Monday, February 8, 2010

Such negativity to good ideas!

Most of the news I consume these days is on-line. Sorry, newspapers, but not only don't I miss the clutter of the paper, but there is so much repetition between news sources that it makes it easier - via an RSS feed - to delete the duplicates.

I used to like the option of reading the comments posted after the articles in the Wisc. State Journal and Cap Times, but no more. Almost every one is filled with sourness, negativity, and bile.
I can understand people being upset about political issues, or crime, or the economy, but even a relatively benign, dare I say uplifting story about planting fruit and nut trees in the parks, so people can have free, nutritious food, and kids can learn about where fruit comes from, brings nasty comments:

...waste of time and money. Madison parks already filled with fruits and nuts. Groundskeeping already a nightmare.
The article covers this, talking about the volunteer labor that will be needed to bring the project to, um fruition.  (Sorry, couldn't resist.) There are already fruit trees on public lands, and if more people are aware of them, the fruit will be harvested before if does fall on the ground.

Another comment reads:

Wow this totally won't smell bad, attract pest animals and make groundskeeping a nightmare!
Why does he think that fruit trees are going to smell bad or attract pests? There are community gardens all over the city, not to mention backyard gardens and fruit trees, that nobody worries about.

Instead of being happy that people will be able to enjoy the flowers and fruit from these trees, or that public space is going to be used in a way that will make nutritious food available for more people, every single comment is negative. Not one positive comment on the page.

I should also note that, with few exceptions, these comments are anonymous. They get downright nasty when something truly contentious comes up. With print newspapers, you must sign your name, and generally give an address for verification. Even now, if you send an email to be printed in the paper, you must sign your full name. But the on-line comments are a free-for-all. It's like AM talk radio call-in shows, but without shock jock to stir things up, although I suspect the shock jocks read the paper and send many people to make these comments.

The article today was just an example. No news story goes without a churlish chorus of naysayers.