As y’all know, I am trying hard to break the habit of reading Pith comments, a task which is greatly aided by them being almost irrelevant to what I’ve written. But this morning I saw two things–that folks are going after negative reviewers on Good Reads and that folks are targeting negative reviewers of the new Batman movie on Rotten Tomatoes (though I lost that link)–and it got me thinking that it’s kind of funny that, though the terrible blog commenter is universally disliked, it has become the dominant mode of discourse.
Like the Puritans of old all leaving their windows open so they could listen in on each other and move to punish when people did things that did not affect them that they thought were wrong, we, too, love to punish when people do things we think are wrong even when those things do not affect us.
It reminds me of the conservatives all pissed at Haslam because… what? He’s not punishing a woman for having the audacity to be Muslim or some of his staffers for being gay? Things that, even if people think they’re wrong, do not affect them. And yet, they’re furious that those people aren’t being punished.
We live in a world where we have a lot of access to information about people we didn’t used to have–we know what a mom in Utah puts on her dog today; we know what people in a city we don’t live in, writing for a newspaper we don’t read, think of a movie we haven’t seen; we know that a guy who lives a twenty-hour drive from us doesn’t like our writing. And we seem to have decided that this gives us such an intimate connection to them that it is our job not just to disagree, but to punish.
It’s like we looked at the blog comments at any local paper, saw they were bad, and decided to emulate them.