous.” She’s probably correct in that assessment—Facebook and Twitter seem to confirm that. But that’s because most young people have no idea about the dangers that lurk on the internet—they post all kinds of personal information. Having two teenage daughters, I can attest to their scary naiveté.

Some news sites moderate comments after they are posted, but again, they do not have the resources to do serious review. And then there is always banning. Besides, if I were forced to provide my name, I would probably use a fake name. My email address wouldn’t contain my name either, so I don’t think that’s the answer. When you get right down to it, you either moderate or allow everyone to post—until they become so offensive they are banned. It’s like driving—lots of people have no business being on the road and should have their licenses taken away. Same with posting.

Categories: Internet, News & Politics

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

148 Responses so far.

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  1. dildenusa says:

    From Ramdom House College Dioctionary.
    1. Troll -- In scandanavian folklore any of a race of supernatural beings, whether a giant or dwarf, inhabiting caves or subterranean dwellings.

    2. Troll -- To sing or utter in a full rolling voice. To catch fish with a moving lure.

    So with I’m a little confused. In regard to HP and Fox news, which of these definitions does “troll” apply to.
    Based on my own experience I would say that a “toll” is a fishing lure.

  2. msbadger says:

    Hi,folks. Interesting development- I wondered how long it would be until something like this began. I have to confess I’m a PuffHo addict, for several reasons. I don’t take their news as anything but a place to start, and certainly not necessarily always good journalism- LOL! I like getting the gist of things, and seeing other people’s reactions. I take it from there, and do my own thinking. It was a good way to get into some discourse with folks new to me.
    The social part is seriously dysfunctional, for all the reasons stated in your comments. Pepe knows me from there and we share a horror of the worst of those trolls! This is all new to me as an experience. I knew about it but had never been part of any online community until HP. The addiction part for me is that I’m a very solitary person right now. I lost my job in Oct.’08 and I’m partially disabled. It’s almost impossible for me to get out enough to get my social needs met. Many of my friends were co-workers, and my outside friends either still work full-time or have left the area with retirement. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m full-on lonely! Much to my surprise, I was welcomed warmly by many people there. I never expected that, really. I have made some good friends, and I treasure them. As for the cliques, I have seen some of that, but I think highly of most of the people that are part of one of them in particular. As to HS, I was a big fan of his at first, but his attitudes about certain things have put me off. Of course, folks disagree but there are things I can’t abide.
    There is so much fun and social, emotional benefit for me that I disregard a lot of what I see that’s less than ideal. I still feel I learn a lot almost daily, about things I had not known much if anything about. So, I don’t trust or feel really great about Arianna’s commitment to the Left, she’s definitely money-oriented. I take almost all the articles with a grain of salt, with few exceptions. The trolls are despicable but I usually ignore them, except for those awful stalkers. I’m just plain happy to be part of the community, bottom line. I would be so lonely and miserable without them. And I enjoy this forum too. Glad to have discovered POV and thanks for having me! (Hi, Pepe and Khirad, and others!)

    • Chernynkaya says:

      MB-- that’s basically how I felt when I was active there too-- it was fun and there were many cool people I enjoyed. everything you wrote, I can relate to! I also learned an awful lot, and for that I am grateful.

      I don’t really know why it got old for me, but the constant arguing and nastiness the RW trolls brought out in me had the most to do with my boredom there. I feel as though they increased beyond a manageable level for me. And I remember very clearly that once I started coming here, I found the level of vitriol unbearable. But you know, I miss the way I used to enjoy it.

      I also just want to say how much I appreciate your honesty, and that I admire that tremendously!

      • msbadger says:

        Thanks, Cher! I appreciate that very much as well. I had a hard time there tonight- troll city! Gets old fast if not enough of the good guys are around. Thanks again, friend!

    • WLA says:

      Ms. B, I hope you stay at HP and here too. You are one of the happy people.

      I hope my troll smacking at HP does not offend the nice people like you.

      Your friend.

      • msbadger says:

        Oh, WLA- never fear! I love a good troll-smack as much as the next person. No offense felt- and I may be “nice” but I’m not THAT nice! LOL- Thanks, though. I always enjoy your posts and the trolls exist to be smacked, as far as I’m concerned. See you soon!

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Hello, fellow woodland critter! Spring has come to the forest and Bambi has lost his fawn spots!

  3. WLA says:

    Have you folks heard of China’s “50 Cent Army” AKA: “50 Cent Party?”


    Just throwing that out there for discussion.

    • escribacat says:

      Interesting. I’ve encountered several posters on HP who seemed to be employed on such a mission.

      • PepeLepew says:

        Where I’ve seen examples of what appears to be *obvious* paid posters is on Fox News threads!

        • WLA says:

          Hard to tell. FOX viewers are such zombies that just repeat what FOX drills into their heads all day anyway.

          • PepeLepew says:

            What I’ve seen — more than once — is on a thread putting Fox News in a negative light, a whole slew of brand new posters with no comment history and no fans.

            My skunk senses have tingled that it’s Fox News interns.

            • WLA says:

              Oh you mean on other sites. Yes indeed. Amazing are the clones that defend self-confessed clown Glenn Beck. Like he is their prophet.

            • escribacat says:

              Yes, and aren’t those threads usually fully moderated nowadays?

    • KQ says:

      Hey WLA great to see your moniker again! I’ll have to check it out your link.

      • WLA says:

        I’ve been around. Just busy.

        So I was watching this BBC documentary “The Virtual Revolution” and apparently, the Communist party pays these blog commenters 50 cents per post to troll.

        I also know for a fact (through work) that corporations, through various agencies, hire a LOT of people to monitor their wikis and post on blogs.

        I have no reason to believe that lobbying firms don’t do the same. In fact, they would be remiss NOT to.

  4. VegasBabe says:

    Couple thoughts. It almost seems a bit cowardice of me NOT to post my real name when blogging, but having heard some of the same horror stories regarding employers reading blogs and posts of employees and then terminating their employment, not to mention the potential stalking aspects of revealing one’s true identity certainly turns me off. I’m no coward, but I’m no idiot either.
    There WAS a time I held great esteem for HS but there were a few posters he has since attacked, including me for NOT supporting amnesty, that has turned me waaaaaaaay off. I didn’t get attacking lornejl and/or sassysafrine. I’m just waiting for him to assault ThunderClapNewman and then I think folks might wake up a bit. HS’s posts have lost their luster for me and I remain disheartened about that. My point and my belief has always been and shall always remain that we MUST agree to disagree amiably on certain subjects, and leave it at that. HS accused me of having “deep seeded prejudices” because I don’t support amnesty. I’d say that was going a bit to far and several others agreed. Lornejl continues to keep me in stitches and I believe HS had some involvement in getting him banned. He’s back now, thank goodness. Perhaps it’s something to do with getting to big for one’s britches….I don’t know. I generally attempt to submit posts with a tad of humility, appreciating always that though I may not be the brightest bulb on the tree, my opinion nonetheless, is valid. I don’t spend as much time at Huffie as I once did. My time in fact has become so taxed with obligations, I haven’t the energy. But I am glad for PlanetPOV and I trust that I may continue to post here whenever time and energy permit, and though we may NOT always agree, I can do so without the threat of assault. Adlib has all but assured that infact. Jeepers, guess that means it’s time for another donation!! 😉

    • KQ says:

      We’ve had disagreements on amnesty too but I understand your position. My position is quite simple. I don’t think the last immigration bill was amnesty by any means with it’s touch back clause. Every undocumented alien needs to be punished for breaking the law and while I think the punishment should be light others think they should be stiffer.

    • Khirad says:

      Same observations here.

  5. Khirad says:

    Summed up why I like anonymity. If you hide behind it, you’re just a dick. Me, I’m not na

  6. whatsthatsound says:

    What is it with Hume and all the fans, anyway? Do people just feel they have to jump on the bandwagon, does he really increase the QOL of peoples’ lives over there, or is there some benefit that accrues to fanning him that I am unaware of?

    I’m not jealous (me and my paltry dozens of fans, ha!), I’m just wonderin’ what gives?

    • WLA says:

      Hume is good, but WilliamG is probably my favorite because he comes armed with great links and info.

    • Kalima says:

      Hume could run rings around any of the trolls on HP without even trying and some of the constant whiny Dems there over the past years. He knows exactly what HP has become and it baffles me sometimes why he’s still there. One thing I know for sure is that he won’t stand for any bs and is not afraid to take people of either side on when he hears it.

      • PepeLepew says:

        I’ve never once had a problem with him … and I don’t always agree with him, but I’ve seen people on BOTH sides of the spectrum just savage him. I think some of it IS jealousy over his fan count. The guy has been there probably 5 years; that’s where he gets the 2,000-person fan count.

        • escribacat says:

          Yeah, I’ve seen some people really go after him for no clear reason. His comments are generally really strong (and I almost always agree with him). I’m a fan.

        • Kalima says:

          You are right Pepe, he’s been there from the beginning I believe and yes I’ve seen some pretty nasty fights over there where some vile poster thought it was ok to try to take him to pieces, although it was a worthless effort.

          The only disagreement I have had with him was about religion when I was still naive enough to talk about it over there, but I decided it wasn’t worth it and would endeavor to keep my trap shut.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        I mostly agree with that, K. But sometimes one person’s “bs” is another person’s deeply held truth, and I have found his certainty regarding the ascendancy and superiority of science over spirituality to be off putting. I much prefer OUR resident skeptic, KQ, who is never less than tolerant, nor is he ever snootily dismissive.
        I’D fan KQ a couple thousand times for sure!

        • KQ says:

          😳 You make me blush.

          HS is and will probably always be one of my favorite posters. I’ve said many times I am very suspicious of people who are so certain of their beliefs because that’s all they are, beliefs. Believing or not believing in God is a person’s belief system. Science does not disprove or prove the existence of God in any way because science has not proven the existence of God and science cannot prove a negative. I think people who try to use science to disprove the old supreme being thing are just as mistaken as people who try to disprove science through belief in God. Science and beliefs are just totally separate concepts to me and allays will be.

          So to me it comes down to an issue of respecting people’s beliefs when it comes to faith because no one really can prove their hypotheses either way.

        • Khirad says:

          Get him talking about Sufis.

        • Kalima says:

          Yes, I think that eventually a bit of the the seedy side of HP rubs off on most of us unfortunately, but most of us have the sense to leave when that happens.

          KQ is my favourite scientist for sure. 🙂

          Is that sunshine I see?

    • Chernynkaya says:

      What’s, in my opinion, he is a reasonable, moderate voice there. I have rarely seem him be very insulting and he rarely responds to hit and run trolls. Also, he often provides information to combat not only the trolls, but the left wing whiners as well. He does some research. In short, I think he is a voice of sanity and sense on those threads.

      Or maybe it’s his avatar-- hard to argue with Einstein, right? Don’t laugh, I bet there is a study somewhere that analyzes people’s reactions to avatars and I also bet there is a correlation between the avatar and how the poster is viewed.

      • Khirad says:

        I agree. I’ve been very disappointed when he has done personal attacks, and the fawning worship I’m not sure really exists as much as trolls say, but he serves his purpose, just as you say.

    • SueInCa says:

      WTS, IMHO he is a bit caustic for my taste but in the past he did post alot of good info that was pertinent to Obama’s performance. In my opinion, Rich Misty was a much better poster with his informative list of info, kind of like Cher over here. He was driven away by the trolls because he just could not get through.

      • KQ says:

        Rich misty was my one of my all time faves at HP and both of us being a scientists was a big part of it. Like him I think when you do have substantive arguments you have to back them up with facts.

      • Khirad says:

        All I ever got from Rich Misty was a heavy dose of Republican bashing -- and links to back it up. Not like that’s a bad thing!

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Hi, Sue, Cher; I agree with you, I have found him caustic at times, but I respect Cher’s opinion too. I guess I was just wondering if by fanning him, you get some privileges or something. I suppose that would mean being alerted to all posts and the storehouse of information they so often contain. Puzzle solved!

      • Chernynkaya says:

        Gosh-- thanbks, Sue! I used to really enjoy Rich Misty. And he had a sly sense of humor!

        • SueInCa says:

          Hey, you are a “bank” of information(not like bofa or WFB LOL). I know I appreciate it and I am sure everyone else does as well.

  7. Kalima says:

    Good evening everyone, just a quick hello before I have to start to get ready for an appointment.

    As usual a very interesting and thought provoking piece Cher.

    I don’t know if I would continue to blog if I had to use my real name everywhere, not so much for any worry about myself, although it would be like the dream where you are suddenly walking down the street stark naked, but more out of respect for the privacy of my family and friends. Some people just give out far too much personal information, it wouldn’t be that hard for someone in the same area to recognize you and who knows, that could be a dangerous or unpleasant experience. I don’t feel the need to bring my family into my blogging, the odd mention yes, but not their life stories.

    I have a confession to make. Last week after posting the Bob Cesca link on HP on MB, where he was exposing Becky as a fraud, I went to read some of the comments, something I haven’t done for a year. Some poster who had been there even when I joined in 07, was still there, saying exactly the same bs things.

    Now it could have been my crack on the head on the 28th, in fact, it must have been (help me) but I found myself so PO that I left a few comments only to realize that although I didn’t know most of the posters, the general tone of the comments were the same. I left there at the speed of the “Bullet Train” hung my head in shame and went to sleep feeling embarrassed. Please don’t ever let me do that again. 😯

    • KQ says:

      K the memories must be painful but this too shall pass.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Hey Kalima! We are in the same timezone--YAY! I will personally duct tape you to the couch the next time you post there! Or should I say, I will duct tape your Mac?

      • Kalima says:

        😆 Please do, I felt as if I had let myself down. A thousand showers wouldn’t have made me feel any better that night. 😳

        It’s 6:46 in the morning here. 🙂

        • Chernynkaya says:

          On the timezone thing-- I misspoke. Just meant we are both awake! 😀

          But seriously, I check there to read some articles, and I too sometimes just check the comments-- as I mentioned below, just to see what the response is. I can tell you with utter disgust that they are definitely worse than ever. Yeah, I need Clorox or Borax or some kind of disinfectant after I leave. I literally get upset after two minutes there.

          • Kalima says:

            I’m not awake yet. 🙂

            I never even think about the place anymore but still get alerts in my inbox when bloggers posts a new piece, including “Miss Thing” btw.

            A rather late new year’s resolution I know, but NEVER again. I’m enjoying being sane far too much these days or rather as sane as I’m ever going to be.

  8. KQ says:

    Great piece and topic Cher.

    But I have to *sigh* and *cringe*. I guess we have to accept that Aryanna is the defacto leader of the progressive blog sphere. But that’s as frustrating for me as it probably is for moderate conservatives having Rush Limbaugh as their defacto spokesman.

    Blogs have to be anonymous ask people who have given their real names in the past like AC and they will tell you why it’s a no brainer.

    Aryanna is constantly trying to have the tail wag the dog like she accused President Clinton of doing int he 90’s. She builds up faux outrage after outrage like she is doing on the front page of Huffy now complaining about the fact that mine investigations are secret like they have been for decades. Huffy and her droogs know shit about the history of coal mining in this country. The investigations are secret to protect miners and even mining management from retribution in by the industry. The fact is these investigations are secret for a good reason based on history. Now just to drum up more progressive angst she puts an article like this on her front page like it’s all Obama’s fault again.

    Like Adlib alluded to Huffy is the worst of all possible worlds. The protect the Huffy insiders from criticism by heavily moderating responses to their often bullshit columns while letting trolls run amok on other threads. They scrub on topic comments and limit meaningful discourse to 250 words or left to promote constant combativeness. They ban long time users and let anonymous trolls flood the sight with racist and other right wing comments. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an new moniker beat the screeners by posting the “N” word tied together dozens of times while Huffy let’s those posts stand for over an hour. Worse of all every right wing tactic Aryanna used against President Clinton with all the guilt by association, hyperbole and personal attacks have come to the progressive blog sphere. The Cold Civil War rages on and people like Aryanna are pouring petrol on it and like any war the real casualties are human dignity and respect.

    • PepeLepew says:

      That headline and article on the mining investigation were both pure B.S.

      Of course, it’s secret. That’s why it’s called an “investigation!”

      • Chernynkaya says:

        And Dan Froomkin has completely jumped the shark too. I had to post there, “Is there anything— at ALL-- that Obama can do right, Froom?” This after the announcement of a new nuclear policy that Froomkin whined had some loopholes. 🙄

        • KQ says:

          I read that article it was pure hyperbole. To say nuclear weapons are on a “hair trigger” his words is not just an over simplification it’s pure hyperbole. The president himself cannot just push a button and start Armageddon. It’s just an example of someone on the left trying to stay relevant with there base instead of arguing facts.

          • Chernynkaya says:

            I was fed up and had to tell him so. Like other “liberal” bloggers, Froomkin has carved out a precarious niche as a ridiculously critical pundit. That article was precisely the type of crap that makes HP an unreliable source. Glen Greenwald has the same niche, but he at least--while often petty in his complaints--has facts and uses references and, OK, he has his function. I am not saying I need an uncritical press. It’s just when it crosses the line into absurdity that I get disgusted.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Excellent KQ--YES! You bring up several points and I can’t disagree with any of them-- try as I might. 😉

      I don’t want to restate all I’ve said about HP, but some things bear repeating. Especially about how they are in the outrage business, so YES they are our very own Limbaugh.

      Totally irrelevant, but you reminded me that I had a dream about Limbaugh last night! I dreamed I was offered some serious money-- money that I seriously need — to work for him. The dream was about my dilemma, and I am pleased to report that even in my dreams, I refused to work for him.

      • escribacat says:

        Wow, that’s a really creepy horrible dream, Cher!

        And yes, the product at HP is not news — it’s outrage. They are an outrage generator. However, I still see value in fighting and exposing the ploys over there. It is possible to unplug some of the outrage by doing so. I admit it’s exhausting and I don’t do much of it any more. I’ve been in several very ugly arguments that later kept me awake (always with leftie purists — who are just as vicious as the most toxic troll there). I take it in much smaller doses now.

      • KQ says:

        Progressives are “selling” a better product no doubt but they are using the same sales tactics as the right wing in too many instances these days. Progressives should not try to sell their agenda the same way the right does. It’s not only unethical to employ right wing tactics it’s also not effective in the grand scheme.

    • AdLib says:

      Well said and summarized!

      As Cher mentioned below, I think their “Combat Blogging” exploitation tactic has finally maxed out and losses of reasonable bloggers are exceeding the gains of outraged Dem clicks.

      I think many of us anticipated that this would finally come about, when you gin up hatred between trolls and Dems purely for profit on an alleged Progressive blog, things would eventually get toxic enough that the benefit would be outweighed by the cost.

      Still, as you say, there is no principle or values involved in this tact. It is purely about what they think might create more clicks and visits.

      SO when this high school popularity contest explodes into backstabbing and vitriol, as long as clicks and visits are up, it will stay as policy…until it too becomes less profitable.

      • Khirad says:

        It is funny I take a slightly less quiet tact of me in HS. I’m a clique unto myself. I try to stay friendly with everyone, but beholden to no one. Only a few really capture my ire. As to the petty feuds, leave me out. I’ll only step in with creepy stalkers, etc -- not to name names.

      • escribacat says:

        Actually, I think they’re more interested in ginning up battles between far lefties and moderate lefties. I still think AH is a phony lib.

      • KQ says:

        Aryanna and the right wing echo chamber are the same. They are like the entity that fed on fear and hate like in the original Star Trek episode “Day of the Dove”. Now that’s an obscure reference for you.

        • escribacat says:

          Is that the one where the entity grew stronger and brighter the madder the humans and klingons got? And at the end they all laughed and the entity went *poof*.

          • Chernynkaya says:

            E’cat, I think that episode, and the amoeba one Pepe mentioned, was ripped off by Ghost Busters 2, where the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was fueled by negativity, and only defeated by the positive energy of the Statue of Liberty!

          • PepeLepew says:

            Yes, now ask me about the giant amoeba episode!

            • escribacat says:

              Let’s see, there’s the horta, who walks through rock and had to get fixed with cement after being injured (“I’m a doctor, Jim, not a bricklayer!”) There’s the gaseous thingie that smelled like honey, a bad memory from Kirk’s past. There was the planet-eating thing eating planets that looked like a giant “bugle” (junk food bugle). I can’t remember an amoeba one.

            • PepeLepew says:

              The amoeba one is the best one!

              That’s the episode where Dr. McCoy says, “Shut up, Spock. We’re trying to rescue you.”

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Oh! Wait! The entity that fed off anger!! KANG! I’m not in Pepe’s or your league, but even I have my moments.

  9. Chernynkaya says:

    AdLib-- yep nailed it--HP is in the kiddie pool business. It’s the reason they are so popular, in the same way most businesses that cater to the lowest common denominator will always do well. They have no interest in losing that huge proportion of their commenters. However, the very fact that they are even thinking about doing something is interesting. They must think something isn’t working. I would think that any site that had such a large number of trolls would lose some respect, some of their cred, even in this tabloid environment. Either that, or they are losing more and more serious posters. If something ain’t broke, there is no need to fix it.

  10. nellie says:

    Very interesting developments, Cher.

    I think the effort to bring comment sections into some kind of sphere of civility is admirable, but useless. I’d dispose of them altogether. The news should be the news. Report it and that’s the end of it. If people want to discuss it, then let there be websites for that purpose. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want opinion with my news. Whether it’s from a pundit or a blogger.

    I also think Americans have become addicted to rage, outrage, and anger. It’s very unhealthy. The entire country seems to be in the second stage of grief — and perhaps we are. We’re so depressed and angry at everything — to the point where we have lost the ability to reason. So many people don’t seem to want to think — I don’t know whether it’s because they’re so angry they can’t think, or they’re so poorly informed they don’t have enough information to think, or whether it’s just too hard to think — to do that work. Al Gore’s Assault on Reason is so timely. It explains the current discourse environment very well.

    The health care process was a real eye-opener for me. So little information about the bill and its provisions — so little discussion about THAT. Instead, just mud slinging and hyperbole from both sides of the political spectrum. Left me very disinterested in policy discussions unless they were with people involved in the actual work.

    But I’m glad to see this is a topic of discussion at the websites. It’s long overdue. Maybe at some point the telecoms will start thinking about the lies and vitriol pouring out of talk radio. Now THAT would be progress.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Nellie, that was a trenchant comment! Yes

      • nellie says:

        Because anger and emotion are easy. Just as opinion is easy.

        Information is difficult. Digesting information is difficult. And discussing information is difficult. But ultimately, this is healthy and mature, good for us and good for the country.

      • AdLib says:

        Something else to consider about the texting/blogging/Facebook/Twitter society we now have…

        …are people becoming so reverent of their own opinions and thoughts that they are becoming less tolerant of opposing opinions and thoughts?

        I find it self-evident here that folks are interested by and open to others’ POVs but out there among the masses, is what they’re Facebooking and Twittering about of exaggerated importance to individuals? DO they have less patience and interest in other people and truly important things?

        As for some bloggers, haven’t we seen with them as with talking heads that they fall in love with their own thoughts and become closed off to considering other POVs…i.e., “thinking”?

        To me, that is the trap for some in all of this, a loss of perspective.

        Which is why I’m glad there are so many clever people here to keep me on my toes!

  11. PatsyT says:

    Great topic Cher…

    Last Friday in the Vox Populi Afterchat
    Kesmarn posted this site and said

    Speaking of Tea Party people, my son discovered this anti-tea party site. I thought it was pretty amusing.



    Amusing -- and then some

    This seems to have become a magnet for tea bagger patriots types
    defending their cause.
    If you want to know what their minds are up to check it out

    Loads of Laughs
    Scary laughs

    • nellie says:

      More personal tit for tat. I don’t know.

      We have a long way to go with the discourse in this country.

      • PatsyT says:

        I think some of the real threats were scrubbed
        I could not believe what I was reading there over the weekend
        I do think the site is keeping some dangerous people busy.
        But the cause is hilarious.
        I give them credit
        They are getting out there and beating the baggers at their own game.

        • nellie says:

          I like the idea of “Party Crashers.” And I like the idea that they are so open about their disgust for the Tea Party. That’s a positive thing.

          When it comes to the posts, though, it’s more of the same. I begin to wonder if people know how to do anything but throw mud at each other.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Patsy, thanks! See, you set up a well-intentioned site, and it gets crashed itself! BTW, what ever happened to the Coffee Party? I think it was all name and no substance. I do wish I’d thought of that name though!

      • nellie says:

        I’m still involved w the Coffee Party. It is definitely more than all name and no substance. It’s a good group, and they seem to be trying to pick up where OFA left off.

      • SueInCa says:

        They are still out there but I think they are having a difficult time trying to decide how to approach the political issues. They seem to want to hide behind the blogging thing rather than get active. I just responded to a survey they sent out.

  12. SanityNow says:

    The positive quality of my life has increased exponentially since my near complete cessation from HP posting. Way too greasy there. The only really good thing I gained from HP was to “meet” folks like AdLib et al and migrate to a safer, saner place like the Planet to explore and discuss current affairs.

    still think it might be time to add defamation/libel insurance to my homeowner’s policy though.

  13. nottoolate says:

    DKos is also going through some sturm und drang about posting standards. I’m beginning to use that site the same way I do Huffie: scan for late-breaking news, collect more information from multiple other sources. Kos comment threads often degenerate into dogfights, IMO, though Meteor Blades means well.


    • Chernynkaya says:

      Wow, Nottoo-- thanks for posting that-- a lot of drama, for sure! I tried to read through all the rules, but me eyes started to cross. It’s something to think about because that will eventually be something that all of us here will have to deal with (if my cross-linking attempts bear fruit.)

      Meteor Blades seems like a good guy, trying to balance between freedom and civility. Daily Kos is a good site, but that doesn’t prevent “riff-raff” from posting there.

  14. SueInCa says:

    The idea of putting one’s real name on the internet is not realistic. Since the early 80’s there has been identity theft going on in the face to face world. How much easier would it be on the internet?

    Personally I think especially in Hairyanna’s case she is too tight to put any real effort into moderation. And the managing of proprietary information would be a nightmare. They need more sites like this one who are careful about the posting content, not identity information that could result in a financial disaster for anyone who chose to participate.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Sue, I agree. On a site like HP, they really need to spend the bucks and hire some decent moderators. I’m all for free speech, but as they say, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” In Puff Ho’s case, it’s “The right to stink up the thread ends where my nostrils begin.” They should do something about all those noxious fumes. (Not Pepe, of course!)

      • PepeLepew says:

        Sacre Bleu!

      • SueInCa says:

        Actually that is what finally drove me away, the abnoxious flavor of the site and posters. I was included in one or two of those cliques, but the constant patting each other on the back grew weary. I went there originally to carry on some serious conversations and get a feel for others ideas and thoughts, not who was the most popular. Like the President said, it is time to put away childish things.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          That’s why I hardly ever post there now. I go back to read some story and sometimes, I want to see how people are responding, but that doesn’t work, because of the low level of the posters there. It’s a magnet for idiots.

          And I don’t believe they really want to elevate the level of discussion there.

          • boomer1949 says:

            I pulled my HP boomer plug last December. If I’m there at all it’s just to read; nothing has changed and it has only gotten worse.

            Can’t make money if the discussion bar is raised, and it’s all about the money.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              You know how at hotels, they used to have the kiddie pool and the adult swimming pools? Maybe that’s what they need-- an adult thread and a kiddie thread. And they need a life guard who assigns which pool you have to swim in.

            • AdLib says:

              My POV is that people who are in the kiddie pool business won’t necessarily be very good or committed to the Adult Pool business.

              I know you’re just joking but of course it would be impossible to have such a setup logistically.

              I shamelessly would propose that The Planet is the Adult Pool and would be just as miserable and uncommitted to starting a kiddie pool.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              Pepe--right! 😀 It becomes a cesspool!

            • PepeLepew says:

              And you know what the kiddie pool is full of? 😆

  15. escribacat says:

    I agree that anonymity is the best way to stay safe, especially at a busy site like HP. And there’s no way they could force you to provide your real name anyway. I do think it’s a lot like driving though — people are a lot more rude when there are no face-to-face consequences.

    I think the ranking idea might have a positive effect on the toxic threads at HP. The most infamous trolls get banned regularly and pop right back into the thread because they have software that allows them to get a new IP address whenever they want. Banning doesn’t work. Having said that, I don’t understand how the ranking would be implemented. If you have fewer fans, there would be a time lag before your comment is posted perhaps? Or if you have fewer fans, it always goes to moderation first? It must be one of those — can’t think of how else they would implement it.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      E’cat, after reading your comments, and AdLibs-- I don’t see how having more fans will solve the problem. Short of many more moderators-- and a better moderation policy-- it won’t work. Too many ways around it.

      I think right now there is a time lag for people who post infrequently or who have fewer fans. I used to always get by the mods on most threads because I had a lot of fans. Or maybe I was just lucky.

      The big problem is with the trolls-- I am not even talking about people with whom I disagree-- just with the amount of drive-bys. And there are hundreds of them. They really bring the site down.

  16. AdLib says:

    This is typically…although fortunately not here on The Planet…a big problem on public blogs but I agree that the solution is not to require real names.

    The HuffPo solution is hugely flawed. Not only can trolls create hundreds of socks to “fan” themselves and be as “respected” as legit bloggers, they fail to see the blowback.

    HP is like Chuck E. Cheese in that the “kids” love to win “tickets” (Fans) and get as many as they can. People post there specifically saying, “Can people please fan me?”.

    People fan others there for a variety of reasons. Sometimes because of a brilliant post, sometimes because of a nasty attack on a troll, sometimes because of a shallow snark, sometimes they just want to follow others and fan people who have lots of fans.

    The competition for “fans” will only become more competitive and petty, IMO.

    And trolls can easily become as fanned as non-trolls.

    What it will do is create a classism, new bloggers will be treated as their opinions are inferior to long timers.

    Might those with more fans also become more hesitant to fan others, wanting to protect and limit how many others join the “elite” bloggers and may compete against them for attention?

    I hate the whole fan thing. It ends up pulling blogging down into high school popularity contests and creates a whole other focus on the site that has nothing to do with discussing political issues.

    As for limiting abuse, I think the opposite of “fanning” for comments is more effective and is used on many sites (including this one).

    If a comment is reported or flagged by a sufficient amount of people, it goes into moderation to be approved or deleted. Yes, it requires some oversight but by allowing the community to police itself, the most outrageous comments will quickly disappear and any wrongly attacked can be swiftly replaced.

    Combine this with a periodic monitoring of comments to try and nip conflicts in the bud, and things work pretty well.

    Fortunately, we have a “Character Detector” built into our sign up page that allows constructive people to register but in the case of trolls and haters, redirects them to their local tea party HQ.

    • KQ says:

      **comment too many words to post**

    • Chernynkaya says:

      I do like the way the NYT handles it--they moderate the most egregious posters, and so there is a delay between posting ans seeing your comment. Big deal--enough with the instant gratification.

      But the main thing is that the readers police themselves by ranking the comments. It is not really fanning because there are not regular posters there. I like the option of viewing comments via highest ranking-- and I usually agree with the other readers, but of course, the NYT’s is self-selecting to a high degree-- very few trolls.

      A site like HP has it’s regulars, and that’s a whole different game. And a game it is. (Now fan me!)

      • AdLib says:


        The NYT’s system is good, the only thing that could undercut it is if clicques formed there as they have at HP.

        I can’t think of a better way to go than in essence, deputizing the bloggers at a site to keep the peace.

        Ranking and/or flagging posts is the most sensible way to go IMO.

    • SueInCa says:

      Adlib, like that character detector, pretty good. I agree on the fanning. At puffho I had well over 300 fans but some of the people who fanned me, were the trolls themselves and I really don’t think I gave them any reason to do so. It was puzzling to me. In addition, a drive by poster can fan anyone they want and then leave without making any comments or contributing to the conversation in any substantive way. Some people over there who had many fans were the biggest trouble makers as well, with cliques forming that caused further problems. I don’t go to a site to click on you tube links every night, however when there is a proper time and place I will contribute. I know that was initially a tactic to counteract the trolls, but it would have been much more effective to control your response to them or answer with “just the facts, ma’m”

      • AdLib says:

        Right with you.

        Basing adult and responsible conduct on a blog using a superficial contrivance is not the best path, IMO.

        And if cliques are bad now, wait till this kicks in.

        I appreciated the sentiment behind it but having to use youtube links to bewilder trolls seems a bit off course from discussing issues.

        Well, it will be entertaining to see the evolution of cliques over there.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          The fact that HP is re-thinking its policy tells me they are seeing fewer clicks. They wouldn’t revise something that was working. And I think they are beginning to realize the amount of hateful and stupid comments reflects on the site’s, uh, gravitas. (HAH!-- next they should change their tabloid headlines.)

          • PepeLepew says:

            I wonder if it’s loss of clicks or they’re finally getting tired of dealing with the psychopaths. There are two or three hardcore psychos who infest that site engaging in outright harassment and stalking (Believe me, I know what I’m talking about), plus myriad “ankle-biters,” and it must take an incredible amount of their time and energy dealing with them. I think they think these proposals are going to deal with that problem. I don’t have an opinion yet if their proposals are a good idea or not. I guess I’d have to see them in action to decide.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              Well, you are probably onto something, Pepe. There have been cases where cyber bullying has become a legal issue. I don’t know enough about the laws in those cases--except for some school situations--but since this is relatively new, maybe the laws are being written. Maybe sites like HP are worried about liability.

          • SueInCa says:

            I agree Cher. I had a direct email to Katie over there and had sent her some emails but after awhile I felt like she was being patronizing since I never saw any changes. They should have listened back then. It does not take long for the gossip train to roll down the tracks.

      • PepeLepew says:

        Sometimes trolls fan you because then it becomes easier to stalk you. All they have to do is go to their own profile and look for where you’re posting. One troll in particular has been well known to operate that way.

        • SueInCa says:

          I never thought of that one Pepe. About the time I figured out they were fanning me is when I started coming over here so it was pretty much a mis-nomer at that point. While I did not close my account for a few months, I rarely went back.

        • AdLib says:

          Yes, that’s the only reason I’m aware of for trolls to fave bloggers. I was surprised the first time I was fanned by a troll but soon understood why.

          • PepeLepew says:

            I had several do it, but one in particular literally uses “faving” as one of his weapons.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              I never thought of that. Sheesh, they really really need to get a life.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              Somebody ought to do a study on the addictive nature of that whole environment. It is a kind of OCD there.

            • PepeLepew says:

              HP IS their life. They can’t tell the difference between cyberspace and the real world.

              Hence, their illness.

  17. Chernynkaya says:

    Thanks, Adlib-- (or Nellie) adorable photo of the beagle on the computer!! 😆 Excellent!

  18. PepeLepew says:

    This is an issue near and dear to my heart, having been stalked online, and having seen friends of mine stalked, and I don’t have any firm answers. I’m shocked at how much personal information I see people putting out there on HP (and Facebook, for that matter), when there are people on those forums who clearly have mental health issues — e-mail addresses, real names, family info, where they live, etc. I’ve even questioned at times if I personally have put too much information on PPOV, and this is a fairly safe site. Anyone can still read it, though.

    It’s true the anonymity brings out the worst in people online … and it’s also a fun game to play to debate who is posting drunk or stoned.

    Like I said, I don’t have any firm answers.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Me neither, Pepe, but I don’t really think putting one’s real name is the answer. As I said, what’s to prevent someone from saying their name is John Doe? Maybe I don’t understand the ability of websites to find my real name, but I would not want it out there.

      Stalking is a very real concern!

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