I’d define dick-ish behaviour on a news site as including, but not restricted too: personal attacks, using “amusing” clichés like EUSSR and Tony Bliar, making the same off-topic point day after day, being rude and grumpy and unwelcoming to newcomers, mocking other people’s spelling, bullying and hectoring staff and journalists appearing in the comment threads, asking “is this news?” on a story you are not interested in and which nobody forced you to read, hate speech, “ironic” hate speech, anything that might now or in the future potentially land the publisher in legal hot water, and any comment which includes the phrase “I don’t suppose the moderators will publish this but…”
Eliminate those and you’d eliminate 95% of the reason that I don’t tend to read comments on news sites.
Why do people feel the need to be abusive online? Why do they believe that behaviour which they would never consider to be acceptable face-to-face is perfectly fine when using the Internet?
A case in point: these two tweets directed at Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat:
Calling someone a “cunt”? Declaring that you’d like to perpetrate physical violence against someone who you’ve never met? Is this acceptable behaviour anywhere?
There is, unfortunately, a nasty strain of macho bullshit that exists online that says, yes, this is perfectly acceptable. Well I don’t think it is – and I’m pretty tempted to do something about it.
What can I do? Well, one thing would be to use the Google juice of this blog to name and shame offenders. Because it’s been around for so long and linked to from so many sources, this blog tends to get rated pretty highly. If I mention someone’s name prominently, and they don’t already have a big online presence on a major site, it’s quite likely that a search for their name would turn up a page on here.
So I could name and shame people, thus displaying to friends, family and potential employers exactly what they think is an acceptable way to treat other people. Shaming them by tying them to their own words and forcing them to acknowledge their behaviour would, I think, be an excellent way to show them their behaviour isn’t on. Free speech is great – but you had better be prepared to stand behind those words when you put them out there.
I’m tempted, but I’m not going to do it… for now.