Sunday, January 17, 2016

Is Freedom of Speech Stifled by Freedom of Press?

In college I’ve found two distinct camps of people: the PC Principals who rush you for questioning affirmative action or for your use of “hoodlum,” and the Donald Trumps who have a comment on just about everything but couldn’t give a hairy whore’s toenail what you think about them.

Now, having been in and out of a number of newsrooms, I’ve heard it a number of times this running debate of whether to keep or eliminate the comment box at the end of an article. Most places do, but it’s becoming increasingly popular to disable the ability to comment. The New York Times allows comments; the New Yorker doesn’t. The debate never lasts long, but even so, I’ll boil it down to the base:

Get rid of comment box
Keep the dang thing
People= crazy, ergo, comments= wack
Shows reader engagement/ traffic
Blatant anti-Semitism
Freedom of speech (even hateful)
Detracts from the article
Shows you have nothing to hide
Bad for reporters to write freely
Positive comments deserve to be heard
To demonstrate how I stand on the issue, an introduction is in order. Meet Los Tres Amigos, my three stooges, my holy trinity of schizophrenic dialogue:

First there’s Columnist, the fiction fanatic-avid blogger who favors highfalutin vocabulary (Sadlier-Oxford, you know it!) and crude humor, to actually sharing her true opinion. Then there’s Reactionist, a nervous nanny-goat of a girl who overthinks, over-stresses and is more or less doomed by her genetic makeup to be overwhelmed by an ant. Lastly, meet Idealist, she makes us look good with her jump-feet-first attitude and giggles aplenty.

Columnist, Reactionist and Idealist always have a comment AND they never agree.

Eliana Block

Thanks Air Canada for losing my luggage, I think my boss is starting to think she hired a hobo. #SameClothesDay4

Columnist: Excellent, the worse the stank the higher the rank. You’re on your way, apprentice.
Reactionist: That is unacceptable! Call the airline manager! Call the police! Get the prime minister on the line!
Idealist: Gam zu l’tovah. It’s a chavayah, embrace it my little Zionist.

 Eliana Block

Walking through the Arab market to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. If I hold my jacket open on both sides, making myself look big, will I scare away the market shop owners trying to sell me bracelets and mood rings?

Columnist: Does the sun rise in the west and set in the east? No, you ignoramus!
Reactionist: You’re wallet’s still deep in your backpack, right?--check to make sure! Do you remember where the solar plexus is?
Idealist: Breathe, it’s a bracelet not a bear! And yo! There’s a great coffee shop around the corner from there. Drink some and put your feet up!

Eliana Block

Three days after a terror attack, on my way to interview at the scene of the crime—so that plan about making Aliya and being a reporter…

            Columnist: If you die, at least you’ve got a killer blog post :p
Reactionist: Mom and Dad were right! Time to high tail it out of that Middle-East-you-alive and move into the basement. There’s not much sunlight down there but you can take Vitamin D capsules while you study a more practical trade online like accounting or social work or law or being a freidel maidel daidel knaidel.
Idealist: There are good days and there are bad days. Don’t let small bumps ruin your great day. Keep your chin up and remember no one, not an editor, or even God himself, would assign you something they didn’t think you could handle.

These are the comments that circulate nearly all my thoughts. I can’t eliminate one, because that kind of favoritism would devalue the very authenticity of the thought (“post”) itself. I can’t bring myself to turn off every comment either, because engagement between differing opinions is the very reason the thought exits in the first place, to provoke free-thought, raw feeling, and ultimately, change.

How do I feel about removing the ability to comment on an article?


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