Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Event Horizon Of Thoughtfulness

In down time, I have wondered over the years, "What would the comment section of this blog look like if it were more popular?"

The reality of an answer came crashing down on me today when, after reading an op-ed article on American parenting in today's WaPo, I decided to wade through the first few comments.

The article itself offers the hardly shocking thought that, perhaps, parents should loosen up a tad, set some limits, encourage some discipline, then make sure their kids have a chance to be kids, all the while making sure that, as parents, they are taking care of themselves. One could quibble about bits and pieces here and there, such as the tendentious, repeated reminder that America doesn't provide either paid parenting leave or quality, state-sponsored child care (the French creche on the corner becomes a mantra in the article). I say "quibble" because, while I would certainly support such policies, I can understand how they might just become a source for arguments. Taken as a whole, though, the article isn't really much more than a calming voice for parents: sit down, have a cup of coffee, and stop trying so damn hard. Good advice, by and large, rooted as it is in common sense.

Then along come the comments. Man, oh man, oh man. Let's just say I am SSSOOOOOOO glad no one likes this blog.

Some fun begins when one commenter, "Nymous", writes: "The misery of American parents is made of profits. Capitalism fails at child care and health care miserably." "Phiggits" responds "that doesn't even make sense. Capitalism is agnostic when it comes to how public money is spent. sounds like you just have an axe to grind. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail..." to which Nymous responds (carefully, without losing any cool even though the point was clear enough, for a blog comment): "Those two things it does really badly. They're related & get interwoven too. That's why I put them together. I don't think you have a very good understanding of capitalism if you think it's somehow agnostic towards literally any way of profiting."

Then the fun really begins with Sharpes50: "Those profits from the tax payers dumped into a never ending hole are sure helping 30 million parents of uneducated illegal aliens." That's the kind of thing that makes me wonder if it's possible to communicate with other people. A sentence like this is like overstuffed luggage. Popping it open to unpack it sends stuff flying all over the room, leaving you wondering how to get a handle on it, where to begin. Shouting something like this is so much easier than saying something.

Then there's Nparry: "First, you want taxpayers (that's including you parents) want the government to pay for birth control, then you want to pay you for having the baby, then pay for a creche, then lunch at school for 18 years, followed by funding for college. A couple of years work, then your baby is ready for unemployment benefits. If this is what is parenting is - relentless whining - decide beforehand, we'll pay for the birth control glady. It's that much cheaper!!"

There's little to no actual discussion of the article, save for a tossed-off sentence like this from peterroach: "This article describes parent neurosis." And Telin writes, in part: "Article starts out with a "no" we are not a nation devolving into "ad" parenting and then points out every reason that we are."

The article provides reports on social science surveys and statistical data, the latter with links for readers to check for themselves (the way too much academic research sits behind pay-walls, especially when it is used in journalism, is really annoying; if a study is used in the popular press, make it available for readers to see for themselves!). Little to none of the relevant data is discussed. Most of the comments revolve around "my opinion". The article is an opinion piece; it is one backed up with data that just sits there, not referenced or checked either for accuracy or relevance. Even the best opinion is meaningless if no one decides to check and see if the facts the person holding it pass muster.

Let's just say I'm glad I don't have slews of commenters. The whole intent of this humble little spot is for me to vent on occasion concerning matters I think are important. Not interested in starting a discussion, unless those who are commenting are actually discussing what I wrote, I see little value in argument or discussion for its own sake, as such usually ends up being little more than pissing contests. If someone likes or agrees with something I've written, that's wonderful. No writer would deny the thrill from getting some kind of reaction from readers. On the other hand, considering the depths of idiocy comment threads can descend, it's far better to stifle attempt to keep a discussion going if it only serves to make the commenter sound off.

Virtual Tin Cup

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