I mentioned Captain Ed covering this issue earlier today in my Patriotic Pinup post, but was just going to leave it alone. After reading some others out there, such as Beltway Blogroll, Talking Points Memo, and a few others (see Memeorandum), I decided to just write it up. After all, this is something I do with regularity, particularly from the Democratic Underground and the Huffington Post.
I can see why some are against Nutpicking, which is, in essence, picking out comments from blogs in order to show unhingedness. They believe that people will no longer leave comments on blogs, and the free exchange of ideas will dry up, particularly if some political candidate is mentioning them.
We have seen the Huffington Post close comments over some issues, such as when the Reverand Falwell passed on. They have been burned many, many times over the insanity from their commenters. Interestingly, closing the comments on the Falwell story did not stop comments: they just migrated to other stories, and discussed their glee at his death there. At MyDD, Chris Bowers, in his brief, and respectful, post, advised his commenters to be civil. That was not an update, but part of the post. What does that say about the commenters?
The thing is, most of the nutpickings comes from the Left side. Rarely does a Liberal blogger pick comments from the Right side, as you will not find that type of unhinged comment on the port side that often. But, it is rather easy to find on the liberal side of the Internet. I bet you can find something really juicy within 5 minutes at the HuffPost, Daily Kos, or DU, among others.
Yes, we cannot hold the blog fully responsible for insanity in their comments, particularly the Left. Even the most rational, literate, adult, well thought out post can find nutballs showing up and leaving horrendous comments. That said, the blog/site owners can choose to raise the level of discourse by deleting said comments. Leaving comments wishing death on President Bush, VP Cheney, etc, and all the other disgustng comments gives tacit approval for those viewpoints.
Furthermore, nutpicking is highly amusing, often in a disgusting way, of course.
It has been argued that we should not ignore the Truthers, or Twoofers, if you will, otherwise, they feel emboldened by their conspiracy theories, which need to be debunked. Similarly, we should not ignore it when people go all sorts of wackadoodle in comments. Perhaps it is a small majority of people, usually liberals, who write these terrible things. But, the Truther movement was small originally, but, their sometimes subtle "thoughts" spread out into the mainstream. Likewise, when you have a sites with enormous amounts of traffic daily, and regular people see these types of unhingedness, they may slowly join in, just like with Trutherism.
Again, they are also highly amusing.
When I started blogging, I took my cue for nutpicking, or, as I call it, dumpster diving, from John Hawkins at Right Wing News, who I had read for a few years prior. The basics are
- The point of the article must be included. The tone should be included, too, particularly if it is neutral, or opposite from the comments
- If commenters are taking opposite opinions from the nutty ones, that should be mentioned
- DO NOT take the comments out of context
- One wacky comment thread does not make a site. For instance, the DU, Kos, and the Huff Post have a history of bad threads. Jesus’ General does not.
If people do not want insane comments highlighted, then they should think about that. With "free speech" comes responsibility. Look, what was done in regards to a Republican politician cherry picking comments was wrong. But, what folks like myself, Hawkins, P.J. at DUmmie FUnnies, etc do is not cherry picking, and, it is not a few isolated comments. Threads we choose tend to include quite a few unhinged comments.
It is quite understandable that those on the port side of the Internet do not like the practice of nutpicking: they are generally the ones being highlighted. And the want those on the left to "go out and propagate this meme!" Of course. What better way to stop it then to shame people for highlighting Liberal insanity?
I see nutpicking as a good thing. First, have I mentioned that it is amusing? Second, it really does highlight the way the hard left thinks. Third, if it makes them think about what they write, then perhaps we can have some actual discourse on an adult, rational, literate, civil discourse. But, politics is a dirty business, and, generally when I see comments that say "be carefull, you know the wing nuts are watching," the others generally say "f*ck it, scr*w them!"
Highlighting their comments also shows what they are willing to do to gain power. Yes, highlight blog posts and stories, but comments are an intregal part of the whole experience. And remember the four rules.